The season is just three weeks old, but the hot takes and overreactions are dominating the airwaves. Some observers are ready to throw in towel after a slow start, but patience and persistence can help a coach quickly turn things around.
Given some time to review the film and make a few notes on the team's performance, here are some observations from Week 3.
The season is a marathon, not a sprint
Despite the 0-3 start, it is too soon to hit the panic button on the 2022 season. The season is a 17-game marathon with a series of highs and lows that will expose the character of the squad.
The Raiders have assembled a collection of veterans with winning resumes and playoff experience. The confidence from their past successes should help them navigate around this rough patch of the season. Whether it is encouraging their teammates to work harder or pay closer attention to the details, the Raiders' team leaders must step up and get everyone on the same page.
Moreover, the team leaders need to work with the coaching staff to ensure the message is consistent throughout the building. If everyone is on the same page and buying into the vision established by Josh McDaniels, the team could dig itself out of a hole and creep back into playoff contention by the end of the season.
To make a run at a postseason berth, the Raiders will need to break up the season into small segments with some short-term goals and objectives. Most teams will break the season into four individual quarters (four-game segments) with a goal of finishing 3-1 or better during each phase. If the team hits the benchmark, they will finish with 12 or more wins and likely earn a top seed in the tournament.
Although it is too early to think about the playoffs at this stage of the season, the Raiders can set a realistic goal of reaching the .500 mark by the mid-point of the season. Considering the teams that are on the slate over the next quarter of the season (SEE: Broncos, Chiefs, Texans, Saints and Jaguars), the Raiders can climb back into contention with improved play in each of the three phases of the game.
Who's the Mack?
The Raiders' star-studded receiving corps features three Pro Bowlers (Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller), but opponents better not sleep on the playmaking talents of Mack Hollins. The sixth-year pro has spent the bulk of his career making contributions as a standout special teams contributor, but the veteran has shown big-play ability as a WR3/WR4.
Against the Titans, Hollins tallied eight catches for 158 yards (19.8 yards per catch) and a score while displaying outstanding hand-eye coordination and tracking skills as a vertical threat. With defensive coordinators intent on neutralizing Adams (and Waller) with various coverage tactics, the rangy pass catcher has become one of Carr's top targets with 13 receptions on 18 targets over the past two games. Hollins has racked up nine first downs during that span while averaging 17.2 yards per catch.
As opponents begin to pay closer attention to Hollins and his big play potential, the coverage could loosen on Adams and Waller. Defensive coordinators hate surrendering "explosive" plays (passes of 20 yards or more) in the passing game and that fear could alter how future opponents elect to defend the Raiders' passing game. Although most defensive coaches are comfortable surrendering yards to Hollins instead of Adams or Waller, the veteran could change that opinion with a few more big plays in the coming weeks.
What is the right O-Line combination?
Injuries have certainly contributed to the variety of groups at the line of scrimmage, and the Raiders may continue to struggle until they are able to trot out a consistent quintet each week. As a five-man unit that must play as one, the offensive line requires reps to develop the chemistry and continuity needed to play at a high level, particularly against opponents featuring movement at the line of scrimmage (twists, stunts, and games).
Considering the number of reps that it takes to develop the trust between teammates, it is hard to expect a new unit to play like a collection of season veterans at the point of attack. It takes countless reps to master the non-verbal communication and subtle "on-the-fly" tactics that help units thrive within the trenches.
After watching Kolton Miller, Alex Bars, Dylan Parham, Jermaine Eluemunor and Thayer Munford finish out the game, I hope the unit can get enough time on the practice field together to work through the minor issues that plagued their performance. With more time and experience working together, the Raiders' frontline can give Derek Carr and Co. better protection and more room to operate.
View the best photos from the Raiders' Week 3 matchup against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium.