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

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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, Doomsday, 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 about the Soul Patrol in a KNBR radio interview.  “In 1979 the NFL created the 5 yard chuck rule because of Atkinson, Tatum, Brown, Thomas 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 before I got killed”.

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.

Oakland the King of Professional Sports:

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 after writers practically laughed at their chances.  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 US 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 in a defense that still today is revered.

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

There may have never been a tougher Raider than George Atkinson.  Listed as 6 feet 1 inch tall, many say it was more like 5’ 11” 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.

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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.

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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 when Dr. Death was playing cornerback”.

Sadly and ironically he passed away too soon in 2011 also 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.

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

If Atkinson was the voice of the Soul Patrol, Tatum was the heart.  Ronnie Lott called him his inspiration and the standard bearer for all NFL safeties.  John Clayton said there was never a harder hitting safety in the NFL.  Once during the Super Bowl break, the NFL Show with Cris Collinsworth and Chris Berman were discussing players that should be in the Hall of Fame, and to a man they all said the same name; Jack Tatum.

He may have been the most intimidating force in NFL history this side of Dick Butkus. John Madden said many times he was mentally saddled with the hit on Darryl Stingley which paralyzed Stingley 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 due to complications from diabetes.

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.  Even his counterpart George Atkinson said once, “he hit a tough Denver TE Riley Odoms so hard it sounded like a gun shot.  Odoms was in agony and his eyes rolled back.  I thought he had killed him”.

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 and playing cards.  Tatum walked into the room and 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 him.  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.  I would like to do an in depth article just on Jack alone in the future.

Jim’s Jamz:

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.

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“Easy, Fast and Amazing Broccoli Soup”

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Gordon Ramsey’s simple and elegant recipe for broccoli soup shows what’s good about cooking.  Fast, easy, simple and so tasty.  Enjoy on a cold winter night!!

Broccoli Soup:
INGREDIENTS
to taste Water
to taste Salt
to taste Black pepper
2 heads Broccoli very fresh
to taste Olive oil optional, for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS
Cut the florets off the heads of broccoli. Cut the stems into similarly sized pieces. Add all of the broccoli — florets and stems — into a pot of rapidly-boiling, salted water (2 tablespoons salt in 5 quarts of water). Cover. Cook 3.5 to 4 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, put the cooked broccoli pieces into a blender. Fill blender about halfway with cooking liquid. Blend carefully since it’s hot. Add more cooking liquid as necessary to achieve the desired consistency. Check seasonings.

If desired, add cheese (goat cheese or cheddar cheese) to the bottom of the bowl before pouring the soup in. Serve, drizzled with olive oil or a bit of cream if desired.  Add croutons for a crunch and some love a ton of black pepper in it.  Use your imagination!! Enjoy!!

“Oakland Raiders Final Grades v.s. Kansas City Chiefs”

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Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Kansas City Chiefs; Week 12:

(7-4)  Kansas City Chiefs  20

(1-10)  Oakland Raiders  24

First of all how about an A + for the energy and support of the crowd.  It was absolutely pouring down rain at times and the fans were so into the game.  If on earth there was ever a fan base that deserved this win, it was the Oakland Raider fans.  Wow!

Quarterback:

The conditions at times were awful with the rain, especially in the first half.  Derek Carr had his ups and downs but the thing that will be remembered is the last drive.  People wondered if he could make it happen in the clutch when he had to and they found out the answer.

The Raiders threw 6 of 8 times on first down in the first half, and it opened things up for the run.  Carr was off at times and still showed impatience, especially in the first half when he gave up on plays too early.  What was very encouraging though was his patience on the last touchdown pass to James Jones to win the game.  The offensive line gave great protection and it was a great play.  The crossing pattern is so hard to beat and I love it a lot over the popular fade.  Carr showed he has what it takes and is learning.

GRADE:  B

The last drive was great to see, showing that Carr can keep his cool and be patient enough to wait for his WR to get open.  This OL protects him well and it showed.  He only threw for 5.0 yards per catch AND was 18-35 for 179 yards though but hopefully those were somewhat due to the conditions.

Running Backs: 

Central Florida’s Latavius Murray was not even invited to the NFL combines even after a great career in college.  This shows how ridiculous the NFL combines are.  A healthy Murray was given the chance to shine last night and he did come through.  His two touchdown runs were decisive and the offensive line dominated the Chiefs at times.  Murray’s 90 yard run was a direct minded runner hitting a hole and having the speed to beat the defense.  Murray had a break out game but had to leave early due to a concussion.

Grade:  B+

The Raiders fans have been crying out for Murray to get a chance and he finally did.  The elitist NFL not even letting Murray be at the NFL combines shows why there are more hits than misses sometimes in the draft.  I loved Murray in college and I think he’s ready to make his mark in Oakland.

Offensive Line: 

The offensive line has been wrongly getting the blame for the running games failures.  The Raiders in the first half threw the ball 6 times on first down which in itself was a miracle.  It opened up things for the offense.  It made KC have to respect the pass on first down and helped the Raiders in the running game greatly.  Unfortunately they went back to their old ways after half time.  The Raiders announcers rightly called out the Raiders coaching staff in the second half for their predictability.  The coaching staff went back to the run in the 3rd quarter with 6 of 8 first downs being runs up the middle.  The Raiders struggled in the third quarter offensively and the correlation is not hard to see.

Grade:  B+

Some Raider fans and people in the media have wrongly gotten on this OL.  In the first half against the Chiefs when the Raiders passed so often on first down, it opened things up for the run because they now were not predictable.  Murray also helped them by being decisive and hitting the holes when they opened.  The Raiders protected Carr as usual giving up only one sack and this makes Derek Carr the second best protected qb in the NFL.

Wide Receivers: 

For people giving Carr passes acting like the Raiders have no talent at wide receiver, you need to get real.  James Jones is a solid red zone possession receiver and he proved his worth on the final drive.  Andre Holmes was targeted 10 times by Carr who was off on some of his passes.  Holmes ended up with a 5 catch performance and was a step out of bounds away from a big touchdown grab.  He’s proving that he can play in this league.  The Raiders coaches are still clueless not playing the ultra fast Brice Butler more.  Just not getting it.

GRADE:  B

The conditions were rough all night, especially in the first half.  When the Raiders receivers were needed though they came through and they were big when they needed to be.  The Raiders still need a fast #1 wide out but these guys have grit.

Defensive Line:

FINALLY a good game from the DL.  It wasn’t epic, but for how bad they’ve played this year it was a good thing to see and it changed the game.  They still only got 2 sacks with Mack being shut out for the 10th time in 11 games.  He’s just not a great pass rusher right now in his career and that is somewhat disappointing.

Grade:  B

They kept the Chiefs from having a 100 yard game but they did give up 4 yards a carry and only had 2 sacks.  Alex Smith is definitely not Johnny Unitas but it was still a nice showing.

Justin Tucks’ heads up play saved the Raiders after one of the dumbest celebrations ever, especially from a team that has no wins.  Tuck was disruptive and determined and it showed.

Linebackers:

If Khalil Mack burps, the media and some Raider fans say how awesome he does it.  He is totally over hyped.  I don’t deal with hype; I deal with facts.  Mack is not good at rushing the passer.  What he is good at is disrupting the run and making plays against the run.

While Khalil Mack was getting all of the publicity and credit even though for the 10th time he had no sacks and only 3 tackles; Sio Moore and Miles Burris were combining for 21 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack and one pass deflection.

The best linebacker on the Raiders by far is Sio Moore, not Khalil Mack.  When he is healthy, Moore is a game changer which was shown by his 9 first half tackles.  When he blitzed he put pressure on Smith and on the last drive had that key sack.

Grade A-

This unit is the strength of the defense and is carrying them.  Sio Moore is a stud, Mack is great against the run, and even with a missed tackle here and there, Burris has proven to be very valuable and makes plays.

Defensive Backs:

The Raiders defensive backs played well against the run.  They did struggle in the second half but when it counted they came through.  It wasn’t a world beating performance but it was a good showing on a rainy northern California night.  Charles Woodsen and Larry Asante played like this was the last game they’d ever play and were inspiring combining for 17 tackles.  Woodsen alone had 3 tackles for losses.

Grade B 

The Raiders safeties were all over the field at times.  Other than the really bad touchdown pass to Jamaal Charles, the Raiders DB’s played a good game for the most part even with struggling in the second half.

Coaching:

This should be a two part answer.  For the first half the Raiders coaching staff had their second best game of the season.  Six times they passed on first down and it opened up the offense and allowed them to not be predictable.  Kansas City didn’t know what was coming and the first half was dominated by the Raiders.  In the second half, Oakland ran 6 of 8 times up the middle and they struggled.  I also don’t understand why they empty the backfield on short yardage situations which tells the defense they are going to pass.  It makes no sense at all.

Grade B-

The coaches had a good first half but went back into a shell in the third quarter that helped Denver get back into the game.  I have no idea why they are so conservative when the Raiders have nothing to lose.  They finally started Murray and the results speak for themselves.

Special Teams:

Denarius Moore’s punt return fumble could have been much more costly than the 3 points it gave up.  It could have changed the momentum and the direction of the game.  Janikowski hit one field goal.  Marquette King had a good night but when it counted, he hit a low line drive that helped the Chiefs with a nice return.

Grade C+

The conditions played a role but it wasn’t a great day for the special teams.

Next Opponent:  @ St. Louis Rams (4-6; last game, win @ home against the Denver Broncos 22-7)

Outlook:

Next weeks game is usually not a good one for west coast teams traveling east.  The Raiders struggle mightily when they travel back east and with the Rams defense coming into their own, this will be a hard fought game.  Latavius Murray’s health will be in question and it will remain to be seen which team shows up in regards to the Raiders play calling; especially on first down.  This should be a low scoring close game.

“Derek Carr is a Breath of Fresh Air in an NFL Lacking in Leadership”

derek carr

“Derek Carr is a Breath of Fresh Air in an NFL Lacking in Leadership”

In the last 2 weeks we’ve seen the best and worst of what the NFL has to offer in regards to leadership. Some passed, some were epic fails.

The Chicago Bears are a very proud organization, but it took a deep step backwards in their last game against their arch rival, the Green Bay Packers.   At half time the Packers were winning 42-0. For the first time in 94 years a team had given up over 50 points in consecutive games.

The comments from the Packers players were strong and brutal. Wide receiver Randall Cobb said it was obvious “they laid down”. Defensive lineman Datone Jones said the Packers believe in their quarterback and it’s obvious the Bears don’t. He also said “when you don’t believe in your quarterback, you begin to just play for yourself. We don’t have that in Green Bay”.

Jay Cutler is 31 years old but with his unshaven face, he looks more like a beat up 45 year old. On the sidelines he looks bored, disinterested and distant. He also now has a reputation of being a coach killer and a player that is not liked by coaches or teammates. Add head coach Marc Trestman’s emotionless gaze, and it’s a very bad look in the windy city.

Lamarr Houston started the ball rolling with his moment in the sun for the Bears. Down by 4 touchdowns against the New England Patriots, he finally got his first sack of the year late in the fourth quarter against the Patriots backups. He decided that he needed to celebrate the moment by jumping up and dancing. Unfortunately his knee knew that 300 lb men jumping in the air isn’t ever a good idea and his knee buckled. The result was a torn ACL that would keep him out for the season. When interviewed afterwards, Houston laughed and said, “It was probably not a good thing for me to celebrate when my team was so far behind but it’s not a problem because things happen”. He sounds broken hearted (sarcastic cough).

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has struggled this year.   He’s the poster child for the cookie cutter quarterback that the NFL has created. He’s fast, super athletic and big with a strong arm. On the bad side he still struggles playing quarterback at the NFL level and at times his passes couldn’t hit water if it was dropped off a boat. Pretty much most of the college quarterbacks are more athlete than quarterback but that story is for another day.

Even though he has struggled, he has also stayed as brash and arrogant as ever.   After the 5-4 49ers beat the New Orleans Saints in overtime, he posted a photo on Twitter and Instagram to all of his “haters”. It was him putting a finger to his mouth saying “shhhhhh”. The 49er fans have never embraced Kaepernick and they never will because of this kind of brash immaturity. His over sensitivity to online criticism would borderline on bizarre if it wasn’t so prevalent with so many celebrities and athletes.

Often disgruntled and immature Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall didn’t quite like the comments made to him by a Detroit Lion fan after Chicago’s record collapse against the Packers. Marshall started a twitter fight with the fan, and we all know those end well for famous people. Marshall challenged the fan to a fight! He said that he would pay the fan up to $25,000 if the fan would fight him and beat him. The fan took him up on it telling him to come to Detroit. Reports of Don King reaching out to Marshall after his melt down were greatly exaggerated.   Brandon Marshall has done a lot of work for charity and seems to do nice things but at his age to want to fight people because he’s too insecure to handle criticism is pathetic but unfortunately the norm.

After spraining my neck from shaking my head, I then read some of the things Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. Derek Carr has shown a lot of potential and even though he struggles at times when he’s pressured, most of the signs are good.

He has shown a level headedness and calmness on the field that most young quarterbacks don’t have. He has a strong arm and is very accurate passing on the run. Again, he still has a weakness handling a pass rush and sometimes looks antsy while in the pocket but I think with experience he will become more and more comfortable.

Where Carr really excels though, is in his leadership abilities. He’s said several times that he has to play better for them to win. He’s also kept his head in talking to the media and says all of the right things. This last weekend he said he felt bad that the team has to suffer because he is learning to be a quarterback in the NFL.  Along with his humbleness, his work ethic is also turning heads and he has said a few times, “I’ll work harder than anyone”.  In today’s pass happy NFL where the rules have hamstrung defensive backs and pass rushers, it’s imperative that Carr grow into a big time passer.  NFL & team records are plummeting due to the new rules and its imperative the Raiders have a great passing game.

Derek Carr has been very old school in most of his life decisions.   While many young players are partying with groupies in clubs, the 23 year old is married, already has a child and considers his faith in God to be the most important thing in his life.   His maturity and confidence is evident on and off the field and he doesn’t get too caught up in the attention, good or bad.  It’s easy to get a big head or lose your confidence due to fan’s of today’s fervor, but he keeps an even keel with his emotions and takes things in stride.

You can also see it in the confidence that the Raiders players have in him. Many are hopeful for the future and they believe in him. Wins are going to be very hard to come by for Oakland with their brutal schedule this year, but after many failed draft picks and attempts at getting a quarterback, Carr seems to be the type of stable and talented player that the Raiders have needed for a long time; on and off the field.  His talent and leadership are becoming rare in the NFL and he’s a breath of fresh air in a league full of bad behavior.

“Oakland Raiders Grades v.s. Cleveland Browns; the Good, Bad, & the Ugly”

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Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Cleveland Browns; Week 8:

Cleveland Browns  23 (4-3)

Oakland Raiders  13 (0-7)

Quarterback:

The Raiders have scored more than 14 points in a game one time all year.  Tony Sparano showed again why he isn’t an NFL head coach.  At Miami he was constantly trying to outsmart everyone when he should have just done what his team needed to do.  Greg Olsen and Sporano called on Derek Carr to throw 54 times against a team that can’t stop the run.  I kept looking for Rod Serling on the sidelines because you can’t make this stuff up.  Carr was 34-54 for 328 yards, 1 meaningless touchdown at the end and no interceptions.  They had Carr doing too much.  He’s jumping around like Peyton Manning and he needs to just run the play.  The coaches need to keep it simple for him.  Several times he rushed a throw when his secondary man was wide open.  He was sacked 3 times which isn’t a huge amount, but this is worrisome.  Carr struggled against good pass rushes in college and he was jittery today.  Experience hopefully will help him.

GRADE:  C

Carr did not go through his progressions and he seemed mixed up at times with clock management.  He took a delay of game as well and he needs to do less and concentrate on the secondary options.

Running Backs: 

It’s hard to evaluate these guys because they rarely got the ball.  As a whole they ran 22 times for 71 yards but McFadden had the hot hand running for 12 carries and 59 yards.  His fumble though totally changed the game and took the wind out of the sails of the Raiders.

Grade C +

McFadden’s fumble was awful and it helped to change the game against the Raiders.  For the most part he did run well though and he should have received 15 more carries in the game.

Offensive Line: 

The offensive line has played well for most of the year and they didn’t play bad today.  They did give up 3 sacks but one of them was on Carr who continues to hold the ball too long at times.  The running game was alright but they rarely got a chance to run block because they threw 54 times.

Grade C+

They weren’t bad today but they’ve had better games.

Wide Receivers: 

I loved that tight end Mychal Rivera caught 7 passes for 83 yards.  It kept the safeties and linebackers honest and set up the run, but unfortunately the Raiders rarely ran.  James Jones and Andre Holmes had their usual good game which is a great sign.  Jones connection with Carr is a good one.  He’s now the go to guy for Carr.

Kenbrell Thompkins made a great catch but I’m shocked he’s playing instead of Butler.  Butler makes things happen; Thompkins numbers at the Patriots were comically bad and they cut him when they are in need of receivers.  Butler should be playing more.

GRADE:  B

Overall they played well but the Raiders have to make it happen in the red zone and the WR need to step up along with Carr.

Defensive Line:

The Browns are not Joe Montana’s 49ers but the Raiders line did a good job stopping the run.  Against the pass though they only got 1 sack and Hoyer had time to throw and had an amazing 14.5 yard per reception.  The Raiders have to blitz to get a pass rush and that hurts the defense all around.

Grade:  C+

They stopped the run but without a pass rush, the Raiders defensive backs are in trouble.

Linebackers:

The linebackers played very well against the run, especially Sio Moore who seemed to be all over the field.  He’s healthy and his speed is there and it showed.  They had a solid game but the middle of the field was too easy a target for Hoyer.  Some of it was due to them having to blitz but they struggled on passes over the middle.

Grade B

Most of the year it’s the defense that struggles but the offense just could not score today.  This unit had a good but not great game and if they can stay healthy, they are the strength of the defense.   The defense played well enough to win.

Defensive Backs:

These poor guys are playing their hearts out but without a pass rush, they are in no man’s land.  The WR of the Browns averaged 14.5 yards per catch and they had no answer for Browns wide out Andrew Hawkins.  It was a long day for them and the Browns aren’t exactly stellar in the passing game.

Grade C – 

It was a long day for these guys.  They did do well on 3rd down plays but overall it was a tough day.

Coaching:

I’m at a loss for words.  Tony Sparano last week said that the Raiders were going to go back to the run.  Their running backs are now healthy.  The offensive line is coming along.  So what does he do?  This is Sporano’s MO.  He gets off on trying to trick people when in the end he over does it and never seems to do the right thing.  He does what he used to do at Miami; he outsmarted himself and tried to fool people by doing the opposite and had Carr throw 54 times.  Unreal.  The Browns can’t stop the run but they have some good players to stop the pass.  I would love to have been in the meeting when Greg Olsen and Tony Sparano thought throwing so much was a good idea.  Again, where is Rod Serling?  Are you kidding me?  The Raiders should have grinded and wore down the Browns defense using the running game.

Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has no defensive line to speak of so he’s very limited on what he could do.  He crowded the line and blitzed a lot and for the most part it worked.

Tony Sporano rolled the dice and the fake kick proved to be disastrous when backup Matt Schaub threw an interception.  A shovel pass or a short pass would have been epic but he threw into double coverage and they had no chance.  This is what happens when coaches over think and over coach.

Grade D

As Doug Heffernan on the tv show King of Queens said while watching a Woody Woodpecker cartoon; “I’m Still not getting it”.  I really don’t know what is going on and Greg Olsen and Tony Sporano don’t seem to either.

Special Teams:

Sebastian Janikowski had a good day and other than the two punts that went short, Marquette King had a nice game and rebounded well with a nice 53 yarder.  The fake didn’t work out well and nothing special happened in the return game.

Grade C+

It was a strange day for the special teams.

Next Opponent:  @ Seattle Seahawks (4-3); last game, win @ Carolina Panthers 13-9)

Outlook:

Now the “easy” part of the Raiders schedule is over.  If the Raiders can’t beat Cleveland on the road, thinking that they will beat the Seahawks in Seattle is beyond positive thinking.  Seattle isn’t the same team with a lot of egos that are in fighting with a lot of drama, but they still are a solid defense and they have a great, clutch quarterback.

After playing Seattle, the Raiders will play their first game with Denver.  Someone asked me if the Raiders had hit bottom yet and the answer is no way.  An 0-9 start is almost assured and when your fans are talking about the draft and the season isn’t half over, you know things are bad.

If the Raiders were smart the coaches would stop over coaching.  They need to evaluate who the players that they want to keep for next years team are.

My prescription for Raider fans is lots of wine and beer during Thanksgiving, lots of eggnog during Christmas, and champagne on New Years Eve.  You deserve it because this is going to be a long one.

“How to Realistically Make The Oakland Raiders a Winner Again”

oakland coliseum

“How to Realistically Make The Oakland Raiders a Winner Again”

What is sad is that Raider fans under the age of 35 really have never felt what the aura of the Raiders is.  The Raiders; other than for a few years; have been losers for almost 2 decades.  Here is a no-nonsense realistic way for the Raiders to get back to being a successful franchise.

Management And a New Stadium:

The Aura of the Oakland Raiders was one thing and one thing only; winning.  Al Davis was passionate about pro football and created his career, his team, and the aura of the Oakland Raiders through success.  With his passing, his son Mark was given the mantle.  Mark isn’t Al Davis.  There are more than a few that think Mark is in over his head.  He also isn’t savvy or knowledgeable about the NFL landscape or business like his dad was.  Al Davis was a renegade that did what he wanted and he blazed trails that no other owner had the guts to do.

I think the Raiders ownership should meet with cheapskate, I mean Oakland A’s Owner Lew Wolff.  I would tell him lets work together to finance a dual sport stadium with a small shopping area mall, or condo/housing in Oakland right next to the Coliseum.  The Warriors are all but gone.  There is NO chance that the City of Oakland is going to be able to help out with one stadium, let alone 2.  Sell the rights to just about everything to companies in silicon valley and then get corporate sponsorship to pick up the rest of the bill.  Moving to L.A. will be about 2 billion dollars and the Raiders don’t’ have the money.  In the mean time they should play at the University of California’s field in Berkeley.

Moving to L.A. also would be a death sentence.  There is a reason why the 2nd biggest television region in the U.S. has lost 3 NFL teams and hasn’t had a team there in years.  Of course there are some very diehard, Chargers, Rams and Raider fans in Los Angeles. This statement isn’t for them; but L.A. is a front running town that only loves a winner.  The Lakers had the worst television ratings of any NBA team after they started to lose big last year.  The Dodgers weren’t drawing well until the new management took over.  L.A. is a “I want to be seen” type of place; a lot like Miami; and pro sports does well ONLY as long as you win.

The City of Oakland has no money.  They had to lay off part of their police force just to afford the Raiders payment.  It’s a depressed place with little business influence and the crime rate remains high.  The City of Oakland is so poorly run with a clueless mayor and we need to be real.  The Raiders and A’s also need to pay for the stadium themselves.  The days of lazy and greedy owners wanting cities to pay for their stadiums while they own it, are over.

You can make a ton of money with concerts, sporting events, and special conventions.  Get rid of the grass and put in the new type of artificial grass that looks real.  Many stadiums use it and it saves a ton of money and won’t look so bad when the Raiders and A’s games overlap.  A great shopping mall with good restaurants in a safe environment right next to BART would be epic.  People would spend their money before and after games, and it would help a very depressed area.  Armed security would be partially paid by the stores that would be included in the fee to be there.  The city of Oakland would more than want it because it would bring money to the city and would not cost tax payer money.  During the Bash Brothers era in Oakland, it was fun to go to Jack London Square after the games.  A fun place with restaurants like Dave and Busters and a festive atmosphere would do wonders.

Dealing With the Past & Present:

The owners and the fans need to realize that things will never be the same.  In the glory days for a time the Raiders were 47-9.  For 24 years, the Raiders had the highest winning percentage of ANY team in all of sports with 3 Superbowl wins.  There was no salary cap and the Raiders were one of the great drafting teams in history with player personnel director Ron Wolf and Al Davis listening to no one and drafting and signing cast offs who would become future hall of famers.  At that time the Raiders were the only team that wouldn’t exchange game films with other teams.  When asked why, both Ron Wolf and Al Davis said the same thing.  “Because we know more than anyone else so why should we”?  Aw the olden days.

If Reggie McKenzie doesn’t stay, I would give a nice chunk of change to Arizona’s Player Personnel Director Jason Licht as GM.  Behind the scenes, he remains a huge up and comer who learned under the likes of Jimmy Johnson, Bill Belichick and Andy Reid.  He has paid his dues and was originally a scout.  He was the finalist for the Bears GM job.  I love this guy and think he would do a great job in the draft and in signings.  He’s a good evaluator of talent and has a proven history.

I’ve written an article about the coaches the Raiders should look at and you will have to look at for my thoughts there.  Jim Harbaugh heads the list.

In ending, the old Configuration of the Oakland Coliseum made the stadium really loud.  The sound reverberated all over the place and it was very enclosed and one of the worst places to play for opponents.  With the addition of mount Davis and the changing of the configuration it’s no where near as loud as it was.  Don Shula once called the old Oakland Coliseum hell and Kansas City Chiefs coach Hank Stram said he was going to call the Governor because it was wrong that San Quentin would let out their inmates on Sundays just to watch Raider games.  There wasn’t a ton of violence like today’s fan; it was just loud and crazy.  To see old ladies screaming their heads off and women wearing shirts with Superbowl or bust was a Sunday staple.  Raider games were an event and their winning % at home was amazing.  The players didn’t make the money they did now and many became friends with the fans through their jobs in the off season.  The bond was unequal to any fan base.  The parties in Santa Rosa during training camp are still of legend.

Player Personnel & Schemes:

First of all they have to start drafting properly.  Stop all the nonsense of drafting DB’s and WR’s due to 40 times and NFL combines stats, and start worrying about what they do on the football field.  Stop listening so much to the NFL combines and start drafting players that do it on the field.  They need to start bulking up their defensive front 7.  Every good defense has a dominating front 7.  Rushing the passer with 4 players and stopping the run is the key to playing defense in the NFL.  Start drafting stud defensive linemen which will immediately make the defense better all around.

QUARTERBACK:

Derek Carr is your quarterback of the future.  Stick with that and move on.  Matt McGloin stares down every one he throws too but he’s an adequate and reliable backup with a lot of heart.  Carr played well against the Chargers and fans remain upbeat about their quarterback.

Running Back:

Running back is also fine.  Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece, and Maurice Jones Drew are very good.  With McFadden and MJD splitting time I think they will have longer and healthier careers.  The Raiders need 1-2 more offensive linemen but so far they are not bad.  Gabe Jackson will be a good one and with many changing positions, time will tell if they gel into a good unit.  Menelik Watson has stepped up his game and has played better this year.

Wide Receiver:

James Jones was a great signing.  He’s not a #1 WR but he’s solid in the red zone and has great hands when you need a big catch.  Andre Holmes has huge potential and I think he should be playing more.  Rod Streater is a nice #3 or #4 WR but on a good team he’s not the answer at #1 or #2.  Denarius Moore is a back up in my book.  They still need a stud #1 that can stretch the field and they need to get him next year.  I think Andre Holmes, James Jones, and Brice Butler should be the starters.

Defense:

Some Raiders fans have made it an art form defending the Raiders draft picks.  It’s easy to predict the future and then stay quiet when you are wrong.  The hardest thing for Al Davis to do was to say he was wrong; the Raiders have to start doing that.  DJ Hayden is not an NFL CB and looks like a bust; most of their DL needs to be let go and their signings in the off season were just bad.  Khalil Mack has huge issues shedding blockers and it’s not known whether he’s going to be that good a player.  You stick with him but there are still big questions.

The signings for defensive linemen have been bad.  This group needs an overhaul.  The Raiders linebackers are alright but they have huge issues staying healthy and consistency with tackling.  Both have to be dealt with.  The defensive backfield is a mess at times but they are young and have shown glimpses of good play.  Add a good pass rush and they will improve quickly.  Right now I’d worry more about the front 7 and then a year from now deal with defensive backs.  If you have a great front 7, it can greatly help your DB’s.

Offensive Scheme:

The offensive game has changed in the NFL.  The new rules BEG you to throw the ball.  Start using the tight end and full back position again and start throwing to all positions.  Seven of the top 10 NFL passing seasons in history have happened in the last 3 years.  Matt Stafford actually has 2 of the top 10 seasons so anyone can succeed with the new rules.  Use a spread offense at times for a change of pace with a no huddle.

Keep the running game the way it is.  I don’t like the zone blocking scheme.  The Raiders are a power rushing team and that’s how they should keep it.

Overview:

Things are going to take time but the time is now.  Have a 3 year plan instead of thinking you are going to be good every year.  The Raiders are not one coach away or a player away from being good and the denial from the team and the fans need’s to end for the Raiders to move forward.  If you can’t admit a problem, it will never be fixed.

A third of this roster needs to move on.  It’s going to take a ton of work and vision which Mark Davis and the present regime may not have.  With so many things up in the air in regards to a stadium and a coaching staff, the Raiders need stability.  It will be very interesting in the near future to see what happens in Oakland to make them once again a stable franchise.

I

Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. San Diego Chargers; Week 6: October 12, 2014

raiders vs chargers

Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. San Diego Chargers; Week 6:

San Diego Chargers  31 (4-1)

Oakland Raiders  28 (0-5)

Quarterback:

Derek Carr had a nice game going 18-34 with 4 touchdowns but he had 1 key interception to pretty much end the game.  He did well with progressions and for the most part took what the defense gave him.  San Diego was down to backup cornerbacks but the Raiders still did a good job.

As announcer Tom Flores brought up, Carr too many times looks for the big play.  Twice he had RB’s wide open in the middle of the field but he went for the longer pass.  He made a bad decision on the final play and threw an interception which ended the game.  He has to stop wanting to score a big play on every down.  Hopefully maturity will fix that.

GRADE:  B+

Carr brings hope to the Raiders that their quarterback search is finally over.

Running Backs: 

A really solid performance by all of the running backs.  The Raiders ended up rushing for 114 yards against a good run defense.  The offensive line was consistent and the RB’s ran with a purpose.  Marcel Reece dropped an easy first down catch but other than that they were very solid.  They also blocked well picking up Charger blitzes.

Grade B+

I think having both McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew splitting time is going to work out great.  They both won’t get beat up and they will be fresh when they come in.  Both can block and catch the ball as well.

Offensive Line: 

Their best game of the year.  San Diego is a good defense and they controlled the line of scrimmage for the most part, allowing for a good run game and never allowing a sack.  Really good job by everyone.

Grade A-

Couldn’t ask for more from this unit.  They have a lot of potential and hopefully they are jelling together.

Wide Receivers: 

The Raiders wide receivers played well and I like the unit they had on the field.  Rod Streater is ok but I like Andre Holmes, Brice Butler and James Jones as the starters.  Holmes and Butler have great speed and Jones tends to make head scratching mistakes at times, but he also is a great red zone threat and can catch anything thrown near him.  Butlers’ 47 yard touchdown catch and run was eye opening due to the great speed he has.  I start these 3.  The tight end position was still not a factor and that needs to change.

GRADE:  B+

They had 4 drops and that can’t happen.  For the most part though, a really good game by all.

Defensive Line:

The invisible man has nothing on the defensive line.  The Raiders had one sack but other than that San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers carved them up for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Branden Oliver ended up rushing for his second 100 yard game and was unstoppable on the Chargers winning drive.

Raiders lineback/defensive lineman Khalil Mack played down low at times and was not a factor.  He remains too easily blocked and when he meets a blocker, he just can’t shed them.  Mack ended the game with only 2 tackles and he just looks overwhelmed with the NFL game so far.  You wonder if he’s another NFL combine darling because usually you can tell if a linebacker or pass rusher is going to be special.  Time will tell.  Lamar Woodley would not be starting on any NFL team other than the Raiders.  He had another 1 tackle game.

Grade:  D-

The Raiders DL is just not a factor and this has to be fixed this off season.  Maybe the worst unit in the NFL.

Linebackers:

The linebackers struggled a lot covering the pass.  When they blitzed they also were not much of a factor.  The Raiders have had a lot of injuries but when your front 7 doesn’t play very good, you are in a lot of trouble.  They also missed on a few tackles when they blitzed.  Disappointing game for this unit.

Grade D+

This unit has big struggles in the passing game and it continued today.  When they did blitz they weren’t much of a factor and they missed some easy tackles.

Defensive Backs:

There was good and bad with this unit but they struggled for the most part.  They did make a few plays against a very good passing team.  Tarell Brown and TJ Carrie had a couple of good plays, but for the most part it was a long day for the DB’s.  They played hard but were just undermanned.

Grade D+ 

They all had their bad moments especially Usama Young.  They played hard and gave it their all but they were undermanned against a good passing team like the Chargers.

Coaching:

I don’t think Tony Sparano is a good head coach but he is a good football man and a heck of a offensive line coach and a good coordinator.  To his credit the offensive line played their best game and the Raiders came out with fire.  It was a good showing and a moral victory.  Unfortunately for a team that is now 53-158, moral victories are a big deal.

Jason Tarver has little to nothing to work with.  This defense lacks talent in a big way and they have no playmakers.  Khalil Mack is struggling big time and Woodley should not be starting.

Greg Olsen seemed to simplify things and finally went downfield which is a must.  It opened up the offense finally and allowed for the Raiders to run the ball.  They have to stretch the field.

Grade A-

The coaches had a good week and the Raiders were mentally as prepared as they could be, which should happen after a bye week.  Tony Sparano is a professional football guy and I think he was a good switch from Dennis Allen who really never seemed to be in control of things.

Special Teams:

It’s hard to get on Sebastian Janokowski but he did miss a long field goal that would have changed everything at the end of the game.  Carr would have had the mindset of getting only a field goal and it may have changed the outcome.  It’s hard to get on a kicker though because that is a long kick, but Jano needs to make that one.

Marquette King has quietly become a consistent and quality punter that looks like a long term answer for the Raiders.  He had another solid game.

TJ Carrie looked good returning both kickoffs and punt and needs to do both for the rest of the year.  In the Chargers only return all day, Keenan Allen set up the winning touchdown with a clutch 29 yard return that really hurt.

Grade C+

Janikowski did miss that long field goal but he also kicked everything out of the end zone on kickoffs.  Carrie looked good on returns but Allen’s 29 yard punt return really hurt.

Next Opponent:  v.s. Arizona Cardinals (4-1; last game, win @ home against the Washington Redskins 30-20)

Outlook:

Next weeks game with the Cardinals in Oakland will tell whether this was a mirage, or if it was a real change in a team that is now 0-5.

In their next 4 games the Raiders will play at Cleveland and at Seattle, and then come home to Denver before flying to San Diego.  Not many teams have a tougher stretch.  Games with the 49ers and another one with Denver are also ahead.  The Raiders have the toughest schedule in the NFL.

Carson Palmer is back for the Cardinals and if you give him time, he can pick you apart.  If you rush him he can be awful.

On the other side of the ball, The Cardinals defense is one of the best in the NFL against the run, but terrible against the pass now being next to last in passing defense.  This game will be an interesting one because the Raiders will again have to work hard to run the ball.  It could be another high scoring game and lots of fireworks will be expected in Oakland next Sunday.