All season long, the Oakland Raiders have struggled to consistently move the football on offense. The team has been inconsistent at best and downright terrible sometimes, but it seems like the struggles could be coming to an end soon. Most of the nation has yet to really see what Matt McGloin has done in his two games as a starter, but with the undrafted rookie under center, Oakland’s offense has started to show what it is really capable of doing. It’s exciting, and I believe that Oakland will show it all on a national stage tomorrow for Thanksgiving.
Despite Denarius Moore’s absence, Matt McGloin has proven for two games in a row that he can effectively move the ball through nimble footwork, decisive reads, and stellar throws. His footwork is especially impressive; despite working with the same patchwork offensive line that plagued Terrelle Pryor as a starter, McGloin has been sacked just once as a starter, and this was against JJ Watt and the Texans and a blitz-happy Titans defense. He had a number of plays where he stepped up into the pocket, rather than breaking contain and trying to scramble, and delivered a beautiful strike downfield. Now, with the official activation of Jared Veldheer, Khalif Barnes pushes Lucas Nix out of the starting lineup, which vastly improves the line as a whole. This should only help McGloin stay upright and find his targets. He has shown great chemistry in his first two starts with Rod Streater, Mychal rivera, and Andre Holmes, and maybe he can deliver another 30-yard TD strike to Brice Butler. T’is the season, right?
Darren McFadden is also expected to make his return, although he will officially be backing up Rashad Jennings. Jennings leads the league in yards per scrimmage in the past month and has been a revelation for the Raiders. He has run with authority all season long and has been a great power back for the team, and it would be very surprising if he was not with the team next season. Meanwhile, McFadden’s injury history makes it unlikely for him to earn a huge payday after this season as a workhorse runningback, so it would seem as though he is now auditioning for the role of an electric change-of-pace back. A huge game in the national spotlight would do wonders for helping that, so it will be interesting to see McFadden being put in the best position possible. He did have success in this role a few years ago with Oakland, so he should be able to help sustain drives.
Oakland’s offensive strength is coming at a great time, too, as Dallas’ defense seems to be struggling with key injuries. CB Morris Claiborne, LB Justin Durant, and LB DeVonte Holloman are all injured, hurting the depth of the team, but none hurts more than the team being without its key contributor, MLB Sean Lee. Dallas is near the bottom of the league in many defensive statistics, including allowing 299 passing yards a game (31st), 133.6 rushing yards per game (30th) at 5.1 yards per carry (32nd), and 275 first downs (10 more than any other team). With these numbers, it is reasonable to expect Oakland to enjoy a lot of sustained drives to help dominate time of possession. Matt McGloin led the Raiders to five drives of 40 or more yards against the Titans, including two 75-yard drives, and it is reasonable to expect that success to continue against a struggling defense.
The offensive success of the Raiders hasn’t been publicized much because McGloin isn’t capable of 93-yard TD runs, but I expect the world to see just how far the Raiders have come in 2013.