The Raiders will arrive in London with a 1-4 record, a reliable (and familiar) running back and a helplessly incompetent pass rush.
Jon Gruden was 38-26 in his first four seasons as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, from 1998 to 2001.
So far, at least, those days look long gone.
Let’s take a deeper look at the Seahawks’ next opponent, Gruden’s 1-4 Raiders.
“Beast Mode” is still in the building.
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For all those that thought 32-year-old former Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch would be washed up when he ended a brief retirement and signed with his hometown Raiders in 2017, think again. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound veteran gobbled up 1,042 total yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.3 yards per carry, in 15 games last season.
In five games in 2018, he’s equaling that 4.3-yard-per-carry mark, with 331 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The highlight to this point has been a 20-carry, 130-yard outburst in a 45-42 overtime victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 30.
Lynch was kept in check by the Los Angeles Chargers last weekend, though, managing just nine carries for 31 yards and two catches for 10 yards. Still, it’s safe to assume “Beast Mode” will be plenty motivated Sunday to face off against his former team for the first time in the regular season.
It happened again.
Rather than hand the ball to Lynch at the Chargers’ 1-yard line last weekend, the Raiders opted to employ a play-action fake, and quarterback Derek Carr was promptly intercepted.
In fact, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the last four times Lynch’s team has thrown at the opponent’s 1-yard-line instead of handing to the powerful back, the play has ended with two interceptions, two incompletions and zero touchdowns.
“That’s cute,” Lynch told ESPN, when made aware of that statistic Sunday. “That’s cute.”
You know what’s not cute? Carr has thrown three interceptions on passes into the end zone this season, tied for most in the NFL. He had thrown four end-zone interceptions in his first four seasons combined.
The Seahawks — who intercepted Rams quarterback Jared Goff in the end zone last weekend — certainly hope that trend continues.
Amari Cooper keeps delivering head-scratching inconsistency.
Following the 2016 season, it would have been acceptable to anoint the 6-1, 210-pound Cooper as one of the premier young wide receivers in the NFL. After all, he produced 1,000-plus yard receiving seasons in each of his first two NFL campaigns, piling up 155 catches, 2,223 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in his first 32 games.
That’s when things went haywire.
In 14 games last season, the Alabama product managed just 48 catches and 680 receiving yards, and there were five games in which he produced fewer than 10 receiving yards. That inconsistency has carried over into 2018, as Cooper has produced two games with at least 10 catches and 100 receiving yards and three games where he totaled four catches for 36 yards. In the loss to the Chargers last week, Cooper was targeted just once and finished with one catch for 10 yards.
Cooper currently ranks third on the Raiders in catches (22) and receiving yards (280) and fourth in targets.
Doesn’t look like an established No. 1 receiver, does it?
The Raiders’ defense really misses Khalil Mack.
After being traded to the Chicago Bears prior to the start of the regular season, Mack — a 6-3, 252-pound pass-rusher — has been arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, with five sacks, four forced fumbles, one interception and one touchdown in his first four games.
The Raiders, meanwhile, own just six sacks in five games, which ranks dead last in the NFL.
This should serve as a welcome relief for the Seahawks, who have had to contain pass-rushers Von Miller, Mack, Demarcus Lawrence, Chandler Jones and Aaron Donald already this season.
“It’s hard to find a great one (pass-rusher),” Gruden told NBC Sports Bay Area earlier this season. “It’s hard to find a good one. It’s hard to find one; you just said it.”
Arguably the NFL’s best one resides in Chicago these days.
The Gruden reunion tour already is off the rails.
Gruden was given a 10-year, $100 million contract to return to the Oakland Raiders this offseason.
Those Raiders are 1-4.
Perhaps more alarming, Gruden has been traditionally known as a quarterback whisperer, and his starting quarterback in Oakland — Carr — currently ranks 23rd in the NFL in passer rating (90.4) and has thrown more interceptions (eight) than touchdowns (seven).
He’ll have an opportunity to improve those marks in the Raiders’ next three games, which come against three teams — the Seahawks, Colts and 49ers — touting a combined 4-11 record. The Raiders also have a bye week sprinkled in between.
A Gruden-led team has finished with a losing season in just three of his 11 seasons as an NFL head coach. He’ll have to develop a pass rush (as well as his passer) if he hopes to avoid a fourth.