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For months, I’ve circled this as a trap game on the Raiders schedule. The Titans are trending in the same direction that the Raiders were a year ago. Tennessee is a young team on the rise and their looking for a statement win early. Meanwhile, the Raiders have a ton of pressure on them from an offseason filled with hype.
As a matter of fact, I actually picked against my favorite team. It should come as a surprise given that Oakland barely beat the TItans in 2015 and 2016. Not to mention, the Raiders still have the same questions, at all levels of their defense, as they did in each of those seasons. Obi Melifonwu was expected to help with some of the liability in the secondary but he is headed to IR. Gareon Conley could make his debut but it is unclear how effective he will be after missing most of the offseason.
All that pessimism aside, let’s see how Raider Nation can come home with a win. Here are the Raiders keys to a victory in Tennessee.
Defensive Tackle Play
Once again, the Raiders defense will be determined by their inside interior linemen. Especially for this game, the Raiders DTs, NTs, and DEs will need to push the pocket to create pressure on Marcus Mariota. If they can do this, Mariota will be forced to the outside which will allow Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin to finish the young stud QB. This also keeps the Raiders from having to blitz every play. Oakland will need extra help in coverage as the Titans employ Delanie Walker as one of the best TEs in the league. The Raiders are notoriously bad at covering the tight end so hopefully you have Walker in your DFS this week.
Otherwise, Mariota can step into the pocket and create himself running and passing lanes. Added time means the Raiders secondaries and corners could get beat by the likes of Corey Davis.
Moreover, the Raiders DTs will also be critical for protecting the inside backers. Derrick Henry and DeMarcco Murray might combine for the scariest backfield in the NFL. Their offensive line is just as scary and dominate as any other group in the league. Thus, the defensive line is in for a physical battle.
Depending who you ask, this defensive tackle group is either young or unproven. Between Jihad Ward, Mario Edwards Jr. Denico Autry, Treyvon Hester, Jihad Ward, Jelly Ellis, Darius Latham and Eddie Vanderdoes it is unclear if any player is ready to dominate. It remains to be seen if any of those players will ever become consistent NFL starters. Either way, they have a big opportunity this week.
Pound the Football
Much of the talk is about Murray and Henry. However, the Raiders have their own slate of backs. We finally get to see Marshawn Lynch in full Beast Mode. Much of the offseason talked about him returning home. Raiders fans finally get to see their hometown hero full speed versus another team.
Added, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington should see some run too. They will be critical to spelling Lynch and keeping the defense on their toes. Both men are great pass catchers, they’re hard to tackle and they can take it to the endzone on any touch. Washington and Richard should keep Lynch fresh. We should see a heavy dose of both until one man runs away with the second RB job.
Ultimately, expect the Raiders to pound the football. Their offensive line and running backs are too good not to run the ball 60 percent of the time in this game. This will be critical to neutralizing the Titans plethora of zone blitzes and edge rushers.
Live up to the Moment
The Raiders are in a new position. Oakland is many people’s Super Bowl pick. They have a Pro Bowl quarterback and a bunch of skills players on people’s fantasy teams. The Silver and Black will have the entire mainstream watching them as they start a quest for a Lombardi Trophy with the cloud of relocation hanging over the great city of Oakland. Can the Raiders live up to the hype?
Oakland can not run from the big moments in this game or the rest of the season. Things will go wrong in this game but the Raiders have been their before. They must play like they are a Super Bowl contender from the opening kick off versus Tennessee. The Raiders need to set the tone by playing full speed even when adversity hits on the road versus the Titans.
I don’t expect this will be a problem for them. Oakland has Jack Del Rio at head coach and Derek Carr at QB. Players will run through walls for either of those great leaders. Not to mention, that duo has already lead some great comebacks over the past two seasons. Now, they must dominate games as the favorite. They got to beat the Titans like it is no competition.
The Raiders will always be underdogs, yes. Just last week CBS Sports ranked the Chargers over the Raiders. Either way, we embrace the underdog image as Raiders fans. However, this year the Silver and Black must learn to function in the spot light. This game against the playoff contending Titans is the first step in that process.
Raiders fans could not ask for better news on Super Bowl Sunday. Finally, it could be time to Free Aldon!
NFL Insider Ian Rapaport reported that the NFL will reinstate edge Aldon Smith in March, as long as he does not suffer another drug test setback.
Obviously, this is huge for a Raiders defense that ranked in the bottom half in most statistical categories.
Ironically, many Raiders writers said it was time for Oakland to move on from their troubled pass rusher.
I couldn’t disagree more. Smith’s reinstatement means he’ll have an entire offseason to integrate himself back into the team.
Smith should secure the starting edge role opposite Khalil Mack. That means young tackles Jihad Ward and Mario Edwards can concentrate on playing inside defensive tackle as three or five shades. Bruce Irvin can also concentrate on full-time linebacker duties again. Irvin can also be utilized as a situational blitzer.
This gives Oakland more flexibility in the NFL Draft and free agency. They can focus on strengthening the interior of their defense via the nose tackles and inside linebackers positions.
Besides a natural ability to rush the passer, Smith brings an intensity and versatility the Raiders lacked last season. He should be utilized as a stand up rushing linebacker like his days as a 49er. Smith can also play a more traditional end role due to his length.
Not to mention, Smith can teach young players like Ward and Shilique Calhoun how to bend and use their length to defend the run and pass.
Plus, an improved Raiders pass rush means that Oakland secondary should improve as opposing quarterbacks will have less time to pass.
In other Raiders news, Khalil Mack won DPOY from the AP. Mack stole the award from Broncos rusher Von Miller. Funny, cause Mack is often compared to him.
Mack mostly wins the award thanks to his 11 sacks and five forces fumbles. However, I wouldn’t have given him the award due to his slow start and finish to the season. Mack had zero sacks when the Raiders needed it most for the playoff stretch.
Either way, congrats to Mack. He deserves it as a hard worker and stand up guy.
Meanwhile, Jack Del Rio and Derek Carr got snubbed for awards on the same night. Del Rio finished fourth for Coach of the Year despite helping his team earn their first playoff berth in more than a decade.
As for Carr, he was a long shot for the award when he broke his leg in week 16. Still, we all saw his impact on the Raiders by his absence in the Raiders’ final two games. Nonetheless, he finished tied for third for the NFL MVP award.
All in all, it’s a great time for Raider Nation!
A few huge developments happened over the past couple of weeks, while my personal life put this blog on the backburner.
First, the Nevada State Senate approved the increase in tax that would allow Las Vegas to raise the $750 million to lure the Raiders via a new stadium. Second, Mark Davis attended a ceremony celebrating the announcement. He also said he was committed to the city. However, Jerry Jones and his ton of influence says the Raiders will definitely leave Oakland.
Meanwhile, the City of Oakland said they were working on a serious proposal to keep their franchise. Their proposal may or may not include a group of investors led by Ronnie Lott. Roger Goodell echoed that the league had Oakland as the perferred destination.
The County Commission also okayed an extension of the monorail with visions of the Raiders’ stadium in mine.
Finally, Sheldon Adelson said he could live with or without the proposed stadium that would bring the Raiders.
So basically, we still do not know where the Raiders will play once their lease is up in Oakland. We do know that they are still on a quest for a new stadium. That baseball field for a quarter of the season is not a good look. Neither are the flooded bathrooms on the upper concourse.
Still, Oakland will always be Mecca for Raider Nation. Hopefully, Oakland will put together something real soon. The Raiders mean too much to the community. The Raiders do too much outreach. Their brand represents the East Bay too much.
Don’t forget that the Oakland is getting gentrified. That means the Raiders have a booming economy in their home market. They need to take advantage of it and stop courting Vegas.
Plus, the Raiders are relevant again. Oakland must fight for their team which will become a perennial playoff team.
This week, the Oakland Raiders said farewell to a Silver and Black legend. Oakland cut fullback Marcel Reece on his first day back from suspension.
Reece’s removal from the roster was coming. The team had replaced him with a younger and similar player in Jamize Olawale. Plus, the team already had three tight ends and four running backs on the active roster.
Besides that, Reece himself had said the team was phasing him out of the offense last year. However, that should not tarnish his legacy with the Raiders.
The fullback was the Raiders only Pro Bowler a few times. Not to mention, he was always a visible member of Raider Nation via community events and social media. Even multiple members of the media said they would miss Reece. He always gave insightful quotes on the team. Reece always brought his energy and swagger to the team.
It will be weird not seeing Reece’s No. 45. He was our bright spot, when the Raiders had none.
Further, Derek Carr and Khalil Mack credit Reece for teaching them how to become Raiders. Plus, owner Raiders Mark Davis said it was a difficult decision to cut him.
Either way, we can’t forget what Reece brought to this team. We must thank him for his contributions to the Raiders.
Once a Raider, always a Raider!
However, Pro Football Focus has him third in the league with an 83 percent adjusted completion percentage.
Carr also has a chance to become the second QB in Oakland history to throw for at least 900 yards, per ESPN also. Rich Gannon was the first to do it during his 2002 Super Bowl and league MVP run.
Can Carr maintain his accuracy and increase his yards per completion? Will he continue with the dink and dunk?
“I’m going to do what’s best for the team in those situations. Obviously, you want to push the ball down the field.” Carr said. “As long as we’re staying explosive, I think that that’s the main thing that we want.”
Latavius Murray has gotten only 43 percent of Oakland’s rushes due to the success of rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. However, Murray is doing more with less, according to ESPN.
Murray got 57 yards on 8 carries versus the Falcons. He is averaging 5.3 yards per carry in two games.
“Regardless of when I go in there and how many times I go in there, I just got to do what I got to do when I’m in there.” Murray said.
Overall, the runner is catching the ball better and doing everything better. Hence, PFF has him graded as the best tailback. Murray is also top-five in yards after contact.
“This year I’m just making sure I use my size to my advantage, breaking tackles, trying to run through guys,” Murray said. “I guess when that ball is in my hands, whoever is on the other side of the ball became the victim of Angry Tay.”
After a great rookie year, it appears Amari Cooper is taking the next step, according to The Mercury News.
He has 11 receptions for 208 yards, with an average of 18.9 yards per catch.
Head coach Del Rio said:
“There’s a benefit in the experience he gained. I think we know more about him now in terms of the toughness he brings, and I think he understands more in detail about how to take care of himself and how demanding a season is for an NFL player.”
The Raiders will play rookie Corey James more on Sunday versus Tennessee, according to CSN Bay Area.
Starter Ben Heeney put up mixed results, but head coach Jack Del Rio said his backup Cowser is a ball magnent.
“It took some time to grow on me since OTAs and everything, but I think I’m getting more and more comfortable with it,” James said. “…I’m still learning, still working to get more comfortable with recognizing formations and things like that, but I still need work there. Playing and knowing the plays, I am pretty comfortable with that.”
As for how much James will play versus the Titans, Del Rio said there was no benefit to declaring the team’s plans.
Speaking of rookies getting more plenty time, first-round draft pick Karl Joseph should make his NFL debut.
Del Rio said he is impressed with Joseph’s attitude and overall work ethic via the Raiders.com
“I think the health issue is really kind of behind him now.” Del Rio said. “I feel good about that. I feel good about the way he’s preparing. Now we just look forward to all of us going out and playing well on Sunday.”
Ken Norton Jr.
Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. took some of the blame for the Raiders’ poor defensive outings in two games, via SF Gate.
“ I’m accountable for it. We have to work harder, work better and we expect to come out of this.” Norton said.
The defensive coordinator said he still believes the team can turn it around.
“Again, no one said it was going to be easy. You’re going to have adverse times and those adverse times really reveal us, reveal who you are, and I think that the team has come together, come close.” Norton said. “You can tell the guys really care. No one wants to play as bad as we’ve played.”
Oakland Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio said his team put on a gritty performance in a win over the New Orleans Saints. He said the team is learning how to win and close games.
“Let’s win it right now. I thought that we took some clock there at the end so they would not have as much (time). That is why we went for two after the score…..I let them know early in that drive (that we would go for it). I said, ‘When we go score here, we’re going to go for two and we’re going to win it right here.’ I said that right when the drive started.” The Raiders coach said about his decision to go for a two-point conversion that would decide the game.
Quarterback Derek Carr on the playcall:
“When I got the call, I took a deep breath, made sure my footwork was right, and just lobbed it up for Crab. That’s just my thought process. I say lob it up, but obviously trying to put it in a certain spot where he can make a play.”
Receiver Michael Crabtree said that the team practices that play so much that it becomes routine.
“He (QB Carr) gave me a great ball there, and he did that the entire game. That shows he trusts me. And it wasn’t a gutsy call at all, not at all. He (Coach Del Rio) has a lot of trust in us, and we have a lot of trust in him. I mean when you put in so much work in camp and in the preseason, I feel like all we have to do as players is execute.” Crabtree said after the game.
Added, the receiver said the team showed heart by not giving up when they were down late.
Fellow receiver Amari Cooper also said the team is learning how to win.
“When we got down late in the game, no one got upset about it,” said Cooper. “We just kept going. We were resilient today. We all knew we just had to keep playing and make plays.”
In the end, the Raiders offense proved they could keep pace with the high-octane New Orleans Saints offense. More importantly, the team never seem rattled. Despite sputtering on both sides of the ball in the second-half, Oakland seemed like they were the better team. The Silver and Black proved it by taking the win via the two-point conversion.
*Quotes released by the team website.
The Oakland Raiders begin their season 1-0, after a thrilling 35-34 win over the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints led 17-10 at halftime in the Super Dome.
Out of the second half, both offenses sputtered. Then the Saint hits on a deep pass that ignited them.
Oakland put together some drives also. Richard got a big-play that would lead to a tie game. Here are some big plays and points from the game.
- Raiders defense started the game with Bruce Irvin strip sack which ended the Saints’first drive. This lead to Sebastian Janikowski kick.
- Murray had 7 carries for 32 yards in the first half. Jalen Richard caught a pass. Taiwan Jones also got a carry but lost yards.
- Amari Cooper setup first touchdown of the season. Cooper caught two passes before the Latavius Murray 11-yard touchdown run. Cooper made a sprawling catch at the five before Murray punched it in for 10-3 lead.
- On defense, the secondary struggled in the first half. Sean Smith gave up a long pass play to rookie Michael Thomas. Brandin Cooks caught a touchdown pass with D.J. Hayden in coverage. Willie Snead tore up the Raiders from the slot. He caught a short touchdown pass on fourth down, but he consistently got open.
- Raiders offense punts on first drive after halftime as they trail 17-10 but defense holds Saints to the same. Richard gets nice punt return negated by holding.
- Sean Smith dusted by Brandin Cooks for 98-yard touchdown run. New Orleans takes 24-10 lead in the third.
- Crabtree came up big in the second-half. Raiders held to a field goal after a solid drive, Saints maintain a 24-13 lead.
- Matt McCants goes down at right tackle. Oakland moves Penn to fill his spot. Kelechi Osemele plays left tackle and Jon Feliciano comes in at left guard.
- Carr leads Raiders on a drive to start the fourth quarter. Finds Cooper on a deep pass after having lots of time in the pocket. Then throws a strike to Crabtree at the five. Jamize Olawale punches in the touchdown. The Silver and Black miss the two-point conversion, as the score is 19-24.
- Saints answer with a field goal drive. Mark Ingrim dragging defenders and Drew Brees dodged Raiders pass pressure. A questionable P.I. call keeps the drive alive.
- Richard busts 75-yard touchdown run that gives the Raiders a chance to tie the game. Carr then finds Cooper for two-point conversion. Game tied at 27.
- New Orleans scores after a deep pass to Snead is fumbled but then recovered by a fellow-Saints receiver. Brees throws fourth touchdown as they go up 34-27.
- Crabtree makes great catch on Raiders answering drive. Carr throws ball late, but Crabtree finds the ball. Raiders miss on some passes within the twenty. A pass interference call on Jalen Richard saves the drive on fourth down. Seth Roberts scores touchdown which ties the game at with less than a minute left. Crabtree catches two-point conversion to give Oakland 35-34 lead with :47 left in the game.
- Willie Snead catches a couple of passes in the middle of the field for the Saints. New Orleans kicked a 61-yard-filed goal attempt which was wide right.
Ultimately, the secondary struggling almost cost them the game.Hayden had some penalties and Smith got beat. They also had some questionable tackling from their linebackers. Carr’s decision making was also late. However, he did enough to lead the Silver and Black to their first win of the season.
What a game?!
The Oakland Raiders took on the New Orleans Saints for the first game of the season. The Saints lead 17-10 at home.
- Bruce Irvin sacked and forced a fumble on Drew Brees which ends first drive. Leads to first points of the season off of Sebastian Janikowski kick.
- Mark Ingrim gets 12 and 20-yard gains for Saints on the second series. Saints held to a field goal, which ties game at three all.
- Tim Hightower gets run going again later in first. Willie Snead tears apart Raiders. Snead Catches a deep ball that puts them in the red zone. He then catches short fourth and goal touchdown pass to make game 10-10.
- Saints go up 17-10 in second quarter thanks to Brandin Cooks touchdown pass. He beat D.J. Hayden in coverage. Sean Smith also gave up the crucial play that put Saints inside the red zone. Michael Thomas catches a pass, then registers some yards after the catch.
- D.J. Hayden gets defensive holding call that negates Bruce Irvin sack. Luckily, Raiders defense forces punt with a little more than a minute left in first half.
- Latavius Murray gets the Raiders first touchdown of the year via an 11-yard run thanks to an Amari Cooper sprawling catch which put Raiders at the five-yard-line. It was Cooper’s second catch on the drive. Oakland goes up 10-3.
- Jalen Richard made his first appearance with a catch in the first quarter. Meanwhile, Taiwan Jones loses eight yards on a carry later in the first half.
- Derek Carr shows his scrambling ability in second quarter. Makes first down run and leaps for extra yards. However, this drive did not lead to points.
- Menelik Watson goes down during Raiders final drive with about a minute left in the second quarter. He walks off the field on his own, but it looked like an ankle injury.
- Cooper catches the final pass of the half via a hitch route.
Oakland must try to stop the run on defense. Hightower and Ingrim were having their way. On offense, look for Oakland to continue establishing the run. Hopefully, Watson’s injury is not serious. Backup right tackle Austin Howard got hurt last week, so he is inactive.
Check out the latest headlines and notes with my take on the news and issues facing the Oakland Raiders.
- Earlier this week, Sean Smith spoke to the media about the Raiders secondary reinventing itself.
- Smith said, David Amerson has impressed him with his size and athleticism.
- As for DJ Hayden, Smith said he believes Hayden can turn his career around.
I hope Smith is right about Hayden. It would be nice if the Raiders could salvage the 2013 first round pick. Hayden’s skill set fits the slot corner role. If Hayden wants to make the roster he must beat out TJ Carrie and Neiko Thorpe at the Nickel spot.
- Pro Football Focus put the Raiders at 11-5.
- ESPN also has the Raiders favored in every game except 4.
- Raiders will travel the most miles in the league.
- Oakland faces the toughest second half of the schedule, and the easiest first half.
Earlier this offseason, Vegas had the Raiders record at 8 wins. Now, the Raiders are expected to do a lot better. This is the first time in years that the Raiders have gotten this much preseason hype. Hopefully, they will live up to expectations when the time comes.
- The great Muhammad Ali died last week, and Ken Norton Jr., whose father fought Ali three-times, opened up about the champ.
- Norton Jr. talked about Ali helping out his family and being intertwined.
- Ali used to do magic for Norton Jr.
It is always great to hear about Ali. Norton Jr. brought an interesting perspective because he lived during Ali’s time. Ali also helped his family make it as Heavyweight Champion.
- NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell encouraged the Oakland mayor to meet with Oakland investors lead by Ronnie Lott.
- Earlier this week, a Vegas strip club offered the Raiders free limo rides and lapdances.
- In the same article, former player Donte Stallworth said any Vegas team would lose every game.
First, I am glad that there is some news on the Oakland front. Second, I agree with Stallworth that Vegas is a unique party area. Sin City is not the greatest place for an NFL team.
- The NFL is finally taking notice of the Raiders with their Mack Mondays and Woodson Wednesdays.
- Speaking of attention, two Raiders will participate in Family Feud.
The Raiders are actually newsworthy? We don’t want your mainstream hype or bandwagon fans. Period.
Jack Del Rio
- The Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio finally joined Twitter.
- Del Rio posted some cool picks of the media and the team.
- Oakland’s head coach said he wanted to get up with the times.
Congrats coach! Welcome to Twitter.
- Raiders great John Madden missed his annual Bocce Tournament.
- Madden is rehabbing a new hip.
- The Raiders Hall of Fame coach underwent open heart surgery earlier this year.
Prays for Madden. For reals. Let’s hope one of the greatest gets back to full strength.