Penalties piling up for Raiders again
ALAMEDA - Jon Gruden brings back Raiders legends as often as possible to remind his team of the rich tradition of the franchise.
One tradition that Gruden would like to do away with is penalties. The Raiders have led the NFL 18 times since 1963 (the most in NFL history) and are currently No. 2 in the NFL in both penalties (88) and penalty yards (779). Only Arizona (94) has more penalties and Cleveland (822) more penalty yards.
“It's been addressed,” Gruden said Friday before the Raiders departed for New York to face the New York Jets. “We are trying to emphasize it in all three phases and we've been in contact with the league on a few of the penalties we haven't agreed with. But we are trying minimize them. We're trying to eliminate them.”
A 17-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals was a minor step in the right direction as the Raiders had seven penalties for 42 yards - their lowest figure of the season in terms of yardage and one shy of their season-low six penalties against the Chicago Bears in London.
But the three-game win streak that has the Raiders at 6-4 has included 29 penalties for 235 yards. Before that, the Raiders had 11 penalties for 100 yards in a 27-24 loss at Houston.
Some not-so-fun numbers regarding the Raiders and their penchant for flags this season:
35 - First downs by penalties on defense this season and only nine first downs by penalty on offense, a minus-26 margin that is far and away the highest total in the NFL.
27 - Accepted penalties on pre-snap fouls such as offsides, encroachment, illegal procedure, false starts and delay of game.
24 - Penalties in coverage for either defensive holding (13), pass interference (9) or illegal contact (2).
10 - Penalties for offensive holding.
9 - Personal fouls for either roughing the passer (5) or unnecessary roughness (4).
Solving penalty problems is easier said than done. In his only season as the Raiders' head coach, Hue Jackson promised on an almost-weekly basis the penalties would be corrected, and his team set an NFL record with 163.
The Raiders' penalties have been split among rookies and veterans, with rookies Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell having six each, while veteran Lamarcus Joyner has six and guard Richie Incognito five, according to the Football Database. In all 37, different players have been penalized. (Note: Football Database stats are not official and occasionally penalties from NFL game books are assigned to the wrong player.)
So where do you start?
“You've just got to keep putting it in front of them,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “I keep telling them, more games are lost than they are won in this league. We can't have offsides or lining up in the neutral zone or illegal contact. Those things cost you games, particularly on third down.”
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said the team gets a detailed report each week from Gerry Austin, a former NFL official who now works for the Raiders. It includes a report on the upcoming officiating crew in terms of what they call.
“We do try to educate our players on what a specific crew has called in the past, but more than anything it's coaching the details for each position group,” Olson said.
Gruden realizes he'll never be satisfied with how a game is called but echoed the concern of Guenther and Olson in cleaning up the most obvious problems.
“We can't have the personal fouls. We can't have the pre-snap penalties; we can eliminate those,” Gruden said. “Some of the infractions in the kicking game, where you take a poor angle and you commit a costly penalty, those can be eliminated. There is going to be some hand-to-hand combat in one-on-one routes, receivers vs. (defensive backs). It's a tough call for everybody, and man, have we proved that.”
Gruden said the responsibility lies with him.
“I don't want to blame youth or blame people that are new here that have just gotten here,” Gruden said. “There is no excuse for it. You're the coach of the team you, have to address it. You not only have to address it, you got to get results and we got to do better.”
Joyner (hamstring) was limited in practice Friday, but will make the trip and is listed as questionable. Swing tackle David Sharpe (calf) is out and will not travel.
Running back Josh Jacobs (shoulder), tackle Trent Brown (knee) and center Rodney Hudson (ankle) were limited but not assigned a game status, meaning they will all start.
Preston Brown, the Raiders' most recent addition at linebacker, will be a spectator, barring an unforeseen circumstance. “I think he's going to continue to learn our defense and put his spin on things and in a few weeks from now, perhaps he'll be ready to go,” Gruden said.