Category Archives: free agents

“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: A Nightmare in Denver; How Do The Raiders Win Their 1st Round Playoff Game in Houston”

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Denver Broncos; Week 17:

Denver Broncos  24 (9-7)

Oakland Raiders  6 (12-4)

In a game where the Raiders needed to show heart, grit and determination, they instead were lifeless and seemed happy just to be in the playoffs.

Quarterback:

This is the first time I’ve ever seen Matt McGloin overwhelmed. He’s always had heart but he didn’t Sunday. His accuracy was terrible and he looked like he wanted to be somewhere else. Connor Cook played fairly well considering the situation. He missed badly on two throws; one which was picked off; and his fumble was due to him not securing the ball. In the one scoring drive he had 3 nice throws.

GRADE: D+

McGloin isn’t a rookie and has started before so they should have opened it up more. To all of the fans that wrote me over the years telling me how good Matt McGloin is, please stop; enough. I don’t want to be mean but you, Jed York, and Trent Baalke have the same ability in judging talent. Come on.  The hate mail needs to stop.

Running Backs:

Denver stopped the run and the Raiders had no imagination on offense and were very predictable when McGloin was in. DeAndre Washington looked good again though with 7 carries for 43 yards.

Grade D

As the announcers said several times; the Broncos were daring the Raiders to throw the ball.   They stopped the run and the Raiders had no answers.

Offensive Line:

Denver put 8-9 in the box and if the Raiders weren’t doing a running play, they were now rushing 5-6 players to get to the QB. Not their best game but they are getting more blame than they deserved. They normalized things in the second half but the Raiders offense was fighting an up hill battle all the way.

Grade C

Just bad vibes in this game and the OL was a part of those vibes. Look for a bounce back game next week.

Wide Receivers:

Walford dropped a key pass and other than a great catch and run by Amari Cooper, it was a quiet day for this group. Obviously the issues at QB were a problem.

GRADE: C-

A forgettable game

Defensive Line:

The Raiders ended the NFL season last in sacks. The DL; like the rest of the defense; took the first half off. Denver seemed to do what they wanted and it was hard to watch an offense that struggled for a month, dominating them.

Grade: D

They played better in the 2nd half with some tackles for loss but the Broncos were just running out the clock for the most part. Denver had 143 yards on the ground. A forgettable performance.

Linebackers:

Another rough game.   In several big plays, they looked lost.   They struggled against the play action pass and their tackling was really awful at times.

Grade D

Ugly day. They improved in the second half but the damage was done.

Defensive Backs:

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/the-greatest-defensive-backfield-of-all-time-the-oakland-raiders-soul-patrol/

The soul patrol this isn’t. Wow what a bad performance. This is not counting the 3 times WR were open deep with Siemian missing them by a mile.   I still don’t get what Nate Allen and Reggie Nelson are seeing. Their angles are so off that it’s not funny. Keith McGill was so bad the Raiders used 3rd stringer Bryndon Trawick who ended up having 10 tackles, an interception and a pass deflection. ESPN didn’t even know who he was and didn’t have him on their end of game tackle list. The NFL was abuzz when the Raiders signed Chiefs CB Sean Smith.   Now they need to be buzzed to watch him play; another rough performance and his tackling was hard to watch.

Grade D-  

If Siemian had a better night this would have really been ugly. The Raiders struggle against the deep ball, and if the pass rush isn’t there, they are sitting ducks.

Coaching:

Lifeless. The Raiders played like a team that was happy to be in the playoffs and had given up on the season because their starting QB was hurt. Unacceptable. Some fans may have blown off the season but the coaches and players do not have that luxury. It’s about heart and being professionals who make a lot of money.   Fail.

The Broncos were determined to stop the run and the Raiders offensive game plan helped them do that.   They played so conservative, twice running on 3rd down and 4. They were predictable and had way too many third and longs. The coaching staff obviously felt they could run on Denver like in the first game, but Denver made great adjustments.

The local media has said at times the Raiders read their own press clippings a little too much and I think they arrogantly thought they could run all over Denver. Del Rio even said in a local media interview he was shocked they couldn’t run more.

On defense there was no heart in the first half. Denver steam rolled them and did what they wanted. In a game where the defense could have made a statement, they instead reminded people they have significant holes.

Grade F

The coaches were like the players; lifeless. Players play but this was a game where the Raiders could have made a huge statement to the league and their fans saying they haven’t given up. They did the opposite. Players and coaches need to step up next week.

Special Teams:

Janikowski wasn’t a factor and Marquette King had a ball punting in the high elevation of Mile High.   He was upset though on his punting inside the 20’s.

Grade B

King was good and the other parts of special teams were no factor.

How To Rebound Against Houston:

On Offense:

Raiders Offense: #13 passing: #6 rushing; #7 scoring

Houston Defense: #12 v.s. run; #2 v.s. pass; 24th in sacks

The Raiders coaching staff and players need to be embarrassed with that performance, and I think they will be. I see them playing their hearts out against the Texans.

If I’m running the Raiders, Matt McGloin lost his job. I don’t play him even if he is healthy; I go with Cook.

I also script some plays like the Bill Walsh 49ers used to. What a surprise to script 5-6 quick passing plays going no huddle. The Raiders will have to open up their offense a little because Houston is going to do what Denver did; put 8 or 9 in the box to stop the run and make them throw.   Oakland has nothing to lose.

JJ Watt is out for the season but they are getting healthier in Texas.   Cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Johnathan Joseph are nursing injuries but both have said they are ready to go for the playoffs.

Houston’s way of winning is old school; play good defense and run the ball and control the time of possession. The Texans tend to get pressure on the QB but they don’t get a lot of sacks.

A couple of quick and easy passes to start the game would be a good idea.   The Raiders are going to have to use a balanced attack and not be afraid to air the ball out. A long pass to Amari Cooper on the first play isn’t the worst idea in the world either. They have to stretch the field and not be so conservative as to allow the safeties not to respect their passing game. You can’t run if the safeties don’t respect your passing game.

Raiders On Defense:

Houston offense: #29 passing; #8 rushing, #28 scoring

Raiders defense: #23 vs run; #24 vs pass; Last in the NFL in sacks.

This might be the worst season in regards to quality of play in the NFL in the modern era. Houston won their division and were outscored this season by 49 points and the quality of QB’s in the playoffs is brutal. Some are saying the Raiders/Texans game is the worst QB match-up in playoff history. At 9-7, Houston was 4-6 outside their conference and 2-6 on the road.

The Raiders need to go all out. Houston’s Tom Savage and Brock Osweiler are as bad a tandem at QB as there is in the NFL. I blitz both often. The Raiders need turnovers to take pressure off the offense.

The Raiders need to do what teams are going to do to them. Load up the box and force Houston to pass the ball.   RB Lamar Miller will be back and stopping him is a must. If the Texans can run, this sets up the play action pass and takes the pressure off of their QB’s.

Osweiler isn’t an accurate QB but he can hit an occasional long ball. The key to everything though is stopping their run game.

They do have weapons. Deandre Hopkins is a stud at WR and Will Fuller has had some nice moments as well.   Big tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz has had a good year.

Jims Jamz:

This is going to be an old school ugly football game. Both teams are going to struggle scoring and each team will concentrate on stopping the run. Special teams may rule this game so Marquette King will be a big factor.

This game may come down to field goals with Janikowski (#12 in FG’s) and Nick Novak (#2 in FG’s). Novak has fought off injuries this year and he’s had great success. He has made 16 in a row and seems to be mostly recovered from a back injury.

I think the Raiders are going to come out with a lot of energy to erase the nightmare in Denver, and Houston will be excited with their crowd roaring it’s approval. To me this is a sloppy joe game.  It’s going to be ugly and messy, but in the end it will be exciting but nerve racking for the loser, and a great taste for the winner.  This one should go down to the wire.

 

  

 

 

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

raiders-chiefs

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.

“GRADES: The Raiders With Another Stirring 2nd Half Comeback; Looking Ahead to Kansas City”

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders

Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Buffalo Bills; Week 13:

Buffalo Bills  24 (6-6)

Oakland Raiders 38 (10-2)

In another fun day in Oakland, the Raiders came back and beat a tough Buffalo Bills team 38-24.  In a game that was up and down; a lot like most Raider games this year; the Raiders now will go onto key road games in the AFC West.  The Bills have beaten only one team with a winning record and that was against a 3rd string QB against the Patriots during Tom Brady’s suspension.

Co-MVP’s: 

I like Derek Carr.  In fact I watched him twice in person when he was at Fresno St. and I lauded his draft pick before Raider fans even knew who he was.  But the Raiders pattern of winning; and their winning in general is lead by someone else.

The co-MVP of the NFL this year is the Raiders and Dallas Cowboys OL.  College fans remember Dak Prescott with some pretty bad epic fails for MSU late in games in the SEC.  He had a rep for it.  But behind that OL in Dallas; the best in the NFL; and one of the best running games in the NFL and they give Dak all day to throw and succeed.

There is a saying; give an average QB time to throw and he will be good.  Give a very good QB time and he will be great.  Prescott & Carr are loving it.  They’ve played great all year. The Raiders OL is wearing out teams in the second half.  Do you think it’s a coincidence that the Raiders offense starts to get going in the mid to the end of the third quarter?  No it’s not.  The Raiders huge, physical OL is wearing teams out over time.  Opponents get some pressure on Carr in the first half; Carr and the offense struggles; and then they go off in the second half with Carr having all day to throw.  NOT a coincidence.

Media Blowing it Big Time:

Where is the outrage at another failed season by media darling Rex Ryan?  After the Bills got the 2 TD lead what does Ryan do?  He goes Wildcat!  How genius.  Your team is making almost 8 yards a run and you now become one dimensional bringing up the Raiders safeties.  Then in the next 10 plays after getting their 15 point lead, they use one of the worst passing QB’s in the NFL; Tyrod Taylor; passing 6 out of the next 10 plays.  Are you kidding me?  Too many ex-jocks who are analysts who don’t want to make waves.

I’m sorry; but if Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan were my coaches, I would need counseling.  Buffalo has no QB but because Taylor can run and is athletic, the media like him.  Buffalo’s front 7 on D and run game are really good but they are going nowhere with their QB and head coach leading the way.

Quarterback:

Carr had another great second half.  His throws were crisp and on target.  Derek Carr didn’t have all day to throw in the first half and the Raiders offense struggled at times.  He had all day to throw in the second half and he torched the Bills ordinary secondary.  Again; NOT a coincidence.  Carr is playing at a high level but his level is higher when he’s not touched.

GRADE:  A-

Slow start, fast finish.  Carr is on fire!

Running Backs:

The Raiders running backs ran for 139 yards at a 4.3 clip.  Another solid if not spectacular game by a good group.  Jalen Richard is now the #2 back for sure getting 9 carries.

Grade B +

A good, solid game by this group.  What is impressive is their ability to pick up blitzes.  Their pass blocking is unnoticed by everyone but Carr and the coaches.  Excellent job.

Offensive Line:

Same stuff different day.  They are physically wearing teams out into submission.  Another half of dominance.  Carr had no one near him in the second half.  Only Dallas has a better group.

Grade A

Donald Penn STILL has not given up a sack all year.  That is unreal.  These guys are the key to the success of the Raiders.

Wide Receivers:

Amari Cooper, Seth Roberts and Michael Crabtree had drops.  They redeemed themselves in the second half and had another excellent finish. Tight End Mychal Rivera had another solid game, catching 3 passes for 57 yards and Clive Walford added another for 18 yards.  The Raiders have to use their Tight Ends if they are going to do any damage in the playoffs.

GRADE:  B +

Carr has a lot of solid weapons and he used all of them against a game Bills squad.  A good day all around for the receiving core.

Defensive Line:

A tale of two cities.  First the bad.  That was the worst run defensive performance in the NFL this year.  The Raiders gave up 212 yards at 7.1 yards a carry.  Those are high school numbers.  I’m still not getting Jihad Ward.  He was not a factor in the run game.  He did have one sack but even that one wasn’t all on him.  Not counting the sack he had no other tackles.  It’s not just him; this DL doesn’t get penetration in the run game.

On the pass rushing side, with the offense staying on the field, a rested group came after the QB with abandon.  They ended up with 4 sacks and 2 key plays from Kahlil Mack who’s slow start is forgotten.  Mack is on fire right now and has 10 sacks on the year.  He did get fooled on 2 read option plays but otherwise he had a great game.

Grade: C+

The run defense was a joke.  The pass rush though played well in the second half.  I’m in a generous mood I guess because of the holidays.

Linebackers:

Watching tape of this game was hard.  I’ve never seen a group make so many tackles 5-10 yards downfield against the run.  Malcolm Smith was pancake blocked twice and Jihad Ward was pushed around.  Perry Riley Jr. was active and made a lot of tackles but few were really productive.  The Raiders only had 4 tackles for loss all game and 3 were sacks.  Not good.

Grade D+

The LB’s were physically beat up this game.

Defensive Backs:

It was funny watching Bills WR Sammy Watkins frustration yesterday.  On three occasions he threw up his hands when Bills QB Tyrod Taylor missed him on pass plays.  He was open for big plays twice but the passes weren’t near him.  Taylor is not a good passer and it’s hard to know if it was the defense or Taylor that limited the Bills passing game.  Probably both.  TJ Carrie played better as the game went on, regaining the confidence that had left him.  Amerson was beaten for moderately long passes twice but Taylor missed badly on both.  Amerson is good in short to mid range passes and struggles against fast WR that can go deep.  Tough game to judge.

Grade B  

Not a bad day by this unit, but it was against a bad QB.

Coaching:

It’s not hard to out coach Rex Ryan but the only thing that stood out was the Raiders running read option plays with Carr.  Carr is not particularly fast and even though his pinky situation is beyond overly dramatic (I’ve had that happen to me twice in basketball games; many have had it happen; I never missed any time) if a team in the NFL loses their starting QB, there goes the season.  Carr should NOT be running the ball unless it’s while being rushed.

Grade B-

Don’t run Carr.

Special Teams:

Sebastian Janikowski had a solid day.  The Raiders didn’t have many opportunities in the return game.  Marquette King had a good day punting with 2 inside the 20 including one late in the game.  King seems like a nice guy but his need for attention is getting to be a bit much.  I guess if you are a young Raider fan you love the flag routine but getting a penalty isn’t what you want from your punter.  What’s next, an onfield selfie while planking or doing the mannequin and cinnamon challenge?  Not getting it Marquette.

Grade A-

Solid game all around.

Conclusion:

The Raiders OL wears down another opponent; gives the defense lots of rest time late, and they get another win.  The Bills are near out of the playoff picture now and to be honest with that coaching staff and QB they are not going anywhere anytime soon anyways.

Kansas City Chiefs:

Ah the winter months.  The Raiders will play Thursday night in Kansas City.  Snow is predicted for Wednesday, and Thursday nights prediction is for a high of 27 and a low of 13.  Some forecasters say the snow may linger into Thursday and it may get into single digits.  Predicting weather for cold states is a crap shoot but if you are a fan traveling to Arrowhead, prepare for cold and lots of it.  (For fans going, the Chiefs have announced they are opening the parking lots at noon).

Now the fun starts.  The Raiders will play 3 of 4 on the road.  The Raiders are winning but they still have holes big time on defense.  Let’s be real though.  EVERY NFL team has holes.  The days of the 1970’s super teams are definitely over with the salary cap era.

The Chiefs have owned the Raiders in recent years.  Their QB Alex Smith has a 6-1 record as a QB against the Raiders.  Their pass rush and blitzing dominated the Raiders early in the season.  Carr struggled mightily in maybe his worst game of the year 26-10.  What’s worse is now star pass rusher Justin Houston is back and he’s getting healthier and better every day he plays.  Add new pass rusher Dee Ford who is tied with Kahlil Mack with 10 sacks, and an aging Tamba Hali, and one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL now is one of the better ones.  Eric Berry had 2 huge interceptions including a return of a missed 2 point conversion which won the game for the Chiefs.  They too have had a magical season.  The Chiefs have given up a lot of yards this year but their D tightens up in the red zone.

Last week against Atlanta, coach Andy Reid played very aggressively.  Fake punts, throwing deep; it was way out of his nature.  In the the last months though, Alex Smith has struggled.  The Ichabod Crane of the NFL has thrown 2 interceptions in the last 4 weeks.  If you are going to play scared and conservative to not turn the ball over, then don’t turn the ball over.  Smiths play will dictate a lot of the game.  The often injured Jeremy Maclin is questionable against the Raiders but lightning fast Tyreek Hill has been a huge weapon alongside steady WR Albert Wilson.  Add one of the best TE in the game in Travis Kelce alongside a capable rushing attack and the Chiefs on offense can do some damage.

Look for both teams to try and establish a running game in the cold weather, and if by chance it snows, FG kicking will play a big part in this one with both teams have solid kicking games.

Outlook:

I know the fans are excited and that is fun to see, but this is the game that really is going to show where the Raiders are.  Beating bad to average teams like Carolina and Buffalo with stirring comebacks is fun and exciting but it isn’t exactly championship stuff.  Beating the Chiefs and Broncos on the road in the cold is though.  Will the Raiders take control of the division or will they be swept by KC?  This game will go a long way to seeing how the Raider season may end up.  If they win, a division title is almost certain.

“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.

“Grades in Raiders Big win v.s. Ravens; How Do the Raiders Match-Up With the Chargers”

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Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Baltimore Ravens; Week 4:

Baltimore Ravens  27 (3-1)

Oakland Raiders  28 (3-1)

On Sunday the Raiders came back and beat the Baltimore Ravens 28-27 in an exciting game.  The Raiders are now 3-1 heading home for a game with the Chargers.

Reggie McKenzie:

I’ve been very honest about Reggie McKenzie.  Here’s my article on his tenure with the Raiders.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/how-reggie-mckenzie-turned-around-the-oakland-raiders-what-lies-ahead/

Some bash him when the Raiders lose but in reality SIX of the 7 2016 NFL draft picks played a significant role in the Ravens game, and in the entire year.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr saved his best for last. The Ravens have a solid defense and they held the Raiders to only 13 first downs, 3 for 12 on third down, and 0 net yards in the 3rd quarter. Not his best performance; only threw for 199 yards; but a gritty win on the road with clutch throws in the end.

GRADE: B

Carr came through in the 4th quarter but he did have his struggles. He had a costly delay of the game penalty and was a little rattled at times early with the pass rush. Those should be fixed and look for a big game next week against the Chargers.  Carr looks forward to a juicy match-up against the weak Charger pass defense.

Running Backs:

The Raiders RB by committee has worked wonders this year but it just wasn’t their day. Latavius Murray was ineffective and DeAndre Washington had a big fumble. Carr’s passes to him didn’t have much touch on them but Jalen Richard dropped a couple of passes that I’m sure he regrets. Washington had a really nice run of 28 yards but if you take that away, the RB’s had only 18 carries for 34 yards. Sometimes it’s just not your day.

Grade C

The Ravens made a point of stopping the run and they did loading the box at times. Better days ahead for this group after 3 excellent weeks.   RB’s pass blocking was pretty good.

Offensive Line:

After the first couple of drives Carr again had lots of time to throw. Rarely did the Ravens get to him. Baltimore had a good game plan to shut down the running game but the Raiders OL and RB’s picked up the blitz well. Due to injuries, Vadal Alexander was thrown to the wolves at tackle and the media were on him. He had 3 holding calls and 1 false start but Baltimore was putting Terrell Suggs on his side much of the time. Suggs is not the monster he used to be but he’s still solid. Alexander was tough and at times got no help against Suggs but he helped in the final TD drives protecting Carr.

Grade B-

The Raiders running offense struggled but the passing game and protection excelled. Alexander is a project but he was made to start and he gave a gutsy performance that will be a learning experience.

Wide Receivers:

NOW people know why I was touting Michael Crabtree when he came out for the NFL draft. At Texas Tech and San Francisco he was a huge talent when healthy. He’s the best possession WR in the NFL right now and a top 6 WR. The Carr to Crabtree connection is on top of their game.   Crabtree’s route running is fun to watch. Seth Roberts with a nice TD catch was also a plus. Teams continue to keep Amari Cooper from going deep and that is opening up the middle of the field. Still would like more TE throws; the Raiders had injuries at TE which may have helped limit that.

GRADE: B

It was quality over quantity. The Raiders offense struggled but when they needed to pass, they did a good job. The stupid call by John Harbaugh to take the penalty allowing a 3rd and long changed the game and allowed the Raiders to take a 2 score lead.

Defensive Line:

The Ravens averaged only 19 points a game in the first 3 games versus 1-8 teams. As I said, Joe Flacco and the rest of the offense is not that good and the Ravens were very overrated. I had the Raiders winning this game and some that I was a little crazy. Khalil Mack’s annual slow start is hopefully over. He terrorized Joe Flacco all day.  Mack has been solid against the run, but not much of a factor in their pass rush. The entire line had good push and Flacco was under pressure much of the time.

Against the run it wasn’t a good story again. The Raiders gave up 130 rushing yards at 5.0 yards a rush with 2 TD’s. Ward and Autry are playing more to get a push on the QB but it’s hurt the run defense. I’m not sold on either playing so much. Williams and Ellis are only playing around 15-20 plays a game. but they are limited in the pass rush.

Grade: B-

The Raiders against the pass were great, but another fail against the run. It’s not like the Ravens have Adrian Peterson either.   They gave a healthy scratch to their starting RB Justin Forsett but still rushed for 130 yards.

Linebackers:

Pretty much you can see the DL. The Ravens like the Titans don’t have much team speed on offense. The Raiders handled them fairly well in the passing game but struggled again in the running game. Cory James was beaten more than the Raiders would like against the run but he was excellent in pursuit and covering the pass. Bruce Irvin also had a nice game with his coverage and his pass rushing.  James is definitely an upgrade at LB but the Raiders still don’t have that stud run stopper.

Grade B

Again, the mantra for the Raiders all year is can they stop the run. The answer so far is not really. That has to change if the Raiders are going to get to the next level.

Defensive Backs:

All week the Baltimore media had brought up Joe Flacco being an elite player (announcer Steve Tasker did too) including Pro Football Focus’ rating of him the first 3 weeks. We must have been watching different players. Flacco has looked horrible at times this year and has the 2nd worst 4th quarter quarterback rating in the NFL. Last week against the Jaguars, his 2 key interceptions almost blew the game. Four TD’s and 4 INT’s is NOT elite.  That’s why I said the Raiders should handle them and they did.

The Raiders speed was evident against the slow offense of the Ravens.   The game plan was perfect; put David Amerson on Steve Smith and not worry about the others and it worked to perfection. Every DB played well.   Karl Joseph is getting more comfortable and he hopefully can help with the run defense.

Grade A-  

With the Titans pretty much having no deep threat, the DB’s played aggressive and physical again.   Other than a blip here and there and the long pass and run to iconic WR Steve Smith Sr., there were few worries.

Coaching:

Overall a well coached game. Raiders offense didn’t have a great game but enough to win.  No yards in the 3rd quarter and another slow start is a worry.  I think the Raiders should go more no huddle and put pressure on the offense.

On defense the game plan of putting Amerson on Smith Sr. was a great move that helped limit him.  Funny how Ken Norton’s name is never spoken when the Raiders defense plays better.  Some casual fans give all the credit to players when they win, and all the blame to coaches when they lose.  Crazy.

Grade B

The Raiders have to start the games better. Another 2 drives with little to nothing to show for it. They also had 0 yards in the third quarter. I wish their offense was more aggressive.

Special Teams:

Marquette King is really becoming a force. He helped the Raiders with great field position earlier in the game when the offense was struggling. Richard is a good return man.

Grade A-

Solid day all around.

Conclusion:

As I said going into this game, it’s a very winnable game. Joe Flacco is not a great QB and their offense only averaged 19 points a game. The Raiders run defense is still an issue and they did give up 27 points to an average at best offense. That has to change.  Offense came through in the 4th quarter and King is a weapon as a punter.

San Diego Chargers:

Philip Rivers had another last second drive fail against the Saints; something he’s done a lot of in the past; and the Chargers dropped to 1-3 losing to the Saints late. Rivers to me is this era’s Steve Deberg. A good QB who gets great stats in the first 3 quarters but doesn’t win anything. Nothing wrong with that but the networks push to make QB’s great is annoying at times. His epic fails late are more than people think.

The Chargers defense is 27th against the pass and 8th against the run. Look for a big game from Carr and the WR’s may have a field day. The Chargers lack talent and on paper this looks like a great match-up for Oakland. Rivers will always have his stats but they greatly miss WR Keenan Allen who is out for the year.

Joey Bosa may make his debut against the Raiders but the Charger fans are ready to blow him off for the year. The late signee has been hurt and hasn’t been ready to play.  He has not endeared himself to the fans that’s for sure.

Outlook:

Oakland is winning the close games and that is a big maturing process in a losing franchise learning how to win. There is a lot of excitement but there still is much work to do.  The Raiders are playing with fire playing close games. A good team like Atlanta made them pay for it. The Raiders run defense is probably going to be an issue all year. They have a very favorable schedule especially with Kansas City, the Colts and Carolina struggling so much.  Seems like all the stars are aligning as long as they beat the teams they should beat.

They can’t take anyone for granted. On paper the Chargers look like a team they can handle, but the Raiders have to start putting teams away and play a good consistent game for 4 quarters. Something they are looking to do against San Diego.

Defensively, the Raiders will be tested by the passing game of the Chargers but they always seem to fall short.  The Chargers are 1-3 and the big loss was the opening game loss to Kansas City in OT when they were up big early.

Look for a fun game with the Raiders flexing their muscle on offense again.  The Chargers running game has improved but is still only 19th in the NFL.  Look for San Diego to try and establish a running game and when it struggles, they will be throwing often from behind.  Should be a high scoring affair with the Raiders looking to continue their road to success.

 

 

“Why Alabama is the Best & Oklahoma is Just OK; 2 Programs That Went In Opposite Directions”

 

nick_saban_09182012

What a difference 10 years makes.

As I looked over the Oklahoma media offerings this last week, I read 19 articles on the reason the media said Oklahoma lost to Ohio St.   Only 2 writers got it right.   Let’s go on a 10 year journey for answers to why Oklahoma is just OK, and Alabama is the best program in the country.

The Reality in Norman:

Dozens of Sooner fans either blocked or unfollowed me on Twitter at the start of the season when I said this was a 3 to 4 loss Oklahoma team.   In my mind it was a mistake that people had them as the #3 team in the nation. In fact at the start of the season I had Houston and Alabama playing for the National Championship. I’m a closet Sooner fan; I still have my throwback Billy Sims Jersey in my closet; but we need to look at the facts.

Bob Stoops
Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops comments on his team during the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)

When Bob Stoops Arrived at Oklahoma:

When Bob Stoops and his defensive coordinator/brother Mike Stoops first came to Norman, it was a breath of fresh air. With one of the richest football traditions in the country, Bob took over after the John Blake era which was a train wreck. Bob Stoops won a national championship beating four top 5 teams along the way, including #1 Nebraska.

The Stoops brothers were aggressive and they had dominating defenses.  The Sooners dismantled Florida St in the National Championship game 13-2 with one of the great defensive performances in college football history.  It was a magical year in the OK state.

Stoops also embraced the tradition. Here is a school that still holds the record for most wins in a row in College Football history at 47. And he showed great respect for their head coach Bud Wilkinson. Many remember the hitch and trailer play against #1 Nebraska in the National Championship year to honor the team of the 1970’s who used that play to help beat Nebraska in Lincoln. Many also remember on their own 29 yard line in Tuscaloosa, using a fake punt in the third quarter and then throwing a bomb on the next play for a touchdown to help beat Alabama on the road. I remember a lot of great risks and fun payoffs. Those days are long gone.

I also remember Sooner fans booing for 3 hours a couple of years ago watching OU’s CB’s playing 10-15 yards off of the line of scrimmage against Baylor like it was pitch and catch in the backyard. The aggressive magic turned into old man conservatism.

Nick Saban Comes To Alabama:

People forget what a train wreck the Alabama Football program was before Nick Saban. There were several scandals, two probations, wins that were forfeited, and the firing of newly hired head coach Mike Price who was a little too wild at a strip club in Florida.   Add the over-matched Mike Shula’s coaching tenure and this once proud program had become a dysfunctional mess.   All that’s forgotten now.   Saban’s first press conference was filled with excitement.

 

Saban was the conquering hero at LSU in college but in the pro’s the media ate him up; especially during his second year which ended 6-10. Like most college coaches he was used to the college media bubble that can be mostly controlled by the coaches. In the pro’s a coach was like a raw steak in a lake full of piranha. His players didn’t like him, and neither did the media. After he left Miami, for months ESPN and NFL reporters all over the country destroyed Saban. They called him Nicktator and Nick Satan. I’ve never in my lifetime seen a coach so hated in one place and loved in another.   And to be honest he probably deserved a little of both. In 2010 he somewhat apologized for his “lack of professionalism” in Miami but it didn’t help.

The NFL Network has trashed him on several worst of lists including the below video (pretty harsh) naming him the 7th worst college coach to ever coach in the NFL. Many remember him scolding the Miami media for weeks saying he wasn’t leaving when in reality he had been talking to the late Alabama AD Mal Moore for weeks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LNA4eiqw4s

Here is the explanation in the book “Saban; The Making of a Coach”.

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/sports/football/new-book-nick-sabans-wife-wanted-out-of-miami-push/nm2Ty/

Oklahoma Going Down, Alabama and the SEC Going Up in Recruiting:

When Saban arrived from Miami, he immediately went on a recruiting blitz. He didn’t have the time the other schools did to recruit his first year; he arrived late; but he immediately improved his first class in 2007 and didn’t just blow the year off. That helped set a tone.  The biggest reason Alabama is the best is because they recruit the best and have the best talent.  CBS reported that 80% of Bama’s players are 4 or 5 star recruits.  That’s unreal.

The SEC has 3 of the best recruiters in college football. Mario Cristobal at Alabama, Tommy Thigpen at Tennessee, and Corey Raymond at LSU.   These are the guys doing the dirty work of visiting high schools, kissing babies, eating mom’s apple pie and talking to dad’s about the good ol’ days. Imagine Mario Cristobal wooing you and then Nick Saban closing the deal.   That’s tough to beat.

Urban Meyer got all the credit at Florida but who was one of his key recruiters?   Charlie Strong the new Head Coach at Texas. Strong went on to great success at Louisville and just had a top ten recruiting class for Texas in 2016.

Another thing Alabama has done in the recruiting wars is dominate the offensive and defensive line position. In the last 3 years Alabama had the #1 ranked offensive line class in the nation.   Their defensive line doesn’t miss out either. They are either #1 or #2 for the last 6 years. The NFL draft shows the fruits of their success.

While most teams are going to finesse offenses using the spread, Alabama for the most part has kept their roots. Saban has allowed OC Lane Kiffin to open up things in the past but when the chips are down, the power running game is what they are all about.

Alabama’s first recruiting class with Saban in 2007 was #17 in the Nation. Then the magic started to begin. It’s amazing what happened.

Recruiting Rankings:

2007:

Oklahoma #5

Alabama #17

 

2008

Oklahoma #8

Alabama #3

 

2009

Oklahoma #11

Alabama #2

 

2010

Oklahoma #20

Alabama #3

 

Now let’s fast forward to the last 4 years.

(www.rivals.com)

2013

Oklahoma #15 (0 five star, 7 four star)

Alabama #1 (4 five star, 13 four star)

 

2014

Oklahoma #15 (1 five star, 8 four star)

Alabama #1 (6 five star, 13 four star)

 

2015

Oklahoma #14 (0 five star, 14 four star)

Alabama #2 (4 five star, 14 four star)

 

2016

Oklahoma #16 (1 five star, 10 four star)

Alabama #1 (5 five star, 10 four star)

 

2017

Oklahoma #4

Alabama #2

In some publications, Alabama just had their sixth straight #1 college football recruiting class. Oklahoma’s highest recruiting class in that time was #14.

In the last four years these are the 4 & 5 star players:

Oklahoma: (2 five star, 39 four star)

Alabama: (19 five star, 50 four star)

There is good news for the Sooners though; Bob Stoops has rebounded in 2017 and OU is now ranked the #4 recruiting class so far. That team from Tuscaloosa? #2 so far. Now many things can happen; some players change teams like the wind so there is still a lot of work to do. Remember you are dealing with teenagers; but hopefully OU is back on track.

Alabama a Step Above:

The #1 thing is obviously they have the best players.  No one recruits like they do.

Innovation isn’t Saban’s thing.  What makes him great is preparation, readiness, teaching quality fundamentals and technique and demanding perfection.  It’s one thing to have the best players but you have to teach and coach them properly.

My dad was a great coach and he taught me so much.  Proper footwork, tackle readiness/positioning, balance; football is more in depth than fans think.  I love watching well coached teams.  From Alabama to Jim Harbaughs teams, to the great dynasty at North Dakota St. in the FCS, I really enjoy watching the teams play. I especially love defense.  The rules in college and the pro’s have made it a federal crime to breath near a WR or QB so passing is much easier in today’s game. That means a great pass rush is VITAL.  While other teams are still only rushing 3 men, Saban and other SEC schools get that a pass rush is important.  Some teams still don’t.

The average fan says it’s a passing game now and defense doesn’t matter as much. Problem is they are wrong.  The Big 12 seems to feel this way.  In reality though good defenses will beat good offenses most of the time.  Ask the Carolina Panthers and the Clemson Tigers from last year.  Ask Tom Brady how he feels about the NY Giants DL in the Super Bowl.

The SEC Formula; Nick Saban’s Way:

The SEC formula that Nick Saban uses is based on the 1970’s NFL; the greatest era of NFL football. It includes 5 things.

-have great team speed

-stop the run to make offenses predictable

-put great pressure on the QB and control the tempo

-have a great offensive and defensive line

-have a good power running game to run the ball when you need and want to.

Now some will say well of course you will win if you do all those things.  Then why doesn’t everyone do it?

Think about it.  The Big 12 struggles defensively and isn’t physical.  The Pac 12 isn’t physical other than Stanford and they lack team speed.  Michigan & Ohio St. are changing this but for the most part Big 10 teams lack team speed and the ACC; who has the worst winning % in the bowl series of any Big 5 Conference; also struggle defensively and lack physicality.  There are exception but this is the reality of each conference.

While many teams have fallen in love with the spread offense and throwing 50 times a game, Nick Saban goes with what brung him; defense & a physical running game makes him tick.

This is the way the Big 8 used to be when Oklahoma and Nebraska were winning National Championships. Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes and Bear Bryant did it; it’s old school football that Alabama plays with a little more modern passing offense. None of Sabans QB’s will tear up the NFL, but his defensive and offensive lines will.

Saban’s Way Saved the Mississippi Game:

I tweeted at halftime of the Mississippi Alabama game, “RUN THE BALL, RUN RUN RUN”. Alabama threw 23 times in the first half for 2.8 yards a reception. Bama was behind 24-17 and were lucky to be so close. They put the game’s hands in the arm of Jalen Hurt; a freshman QB; on the road. Hurt isn’t a particularly accurate thrower and he missed on some key passes, but wow can he run.

Alabama passed only 8 times in the second half and ran for over 334 yards and won 48-43. They ended the game with 7 yards per rush, and only 5.1 yards per reception. Don’t think for a second that Nick Saban didn’t tell OC Lane Kiffin at halftime, “we aren’t throwing 23 times this half”.

Bob Stoops To LSU?:

Many in Oklahoma are not real happy with Bob Stoops. There are rumors that he is being eyed for the head coaching spot in LSU. Because of the failures of late, Stoops has taken a beating in the media. I saw one article calling him Big Shame Bob instead of Big Game Bob. OU is now 8-9 in bowl games with Stoops as coach.

It’s hard to see him leaving OU but if he is going to stay he has to hit the recruiting trail. (LSU Job? Tom Herman of Houston is the sexy pick and I’d think he’d come but if he doesn’t, with Chip Kelly in a mess at San Francisco with their lack of talent; Kelly @ LSU?)

Some say Stoops got complacent in recruiting and the numbers back that. So if I were talking to Bob I’d tell him, “It’s ok Bob; you can keep the spread but you have to go back to what made your teams great from the beginning. A great OL & DL & a great defense. I have my 5 part formula above that you can use when recruiting. And if you don’t want to listen to me, get a hold of Nick Saban.  He’s got a copy”.