After eight games of NFL action, Raiders.com writers Eddie Paskal and Kyle Martin share their thoughts from the second quarter of the 2018 season; take a look.
Who is your MVP of the second quarter?
EP: The fact that we're naming a second quarter "MVP" while the team is in the midst of four-game skid isn't lost on me, I promise, but that said, I still think we have to give a little shine to some impressive individual performances.
Okay, so here we go; my second quarter MVP is going to be the man in the middle, Rodney Hudson.
I'm well aware that the play of the offensive line hasn't been as consistent as we've grown accustomed to seeing from the Silver and Black, but let's remember just how beat up the group has been. Thursday night at Levi's Stadium was a perfect microcosm of that, but through it all, Hudson has remained a guiding force in the middle of everything.
He – along with the rest of the lineman – never get enough credit, so Hudson's my guy.
KM: In my opinion, Rodney Hudson isn't just the MVP of the second quarter, but the MVP of the season as a whole.
The center position never gets the love it deserves, but Hudson's role on the offensive line doesn't go unappreciated by his teammates and coaches. In years past, we've heard of Hudson's toughness, battling through ailments such as kidney stones, but in 2018 the former Florida State Seminole is showing his worth in a different manner.
The Raiders offensive line once consisted of all savvy veterans, but now it's featuring two rookie tackles, and constant changes at left guard as Kelechi Osemele deals with an injury. No. 61 has helped get everyone on the same page, whether that's calling out blitz packages from opposing defenses, or just grooming rookie tackles Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker, Hudson impacts every aspect of the offense.
Hudson hasn't missed a game since 2015, starting in every game the past two-and-a-half years. Carr said earlier this year that Hudson could be the best football player he's ever lined up with, and I don't doubt it. The Mobile, Ala., native continues to perform at a high level each and every game.
What needs to be better?
EP: Well, in the spirit of full transparency, a lot has to be better, but that's not really a secret.
Over the past four games, the Silver and Black have been outscored 129-44, and whenever numbers skew that heavy one way or the other, there's no shortage of things that need to improve.
With that out there, one thing in particular I would like to see improve over the final eight games – and I really think it will – is the pass rush.
I know, I know, we've talked about the pass rush ad nauseam this year, and as of right now, the numbers aren't awesome, but with a bunch of rookies manning the defensive line – especially ultra-talented ones like the Raiders have – I think the results will materialize.
The reality is, right now the Silver and Black have only seven sacks, and that just has to be better.
KM: There are a lot of areas that need improvement, but the run defense has to get better, and fast.
The Oakland Raiders are giving up a league-worst 144.5 yards per game, and have given up 365 yards on the ground the last two weeks combined. Running backs are gashing big gains, and penetrating the line of scrimmage with ease, and that simply can't continue. The team has had some missing pieces along the defensive front with Justin Ellis and Eddie Vanderdoes both injured, but that's no excuse.
We all know the Raiders haven't been able to generate much of a pass rush this season either, ranking 32nd with just seven sacks. Overall I'd say the defensive line needs to be more effective, and Head Coach Jon Gruden has emphasized that on multiple occasions. It all starts in the trenches, and if the Raiders can't start closing the gaps then the opposing running backs will continue being dominant.
What are you encouraged by?
EP: It hasn't been as consistent as we'd like, but I have to say, that the play of the offense – in spurts – has given me something to look forward to over the final eight games.
The game against the Indianapolis Colts in particular, Derek Carr showed that he can sling the ball when he has time to operate, and when things are rocking and rolling, No. 4 is a pretty darn good quarterback.
Also, I know it's only been two games, but Doug Martin has run the ball relatively effectively since taking over the starting job from Marshawn Lynch.
The fact of the matter remains that we'll need to see some quality offensive consistency if the Raiders want to turn their fortunes around the final eight games, but Derek Carr and the offense has shown they have the ability to be that type of unit.
Now, let's just see it week in and week out.
KM: Despite being ranked as the 27th overall defense in the NFL, the Raiders have been decent against the pass. The Silver and Black aren't forcing the amount of turnovers they'd like, and hopefully that changes going forward, but the Raiders have been able to deflect passes and be disruptive in the secondary.
Cornerback Daryl Worley has been one player that's surprised me this season, consistently making plays since returning from his four week suspension. The 23-year-old has played in four games — started in three — and totaled 19 tackles, four passes defensed, and one interception (should be two) during that span.
The secondary has been a committee of sorts this season, but despite the changes the group has found ways to be effective.
Head out to the practice fields in Alameda as the Raiders prepare for a Week 10 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The third quarter will be a success if…
EP: If we can see some tangible improvements.
I don't think there's anyone here who anticipated the Raiders would have a single win at the halfway point of the regular season, but that's what this team has earned at this point.
Do I think that the Raiders are better than a one-win team? Absolutely, I do, but we're at the point now where I think we all collectively want to see results.
The fact of the matter is that the NFL is a production-based league, and while I'm not sure the team needs to hit "X" wins this year to be deemed a success, I'd love to see the Silver and Black tally up some good results over the final half of the year.
The group no doubt has the ability to do it.
KM: Six games under .500, the Raiders have truly dug themselves in quite a hole, but even though the team's postseason chances seem like a long shot, the group can rally together and at least start notching wins if all three phases step it up. At the halfway point, offense, defense, and special teams have all struggled, and there isn't one specific group that's been at fault. This is a team sport for a reason, and the locker room needs to remain unified if they want to turn things around.
I will say — even though there's not one player or group at fault — that the field position needs to improve. The Raiders have been unable to get solid field position on a regular basis, and there's been consequences because of it. Gruden has discussed the poor field position after every game it seems like, and in the third quarter it's going to continue being a storyline.