Playing their first game since trading the NFL’s all-time leading receiver, the struggling Raiders will try to end a three-game losing streak and get their offense going as they host the defensively challenged New Orleans Saints.
Unhappy with his reduced role in Oakland, the 42-year-old Rice asked for and got a trade to Seattle on Tuesday. After leading Oakland with 63 catches and 869 receiving yards last year, Rice went without a reception in three of the Raiders’ first six games. He had just five catches for 67 yards overall.
Regardless of who starts in Rice’s spot, the Raiders are in desperate need of a spark on offense.
Collins has completed 80 of 140 passes, thrown two touchdowns and been picked off eight times for a dismal quarterback rating of 55.8 in 3 1/2 games since Gannon went down.
The 38-year-old Gannon was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, an expected move after he announced Monday he wouldn’t be back this season after consulting with four top neck and spine specialists.
Oakland coach Norv Turner isn’t considering replacing Collins, saying he doesn’t believe his quarterback is the only one to blame for the offense’s problems. The Raiders have been outscored 150-98 through five games thanks in large part to penalties and turnovers.
The Raiders generated only 145 yards of total offense against AFC West-leading Denver in last week’s 31-3 loss.
“Kerry, he is the right guy for this group,” Turner insisted. “He’s a good fit for this offensive personnel and the things we want to do, and we just need to keep getting better.”
The defense has been just as awful, as only three teams have allowed more points than Oakland—Green Bay (152), San Francisco (159), and this week’s opponent, New Orleans (162).
Saints coach Jim Haslett figures Collins will turn things around soon, but he’s hoping it’s not Sunday.
“You always worry about it,” Haslett said. “I think he is a heck of a quarterback. I like the guy personally and I like him professionally. He’s got a big-time arm. I don’t know anybody who throws outs or comebacks better than him in the National Football League. So he’s got a strong arm, he’s got a good feel for the game and we have our work cut out again.”
New Orleans is allowing more points per game (28) than any team in the league.
The Saints have lost three straight games, including Sunday’s 38-31 defeat to Minnesota in which Vikings quarter Daunte Culpepper threw five touchdowns against the New Orleans defense.
Opposing quarterbacks have completed 66.5 percent of their passes against the Saints for a passer efficiency rating of 100.3.
Cornerback Fred Thomas, who had a team-high four interceptions and ranked among the league leaders with 18 pass breakups last season, has no interceptions and one breakup in six games.
“Freddie just hasn’t played as well as you would like right now,” Haslett said. “He needs to get through this and work through this because he’s a heck of a football player. But he’s not playing at the level he should be playing at.”
Despite his team’s struggles, Haslett still believes the Saints can make a run at the playoffs.
“I believe in the players,” he said. “I believe if we stick together and do the things we’re supposed to do we can get it turned around.”