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Raiders Rants: Aldon Smith returns? Plus, Results from the AP Awards

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.

Raiders Awards

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!

Don’t sleep on DJ Hayden, just yet

DJ Hayden joined many of his 2013 NFL Draft Class peers as potential 2016 free agents because the Oakland Raiders decided not to pick up his fifth-year option. There were many others in his class that suffered the same outcome.

Some Raiders fans already expressed relief that the team will eventually move on from the Draft bust. However, do not sleep on Hayden just yet.

It is no secret that Hayden continues underwhelming. The Raiders added Sean Smith, and incumbent corner Donald Amerson made a case to be the comeback player of the year last season.

TJ Carrie and Neiko Thorpe also showed flashes. That means Hayden could become the fifth corner on the roster. Hayden got a taste of this fate when he was benched late last season.

Nonetheless, Hayden is not done just yet.

Remember, Carrie and Thorpe were late round picks. That is because they do not have the same god-given tools as Hayden who was selected No. 12 in 2013.

Of course, Thorpe and Carrie bring big bodies which are fits for the scheme. However, Hayden could develop into a prototypical slot corner with his side and speed.

Also do not forget that Amerson ranked as one of the worst corners in 2014. He turned it around in 2014, so Hayden could do the same.

Hayden already battled back from near-death, when a freak accident injured his chest in college. Considering he already battled back, do not take his toughness for granted.

Moreover, missing most of his first two seasons with injuries mean Hayden needs reps. Yes, he got those reps as the starter last year, but who knows what will happen with another season.

Granted, Hayden may come out as the same penalized cornerback with zero ball skills. That is the tape he put together thus far in the pros. I am not defending him.

All I am saying is do not count Hayden out just yet. Let him battle through offseason and camp before we cast him away with a big fat bust label.

 

 

Las Vegas Raiders could make sense

Mark Davis did not say a whole lot about the Oakland Raiders possible relocation to Las Vegas.

Davis said Las Vegas is a global city and a NFL market. He also relied on the old cliche when asked about the possible move.

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Davis said.

But can his professional team actually stay in Vegas?

There are a number of ethical concerns about putting a professional team in Las Vegas.

Does a city with a poor economy and bad public schools need a stadium?

Probably not.  However, UNLV is already getting a proposed $1 billion stadium. That means Davis and the Raiders only need to show up and pay for relocation fees.

How would the NFL handle sports gambling?

The NFL already excepts money from DFS providers which may or may not be gambling. Ultimately, the public is much more accepting of sports gambling.

It is still unlikely the league would ever endorse Vegas-styled sports gambling. There are ethical concerns like turning basketball players into even more of a commodity. These are men here, and we do not need to bet on them like horses. Plus, there are also valid concerns about players and referees avoiding conflict of interests. We know players already love gambling and Vegas too much.

Could Las Vegas really support a NFL team?

Let’s not forget Las Vegas is a basketball team. UNLV basketball games sellout when the team is good. It is home to the NBA Summer League, USA Basketball Showcases and many preseason games each year.

Hence, the team would have to immerse itself in the community. Luckily, the Raiders do a good job already in blue-collar Oakland. Also, the Raiders California fan-base would make the short drive and plane-rides to neighboring Las Vegas. Those reasons make the Raiders and Las Vegas a nice fit. There is also plenty of cheap rooms for Raidernation to save bucks.

Not to mention, the arena only needs to sellout eight games a year. The Raiders are on the brink of the playoffs and they could attract casual fans outside of their silver and black faithful. Besides, the NFL is so hot that people will want to go to a NFl stadium to be seen. Further, the NFL team would be the only pro sports team in town, which is a draw itself.

Could players succeed in Las Vegas?

Players and fans might worry about that scorching summer heat. However, that does not make players afraid of hot climates like Phoenix, Texas or Florida. Plus, Las Vegas is home to more luxury hotels and clubs than all those places. I am interested if players and owners could deal with that access to alcohol, money and gambling.

In closing, Las Vegas makes a lot of sense for the Raiders. Unlike San Antonio or Portland, Las Vegas has public funds and close proximity to California fans.

A Las Vegas move would be the power move that the Raiders need after rejection from Los Angeles relocation. Not to mention, Mark Davis could do some renegade things by being the first professional sports team in Las Vegas. It is the perfect move to piss off other NFL owners like his pops did many times.

 

 

Tony Bergstrom should start versus the Green Bay Packers

Lately, rumors surfaced that Jon Feliciano will make his first start at right guard.

J’Marcus Webb is ruled out with an injury. Oh No!?!

However, Webb ranks as one of the worst starting linemen in the league. He is the only Raiders linemen with a negative grade, according to Pro Football Focus.

However, the rookie Feliciano should not start. Neither should the always reliable and available Khalif Barnes.

Barnes is on the downside of his career and those reps should be used to develop the future right guard.

Tony Bergstrom was the first draft pick of Reggie McKenzie. Out of Utah, Bergstrom played all across the offensive line.

However, he represents the previous regime’s philosophy of quick offensive linemen for the zone blocking scheme.

Thus, he moved from the guard position to the center position. A position he started at while Rodney Hudson was out with injury. Bergstrom shined and also registered a positive PFF grade.

Of course, he was not gonna dethrown Hudson from the starting job. Hudson is one of the best centers in the league.

Therefore, Bergstrom should enter the starting lineup again. I understand he is a little smaller than the other Raiders guards. However, he would help with blitz pickup against a Green Bay Packers defense that is renowned for confusion.

As for the run game, the Raiders offensive line can not play much worst. I’d like to see them bring in Bergstrom so we can see more stretch and zone plays. I like the playcalls because they utilize the speed of Latavius Murray and Taiwan Jones.

Lastly, Bergstrom should start so we can see what we have in him. His contract is ending soon, and it will be his last shot to prove he can be a full-time starter. That alone should motivate him to play his best.

As for Feliciano, the Raiders drafted him as a developmental piece. I do not know if he is ready to start. IF he is not ready to start, throwing him to the Packers will not help his confidence or development.

 

 

 

Don’t call it a let it down: Oakland Raiders show promise versus Pittsburgh Steelers

The Oakland Raiders set the stage for a huge road win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Oakland started the game hot by stopping the Steelers’ first drive.  Then the Raider offense got the ball and scored on just a few big plays.

The Steelers seemed to strip the ball from the Raiders every chance they got. Many times the Raiders were saved by the balls.

However, they could not help themselves on a few occasions. Latavius Murray put the ball on the grown after a hit which led to a concussion.

Back and forth, the two teams battled and exchanged big hits. Antonio Brown ran rapid in the secondary. He racked 180 yards just before the half. DeAngelo Williams did not allow the Pittsburgh offense to miss a beat without LeVeon Bell. Williams charged for more than 170 yards game.

Even with their starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the locker room with an ankle injury, the Steelers seized all the momentum at home.

Eventually, the Raiders found themselves with a 14 point deceit, thanks to a Taiwan Jones fumble after a Steelers touchdown. Oakland seemed headed for a loss.

Then they showed something we have not seen in years. Some belief and playoff fight.

Derek Carr threw seven touchdowns and zero interceptions in the previous two games. Hence, he was due for one.

Nonetheless, he lead a drive that brought the Raiders within a touchdown. Then he helped the team tie the game by throwing another touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree with just over a minute left.

It was not enough to win the game. A 50 yard pass to Antonio Brown delivered the dagger by setting up the game-winning field goal.

Regardless, the Raiders have nothing to be ashamed about from the 35-38 loss.

Yes, the defense played terrible. But what did we expect against the high powered Steelers offense?

We knew the Raiders had a terrible secondary. We knew the run defense was inconsistent. We knew the team had a bad history on the road.

What we did not know is if this team had the confidence to fight back.

The Raiders entered a hostile environment and they got hit in the month many times. Unlike years past, the team did not just get up but they struck back.

Of course it would have been great to win the game. But the Raiders are still learning to win.

Oakland is young at key positions including defensive line, corner back, wide receiver, quarterback and running back.

Forget morale victories or excuses. There are no such thing in football, which requires both teams to leave the field battered and bruised. Hence every football team is disappointed when they don’t get a win.

That said, I am still proud of my football team after Sunday’s loss. They battled until the final whistle.

Are they perfect? God no.

But the heart breaker against the Steelers shows Oakland is clearly headed in the right direction.  The Raiders showed the competitive fight that you want to see in a young team battling for the AFC Playoffs.

Oakland Raiders Strategies versus New York Jets: Turn-up or Throw-out

The game is simple. Here are some gameplan elements from the New York Jets win that the Raiders need to keep or get rid of.

Turn-Up

  1. Taiwan Jones… Dude made four guys miss on his way to a 50 yard touchdown reception. Finally, we are seeing the Raiders implement his speed into the offensive game plan. He is the perfect compliment for Latavius Murray’s bruising style.
  2. Speaking of running backs, the Raiders made a Jets’ top run-defense look silly. In fact, this was the first time in franchise history that the team had 300 yard passer, 100 yard receiver and 100 yard runner twice in the same season. Keep trying to build the offensive gameplan around the running game
  3. Deep Passes…. You know Al Davis smiled from heaven when the Raiders completed those deep passes. It was great to see Andre Holmes finally put that big body and speed to use. Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper might both head for 1,000 yard seasons, but Holmes will be critical if he can develop into that No. 3 target.
  4. Clive Walford…. Walford made another big play in this game. This time it was a touchdown pass. The Raiders will need him to continue occupying the middle of the field. It should help them proceed pushing deep.

Throw-out

  1. The Swagger… I get it, the Raiders are relevant for the first time in 13 years. However, keep the humble and quiet swagger. There is no need to shout-out just yet. Let’s keep winning and not get ahead of ourselves.
  2. There was not much else to throw out. The Raiders basically played a perfect game… Even the secondary found some swagger.

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Sparano deserves another shot

Don’t get me wrong, the man is still 2-8 as the Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders but another team should consider adding him.

Playing the toughest schedule in the NFL combined with a rookie quarterback and roster filled with post prime veterans, Sparano wasn’t put into a position to succeed.

The fact that Sparano has had this team competing is a testament to the kind of coach he is. Two wins isn’t enough to make him the Raiders future coach but beating the two playoff contenders decisively proves Sparano can be a NFL Head Coach.

But we knew that! Sparano was responsible for turning around the Dolphins a few years back. Either way, rookie Derek Carr bought into Sparano and endorsed him as the coach of the future.

But really, what else is Carr going to do? Of course he’ll endorse Sparano but that doesn’t mean he should be back next season.

If Sparano did come back he would face too much pressure to win immediately. Any losses would put him right on the hot seat and the Raiders would be in the same spot we are now.

So it is best for the Raiders to move on and find a new visionary to start on a clean slate in 2015. Regardless, another team would be wise to consider Tony Sparano for a head coaching job.

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Image via google

Defensive Backs creating a Culture

Dennis Allen is most notably connected to the New Orleans Saints Championship Team. What did he coach? Defensive Backs, and it seems like he is finally transferring that knowledge to the silver and black. That Saints team was noted for takeovers in the secondary, but the only thing the Raiders secondary has been noted for is giving up records, having a revolving door, and of course injuries.

Dj Hayden being hurt is not news, but it has still been the news of training camp. In his place, Chidekwa and T.J. Carrie have been capturing Raiders fans’ hearts. Combined with veterans Tarrell Brown and Carlos Rodgers, it seems like the Raiders defensive backs can be a building block of the future.

From top to bottom, this group has a lot to be excited about. Taiwan Jones has already carved a niche as a special teamer, and rookie Keith McGill looks to do the same. Safeties Ras-Dowling, Brandan Ross and Usama Young look to compete for playing time and a roster spot, as well.

We already know how good our starting safeties are with Tyvon Branch and Charles Woodson. The knowledge and intangibles of the four veterans in the group seem to be trickling down, and should stay with the team as it continues to grow a winning culture. Evident by the level of competition from Carrie and Chidekwa, it seems that the Raiders could have a legion of boom brewing. The Seawhawks most notably developed their infamous secondary mostly from mid level draft picks.

As long as the Raiders continue to inspire a culture of competition, I expect to see the late round draft picks continuing to develop into contributors able to utilize their potential. Either way, I am glad to finally see Dennis Allen’s specialty coming to the Raiders.

No Suprise if Raiders select Evans

Mike Evans showcases abilities and athletecism at NFL Scouting Combine, via SI.com


Many in the media, have predicted a for-gone conclusion that the Raiders will target Khalil Mack or Sammy Watkins with the fifth draft pick. Otherwise, the two may consider some of the elite tackles, but will likely trade down the board.

However, in the scenario that Mack and Watkins are off of the board, could the Raiders hold their water and select Mike Evans. NBC football talk reported the Raiders may lean towards Evans over Watkins, and another source broke their was a team in the top ten with similar thinking.

Well I have been adament about the Raiders selected Watkins, it would not suprise me if they select Evans even if Watkins is available.

The truth is, Reggie McKenzie likes big recievers. Evans could be the big possession reciever for Greg Olsen’s west coast offense. Sure they already have Rod Streater and Andre Holmes in that role, but who wouldn’t want another big reciever as there is a trend of defensive backs getting bigger and more physical.

McKenzie already admitted in interest in the one and one a recievers of this class of Evans and Watkins. He said he would take their great abilities over the rest of the classes’ good abilities anydays.

While Watkins may be the more polished and pro ready reciever, Evans seems to have more upside, with a 6’5 frame and fast fourty time. He does not offer the same value as Watkins in space and returning, but Evans has plenty of god given talent.

It is tough to evaluate him, because he played with Johnny Manziel. Just as many times as he took over games with big plays, he also dissapperead. No one is sure if Evans made Manziel or vice versa, but both have value at the next level.

However, this could just as well be a smoke screen to increase leverage at trading out of their pick. Or it could be a method to hide the Raiders’ interest, whom the media thinks they have predicted.

Ideally, either Watkins or Evans would be needed additions to a Raiders’ offense which is desperate for an identity. Matt Schaub should be happy to get either of these guys, but it would not suprise me if the Raiders stay at five and select Evans over Watkins.

Even if it is a reach, McKenzie proved last season, he is willing to get the player he wants even if it is at a higher cost. Whatever the decision is, hopefully it pans out for McKenzie, because this will be his defining draft selection.

Terrelle Pryor trade makes sense

Here is a column I wrote for my school paper.

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Original post- http://sundial.csun.edu/2014/04/seahawks-make-smart-move-with-low-cost-aquisition-of-raiders-pryor/

 

NFL teams began their quest for Super Bowl XLIX Tuesday with the beginning of offseason training activities (OTA). OTAs are teams’ first opportunity to welcome new players and assimilate them with team culture.

The defending champion Seattle Seahawks added one more new addition, by exchanging a seventh round pick in this year’s draft to the Oakland Raiders for quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Oakland’s short-lived Pryor saga comes to an official end, despite Pryor’s show of promise as playcaller.

His departure signifies the end of an era, as Pryor was the last player ever selected by Al Davis, Raiders’ legendary owner and figurehead. Davis selected Pryor in the third round of the 2011 supplemental draft, after Pryor was suspended for a well known violation of NCAA rules.

Davis died later that season and would never see Pryor play a down of football. Neither would Davis be able to develop Pryor into the running and passing threat Davis envisioned when he selected him.

In fact, The Oakland Raiders never did Pryor any real justice as the developmental quarterback of the future.

The same year as Pryor’s selection, the team acquired Cincinnati Bengals “retired” quarterback Carson Palmer for an attempt at a playoff run. Exchanging a first and second round pick for Palmer sealed the team’s fate to the former Bengals’ quarterback for a season and half, while Pryor mainly sat on the bench.

Last off season, the Raiders said goodbye to Palmer, and added Seattle’s then back-up quarterback Matt Flynn. Then the team drafted a quarterback in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, and signed undrafted free agent Matt McGloin. However, Pryor successfully won the starting position, despite coaches handing Flynn the job initially.

Even after winning the job and almost upsetting the Indianapolis Colts in week 1 with a record-setting performance, Pryor was benched in favor of McGloin, after a knee injury and struggles with defenses’ adjustments to his running ability.

This off season, the Raiders traded for veteran Matt Schaub to be their starter. Combined with the Raiders interest in quarterback prospects in the draft and their fascination with McGloin, the Pryor trade was a foreseen conclusion.

The Oakland Raiders are lucky to have even gotten a seventh round pick for Pryor. The media and NFL knew Pryor had requested for a trade. It was not a secret that Pryor and Raiders’ head coach Dennis Allen did not mesh well. Pryor’s preference to improvise with running plays always seemed to throw Allen’s game plan for a loop.

Whether or not Pryor succeeds in the league, it was time for the Raiders to move on from Pryor. The team believes in Schaub and McGloin enough that Pryor’s play making ability would have wasted on the bench.

It is a shame the Raiders bid the 24-year-old goodbye, because he showed promise in his first few starts.  Sure Pryor struggled in his first season starting, but the Raiders never gave the raw prospect a real chance at growth from the experience the same way other current Pro Bowlers have been given early in their career. The Raiders need offensive play makers, but they effectively traded away one of their best.

As for the Seahawks, they added a play maker for a bargain price. Having coached at USC when Pryor was dominating high School and college football, Carroll is familiar with the type of person Pryor is. Seeing an inevitable release from the Raiders, the Seahawks would not have given the Raiders a draft pick for Pryor if they didn’t think he added something to their team.

Until the  Raiders, Pryor never had anyone work on his quarterback mechanics. Having relied on his athletic ability throughout his playing career, Pryor had a substantial learning curve. Yet Pryor’s god-given talent and size makes his ceiling unlimited.

Even with the turmoil in Oakland, Pryor never complained or made excuses. He showed his skin as a true competitor and deserves to be in a situation where he can develop as a quarterback.

Pryor joins a unique Seahawks’ culture which inspires competition, at every level. No, Pryor will not end up as the starter, because that is young phenom Russell Wilson’s job. Yet, Pryor could easily unseed Tarvaris Jackson as the back-up, and excel if Wilson were ever to go down with an injury.

Added, Pryor’s unique skill set gives the Seahawks another running option in scoring situations. Plus, his size and ability resembles a quarterback the Seahawks play twice a year in San Francisco 49er’s Colin Kaepernick. The Seahawks can use Pryor’s dual-threat skills to prepare for their division rivals, the 49ers.

Seattle offers a scenario for Pryor that he never had in Oakland. Pryor finally has an opportunity to develop. Not only does the Seahawk’s offense suit Pryor’s ability, but he can learn from Carroll and Wilson without pressure to produce. Either Way, Pryor’s opportunity in Seattle may be his last chance to live up to the hype generated from his playing days at Ohio State.

Even if Pryor does not fit with the Seahawks, and they are unable to utilize his potential then they can simply cut him. The Pryor trade offers Seattle a high-reward playmaker at a low-risk price.