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2016 Minicamp Quick Updates

The Oakland Raiders wrapped up minicamp this past weekend. Here is what you need to know from the three-day event. 17 undrafted free agents and 20 try-out players participated in the event, as well as some of the Raiders drafted rookies.

Jihad Ward

All reports indicate that Ward is as good as advertised. He was flying around camp, playing fast and being an imposing force.

More importantly, the second round pick remained healthy. Some teams questioned if Ward would need another knee surgery, but the Raiders gave him a clean bill of health.

Max McCaffery

McCaffery was already one of the Raiders biggest UDFA names because of his last name.

The Duke product still needs polishing in the weight room, but his ability to catch the ball was on full display throughout camp.

Connor Cook

All signs say that the Raiders got a steal in Connor Cook. Multiple sources say Cook was impressive in camp.

Of course, it is still shirts and shorts season. It will be interesting if Cook can carry his performance into padded practices.  Could he beat out Matt McGloin for second string duties? Either way, Cook is a great backup option.

Jaydon Mickens

The Washington product is another receiver that shined in camp. Mickens is undersized but he could bring value as a returner. He also comes from years of production at Washington. However, he did not make the roster so far.

Shilique Calhoun

The versatile Michigan state linemen should lineup with his hand in the ground and standing up. That is much of what he did in minicamp. He should fill in until Aldon Smith comes in.

James Cowser

Cowser is a little older for a rookie at 25-years-old. However, he made an impression with his passion, leadership and noticeable hair.

Darius Latham

Latham is a big body, but he also moves well. He could be the next undrafted linemen to dominate for the Raiders… cough.. Denico Autry.

Again, none of this really matters until real training camp begins next month. Still, it is good to see the Raiders adding some practice, depth and talent.

Hopefully, Karl Joseph can get back after training camp. The first round pick should steal all the spotlight.

*All information via Raiders.com.

 

 

 

 

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Gambling on the Raiders staying at home

It was an overcast day. That could not stop me from grilling.

I got into the gravel-filled parking lot and found myself parked next to some Buffalo Bills fans. They were blonde-haired and blue-eyed white people enjoying cold cuts. They were nice and peaceful compared to the rowdy college students which we were.

Surrounding us there were plenty of Silver and Black Jerseys. People of all shapes, sizes and ages engaged in chants of, “Raaaiiiddddeeerrrssss!” underneath canopies of all kinds.

The smell of moisture and BBQ filled the air. It was my first Raider game. It was against the Buffalo Bills and in the O.co Coliseum.

For a few moments, I wondered if that would be my last Raider game in Oakland. All season, I tried to go to a Raider game.

Something always held me back. Finances, weekend commitments, driving and flaky friends were all great excuses.

Still, I desperately wanted to attend another Raider game. As an Angelino, I attended many sporting events but nothing like this Raider game. The ambiance of the Raiders original home is the mecca for anyone claiming Raider Nation.

I wanted to go to Mecca again, but that was questioned with the Raiders attempt at relocation to Los Angeles.

Despite its’ proximity to my home, I always said the Raiders belonged in Oakland.

Realistically, the team was never going to move to Los Angeles. They had me and many others fooled. The Chargers used the Raiders brand as a ploy to garnish interest in the market for their joint Carson project. The two AFC West rivals rely on the L.A. market, and they felt the Rams stepping on their toes. Their best defense included banding together.

This week, their Carson plan failed. It should not be seen as a surprise. If the Raiders had $550 million for relocation fees and another hall billion for construction, they would use that money in Oakland.

However, they do not have that money. Therefore, the Raiders were never really a threat for Los Angeles. It seemed like Davis’ bluff might have worked if the NFL forced Kroenke to Carson and Davis received a lump sum from Kroenke. Instead, Kroenke got his way and the Davis is stuck in the same place.

Well atleast my gamble on the Raiders playing another game in Oakland paid off. I got one more season to see the team in the Mecca of Raider Nation. I better go next year, because who knows what will happen to the franchise after that.

 

Oakland Raiders Quarterly Report: Defense

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On defense, the Oakland Raiders have not done much well. They have faced plenty of growing pains in a new scheme with a new defensive coordinator. Between Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton Jr. leading this group, they should be playing a lot better.

Against the Bengals, Jeremy Hill tore apart the Raiders defense. Versus the Ravens, Joe Flacco looked precise and comfortable. Then against the Browns, Josh McCown kept his team in the game. Even Jay Cutler looked like a good quarterback against the Raiders.

So what has been consistent?

It has not been the passing defense. Everyone knows the Raider can not cover a tight end. Someone on Twitter said they want to be reincarnated as a tight end versus the Raiders, get in line bruh.

Then the secondary has been a mixed back. They make plays but they also make plenty of mistakes.

Here are some more specifics on position grades, after four games played.

Defensive Line: B-

The Raiders defensive line has played respectable. They have not been terrible, but they have not dominated either.

They find ways to create pressure, but not as a unit. To be fair, Aldon Smith just joined the unit. Justin Tuck and Justin Ellis have been on the injury report for a while. Khalil Mack also suffered an injury.

Outside of that, Denico Autry and Stacy McGee proved they are a little more than bums. C.J. Wilson and Mario Edwards should perform better with whatever snaps they get.

Hopefully they can bring it all together before the mid point of the season.

Linebacker: C+

The Raiders made headlines by completely rebuilding their linebacker corps. Gone are starters Miles Burris and Sio Moore from the past regime. Khalil Mack plays defensive end now.

However, the new additions have not been lights out. Ray Ray Armstrong struggled early. He seems to be getting more comfortable, but is he anything more than a depth guy?

Curtis Lofton struggles in pass coverage still. Personally, I would like to see him create some turnovers.

Malcolm Smith has probably been the best in the group. He too struggles in pass coverage though.

As a unit, their best games were probably against the Browns and Bears. Aldon Smith also plays linebacker but he gets a pass as he was a late addition.

Secondary: C

The Raiders secondary was mediocre at best. Now, they are mangled and doing their best to stay afloat. D.J. Hayden and T.J. Carrie both take turns getting picked apart. Charles Woodson and whoever has played in Nate Allen’s void also get beat in coverage.

Kudos to the coaching staff for finding David Amerson, he looks like he can be a contributor.

Nonetheless, the group is banged up. They’ve also saved themselves by creating some crucial turnovers. Against Baltimore and Cleveland, the secondary saved the game with an interception in the final moments.

What do you think about the Raiders defense thus far?

The defensive coordinator fiasco

Can we just hire a coordinator already?

The fact that Raiders have already added staff positions but have yet to net a defensive coordinator is understandably making fans anxious.

The Raiders have already explored options with Eric Mangini and Mike Smith who would have both been good coordinators. Ultimately, both have reportedly spurned the job.

Meanwhile the Raiders have been looking at college defensive coordinators, Todd Grantham also turned down the job and opted to stay at his post for the Louisville Cardinals. It is a testament to the quality of the job, so much as it is him being comfortable in Louisville. Maybe he likes the amateurism of the NCAA considering he had a taste of the league in 2007 with the Browns. Plus that program is turning out pros right now.

Either way, fans should not panic. Head Coach Jack Del Rio is an established defensive mind. He has been apart of Superbowl Defenses with the 2000 Ravens, 2002 Panthers, and 2014 Broncos.

It could be one of the reason why established coordinators are shying away from the job.However, Jack Del Rio was able to work under a defensive mind John Fox, so hopefully he can find another coordinator willing to establish a similar relationship.

Regardless, 60 million in cap space, a top draft selection, and a nucleus of Justin Ellis, Khalil Mack, and DJ Hayden are enough to attract a defensive coordinator. Plus, the players present are versatile enough that a coordinator can build the defense how they see fit.

Another reason to be optimistic is the hope of landing some key Seattle assistants once the Superbowl is over.

Hence, Raider fans do not need to panic just yet. Besides, Suh’s former head coach Schwartz is still out there!

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Bill Musgrave as Offensive Coordinator can’t be worse than previous OCs

Well atleast his name is not Greg.

Today, it was reported that the Oakland Raiders would hire Bill Musgrave as their offensive coordinator.

Some fans were underwhelmed by the hire considering they wanted Marc Trestman as the play caller. Trestman would have been a great candidate due to his work with quarterbacks like Rich Gannon, Josh McCown and others in the CFL.

But come on, do we really want a retread from the 02 season where we were dominated by the Buccaneers?

Either way, Musgrave would be a solid hire for the Raiders. His offenses have never been elite but they have finished in the top half of the league each year. He even did so with a 2013 quarterback disaster of Christian Ponder/ Josh Freeman/ Matt Cassell.

Plus, Musgrave helped Foles transform from a young quarterback into a borderline star. Imagine what he could do with Derek Carr?

Combine that with the fact that his team has finished within the top of rushing attempts and the Raiders have themselves someone who can help the offensive unit build into a bully.

It should be good to see Murray combining with another free agent or drafted running back to carry the load of the offense. Especially if the Raiders can build a dominate defense.

Either way, can he be any worst than the poor innovation and underwhelming play-calling of Greg Olsen and Greg Knapp over the past few seasons?

Musgrave spent a season under Chip Kelly and maybe some of those fast, spread elements can transfer to the Raiders. Further, it gives Jeremy Maclin a familiar face when he explores his options in Free Agency.

Also noted, Musgrave understand Del Rio’s philosophies having worked under him in Jacksonville, and he understands the bay area having been here in 1997. Hence, the Raiders could have done worse than hiring Musgrave.

Raiders got it right with Del Rio

Call it uninventive, or predicted but the Raiders got it right hiring Jack Del Rio.

The former Jaguars Head Coach wasn’t much of a candidate for any other coaching jobs but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t the perfect fit for the Raiders.

Granted, Interim Head Coach Tony Sparano earned the support of veteran players like James Jones among others. Still, Del Rio’s experience as player and coach combined with his connection to the Bay Area just made a ton of sense. So much sense even Al Davis would have liked this move.

Even if he isn’t the hot, innovative coordinator, Del Rio still had a top ranked defense each of the years he was in Denver. With almost 30 years of experience, Del Rio should net some experienced coordinators. Plus you remember the last bright young minds the Raiders hired? Cough, Lane Kiffin. Cough, Dennis Allen.

Either way, a lot rides on this coming season. It is year four of the Reggie McKenzie era and both he and Owner Mark Davis need a winning season.

The Raiders are amongst the leagues’ worst in attendance and tv ratings. They have been losing for more than a decade. Plus their stadium status is in complete limbo.

Therefore, why not give the coaching reigns to someone who the fans and owner can be excited for?

He and the organization stand with a lot to prove. It took Del Rio a while to net his second head coaching gig. Del Rio understands that he must seize this current opportunity with the Raiders as there might not be a third coaching job.

For the first time in a while, the Raiders have young pieces to be excited for and signing Del Rio is just another reason Raider Nation should be enthralled for the upcoming season.

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My First Raider Game

My pilgrimage to the Mecca for Raider Nation was everything I had ever imaged. A place where I can be loud and drunk in favor of my R-A-I-D-E-R-S what else could I ask for? To make things even better, the Raiders got the W over the Buffalo Bills. Here are somethings I noticed on my trip.

The O.Co Colisem

With all the controversy over the Raiders trying to find a new home, you would think the Coliseum is a horrible place. I did experience the toilets flooding by aesthetic wise, the arena isn’t any worse than Dodger Stadium. Sure, it doesn’t have the same upgraded big screens but outside of that the Coliseum isn’t ugly. I never noticed the green seats though, #A’scity. Either way, their wasn’t a bad seat in that whole house.

Raider Nation

Words can not express how enthralled I was to be immersed within Raider Nation. It felt like home being amongst people with the same knowledge and love for the Raiders as I. Our fans get such a bad rep but it is not even necessary. I did not witness a fight now did I even hear a curse word. Not to mention it was new seeing white Raider fans opposed to the minority Raider fans I am used to seeing in So Cal.

Derek Carr’s improvement

From seeing Carr against the Cowboys in Training Camp til now, the improvement was exponential. Carr went from looking like an NFL QB and playing like a college QB to being the intangible franchise quarterback of this team. He did miss some open receivers but overall he showed much improved footwork and comfort in the pocket which was one of his biggest knocks coming out of the draft.

Bill’s young receivers

If you have read this blog before, you might recall my man crush on Sammy Watkins. It was a privilege seeing him play as he is the real deal. His explosiveness is as advertised and he should be a cornerstone for the Bills. Robert Woods also looked good. Meanwhile, Kyle Orton looked like Kyle Orton.

Raiders finally learning to win

From the get go, the Raiders never seemed intimidated by the potentially playoff bound Bills. The Raiders looked like a team with enough confidence to beat them. Then when it seemed like the Raiders might blow it, the Defense made the plays to stop the Bills including a Brandin Ross interception. Not to mention some of the big plays the Raiders put together on Offense via McFadden, Murray, and Rivera.

Credit Tony Sparano for getting this team to believe in themselves. Don’t look now, but the Raiders losing culture seems to be on the downswing. Maybe, this rookie class and home stretch is enough to save Reggie McKenzie’s Job.

Finally, it was one of the best days of my life. I will always remember my first Raider Game, and I am glad it was capped off with a win!

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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If you want to win bring Harbaugh in

Bringing Jim Harbaugh in as coach for the Raiders is one of those things that just makes almost too much sense for it to actually happen.

Many of us fans have heard the anecdote about Al Davis telling Harbaugh he would one day be a Raider despite the owner not signing him as a player. Harbaugh was a Raider as an assistant in the early 2000s and he should come back.

Not only would he not have to leave the Bay Area, where his family loves living, but he embodies a mentality. He got to NFC title games running the ball and having a great defense. Guess what, the Raiders have the pieces in tack to make it happen.

Further, Mark Davis can bring him in as a token to his late great father. Plus the Raiders can throw some money at him, as he is sure to have many suitors in the college and NFL ranks.

Plus, those 49ers were a joke until Harbaugh took the reigns. In Oakland he’ll have one of this decades defensive players Khalil Mack combined with an infusion of youth and veterans in the secondary. The defense is already scheme versatile and could get better with Harbaugh’s recruiting abilities and draft knowledge.

On offense we have a young core centered around Derek Carr. Again, draft picks and a slew of cap space can surround him with better talent.

Hence, the former Stanford coach won’t back down from the challenge just like he didn’t in Stanford or San Fran.

He already wears black every Sunday. He has tremendous respect for Al Davis and the greatness of the Raiders, so make Harbaugh a Raider already.

Either way, it doesn’t take a genius to see Harbaugh to the Raiders makes sense for both side. However egos amongst millionaires has a way of making the common sense seem outlandish so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen.

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.