AFC West: Josh McCown

Greg Knapp's offense, now and then

October, 17, 2012
The most-discussed aspect of the 2012 Oakland Raiders is the impact of new/old offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.

Oakland’s offense is not as potent as it was in recent seasons and many fans and observers point to Knapp, who had a previous stint Oakland’s offensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008. Knapp runs a West Coast offense and a zone-blocking scheme. The Raiders succeeded in the past couple of years with a power rushing attack.

A terrific study by Jason McCallum of ESPN Stats & Information shows that Knapp’s emphasis in his second tour with the Raiders is vastly different than in his first. McCallum’s study shows that Knapp is relying on the pass much more now than he did in 2007.

This season, the Raiders are averaging the eighth-most pass attempts in the NFL and the 30th-most rush attempts. In 2007, the Raiders averaged the fourth-most rush attempts per game and the 29th-most passes.

Knapp’s quarterback, Carson Palmer, is much better than the collection of Daunte Culpepper, JaMarcus Russell and Josh McCown Knapp had to work with in 2007. But what upsets many Oakland fans is that the Raiders aren’t running this season despite having Darren McFadden, one of the best running backs in the league.

The results of the different paths are the same. The 2012 Raiders, 1-4, are averaging 17.4 points per game; they averaged 17.7 points in 2007 when they finished 4-12. The Raiders’ scoring average this season puts them 29th among 32 NFL teams. The Raiders must find a way get their running game going. The top three scoring teams in NFL this year are all in the top seven of rush attempts per game.

The 2012 Raiders are averaging 349.8 yards a game, while the 2007 Knapp version averaged 294.8 yards per game. But the problem is the pass-run yardage ratio. Oakland is averaging 271.4 passing yards now compared to 164.4 five years ago. But the Raiders are averaging 78.4 on the ground, compared to 130.4 yards a game under Knapp in 2007. Because of the lack of a running game, the Raiders' time of possession is nearly four minutes lower than in 2007.

The truth is, both offenses under Knapp struggled. But the only way Knapp’s 2012 version will work is if the Raiders find a way to run again.

No disputing who is running Raiders

October, 18, 2011
The Oakland Raiders are Hue Jackson’s team.

One of the biggest questions in the NFL since the Oct. 8 death of Al Davis has been who would lead the Raiders? Davis, the most hands-on owner in sports, had held control of the franchise since the 1960s. The answer is their 45-year-old rookie head coach.

[+] EnlargeHue Jackson
AP Photo/Paul SakumaThe Carson Palmer trade is a clear indication that the Raiders are now Hue Jackson's team.
The Raiders' trade for Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer shows that Jackson has been the given the power to do what he thinks Oakland needs to do.

After looking through an awful list of available quarterbacks (Todd Bouman, Todd Collins, Trent Edwards and Josh McCown were among those the Raiders considered) and deciding against going with backup Kyle Boller, Jackson plucked the flashiest quarterback left. Jackson coached Palmer at USC and in Cincinnati, and he's clearly the player Jackson thinks can keep the 4-2 Raiders in the playoff mix after Jason Campbell broke his collarbone.

The price is steep. The Raiders are sending their first-round pick in 2012 and a conditional first (and at least a second-round pick) in 2013 to the Bengals. The 2013 pick becomes a first-round choice if the Raiders win their first playoff game in nine years this season.

This is an extremely risky deal. Palmer will turn 32 this season and he has been in a decline. The Raiders probably could have gotten veterans Kyle Orton or Donovan McNabb for much cheaper than the rusty Palmer, who hasn't played this season. The trade means Oakland doesn’t have a pick until the fifth round next year (although it probably will get a couple of compensatory picks, which start at the end of the third round, for lost free agents), and it puts the Raiders in a tight salary-cap spot.

I’m sure Jackson is not worried about the trade risks. In his first six games as the head coach in Oakland, Jackson has made several aggressive calls and often pulls out trick plays. This is how Jackson rolls, by rolling the dice. If Palmer is awful and the Raiders don’t make the playoffs, this trade will be Jackson’s legacy in Oakland.

But the point is, Jackson has been given the opportunity to make a legacy pick. This is a tremendous opportunity and responsibility for a man who was brought to Oakland to be the offensive coordinator in 2010. Since Davis’ death, Jackson has said Davis trained him to make personnel decisions, and Jackson has made it clear in the past week-plus that he is the leader of the organization.

There have been reports that Davis’ son, Mark Davis, would look to hire a general manager, probably after the season. ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Mark is relying on advice from former Raiders employees and Al Davis confidantes John Madden, Ron Wolf and Ken Herock.

Jackson said Monday that every decision he makes includes input from Mark and Raiders CEO Amy Trask. It will be Mark who ultimately decides the structure of the Raiders’ front office. But it is clear the first person to get the chance to lead the Raiders is Jackson and, if his moves work out, he probably will stay in the power chair.
There has been a lot of movement in Oakland since the Raiders’ starting quarterback Jason Campbell broke his collarbone in the second quarter of a win against the Browns on Sunday. Campbell is expected to be out for the season.

The Raiders are aggressively considering other options.

They have reportedly tried to trade for Carson Palmer, but the Bengals don’t want to trade him. ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the Raiders have already contacted free agents David Garrard (a likely top option) and Josh McCown. I’m sure there will be move movement in the next 24 hours or so.

Schefter reports, right now, the plan may be to use backup Kyle Boller, who finished the win Sunday, as the starter. However, I would not be shocked if the talks with Garrard heat up.

This story is very much a fluid situation and could change at any moment.