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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: 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.

 

  

 

 

“Win or Lose in Denver; Who Will the Raiders Play In the Playoffs: How Can Matt McGloin Succeed”

mcgloin

With Derek Carr injured, it’s all about Matt McGloin right now.  Let’s look at what he brings to the table as well as the playoff picture for the Raiders.

The Good and the Bad of Matt McGloin:

With a handful of Raider fans using Youtube videos to try and convince people how amazing Matt McGloin is and some Raider fans making fun of them, it’s become just another internet drama. You’d think they’d just want the Raiders to win but it’s just how things are in today’s world.  Let’s deal with the truth as we always do without all the drama.

McGloin is as tough as it gets. The word that many people use to describe him is grit. He was a 3 star athlete out of high school who wanted to go to Penn St. He ended up going there but had to make the team as a walk on. He eventually won a scholarship during the tumultuous Jerry Sandusky scandal and played fairly well but was far from a great college QB.   Most felt he was a semi-long shot to make the NFL as a backup. He was signed by the Raiders as an un-drafted free agent.

I looked it up and as a starter he is 1-5.  He played most of the game in the 2015 opener against Cincinnati (33-13 loss) when Carr got hurt but he didn’t start.  He hasn’t started a game with the Raiders since 2013 and he now finds himself in the eye of the tornado.  When he did start, he played on some bad teams.  At times he played very well but he also had some real rough spots.

McGloin does have some skills. His main one is he is pretty accurate. He is good on timing patterns and short to medium range passes to the outside. He also has a knack for finding tight ends and that could be a big plus in the Raiders passing game.

On the bad side his pocket awareness at times is lacking and that has gotten him into trouble in the past with turnovers against a pass rush. His delivery can be painfully slow when he’s not aware of the pressure.

His main weakness; which he also had in college; was that he doesn’t stare down his receivers; he gazes into their eyes. After McGloin takes the ball from center, you almost always know where he’s going to throw the ball. He struggles with medium to long throws down the middle because of it. Former Raider great Lincoln Kennedy a few years ago during the Raiders-Bengals game in Oakland was just frustrated. He was the Raiders sideline reporter that day for their radio team. When asked what was wrong with McGloin, Kennedy told the Raiders radio crew, “I literally know where he’s throwing the ball even before he takes the snap.   Every pass he throws he’s staring down his receiver”.

carr-injury

How to Set Up McGloin to Succeed:

One thing the Raiders need to do is to make sure they use quick throws, preferably to the outside.   Especially against a team like Denver, you don’t want him to stay in the pocket long with that pass rush all around him.

The run game is the key though. Their offensive line has had a great year and it needs to continue. The Raiders need to run the ball just like they did in the first game against the Broncos. So sick of the Bronco media saying their downfall is due to their offense because it’s just half of the reason. Their offense last year was one 19th in scoring and this year so far they are 22nd. Last year they had a running game, this year they don’t. Peyton Manning had 18 interceptions (the worst in 2015 was 19) last year and he did that in only 9 starts. Manning had the worst Super Bowl performance of any winning QB in history and was 1 for 15 on third down. Manning was 29th in passing in the NFL last year. He was atrocious. But this year so is Denver’s run defense which is getting a pass.

How Do the McGloin Lead Raiders Beat Denver:

This year the Broncos run defense is 29th in the NFL (last year #3) in rushing yards per game.   The national media isn’t doing their homework blaming all of their ills on the offense.  This defense is a shell of what they used to be last year.

The Raiders need to run the ball and run it some more. A first down pass to shake things up, followed by a physical run game. Denver gave up 218 rushing yards to the Raiders, 136 to the Patriots, 238 against the Chiefs, 180 against Tennessee, and 154 against Jacksonville. And this is just in the past six weeks! In those 5 games they are 1-4.

raiders-offensive-line

Who Will The Raiders Play In the Playoffs:

If they Beat Denver:

This Denver game may make or break the Raiders season.

If the Raiders can pull out a win against the Broncos, they now are the #2 seed.   That gives them a bye the first week and then a home game against probable winner Pittsburgh.  If Miami somehow wins; which I doubt very much; the Raiders will then play the highest seed left.   Again it’s hard not seeing Pittsburgh winning.   Miami is another overrated team with only a plus 4 point differential.  Playing Pittsburgh in Oakland is a lot better than a contest in the cold of Pittsburgh. The Winner will then probably get New England on the road; a very cold, winter game. Whatever happens, the AFC championship will probably go through New England.

If they lose to Denver:

If they lose and KC beats San Diego, the Raiders will be the 5th seed.   They will go to Texas and play Houston in the first round. Houston is far from a good team and they are in a bad division. This game is very winnable. If they win they then go to Kansas City or New England. Not a fun road to go down. Asking Matt McGloin; and even Carr for that matter; to win 3 road games with 2 being in the cold, is just too much. This Denver game is pivotal.

playoff-nfl

Why the Raiders Can Make a Post Season Run:

Let’s be real; if ANY team loses their starting QB, they are in trouble. Think of Pittsburgh without Ben, or the Patriots without Brady.   Other than the Cowboys with Tony Romo, no one really has a good backup.

The QB position in the NFL may be the worst it’s ever been. The Raiders alone had backups in the past such as Ken Stabler, George Blanda, and Jim Plunkett. Earl Morrall lead the 1972 Dolphins to the only undefeated season when starter Bob Griese was injured in week 5. Griese made 2 appearances late in the season and played in the Super Bowl, but without backup Morrall, the Dolphins don’t end up with a perfect season.

(side note; that Miami team was the only Super Bowl team in the modern era never to be invited to the White House due to the Watergate scandal. In 2013 the 1972 Dolphins were honored at the White House by President Obama).

The NFL longs for parity. They want a new Champion every year and this year they got it. Both Super Bowl teams won’t even make the playoffs and they are thrilled.   This allows for different fan bases to be involved in the big game and the playoffs.

A funny thing happened on the way to the bank though. The NFL ratings are down. What the NFL arrogantly felt is that fans would watch the NFL no matter what.   That hasn’t happened. The Thursday night games have mostly been bad and there are no more great teams. In the 1960’s-90’s you had some of the greatest teams of all time; especially in the 1970’s; so when the best teams played it was must see tv. The NFL world stood still with such Matchups as the Raiders-Steelers, Steelers-Cowboys, 49ers-Cowboys and so many amazing rivalries.  Now you have teams like Houston who are in first place and are going to the playoffs and they have a MINUS 42 point differential so far in their season. They’ve been outscored by 6 touchdowns this year and will make the playoffs.  They are also 3-4 against teams with a winning record. That’s smelly.

In the AFC there really are only 2 QB’s to fear in the post season for the Raiders. Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. And sorry KC fans. Andy Reid and Alex Smith are more conservative than Ronald Reagan at Bohemian Grove so they will never win a Super Bowl in my opinion. You win Super Bowls; you don’t hope not to lose Super Bowls.

Injuries have also hurt teams badly. Kansas City is now wondering if pass rushing star Justin Houston will ever be the same, again struggling with his health after coming back from surgery.   Their other pass rushing great Tamba Hali says he has no cartilage left in his knees and can only play on passing downs.

The Texans get a myriad of players back but they have greatly missed JJ Watts this year.

Pittsburgh’s offensive line is finally getting healthy but they are still struggling to keep healthy on the defensive side.

New England has their best offensive threat in RB Dion Lewis back from last years surgery but that gaping hole you see in their offense is the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski who is out for the year.

What all this means is that no team is unbeatable. Everyone has weaknesses but the Steeler’s and Patriot’s have their trump cards in two great post season quarterbacks.

Derek Carr will be out 6-8 weeks and being young, he will probably heal up quickly. If somehow, someway the Raiders get to the Super Bowl, it will be right on the 6-7 week time frame. Can he come back? Yes; many have come back and much sooner than that, but time will tell.   For right now they can’t worry about that. If they lose to Denver they play an ordinary Houston team who they can beat but then they will probably get into some murky waters in Pittsburgh and New England or Kansas City. And with a backup QB, that’s not the place to be swimming.

The Raiders though have their own ace in the hole; the second best offensive line in the NFL. If the Raiders give McGloin the time they gave Carr, McGloin can have a chance to play well. The Raiders also have to use their 3 headed monster running game, using all of their RB’s to keep them fresh.

Jims Jamz:

This Denver game is bigger than people think. The Raiders being the #5 seed I think gives them little to no chance of making a deep run. If they beat Denver though and are the #2 seed, they now have to gut out one home win; probably against the Steelers; to get to the Championship game against the probable winner New England. And oh the online drama. The media and fans everywhere will be in their dramatic social media glory. It will look like a Jr. High School love triangle with the melodrama of the Tuck Rule.  For the meantime though the Raiders need to think one thing; beat Denver.

“GRADES: For The 1st Time in Social Media History, Raiders Playoff Posts; Next Up The Colts”

crabtree-chargers
Michael Crabtree keeps his feet in bounds for a Raiders touchdown.

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ San Diego Chargers; Week 15:

San Diego Chargers  16 (5-9)

Oakland Raiders  19 (11-3)

A black hole in San Diego?  For one Sunday, yes there was.

For the first time in social media history, people could post that the Oakland Raiders were in the playoffs and be right. In what some in the San Diego media called, “The darkest hour in Chargers football history”, Oakland fans took over Qualcomm Stadium pretty much sealing the fate of the Chargers future playing in San Diego.   Even with a handful of delusional young Charger fans; and a even a few young Raider fans who just like to argue; trying to convince me there wasn’t that many Raiders fans in attendance, it was obvious this was a black out. It is now impossible to think San Diego will have a football team in the near future which is sad unto itself. I think with all of the politics, losing and moving talk, San Diego is done with the Chargers.  Below is a video that shows how the Raider turnout demoralized the Charger players and even the media!

http://www.mighty1090.com/2016/12/18/chargers-recap-humiliating-day-at-the-q-a-low-for-san-diego-sports/

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sports/chargers/sd-sp-chargers-raiders-game-20161218-story.html

Philip Rivers and the Chargers have had a history of 4th quarter and second half fails and this was another one. Rivers is a good quarterback but when they say he’s great I shake my head. No he is not great.

Rivers also was disgusted and discouraged after the game. “This was like a road game. We had to use a silent count”. The Chargers went 21 minutes to end the game without scoring.

Quarterback:

Carr came alive in the 2nd half again with 2 great throws zipping them across the field in tight coverage. He also had a nice pass to Crabtree for his only TD. Carr struggled at times though with the occasional pass rush again. He never really seemed to feel comfortable all game. He stared down his receiver in a terrible red zone interception and again had an off day.

GRADE: C+

Carr should have an easier time of it next week with a weak Colts defense, but to be honest the Chargers DB’s aren’t that good either. Carr was 19 for 30 for 213 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception. The Chargers sacked him twice and did a fairly good job at making him uncomfortable in the pocket.  Saying that I think Derek will come back strong against the Colts.

raiders-chargers

Running Backs:

The Raiders OL dominated at times and the run game was churning again. Murray, Richard and Washington combined for 145 yards on the ground with Murray leading the way with 81 yards. For the second straight week though, the RB’s were not a big part of the passing game. Murray’s fumble deep in Chargers territory can’t happen. Part of the lack of pass production was picking up blitzes from the Chargers but some wasn’t.

Grade B

Another solid game from this unit. I would like to see them more in the passing game though.

Offensive Line:

The Raiders did well in the run game and did good in the passing game. The Chargers did get 2 sacks though and even though they didn’t get to Carr often, they made him feel somewhat uncomfortable at times.

Grade B

A solid game from these guys but not the dominating performance in pass protection that has been the trademark of the Raiders OL. Carr goes as well as these guys go so their level of play needs to get better next week. They have spoiled Carr and Raider fans and have had a great year.  Look for a good game against Indy.

Wide Receivers:

The WR’s had a quiet day with only Michael Crabtree standing out. He made an amazing catch to keep his feet in bounds for a touchdown and was solid most of the day. Not much from anyone else though. Amari Cooper caught one electrifying long pass and run but that was it.

GRADE: C+

Carr was struggling but it was still a disappointing day against a bad and beat up defensive backfield.

Defensive Line:

Overall a good game.   The Raiders struggled a little early with San Diego using a quicker passing game, but in the 4th when the Chargers seemed to abandon it, the Raiders put good pressure on Rivers and stopped the run. The final drive with Rivers looking deep downfield, the Raiders pass rush gobbled him up.

Grade: B+

A solid game from this unit. Denico Autry had a sack and 2 tackles for loss and had an overall good game. Mack was quiet until the last quarter and Bruce Irvin had one of his better games as a Raiders.

Linebackers:

What has been a weakness for the Raiders all year, the LB’s came out and played well against the Chargers.   Perry Riley Jr. had a key strip late and caused a fumble and they were fairly good in coverage.

Grade B+

One of this unit’s better games.

Defensive Backs:

Sean Smith was beaten by 5 yards deep for the long touchdown to Travis Benjamin. He also played too deep at the goal line allowing another TD on a slant to Hunter Henry. Dontrelle Inman also caught 5 passes for 68 yards. The Raiders DB’s have struggled against the long ball all year. Fast WR that can go long have been their weakness. Overall they did not play a bad game, especially in the second half.   David Amerson had two jarring tackles on crossing patterns.

Grade B-  

Another long pass for a touchdown but overall not a bad game from this unit; not a great one either.

Coaching:

First the Chargers.   I think head coach Mike McCoy must think they get 6 time outs a half; he uses them up like candy. Also he abandoned the quick passing game and they fell into the hands of the Raiders pass rush, especially on the last drive.   Just not getting what is going on in San Diego with their play calling especially in the 2nd half of games.

The Raiders I felt should have run the ball a lot more. The Chargers could not stop the run and their soft DB’s literally seemed to be avoiding blocks in the first half. Del Rio won a challenge on a spot play which helped get a first down.

Grade B

Give the Chargers credit; they did have a nice goal line stand and stopped Murray on a 3rd and short but the Raiders got 145 yards on the ground and should have run more.

Special Teams:

Janikowski was perfect and King was ok, struggling at times to punt inside the 20. The coverage team was good and the return game didn’t do much.

Grade B+

A solid day from this unit.

Conclusion:

Raiders should celebrate for a day and then get back to work which I think they will. This defense doesn’t scare anyone though and still rank 27th in passing, 29th in yards per catch, 27th in sacks, and 25th in run defense. And they aren’t playing offenses like Pittsburgh, New England and Dallas. Still lots of work to do.  A good gutsy win in front of a lot of Raider fans was a site to behold.

Next Week the Indianapolis Colts:

With the Patriots final 2 games being against the Jets and a Dolphins team that will probably be without their starting QB, they look to be the first seed team in the AFC. If that happens it’s important for the Raiders to keep winning and that won’t be easy.

Next week the Raiders host the Colts. Andrew Luck has been on fire and they’ve actually begun protecting him some. Their OL has struggled all year at times being a sieve, and their defense has struggled more.

Indy’s defense has been bad. They are 28th against the pass and 21st against the run. They have an average pass rush (17th in the league).

On offense their OL is ranked 29th in sacks and Andrew Luck has been running for his life most of the year.   Look for Mack and Irvin to have a big day. Indy does a lot of 5 and 7 step drop passes and that should give the Raiders enough time to get to Luck.   Luck is a gun slinger and will take chances so 1-2 picks is my best bet. Don’t underestimate him though. Even with a bad offensive line he can carve up any defense in the NFL.   The Colts on paper don’t look to be a great team but they are dangerous and are still in the playoff hunt in a fairly weak division.

The Raiders match up well against Indy and I see a high scoring affair with Indy not being able to stop the Raiders and the Raiders occasionally shutting down Indy’s offense. It should be a good day for Oakland in the friendly confines of the Coliseum.  Raiders are in for a dog fight and can’t take anyone lightly.  Then on to the cold in Denver.

Jims Jamz:

The Raiders ended a drought that was the worst stretch of win/loss football in the history of the NFL. Those that stood by the Oakland Raiders deserve to savor this.   The lows were very, very low.   The terrible drafts that some fans tried to defend; the crazy coaching hires that some fans said would bring them back; and the bad free agent signings are all a thing of the past.   Those that have endured the pain for years can finally smile.  Those that used to pretend, can now be real and look at the truth again. Oakland is in the playoffs.

It’s imperative that the Raiders win out the rest of the way. Winning on the road twice in the playoffs in possible cold weather would be quite a chore.

And the Raider luck or magic; depending on what you believe; continued in 6F weather in Kansas City. In a game that the Chiefs seemed to be looking ahead to Denver, they were stunned by the Tennessee Titans. Alex Smith disappeared in the second half just like in the Raiders game, and this helped Tennessee get back into it.

Titans kicker Ryan Succup; a former Chief; missed a last second 53 yard kick so the Chiefs win, right? Wrong; Head Coach Andy Reid called a time out right before the kick allowing Succup to readjust and kick the winning field goal as time ran out. A 53 yarder in 6F weather.   Wow! This allows the Raiders to have first place in the AFC West all to themselves.

Some fans always complain about front running fans when a team starts winning and yes, people come out of the woodwork to get on the band wagon; especially younger fans. Just look at the Warriors. So bandwagon fans if you jump on board make sure to get drinks and food for the regulars first.  It’s about seniority.

It was a nice come from behind win in San Diego that shores up a spot in the post season. Raider fans invaded a stadium like no other fan base I’ve ever seen. And for the first time in social media history, Oakland fans aren’t being laughed at for crazy predictions or hope of the post season. They don’t have to talk of the past; it’s the present.

You may see some Raider fans pinching themselves today, but don’t judge them.  They just wan’t to make sure it’s not a dream. They’ve been through a lot to get here.

“The NBA’s & Sports Worlds Amazing Ride Through Life With Craig Sager”

 

craig-sager-suit

In the medical field; and in life; you see so many amazingly brave and kind people battling diseases.  Their courage is never seen or talked about.  They worry about their families and are selfless in their battle.  People in the news also have those battles.  Some choose to fight them publicly; some privately.

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Warriors Give out Sager Strong T-Shirts on Opening Night vs Spurs

For Craig Sager he somewhat had no choice.  In today’s hyper sensitive society which judges anything that is seen or done; especially on television; Craig Sager was seen all the time.  For him though he wanted to show that you can fight things with strength. determination and with a sense of humor.  He knew every move he did would be watched but that he would always just be himself. Little did anyone know how much this would touch people.

http://www.nba.com/article/2016/12/15/turner-statement-passing-craig-sager-0

Craig Sager was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2014 and it was obvious that he was not going to be working the 2014 NBA playoffs.  The severity of the disease and the diagnosis hit the NBA and Turner television family hard.  Without treatment he had 3 to 6 months to live.  Even with treatment this form of cancer was very aggressive and the long term prognosis was not good.

While his father was out, in a moving scene Craig’s son Craig Jr. interviewed the surly coach of the San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich.  His nastiness to reporters is of legend.  During the interview Gregg was very kind and showed a lot of love to Craig Jr. but he added that he would rather have Sr. there instead.

Along the way #sagerstrong began to pop up on Twitter.  People would see news stories of Sager in his extremely upbeat battle with the disease.  He was positive even through the worst of times.  He had an amazing 3 bone marrow transplants and went through chemotherapy along the way.

His daughter Kacy didn’t seem too pleased with her dad at one time on Twitter.  In the middle of an 8 day chemotherapy session Craig drove 3 hours to do the Oklahoma Thunder-San Antonio Spurs game after a treatment.

“My dad is in the middle of 8 days of chemo, drove 3.5 hours from HOU to SA to work this game, driving back in the am. Absurd. Meanwhile my roommate called out of work because she feels like crap”

The whole NBA community was pulling for Craig.  During the playoffs that he missed, for one day the entire Turner team dressed in crazy suits like Craig.  Many even from other networks did it.  It was an amazing show of support to a man that was battling so hard. craig-sager-colleagues-suits

http://www.nba.com/video/channels/tnt_overtime/2016/04/05/20160405-inside-sager-tribute.nba

Charles Barkley had hip replacement surgery and was told he could not fly for a while. When he heard Craig’s wife Stacy had a cold and could no longer be in the room with Craig, Charles hopped on a plane and visited. “Craig Sager is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.  You go to visit him to cheer him up and his attitude is so upbeat he cheers you up”.

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/17443442/nba-charles-barkley-defies-own-doctor-visits-craig-sager

Craigs shining moment was his story and then speech about fighting cancer at the Espy’s, the annual award ceremony ESPN does.  He was given the Jimmy V award in honor of former North Carolina St. coach Jim Valvano who passed away of cancer.  The Jimmy V foundation has raised millions for cancer research.

http://www.jimmyv.org/

His appreciation to the Turner broadcasting team for helping him to keep working was one of the first things he talked about.  In a day when corporations seem to have no morals, character or heart, he appreciated their amazing support.

Craig talked about living with passion and having fun.  Fighting it with a great attitude and fire and how that attitude can help the way you act.

When Craig first started he took a lot of ribbing.  Some didn’t take him seriously due to his crazy suits.  But in time people realized he was real.  He was fun, kind, hard working and loyal.  He loved life and loved and appreciated people.  He took his job seriously and loved the NBA and the whole experience.  He loved the hustle and bustle of his job but he never took himself too seriously.

In reality what we loved about Craig Sager is he was how we wanted our athletes and our news people to be.  In a day with so many scandals, arrogance, pettiness and dysfunctional actions, we loved that Craig was kind, caring and full of fun. He was vulnerable and humble and kind in a way that made us feel connected to him.  An everyman.

Craig was given a terrible sentence and he battled an amazing 2 years.  I’m sure the doctors didn’t expect him to last that long but Craig did it in a way that inspired millions.  Our family like all of yours, has probably been through the pains of cancer.  I’ve sat with patients as they died.  I’ve sat with loved ones as they took their last breath.  The torturous battle that is sometimes seen in cancer is a battle that so many have endured.

But in the end it’s not how people die that matters; it’s how they lived.  How we fight the battles and how we touch others doing it.  We’ve seen the tragedies but we’ve also seen the courage and triumph.  The passionate battles and the perseverance through treatment and adversity.  The amazing human spirit that is seen in people that never get the publicity or the attention during their quiet battles.

Reporters give tribute to Craig Sager

http://screengrabber.deadspin.com/former-craig-sager-colleague-rachel-nichols-reports-his-1790157916?utm_campaign=socialflow_deadspin_twitter&utm_source=deadspin_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

To all of you battling, I pray for you deeply and hope that one day they will find better treatments which lead to finding cures.  And for loved ones and those with cancer, I say one thing.  Stay Sager Strong and live with all  you have no matter how long the time.

 

 

 

 

 

“The Greatest Defensive Backfield of all time! The Oakland Raiders Soul Patrol”

soul patrolf

There will never be a defensive backfield like the Oakland Raiders Soul Patrol of the 1970’s ever again.  They were the most intimidating and greatest group of all time.

The 70’s will always be remembered as the greatest era for the NFL.  It’s the era when there were many great teams and great quarterbacks.  Without a salary cap some backups on the great teams could start elsewhere.  Defenses could do as they please with little to no protection for QB’s and WR’s.  Television helped make the Superbowl become a must see event.  Teams like the Raiders, Steelers, Dolphins, Chiefs, Cowboys and Vikings made this a decade of excellence.  The Steel Curtain, the No Name Defense, and the Purple People Eaters are all revered names in NFL lore.  When the Steelers met the Raiders in the mid 70’s, there were no less than 22 hall of fame coaches, owners, and players on the field at one time.  That will never happen again.

“There was nothing like them”, said HOF QB Fran Tarkenton in a KNBR radio interview.  “In 1979 the NFL created the 5 yard chuck rule because of Atkinson, Tatum and the Raiders.  Wide Receivers could not get off the line of scrimmage against them.  Atkinson and Tatum and the rest of the gang were so physical and strong that I’d have to wait and hope my guys could get open”.

The wide receivers of the 70’s never get their due because their numbers weren’t the pinball numbers of today.  In today’s NFL, if you exhale near a receiver it is a penalty.  In the 1970’s it was literally survival of the fittest.  They had to worry about the great physical play of the era and you could not be a wide receiver unless you could go over the middle. I’ve seen pass interference penalties in today’s game where a defensive back literally brushed by a player.  The rules are so comical now that records are being broken almost weekly.  The 70’s on the other hand was an extremely brutal and tough era, and the most talented and toughest defensive backfield of them all was the Soul Patrol in Oakland.

The center of the sporting world in the 70’s was Oakland California.  In 1975 a team lead by superstar Rick Barry silenced all the east coast and their writers by sweeping the Washington Bullets for the NBA title.  The Oakland A’s dynasty had an amazing 3 straight World Series Championships beating national league royalty in the Dodgers, Reds, and NY Mets.  And then oh by the way, for a 25 year stretch the Raiders were the winningest team in all of sports with several division titles, and 3 superbowl wins.  No city ever had so many titles in such a short time.

The Soul Patrol embodied what the Oakland Raiders were all about.  They were tough, borderline dirty, intimidating and extremely confident.  Each member played their role and they roamed the NFL like a pack of wolves.

atkinson4

George Atkinson Jr.:  (“Butch” 6’ 0”; 180 lbs.)

There may have never been a tougher Raider than George Atkinson.  Listed as 6 feet tall, many say it was more like 5’ 10” but no one had the guts to tell him that.

Atkinson was an intimidator that roamed the field like a lion ready to pounce.  He was the trash talker of the group often seen taunting and intimidating players that were much bigger than he was.  He once broke Russ Francis nose with a vicious forearm hit, and his hits against Lynn Swann of the Steelers are a part of NFL history.  He had blazing speed and in fact still holds the single game record for punt return yardage for the Raiders at 205 yards.

Atkinson took it very personally when someone tried to block him low.  He learned from Tatum to go after a Wide Receiver if they tried to hit their knees or ankles.  In some films you can actually see Raiders defensive backs going towards blockers to actually hit them after they tried to hit them low.  All time great Paul Warfield once said when you went over the middle against Oakland and didn’t account for Tatum and Atkinson, you would not be in the game long without being carried off the field.  Against the run, he could go through blockers and make amazingly hard tackles.  If you ran wide against the Raiders, their DB’s would make you pay.  Atkinson loved to make players pay.

willie brown

Willie Brown:  (6’ 1”; 195 lbs.)

Amazingly Hall of Famer Willie Brown was never drafted when he graduated from Grambling St.  He was signed by the Buffalo Bills who cut him and then he was picked up by the Denver Broncos.  He soon became an all star but was traded to the Raiders in 1967 where he played for the rest of his career.  Unlike the other 3 members of the soul patrol, Brown was fast, graceful and laid back.  He wasn’t a talker but a great defender who was a shut down corner. He had good size and played the run very well, but he was a master of the bump and run, man to man game that the Raiders loved so much.  His famous interception in the Superbowl with the great announcer Bill King’s call of old man Willie is as famous as any highlight NFL films has.

skip thomas

Skip Thomas CB (Dr. Death; 6’ 1”; 205 lb.):

In a day when cornerbacks were just as important in attacking the run as they did the pass, Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas role was to make everyone that came near him remember that he hit them.  What is funny is he was nicknamed Dr. Death by Raiders great Bob Brown who said Skip Thomas looked like the cartoon character Dr. Death.

Skip Thomas was a vicious tackler who was the king of the clothesline tackle.  Many times his padded arm was seen knocking the ball out of wide receivers hands.  When he hit people, sometimes he would actually launch his whole body and his arm swung like a Russian sickle.  It was intimidating, violent and sent the message to not come his way.  He had a two year stretch of 6 interceptions per year.  Due to the great talent of Willie Brown, teams would try to pick on Skip Thomas and usually the results were not good.

People forget that in the Super Bowl, Minnesota moved their fine wide receiver Sammy White around so that Thomas mostly guarded him in the first half.  White didn’t  catch a pass in the first half and Thomas was on him like glue.  As the great Raiders announcer Bill King once said, the Raiders have 3 safeties.

Sadly he passed away in 2011 at the age of 61, but he will always be remembered for his talent, toughness and personality as one of the great members of the Soul Patrol.

jack tatum

Jack Tatum Safety (Assassin; 5’ 10”, 205 lb.):

During the Super Bowl break, the NFL show with Cris Collinsworth was discussing players that should be in the hall of fame, and to a man they all said the same name.   Chris Berman and many others kept bringing up one man; Jack Tatum.

He may have been the most intimidating force in NFL history this side of Dick Butkus. Sadly he was mentally saddled with the hit on Darryl Stingley which paralyzed him for the rest of his life.  Many close to Tatum said he really never got over it up to his death in 2010 at the age of 61.

Earl Campbell said no one ever hit him harder than his touchdown run where he and Tatum hit head on.  Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton said he thought Tatum knocked Sammy White’s head off in the Superbowl hit that Tatum laid on him when the Raiders dominated the Minnesota Vikings.

I remember a story that Ahmad Rashad told.  He said that days before the Vikings were to play the Raiders in the Superbowl, Tatum had walked into a room where the Vikings were relaxing.  Tatum walked into the closet and just stood there for a couple of minutes.  He then walked out of the closet and left.  Rashad said that not one Viking laughed or said a word until they saw Tatum walking out of the building.  Rashad said that it was a mind game of intimidation and he said it worked.  He said, “we laughed; we just made sure Tatum couldn’t hear us”.

Tatum was a linebacker playing safety.  He also was dominating against the run and would take on guards and tackles at any given notice.  Many game films show Tatum chasing blockers trying to hit them before the blockers would try to block them.  Tatum was vicious, fearless and ready to hit anyone.  He epitomized the great physical play of the day, and what the Raiders defense always tried to do; stop the run and make the quarterback go down, and go down hard. With a good pass rush, the Raiders defense was hard to beat as was seen in their dominance.

With today’s rules there will never be hits and aggressive play like the Soul Patrol did.  Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers pretty much do as they please and the Soul Patrol would not be allowed to do what they did best; intimidate, make plays, and be legends.  In the most physical era, the Soul Patrol was like a pack of wolves ready to take down any sized prey.  They remain the greatest defensive backfield of all time.