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After losing to Detroit, Real Answers on How to Make the Raiders Elite Again”

Jack-Del-Rio

After losing 18-13 to the Detroit Lions yesterday , the Oakland Raiders need to do some soul searching. It’s time to get down and dirty and see what needs to happen for the Raiders to be an elite team in the NFL.  Today lets look at the front office and the offense.

A Different Era:

Many experts are kind of shaking their heads at how bad the NFL has become.   The salary cap has created parity alright; now most teams aren’t good.

The days of the super teams are over and to get good in the NFL doesn’t take as much as people think.

Let’s look at the Raiders from the top on down to see what is happening and what should happen.

Owner:

It’s not his fault but Mark Davis is not his dad. He got an NFL team because he inherited it. Unfortunately just like 49er head Jed York, I think at times he is way in over his head. Many media outlets say he is the main reason the NFL isn’t too thrilled about the Raiders going to Carson.

I’m also sick of the Raiders stadium issue. I go by a man’s actions and not by what they say and his actions say I want out of Oakland while his words say I want to stay. I’m not a fan of his but you can’t change the owner.   He has though for the most part stayed out of the way of the football operations which is smart on his part.

If I’m Mark Davis I have a big meeting with GM Reggie McKenzie and the coaching staff. I say these things. “If we don’t make the playoffs by next year, I’m paying you off and letting you go.   If we don’t win a playoff game within 2 years I’m letting you all go. Anything less is unacceptable. In that time I will listen to you and do what I can to support you in any way but mediocrity and losing doesn’t live here anymore. Just win baby is what my dad lived by and it’s what we are going to live by. It’s not a corny phrase it’s a way of life.  Nothing less is acceptable.”

General Manager:

For most Oakland Raider fans, there is no middle ground and they either hate or love Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie. Some are just allergic to saying anything bad about the players and they blame it all on the GM, and some sing his praises saying he’s been an amazing GM fixing the Raiders salary cap hell and bringing them to respectability again.

I’m in the middle. He’s done some nice things with Carr, Mack, Jackson, Crabtree, Williams and others.   Donald Penn was considered somewhat washed up and he picked him up and he’s resurrected his career. His drafts have been brutal at times but he’s also had some great picks that are creating a good foundation for the future. For every Dan Williams though there are the Lamarr Woodley’s.

For example one mistake for sure was drafting DJ Hayden. DL Star Lotulelei dropped into their lap and they went with Hayden. Star now is a key player on the best DL in the NFL in Carolina.  I had to drink two extra Bass and 4 extra Guinness beers due to this draft pick.  (Ok well that’s what I told my girlfriend at the time).

Coaching:

People that follow me know I’m very lukewarm on Jack Del Rio as head coach.   I think he’s had limited success as a coach in his career.   He is a good motivator and a good football man but I think to get to the next level, I’m not sure he can do it.

I was TOTALLY against offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave who has had very little true success in his almost 2 decade career. He is just way too conservative for my taste, especially in the second half of games. Teams are now protecting against the deep ball against the Raiders and they still haven’t had many adjustments. You also have to put some blame on QB Derek Carr. In the end he’s the captain of the ship and he can change the play at any time but he doesn’t.

I love what Mike Tice has done to the offensive line and Ken Norton Jr. will be good in time. I like him and his aggressive style but the Raiders defense isn’t that talented.

Quarterback:

I like Derek Carr and when he was drafted I was singing his praises. Derek Carr is going to be a solid NFL quarterback for years to come.  He has limitations though.

Lately the Raiders have struggled.  The Raiders have only scored in 2 of the last 8 quarters.  He still struggles with a rush and as long as the OL gives him a lot of time, he can dissect any defense. If you get in his face though, he’s a totally different quarterback. He also does not audible much.

People will say,”but his stats against a blitz are among the top 10 in the NFL”.  So what.   If the blitz is picked up; which usually is by the Raiders stud OL with the help of Lee Smith and their running backs; then of course the QB will do well. Many of these stats that people like to use don’t tell the whole story but they are used to try and prove points that they agree with.

The Lions did what the Vikings did and played a lot more cover 2, or 2 high or Tampa 2 or whatever you want to call it. That’s when your safeties play back to guard against the deep ball. As announcers Steve Beurlin and Steve Tasker brought up a couple of times, the stats for the Raiders medium passing game are near the bottom of the NFL. So far the Raiders aren’t adjusting to what defenses are doing.

Carr doesn’t audible much which is puzzling. If the safeties are back for the long ball, audible and change the play to a running play because the defense now has only 9 players to stop the run. If they play up; which at times Detroit did on first down protecting against the run; then do a play action pass and throw deep.

On twitter at half time I said that. Detroit was guarding against the run on 1st down.  “On the first play, do a play action pass and throw deep and then go no huddle.” The Raiders did do a play action pass and low and behold they completed a 43 yard pass play. You throw deep to do two things; try to complete a deep ball AND to stretch the defense and keep them honest knowing you have the threat of the long ball. When you don’t throw the long ball, the DB’s creep up and it makes running the ball harder, and it takes away a key cog in your arsenal.

Like most college spread QB’s they are wide receiver happy. Carr has to look for his tight ends more. He threw to tight ends only 4 times against Detroit, completing 2 of those passes.

Again, I like Carr but he still is in his second year and is learning.

Offensive Line:

The Raiders offensive line is really good and one of the top ones in the NFL. What they need though is depth.   If center Rodney Hudson, Donald Penn or Gabe Jackson goes down, the level of play drops. The Raiders have been lucky that for the most part they have been healthy. Menelik Watson will be back next year and that should help. Look at the Vikings; they’ve lost 3 starting OL. Mike Tice has also been a good influence. I like this group a lot.

Running Back:

No changes needed.  The Raiders should stick with this group.  They are good and don’t cost a lot.  I don’t think Latavius Murray is a work horse that can carry it 25-30 times a game but he’s good as a starter. Bring in the very underrated Jamize Olawale who I think could start on some teams. Add Marcel Reece with an occasional carry and this is a very solid group. The Raiders running backs are good blockers when they are called to help with blitzes.

I am still disappointed though that Roy Helu Jr. doesn’t get more touches. I think the Raiders are not using him properly. He’s as solid as it gets and he’s having a rough time getting on the field in passing downs where he excels. I would love to see him in no huddle situations.

Wide Receivers:

The Raiders are going to have to break the bank a bit to keep Michael Crabtree.   Crabtree on purpose signed a one year deal for less money in the hopes he’d rebound and then he’d sign a big long term deal in the off season. It’s not for sure that the Raiders can keep him. Crabtree is a loner type and money and appreciation is something he will want.   He is probably their best receiver.   Amari Cooper will be a very good pro despite having a bad game.

I’m not a big fan of Seth Roberts and would rather play Andre Holmes who to me has a lot more talent. The Raiders will need to keep Crabtree or this could get ugly.  Please no more Calvin Johnson talk.  He doesn’t have that epic burst anymore and the Raiders need young speed.  I LOVE Johnson and actually wanted him or my favorite college player since Billy Simms; Adrian Peterson; to be drafted by the Raiders but we know where that went.  Jamarcus Russell. sigh.

Tight Ends:

Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford have done a nice job for the Raiders.   Problem is the Raiders offense is just not a tight end offense. Lee Smith never gets credit but he’s the best blocking tight end in the business and was a great pick up. I say stick with these guys but start throwing to them more. Without a medium passing game, you are not going to do well consistently on offense.

Against the Vikings, Rivera caught 6 passes for 46 yards. Against the Lions, he was only thrown to twice and caught one for 21 yards. Walford only had 2 passes thrown to him all game and he caught one. For the entire game you only throw to your tight ends 4 times and you are a passing team? That’s not going to win you games.

 

Tomorrow we will look at the defense.

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“Can the Run Defense Bounce Back and Who Will Win; The Minnesota Vikings v.s. Oakland Raiders”

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Week 10 Preview Minnesota Vikings (6-2) v.s. Oakland Raiders (4-4):

11/15/15, 1:15 PM (PST) @ O.Co Coliseum, Oakland, California

Fox TV

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Thoughts and prayers to Fred McNeill and his family and friends.  A former UCLA and Minnesota Viking great at linebacker, who later became an attorney.  He had suffered several severe concussions as a player which were documented on television and video interviews.  The book, “League of Denial” was greatly inspired by his story.

He got ALS; Lou Gehrig’s disease; which destroys the body and he also had dementia which destroys the mind. He eventually died yesterday from complications of it.  He was the first to ever block a Ray Guy punt.  It was in the Super Bowl loss to the Raiders. A big loss to the NFL community and the people of Minnesota. 

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/14052644/minnesota-vikings-long-linebacker-fred-mcneill-dies-63

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The name Minnesota Vikings is like sweet music to most Raider fans ears.  Thoughts of Ken Stabler floating passes through the Purple People eaters. Bill King in classic form using words the rest of the country had never heard of.   Jack Tatum’s demolishing hit on Vikings WR Sammy White while bringing home a Super Bowl trophy are sweet memories indeed.

Now its 2015 and the Vikings come into Oakland for a key game for both teams.  In an interesting match-up, the Minnesota Vikings come in with an impressive 6-2 record.  But let’s look at it closer and see who the upcoming opponent of the Raiders really is.

As Good as Their Record?: 

Friends and followers in Minnesota have beaten on me pretty good on twitter for not getting on the Viking band wagon and believing they are a really good team.  Let’s look at the reasons why I haven’t.

Schedule:

As time marches on, the number of quality teams in the NFL gets smaller.  For 2015, you see it especially in the AFC.  The NFL is getting what they want with the salary cap; parity; or mediocrity if you want to be honest.  The Raiders have had a fairly easy schedule so far, but the Vikings have had an easier one.  Minnesota has two wins over a terrible Detroit Lions team, and have also played Chicago, San Diego, Kansas City, and the 49ers.

In reality they have faced only 2 teams this year with a winning record; Denver and St. Louis; and they are 1-1 with a victory at home in OT over the Rams last week.  The Raiders have played 4 teams with a winning record and are 1-3.

Offense:

To be fair, no team in the NFL has been beaten up by injuries like the Vikings.  They have a lot of young talent but they are hurting.  They have lost 3 of their starting offensive linemen for the year including stud tackle Phil Loadholt, and fellow tackle Carter Bykowski.  Quality center John Sullivan was supposed to return this week after spinal surgery to begin the year but he has undergone another procedure and he probably is out for the season.  Few teams could overcome this.

To their credit a patchwork offensive line has held their own but they have struggled in the passing game at times.  Teddy Bridgewater had a nice rookie campaign but I’m not impressed by him like others are.  His delivery is painfully slow and he needs a lot of time in the pocket to be successful.  If you rush him and decrease his time, he struggles.

At times he looks like he’s playing chess when going through his progressions.  He just takes too long, a lot like 49er QB Colin Kaepernick.  In the Denver game he struggled a lot by not getting rid of the ball faster.  He is just too slow in the pocket for my taste.  Adrian Peterson off the field may not be man of the year but on the field he remains one of the great running backs of this era.

The surprise of the year in the NFL may be fifth round draft choice Stefon Diggs.  He’s been a breakout player at wide receiver who has shown game breaking speed and the ability to make big plays.

Defense:

Again, it’s hard to measure how good this defense is because they have played such an easy schedule.  The Vikings are known as a good group of tacklers though with athletic linebackers.  Noseguard/Tackle Linval Joseph is playing great football this year and is coming off an amazing 10 tackle 1/2 sack effort against the Rams earning him defensive player of the week honors.

Linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr are expected to play but both are coming off injuries.  They are athletic, physical and good tacklers when healthy.  DT Sharrif Floyd comes back from missing 3 games and he said he’s ready to go.  Their defensive front seven is good when healthy.

The Vikings CB’s are healthy and they have good depth there but no one that wows you.  They have their own Charles Woodsen in highly decorated 37 y/o Terence Newman who has had another solid season.

Run Defense Struggles Against the Steelers; Will They Continue Against Minnesota?:

The Raiders run defense was shredded for 195 yards last week against the Pittsburgh Steeler’s and there was a partial reason to it that is easily seen.

First, give them credit; the Pittsburgh Steeler offensive line is a top OL in the NFL.  Other things are important to note though.

Nate Allen coming back at safety is huge.  Some didn’t like the signing but I thought he played pretty well.  Now the Raiders can move TJ Carrie to cornerback.  The Raiders cornerbacks have been shredded for big chunks of yardage for most of the year and struggled even with TJ Carrie playing; but he was an upgrade.

People no longer use Pro Football Focus stats to prove why DJ Hayden is really not that bad because EVEN THEY now get that he isn’t good.  Oakland is now last in passing yards given up per game, and 23rd in sacks, and 30th in total yards per game.

With the CB’s struggles, the Raiders safeties are having to be supermen and stay back to help the corners against the deep ball.  Hopefully with better play from TJ Carrie at corner, the Raiders safeties wont have to help out as much and can make some tackles in the run game.  Against Pittsburgh, if they’d run up to stop the run and it was a play action pass, the corners would now be in a one on one situation and they could not guard the Steelers quality pass catchers.

Ben Roethlesberger missed Pittsburgh WR Antonio Bryant on a long ball by 5 yards where he beat DJ Hayden, and Martavis Bryant just flat out dropped a long ball against David Amerson.  If you add those 2 plays the Steelers would have had over 700 yards total offense; IN ONE GAME; and would have won going away!

Minnesota’s line is relying on backups and rookie TJ Cummings at tackle and I see the Raiders playing well against them.  Cummings will have to block Khalil Mack who has had his struggles.  He was completely shut out against the Steelers and he’s had games against Baltimore and San Diego where he had 1 and 2 tackles with no sacks respectively.  A total of 3 tackles in 12 quarters of football isn’t getting it done.  If he struggles against this rookie, then something isn’t right.  I see him having a big day though.

The Raiders will win if:

DEFENSE:  PASS RUSH PASS RUSH PASS RUSH.  The Raiders cornerbacks are not going to all of a sudden be good.  They are who they are.   TJ Carrie helps this struggling unit but he’s not a world beater.  They still need a pass rush.

I watch every Raiders game twice (thank you DVR) and metric sites kept saying the Raiders had several pressures against Ben Roethlesberger and I’m kind of wondering what game they watched.  I mean was it peer pressure or atmospheric pressure, because it sure wasn’t quarterback pressure.  Roethlesberger was off at times and still threw for over 300 yards in 3 quarters and the Raiders gave up almost 400 yards passing.  If they had so many pressures, I’d hate to see when the pass rush struggles.  Roethlesberger had good time to throw all game and so did Landry Jones.  Aldon Smith had the only sack and knocked Ben out of the game.

Nate Allen coming back is a great help.  The Raiders are going to need at least the free safety to stay back at times though to protect against Stefon Diggs and the long ball.

I personally think they will do much better against the run with Peterson struggling at times during the game.  Even if he does get 100 yards, I think it’s going to take a whole lot of carries.

OFFENSE:  Derek Carr is having a great year and it’s fun to watch such a quality person do so well.  Let’s also look at other things though.  Put an average NFL QB behind a good offensive line and he will be good.  Put a good NFL QB behind a good offensive line and he will be really good.  Derek Carr is having a great year but the Raiders offensive line in my mind is the second best in the NFL behind the Patriots OL and possibly the Steelers. They are a nice part of that success.

Derek Carr has gone through games WHERE HE WAS NOT TOUCHED and the Raiders have given up only 10 sacks in 8 games which is 2nd in the NFL.  The Steelers threw some complex blitzes at the Raiders and they did a great job against them.  Lee Smith is the best blocking TE in the NFL and he’s also helped out at times in the passing game as well as the running game.  Add an occasional pass catch and he’s been very underrated.  When you watch the game, sometimes just watch the offensive line and see how they do.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

Add the fact that even with his ups and downs, Latavius Murray is the 2nd leading rusher in the AFC.  Derek Carr isn’t blocking for Murray, so you see what kind of year the Raiders offensive line is having.  Friends laughed at me at our annual draft party a while back when I was so happy that guard Gabe Jackson was drafted by the Raiders in the 3rd round.  They don’t laugh anymore.  This Raiders OL is young (except for Donald Penn) and physical and I love watching them play.  (I need to get over it but I still can’t believe how far Jackson dropped in the draft.)

The Vikings are banged up and I see the Raiders playing well against them.  I don’t like their DB’s as much as other people do but I do like their front 7 when healthy; they aren’t healthy though.  Unfortunately the Raiders may be without center Rodney Hudson who hasn’t practiced this week and that could be a big factor.  People are now leaning on him missing this game.  Tony Bergstrom would get the call and Joseph; a key former Giants Super Bowl winning defensive lineman; is a bear to block.

Running the ball wont be easy against the Vikings interior line but they will be vulnerable to the pass with their LB’s hobbling and I see another good day for Carr and the Raiders.  Look for the Raider running backs and tight ends to do well.

Conclusion:

You have to give it up for the Vikings.  Raider backers are biting their nails about center Rodney Hudson missing time due to injury, but the Vikings have lost 3 OL starters for the year and have still done well.  They also have struggled with injuries on the other side of the ball but have managed to get a 6-2 record.  With them playing a weak schedule and their division being a mess, I think they are a little overrated but the Vikings could make the playoffs.

My take on them is that they are an up and coming team with good talent but a lot of injuries.  They are also playing mostly against bad teams.  I think they are a little overrated and their year will be next year.  I don’t like Bridgewater that much and his painfully slow release either.  He has to have a lot of time in the pocket to succeed and in today’s NFL, that is a lot of pressure to put on your offensive line.  Healthy, their OL could pull it off possibly but not with 3 starters out.

Some on the east coast are asking why the Vikings are the underdog but I’m not.  I see the Raiders winning this one pulling away.   P.S. For amusement only, yes I like the over (44 points).

Final Score:  Raiders 31

                      Vikings 20

The Oakland Raiders v.s. Baltimore Raven’s. Many Great Grades In a Nice Win

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Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Baltimore Ravens; Week 2

(0-2)  Baltimore Ravens  33

(1-1)  Oakland Raiders  37

After one of the worst opening games in recent memory, the Raiders changed their offense and their approach and had an inspiring 37-33 come from behind win against the Baltimore Raven’s in front of a rabid Oakland crowd.

Quarterback:

Roll Carr out and throw deep should be tattooed on OC Bill Musgrave’s hands. This is the first game that Derek Carr played in a way where he could show off his skills and the first time in years I have nothing to complain about in regards to the play calling. He still struggled with accuracy in the pocket but the Raiders rolled him out and he threw deep which is a must for his success. He thrives in those situations.

The long pass for a touchdown to Amari Cooper set the stage the rest of the game. It is a must for the Raiders success. It made the Raven’s honest on defense and it also helped the run game. It was nice to see safeties actually worrying about the deep ball than creeping up to stop the run.

Carr had a good rhythm with Michael Crabtree when he rolled out and he showed good accuracy. He has a great arm and he did a great job throwing deep.  The final drive showed patience and some nice throws.

The only negatives were Carr’s 2 bad interceptions in the fourth quarter and that has to be improved on against good teams. One of them was called back on the winning drive when the Raiders were called for defensive holding.

GRADE:  A

Carr had his best game as a pro. He still struggled some in the pocket with accuracy but outside the pocket he was extremely accurate and looked very natural. This is the type of QB he is. He also threw downfield which opened up holes in the secondary. He can throw deep and it was nice to see his talents shown.

Carr can’t throw those type of interceptions but other than that he had an excellent game and showed what he could do. Smiles all around.

Running Backs: 

The Ravens run defense is solid so getting 97 yards on the ground was a good day. Isn’t it crazy how the running game improves when teams are worried about you passing downfield? Cooper’s long touchdown set the stage for the running game and the Raiders took advantage of it.

Latavius Murray rushed for 65 yards on 15 carries and he had a short touchdown run. Solid game for the Raiders with the offensive line really shining.

Grade:  B

Solid game against a solid defense. If the Raiders continue to throw downfield, this will make defenses respect them and the running game will benefit. Safeties worrying about long passes aren’t very aggressive against the run.

Offensive Line: 

The OL had a great day. Penalties were an issue at times but for the most part, this is the best game the Raiders OL has played in a while.

Fans seem to rip on the offensive line when they lose, but give them little to no credit when they win. The Raiders offensive line was great and deserve game balls all around.

They gained 97 yards on the ground against a good run defense and they gave up only 1 sack all game. Carr had protection to burn. They handled the blitz properly and it was a solid effort from this much maligned group.   Carr will get all the publicity but the offensive line was a cohesive unit all game.

Grade:  A-

Week 1 was disastrous but week two showed that this can be a good group. The penalties were an issue that has to be addressed but for the most part this was a really solid effort.

Wide Receivers: 

The Raiders wide receivers shined with Cooper and Crabtree leading the way. Crabtree had a great day with 9 catches for 111 yards and a TD.   The Raiders FINALLY threw deep and Coopers long TD pass opened up the defense and made them honest. The Raiders run game and short passing game clicked because Baltimore now needed to respect that the Raiders could throw downfield. It was exciting to finally see.

GRADE:  A

Last week was forgettable.   This week was a great one for this group. Crabtree caught two very tough catches and Cooper spread the field. Andre Holmes also had 2 really good catches in traffic.

Defensive Line:

If it wasn’t for the Chicago Bears, the Raiders would have the worst defense after the first two games of the season. The Raven’s; who aren’t exactly a juggernaut; got almost 500 yards total offense.

The Raiders defensive line for the second game recorded no sacks and are last in the NFL. Khalil Mack was invisible with only 1 tackle and no sacks. Aldon Smith played more but he had only 1 tackle as well. Joe Flacco was allowed to have all day to throw and he diced up the Raiders secondary.

The Raiders gave up 109 yards on the ground (4.5 yards per carry) and 384 yards in the air. Flacco missed on 2 fairly easy passes that could have gone for TD’s. In the final drive on 3rd down he missed Steve Smith again who was wide open for a touchdown. Even with blitzes he had all day to throw. Justin Tuck and Dan Williams had some good moments though on short yardage running stops. Williams continues to be unheralded but he’s been solid and Tuck has played much better than he did last year.

Grade:  D

The Ravens did what they wanted on offense and only the misses by Joe Flacco saved this unit. Right now they are just not getting it done in any way.

Linebackers:

Curtis Lofton was all over the place and played a great game. He lead the team in tackles and made two nice plays defending the pass.   They did struggle in the passing game.   With the Raiders safeties struggling guarding tight ends, they switched linebackers on them and they were not very successful. They were average against the run but they struggled a lot in the passing game.

Grade C

Another rough game for this group. Malcolm Smith was not bad against the pass but struggled again against the run. Lofton is the best linebacker on this team and he has to stay healthy.

Defensive Backs:

Right now the Raiders may have the worst DB’s in the NFL due to injuries and lack of talent. Joe Flacco was a mess against the Broncos and he looked like John Elway Sunday, just like Andy Dalton did the week before.

The Raiders picked up Taylor Mayes and he had a couple of good plays but overall the Safeties cannot guard Tight Ends. It got so bad the Raiders started switching linebackers to guard them. If Joe Flacco was more accurate, he could have thrown for more yards, missing on 2 TD’s by throwing too high. Steve Smith did whatever he wanted to the Raiders corners catching 10 passes for a whopping 150 yards.

Grade D- 

Without a pass rush, the DB’s are toast. Joe Flacco barely passed for 100 yards last week and struggled all day but this week he almost had 400 yards. The only way to help these guys is to get a pass rush. They are doing their best but it’s just not happening.

Coaching:

FINALLY they got it on offense.   I’ve been saying two things since last year; THROW DEEP and roll out Carr.

Throwing deep does 2 things;   it makes the defensive backs respect the long ball threat and it keeps them off the line of scrimmage and that opens up the rushing offense. If Safeties are near the line of scrimmage all the time, you can’t run the ball.   Last week the Raiders Qb’s averaged 4.7 yards a completion; this week 7.7 yards a completion.

The long ball to Cooper, coupled with rolling Carr out of the pocket gave him confidence. He can throw deep and he’s accurate on the run rolling out. The offense ran for 97 yards against a tough run defense partially because of the safeties having to respect the long ball.

The Raiders had 16 penalties for 106 yards and that can’t continue. No way are they going to win again with that many penalties.

Grade B+

The Raiders play calling was excellent and that has to continue. The penalties were extreme and that has to be fixed. They also have to do something to put pressure on the quarterback. Right now their DL are not pass rushers and Mack hasn’t had a good start to the season again. Overall a great improvement on a disastrous opener.

Special Teams:

Another solid game by this unit with Janikowski going 3 for 3 and Marquette King had 2 booming kicks.   The return game didn’t get many chances and it was not a factor.

Grade B+

The return game wasn’t a factor but King and Jano were solid.

Next Opponent:  Cleveland Browns (1-1; last game, win @ home against Tennessee Titans 28-14)

 Looking @ the Brown’s:

The Browns have been the same formula for a while now; run the ball and play solid defense and hope your QB gives you something. It hasn’t changed.

Against the Titans the Browns had great pressure on the Qb with 7 sacks on rookie Marcus Mariotta. They did struggle against the run giving up 166 yards on the ground to the Titans.

On offense they only had 13 first downs all game and Johnny Manziel threw only 15 times all day completing 8 passes for 158 yards and 2 TD’s. The Browns passing game is much more conservative and the hopes are that the Raiders can be more successful against a limited passing game.

Outlook:

It’s amazing how your offense is respected and holes are opened up when defenses respect you going deep.   It also opened up the running game against a solid run stopping team.

The Raiders defense has been terrible and things have to get better for them to succeed. Aldon Smith has to step up and make things happen by pressuring Johnny Manziel to make mistakes.

The Raiders offensive line had a great game after a terrible opening day and they will be tested with the pass rush of the Browns.

Carr was the worst rated QB on the road last year so this is a bigger game than people think. The Raiders have to start winning on the road if they are going to improve on their past seasons.

Flying back east for an early game usually spells danger for west coast teams. The Browns are not a great team so looking at their schedule, this is a near must win for the Raiders. Look for a tough contest, with the Raiders hoping to continue their growth.

“Why Aldon Smith May Not be Suspended & Why His Signing Will Now Pay Dividends; The Morality Question”

Aldon Smith Prepares for the Bengals
Aldon Smith Prepares for the Bengals

“Why Aldon Smith May Not be Suspended & Why His Signing Will Now Pay Dividends; The Morality Question”

The Oakland Raiders shocked the NFL by signing often troubled DE/LB Aldon Smith with a 1 year contract.  He played against the Bengals just 2 days after signing.

Aldon Smith served a 9 game suspension last year after a DUI incident the year before. He also left for part of the 2013 season to go to rehabilitation after another incident.

Last month Smith was arrested for his second DUI hit and run in 2 years.   If you add his felony weapons charges at a house party, marijuana possession, illegal assault rifle possession, and his arrest at an airport for saying he had a bomb; Mr. Smith has been quite a busy young man. You and I would be in prison for a long time but this is the NFL. He’s spent a total of 2 weeks in jail, with many felonies dropped to misdemeanors and the charges at the airport being dropped. The best justice money can buy.

To his credit though Smith is well liked and players say he’s a good teammate.  The 49ers though; after saying they want to win with class; pretty much had to let go of Smith after his latest arrest.

The Moral Question on the Smith Signing:

Let’s be real; if a good player leaves a team due to arrests, the team and the fans say good riddens. If a new team signs the player the fan base and the team downplay the arrests and bad actions and make excuses. It’s the homeritis that is what the NFL has become.

The days of Lou Gehrig, Walter Payton and Roger Staubach are over.   From the strip club scandal in New York years ago, to the womanizing, steroids, and off the field arrests; many athletes should NOT be looked up to. Are their good ones? Of course there are. But our moral role models should be those that love and know us, not athletes through hero worship. They only show us what we want to see; and sometimes we only hear what we want to hear about them. It is our weakness.

As fans I think what people should care about is can this guy keep his nose clean, not hurt anyone, and can he play football. Adrian Peterson was the king in Minnesota until the stories of him having several kids with several women, possible child abuse and the news that he even had a kid from a one night stand who tragically passed away.   I love Adrian Peterson the player; but as a person it’s another story.

Tiger Woods was superman and Mr. Family, until his almost 2 dozen “side things” were found out and he was exposed. Professionally and personally he’s never been near the same.

We fans get it wrong sometimes too especially when we rip on players and teams for scandals. Character is what you do behind closed doors when no one is looking. Over 37 million married people are on ONE married cheaters dating site. I’m sure some are probably the same people that tear apart politicians, and rip on Tom Brady for deflating a ball 1 PSI. All the while they lie to their spouses and kids being so narcissistic thinking it’s not hurting anyone.

If Smith couldn’t play football teams and fans would not care about what happens in his life. He is only 25 and is a pass rushing machine so people care. So in ending I have no issues with signing Aldon Smith. This is football and not church.   If it was church Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones with their partying photos with young women barely old enough to be their grand kids, wouldn’t be allowed to own teams.

Why a Suspension May Not Happen:

The NFL has stated that they are going to wait for the courts outcome in the case to see what their discipline will be with Aldon Smith. The Santa Clara County courts said that Aldon Smith will be charged with 3 misdemeanors including DUI, hit and run, and vandalism.   Smith vehemently denies the allegations and I’m sure his high priced lawyers are thinking of a fun story to get him off of the charges. Look for a plea deal and pay off of some kind.

Local rumors have it that Smith has been saying he accidentally must have hit someone in a parking lot and that he unknowingly did this and that he was not drunk. With a great lawyer he may be able to get off of this completely just like his airport arrest. If he does get off the charges, the bumbling NFL who look as disciplined and organized as a Three Stooges short won’t touch it.

As Ernie McCracken said in the movie Kingpin after winning the million dollar bowling tournament, “I’m now above the law”. At times athletes and celebrities often are.   Smith has been a train wreck of a person. His house parties are of legend and he would even have $10 cover charges to help with the costs!

Smith’s arraignment will be October 6th. It is viable that a plea deal may occur after this time, or the charges may eventually be dropped. Having ties to the local media I’m sure helped the Raiders make a choice. I see Smith maybe getting no suspension and the 49ers sitting in chairs with their mouths open.

What Does Smith Do For The Raiders?:

Smith is only 25 and is a pass rushing machine. If I were the Raiders I would have rather done a 2 year deal; the 49ers did an incentive laden deal last year and I think Smith would have gone for it again.

Smith changes the Raiders exponentially. It wont be seen until he plays full time and when he’s in football shape. He only played a little over 20 plays Sunday against the Bengals and had little impact. The Raiders corners have been a weakness and a great pass rush protects them and makes them better immediately. Smith is also a good run stopper. The Raiders still need to have good tackle play but Smith helps a lot.

With him on the field the Raiders pass rush goes from a 3 to a possible 8.   With him playing on one end and Mack on the other, the Raiders have a quality 1-2 pass rush punch. The key in the NFL with the ridiculous passing rules, is to rush the passer with only 4 DL and stop the run. If you can’t do this, there is no way you can have a successful defense. The pass rush is the most important thing after a quarterback in the NFL.

If I’m building a team, I get a great QB and a great DL first. Then I go OL and playmakers. Not many fans could name Seattle’s top 4 WR but they have a DL that is the best in the NFL, and a playmaking Quarterback that is a great leader. That’s what wins Super Bowls.

Is it Worth the Risk?

Absolutely. It doesn’t fix all the defensive woe’s but it sure helps.  It’s the one signing I’ve been calling the Raiders to make.  A pass rushing stud that can rush the quarterback. They won’t say it but the Raiders know their pass rush doesn’t cut it. An improved Khalil Mack isn’t the answer to near the worst pass rush in the NFL. Mack wasn’t much of a factor on opening day for the Raiders.

They also FINALLY get that they can’t win without a pass rush. Aldon Smith fills that role perfectly. He is a top 3 pass rusher and immediately improves the Raiders defense in a big way.

It is a good risk and shows that the Raiders are finally getting it that their defensive line and pass rush has to be the focus of the defense if they are going to get to the next level, and not rely on countless defensive back busts.  Seattle, Arizona, Harbaugh’s 49ers, Wilfork with New England, the Giants Super Bowls, etc…  The list of examples is a long one.

Tom Brady shredded the Seahawks in the second half of the Super Bowl because they changed their blocking scheme and stopped the Seahawks pass rush. The best DB’s in the NFL are still toast with today’s ridiculous rules if you can’t rush the passer. The hopes are that Aldon Smith will do just that and be a key piece to a successful season for the Oakland Raiders and their fans.

“In Depth Look @ the Final Grades: Oakland Raiders v.s. the Cincinnati Bengals; What Wen’t Wrong?”.

derek-carr-hand

Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Cincinnati Bengals; Week 1

(1-0)  Cincinnati Bengals  33

(0-1)  Oakland Raiders  13

The excitement in Oakland was high with anticipation, and a start to a new era in Raider football was hoped for.   Unfortunately for Raider fans the only bright spot of the day was the tribute at half time to the great Ken Stabler.   I warned Raider fans talking a 10 and 11 win season, that there was still a lot of work to do, but it’s hard to rain on people’s parades. For a team with so much hope, this was a huge setback and is more than just one loss.   I complained about the pass rush all off season and there was so little pressure on Andy Dalton that is was like pitch and catch all day for the Bengals.

Quarterback:

Matt McGloin and Derek Carr combined to AVERAGE an atrocious 4.7 yards per completion in their passing game.   Absolutely NO downfield passing game.   The quarterback ratings for both were 29% and 34% respectively.

The Raiders need to start realizing the strengths and limitations of Derek Carr. His strengths are throwing on the run, throwing outside the pocket, leadership, and a rocket arm. You can’t teach 2 things though; pocket awareness and accuracy; Carr struggles with both. He’s just not an accurate QB in the pocket. His throws sailed over open WR and on the first throw; an easy slant; he threw somewhat behind new WR Amari Cooper who dropped it. He also has happy feet in the pocket. This isn’t going to change any time soon. As I have been saying Carr will never be a great QB but he has a chance to be a good one. If he is going to be a good one though, he has to start improving soon.

Carr had 2 nice throws on the run outside the pocket which is his strength. He left in the second quarter with a hand injury. His X-Rays were negative but he still may miss time.

The Matt McGloin fan club was silenced when McGloin was awful in replacing him. When the Bengals had gone to a prevent defense with some backups late in the game McGloin helped put 13 points on the board but it was way too little and too late. One of the worst QB performances by the Raiders in a long time by both QB’s.

GRADE:  D

The first half was hard to watch and Carr was awful and McGloin; until the end when the Bengals called the dogs off; was just as bad.

Running Backs: 

The ground game wasn’t much of a factor. Until teams respect the passing game, the Raiders running game will struggle with so many teams concentrating on the running game.  I did like the Raiders running backs being a part of the passing game.

Marcel Reece got NO carries but did catch a few passes.

Grade:  C

Until the passing game is fixed, the running game will struggle.

Offensive Line: 

The OL was a mess at times. Newly signed Rodney Hudson struggled with a penalty and mistakes and had a bad game.   Austin Howard and Khalif Barnes struggled as well. They just weren’t on the same page all day.

Grade:  D

A very disappointing game for the OL. I think this group will play better than this in the future though.

Wide Receivers: 

The Raiders wide receivers were not a factor in the game due to drops and a lack of a deep passing game.  Amari Cooper dropped the first past of the game which was catchable. It seemed like the game went downhill from there. The Raiders radio announcing team was losing their mind at the play of Seth Roberts who was so in over his head and should not have been the #3 WR.  Brice Butler was missed in a very huge way.

GRADE:  D

A forgettable game with few bright spots. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree had their moments late but with bad quarterback play it’s hard to get too excited about the passing game.

Defensive Line:

I warned people about the lack of pass rush all off season long and now people are waking up. Khalil Mack had a quiet game with 3 solo tackles and no sacks. As a team the Raiders started where they left off last year; 0 sacks.

Once Aldon Smith plays every down, the true importance of his signing will be felt. He needs to get into football shape and that will take a couple of weeks. He looked tired and it’s hard for a player like him to get his rhythm playing 20 plays. With him playing every down the Raiders pass rush will be better but they need solid DL play.

Justin Ellis 1st quarter injury really hurt the defense and they struggled the rest of the game. Mario Edwards is not the answer.   When he played he was invisible.   The Raiders put little pressure on the QB all day and couldn’t stop the run at times. Better days are ahead hopefully with Aldon Smith playing more.

Grade:  D

The pass rush was non existent and the Raiders recorded no sacks on the day. Andy Dalton isn’t exactly John Elway so giving an average quarterback a lot of time is a disaster waiting to happen. Dan Williams and Justin Tuck played well at times but it seemed they were not getting much help. Khalil Mack was a non factor which was disappointing. With injuries early to Curtis Lofton and Nate Allen, the defense struggled.

Linebackers:

The injuries to Curtis Lofton, Justin Ellis and Nate Allen early killed the run defense. Malcolm Smith is not a starter; he is not good against the run and there were times where he was very out of position. Ray Ray Armstrong missed key tackles including one for a rushing touchdown.   I question him being a viable option as a starter. Ben Heeney came in for spells but he’s not a starting LB. The Raiders LB’s struggled all day with poor tackling and being out of position.

Grade D

Rough game for this unit where much was being expected. The injury to Lofton really set the tone for a somber day.

Defensive Backs:

“They are literally throwing at DJ Hayden every play and the Bengals can do pretty much whatever they want right now”.

Tom Flores

Without a pass rush this group is toast. I said it on draft day years ago and I’ll say it now. D.J. Hayden is not a starting NFL corner. He’s a great athlete and a good guy but it’s just reality.   If Andy Dalton was accurate A.J. Green would have had 2 TD’s and another long pass against him. He was overmatched with whoever he was guarding all game.

T.J. Carrie struggled at times but he did have a couple of good deflections and covers. Not a great performance but at times not bad. The Safeties struggled all game covering TE Tyler Eifert who was dominating. Charles Woodsen was injured and had to leave and the Safeties were making too many tackles out there.  Nate Allen’s early injury was a big blow.

Grade D- 

Without a pass rush, the DB’s are in shark infested waters. It was difficult to watch how easy they were shredded. The Raiders have to help these guys out with a pass rush because they just are overmatched right now.  Injuries to Woodsen and Allen was a nightmare to watch.

Coaching:

The coaching staff from the get go was overwhelmed. I still don’t get why the Raiders are going no huddle when for years they have not shown they are a good passing team that can sustain drives. Tom Brady can do no huddle; Derek Carr and the Raiders can’t.

To go for it on 4th down after Carr’s injury was a ridiculously desperate call. Your quarterback goes down and the opponent knows without warm-ups that you are going to run off tackle which they did. After they were stopped the flood gates opened.

As I said the Bill Musgrave hire was a bad one IMHO. In 15 years expecting all of a sudden for him to be a dynamic play caller is naive at best. Why not a first down play action bomb to cooper to loosen things up? And AGAIN; just like last year; the Raiders empty the backfield twice on short yardage situations telling the Bengals that on 3rd and short they are going to pass. How hard is it to leave Murray in the backfield and do a play action pass instead of taking away the run and limiting your options? Ridiculous.

How in the world is Seth Roberts playing?  Roberts dropped several passes and on 3rd and short he ran a route for no yards. I thought the Raiders radio crew was going to lose it. He’s not a #3 WR right now and that is on the coaching staff who should not be playing him.

Grade D-

The best coaching move Jack Del Rio did all day was having his family beside him during the post game press conference so the sports writers would be a little bit softer on him as normal.   These press conferences are more predictable than lip synching at a Miley Cyrus concert.

The offense again was 5 yards or less in the passing game with conservative routes and play calls.   Does anyone else feel like this is the twilight zone? What good is it to have a strong armed QB and a fast WR who can stretch the field when you are throwing passes that are 5 yards or less?

Special Teams:

Marquette King had a bad first half but he will bounce back. Sebastian Janikowski wasn’t a factor. Taiwan Jones had 2 nice kickoff returns and he seems to be getting it.

Grade C+

The special teams really weren’t much of a factor.

Next Opponent:  Baltimore Ravens (0-1; last game, loss @ the Denver Broncos 19-13)

Looking @ the Raven’s:

The Raven’s have mostly dominated the Raiders in their young history. Last week at Denver, the Bronco’s DL was in Joe Flacco’s face a lot. Flacco was atrocious and struggled. Baltimore’s running game also was not very good running for only 73 total yards. Obviously Denver has a good defense but the Raven’s offense looked bad. The Raiders have to put pressure on the QB and make the Raven’s predictable. This is going to be a really rough game for the Raiders to win.

Outlook:

Even though I was called a hater by some, I told people I could see this a mile away. Until you do it on the field, hype is just that. Carr can be good but he doesn’t have the accuracy or pocket awareness to be a great quarterback. Matt McGloin isn’t the answer in any way.

The play calling was predictable and they HAVE TO get the tight ends involved especially in the red zone.

When Aldon Smith plays every play he will have much more of an impact on the game than he did. It was a good signing and in time should be a really good addition.

Better days are ahead but I hope all the talk of Super Bowls, a 10 or 11 win season and domination are now stopped. The Raiders still have holes on their team even with the improvement in their roster. You have to walk before you can run.  No game is a for sure win and there is much work ahead.