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“After Week 1; What Are Each Team’s Chances in the AFC West; The Best Division in the NFL “

AFC_West

philip rivers
Philip Rivers calling an audible

San Diego Chargers:

WEAKNESSES: 

The Chargers should be improved and fun to watch, but I’m pretty shocked that so many in the media are so high on the Chargers this year.  They are definitely improved but for years they have had issues closing games.

4th Quarter Fails:

ESPN gave a shocking stat that said that the Chargers haven’t scored in a two minute drill in 22 games.  22 GAMES!  River’s is a good but not great QB and that is a very ugly stat.  Last year it was painful watching him and the Chargers struggle late in games.  In last years opener they were beating the Chiefs in Arrowhead 27-10 with 13 minutes to go in the game; and lost!  Closing games has haunted Rivers and the Chargers for a long time.

Run Defense: The Chargers were 23rd in rushing defense last year and they struggled again opening night giving up 140 yards on the ground.  They will need to control first and second down runs to allow for their pass rush to attack the QB on third down.

Lack of Depth: Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen HAVE to stay healthy.  Branden Oliver is a nice player but he’s no where near as good as Gordon, who is the answer to the Chargers running game.  Gordon can make plays catching or running with the ball and I really like him.  Wide Receiver Keenan Allen is one of the most underrated players in the game.  He brings an attitude and a confidence that is infectious and he is the backbone of the Chargers offense.  If either goes down, then the Chargers are in big trouble.

STRENGTHS:

Pass Rush: With Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers have a legitimate pass rush duo that can stand up to any team in the NFL.  If the Chargers can stop the run on the early downs, they will have success on defense.  Ingram is fun to watch.

Playmakers: Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen are the real deal.  Gordon can do anything on the football field and he is as tough as nails.  Keenan Allen is the confidence and swagger that they need on offense.  With them in the game, the Chargers are a different team.  Mike Williams is still hurt, but Travis Benjamin is a speedster that spreads the field out.

Linebackers: I like their young linebackers too.  Jatavis Brown is a comer and at only 23, he is still learning the game.  Hayes Pullard III is 25 and he also has a lot of potential to be good.  Korey Toomer is 28 and plays with heart.  If the DL can keep guys off of them, these LB’s make plays.

PREDICTIONS:  8-8

If the Chargers were in the AFC South they would win the division. I think they have improved but they are in the toughest division in football.  They struggle finishing games and I see them near a .500 team this year.  It’s hard to see them winning on the road in the division but they will make most games pretty close.

alex smith
Alex Smith finding the open man against New England

Kansas City Chiefs:

WEAKNESSES:  Now before you get Super Bowl tickets Chiefs fans, let’s let the euphoria and overreaction to the opening day win in New England subside.  I do like them though and you always have that home field advantage.  New England has 3 Super Bowl wins after losing their opening game.

Alex Smith:  I said it when Alex Smith was doing great with the 49ers; he is an average to good QB but he will never win anything in the NFL.  So far I’m right.  Alex is the perfect QB for an Andy Reid team.  They are the Ichabod Crane’s of the NFL; play not to lose.  Smith’s 1-3 yard passes may work some in the regular season, but if you don’t take risks in the NFL, you don’t go far in the post season.

Age/Health:  Pass rushing stud Tamba Hali will be 34 this year and is already on the PUP list and will miss the first six games.  He has failed to even practice.  He’s admitted he pretty much has little to no cartilage in his knees which greatly limited him to only 2 games last year.  Chiefs fans will remember his torrid and long twitter rant on how upset he was that the Chiefs wouldn’t let him play last year.  Hali can’t have much left.  Safety Eric Berry is lost for the season and this really hurts this defense. Justin Houston’s health is always a concern.  After losing starter Spencer Ware, Kareem Hunt had a great opening day at RB and the hopes are that he is the answer.

STRENGTHS:

Justin Houston:  He finally seems healthy.  He played a great opening day game and if he stays healthy, watch out.  He’s great against the run and as a pass rusher and he’s a game changer.

Pass Rush:  Dee Ford was a pleasant surprise last year ending the season with 10 sacks with Houston and Tamba Hali physically limited.  The hopes are that they can get all three on the field at once in some passing downs.

Run Game: The Chiefs offensive line just keeps chugging along. Doesn’t matter who the running back is, they seem to get the job done on the ground and short passing game.

Playmakers: With WR Tyreek Hill, underrated Albert Wilson and TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City has a lot of weapons to throw to.

PREDICTION:  11-5

I’m not a fan of Alex Smith or Andy Reid but I do like this team. I know it’s crazy trusting a rookie QB, but if somehow Patrick Mahomes II takes over and plays well, then all bets are off.  He really throws a great long ball and accounted for 41 passing TD’s and 12 rushing TD’s his last year at Texas Tech.  Health on the DL will play a big role on where the Chiefs go.  I see them getting into the playoffs again and being a dangerous team that no one will want to play.

von miller
Von Miller celebrates another Bronco win

Denver Broncos

WEAKNESSES:

QB:  I don’t like ANY QB on the Denver roster.  Trevor Siemian is average and always is good for 1-2 bad mistakes a game.  I think they will struggle late in games holding leads and coming from behind.  Denver last year got conservative when they would be ahead when they should have went for the throat.  They have the worst QB’s in the AFC West in my humble opinion.

RB/injuries: This group has to stay healthy.  Jamaal Charles isn’t what he once was with the burst that was seen for years now gone.  CJ Anderson is solid but not great.  The hope is that injured RB Devontae Booker will be back in week 3 or 4.

Offense:  Denver was 21st in passing offense and 27th in rushing offense in 2016.  This defense isn’t what it once was and they won’t be able to carry a team with a struggling offense like they have in the past.

Defense/Health:

Derek Wolfe and Shane Ray have to stay healthy for Denver’s defense to be good.  Shane Ray is on IR and will play in week 8.  Denver was ranked 28th against the run last year and that doesn’t bode well against the likes of the Raiders and the Chiefs.

PREDICTION:  10-6

The Broncos defense is not the same one that won the Super Bowl.  They can still make plays and get after the QB but the dominant run defense is gone.  Offensively they are limited.  They could get away with it in the past with a great defense but those days are gone.  The Broncos should have a good year though. They have talent but they have key holes that will keep them from being an elite team and expose them at times offensively, and when they try to stop the run.

derek carr
Derek Carr looking for receivers

Oakland Raiders:

WEAKNESSES:

Defense, defense, defense: 

First off can the media finally be called out on crazy predictions?  Some were again very high on the Titans.  Not getting that.  Some have the Chargers in the Super Bowl and several have the Raiders going 10-6 or 9-7.

The Raiders defense played pretty well on opening day against a Titans team that isn’t going to wow anyone on offense.  In 2016 the Raiders were last in sacks and 26th in overall defense. The Raiders still have key holes at LB and DB and Karl Joseph still is struggling covering TE’s.  The Titans are so vanilla on offense that the announcers at times were telling the audience what the plays were going to be before the Titans hiked the ball.

Mario Edwards Jr. and Ed Vanderdoes had some good moments in week 1 but for the most part the Raiders pass rush wasn’t a big factor in the game.  Jihad Ward had a terrible first year and he must prove he belongs. The key to the season will be how well this group plays, especially the DL.

Bad Drafts & Signings Adding Up:

In the salary cap era all teams have weaknesses.  That’s why it’s so important to hit it big in the draft and in free agency.

NO ONE defended Reggie McKenzie more than I did when Raider fans were asking for his resignation.  After the 2014 draft all was forgiven and Raider fans said “In Reggie We trust”.  The Raiders failed picks and signings though are piling up.  There is DJ Hayden, Jihad Ward, Shalique Calhoun, Clive Walford, Connor Cook, Sio Moore and Tyler Wilson as fails. And if Edwards can’t stay healthy or excel, you have another swing and a miss.  In fact, take out the 2014 draft and the Raiders have had many more misses than hits.

Sean Smith and David Amerson signed big contracts and could not be cut because they would have combined for a $17.5 million cap hit if they were let go.  Remember Curtis Lofton, Nate Allen, Matt Schaub and LaMarr Woodley?  Reggie has done some good things but he’s had some big misses too.  The Raiders need to clean up these bad draft picks and signings and improve the defense and add depth.

STRENGTHS:

Offense, offense, offense.   The Raiders could beat teams like the Titans in their sleep.  It’s the teams that can score that they worry about.  They have a top 3 OL, the best depth at RB in the NFL, and one of the best group of WR’s in the NFL.  Add an excellent QB who usually get’s all day to throw and that spells success in the regular season.  In the post season though your defense is a huge reason for success.  Right now the Raiders do NOT have a championship defense but this offense will always keep the Raiders in every game.

PREDICTION: 12-4

Save the homer/hater stuff.  If I say good things about the Raiders, then non Raider fans lose their minds saying I’m a homer.  If I tell the truth about a Raider weakness then some Raider fans attack me.  When you use facts and tell the truth, it’s not as popular as being a homer or a hater.  My record speaks for itself.  If I was wrong all the time I would be embarrassed for 43,000 people to follow me on twitter.

The Raiders should go 7-2 or 8-1 in their first 9 games (obviously nothing is for sure).  The final 7 games though is a brutal stretch.  With their ability to score, that alone will win games.

If the Patriots don’t completely shut down Atlanta for most of the second half of the Super Bowl, then Brady doesn’t lead a comeback. Offense puts butts in the seats but defense wins championships.  Again, the Raiders don’t have a championship defense.

The Raiders will go as far as their DL and defense takes them.  I think they lose in the Championship game to either Pittsburgh or New England, but the hopes are that their defense will rise above and take them to the Super Bowl; but that is a big hope.

In a game where injuries, ego’s and even sheer luck can change outcomes, teams fortunes can change in an instant.  It’s nice though that the AFC West is back on top.  Now if only the teams would stop moving.

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“GRADES: Raiders Tweek Defensive Approach; Both Sides of the Ball Shine in Week 1 Win Against The Titans”

 

marshawn lynch

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Tennessee Titans; Week 1:

Tennessee Titans: 16 (0-1)

Oakland Raiders: 26 (1-0)

The Raiders started the season well with a solid win against the Titans on the road.

The Raiders did a couple of small defensive changes in their approach to the Titans that seem to be lost in the media.  Let’s face it, these types of changes aren’t very exciting or dramatic, but they are noteworthy in this opening win for the Raiders.

derek carr

I’m still scratching my head how most sportsbooks had the Titans winning by 1-2 points.  The lack of respect in the early part of the season for the Raiders is puzzling.  Many have the Raiders going 10-6 or 9-7.

As far as Tennessee goes, I think they are an overrated team with an average to slightly above average QB.  They are in the worst division in the NFL and they just don’t have the DB’s, WR’s, or the identity that winning teams have.

girgio tavecchio week 1
Giorgio Tavecchio is all smiles after hitting a 52 yard field goal

Quarterback:

Derek Carr had a good game to start the season.  He was sacked a couple of times and his timing was off a bit with Amari Cooper, but he was solid.  In one play where the Titans forgot to cover Marshawn Lynch when he was put wide left, Carr over threw him by 5 yards and Marshawn did a flip to show his disappointment.  They had first and goal on the Titans 2 yard line and they threw 3 straight incomplete passes to Amari Cooper.  Both blamed each other for the 3 failed passes.  Why have Lynch if you are going to do that?  Even if the plays were called, Carr should have audibled at least once to run Lynch.

GRADE:  B+

Solid outing by Derek who must be licking his chops looking at the Jets next week.

Running Backs:

The Titans tried to stop the run and the Raiders gained 109 yards on 29 tough carries.  When the Raiders needed to, they grinded out yards and iced the game purely on the ground.  I think Oakland has the best set of RB’s in the NFL and they and the OL wore out the Tennessee defense.

Grade: B+

There was no spectacular numbers, but this was a good, solid game for them.  Their ability to pick up the blitz is so overlooked but they pass block better than any set of RB’s in the league.

Offensive Line:

Same stuff different day.  They did give up a couple of sacks but overall another good game.  They were dominant at times in the 4th quarter and wore down Tennessee.

Grade: B+

A nice start for a group that is the key to the Raiders success this year.

Wide Receivers:

Michael Crabtree looked in mid season form and was a man among boys at times.  He’s as physical a WR as there is in the NFL.  Cooper had a TD but he was out of synch with Carr catching only 5 of 13 targets.  Their new tight end Jared Cook caught 5 passes for 56 yards with two catches being in heavy traffic.

GRADE:  B+

The WR’s exploited the weak Titans secondary and at times they did what they wanted to.

Defensive Line:

Their numbers weren’t eye popping but they had a solid game. The DL did a pretty good job of controlling the run game (21 rushes for 95 yards) and they did get a sack even though the pass rush wasn’t consistently good.  Mario Edwards Jr. had 3 tackles and a 0.5 sack but overall the DL played fairly well, but not great.

khalil mack

Grade: B

The Titans offense doesn’t scare anyone but overall this was a good start for a group that has struggled big time in the past.

Linebackers:

Realizing the Titans were a basic run between the tackles offense, the Raiders pinched in their LB’s to stop the between the tackle runs and it worked.  Tennessee did little to adjust and the LB’s had a solid game.  Cory James was nursing a bad knee and was taken off the field once.  They played Marquel Lee on running downs and brought in Tyrell Adams (7 tackles) on passing downs and that also helped this group.  Not a bad day.

Grade:  B

Tennessee was successful in their few outside the tackle runs and when Mariota kept the ball in the read option, but overall they did little to mix things up to adjust to the Raiders changes.  The LB’s took advantage of that and played well and stopped the runs up the middle.

Defensive Backs:

The Raiders other wrinkle was to play Joseph up 5-10 yards off the line of scrimmage near the LB’s.  This helped with the between the tackle runs and Joseph ended up leading the team in tackles with 9.  The Titans still haven’t figured out their WR issues, and the Raiders played very physical against them.  Mariota threw for 256 yards but overall it wasn’t a bad showing by the DB’s.  Covering the tight end is still an issue though.  Delanie Walker had 7 catches for 76 yards and was missed twice by Mariota on longer passes or his numbers would have been even better.  Joseph is still much better in the running game and is still learning.

Grade: B  

A solid day with no major issues.

Coaching:

The Raiders two defensive wrinkles to try and take away the inside running game of the Titans worked and without much of an adjustment by Tennessee, they just kept the same philosophy all game.  I liked that they seem to want to give Lynch 15-20 carries per game.  Running him 25-35 times a game would be crazy.  The three passes on 1st and 2 at the Titans goal line were silly.  Run the ball to Lynch 3 times and move on.  Carr should have audibled as well.

Grade: B

This was a solid game by the coaches against a lesser opponent.  These are the games you have to win.

Special Teams:

It’s pretty obvious that Sebastian Janikowski’s days are numbered in Oakland.  This should be his last year.  In walks Italian-born Giorgio Tavecchio who had never kicked in a regular season game.  While quoting Aristotle pre and post game, all he did was go 4-4 for field goals including 2 kicks from 52 yards out.  The Raiders really liked his leg in pre-season and if he can be consistent, they may have found their new kicker.  Marquette King had a solid day, including having one punt downed at the 1 yard line. Coverage wasn’t needed to be a big factor.

Grade:  A

Excellent day for the special teams unit.

Conclusion:

The Titans are probably a 7-9 or 8-8 team in the worst division in football.  This obviously isn’t an elite team but these are the games you have to win.  Jack Del Rio finally gets this defense doesn’t cut it and they are going to have to do things differently this year.  They put in 2 wrinkles to stop the inside running game of Tennessee’s and it worked.  This is a nice win for the start of the season.  Now the Raiders get a bye; I mean they play the Jet’s next week for the home opener.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders

Next Up; hosting the NY Jets:

If you are a hardcore sports fan, you know nothing is more entertaining than the NY media when one of their teams suck.  Well the Jet’s suck.  They are probably the worst team in the NFL.  In fact some in the media say the slogan for this years Jet’s is “Suck for Sam”, pertaining to tanking the season so they could draft USC QB Sam Darnold.

Lachlan Edwards was named the team MVP for NY in week 1; he’s their punter.   They have Josh McCown at QB and 31 year old Matt Forte at RB.  Matt looks like age has caught up to him, but Bilal Powell has fallen out of favor.  Their offense is really bad and their defense looks uninspired.  The Buffalo Bills are also rebuilding but they still handled New York 21-12 in Orchard Park in week 1.

No win is for sure, but it’s hard to see the Raiders not wiping the floor with New York.  Look for a big game from the RB’s and Carr and the defense could pile up some sacks in this one.

Outlook:

The second half of the Raiders season is brutal so they need to win the games they should.  I’m still stunned that some people see the Raiders losing 7 games, because that isn’t happening with the offense they have.  The Raiders will play the Jets at home and Washington on the road before a key game in Denver.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/how-far-will-the-oakland-raiders-go-this-year-answering-the-detractors-predictions/

“How Far Will The Oakland Raiders Go This Year? Answering the Detractors & Predictions”

NFL: Oakland Raiders-OTA
Marshawn Lynch & Derek Carr sharing a laugh during practice

What a fun year it will be for the fans in Oakland.  With a fun team and great personalities, there will be many smiling faces all around.  Some have said 12-4; some say 9-7 due to the defense.  Let’s quickly look at each position and get a better understanding of the 2017-18 Oakland Raiders.

Oakland Raiders v New Orleans Saints
Derek Carr

Quarterback: (Derek Carr, EJ Manuel, Connor Cook)

It’s nice for the Raiders to be set at QB.  Derek Carr was the best protected QB in the NFL last year and he sliced and diced his way to a great season.  Carr struggles at times if he’s rushed, but as long as their OL protects him the way they have, he should have another stellar year and will wow the NFL.

Even with today’s rules making passing so easy, the QB position has never been worse in the NFL.  That means an excellent QB like Carr’s value is huge. EJ Manuel and Connor Cook are not waving around a Super Bowl trophy any time soon so Carr’s health is obviously imperative.  No team can win without their starting QB.

Grade:  A

deandre washingto
DeAndre Washington breaking a run against the Titans

Running Backs: Marshawn Lynch, Jamize Olawale, DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard)

I think the Raiders have the best set of running backs in the NFL.  If Marshawn Lynch can find some life left in a body that has taken a lot of punishment, the Raiders running game should be excellent.  Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington can do it all at a smaller level.  They can run, catch, and are the best pass blockers against the blitz in the NFL.  Add an underrated fullback like Jamize Olawale and this crew is as good as it gets for 2017.

Grade:  A

Panthers Raiders Football
Raiders LT Donald Penn

Offensive Line: (LT Donald Penn, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Rodney Hudson, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Marshall Lawson; T Jylan Ware, G Denver Kirkland, T Vadal Alexander, G-C Jon Feliciano, T David Sharpe)

Donald Penn did what many players used to do in the NFL.  He took training camp off with a hold out.  With him back the Raiders OL is intact.  I’ve seen some on Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports say the Raiders OL is overrated and that’s laughable.  This is a top 3 line in today’s football.  Carr was the best protected QB in the NFL and the Raiders were solid on the ground and they will again be a top 10 offense; maybe even top 5.  This group is the engine and driving force of the Raiders.  This group HAS to stay healthy.

Grade:  A+

Crabtree-extension-12-09-15
Michael Crabtree warming up before a home game in Oakland

Wide Receivers: (Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Cordarrelle Patterson, Johnny Holton)

The Raiders have an excellent core of WR (maybe the best) with the addition of speedster Cordarelle Patterson.  This is a huge upgrade to Seth Roberts who the Raiders are infatuated with.  Johnnie Holton is solid and plays a key role in special teams.

Grade:  A

jared cook
New Tight End Jared Cook

Tight Ends: (Jared Cook, Lee Smith, Clive Walford)

Bill Musgrave gave me a headache.  His WR heavy and at times conservative offense has been replaced with new offensive coordinator Todd Downing.  So far I like what I’ve seen.  The Raiders tight ends were near the bottom in attempts thrown to them last year.  Can’t have good TE if you don’t throw to them.  Lee Smith is the best blocking TE in the NFL and can catch the ball when needed.  The Raiders are excited about the addition of Jared Cook from Green Bay.  Clive Walford is set at #3 but should see more time in obvious passing downs.  Walford has been a bust so far and he needs to show he belongs.

Grade:  B+

khalil mack
Khalil Mack rushing the QB

Defensive Line: (DE Khalil Mack, DT Eddie Vanderdoes, DT Justin Ellis, DE Mario Edwards Jr.; DE/LB James Cowser, DT Darius Latham, DT Treyvon Hester, DL Denico Autry, DL Jihad Ward)

The Raiders were last in sacks in the NFL last year and 26th in overall defense.  Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are fine but then what?  Justin Ellis looks good at times but he hasn’t had a sack in 3 years and is inconsistent.  Jihad Ward started 13 games last year and played in all 16.  In those games he only had 16 tackles, 14 assists and no sacks and was invisible at times.  If he can’t step it up this year, it may be another draft bust.

To bolster the DT position the Raiders drafted Eddie Vanderdoes out of UCLA.  He was hard working and tough against the run, but not a good pass rusher. He had 4 sacks in 4 years.  Mario Edwards Jr. comes back for a key year but it remains to be seen if he’s the answer.  A bright spot this pre-season has been Treyvon Hester out of Toledo.  He has been a quality pass rusher with a big motor.  He had 5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss his senior year at Toledo and was a great pick at #7 this year.

Grade:  C+

corey james
LB Corey James

Linebackers: (SLB Bruce Irvin, MLB Marquel Lee, WLB Cory James, Tyrell Adams, Nicholas Morrow, DL/LB James Cowser)

Jack Del Rio has told the media several times that the Raiders haven’t put as much into LB’s than they were able to.  “When you have only so much money, you can’t fix everything”.  Many times Irvin rushes the passer so he’s kind of a hybrid LB/DL.  A couple of publications have said the Raiders linebackers are the worst in football.  The biggest knock on this group is that they play passively and are more finesse than physical.  To be fair, these guys give huge effort, but it’s obvious there needs to be improvement.  Cory James has had his moments and the hopes are that he’ll keep improving.  Free agent Jelani Jenkins is now out for the year on injured reserve.  Rookie Marquel Lee has good mechanics and he may start but he lacks speed and coverage skills.  Shalique Calhoun; the 75th player taken in last years draft;  was recently cut and signed to the practice squad.  A wasted pick.

Grades:  D 

david amerson jjj
CB David Amerson

Defensive Backs: (LCB Davis Amerson, RCB Sean Smith. Backups–Gareon Conley, TJ Carrie, Antonio Hamilton, Dexter McDonald)

For several years the Raiders have tried to fix their pass defense by constantly drafting and signing DB’s.  It hasn’t worked & it’s a bad philosophy.  I think if they spent the same money and drafts on pass rushing DT’s and tough LB’s, things would be a lot better on defense.  I’ll take a great front 7 over stud DB’s any and every day.  With today’s rules making it so easy to pass, DB’s have no chance if there isn’t a pass rush in front of them.

It took teams a year to realize David Amerson struggles against the deep ball.  It took teams a week to find out high priced CB Sean Smith was a lot better with Chiefs safety Eric Berry and the Kansas City Pass rush in front of him.  TJ Carrie has really struggled.  Gareon Conley was drafted out of Ohio St. but missed all of training camp and pre-season.  To get a rookie corner to jump in with out much preparation and expect him to excel is a bit much.  He’s a straight cover guy and isn’t a good run tackler but people are excited about his potential in coverage. With all of the money and picks the Raiders have spent on this group, it’s been a big disappointment.  The hopes are Conley will be a mainstay.  Raider fans on social media have also pointed out that it’s hard watching 49er’s rookie LB Reuben Foster look like a one man wrecking crew as well.

Grade D:

joseph-raiders
Safety Karl Joseph

Safety: (FS Reggie Nelson, SS Karl Joseph, S Erik Harris, S Shalom Luani, S Keith McGill)

Obi Melifonwu has been placed on IR today and the Raiders have signed veteran Erik Harris.  Karl Joseph is a tough player and has looked good against the run, but he’s struggled in coverage.  He seems more passive and has to improve his positioning on tight ends.  Reggie Nelson is good for interceptions every year but he’s far from great.  Draft pick Obi Melifonwu is a physical specimen and a great athlete.  He’s a good tackler but lacks instinct in coverage and is a project.  I like Shalom Luani a lot.  He has good size but also has amazing instinct and a nose for the ball, something that seems to be getting rare in the NFL.  With the NFL so obsessed with size and athleticism, the Raiders think that they got a huge steal getting Luani who was a great player at Washington St. Look for Luani to get more playing time as the season progresses & maybe even take over for Nelson.  I’d like to see him and Joseph play together.

Grade:  C

marquette king
Raiders punter Marquette King

Special Teams:

The Raiders are set with Marquette King but the Raiders want Sebastian Janikowski to rework his contract & he said no. The Raiders are worried about his bad back and age (he already looks to be out for week 1) and they have been working kickers out. He’s getting 4 million in this, his final year of his contract.  I give you permission to slap all of the Monday morning quarterbacks in the back of the head who say that players should honor their contracts when 90% of the contracts in the NFL are NOT honored by the teams.

Grade:  A (for now)

Jack Del Rio
Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio

Coaching/Front Office:

The Raiders have a solid coaching staff lead by Jack Del Rio.  With the defense lacking talent in areas, look for Ken Norton Jr. to be on the hot seat all year with fans.  They say change the scheme.  WHAT SCHEME? If the Raiders blitz, now their DB’s who struggle in coverage are playing man to man and they will be exposed.  If they play zone, the Raiders have a poor pass rush so the QB has too much time to throw and will pick them apart.

And with DB’s getting penalties for being anywhere near WR in today’s NFL, no DB is going to be able to cover for that long of a time.  If you take out the 2014 draft, the Raiders have had a ton of busts with signings and draft picks.  Hayden, Calhoun, Ward, Woodley, Schaub, Walford, Smith, Amerson, Lofton, Allen and many other names are adding to the list of busts.  I defended Reggie when few would and here is part of his history.  Some good, some bad.

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

Grade:  A-

AFCwest

The State of the AFC West:

While Philip Rivers is being lauded by many in the press, they forget how bad he was in the 4th quarter last year and that he lead the NFL in interceptions with 21.  The Broncos still don’t have a QB & have questions at OL.  On defense they have to rely on the health of often unhealthy Shane Ray and Derek Wolfe for their defense to thrive.  The Chiefs have an aging defense (pass rusher Tamba Hali literally has no cartilage in his knees) and a conservative offense that is built, “not to lose”.  It took them this long to see Alex Smith will never win anything?  They also lost their starting RB to a season ending injury.  What this means is that the Raiders are prime to take over the AFC West.  If they don’t, this will be a disappointing season.

raiders win

Detractors to Defenders:

I think it’s ridiculous for some writers to say the Raiders are overrated.  Larry Kreuger of KNBR had them going 9-7 and missing the playoffs and some have them 10-6.  Not a chance.  With teams struggling to score at times, and with the QB position so bad in the NFL, (Matthew Stafford gets 27 million and he’s 5-46 in his career against teams with winning records) the Raiders offense will shine and be the key to their quality season.  They will flat out beat teams with their offense.  That style though doesn’t work in the post season.

Now I get the detractors.  The Raiders will have some good moments, but overall this looks like a really bad defense. I get that the Raiders won close games against some bad teams last year and that their schedule is much tougher (4th hardest) but their offense is better and they are more balanced.

They start off the year with 3 very winnable games that could get them on a roll.  The first 9 games are a lot easier than the second half and they should go 7-2 or 8-1 (again, no win is for sure).  In the last 7 games though they play New England in Mexico and host Denver, Dallas and the NY Giants.  They have to play 2 cold December games, at Kansas City and then on Christmas at Philadelphia before ending the season in San Diego. Christmas in Philly? That’s a rough second half.

My Prediction:  11-5; AFC West Champs; losing in AFC Championship game

Calm down non-Raider fans; I’m not saying Derek Carr is as good as Dan Marino, but the Raiders remind me somewhat of the 80’s-90’s Miami Dolphin’s.  This defense is no where close to being a championship defense.  Offense excites the fans and puts butts in the seats, but defense wins championships.  If the Patriots defense doesn’t completely shut down Atlanta in the second half, Tom Brady doesn’t get the chance for a come back. And as Matt Millen said several times, the Raiders defenses dominated in all 3 Super Bowl wins.  In the future they have to get a pass rushing DT, a physical LB and to a lesser extent another CB before they can get to the next level.  If somehow a DT comes out of the ashes this year to have an amazing year putting pressure on the QB, then something magical can happen.  I don’t see it but crazier things have happened.

With the Raiders ability to score, even with the tougher schedule I don’t see them losing anything more than 5 games.  If the AFC West tanks, then a 12-4 season is possible. Getting home field advantage is vital because winning in New England or Pittsburgh in the Winter is near impossible.

With the Raiders in full lame duck mode before their move to Las Vegas, this will be a wild ride, so hang on.  And loyal Raider fans of all ages, keep your wits about you.  If you thought Bay Area millennials jumped on the Warriors bandwagon, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  So move over and let people on because NOTHING about this NFL season will be boring in the city of Oakland.

“Coach Jack Del Rio States Raiders Greatest Need; How Well Do Experts Pick Mock Drafts? Who Will the Raiders Choose in the NFL Draft”

 

Marshawn Lynch Signs with Raiders

We are going to be kicking off our 18th annual draft party in a few hours.  Oh the stories, the frustrations, the ribbing, and the hollow looks when a team picks someone puzzling.  This draft will definitely have those with so many questions.

How Many Picks Right Do Experts Usually Get In Their Mock Drafts?

On average, the best draft analyzers get 5 to 9 correct for their mock drafts each year.  Last year was one of Mel Kiper Jr.’s best getting 10 correct in the first round.  Todd McShay got 7 correct last year.  It also can get ugly.  I think it was 4 years ago that host Bob Fitzgerald on KNBR radio spent hours talking about Mel Kiper Jr. getting one right in the first round.

What does that mean?  It means these “insiders” know about as much as we do.  Do people really think a billion dollar NFL team is going to leak information through the press to their competitors?  Come on.

draft 2017 nfl

Stop the Offensive and RB Madness!:

Facebook has some good, smart Raider fans.  And Facebook has some that aren’t so hot but who are loud.  It shocked me again that for the 2nd straight year many fans clamored for a RB.  Even with the signing of Marshawn Lynch, some still want to draft a RB preferably Christian McCaffrey.  Ridiculous.  The Raiders were #6 in rushing in the NFL last year and were #13 in passing yards.  Oakland was the #7 best scoring team in the NFL.  Panicking for a RB means you need to drink decaf from now on.  They don’t need another one.  On a passing team there isn’t enough balls to go around anyway and they are fine.

Some are losing their minds saying they need a right tackle.  In reality they do but there are free agent moves that can be taken.  Rosters are far from set in stone.  And the reality is every year most fans just worry about the offense but players can be picked up.

I’m sorry but this is the salary cap era.  You can’t have all pro’s at every position.  Wait until Carr and Mack get paid.  The luxury of spending big money on the Nate Allen’s, Sean Smith’s and Reggie Nelson’s of the world and seeing them struggle will be over.  Less cap space means you have to make fewer mistakes.  And don’t forget they are trying to pay Gabe Jackson who will get 7-8 million a year when he gets a huge raise.  Every team has weaknesses.  You just try to limit them.  This isn’t the 1970’s where you could have all pro’s everywhere.

jack reg

The Raiders Dire Needs According to Jack Del Rio:

Here at Jaxville, we believe in one thing; facts.  And the facts are ugly.  Jack Del Rio said it again this week in the local media.  “The most glaring weakness we had was a lack of a push and pass rush up the middle.  We have to address that.”  The problem here is that this draft doesn’t have a for sure DT that can get to the QB, especially in the first round.

The Raiders also desperately need a MLB and a CB.  Some have said OLB TJ Watt from Wisconsin is the answer but he’s an edge guy and the Raiders are full of them.  Some have said just draft a CB in the first round.  In a draft chock full of them, I would say no.

The Raiders defense was:

-23rd against the run

-32nd in sacks

-24th against the pass

-20th in scoring defense

That is bad.  Doesn’t matter how good your offense is, that defense is not getting you far in the playoffs.  Every good offense the Raiders played had success against the Raiders last year, & some games were ugly.  The Patriots defense shut down Atlanta after half time in the Super Bowl.  Without that, the Pats comeback doesn’t happen.

Who Should Oakland Pick?:

Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. are now both saying they feel the Browns are drafting NC QB Mitch Trubisky for the first pick.  He’s not a top player in my mind but the Browns QB situation is a train wreck.  The 49ers are lighting a candle for that to happen because then they get their edge pass rusher in Myles Garrett.  I’m not thrilled with any of the QB’s in this draft but if it happens, it could change a lot of picks.

For the Raiders, the wild card is Alabama LB Reuben Foster.  His off the field troubles aside, this guy can play and you can plug and play him at MLB from week 1.  How far will he fall?  He’s a thumper with instinct and speed to go from sideline to sideline.  If he somehow falls to the Raiders; which I highly doubt; you draft him yesterday.

The guy that I like is Florida MLB Jarrad Davis.  He’s a high character type of guy that the Raiders are stock piling.  He makes plays, is smart, plays while hurt, and has a lot of great leadership skills.  He’s not a great player, but he’s a very good one who can start right away and make a difference playing 3 downs.

Many have Zach Cunningham the MLB from Vanderbilt moving up but I’m not a huge fan of his.  He’s a good playmaker who fills the stat sheets but he is a finesse player.  Davis and Foster are thumpers where Cunningham is a solid tackler but when I saw him play he struggled at times against big, strong OL.  Even in the second round I don’t know if I get him.  The Raiders defense needs to get more physical and Davis and Foster are more physical than Cunningham.

The dilemma though is if Alabama OT Cam Robinson falls to the Raiders at #24.  Man, even though the defense isn’t very good, how do you pass up on Robinson?  If I’m drafting and Robinson is there, I would have issues not taking him.  He has 10 years at right tackle written all over him.

Defensive Backs:

This draft is packed full of quality DB prospects, especially at CB.  Sean Smith was an all pro with the Chiefs.  Take away KC’s pass rush and good safety play and he struggled in Oakland.  It took a year for the NFL to find out that David Amerson is good in short to mid passes but struggles with the deep ball.  And Reggie Nelson’s angles to the ball at times are unique let’s say.  Lots of missed opportunities on the field.

There are lots of CB prospects to choose from.  Tre’davious White the CB from LSU, or Kevin King the CB from Washington, or even ultra-athlete Adoree Jackson from USC, who is a little undersized.  The Raiders can also wait until the second or even third round to get a DB in a deep DB draft.  There is also a chance these guys won’t last that long.

Defensive Line:

Here is the issue; there aren’t any that are for sure studs and in fact I don’t think any warrant a first round pick.  The Raiders need a 3 down DT that can rush the QB and there isn’t anyone in the draft that is a super star in the making.

I hated the 2nd round Jihad Ward pick last year and even though he started most games and played in every game, Ward was near invisible during the season with no sacks and no tackles for loss.  Your #2 pick needs to make a difference within the first 2 years so he has a lot to prove.  I just didn’t see this pick and never was overly impressed with him when he played for Illinois.

The guy that people are talking about as being a possible sleeper is DT Chris Wormley out of Michigan.  The Raiders should be able to get him in round two after picking an LB in round 1.  He’s another high character guy that is a coaches dream.  He works hard, and makes plays but many feel he can be better and underachieved with sloppy technique.  Some say he just needs more coaching to reach his potential.  It’s a risk.  Having 2 busts at DT would be a huge nightmare.

The guy that I think would be a good pick in round 2 is Auburns DT Montravius Adams.  At times he looks like a world beater and at other times he looks like he’s bored.  He lacks consistency and I think with Kahlil Mack and the leadership the Raiders have, this guy could become a good NFL player.  He’s big and athletic but doesn’t show up all the time.

Safety:

Karl Joseph is solid and looks to be a real stopper in the run game, and has potential to hold his own in the passing game, but the Raiders struggled at the other safety position.  The most popular Raider picks here could be Budda Baker out of Washington or Marcus Williams out of Utah.  Both would be good picks.  Obi Melifonwu out of Connecticut would be a solid pick as well in the first round.  He can play at CB as well.

What Will Oakland Do:

The Raiders need a pass rushing DT and an LB in the first 2 rounds.  There are no great DT’s so they should go LB in the first round.  The Raiders have shown a history of picking DB’s though when you least expect it and I think that might be the way they go.  I still cant’ get over picking DJ Hayden over DT Star Lotulelei years ago.  Reggie may want to right the DJ Hayden mistake.  If it were me though, a MLB would be the pick here.  The best one available out of the ones we mentioned but I have a feeling the Raiders would go DB which I think is a mistake with a draft so deep in CB talent.

Pour-a-Guinness-Bass-Black-and-Tan-Step-7

How Are Your Picks?  Here are mine!:

I see a lot of bold predictors online who never keep track of their picks so there is never accountability.  As I said before, if I’m wrong all the time then don’t follow me.  My friends and I have kept track of our picks for going on 18 years.  We pick for the teams we like.  Below are the Raiders picks and mine.  Ok I picked Matt Leinart but I also picked Aaron Rodgers, Calvin Johnson, Shaun Alexander & many others.  I want football players, not NFL combine warriors.  If you are bold enough to make picks, be bold enough to back the ones you miss and make.  Most don’t do that.  I want to be accountable but even the high profile guys try to hide their failures in the draft.

Man carrying tray of burgers and hot dogs

I’m ready to go; we are getting ready for the 18th annual NFL draft party.  One round on day 1 isn’t enough, but it will have to do.  May all your draft picks be golden.  And have some fun.  Be a GM for a few days and jot your picks down on your computer.  The results may surprise you!

___________________________________________________

2000 Raiders pick:  Sebastian Janikowski K Florida St.

Jim’s Pick:  Shaun Alexander RB Alabama

(borderline hall of famer; only Seahawk MVP in a season; most yards rushing in Seattle history; 100 TD’s & only back w/4 consecutive seasons of at least 15 td’s; Seabass has been a long time good kicker; probably HOF someday; but I’d still rather have Alexander)

2001 Raiders pick:  Derrick Gibson DB Florida St. 

Jim’s Pick:  Kendrell Bell LB Georgia

(Bell was defensive rookie of the year & a key member of the Steelers but several bad knee injuries derailed his career.   Had to retire after 2007 season due to his knees.  Gibson is one in a long line of DB draft busts)

 2002 Raiders/Jim’s pick:  Phillip Buchanon CB Miami Fla.; Napoleon Harris LB Northwestern

(Neither panned out and were considered busts)

2003 Raiders pick:  Nnamdi Asomugha CB California; Tyler Brayton DE Colorado

Jim’s Pick:  Nnamdi Asomugha CB California; Boss Bailey LB Georgia

(Aso was very good; Bailey was an average player other than one year and Brayton was a solid backup with spurts of being a good starting player at Carolina)

2004 Raiders pick:  Robert Gallery T Iowa

Jim’s Pick:  Larry Fitzgerald WR Pittsburgh

(Fitzgerald is a future hall of famer.  Gallery was considered a bust at tackle but became a solid guard.  He never became the player the Raiders thought he would be.  Retired in 2012)

2005 Raiders pick:  Fabian Washington S Nebraska

Jim’s Pick:  Aaron Rodgers QB California

(Rodgers is a future hall of famer; I literally fell to the floor when they didn’t draft him)

2006 Raiders pick:  Michael Huff S Texas

Jim’s Pick:  Matt Leinart QB USC

(Leinart was a lazy party frat boy, bust; Huff was average with spurts of quality play; didn’t live up to the pick)

2007 Raiders pick:  Jamarcus Russell QB LSU

Jim’s Pick:  Calvin Johnson WR Georgia Tech

(Megatron is a future hall of famer; I was ripped apart by Raider fans for 2 years for hating the pick of Russell. By the time you prove you are right, no one cares anymore)

2008 Raiders/Jim’s Pick:  Darren McFadden RB Arkansas

(other than one year he could not stay healthy and never could equal his physical college style)

2009 Raiders Pick:  Darrius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland

Jim’s Pick:  Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech

(A really dumb pick by the Raiders.  DHB was a bust as I predicted on draft day; Crabtree has had a good career; Stupid NFL combine 40 times got Al Davis again)

2010 Raiders/Jims Pick:  Rolando McClain LB Alabama

(emotional issues, bust)

2011 Raiders/Jims Pick:  Stefen Wisniewski C Penn St.

(2nd Round; Raiders had no 1st round pick)

(good at guard ok at center; lost to free agency)

2012 Raiders Pick:  Tony Bergstrom T Utah

Jim’s Pick:  Frank Alexander DE Oklahoma

(Raiders did not have a 1st or 2nd round pick)

(Both are backups; Alexander was suspended for 4 games for substance abuse)

2013 Raiders Pick:  DJ Hayden DB Houston

Jim’s Pick:  Star Lotulelei DL Utah

(Lotulelei is a key member of Carolina’s defensive rotation and he fell right into the Raiders lap.  As I said on draft day, Hayden was an awful pick)

2014 Raiders/Jims Pick:  Khalil Mack LB Buffalo

(Excellent pick/player)

2015 Raiders/Jims Pick:  Amari Cooper WR Alabama

(I fought with several Raiders Facebook groups who wanted Kevin White instead. Cooper has 2 pro bowls.  White has played in only 4 games in 2 years and in those games had only 19 catches in 35 targets and gained the Chicago media’s wrath; mmmm)

2016 Raiders/Jims Pick:  Karl Joseph S West Virginia

(Joseph had a nice rookie campaign especially against the run.  He may never be a great cover guy but he’s a thumper against the run, and makes plays).

“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”

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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.