After Oakland’s 24-16 season-opening win over the Broncos, Gruden made it clear that the Raiders would be fine without Brown.
“We were good in the preseason without him,” Gruden said. “We’re going to be fine without him. And we wish him the best.”
After watching the Raiders offense struggle for the past two weeks, Gruden seems to be changing his tune. During an interview on Wednesday, the Raiders coach admitted that replacing Brown hasn’t been as easy as he made it sound like it was going to be.
“It’s caused us a little bit of … rethinking,” Gruden said of losing Brown, via ESPN.com. “When you lose your starting ‘Z,’ who arguably is a great player, I don’t think anyone’s going to dispute that you have to replace him. And we’re making an effort to move Tyrell [Williams] around; we’re bringing on some younger guys. J.J. Nelson also got hurt; don’t forget that. He was hurt. Dwayne Harris got hurt, so we’ve had some multiple things to deal with, and we’re dealing with them.”
After Brown was released, the top receiver in Oakland became Williams, and although he had a huge debut with the Raiders in Week 1 with 105 yards against the Broncos, he’s only averaging 37.5 yards in the two games since then, which have both been losses.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr seems to think that Williams might be a little overwhelmed by the load that he’s had to carry since the Raiders .
“It’s definitely different,” Carr said of Williams. “He’s got to run some different cuts; he’s got to run some different routes. He’s got to do a lot more for us than originally that was planned, right? We had a plan of two guys sharing a certain load.”
Whatever the problem is for the Raiders offense, it’s been plaguing the team for the past two weeks. In their past seven quarters of play, they’ve only scored a total of 14 points, and seven of those came on a garbage-time touchdown against the Vikings in Week 3.
Somehow, the Raiders offense has actually gotten worse as the season has progressed. Although you could pin the struggles on Carr, who’s now had three weeks to get used to playing without Brown, Gruden isn’t ready to blame his quarterback for the team’s offensive struggles.
Through three weeks, Carr has a sky-high completion percentage this year (73.5) — ranked third in the NFL — but he’s only averaging 233 yards passing per game and he’s thrown almost as many interceptions (3) as touchdowns (4).
“I think he’s done some good things,” Gruden said of Carr. “I’m not going to put it all on Derek. We take responsibility as a playcaller. I’m calling the plays and designing some of this stuff, so I put it on myself. He’s done a good job.”
Whatever the issue is, the Raiders need to get it fixed soon before their season starts to spiral out of control, which is already starting to happen. Not only is the team on a two-game losing streak, but they have to play their next four games away from home, which means things aren’t going to get any easier from here on out.