- Associated Press - Thursday, December 30, 2010

ALAMEDA, CALIF. (AP) - The Oakland Raiders have spent years acquiring speedy players they hoped could deliver touchdowns from almost any spot on the field.

Those speedsters finally delivered the game-breaking plays this season that have been lacking so much the past few years as Oakland finished up a seven-year run of losing at least 11 games a season.

Darren McFadden has developed into the big-play back Oakland expected when they selected him fourth overall in the 2008 draft, putting together one of the most productive seasons ever for a Raiders running back.

Rookie Jacoby Ford has flashed his sprinter speed on three kickoff returns for touchdowns, long passes and a 71-yard score on a reverse on the opening play two years ago.

Receiver Louis Murphy has three plays of at least 40 yards, and even fullback Marcel Reece has gotten into the mix with a couple of big plays from a position that usually focuses on blocking.

That has all added up an extremely productive offensive season for the Raiders (7-8), who despite the marked improvement will still miss the playoffs for an eighth straight year.

“We showed how strong we can be, how many points we can put up and how explosive we can be,” said tight end Zach Miller, who leads the team with 55 catches for 654 yards and five scores. “We didn’t do it consistently enough, but I thought when we did we had the capability of putting a lot of points on the board.”

The Raiders are seventh in the league in scoring with 379 points and need just 15 in the season finale at Kansas City on Sunday to double last year’s scoring output. They are on pace to finish in the top 10 on the franchise list in points and yards per game since the 1970 merger.

Oakland has scored more than 20 points 10 times already this season compared to just once a year ago when JaMarcus Russell spent the majority of the season as the starting quarterback.

“We’ve made leaps and bounds with this offense,” Murphy said. “We put up some big numbers, 500-plus yard games. We just weren’t able to come out with enough wins, which is the most important part. I think we can get much better with the guys we have on this team.”

While there is plenty to praise with Oakland’s offense this season, there is one involved party who is not exactly patting people on the back.

Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was brought in during the offseason to take over play-calling duties from coach Tom Cable and immediately instilled the unit with energy and creativity that had been lacking. But he still sees so much more improvement needed.

“We didn’t improve fast enough,” Jackson said. “We want perfection. That’s what I expect from our football team. We expect to be challenging for the playoffs, challenging for our division year in and year out and we’re not getting that done. So to me, that’s a disappointment. There’s either first place or there’s last place and there’s no in between.”

Jackson points to a lack of consistency and potential big plays that were not executed as the biggest flaws on the unit. The Raiders failed to score a touchdown in a loss at San Francisco, sputtered against Pittsburgh and Miami, and had problems in the red zone for much of the season.

The Raiders have committed a league-worst 64 penalties on offense, including 28 false start penalties that too often led to stalled drives.

“It’s very frustrating,” Jackson said. “We’ve got to be a more disciplined offensive unit. We’ve had a lot of penalties in key situations, whether it be the scoring zone, or to start a series that all of a sudden puts you in second-and-15 or second-and-20 and you can’t play that way and be a very good offensive football team. I know that it is something we will address.”

The Raiders are hoping for improvements from a unit filled with young players. The three most productive running backs have all played three or fewer seasons, the top three wide receivers are all in their first or second year and Miller is just finishing up his fourth season at tight end.

Quarterback Jason Campbell is the old man of the skilled position players, celebrating his 29th birthday Friday. It’s been quite a year for Campbell, who was acquired from Washington during the draft to replace Russell as the Raiders‘ quarterback of the future. He was officially given the starting job at training camp only to be benched six quarters into the season.

He returned after Bruce Gradkowski went down with a shoulder injury. After a rough first start back in San Francisco, Campbell led the Raiders to their first three-game winning streak since 2002 and briefly into first place in the AFC West.

Oakland has lost four of six since then, including one more start by Gradkowski. Campbell has completed 58.9 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a passer rating of 83.9 this season.

“It wasn’t the type of year you expected,” Campbell said. “I did feel like I’ve grown a lot this season having faced a lot of adversity and to still get in there and keep playing. I take the positives. We turned things around. I think we’re going in a positive direction and we’re just glad to be a part of it.”

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