Oakland Raiders

The Good

Linebackers

The linebacker play was excellent on a day when the Raider defense tired late in the game and fell off completely.  Philip Wheeler stole the show defensively with seven tackles and two quarterback hits.  The Raiders countered the Dolphins I-formation by going to a 4-3 under look for most of the game.  This meant Wheeler was walked up on the line of scrimmage, over top of Anthony Fasano.  He showed the ability to shed blocks and make tackles all game, seemingly showing up at the football on every play.  He also impressively beat Jake Long on a blitz to get a piece of Ryan Tannehill.  Unsurprisingly, Rolando McClain put in a good shift against the run.  He’s a real handful for any fullback when he reads run and comes downhill.  He was victimized in man coverage by Fasano on his touchdown catch but actually had a good day in coverage by his own standards.  Rookie Miles Burris had a quiet game with two tackles and a pass break-up, but he put in a solid shift overall.

Carson Palmer

While it wasn’t the best performance Carson Palmer has ever put in, it was an improvement over his week one showing.  Palmer had to deal with a heavy pass rush all game long and dealt with it better than expected.  Though he’s an immobile guy to put it lightly, he handled the potent pass rush of Miami very well.  They weren’t able to record a sack.  Palmer took advantage of man coverage on multiple occasions.  He had bouts of inaccuracy during the game at times, but most of those came when he was moved off his spot by the rush.  Palmer got the better of the Dolphins linebackers often, finding his tight ends over the middle of the field.  The Raiders abandoned the running game early and put the game on the back of Carson Palmer.  He simply doesn’t have the weapons or offensive line to carry his team, and it shows in the box score.

The Bad

Running Game

Eleven carries for Darren McFadden is simply not enough, especially in a game where you hold a halftime lead.  For a back like McFadden to average two yards per carry, there has to be problems up front.  There was.  Stefen Wisniewski, Cooper Carlisle, and Mike Brisiel simply stood no chance against the Miami interior front.  The zone blocking scheme the Raiders employ put up a dud.  On every stretch play run, interior push gave McFadden no place to run.  The edge blocking was nothing special either, as Miami’s edge defenders gave McFadden no place to run.  On most occasions, backside pursuit reached McFadden before he had a chance to find a hole.  Despite the struggles, Greg Knapp’s abandonment of the running game gave their offense no chance.

Front Four

The Oakland defensive line has too much talent to be bested as they were on Sunday.  Richard Seymour was a no-show up front, only recording a solo tackle.  Tommy Kelly was active but unable to make a big impact.  With a fifth man on the line of scrimmage for a majority of snaps, the interior lineman should have generated more negative plays than there were.  On the edge, Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston had a few good plays each.  Shaughnessy notched the only sack of the game, easily dipping Long on the corner.  Overall, the front four was far too reliant on their linebackers and safeties to make plays.  The defensive line is supposed to be a strength for the Raiders,  but you wouldn’t know it on Sunday.

The Upshot

Without a doubt, things are looking rough for Oakland.  Losses to San Diego and Miami say just about all that needs to be said about expectations going forward.  The secondary was none too promising against a rookie quarterback and the lack of pass rush frightening.  Tyvon Branch was terrific against the run, making plays all game long.  Outside of Branch, the defensive backfield has a severe lack of talent.  The offense struggled to run the ball.  If that continues, we may be looking at the worst team in the league.  For as weak of a position as tight ends are, Brandon Myers and David Ausberry showed a bit of promise.  They’ll still need more from wide receivers not named Heyward-Bey.

Miami Dolphins

The Good

Running Game

The Dolphins had all kinds of success running the ball, to the tune of 263 yards.  Reggie Bush made the most of some large holes.  He made the most of a few carries, breaking two long runs for touchdowns.  He showed the elusiveness of his USC days on those occasions.  He did a steady job otherwise, and his ability to handle 26 carries will be a big plus for this offense.  Lamar Miller had a big showing in his first NFL game.  He displayed great patience and vision en route to 6.5 yards per carry.  He actually ran the ball consistently better than Bush did.  Not a bad debut from a fourth round pick.  The Dolphins should now have two legitimate ball carriers who can take a lot of pressure off of Tannehill.  If Jake Long, Richie Incognito, and Mike Pouncey keep paving holes for these guys, we may be looking at a lethal rushing attack.

Front Four

Miami’s defensive line was disruptive throughout the game.  Randy Starks continued his early season dominance, putting pressure on Palmer early and often.  Paul Soliai controlled Wisniewski on a number of occasions and also pushed the pocket often.  Cameron Wake’s name wasn’t called as often as it normally is.  He did pressure Palmer a few times and played the run well though.  As a whole, the way this front four defended the run was spotless.  They moved offensive lineman off the ball in unison, without penetrating too far to open up holes.  Every McFadden carry seemed to get strung out on the edge.  Backside pursuit or linebackers then came up to make plays.  Zone blocking can be a tricky proposition for defensive lines, but you could say they got all the practice they needed last week in Houston.

The Bad

2nd Quarter

In the first, third, and fourth quarters, the Dolphins outscored the Raiders 35-10.  They were outscored 3-0 in the second.  This is the same quarter they were outscored 24-0 by Houston last week.  While this game’s second period wasn’t turnover riddled, the offense had three consecutive 3-and-out’s.  Miami is lucky that Oakland’s offense was unable to get a rhythm going, or things may have gone similar to the way they did the first week.  Whatever the reason for this trend, the Dolphins need to figure something out before their first divisional matchup next week.

Pass Catchers

For Ryan Tannehill to develop the way a rookie quarterback should, he’s going to need more from a poor group of pass catchers.  Mike Hartline was able to take advantage of poor pass coverage all game long.  The problem: almost every reception the result of a sideline comeback route.  Once teams start game planning for Tannehill’s favorite throw, he’s going to need somewhere else to go with the ball.  Nothing we’ve seen from the Dolphins yet says there will be another place.  Davone Bess does some nice things, but he’s not going to rack up yardage quickly.  To be sure, this will be a limited team through the air.  One that is reliant on the running game and a good defense.

The Upshot

Mike Sherman loved the comeback route on the boundary at Texas A&M and is implementing it with the Dolphins now.  It’s a good way to make Tannehill feel comfortable and get him in a rhythm.  Tannehill showed some potential in week two.  He used his feet to escape pressure, running for a few first  downs and a touchdown.  He also made a number of good throws from the pocket.  We have yet to see any ability to make throws downfield, but he’s very limited with the weapons he has.  There’s a lot to like about Miami’s defense.  If they can continue their fine performances, we’re looking at a better team than most people expected this season.

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