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Stick a fork in them: The 2012 Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders entered 2012 looking like the worst team in the AFC West. The biggest positive after nine weeks: They aren't the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs.

The Raiders also aren't going to sniff the playoffs after back-to-back 8-8 years. The roster has too many problems and the Denver Broncos are too good for any team to sneak in this season. Unlike the New York Jets, there was no debate about whether to stick a fork in the 2012 Raiders.

What went wrong

The Raiders are lucky to be 3-6. They have been blown out three times. One win came against Kansas City, and another came on a big comeback after Jacksonville Jaguars backup quarterback Chad Henne replaced an injured Blaine Gabbert. When you need Gabbert to get hurt to beat the Jaguars, there are problems.

The running game absolutely collapsed. We questioned in the offseason whether Darren McFadden would fit into offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's zone blocking scheme after such great years in a power-based scheme under Tom Cable and Hue Jackson. McFadden has been very ineffective running (3.3 yards-per-carry) and catching the ball. One of the Raiders strengths has turned into a huge weakness. (McFadden now has a high ankle sprain.)

Carson Palmer and the passing game has played about as expected, especially considering injuries at wide receiver. Palmer makes just enough great plays to convince you he can win. Then he throws a game-crushing interception.

The defense never took a big step forward under Dennis Allen. It's 31st in points allowed. They stopped the run a little better than last year, but the pass defense remains lagging. (Considering the cornerback depth chart, this is no surprise.

There just aren't enough impact players on either side of the ball.

What went right

Denarius Moore makes the occasional head-scratching play, but he is turning into a true No. 1 receiver. Brandon Myers could have one of the most random 1,000-yard years from a tight end in NFL history. Fullback Marcel Reece remains an underrated gem on passing downs. Left tackle Jared Veldheer is a building block.

Richard Seymour remains a strong starter. Linebacker Philip Wheeler was a nice free agent pickup. Rookie Miles Burris is solid. Oakland has salvaged Rolando McClain somewhat as a part-time player. If nothing else, this Raiders team battles. They came from way behind to beat the Steelers and Jaguars. They fought back against the Bucs. They out-played the Falcons and nearly won in Atlanta.

Allen has finally changed one annual Raiders problem: Oakland is middle of the pack in penalty yards.

What still matters

We usually write about developing young players here. The Raiders don't have a ton of them. This is a strange mix of cast-offs and former Al Davis picks. There are no easy solutions.

It's more important for Allen to show some improvement during the season. What defines the Raiders under Allen? They are one of the biggest mystery teams in the NFL. It would be huge for Allen to put his stamp on this team by year's end.

What changes are coming

General manager Reggie McKenzie picked Allen as his head coach knowing this was a multi-year rebuilding project. Some high-priced veterans will need to be let go (Tommy Kelly, McClain), but this franchise is more about additions. McKenzie needs a real draft class and a lot more Wheeler-type pickups to turn this roster around. They need a lot of help, including a long-term alternative to Palmer.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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