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“Raiders Off Season; Derek Carr & Kahlil Mack Contracts; Salary Cap; Who Stays, Who Goes”

NFL: Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders

It was a fun season for Oakland Raider fans but now the off season lull begins. I am extremely optimistic about the Raiders next season but there is work to do.  Let’s see if we can’t fill that void with early off season talk.

Salary Cap:

First off, if you are new to my writing my regulars would tell you I only write one way; honestly.  I’m not a homer and I don’t say what people want to hear.  I’m also not a hater.  I have the following I do because I respect the game and the readers.  I want to inform readers of all levels; whether you are new to the game and the Raiders or whether you know about schemes and techniques.  This is supposed to be fun and informative.

The salary cap was created by the NFL to create parity. The NFL felt that if they leveled the playing field and prevented dynasty’s, there would be more fan interest because different teams would be in the playoffs. Both Super Bowl teams from last year didn’t even make the playoffs this year.

Remember when Seattle won the Super Bowl? QB Russell Wilson was making under 1 million. His average annual salary is now 21.9 million. With that salary cap hit, they are struggling with their OL & depth at many positions. Well the Raiders are now in that same boat.

Last month the Raiders and Derek Carr both said that they wanted to finalize a deal in the off season. Carr is set to make 1.7 million in 2017. They were looking at a 4-5 year deal for 20 million a year. If the Raiders wait another year, they may get into a bidding war with teams and most feel the price would go up to 23-25 million per year.  Resigning players in their contract year is the smart thing to do.

In 2018 they now have to resign Kahlil Mack. He also is going to get a huge raise from his 4.6 million dollar average. The good thing is they can franchise him so they won’t lose him. Those are huge chunks taken out of the salary cap. Most that are looking ahead also think it’s near impossible for the Raiders to keep OL Gabe Jackson when his contract is up. He’s going to get a big raise from his 4 year average salary of 770k. Some think he’ll get around 7-8 million/year.

Derek Carr’s contract will dictate what the Raiders do in the off season.   The days of having a ton of money under the salary cap are gone. Seattle has done it right by emphasizing good drafts and player development through good coaching.  Raiders need to do the same.

The Reality:

The Raiders have to limit their busts. The Nate Allen’s and Sean Smith’s of the world can’t happen anymore.   The Jihad Ward and DJ Hayden draft picks can’t happen anymore (both picks that I took heat for from fans for hating them). If your 1st, 2nd, or 3rd round draft choices aren’t starting within 2 years and at least playing fairly well, then they were not good picks.   Before the salary cap you could bench picks and let them learn over time. Those days are gone. The standards need to be high if you want to keep winning.  Let’s now look at each position.

Quarterbacks:

Derek Carr will be back and healthy after healing up from his injury. Matt McGloin’s meltdown in Denver pretty much sealed his fate.   He’s an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and he said he’d like a chance to start somewhere. Look for McGloin to sign elsewhere and Cook to be the backup.   I said it at the draft last year, I think Cook is a back up at best in the NFL and I’m not a huge fan of his but he’s ok.

Running Backs:

DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard at times really stole the show.   Both are explosive and can catch the ball. I don’t think either is a franchise back but they are very valuable in a RB by committee way which has been the trend in the NFL.

Latavius Murray is a nice back but he doesn’t thrill me at all. Some have said he’ll ask for 6-7 million a year.   If he wants a lot of money I let him go and pick up a free agent or a later round rookie power back. There are some steals that can be had in later rounds. I still like Jamize Olawale and I wish he’d get more carries. The Stanford RB “Christian McCaffrey to Oakland” in the second round rumors have already begun.

Wide Receivers:

The Raiders are set with Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. They both dropped a lot of balls this season though, including one each in the playoff game so hopefully that improves. I said it last year; Seth Roberts is not a good #3 and he also had the dropsies. The Raiders have the rights to Roberts but you wonder if they move on. Lower down the Raider needs list, adding a good #3 WR would be a plus. Andre Holmes has his moments and is solid at #4, but where he shines is special teams where he has become a big contributor. He’s an UFA but I think he’ll come back.

Offensive Line:

The engine of the Raiders.

I still remember Donald Penn being raked over the coals on social media by many Raider fans when he asked for a lot of money in his last contract.   Well he is worth it. He had his best year and didn’t allow a sack until Carr was hurt late in the season; and on that play he slipped.

The OL will stay intact but there will be some changes. Menelik Watson is an UFA and may not be resigned. He is hurt a lot and his play is sporatic.   Mike Tice loved Jon Feliciano; I didn’t. I still didn’t get drafting him and he hasn’t been great either. Look for some new faces backing up the starters next year.

Tight End:

It’s hard to evaluate the TE’s because the Raiders throw so little to them (Part of the reason I didn’t like Bill Musgrave’s offense). During the year they were always top 8 in catches v.s. targets.   When they were thrown too they usually caught the ball.

Clive Walford is a good blocker and pass catcher. Mychal Rivera is a good pass catcher but can’t block and may not be resigned. Lee Smith; a loss that no one brings up that was a big one; will be back after breaking his ankle in week 4. He is the best run blocking tight end in the NFL and can catch a ball or two when needed.

Defensive Line:

The great Woody Hayes once said when asked about the potential of his freshman QB Rod Gerald, “Potential? Potential means you ain’t no damn good yet!”. The Raiders can’t be enamored with potential anymore. They need results.

The Raiders were LAST; DEAD LAST in sacks. They also were last in yards per play (6.1). I said it last year and I’m saying it this year; clean house in the DL.   Stacy McGee and Denico Autry have shown glimpses of good play, but injuries and inconsistencies have limited their success. McGee is UFA and Autry is restricted. Raiders need to move on unless the price is right.

I ripped on the Jihad Ward draft pick and still don’t get it. He started 13 games this year and played in all 16; did anyone notice?   They drafted him too high but I would not have drafted him at all. You can’t miss on early picks in the salary cap era.

Dan Williams and Justin Ellis were bad this year and their days are numbered.

The best way to help your DB’s is to have a great pass rush. The Raiders have to sign or draft a DT that can put pressure on the QB.   Mario Edwards so far isn’t the answer either. He’s hurt too much and has had some good play but it’s still not a given he’ll be good. Aldon Smith? In my personal life I avoid high maintenance people or drama so this whole thing gives me a headache.

Linebackers:

The Raiders LB’s this year at times were awful. They could not cover tight ends and they struggled in the running game. Malcolm Smith gets lots of tackles but many are much more downfield than they would like. He usually is good in coverage but he struggled at times there too.   He’s never been great against the run; that’s why in Seattle he was not a 3 down LB; and he’s not now to be honest.   Do you resign him for big money? No.   Lesser money? OK. He along with Perry Riley Jr. are UFA. Riley Jr. played great when he was first picked up but his play tapered off the longer he was on the field. He’s an ok player but as a starter, he may not be the answer.

The Raiders need to sign a physical LB that can shore up the position and they still haven’t found that.

Defensive Backs:

Clean House. For years the Raiders have wasted a ton of money, draft picks and signings on DB’s to fix their defense and it hasn’t worked. I’d rather spend less money on them and more money on the DL. The Matt McGloin fan club has almost been as annoying as the DJ Hayden fan club. No he’s not a shut down corner.   No he’s not a great slot cover guy.   Let him go. It didn’t work and I said it when he was drafted; it was a bad pick and it’s time to move on.

When Raider fans last year had David Amerson as the king of the world while holding up Pro Football Focus stats, I said hold your horses and give it time. I was right. Amerson is good on outs and short to mid range passes but he struggles a lot against the long ball. He was burned often this year with the deep ball and it’s the reason he struggled at Washington. The poor play of the safeties didn’t help him either.

Nate Allen has been a bust. He and Reggie Nelson take so many bad angles it’s hard to watch. Allen is an UFA and I let him go. Bad signing. TJ Carrie is more of a backup and Keith McGill was very bad at times and his days may be numbered.

Karl Joseph struggled in pass coverage but did well against the run for the most part.   Hopefully a healthy year and experience will fix that but the Raiders are hoping he’s not injury prone.

Sean Smith was a huge bust. Many of the people ripping on Smith now were applauding his signing back then (see, being a GM isn’t so easy). Smith is tentative and I’ve never seen a guy give so much cushion near the end zone. A couple of writers said he needs better technique; huh? So he’s great for 3 years but he forgot everything the next? Come on.   The truth is Smith played on a team known for their pass rush and great safety play at Kansas City. He seems to need it and he gets neither in Oakland.   The Raiders are stuck with him for one more year at least; possibly two.

Coaches:

Jack Del Rio has done a good job but these dumb penalties still need to be fixed.  Also, the Raiders lifeless performance against Denver can’t happen.  Even if you lose your QB you still die hard.  Del Rio has said the standards need to be higher now and that’s a good sign.

I don’t know what else Ken Norton Jr. was supposed to do. He did a great job at Seattle but Seattle had players. The Raiders LB’s are not good and their DB’s are worse.   Then add the poor DT play. Their Safeties and LB’s flat out can’t guard TE’s.   They have the worst pass rush in the NFL. Love to see what genius can make that work. The Raiders agree with me and are bringing back Ken Norton Jr. for 2017.

Some Raider fans are clamoring for Wade Phillips to take over as DC. Only thing is, Denver was 28th in the NFL against the run this year and it was one of the main reasons they struggled. What was different? Stud run stopper Malik Jackson signed with Jacksonville and LB Danny Trevathan signed with Chicago. The year before? Denver was #3 in the NFL against the run. Did Phillips forget how to stop the run? No. He didn’t have the same players.   Coaches help but some fans need to stop giving all the credit to the players when they win and then blame the coaches when their favorites don’t play well.

I wrote this article below when Bill Musgrave was signed and I flat out didn’t get it. The Raiders letting him go is a good thing. (Conservative; poor adjustments in game). The Raiders have the 2nd best OL in the NFL and great talent on offense.  They were #6 in the NFL in offense because of their great talent; not because of Bill Musgrave.

The only thing is they sure like to hire their friends.   Todd Downing goes from QB coach to OC.   Downing is a good friend of Mike Tice who hired Downing in the early 2000’s when he was coaching the Vikings.   He has very limited success up until now. Time will tell. Rookie OC’s don’t tear up the NFL either for the most part.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/who-is-bill-musgrave-the-raiders-hire-a-new-offensive-coordinator/

How to Keep the Success:

With Mack and Carr making so little money compared to others, the Raiders have had it easy.   Now the hard work comes in. The Raiders can still keep their success but they have to stop taking reaches on some draft choices and their signings have to be right on. They also can’t keep dead wood around if they aren’t getting the job done or staying healthy.

Like everyone else, the Raiders have holes to fill; mainly on defense. For me, DT, LB and DB should be addressed in that order.   Personally, the Allen’s, Murray’s and Malcolm Smith’s of the Raider world may have to go. Even if they are doing a fairly good to good job, it’s all about the salary cap and staying under it. Look for the chips to fall after they sign Derek Carr. This will be the most important off season for the Raiders in 15 years, and one of the most interesting.  It will be stressful but exciting to see what they do.

“GRADES: Raiders Lose In Kansas City: Why Things Are Not as Bad as You Think In Oakland”

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Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Kansas City Chiefs; Week 14:

Kansas City Chiefs  21 (10-3)

Oakland Raiders  13 (10-3)

In a cold winter night that resembled days of old, the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Raiders 21-13. Maybe traveling Raiders fans knew something when a flight from Oakland to Kansas City actually ran out of alcohol serving thirsty fans; this would be a tough one.  The Raiders lost to the Chiefs and went from the #1 seed to the #5 seed in a NY minute.

http://www.sfgate.com/raiders/article/Airplane-Raiders-fans-Kansas-City-no-alcohol-10784175.php

Maybe though it was having 3 turnovers in KC territory and ending up with only 6 points from it. Maybe it was a bad day for the offense and Derek Carr.  The Raiders found out living on the edge against bad to average teams is a lot easier than magical comebacks against a good team like the Chiefs.

Quarterback:

I thought annoying Cris Collinsworth was going to start a Gofundme account for Derek Carr’s pinkie.  His over dramatics make Jack Buck seem pleasant.  Carr was interviewed after the game by ESPN and others and he said he was fine.  Funny how he was fine against Buffalo and now some fans have him near death.  Carr said he wasn’t cold and his hand felt so good he didn’t even wear a glove.  “I just had a bad game”.

Carr is now 1-5 against the Chiefs and in the last 2 games at Arrowhead he has been off target amazingly on 29 passes.  This wasn’t a one time thing.  Why do they have his number?  In the first game the Chiefs blitzed constantly.  In this game with Justin Houston back they didn’t have to.  Since high school Carr’s weakness is throwing under pressure.  For most of the year he hasn’t had any pressure.  Kansas City’s pass rush had him off balance all night.  Carr floated 2 long passes that were wide open; too much loft.

Since last year against Minnesota, some teams try to take away the deep ball by playing 2 deep zone; the safeties playing back to protect the CB’s.  Kansas City has done that a lot against Carr.  When you don’t have to blitz to get a pass rush it makes it even more successful.

GRADE: D-

Carr was 17 for 41 for 117 yards with no TD’s or interceptions.  In 2 games against KC he has 1 TD pass.  NOT a coincidence.  There were several times when KC was a sucker for a screen and I thought Carr didn’t audible as well as he has in past games.  Just a bad day all around.

Running Backs:

The second the Chiefs leader LB Derrick Johnson blew out his Achilles heel, the Raiders run game excelled.  The Chiefs really don’t have a solid LB backup to replace Johnson and it showed.  Latavius Murray ran for over 100 yards and the Raiders avg. 4.3 yards a carry for RB’s.  Not a bad night with 135 yards.

Grade B-

The Raiders RB’s never got too involved in the passing game which hurt the Raiders.  Part of that was Carr but it was an issue.

Offensive Line:

When I wrote last week that the Raiders offensive line was the co MVP of the NFL some laughed.  No one’s laughing now.  When they don’t protect Carr well, he struggles.

With Cris Collinsworth’s dramatics about Keleche Osemele not playing, you would have thought the Raiders should just forfeit and give up.  The Raiders run game rushed for 135 yards without him.  In the passing game at times they struggled protecting Carr which is job 1 for this unit and that’s where he was really missed.  Carr was flushed out of the pocket for much of the night and was uncomfortable for most of the game.

Grade C

Just like in the first game, Carr was forced out of the pocket and had to throw quicker than he wanted to.  Not a bad game on the ground but the pass protection didn’t cut it.

Wide Receivers:

The television media sure isn’t saying much, but on the long pass to Amari Cooper, many KC Chiefs fans online have said that it was obvious that the ball hit a wire coming from the tv camera that floats around the stadium for better views.  They didn’t say a word during the game about it.  Cooper said he was ready to catch it and then suddenly it just dropped straight down.

Overall a tough game.  With Carr being off and catches being dropped, this was the worst passing game for the Raiders.  Seth Roberts dropped 2 passes in the red zone and Crabtree and Cooper had their issues too.  Bad game all around.

GRADE: D-

The worst game of the year for this unit.

Defensive Line:

Overall a good game.  The Raiders obviously made it a point to stop the run and they did.  Dan Williams clogged the middle and Justin Ellis even pitched in.  Bruce Irvin did have his issues at times against the run but the Raiders pass rush was pretty good with Kahlil Mack causing another turnover.

Grade: B+

One of their better games.  Even with the Chiefs quick passing game and getting only 1 sack on the night, the Raiders put pressure on Alex Smith often.

Linebackers:

Another rough game.  The Raiders plan for TE Travis Kelce was to put a LB on him and then if needed have a Safety give help.  The help was often not there or late and Kelce over matched the LB’s.  They played better in the run game this week but part of that was the excellent play of the DL.

Grade C

The Raiders had to stop Kelce and they didnt.

Defensive Backs:

All year David Amerson has struggled against fast WR who can go deep.  He was burned again this week.  In the medium to short passes he’s good; the deep ball though; not so much.

TJ Carrie seems to have gotten his confidence back; he had 2 solid plays and a key interception that helped the Raiders get back into the game.  The safeties again struggled with help on deep balls.  Nate Allen’s angles were as bad as Nelson’s have been.  Alex Smith was 3-3 on passes 30 yards or longer.  Again, Alex Smith.

Grade C  

The Raiders defense was torched in the 1st half but played better in the second including the DB’s.

Coaching:

The Raiders need to come out no huddle right from the beginning.  Against Buffalo and in other comebacks, the no huddle has been highly successful.  Why not use it early? You can’t expect to start slow every game and come back and win. Punting to Tyreek Hill at all was another head scratcher.

The worst blunder though was with 2:06 to go in the game with 3rd and 1 at the KC 14. Instead of running the ball the Raiders threw to Andre Holmes in the corner which was well defended.  On the next play Austin Howard commits a penalty and now it’s 4th and 6.  Pass defended to the left side; game over.  The Chiefs without Johnson could not stop the run anymore and to not run the ball was a huge mistake.  There was plenty of time and the Raiders had 2 time outs.  The Raiders on their last drive ran the ball 6 times for 30 yards. You can’t run the ball twice for 1 yard?

Grade D+

All Jack Del Rio’s jokes about the Raiders penalties didn’t seem so funny anymore.  Austin Howard’s penalty on the last drive really hurt them.  They have to start better on offense; go no huddle immediately.

Special Teams:

Janikowski was perfect on the night but then it got ugly.  Jack Del Rio admitted that the Raiders were trying to punt to the left but then Marquette King kicked the ball in the middle of the field and Tyreek Hill ran the punt back for a TD against only 4 defenders.  Travis Kelce’s riding the horse dance in front of King was loved by the media and Chiefs fans alike.  The Raiders gave up 172 yards in the return game and their own return game was invisible.  Worst game of the year for this group.

Raiders long snapper Jon Condo had a poor snap that was muffed by Marquette King which cost the Raiders 3 points.  King didn’t do a good job of securing it either.

Grade D

Janikowski good; everything else a train wreck.

Conclusion:

Alex Smith is 9-1 in games against the Raiders and Derek Carr is 1-5 against KC.  Until the Raiders can solve the Chiefs quick passing game and keep defenders off of Carr, this trend will continue.

Why This Loss Isn’t as Bad As First Thought:

Dry your eyes Raider fans.  Let’s look at why this loss isn’t as bad as you think.

First, to the fans that said it was too cold for the Raiders to play well, I’m sorry but that is ridiculous.  Al Davis didn’t say “Just Win Baby Unless It’s Cold”.  The weather was a steady 20F and if you can’t play in cold then you are not going to do much in the post season.  KC torched the Raiders in the first half.  Funny how the cold didn’t hurt them.

No, Derek Carr’s finger wasn’t falling off.  He just had a bad game.  Against Buffalo he was just fine.  In Kansas City he was harassed all night; it happens.  Even Carr said he was fine and they will bounce back.

DENVER:  Denver has the hardest schedule in the NFL the last 4 weeks.  They go to Tennessee Sunday and then host New England.  They also have to go to Arrowhead on Christmas day and then host the Raiders on New Years day.  Hard to think with their struggles with run defense and QB that they will sweep.

KANSAS CITY:  KC has an easier road but they are not the same team without LB Derrick Johnson.  If people think they are going to stop the run with backup LB’s and hybrid safeties playing in the middle, they are crazy.

The Chiefs have Tennessee and DeMarco Murray at home next week; they host Denver and then they are on the road to SD who were destroying them in week 1 until the Philip Rivers express swallowed the olive late in the game.  If Denver concentrates on their run game, I see the Chiefs losing to Denver.

RAIDERS:  The Raiders lick their wounds and travel to SD.  They’ve won 3 in a row there and tend to score at will against the Chargers who have given up over 30 points in the last 3 meetings in San Diego.  It won’t be easy but its very winnable.  They then host the Colts who have little to no defense and a poor OL but they also have Andrew Luck who can carry them to a win against anyone. Then the game in Denver on New Years Day.  Yes it will be cold.

Jims Jamz:

Obviously you go week by week (save the emails) but for the sake of looking ahead, Denver probably loses at least another game and the Raiders should win at least 2 of those games. Again SHOULD. I see the worst case scenario is that the Raiders finish 1 game behind or tied with KC.  If that happens the Raiders will be in the playoffs.  I don’t see KC sweeping but there is a possibility because they always play Denver tough and have already beaten them once on the road.  I just think the Broncos will gut out a win with no Johnson at LB. They can’t look past the running game of Tennessee.

Outside of New England; just like most of the NFL; the rest of the AFC just isn’t very good.  Houston is tied for first place in the AFC South at 6-6 with a -50 point differential!

Look for a big game from the Raiders in San Diego.  They weren’t ready for prime time yet and that was a bad loss in KC, but a Chargers game is just what they need.

During times like these, fans either throw players under the bus or blindly make excuses. The Raiders will do neither.  They will own up that they lost, and will come back with a great effort next week.  If my scenario rings true and Denver beats KC, then the Raiders can win the west in Denver on the last game of the year.  Wow won’t that be fun. Get ready for a wild ride.  The fun is just beginning and with every week, comes a new story and scenario.  Even after a bad loss, I’m sure for Raider fans this sure beats NFL draft talk this time of year.

“Will The Raiders Win the AFC West? A 2nd Half Breakdown of All 4 Teams”

 

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Who will win the AFC West?  Let’s look ahead to the rest of the season and see what may be in store for all of the teams.

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Oakland Raiders:

In the history of social media, there has NEVER been a tweet or Facebook post about the Raiders being in a playoff game. Let that sink in. In their glory days, for 25 years the Raiders were the winningest team of any Pro Sports team in the U.S. For the last couple of decades, they’ve been the worst. In their glory years, the Cowboys and the Raiders for almost 3 decades were the two most popular teams on tv ratings. Love them or hate them, it’s good that they are back.

The Cowboys Dak Prescott and Oakland’s Derek Carr are having great years.   They also are behind the 2 best offensive lines in the NFL. NOT a coincidence. Carr is the best protected QB in the NFL this year and that is important to his success.

The Raiders are now #4 in the NFL in rushing yards and #3 in passing yards.   Even though their skilled position players get most of the credit, their OL has been as dominating as any in the game this year and it’s the heart and soul of this team.

On defense it’s another matter. They struggle against good teams and occasionally look good against bad ones. The Raiders are 28th in sacks, 30th against the pass and 27th against the run.   And that is after a good performance against a bad Denver offense.

The Raiders have only played 3 teams with winning records; all at home; and are 1-2. They have not played a team who presently has a winning record on the road.

The Raiders schedule is interesting. They struggle against teams that can score points and they really don’t play a lot of good offenses the rest of the way. They still have a game in Denver, in KC and @ San Diego.   Outside of that they have Houston, Carolina and Buffalo. These are all good match-ups for them because those teams don’t have great offenses.   Even with their bad OL, the Colts will be a tough game because they can score.

Right now the Raiders have the upper hand in the AFC West and barring injuries to their OL; and even with a limited defense; they still should be considered favorites to win the division. This is not a Super Bowl defense in any way and offense may make headlines and put butts in the seats but defense wins championships.  Remember this is the salary cap era so every team has some sort of issue or weakness, but for now, the West comes through Oakland.

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Denver Broncos:

The Broncos are fading fast due to injuries and a poor offensive scheme.

On offense I really like their 2 young running backs. Rookie Devontae Booker hasn’t had much of a chance to run the ball but he has a lot of potential. Kapri Bibbs showed his playmaking ability on a 68 yard pass and catch late against the Raiders. On defense they still have an excellent pass rush but now they can’t stop the run. The  other problem on offense is head coach and play caller Gary Kubiak.

The Denver media; which is fairly soft; has been griping about him for 2 weeks.   They have brought up great points.  In the first 15 plays against the Raiders, Denver threw 13 times. In the last 5 games Denver has thrown almost 70% of the time in their first 15 plays.   Denver is 2-3 in those games.   With Siemian as a starter, Denver throws 72% of the time. That’s not Denver football.

Siemian is limited; he throws a nice deep ball but he needs protection; and lot’s of it. The offensive line at Denver has been inconsistent protecting the QB. He does not feel a rush at all and struggles under pressure as was seen with a loss at San Diego and again in Oakland.

Denver needs to go back to the ground and pound with young RB’s that are hungry. Both have mildly complained about their lack of touches in the running game. Kubiak is a borderline arrogant guy though when it comes to coaching and he can be stubborn. Analyst Cris Collinsworth brought up what I said last year. Why don’t they double team Kahlil Mack more? Last year in Mack’s epic game in Denver, they would not help out their tackles and Mack went off. Their tackles are not that great and it took until late in the game last Sunday for them to finally start helping out on him.

When asked about Siemian after the Raiders game, Kubiak said he was still making plays so there is no problem with the QB position. Now Paxton Lynch might not be the answer but if Denver throws 70% of the time for the rest of the year, they are toast.   Kubiak acted this way in Houston when Matt Schaub started to tank. Instead of using Arian Foster & Ben Tate with his run game to help him, he threw even more.

The Denver defense is now 30th against the run and can’t stop anybody.  The offensive line has also struggled. There may be changes there soon. Even so the Broncos have to go back to being a running team and take their chances. Their LB’s are no longer a strength of the team with changes there this year. Injuries have just killed the Broncos. Aqib Talib and Kayvon Webster are still hurting and Brandon Marshall is hobbling badly.   DL Derek Wolfe’s injury is not as bad as first thought but he is another one on the mend. And those are just the bigger names on the list.

The rest of their schedule is rough. Their last 3 games are at home against New England, on the road to KC and back home to play the Raiders.  Before that they also have to play the Chiefs in Denver. Denver has a great home field advantage so they will need to use that to keep in the playoff hunt. Get healthy and run the ball should be their mantra.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs:

The Chiefs are a classic Andy Reid team. They are tough, disciplined and they find ways to win. If you watch their games and look at the stat sheet, you wonder how they can be 6-2. They are 22nd in rushing and 25th in passing offense. Their offense doesn’t scare anyone. On defense they are ranked 13th against the pass and 25th against the run. Their once feared pass rush with Justin Houston and Tamba Hali is now 21st in sacks. Houston is set to return this week or next and 33 year old Hali’s days are numbered as he has no cartilage in one knee and tries to play in a specialist pass rushing position. Pass rushing project Dee Ford has shown glimpses of great play and has come on of late, as has DB Steven Nelson who made the game winning defensive play against Jacksonville last week.

KC has had so many injuries; Charles, Maclin, Ware, Houston, Hali; a who’s who if you are a Chiefs fan.

The AFC West has pretty easy schedules this year and KC has played only 2 teams with winning records and are 1-1, and that obviously has helped them.

ESPN seemed to fall in love with the Chiefs last week but slow your roll.   The Chiefs have a brutal second half schedule that includes 2 games with Denver, a rematch with Oakland, and road games with San Diego, Carolina and Atlanta. They STILL might make the playoffs though because most of the AFC outside of the West is awful. Their second half schedule will greatly test them and may expose them.

I’ve never been an Alex Smith guy. He’s the Ichabod Crane of the NFL. He and Andy Reid play not to lose with their extremely conservative passing game and you can’t win big with 1-3 yard check down passes. They may make the playoffs but they are not going far.   What they will be though is hard playing and competitive. They have owned the Raiders this decade, and play Denver well so you can’t sleep on KC.   Their home field on a cold winter day is not the place to be if you are an opposing team.

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San Diego Chargers:

You have to give it up for the Chargers. With all of the turmoil surrounding their possible move, the terrible season ending injury to star WR Keenan Allen, and the drama with first round draft choice Joey Bosa, the worst was expected in San Diego. A funny thing happened. Bosa has been a breath of fresh air and has greatly helped the defensive line and pass rush and RB Melvin Gordon has had a great year behind an improved offensive line. If they don’t implode late against KC and go into a coma in the 4th in Oakland, their season could be much different. Their win in Atlanta was impressive and was not a fluke. They earned it.

Their schedule has been the hardest in the AFC West by far. They are 2-3 against teams with winning records. They split with Denver so they just have the Raiders and KC at home along with Houston on the road as their toughest remaining games. The AFC only has 5 teams with winning records and 3 are in the AFC West.   Watch out for the Chargers.   Stranger things have happened and a playoff push may not seem eminent but they could make some noise.  Their slow start really hurt them.

Philip Rivers is a good QB but just like Alex Smith I just don’t think either will win anything significant in their NFL careers. In Rivers San Diego career, the Chargers so often fall short in the second half of games, especially in the fourth quarter. They always seem to do just enough to lose.   Sometimes it’s not all Rivers fault but he’s the captain of the ship. A very good QB with great stats who never will win anything who I personally think gets a little too much love. Gordon and Bosa though could be great building blocks for the near future.  Add a healthy Keenan Allen and next year looks much brighter in San Diego.

If you sleep on these guys, they can beat you. I don’t think they make the playoffs but they could hurt someone else’s chances if they are taken lightly. They are intriguing.

Jims Jamz:

The NFL has what they want.  No more great teams; lots of average to good teams who all have a weakness.  Odds now show Seattle to be the #2 choice to win the Super Bowl and they have a bad offensive line that struggles in protection and at times running the ball.  Parity and average teams to keep all fans interested is what they want and they got it.  Everyone has issues, and what that means is that it is a toss up on who will get to the post season and who will win it all.  Most everyone has a shot if they get hot.

Can the Raiders offensive line stay healthy and will their defense hold up?   Can the Broncos stop supplying bodies for their medical staff? Will Head Coach Gary Kubiak forget about Siemian’s stats in the Cincinnati game and actually start running the ball again? Can the Chargers play 4 quarters of good football and come through in the second half of games? Can the KC Chiefs get healthy and their pass rush be restored with the return of Justin Houston? And will Alex Smith ever get over his deepballaphobia and throw the ball downfield in big games?

These are all questions that will be answered in the second half of the season. Right now the Raiders look like the odds on favorite but this is the NFL and things could change quickly.  Its’ not the good ol’ days when the AFC West dominated in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, but for now it will definitely do.

“Raiders Grades; How to Fix the Defense & Amp The Offense After Loss to Falcons”

crabtree
“Raiders WR Michael Crabtree Scores a 2nd Half TD”

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ home v.s. Atlanta Falcons; Week 2:

Atlanta Falcons  35 (1-1)

Oakland Raiders 28 (1-1)

Whichever way you look at the Raiders loss to the Atlanta Falcons, this was a bad loss. The Raiders have a brutal schedule the last month and a half of the season so playing well in the first half of 2016 is a must. Let’s look at what happened.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr had another good game. The Raiders averaged 6.6 yards per reception though; Matt Ryan averaged 11.6. For the second straight week the Raiders came out sluggish and struggled scoring in the first half.   You’d think at home they would come out blazing but they didn’t. Just like with Julio Jones, teams are doing their best to take away the long ball to Cooper so Carr and the Raiders have to be patient. The slant to Cooper and Crabtree are there all day. Carr made a point to throw to the tight end Clive Walford and he had a nice game.

GRADE: A

Carr made a mistake trying to heave the ball long. With teams trying to take away the deep bal he has to be patient. An interception was taken away due to pass interference which is getting annoying in college and pro ball. Too many PI’s. The Raiders are a little too conservative for my taste but overall the offense rolled against 2 bad defenses. The hopes are that will continue against better competition.

Running Backs:

All off season fans were clamoring for a big trade at RB. They were wrong. The Raiders have a ton of talent at RB and I said that all summer. Jalen Richard and Deandre Washington hit the holes like rockets and Latavius Murray has obviously been motivated by his cut in playing time.   They ran for 155 yards rushing on 6.2 yards per gain. Can’t get better than that.

Grade A-

Murray again was on the bench on key downs. On the 4th and 2 play, Richard took the handoff and not Murray. The Raiders finally get it and using all of their RB’s is the thing I hoped they’d do.

Offensive Line:

I literally cannot wait for the Denver Broncos DL to go against the Raiders OL. Will that be fun or what. Right now no offensive line is playing better. The Saints and Falcons were 2 of the worst defenses last year, but it still is a great sign. The Raiders will go as far as the health of the OL. That is the strength of the team. Carr has all day to throw.

Grade A+

Injuries are their main enemy.

Wide Receivers:

I’ve said it a million times, most teams are now taking away the deep ball to Cooper. The Falcons had one of their safeties shadowing the side where Cooper was on at all times. We laughed on one third down, because one of the Falcons safeties was so far back it looked like he was receiving a punt. Overall another big day for the Raiders WR. Crabtree might be the best possession WR in the game and the slant to him is near unstoppable. How the Raiders drafted DHB over Michael Crabtree is just beyond me but I need to get over it.   Andre Holmes made a great adjustment on the last Raiders TD. Clive Walford had a big day and that really opened up the offense.

GRADE: A-

The only blemish was Coopers mistake of going out of bounds. In the pro’s as long as it’s not an illegal push, the defender can push you out of bounds. Cooper said later he was unsure about the rule.

Defensive Line:

The Raiders do not have a pass rush. On many of the big plays for Atlanta, the Raiders blitzed but it was picked up. Atlanta RB’s did a great job blocking. Many fans say blitz when the pass rush isn’t good but it’s not that easy. If the blitz is picked up then you are really in trouble.

The Raiders have 7 QB hits and 2 sacks in 2 games. They also are not getting the push that is needed. Jihad Ward and Darius Latham took 47 and 25 snaps respectively at DT and Dan Williams and Jelly Ellis took 15 & 17. Unfortunately Ward & Latham could only muster a combined 3 tackles, 0 sacks, 0 QB hits and 1 pass deflection. I think Williams and Ellis need to get on the field more because this present lineup isn’t cutting it.

Khalil Mack is playing pretty well against the run, but he has had little effect with his pass rush.   He has no sacks and Irvin has only 1.   Irvin also only has 6 tackles in the first 2 games combined. I said at the start of the year, I question whether Irvin is the answer in the Raiders pass rush.

The run defense was also bad giving up 139 yards for a 4.8 yards per rush average. How big is that Aldon Smith suspension now. Raiders DT Stacy McGee got the only sack of the game for Oakland.

Grade: D-

After watching the Raiders DL and then watching Andrew Luck run for his life against Denver, you realize the Raiders DL just isn’t good enough right now.

Linebackers:

The Raiders do NOT have an LB that can be considered a great run stopper or pass defender. Ben Heeney would be great off the bench to add depth and spell a player but he’s not a starting LB. I’ve been saying that since he was drafted. He just doesn’t have the speed. He’s also on the smallish side and teams are now running at him.

With the safeties helping out to stop the deep ball to Julio Jones, this left the LB’s to cover the tight ends. That was a disaster. With Matt Ryan getting time, the Raiders LB’s were overwhelmed. The play action passes opened up the Atlanta offense by fooling the DB’s and LB’s.   Add the good running for Atlanta and the Raiders were on their heels all day. Malcolm Smith struggled as well and Cory James was of little help when he came in for Heeney.

Grade D-

The LB’s right now just aren’t good.

Defensive Backs:

Raiders 1st round pick Karl Joseph was a popular topic in the local media last week. The Raiders coaches tapped dance around the questions but the vibes are that they are bringing Joseph around slowly and that he still has a lot to learn. They are excited about his future but right now he’s going to play mostly special teams.

David Amerson played fairly well but Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson looked awful. Talking to Tim Kawakami, Jack Del Rio also wasn’t really happy with the soft coverage of DJ Hayden late in the game.

Reggie Nelson was responsible for helping keep Julio Jones deep routes in check. You won’t find these in the stat sheet but Nelson was out of position often. On the slant to Jones TD, Smith was looking for Nelson to help in the middle and Nelson was way wide. On the long pass Nelson let Jones get behind him and he took a bad angle to the ball.   Angles are huge for safeties and Nelson seemed very out of sink. Both are also too passive. Smith just lets WR come off the ball without any effort to be physical with them. He and Nelson seem very passive out there.

Smith was a nice player for Miami but he really got his reputation at Kansas City which allowed him to get a big money deal with Oakland. In the 3 years that he was at Kansas City, the Chiefs were at least a top 6 team in defensive sacks. You wonder how much the great pass rush of the Chiefs attributed to Smiths play and reputation.

Grade F  

The pass rush has to wake up or this group is toast. Joseph isn’t ready to play yet. The Raiders need to try something new like bring in TJ Carrie to play a corner position or have him play safety along with Keith McGill. They need to try something because this is ugly.

Coaching:

Some fans hated the Raiders going for it on 4th and 2 but I think it was the right thing to do.   The play call though was bad. If they did a play action pass and throw a quick out to Crabtree or Cooper, they get an easy first down. The Falcons DB’s were so leery of the deep ball they we’re even playing off the WR at the goal line.

If I’m Bill Musgrave I realize what Don Shula did when Dan Marino was his QB. The Dolphins defense sucked but they had a great offense.   Use it. To win you have to outscore the opponent. To score 28 points against a bad Falcons defense isn’t enough. The Raiders need to come out no huddle at the start of the game and play like it’s their last drive of the season. The Raiders don’t seem to open things up or play with urgency until they have to. They have to get a killer instinct. Teams are taking away the deep ball, so nickel and dime them to death. The Raiders did that today but another slow start hurt them.

Ken Norton is taking a lot of flack but if you go back and watch the game, on many of the big plays for the Falcons, the Raiders rushed 5–6 guys. Fans are fickle. If the team does well the players get all the credit. If the team isn’t doing well, blame the coaches.   I don’t know if it’s hero worship or whatever but it’s the way it is. There comes a time though when Irvin, Mack, Smith and Nelson have to earn their money. Right now they aren’t.

Grade C+

Personally I think the Raiders should be aggressive to start the game and create an up tempo to overwhelm teams. Jack Del Rio may call the defensive plays next week but unless he can play LB and Willie Brown and George Atkinson can find a time machine, this defense is in trouble.

Special Teams:

The long punt return resulted in a field goal for the Falcons. Taiwan Jones allowing the ball to bounce off of him on a kickoff resulted in terrible field position. Janikowski missed a 58 yd field goal but it’s hard to get on him for that.

Grade C+

Marquette King is really punting well. The punt return defense struggled on 2 returns and the Raiders return game was not a factor.

Conclusion:

However you slice it the Raiders should not lose to the Falcons at home. This is not a good defense.  The Raiders offense is going to have to be the key to their wins so they need to score as many points as humanly possible and be aggressive for 60 minutes.

I would be much more up tempo offensively, especially in the first half. Defensively the Raiders have to change things up. I’d bring in TJ Carrie to start at CB or Safety. Carrie has had his bad moments too and isnt going to fix this defense, but they have to try something. I’d also continue to be aggressive blitzing but I’d blitz the CB or safety more. The Raiders have to get to the QB to help the DB’s.  Defensive Linemen Dan Williams and Jelly Ellis are too good to ride the bench.

I still think the Raiders can get to 10-6 but they can’t lose games like this especially at home.   Next up is a very winnable game @ Tennessee. The schedule is fairly easy; but the travel isn’t.

“Raiders Win a Thriller; Grades, Atlanta, & What to do With The Defense”

 

raiders-saints
Michael Crabtree Catches Winning 2 point conversion versus The Saints in Sundays win

The Oakland Raiders scored 22 points in the 4th quarter; more points than they scored in 9 games last year; to defeat the New Orleans Saints 35-34 @ the Super Dome in a thriller.

The Raiders found out that they are gaining a winning attitude, a new running game and an excitement that is building. They also need to address why the defense gave up over 511 yards and got only 1 sack.

http://www.raiders.com/media-vault/videos/Cant-Miss-Play-Carr-finds-Crabtree-for-2-pt-conversion-to-take-lead-late/dfcdb276-fbf5-4321-8d88-f8d657e25125

Quarterback:

Derek Carr was sluggish in the first half but rebounded in the 4th quarter. A bad coaching decision by Saints DC and former Raider coach Dennis Allen helped open the door. With the Raiders down by 11 in the 4th quarter, Allen switched to a prevent defense.   The Raiders quickly went downfield and scored. Carr took full advantage of the coaching blunder.

In the entire game Carr called only 2 audibles. Fans ripping on OC Bill Musgrave can’t give Carr a pass because he’s the coach on the field. The Raiders offense in the first half was pretty basic.

In the 2nd half the Raiders smartly threw two quick passes to Michael Crabtree. Carr has a tendency to look to Amari Cooper deep way too much and he did a good job of moving the ball around to other players.

Grade: A

The Saints defense is awful so this isn’t exactly a Super Bowl win but Carr looked more over the middle and to his tight end more than he has in a long time.   They need to do it more and it was encouraging.

Offensive Line:

Carr goes as the offensive line goes. If Carr is rushed he struggles; if he has a lot of time he slices and dices defenses. Two more injuries yesterday coupled with 2 previous injuries and now the Raiders are scrambling for bodies.   They played their hearts out and were the players of the game. They just kept grinding. Carr had little pressure on him and they eventually wore out the porous Saints defense.   A group of mentally and physically tough players.

Grade: A

Great game that should set the tone for the rest of the year.

Running Backs:

As I wrote previously, the Raiders DO NOT have a franchise RB but if you add all of them together, they do have one. The Raiders did not rely on Latavius Murray who was only 15th in yards per game in the NFL in rushing last year (even though he lead the league in % of carries by a RB for a team). It proved he’s not an elite back but he has his moments. Jalen Richard’s 75 yard TD run through a nice hole showed how important the run game is in the NFL even during this passing crazed times.   All the RB’s ran hard including Jamize Olawale who crashed into the end zone on a short run.  Three Rushing Touchdowns.  In my last article I was 100% spot on about the RB situation.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/murray-rbs-tight-end-musgrave-real-answers-to-raider-fans-questions/

Grade: A

Solid game; Bill Musgrave and Jack Del Rio finally have it out of their heads that Murray is a franchise back. He’s not; and they gave everyone a chance to run. Fresh legs look good against a tired defense.

Wide Receivers:

Carr throws way too much to Cooper sometimes and it was good to see them get Crabtree into the game in the second half with 2 quick short passes.   Carr needs to distribute to these guys more and not just looking deep to Cooper. Derek has a little Daryl Lamonica in him. The “Mad Bomber” also loved going deep. There were actually a few Clive Walford sightings which is a need against good teams.

Grade: A-

An excellent game by a talented group. Crabtree is healthy and looks like he did when he was a clutch player for the 49ers.   Other than one play, Walford looked great. Roberts and Coopers dropped balls but came back to help win the game. Still shaking my head at the Raiders and some fans that were happy Crabtree wasn’t drafted and said give DHB time. (OK I’m not over it yet).

Defensive Line:

With it so easy to pass the ball due to the ridiculous rules, you can’t win big in the NFL without a pass rush. It was exciting early when Bruce Irvin caused a turnover with a sack but after that, there was nothing. Irvin was near invisible the rest of the game. Khalil Mack made some tackles in the run game but he was no where near the QB.   This is a huge problem. Mack was a slow starter in his last 2 years so I’m not worried about him. But as I’ve said in the past, is Irvin the answer at the other end? Against the Saints, no. The only other edge rusher is rookie Shilique Calhoun. If only Aldon Smith could stay out of trouble.

Grade: D

When you give up over 511 yards of total offense in the pro’s, you had a very bad game. One sack and few pressures against a hall of fame QB doesn’t cut it. The Saints ran for 88 yards at 4 yards a carry as well.

Linebackers:

Again, as I previously wrote, this group is an issue. Ben Heeney struggled and I just don’t think he’s a starting LB. Malcolm Smith again wasn’t much better on running plays side stepping blocks instead of going through them. Making tackles 5-10 yards downfield isn’t good. He also was poor in pass defense.

Grade: D

This group struggled all day

Defensive Backs:

Sean Smith is making 10 million a year but it looked like money wasted as he was burned so often, coach Jack Del Rio benched him. Some fans tried to say he was hurt but Del Rio admitted he wasn’t.   Smith was beaten bad on 2 pass plays in the pre season and it’s carried over. He was not physical against the Saints. A CB with no confidence is a huge liability. DJ Hayden came in and gave up 2 TD’s, 2 pass interferences and was picked on often by Drew Brees. David Amerson was turned around on 2 plays and looked lost. One of the worst games for DB’s in a long time. The safeties were slow to react and also looked overwhelmed.

Grade: F

Cringe.

Special Teams:

The return game was nothing special but King and Janikowski played well. King had 2 great punts and one inside the 5.   Janikowski hit on 2 field goals and had a huge kickoff late in the game that helped fix the dumb celebration penalty by Crabtree. Coverage was good as well.

Grade: A-

The return game has to improve but this isn’t a bad unit.

Coaching:

The Raiders immediately got Crabtree into the game with 2 quick passes in the second half and that was great. They finally realize Murray isn’t Jim Brown and gave all of the RB’s the ball. Olawazale looked great in a TD run and Richard hit the hole hard and made a key 75 yard TD jaunt. They didn’t throw to the TE until 1 minute left in the first half. Walford needs to get 5-10 looks a game. You can beat bad teams without a TE but you have to have a balanced attack, something the Raiders did not have last year.

I didn’t like Jack Del Rio trolling ESPN on twitter giving himself props for his call to go for two. Some in the local press have said the Raiders have read too many headlines about how good they are and it’s gone to their heads and you wonder. The same people cheering how gutsy and great a call it was to go for two are the same ones that would have had pitch fork and torches in hand if the Raiders didn’t make it. It’s a long season coach.

Grade: A-

Excellent game; offensive line coach Mike Tice motivated the OL through a little turmoil and adversity and every coach seemed to have a good game.

Outlook:

I know the Saints aren’t a good team but this is a big win. The Raiders have 4 fairly easy games to start the season and they have to go 3-1 at least. In the last 8 games the Raiders play the Colts, Panthers, Denver twice, and at Kansas City. Every game is key for the Raiders to get into the post season. The Falcons are up next. Their defense isn’t very good and their offense is alright. Julio Jones is going to be a problem defending so look for lots of double teams against their star WR.

How to Fix the Defense:

Drew Brees is a master at handling a pass rush but it was still apparent that the Raiders did not get much pressure on him. I said it when the Raiders got him. Irvin has never shown himself to be an elite pass rusher; just an ok one. I’m not sold on him.

I still would love to see Dan Williams and Jelly Ellis play together.   Play more 4-3. If you don’t have the talent at LB you DON’T play a 3-4.   You play a 3-4 when you have fast playmaking LB’s. The Raiders don’t have that.

The Raiders played straight up yesterday and it didn’t work. They need to get way more aggressive, something Jack Del Rio isn’t a huge fan of. They need to blitz much more. Be creative and bring a safety or CB once in a while. Heeney and Smith are good blitzers and they HAVE to get pressure on the QB to hide their weaknesses in coverage.

This defense is no where near a great defense and isn’t a Super Bowl defense.   You can’t blame this on coaching either. The players are in the right position, they are just a step late or are just getting burned.

The Raiders can get away with a win yesterday against a bad team but against the elite ones they will need to play a lot better.

Next Game:

Atlanta Falcons (0-1) @ 1:25 pm on Sunday, September 18 @ Oakland

I see a big win for the Raiders at home against another team that isn’t very good, the Falcons. Nothing is for sure though and the injuries on the offensive line are a worry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Real Answers to Raider Fans Questions; Murray, LB’s, Tight End, Musgrave;”

derek carr

 

Raiders Final 2015 Stats:

2015 Offensive Stats:

17th in points per game (22.4)

28th in rushing offense 91.1 yards per game

16th passing offense yards per game 242.4

24th total yards per game

 

2015 Defensive Stats:

22nd yds per game 363.6

12th 104.9 rushing yards per game

26th 258.8 yds per game passing

 

It changed everything.

When the NFL administered the salary cap, it was for 2 reasons.  To limit salaries and spending on teams and to create parity.  Both occurred.

Some fans are predicting Super Bowls every year for their teams; others predict doom and gloom.  The reality is that EVERY NFL team has a weakness.  This isn’t the 70’s where super teams with few to no weaknesses played.  This is an era where the 2 Super Bowl teams have many questions to answer.  Carolina now doesn’t play the 27th hardest schedule in the NFL and their offensive line was exposed; and Denver’s QB and offense is a mess.

With that said, fans of the Oakland Raiders should be wary of the weaknesses, but also not scream the sky is falling.  In reality every team has issues.  Let’s take a closer look at the Raiders.

Latavius Murray:

In my opinion Murray is a RB by committee player. He’s not the work horse that the Raiders envision him to be.  I like the Raiders loyalty but this is business.  Murray should get 10-15 carries a game and then others should get their touches.

The Raiders have enough Running Back talent to win in the NFL and to be honest, thrive. The question will be will the Raiders use their RB’s properly.  Murray will look great in one game and very ordinary in another. He plays smaller than his size and he goes down too easily at times. In some games he flat out disappears. Giving him the reigns is a mistake. I would start him but play him a lot like Denver or New England plays their RB’s. The Patriots never have had a great starting RB the last 10 years but their RB’s play a role and they do it well. You go with the hot hand.

Marcel Reece & Jamize Olawale need to get carries. Both are too talented not to get touches. Again, I’m not a big Bill Musgrave fan and I have doubts he can do that. He’s a very vanilla offensive coach.

The change of pace guy who the NFL experts said was too small is former Texas Tech star Deandre Washington. At 5’ 8” 213 lbs., he is a wrecking ball with speed. Most Californians are really not that much into college football but he was the go to man at Texas Tech who’s amazing offense has been near the top of college football for about 10 years now. He can catch the ball and run with quickness and authority. He was a steal of a pick in the 5th round. He isn’t a very good blocker in the passing game and that is a big negative though.

I would use him like San Diego and New Orleans used Darren Sproles. A great weapon in the passing game who gets at least 10-15 carries a game.

Jalen Richard has some Raider fans giddy, but in reality he was never even a full time RB in college at Southern Mississippi.  He shared the role but he played well.  He’s shown flashes and looks like he’ll make the team but the “plays like Barry Sanders” stuff?  His speed is hard to ignore.  Wow.

The Raiders have talent at RB, but the question is will they use it.   If they rely mostly on Latavius Murray at RB, the grumbling in Oakland will and should be loud.

Linebackers:

As I said in my preview last year, the linebackers on the Raiders have strengths but each has a weakness. Ben Heeney is not big and he’s also not fast. In college he struggled at times in the passing game.  I think he’ll have his moments but he also will struggle at times. I think he’d be great off the bench but not as a starter.

Malcolm Smith is the opposite. He is solid against the pass; can rush the passer at times; but he’s not a good run stopper. As Matt Millen talked about in a couple of the Raider games, he side steps blocks instead of taking them on and shedding them.

Free Agent Bruce Irvin is pretty good against the run; not great; and not bad in pass coverage; his strength is rushing the passer and making plays.   Something the Raiders want him to do more of. He’s a nice pass rusher but there is still a question whether he can be an elite one which is needed.

In reality the Raiders don’t have that stud middle linebacker; or linebacker for that matter; on this roster that can dominate 1st or 2nd down running plays. The fact is at times the Raiders are going to struggle stopping the run. That’s a problem because then safeties have to make more tackles and they get beat up. The Raiders safeties last year took a beating. With quality defensive linemen, using a 4-3 lineup on obvious running downs may help. Blitzes will also help.

Bill Musgrave/Tight Ends:

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/who-is-bill-musgrave-the-raiders-hire-a-new-offensive-coordinator/

Above was my article when Bill Musgrave was hired. A hire that I’m still a little puzzled about.

Last year before the Minnesota Vikings game in week 8, the Raiders averaged 26.6 points a game. After the Vikings game they averaged 18.2 points a game.

The reason was that Minnesota took away the long pass and played their safeties deep. It’s called a bunch of names; cover 2; Tampa 2, etc…. When they took away the long ball Carr struggled in the medium passing game and so did offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.

Matt Millen said a couple of times during pre season that Coach Jack Del Rio wants Carr to be a better QB at the line of scrimmage.  What he meant by that is that he needs to start calling audibles much more than he does.   Teams on 1st down would bring a safety near the line of scrimmage.  Instead of changing the play at the line of scrimmage, Carr would often go with the play and the Raiders running game struggled.  You can’t blame the offensive line when the defense is expecting it and you don’t change the play.  

What bothered me a lot with the Raiders offense in the second half of the season, is that Musgrave made no adjustments. Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford played a very minor role in the offense. If the Raiders want to get to the next level, they have to get a mid range passing game to exploit the middle when people play 2 deep. They also have to use audibles and play action passes on first down.

I don’t even know if Tom Brady can throw past 40 yards but he and Drew Brees are masters at the mid range passing game. In fact if you look at the top 12 passing teams in the NFL last year, 7 of them had top 12 tight ends. And that doesn’t include Green Bay’s Richard Rodgers and the Chiefs Brad Kelce who were top 12 tight ends but were on more balanced offenses who weren’t top 12 passing teams.

The Raiders can beat most of the bad to good teams without much of a mid range passing game but against the elite defenses in the NFL they will struggle at times. Musgrave must find a way to make the Raiders offense more balanced.

Even in the last pre season game against Tennessee. The Raiders didn’t even throw to the TE until the last minute of the half when Derek Carr missed Clive Walford. The Raiders tight ends could dominate in the red zone if they throw to them.  Walford especially is too talented to waste.

Derek Carr/Bill Musgrave:

With Carr’s talent and this quality offensive line, Derek will have lots of time to throw and should have a great year. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have things to work on.  If you look at the Raiders stats from last year, they have a ways to go to be elite.

Derek Carr is a lot like Carson Palmer. If you give him time to throw and he can set his feet, he’s very accurate and can tear you apart. If   you rush him you can rattle him.   Protecting him is key.

In the first 8 games Carr threw 19 TD’s and had 4 interceptions. In the last 8 games, he threw 13 TD’s and had 9 interceptions. Teams began to realize how often Carr looked at his outside WR for significant gains and attempted to take them away. Teams also blitzed constantly. In the second half of the Kansas City game, the Chiefs blitzed on every play from the middle of the third quarter on. Denver also blitzed on any 3rd down. There were no adjustments in the game plans by Musgrave and only rare audibles by Carr.

The next time you watch a Raider game look at the offense. Most passes are on the sidelines and they do not use the middle of the field much. For quality passing teams like the Patriots, Saints, Chargers, Panthers and others, the middle of the field are key components against teams with great DB’s and a solid pass rush.

Cam Newton and the Panthers had an amazing year last year and his leading WR was his tight end Greg Olsen who caught 33 more passes than any other pass catcher on Carolina’s top ranked offense. Many couldn’t name a starting WR for the Panthers.

You can’t get on Musgrave without getting on Carr who is the coach on the field.   It will be interesting to see how they grow together.

Jims Jamz:

I’m excited about this year for the Raiders. Every team has weaknesses and it’s important to keep it in perspective.  The Raiders travel is hard but their schedule is fairly easy playing some very bad defenses.  They should excel to a 10-6 record but in reality this isn’t a Super Bowl caliber defense, and the Raiders need to get more balance on offense.  Nothing is for sure in the NFL though.

With social media, the highs and lows of fans should be a reality show in itself.  Coaches and seasoned fans though know that the NFL season is a marathon.  Mostly skill, part coaching, mixed in with a little luck with a lot of patience in between.  But if you think this team is filled with holes, or if you think they are reinventing football and their offense is amazing, I think you need to change lanes.  Stop stressing and get out of the fast and slow lane and put yourself on cruise control.  This should be a fun ride and with so many losing seasons, that is a great improvement. 

 

 

 

 

 

“A Football Family Reunion for the Ages; Ken Stabler’s NFL HOF Induction”

 

ken stabler hof bustA family reunion for the ages.

In a night that went as perfect as a last minute Ken Stabler drive, Ken Michael Stabler took his rightful place in the NFL pro football hall of fame. For one last time, Ken Stabler lead everyone on a magical ride that will never be forgotten.

With decades of Raider tradition all around mixed in with a little Southern warmth from the state of Alabama, Canton looked more like Oakland, Ca than the sleepy town that wakes up for a week every year before the NFL season starts.

With several Raiders by their sides and HOF WR Fred Biletnikoff giving support, Ken Stabler’s grandsons unveiled the HOF bust of their beloved grandfather. In one action, all of the emotions that have built up from decades of frustration, anticipation, sadness and hope was released. Tears flowed, and closure began to fill the air slowly like a soft mist on a hot night.   All the years of waiting; all the unjust votes and comments came out in a healing moment that hopefully now brings closure to an amazing career by an amazing man.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-hall-of-fame/0ap3000000681148/Ken-Stabler-Enshrinement

Brett Favre’s Moment:

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-hall-of-fame/0ap3000000681185/Hall-of-Fame-QB-Brett-Favre-shares-a-story-about-Ken-Stabler

Why He’s Loved So Much:

I have many good friends from around the country who ask me, why was there so much emotion and love for Ken Stabler. I think the answer is easy.

When the Snake saw a fan he didn’t care what color you were. He didn’t care if you were famous or rich.   He truly appreciated the adoration that was given him. I think Ken always knew how important he was to the City of Oakland, Alabama and the bay area. That’s why he was so kind to so many. He never judged; never lashed out; he was always good to those that supported him, and shrugged off those that hurt him. Many saw a little of themselves in Ken. Sometimes misunderstood, often doubted, and occasionally misjudged. Ken was an every man and in reality so many people related to the things he went through.

Ken was real. He made mistakes; he failed at times; he was ripped in the media at times; but he ALWAYS dusted himself off and kept coming. He never quit and the harder someone pushed, the harder he pushed back. The Raiders and Ken Stabler smashed people in the mouth and never gave up. That’s why when most teams would have quit, the Raiders usually won due to the never give up attitude of the Snake. Ken was a lot like the fans that supported him. He was a lot like the City of Oakland and the East Bay; always fighting, never quitting.

 

 

Why Younger Fans Should Be Excited:

Some younger Raider fans seem to be in a fog at the great adoration for Ken and this amazing era. Let’s face it, we live in a society where history to some is what pokemon go character you caught last night. If it’s old, society seems to not care about it.

If you are a younger fan, look at the extreme excitement that is seen in social media today for the upcoming season. The Raiders were 7-9 last year and some are nearly losing their minds with excitement. Nothing wrong with that especially with all the improvements, but put it into perspective.

Think about going 56-13 in Ken’s first 69 starts. Think of going 18-1-1 on Monday night football. Think of having the highest winning % of ANY professional team in the U.S. of ANY sport for a 25 year stretch. Think of 3 Super Bowls in 7 years and 5 straight AFC Championship games. For almost 3 decades the Raiders and the Cowboys were consistently on top of the NFL ratings for most watched teams on television. Oh and don’t forget having more wins in the greatest NFL decade of all time, the 1970’s. Could you imagine what Ken and the Raiders offense could do with today’s rules?   Now you understand OUR excitement.   As Raider great Tim Brown said Friday, “When Ken walked into our locker room you saw everyone change. It was like royalty had just come into the room.   The Raiders of that time were just that good; people adored him.”

A Leader to the End:

The reason this meant so much to so many is because Ken really was the Raiders leader in every way.   He was a leader on the field and off.   Players felt he was invincible and looked to him when things got rough. Even after his death he inspired. Raiders greats like George Atkinson, Art Thoms, and George Buehler followed in Ken’s footsteps and decided to donate their brains to the study of CTE and give them to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after they passed away.   Truly unselfish acts inspired by the Snake’s selflessness and the encouragement of his partner Kim Bush.

“When you see your teammate deteriorate a lot through the end of his life, to see him go out like that, it brings us together,” Thoms said in a Mercury News article. George Atkinson has complained often of his memory issues. “Ken meant so much to us and we felt we needed to do this.”

The Closest Team in the NFL:

Many of the retired Raider players talked about how close they were to each other. Many stated how no team was as tight as they were.   Even after retiring, they would meet for dinner often and even if players were out of state, they would fly back to join their fellow teammates. It was important to them to stay in touch with an incredible time that gave them so much enjoyment.

Jim Jamz:

We have many older patients and one is Mr. & Mrs. C who live deep in the wine country (I wont give their name for health privacy reasons.) They used to be a Raiders season ticket holders in the 60’s and 70’s.   I visited them recently.

Mrs. C is the classic sweet nurturing elderly woman who still feels a good meal will solve any problem. Mr. C was a successful businessman who’s health is failing. I go to their house so he doesn’t have to go into the office. I also know they enjoy my visits. Mr. C usually holds court with a scotch in his hand while I get my usual pay for a house call. A cold beer with a roast beef or turkey sandwich or the occasional German Chocolate cake and cold glass of milk.

“You know something James, those times were so special and those guys meant the damn world to us.   Players like Tom Keating and Art Thoms; Tony Cline, Warren Wells, Charlie Smith, Raymond Chester. Tatum and Atkinson, Skip and Willie. Otto, Beuhler and Dalby; Upshaw and Shell; Sistrunk and Kinlaw; Rod Martin and Vilipiano. Sumner, Wolf, and Al Locasale. So many great men that gave their all to win. And Kenny was everyone’s favorite. No group of players and fans were closer. The minute you forget this son, you won’t be worth a damn as a writer, or as a fan.”

After a pregnant pause, Mr. C showed a moment of rare emotion. Pointing his finger at me he said softly while winking, “Ken in the Hall of Fame? This one means something son; this one means something.”

It sure does Mr. C.   It sure does.