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Raiders take disappointing finish into offseason

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POSTED January 2, 2012 7:03 p.m.


ALAMEDA (AP) — The players packed up their lockers, coach Hue Jackson summed up the season and the Oakland Raiders spent the day saying goodbyes instead of preparing for the playoffs.
A day after wrapping up a disappointing 8-8 season with a 38-26 loss to San Diego that cost them the AFC West title, the Raiders go into an offseason that promises plenty of change.
The team plans to hire a general manager to help fill the void left by the death of longtime owner Al Davis last October, could change defensive coordinators and defensive scheme and must make additions to the roster if Oakland is going to improve on two straight .500 seasons.
"That's not good enough," Jackson said. "That's not acceptable to me, I don't want it to be acceptable to our players. I don't want it to be acceptable to our organization. I didn't sign up for that. So I'm disappointed."
This was not what the Raiders were expecting when they started the season 7-4 and seemed to be rolling behind quarterback Carson Palmer, their key midseason acquisition.
But four losses in the final five games spoiled the season and raised more questions about the decision to trade for Palmer when starter Jason Campbell broke his collarbone.
Oakland gave up a 2012 first-round pick to get Palmer, leaving them with picks in just the fifth and sixth rounds until compensatory picks are doled out. The Raiders also are without a 2013 second-rounder because of the deal.
Palmer played well at times, reviving the deep-threat passing game that the Raiders have been seeking. He averaged 8.39 yards per pass — the fifth-best mark ever on the Raiders — and showed signs of being the elite quarterback he had been in Cincinnati earlier in his career.
But he also threw 16 interceptions and struggled to get the Raiders into the end zone at times, playing a role in their failed finish.
"I always feel like when you don't win the quarterback can always play better and I can definitely play better," he said. "It stinks to sit here and say next year, what are we going to do next year. You have to let this one settle in, look back at this entire season, find out why it didn't work out and why you didn't win game when you had chances and look to the future."
There were a few positives to build on for the Raiders this season, including Darrius Heyward-Bey's emergence as a legitimate NFL receiver with 64 catches for 975 yards, the discovery of big-play rookie receiver Denarius Moore and the potential from a young left side of the offensive line anchored by second-year tackle Jared Veldheer and rookie guard Stefen Wisniewski.
But the negatives proved to be too big a hurdle to overcome, most notably injuries that sidelined Campbell for the last 10 games and star running back Darren McFadden for the final nine.
"I would have loved to have seen this team healthy. I think it was a special team healthy," punter Shane Lechler said. "I'm confident in the direction we're going. There's going to be changes, I'm sure, like there always is, every year, no matter what. But I'm pretty sure there will be some personnel changes that need to be made."
The major task for next season will be reducing penalties and improving the defense.
The team committed 163 penalties for 1,358 yards, setting records in both categories. The defense was perhaps the worst in Raiders history. Oakland was unable to stop the run, had a propensity for allowing big plays in the passing game and was unable to generate pressure on the quarterback in key moments.
The most glaring problems came up in a second-half collapse in Week 2 at Buffalo when the Raiders allowed five touchdowns on five drives, a blown 13-point fourth-quarter lead to Detroit when they gave up a 98-yard game-winning drive in the final minutes and a 99-yard drive to San Diego that sealed their fate in the season finale.
"We cannot look at what we've done on defense and say it's good enough, or say it's even close to being good enough," Jackson said. "It's not, and my players know that. We have to improve by leaps and bounds, and we're going to."
While those moments stand out, the season-long numbers were truly staggering. The Raiders had franchise worsts in touchdown passes allowed (31), yards per carry (5.1), yards passing (4,262) and total yards (6,201), while giving up the third-most points (433) in team history.
Oakland joined this year's Tampa Bay team as two of the four teams to allow at least 30 TD passes and 5.0 yards per carry in a season, a distinction achieved previously by only the 1950 Baltimore Colts and 1952 Dallas Texans. The Raiders also became the sixth team since the 1970 merger to allow at least 2,000 yards rushing and 4,000 yards passing in a season.
Numbers like that indicate that major changes could be coming on the defensive side of the ball, starting with a possible change at coordinator from Chuck Bresnahan. Jackson said he would address his staff soon.
"I know some people are going to try to blame Chuck, some people are going to try to blame Hue but, at the end of the day, we're the ones on the field," safety Michael Huff said. "Regardless of the defense that's called, we got to line up and play and execute. I don't want anybody going out there and trying to blame the coaches because it's on us."


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