The Oakland Raiders finally made some Free Agency moves after what seemed like an endless first few day of the new NFL year.
Most recently, Oakland adds kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson. The two-time All-Pro brings the gamechanging and consistent return ability that this team has lacked for years.
More importantly, it is a two-year deal with a team option for the second year. Reggie McKenzie strikes again with a bargain free agent.
Besides the return game, Patterson could have ability to challenge Seth Roberts in the slot receiver position. First, Patterson will need to work on his concentratrion on catches and refine his route tree.
At the very least, Patterson brings the 4.42 speed that late owner Al Davis would’ve have drooled on. Thus, Patterson can serve as a fourth receiver to stretch the field via vertical passes. Essentially, this assumes Andre Holmes’ role in the offense over the past two seasons.
Patterson is also a former Tennessee Volunteer which RM loves.
Not to mention, the Raiders signed Marshall Newhouse over the weekend. He wasn’t a highly coveted free agent but he is a solid depth veteran on a cheap contract. Apparently, McKenzie helped evaluate Newhouse when he was in Green Bay.
Either way, I’d expect the Raiders to add a tackle in the draft since Menelik Watson bounced. Oakland needs help as Donald Penn is aging and Austin Howard has been inconsistence.
Speaking of players leaving, Malcolm Smith, D.J. Hayden, Stacy McGee and Nate Allen are among key players not returning to the team. Those guys all played hard for the Silver and Black, so I wish them luck.
All of those players can easily be upgraded, but it should be noted that teams wasted no time signing them. Clearly, they saw something that the Raiders did when they added them.
Hayden might actually do well with the Detroit Lions. He’ll have way less pressure there. Meanwhile, McGee and Watson will have to live up to their new starting expectations. Khalil Mack should be happy that Watson is in Denver now. That should equal more sacks.
As for Allen and Smith, neither lived up to the 2015 free agency hype. However, they were both constant pros who made plays at times. Not to mention, they helped change the Raiders’ losing culture. Hopefully, they can pull it together and remain solid NFL players.
Moving forward, the Raiders still have massive needs in the middle of their defense. Key targets like Dontari Poe and Johnathan Hankins should be on the Raiders’ priority list. Especially when you consider this DT draft class is not as good as last year.
At middle linebacker, this draft class is deep. The Raiders could draft a player here in the top of they draft. Either way, they should still add a savy veteran. Luckily, Donta Hightower, Perry Riley and Zachary Brown are all available. They’re the top players at the position. They have a ton of experience and they are all on the right side of 30. Considering all three are available, Oakland should be able to get whichever one they want. I’d expect Riley is the first priority since he joined the team last year. Then again, wouldn’t they have already signed him?
Nonetheless, stay posted for more Raiders free agency updates.
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.