By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
OAKLAND — With the first five weeks of the season down, Raider Nation should be happy with their team sitting at 2-3 at the bye week.
Oakland has been competitive in every contest from start to finish and it can’t be denied that the team is trending in the right direction. Even after dropping their last two games to Chicago and Denver respectively, the Raiders have definitely been entertaining.
Derek Carr, Oakland’s young signal caller, has complete control of the offense. The second-year pro from Fresno State engineers the 21st ranked offense in the NFL, but his numbers have been outstanding; completing 64 percent of his passes for 1,171 yards, eight touchdowns, and just three interceptions.
Rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper has made the transition from the college ranks to the pros, leading all rookie wide receivers in catches (28), receiving yards (386), touchdowns (two), and receiving yards per game (77.2). The fourth overall pick in this year’s draft out of Alabama has been as good as advertised.
Pair Cooper with the veteran Michael Crabtree, and Oakland has a pair of wide receivers that give Carr dependable weapons to throw to. Crabtree, who signed a one-year deal in the offseason after spending his first six seasons in San Francisco, is second behind Cooper on the team with 27 catches, 318 yards receiving, and one touchdown.
Oakland needs to get the running game more involved in the offense, that means Latavius Murray needs to step up and take the running game by the horns.
Murray does have 336 yards rushing on 80 carries and two touchdowns this season, but was a virtual no-show in last week’s 16-10 home loss to the Broncos, carrying the ball 13 times for just 39 yards. Carr had 39 attempts against the Broncos’ top-ranked defense.
With the loss of defensive end Justin Tuck for the season with a torn right pectoral muscle, Oakland’s defense took a hit in the pass rush department. Opposing offenses can now key in on defensive end Khalil Mack and possibly double team linebacker Aldon Smith, another ex-49er.
But the real player that compensates for Oakland’s 25th ranked defense is no doubt, safety Charles Woodson. In his 18th, and most certainly final season of his sure-fire Hall of Fame career, Woodson is making an case for early Defensive Player of the Year.
Woodson has recorded four interceptions this season, two coming off the arm of another future Hall of Famer in Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. The former Heisman Trophy winner has been playing with a separated right shoulder for most of the season, has gutted it up each week for the Silver and Black.
Once the bye week is completed, Oakland’s next four opponents in San Diego (2-3), New York Jets (3-1), Pittsburgh (3-2), and Minnesota (2-2), are all formidable competition that will reveal the Raiders’ true team identity for the rest of the season.