I know it is OTA’s and it is all about moving forward to the 2018 season but I want to take a few moment to remember the legacies of a few Raiders casualties. You won’t read about any of these guys in Raiders Hall of Fame. They’re the casualties of the lost 2017 season.
Michael Crabtree, Sean Smith, David Amerson, Clive Walford and Marshall Newhouse were all let go before their contracts expired. Jamize Olawale and Cordarelle Patterson were traded even though they flashed at times for the Silver and Black. Don’t forget Marquette King, JDR, TJ Carrie and Denico Autry who will also move on. Otherwise, peace out to Darius Latham and Jihad Ward.
Marquette King, Broncos
I get it. Marquette King had more followers than some of these NFL teams but let’s not pretend like he wasn’t legit at his craft. And really, to let him go on the first day of the new year when he hadn’t met his new coach? Even if Gruden wants a punter who will be quiet and kick, adding one more roster question doesn’t help Oakland’s cause. King wasn’t the only person that got his walking players.
Still, let’s remember King not only for his dances after punts but all the work he did in the community. Plus, he was the league’s lone punter. He made us forget about Shane Lechler and was actually athletic in a similar way as Raiders legend Ray Guy.
Michael Crabtree, Ravens
Crabtree was the biggest surprise since he’s been Carr’s favorite weapon especially in the redzone. Crabtree’s numbers and relative contract, that had $6 million in non-guaranteed money, made him a likely candidate to stay on the Raiders. Instead, the Raiders cut him.
However, Gruden and the Raiders had other plans. It was clear that Crab fell out of favor with the last staff and for whatever reason, Gruden wasn’t ready to give him a restart. Lookout for Crab to really play with a chip on his shoulder this season.
Either way, let’s not forget Crab for being one of the first players to buy into the new era of the Silver and Black. He took a below market value contract to play with Derek Carr and prove his worth. He was the start of a culture change. Crabtree was more than a gold chain and Talib antagonist. He was a Raider.
David Amerson, Chiefs and Sean Smith, Free Agent
The greatest cornerback duo that never was. Amerson and Smith didn’t live up to their expectations. They were supposed to be the big, cornerback duo that could make plays on the ball. Last season, Amerson couldn’t stay on the field, despite being an underrated addition when he signed a few years ago. Smith couldn’t even get practice time after being a key free agent before the previous season.
As a unit, it took the Raiders nearly the whole season to get an interception. Some of that falls on these veterans. Plus, their contracts, Amerson’s health and Smith’s legal trouble just made it all to easy to start over.
Marshall Newhouse, Bills
Speaking of upgrades, Newhouse was cut because he really didn’t solidify the right tackle spot. Newhouse was adequate on the right side. He also had experience playing a variety of positions on the offensive line. However, he wasn’t better than average and the Gruden regime wanted someone better for their scheme. Newhouse will always be remembered for recovering that fumble versus Miami and getting flipped when he tried to run and advance the ball.
Jamize Olawale, Cowboys
Here’s another trade that hurt. Olawale hadn’t been utilized by the previous regime. When he was, he flashed running ability like that big run versus the Steelers a few years ago. Otherwise, he was a balanced player with blocking, catching and special team abilities. Olawale was a class act in the community and still relatively young.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Patriots
Speaking of under utilization, Patterson played more than expected due to injuries to other WRs. However, he didn’t always see a lot of designed targets. He did give the Raiders some game changing runs, kick coverage and kick returns. That alone gives him a reason to be on an NFL roster. Now, Belichick gets to use his game changing speed and special teams ability. Patterson should see some extra snaps at RB too. Guess he had to go since the Raiders are deep at WR but we really chose Seth Roberts over him? And all we got back was conditional pick in this trade, SMH.
Oh yeah, Navarro Bowman isn’t signed after a solid year as our runstopper. He is probably not in the plans since the Raiders already signed three veteran linebackers.
Jihad Ward, Cowboys and Darius Latham, free agent
Here are two players that played a ton their rookie year but injuries and other competition kept them mostly out of the rotation. Latham isn’t too surprising since he was an undrafted player. However, Jihad Ward was a second round pick and he never even sniffed that potential. Both players didn’t seem like fits in the new defensive scheme and both are easily upgraded. Ward was traded and Latham waived.
Clive Walford, Jets
Another tragic draft pick waived. Walford never regained his career projections after he injured himself in an ATV accident before his sophomore season. He played well last year but we all knew Jared Cook was the starter. Walford had all the tools to be both a good blocker and pass catcher. He just never consistently put it all together. That’s why the Raiders always needed to bring in another player to compete or compliment him. Walford is the type of player who might benefit from a change of scenery though.
Corey James, Free Agent
Another player waiver with flashes who battled injuries. Hopefully he catches on somewhere else?
TJ Carrie, Browns and Denico Autry, Colts
Two surprise contributors who got more money elsewhere. I ain’t mad at them even if they’re both sorrier teams. Both Carrie and Autry served and represented the Silver and Black every week. Yes, we could’ve used more consistency out of both players but they both showed willingness to play multiple positions. They both fought for playing time and a roster spot. Plus, they arguably got better every single year. Carrie was undrafted and Autry was claimed from another team. These were too Raiders who I wish the best for moving forward.
Aldon Smith, N/A
An obvious subtraction since he hadn’t played in two seasons. Tragic story where unlimited potential was derailed by demons. Hopefully, he can get his life together.
Jack Del Rio, N/A
The bay area native, living his dream job. We’ll remember Captain Black Jack for his gutsy fourth down calls and weekly media cliches. He should also be remembered for modernizing the Raiders facilities, getting decent free agents and giving this team direction and foundation. The weird thing is, he lost all of that just as fast as he built it.
The truth is, 2017 was a weird season especially to those of us not in the lockerroom. Someone needed to pay the price and it was JDR. Not only did he let players impact the lockerroom culture, but he failed to make weekly or halftime adjustments. He got comfortable and the team got stagnant.
Don’t feel too bad though. He signed an extension before the year and he got cashed out to not work.
The New Guys
Regardless, you don’t really get mad until you realize who the Raiders replaced said players with. For a minute, there was a running joke that they were cutting black players for white players. That wasn’t entirely true but it was a weird coincidence. For instance, they signed Jordy Nelson to take over at receiver for Crab despite his added age and more recent injury concerns. Adding Martavis Bryant helps soften the loss of Crab and Patterson too.
Smith, Carrie and Amerson were replaced with veterans like Rashaad Melvin, Shareece Wright and Leon Hall. It remains to be seen if they’re upgrades. Reggie Nelson was re-signed despite him getting beat bad a lot last year. Journey man tackle Breno Giacomini replaces Newhouse but that might not be an upgrade either.
Oakland added Derek Carrier and Keith Smith and re-signed Lee Smith to replace Olawale and Walford in the new offensive scheme. Again, lateral moves at best.
They spent a bunch more draft picks to restructure their offensive line with the roster moves and new scheme. Emmanuel Lamur, Derrick Johnson and Tahir Whitehead will takeover for Bowman’s leadership.
The point is, yes Gruden made changes but it is unclear if any of them are really upgrades. Either way, it is clear Gruden is trying to change the culture and schemes and he doesn’t care where a player was drafted or signed. Hopefully, it all works out, the Raiders win and we forget all these casualties.
The Oakland Raiders officially got their white whale. They gave Jon Gruden $100 million over 10 years so the ESPN commentator would return to the sideline. ruden’s assistants are expected to be heavily compensated as well.
It is rumored they’re hiring Rams QB coach Greg Olsen as offensive coordinator and Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia and Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will hold the same positions in Oakland.
Why Gruden’s return is good
Every Raiders fan remembers the last time Gruden wore Raiders colors as a coach. It was the infamous Tuck Rule game. If his return reverses that curse, then I’m all for it.Other fans, look forward to the nostalgia of Gruden getting the offense back in shape and making plenty of great sound bites. If the coordinator rumors are true that is great too. Guenther is a true 4-3 guy who will finally give this defense an identity. They won’t hide behind a hybrid scheme. They won’t get pushed around either. Gruden is also a proclaimed offensive guru. That means it will be on him to get Amari Cooper and Derek Carr back on track after both regressed in 2017.Ultimately, the move is a signal from Raiders owner Mark Davis. You don’t give that kind of money to Gruden and eat Jack Del Rio’s contract if you aren’t committed to winning a championship as soon as possible. The Raiders have up to two years left in Oakland and it is clear they want to make a playoff push before that. Having an organization committed to a winning culture is always a good thing. It’s a move that should lift the morale of fans too.
Why Gruden part two could get bad
Remember the last time Mark Davis made a move that fans loved but everyone else questioned. That was the addition of Marshawn Lynch a year after retirement. The jury is still out on that move.Don’t forget it was also Davis who hired Del Rio. Del Rio was a great hire at the time but that turned sour quick.Gruden will have even higher expectations. Ownership will expect a significant playoff push before they leave Oakland. If not, Reggie McKenzie could get his pink slip next. Speaking of that, it is rumored that Gruden may want to make some additions to the personnel department too. McKenzie will stay onboard for the interim. However, it remains to be seen if he will stay with Gruden long term. Then there’s the whole matter of Las Vegas. The Raiders are taking on a lot of debt to make the move happen. They’ll need Gruden to make the team into a winner before, during and after the move. The success of the relocation to a smaller city and new sports town depends on the Raiders on-field-product.Additionally, there’s a huge elephant in the room. Gruden hasn’t called a game in nearly a decade. Certainly, he’s analyzed the game and become aware of new trends as an outsider. However, that’s completely different than leading men and putting together a game plan.On top of that, he’ll lead on Greg Olsen as offensive coordinator. Olsen held the same title with the Raiders during Carr’s rookie year. That’s good for continuity but let’s remember that is the year Carr earned his check down Derek nickname. It also reminds me of the time we rehashed Gregg Knapp. It can’t be much worse than that. Olsen did help Jared Goff develop this year. He probably learned some modern west coast offense from Sean McVay too. But Olsen didn’t do anything in his second stint with Jacksonville. Olsen’s offenses have been average throughout his career. Don’t forget that. Otherwise, John DeFillipo was the QB coach that year and the year before. He’s the real attributed mastermind behind Carr’s rookie year and the year that brought us Terelle Pryor. Except DeFillipo will probably get a head coaching job and not return to Oakland with Olsen. Hopefully, Gruden and Olsen don’t expect to dink and dunk their way to a title in 2018. If that’s the case, expect Raiders fans to turn their morale real quick. On both sides of the ball, the Raiders are going to have to add some guys to help the transition to Gruden’s regime? If it works, is to be determined…
Applaud the Raiders for doing what they had to do and gambling on Gruden seems like the sexy bet. It won’t come without challenges because all coaching changes result in growing pains. Nonetheless, it was clear they had to move on from Jack Del Rio. Del Rio looked old and tired as the season went on. He never could find the answers during the games or in post game press conferences. There was a ton of weird drama from Lynch, Carr, the defense and the offensive line. Del Rio couldn’t keep it under control. Reports also said Del Rio wasn’t staying as late as much either. It seems like Del Rio always found someone to blame besides himself. He could never build a defensive culture or limit penalties during his entire tenure. He couldn’t maximize his talent in 2017. Del Rio wasn’t going to persuade any free agents moving forward either.Further, all this offseason lockerrrom snitching proves the Raiders lost their camaraderie. It proves that they weren’t responding to Del Rio. Raiders fans saw that as the team lacked motivation and often looked beaten during games. This prestigious franchise seemed like they were losing the physical battle each week. It was time to move on. Props to Del Rio though. He took getting fired from his dream job in stride. Del Rio got the news directly after a road game but still delivered his post game pressed. I can only imagine the emotions of losing your dream job. As fans, we all dream of doing the job that Del Rio worked his way into. He probably had the same dreams as a kid in the bay. His family and him also did a ton for the community. Del Rio built a foundation and moved the culture forward. Hopefully, Gruden can get the Raiders to the next step. This would be like the Warriors firing Marc Jackson and hiring Steve Kerr. In that same comparison, Gruden has got to win and win fast. He’s got to get this team contending for serious titles each year. He’s got to get a couple of Super Bowls over the next ten years. He’s got to get one with this core group, preferably before the team leaves its home. At the very least, Gruden needs to win a Super Bowl in four years or this could be a huge embarrassment for every one involved.Gruden has got to be more than just an upgrade over Del Rio. Gruden has got to turn the offense around and get the defense playing hard again. He’s got to sell tickets in Oakland and Las Vegas. He’s gotta coexist with Davis and McKenzie to get quality draft picks and feee agents. Can Gruden do all that? That is to be determined.
The Oakland Raiders suffered an embarrassing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last week. A seemingly defeated head coach Jack Del Rio didn’t seem like he knew the answers. He insisted that the offense needed to play “Bold.”
Silver and Black QB Derek Carr later said he was going to let it rip because that is what the coaches want. However, I’d push back on Jack Del Rio. How has he or this organization been bold? What example is the team following?
Outside of a few 4th and 1 gambles, when has the coaching staff been bold? Was it bold to fire Ken Norton Jr. after 11 games? He was the sacrificial lamb but he had already had his power compromised by Del Rio and John Pagano. Before Pagano took over, the defense played anything but bold. They were one of the least blitzing teams in the league.
It might have been bold for the Raiders to replace OC Bill Musgrave after he his contract expired. They promoted Todd Downing who never held the title. Downing changed the scheme with more zone blocking and pocket concepts. Is that a bold move or a dumb move?
Was it bold to bring in Marshawn Lynch? Lynch was the hometown heroes of fans. He filled a need at running back.
How about holding onto underperforming players like Reggie Nelson and Sean Smith on defense? Both were supposed to help change the culture of the defense. It is amazing they both find themselves as significant contributors. However, it is an indicator of the talent level on defense. There are hardly any bold playmakers outside of Khalil Mack.
Speaking of the draft, the Raiders have taken some bold gambles. They drafted a corner with off-field incidents and he played well in only two games. Now he is on IR along with our second round pick who needs massive development.
Factor that in with our third round pick in this year’s draft as well as our second and third picks from 2016 and we have a bunch of developmental defensive linemen who might not last in the league. They’ve gotten some flashes from Mario Edwards Jr., Justin Ellis and Denico Autry but they haven’t been dominating enough collectively. Or maybe their coaching hasn’t been bold enough to put them into positions to succeed?
Otherwise, signing Navarro Bowman was a bold move. Except the Raiders were depleted at linebacker which was already the worst position group on the team. Bowman was another no-brainer since he came from a Bay Area native anyways.
The Raiders boldest moves were giving extensions to Gabe Jackson, Jack Del Rio, Derek Carr and Donald Penn. Penn is aging and appears to be on the decline but he is still a solid player. Carr and Jackson have both proven to be franchise building blocks but both have struggled this year. Del Rio had a great year last year but so did this entire team. It actually appears like the team hasn’t rallied around JDR like they have in the previous years.
Ultimately, the amount of money the Raiders dished out to the aforementioned stakeholders was bold. It was bold because it was largely based off one year of elite play and good play the year before. It’s hard to say it was a worthy gamble considering those stakeholders’ performance this year. Oakland will stick with their investments and that’s pretty bold too.
Thus, the Raiders coaching staff wants the Raiders to play bolder this week but have they been bold? Have they taken risks and let it ripped? It’s arguable that they played it safe by keeping the core of the team together.
Nonetheless, when Oakland did make bold investments and decisions it has rarely paid off. Therefore, don’t blame the players if they play it safe too. Don’t blame them for reinforcing the safe culture established by the coaches.
Don’t get mad at the players for not being bold when you’ve rarely been bold. The coaches need to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves if they’ve been bold? Because maybe the players are being safe to negative the reckless personnel decisions and safe play calling that has infected the Raiders.
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.
It’s Week Two of the Preseason and here are some Raiders Rants on this week’s stories.
These days, it seems like everyone gave their take on the latest NFL protests happening across the league. Hue Jackson discouraged his players from doing it. Raiders legend Tim Brown questioned why Marshawn Lynch is bringing this attention to himself. Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said if it were him he would stand for the National Anthem.
Nonetheless, Marshawn Lynch sat during the National Anthem of the Raiders first preseason game. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if not for similar protests made by Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett.
In fact, Lynch himself downplayed it. He said it is something he has done over his entire career.
Either way, Lynch is from Oakland and he is playing there now. Oakland is historically one of the most socially conscious cities in the world. Thus, Lynch has every right to make whatever statement he wants.
As for old heads discouraging the behavior and encouraging players to stand for the national anthem… it is hard to blame them. These people came up during a different time than us. They lived in a time that was a lot less open to the human experience and less tolerant of different views. They stood in line and stayed in their lane so that this younger generation could say what they want on social media and continue to protest how we see fit.
Then again, who am I to say anything about how someone else might take offense to protestors or how old heads might see protestors. People of my shade aren’t getting brutally murdered… at least not at the same rate.
On a lighter note, Derek Carr released a hilarious teaser of a music video. It came with a full site and photo shoot of what looked to be some sort of album or EP.
Carr later said it was all a joke but the internet ran with it. Players and media entertained the tweet. Don’t be surprised if you see the Raiders QB in a meme very soon.
Either way, this is one of the reasons why Carr is the perfect face to the Raiders franchise. Besides being a great player, leader, husband and father, he does not take himself too seriously. He isn’t above trolling the internet with some well-done and harmless fun.
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!
It is pretty easy to list off the reasons why the Oakland Raiders should not keep defensive coördinator Ken Norton Jr. A recent Just Blog Baby article makes a compelling argument for firing Norton Jr.
Additionally, head coach Jack Del Rio called out the defense it in his closing press conference.
“There were far too many explosive plays allowed this year, whether it be run or pass,” Del Rio said. “That’s, you know, that’s an area that must be addressed. That might be the number one thing that we must do better going into 2017.”
Not to mention, the Raiders gave up the most yards per play in the league. They also gave up the 13th most points per game. Oakland ranked No. 4 in penalty yards for defense. The Raiders also gave up the No. 10 most rushing yards per game and the 9th most passing yards per game. They also finished last in the league with 25 sacks.
All that said, Ken Norton Jr. deserves to keep his job for another season.
Placing the blame on him for the poor defensive play is irresponsible. Norton Jr. is merely the figurehead, coordinator and collaborator. He is not out there to execute plays, although he did once roam NFL fields.
Now, let’s look at why Ken Norton Jr. should stay another season in Oakland.
Defense played well in stretches
We all remember the horrible outings versus the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons. It has also been cited that the Raiders gave up more points than any other team during the third quarter.
However, the Raiders played well in stretches. Quarterback Derek Carr led many fourth quarter comebacks but the defense put him in a position to do that. The defense clinched victories versus the Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans.
Not to mention, the team led the league in turnover differential. That is precisely the culture Norton Jr. was supposed to bring with him from the Seattle Seahawks.
It is not all Ken Norton Jr.’s fault
Ken Norton Jr. earned some criticism for his play calling this season. There were times where he needed to blitz and didn’t. There were other times he made questionable coverage calls.
However, Norton was not out there missing tackles on big plays. He was not out there holding receivers and committing pass interference. That is execution.
Something all the Raiders defenders could have done better.
Not to mention, Jack Del Rio is a defensive mind. Therefore, I’d put some blame on him too. I’m sure Del Rio hired Norton Jr. as a first-time coordinator so the defensive head coach could still have some say in the day-to-day operations of the defense.
I don’t want to overlook the Raiders terrible defensive standings. However, let’s remember this team played with a ton of defensive linemen and linebackers. On-field adjustments are difficult when you go through three starting middle linebackers and play callers via Ben Heeney, Cory James and Pat Riley Jr.
It is hard to do anything when your interior players are either true defensive ends or out of shape. Denico Autry, Jihad Ward, Mario Edwards Jr., Dan Williams, Justin Ellis, Darius Latham, and Stacy McGee all took turns playing injured and inconsistent.
As for coverage, the Raiders lost their nickel corner to injured reserve and went through three starting strong safeties. You can blame play calling for poor coverage assignments, but corners David Amerson and Sean Smith are paid well enough. They should cover anyone via any scheme.
I’m not saying Ken Norton Jr. doesn’t deserve any blame, but he does not deserve all of it. This team featured new starters at both safeties, corner, two linebackers spots and two defensive line positions. Give Norton Jr. a break. These guys should improve with playoff experience and another year in the scheme.
There is no better replacement
Don’t give me your Wade Phillips rumors. No disrespect to him, he is a great football mind.. However, the Raiders need a coördinator who is more connected with their players like Norton Jr.
The only name that might be better is Gus Bradley, who also has a Seahawks pedigree.
Remember, Del Rio has maintained that he is building a winning culture. Part of that culture includes updating the facilities and playing music at practice. Another part of it is winning.
Phillips may know about defense and winning, but they do not know about this new Raiders culture. Del Rio does not need the old heads stepping on his toes.
Further, Norton Jr. and Del Rio played and coached together. Entering a third season with the Raiders, the duo will develop more chemistry and make better adjustments next season.
The team could roll the dice on an internal candidate, but you’re still talking about a team adjusting to a new leader and play caller. Let the defense continue to develop under Norton Jr. in 2017.
The defense will improve in 2017
I get the frustration. The defense did not make a sack in the last three games. They failed to rise to the occasion in the last regular season game versus the Denver Broncos and against the Texans.They also did not recover a couple of fumbles versus Houston.
Plus, the defense did not grow enough in year two of Norton Jr. This is especially true when you factor in offseason additions like draft picks Jihad Ward, Karl Joseph and Cory James and free agents Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson.
Still, championships are not won in free agency. The Raiders should finally address the middle of their defense with the No. 24 pick in the NFL Draft.
Expect them to take a linebacker and/or defensive tackle with the first couple of picks, like I’ve said for three seasons.
Del Rio even admitted that the team did not get enough push in the middle via ESPN. He called out the whole defensive tackle group for not being factors this season.
Therefore, this team will get better when they get some consistency at middle backer and defensive tackle.
Plus, the Raiders should see Aldon Smith finally reinstated. That could allow Bruce Irvin or Khalil Mack to concentrate more on linebacker duties.
Further, Smith’s presence on the edge may slide Jihad Ward or Mario Edwards Jr. into full-time defensive tackle play. Both players could use some bulk to better anchor against the run, but they both have the god-given traits to terrorize guards in a pass rush situation.
Additionally, I expect Joseph and James to improve with another year in the system.
In the end, I believe Ken Norton Jr. deserves some blame for the poor defensive play. However, firing Norton Jr. will not solve all the Raiders problems. Give him one more season so this unit can develop together.
Good teams do not fire their defensive coordinators. The Raiders are finally a perennial playoff team and firing Norton would only set them back.
“We want more,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said at his final press conference of the season. “As an organization, our goals are higher. So, that’s not going to change.”
Del Rio continued to talk about his teams’ good accomplishments. The fact that the team won 12 games, six-games in a row, and made the playoffs.
However, the Raiders leader is right. This team should not be satisified. They were a broken leg to Derek Carr away from at least playing in the divisional round of the playoffs.
So when we look back at the 2016 season, there are no moral victories.
It doesn’t matter that the team averaged more points per game than they have in a decade. It doesn’t matter that Derek Carr was an MVP candidate and his offensive line gave up the least amount of sacks. It doesn’t matter that Marquette King led the league in punts of more than 50 yards, or that the team lead the league in turnover differntial.
All that matters is that this team got bounced in the first round. All that matters is that this team lost a tie for the AFC West due to head to head losses via the Kansas City Chiefs.
Sure, the Raiders have a lot to be proud of. However, they also have a lot to improve. The 2016 season was merely a series of lessons to learn from.
Carr said it himself. The whole team has to work to be better next year. That is the only way they can take the next step as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
If the Wild Card loss to the Texans showed us anything, it proved how valuable a single playoff experience can be to a team. Last season, Houston got spanked by Kansas City in the same round.
Hence, Oakland will benefit from their own whooping on ESPN.
Therefore, I don’t want to hear about brightsides or silver linings. The Raiders are building a winning culture and they can not be satisified with moral victories or advanced statistics.
What is tangible is that the Raiders will be sitting at home next week. They need to remember that and come back for more next season.
Forget, the moral lessons and sports cliches. Oakland must move forward and prepare to win more next season.
Further, it is time for us to expect more from our Raiders. It is time for the Raiders to expect more from themselves.
Only winning matters. No moral victories.
The Oakland Raiders (7-2) entered their bye week with a first place spot in the AFC West, fresh off a win over their AFC West rival the Denver Broncos.
It was a long week for Raiders Nation. Besides not having a game last week, they watched as the Kansas City Chiefs and Broncos both escaped with narrow victories.
Nonetheless, the Raiders have a lot to celebrate over the first half of their season. Headed into a Monday Night Football game versus the Houston Texans in Mexico City, it is time to hand out some awards.
Unlike other Midseason Awards, I will not keep this team specific. The Raiders are on the national stage and their players deserve consideration for NFL recognition.
MVP: Derek Carr
The Raiders are tied for the best record in the AFC West, and Derek Carr deserves a lot of credit. He led game-winning drives against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints. He also helped the team close out games versus the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens. He’s thrown 17 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. Carr is also on pace to throw for more than 4,500 yards in the season.
Candidates Ezekiel Elliott, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan all get consideration for this award. However, Brady missed four games. Elliott plays behind a dominant offensive line and Ryan could drop off in the second half of the season. Carr has a case for midseason MVP, and it should not be that close.
Offensive Player of Midseason: Derek Carr
Clearly, Carr is a candidate for the offensive player of the year award if he is an option for overall MVP.
Granted, Amari Cooper is having a great year. The Raiders defense would not be the same without him.
However, Cooper and Crabtree should both surpass 1,000 receiving yards. That is due to Carr.
The Raiders quarterback also shattered a franchise record for passing attempts and yards. He’s won AFC Player of the Week twice.
Even if you give the MVP of midseason to another player in the league, you must make Carr the offensive player of the year. He leads a Raiders offense that ranks No. 5 in yards per game and No. 6 in total points. Carr also owns one of the best touchdowns to interceptions ratio in the NFL.
Defensive Player of Midseason: Khalil Mack
Khalil Mack turned his season around by registering six sacks in four games. That puts him on pace for 14 this season. PFF ranks Mack as one of the best edge players this season.
Von Miller is also in the conversation. Aaron Donald may be as well. Both of those players may have a better argument because their defensive units rank better than the Raiders in most categories.
Thus far, Miller has 9.5 sacks and Donald has five sacks. Donald faces a disadvantage for the award because he plays inside, where he gets fewer opportunities to sack the quarterback. Also, Donald’s Rams seem most unlikely to make the playoffs.
Therefore, Mack’s shot at this award lies with the entire defense. Currently, Oakland ranks 16th in total points and fifth in most defensive yards per game. If Mack wants to win the NFL DPOY award, he must help turn those stats around. Taking the AFC West from the Broncos could also help Mack claim the award from Miller’s hands.
Rookie of the Year: Karl Joseph
Rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott make it hard for Joseph to win this award on a national scale.
Joey Bosa’s four sacks and Leonard Floyd’s five sacks make it hard for Joseph to win the defensive edition too. Also, Deion Jones also has a couple of interceptions, a touchdown and a gang of tackles.
Joseph’s best argument centers around his one interception and holding the second highest tackles mark on the team. Joseph did not start the first three games of the season, but he can easily win this award with a few interceptions.
Coach of the Year: Jack Del Rio
Listen, I don’t care what Jason Garrett is doing with his rookies. I don’t care how many times Bill Belichick can win this award. I don’t care what Gus Bradley is doing in his own franchise turnaround.
Jack Del Rio deserves this award, especially if he ends the Raiders 14-year playoff drought. Del Rio turned around the losing culture in Oakland. He brought them back into the national spotlight with some of his gambling playcalls.
Del Rio’s biggest obstacle for this award revolves around that struggling defense. Afterall, Del Rio is a defensive coach.
Biggest Disappointment: Clive Walford
Sean Smith has made enough plays to get himself out of this conversation. Instead, we can award it to our second-year tight end. Fantasy football experts hyped him up as our third passing target. Unfortunately, he only has one touchdown catch and is barely on pace to eclipse his rookie totals for catches and yards.
You could add some players like Dan Williams or Menelik Watson into this list. That is partly because they have not commanded the roles of full-time starters. Williams for his condition and Watson for the nagging injuries.
However, Walford was suppossed to become elite. He’s barely progressing.
Remember, they do call this the Not-For-Long league. Therefore, I gotta imagine there is a bigger bust somewhere in the league.
The Oakland Raiders secured their third road victory of the 2016 season via a defeat of the previously undefeated Baltimore Ravens. Here are more lessons from the 28-27 victory.
Turn Up: 3-1 overall record for the 2016 season.
Forget the fact that Oakland won all three games by a single score. The Raiders have their best start since 2002, the same year they won the AFC title. Not to mention, the team seems poised for their first winning season since that year. That all sounds like cause for celebrations.
Turn up: The Special Teams
Marquette King registered the best-graded game ever rated by Pro Football Focus. Jalen Richard also added a 47-yard punt return. Special teams really gave the Raiders an edge in the one-point contest versus the Ravens. Especially when Devin Hester sparked his team with a few nice returns, the Silver and Black needed to execute on special teams.
That is exactly what head coach Jack Del Rio said in Monday’s press conference.
“All three phases playing complementary football, impacting the game, and it’s about us and our team, and what we’re able to do when those three phases work together like that. That’s a great example of it.” Del Rio said.
Let’s see more sparks via corner punts and long returns as the season continues.
Turn Down: The talks about an elite offense
Oakland played an efficient game on offense. Derek Carr threw four touchdown passes and went 25 of 35 for 199 yards. The leading rusher was DeAndre Washington with 30 yards on five carries. Plus, the unit only converted a quarter of their third down attempts.
Obviously, the Silver and Black will take the win. However, we need to see more from the rushing attack before this unit becomes elite. An example of this includes Baltimore winning the time of possession category by more than 9 minutes. It could help not having a rookie like Vandal Alexander at right tackle. Some of his penalties killed the team. An improved rushing attack also makes for more easily managed third downs.
Either way, Oakland still ranks in the top 10 as far as offensive averages for rushing and passing. They just need a little better execution to become an elite unit.
Turn Down: Defensive hype
Yes, the Raiders defense came up with a four-and-out stop in the final two minutes before winning on the road. Yes, Bruce Irvin got a strip-sack and Khalil Mack got his first sack of the year in the fourth quarter. Plus, the team pressured Joe Flacco all day.
However, Ravens running back slashed through the Raiders defense for 113 yards on 21 carries. Joe Flacco also got 298 yards, even if it took him more than 50 attempts. Also, 37-year-old Steve Smith caught 8 balls for 111 yards and 1 touchdown.
Clearly, Oakland has a long way to go before the unit is actually good. They still rank last in total yards and average per pass. They are also second to last in opponent rushing yards per game.
It is great that the Silver and Black can rely on their team to make plays when it matters. Nonetheless, it would be great if they made plays through the entire game.
Turn Down: The Penalties
Overall, the Raiders have had too many penalties. They are No. 1 in offensive penalties with 43. They are in the top-five as far as defensive penalties too.
The margin for error is so low in the NFL. Oakland can not keep winning these one score games if they consistently lead in the penalty category.
Blame it on the Raiders-bias if you want. However, the Raiders need to look themselves in the mirror and execute better. This is especially true for an offensive line that is too good for holding calls and false starts.
Turn Up: D.J. Hayden in the nickel corner.
Hayden played 70 percent of the team’s snaps despite not starting in the base defense. He made six tackles and defensed one pass. Not to mention, he made some hits.
We’ve grown so much, man,” Hayden said. “As far as our execution; we’re playing smarter. We’re just out there playing. We’re not thinking, we’re just reacting.”
Considering how many fans were ready to write him off, we should definitely celebrate that Hayden is coming into his own via the inside corner spot.