Despite being the NFL’s worst offensive team, the Oakland Raiders’ defense kept them close in losses over the last three weeks. They’re hoping a new offensive coordinator can help them start to generate enough points to starting turning those strong defensive efforts into victories.
Former tight ends coach John Shoop makes his debut running Oakland’s offense as the Raiders (2-9) try to end a four-game losing streak Sunday against the Houston Texans (3-8).
The Raiders promoted Shoop to replace Tom Walsh, who had come under mounting criticism from fans and players alike, on Tuesday following Oakland’s 21-14 loss to San Diego last weekend. The Raiders averaged an NFL-worst 12.0 points and 239.8 yards per game under Walsh, a close friend of coach Art Shell who had been out of the league since 1994 before Shell was brought back this season.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for coach Shoop and a great opportunity for us as well,” receiver Alvis Whitted said. “It’s unfortunate for our offensive coordinator that he had to get demoted. I guess that’s just part of this business. It’s a bottom-line business.”
Shoop served as the Chicago Bears offensive coordinator from 2001-03.
The play of Oakland’s defense has further highlighted the problems on offense. The Raiders have lost by seven points or fewer in each of the last three games, and were able to contain the Chargers, the NFL’s highest-scoring team at 32.1 points per game. Oakland has given up only 40 points over the last three contests, and is 12th in the league with 19.9 points allowed per game.
The Raiders have the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense at 156.5 yards a contest.
The Raiders entered the fourth quarter with a seven-point lead last week, but failed to score in the final period while LaDainian Tomlinson had two touchdowns to rally San Diego.
One of Shoop’s first priorities will be fixing the pass protection. Aaron Brooks was sacked five times last week, increasing Oakland’s total of 53 allowed on the season. Brooks started for the second time since returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for seven weeks and went 17-of-30 for 187 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
“We, as an offense, have not been playing up to par,” Whitted said. “We’ve gotten a lot better and you can see it in our play the last few weeks. Collectively, we need to continue to get better.”
Oakland hopes to do that against a Houston team that’s 27th in the league in points allowed (23.3 per game) and yards per contest (347.7). The Texans lost 26-11 to the New York Jets last week for their second straight defeat and fourth in five games.
David Carr established season highs in completions, attempts and passing yards, going 39-of-54 for 321 yards, and threw a touchdown pass to end his four-game drought without one. Carr has passed for three TDs in the last seven games after throwing seven in his first four contests.
“I don’t want to just go out there and complete a lot of passes and we lose a game,” Carr said. “I want to see us become the offense I know we can be with the talent that we have.”
Carr and receiver Andre Johnson will face a challenge against the Raiders’ tough pass defense. Johnson leads the NFL with 84 receptions is third with 982 receiving yards. Against the Jets, he caught 10 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown.
In the Texans’ lone meeting with Oakland, a 30-7 win on Oct. 3, 2004 at Reliant Stadium, Johnson caught six passes for 115 yards and a score.
Houston, though, may need a much more productive ground game Sunday to open things up for Carr, Johnson and the passing attack. The Texans had a season-low 25 rushing yards against the Jets, one week after finishing with a season-high 188 in a home defeat to Buffalo. Leading rusher Wali Lundy had only 11 yards on eight attempts against New York.
“You want to go out and you hope things get better, but you can see that we still struggle,” said Carr, who’s been sacked 29 times this year. “We’re just going to go out and try to win these five games.”