Tag Archives: draft

“Pancho Billa Mourned by Fans & Players Alike, Bringing The NFL Together Like Few Could”

 

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Pancho Billa reminded us all.

With the passing of Buffalo Bills superfan Ezra Castro AKA Pancho Billa, the NFL fandom was reminded just how fragile life can be. Fans and players of all teams came together to mourn a man that loved his team, family, & everyone that came in contact with him.

Thirty nine years is not enough for most people, but in those years Ezra gave a lifetime worth of kindness and love. After every kind act shown to him, Ezra was shocked & often humbled at the kindness that people gave him. He never got that people thought he was a big deal and downplayed his importance. In a social media world where the need for attention and self importance is the norm, Ezra was a regular guy and a breath of fresh air.

When Greg Dresko and I did our podcast with Ezra, it was obvious he did not feel good but he rarely cancelled anything. Even on his bad days he would do interviews with a smile. After our podcast I created a prayer night for him that Greg & I promoted. Literally thousands of people got involved praying for Pancho and all of those battling cancer. We did a second one not too long ago that was also greatly supported. People really cared and it was inspiring.

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A Special Family Called Buffalo:

Buffalo was the perfect team for Ezra. It is a team that is set back in the time of the old AFL. An old stadium, the second lowest ticket prices in the NFL, and a raucous loyal fan base makes Buffalo so special.   While everyone else changed, Buffalo didn’t.

With fancy, expensive stadiums pricing out many fans, the Bills are stuck in a wonderful time warp that allows for a foundation that continues to come to the games year after year. A loyal following that braves bitter cold and wind to support their Bills. From Jack Kemp to Joe Ferguson, to Jim Kelly to Andre Reed, the Bills rich tradition is steeped in a blue collar us against the world mentality. What an amazing place.

I don’t think any fan base or team other than Buffalo could have survived losing 4 Super Bowls while still coming back with dignity and grace.   Through all of the jokes and taunting, winning 4 conference championships is still among one of the greatest achievements in NFL history & they are very proud of it.

rip pancho
Ezra Castro with girlfriend Veronica Borjon & their kids Lourdes & Ginoboli

Ezra & the Spirit of Buffalo:

In true Buffalo Bill spirit, Pancho Billa battled until the end.   Just like Steve Tasker making an amazing play in a Super Bowl that had long been lost, Ezra never gave up.   Adversity was what Ezra faced each day after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Even in his darkest days he would show a positive, caring spirit that inspired so many. We DM’d each other on Twitter and his last message to me was a smiling emoji with a halo over his head. He knew. He also though remained positive asking people to never quit praying for a miracle. Giving up was never an option.

In reality the biggest gift Pancho Billa gave to people was the way he handled his illness. Even with social media bringing out the worst in people, he showed a spirit of pride and kindness that touched so many. He remained positive at the worst of times inspiring us all to not take ourselves too seriously. In a world where many get angry at the drop of a hat, he showed a calm passion and compassion for others during his fight.

The Power of NFL Fans:

Ezra reminded NFL fans everywhere that we are not gang members or part of a football militia that should hate anything not affiliated with our teams. He showed that in reality we are all on the same team of life and that football is a fun outlet & family to belong to. Happiness, health & supporting each other during the best and worst of times is what life is about. We all saw how our hearts are more powerful than any owners money or new stadium.   It’s about the fans and the amazing relationships that we create from being fans. The simplest of things.

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How I’ll Remember Ezra & You:

What I’ll remember most about Ezra, was how he brought everyone together. For a moment in time fans in New England and Oakland were on the same team. Dallas and Philly fans prayed for a miracle together and people began to realize all of the petty arguments and hate was not what being a fan was about.   It’s a willingness to help when hope is hard to find, and being there to support and love someone during great times as well as their darkest hour.

Many of you have really touched me with your sincerity and compassion and I’m very proud of everyone. Your kindness touched Ezra and helped him and his family get through such an unspeakable tragedy. As much of a gift people felt Pancho was, he felt the same about you. He brought out the best in all of us and it sure felt good.

How to Keep His Legacy Alive:

If you really want to keep his legacy alive, lets be like him. Give as much as you can to others and show kindness with a calm spirit. As Ezra once said, “don’t bring flowers to my funeral. I hate flowers. Bring backpacks full of school supplies for kids”. Think of others first, and show love and appreciation and support to one another. Most of all do it without judgement or opinion. Love completely without complete understanding. What an amazing legacy that would be. And nothing would be more pleasing to the great Pancho Billa.

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“Who do you Pick? The Oakland Raiders Top 5 Probable Picks in the First Round of Today’s NFL Draft”

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It’s here.

The NFL has done a masterful job in getting people addicted to the NFL draft. Some even pay “experts” to tell them who will be drafting who. The funny thing is if an expert can get 6-8 picks in the first round right, then that is really good. About 5 years ago KNBR pointed out after the draft how Mel Kiper Jr.; the present draft guru; got ONE pick right in the first round. What this tells us is that your guess is as good as theirs.

I first got into the draft in the 1980’s. To the ire of my mom, my dad and I would watch hours of the coverage.   She would vacuum under our feet and sigh every once in a while letting us know that Dr. Z’s thoughts on an offensive linemen was not vital to mankind’s existence. “How in the world can you watch hours of grown men talking about who to choose to go on a stupid football team?” Eventually my dad would say,”your mother is mad, let’s get some stuff done”.

My friends and I picked up the torch. In 2000 we started having a draft party. We would take the day off work to the chagrin of our female partners, and drink adult beverages, eat food, and draft for each of our favorite teams. We vowed to keep our draft picks and the following year (and years) we would rip on each other or brag about each of our picks. As a Raider fan, what really was sad is that a bloke like me drafted 100 times better than the Raiders did for almost 2 decades.

ESPN did a great article saying what I’ve been saying for years; NFL teams do not draft very well; especially at Quarterback. If you look at the NFL draft history, no team stands out as a great drafting team and most have had a lot more misses than they would like to admit.

Why The NFL Struggles With the NFL Draft:

It’s really not that hard. I can’t remember who said it, but during one of the drafts, he told a great story.   “If you have a beautiful woman standing in front of you, you are amazed at her perfection. If you look at her day after day then all of a sudden she’s a little too fat in some areas and she’s not as pretty as you thought. If you look hard at something long enough, you will find flaws and imperfections”.

The NFL combines is that over analyzing factor. I never watch or care about it. If a team denies 3 to 4 years of game film because a guy impresses them while wearing gym shorts in an air conditioned arena, then you deserve what you get. I remember half a dozen DB’s (and even a WR) picked by the Raiders alone purely because they had the fastest 40 times at the combines but they ended up being huge busts. Darrius Heyward-Bey was never really that good at Maryland and couldn’t carry Michael Crabtree’s jock but his 40 time wowed Al Davis and the rest is history. Still remember all of the Raider fans telling me to give him time. I hope they still aren’t waiting.

The NFL has also become a cookie cutter league. They have a certain size that they love in players. For QB’s if you are 6’ 3” and over with a big arm, you are anointed a great prospect. I watched Wyoming QB Josh Allen in a lot of games and to be honest I never saw him as a great QB or even a first rounder.

Josh Allen has bust written all over him but he’s big and has a rocket arm.   He’s never been in the top 50 in QB rating and against the best competition he’s faced, he had his worst games. In contrast players like Baker Mayfield and Georgia LB’s Roquan Smith’s best games were against their best competition.

In true NFL manner, someone also has brought up tweets that Allen made when he was 15 and 16 trying to stir it up. Funny how they are brought into the news right before the draft, but no one said this wasn’t a dirty business.

To me the NFL is as ridiculous as it gets with some of their research.   The dumb questions teams and scouts ask at the NFL combines are of legend. This year one possible draft pick was asked if he was gay and another was asked what type of women he liked. Other dumb questions that players have admitted they were asked will astound you. Do you wear boxers or briefs; is your mom pretty; what’s the most popular drug at your school; if you had to kill someone, would you use a knife or a gun?; when did you lose your virginity; what team do you pick in Madden and why?; if I give you a paper clip, what things would you do with it?   And these are the “experts” that some fans like to defend when people question teams choices?

Fans v.s. Teams:

Personally I’ve had some stud drafts over the years. Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson have been great picks for me but I’m honest. I also wanted Matt Leinart so I’ve had my train wrecks too.   While the Raiders picked Gareon Conley last year I chose Reuben Foster. I like my chances on that one too.

This years draft will be classic because there are so many QB’s in it which means there will be busts. For me I’m not in love with any of the QB prospects. Darnold is a turnover machine who takes too many chances; Rosen has to have a lot of time because he struggles against a rush; and Lamar Jackson out of Louisville looks like an athlete playing QB a lot like Terrelle Pryor and even former Texas Longhorn QB Vince Young.

The Raiders will choose……..

Oakland will pick in the #10 spot after losing the coin flip to San Francisco.   What stinks is that the 49ers have many of the needs that Oakland does. San Francisco would love to have another linebacker to go with Reuben Foster and their young and talented DL but they also have huge holes in the secondary just like the Raiders.

As I’ve said before, the rule changes have made passing the ball so much easier and it’s limited the effectiveness of defensive backs. You have to have a pass rush. The Patriots lead the NFL in post season sacks and who would think Tom Brady would be stopped on his last 2 drives in the Super Bowl? The Eagles pass rush stopped those drives. Offense puts butts in the seats but defense wins championships. The Raiders pass rush was poor again last year and that is with Khalil Mack in the fold. They desperately need a DT that can push the pocket back to opening up sack opportunities.   Below are the players that they are almost certain to have on their draft board.

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  1. Roquan Smith, LB Georgia

I don’t think he will last. If he drops down to the 49ers it’s hard to think them passing up on him. Smith can play every down and can start immediately and he and Foster would be some tandem in the 49er recent tradition of linebackers.  He can play every down and he’s legit.

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  1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S Alabama

I’m into pass rush and having a stud defensive front 7 but Minkah is a stud. Some teams say he doesn’t have the ideal size but I like him a lot. If the Raiders do get him then it says they aren’t exactly thrilled with #2 draft pick safety Obi Melifonwu which means another wasted pick. Obi is an amazing athlete but he has little instinct especially in the passing game. I did not like the pick last year. Karl Joseph also struggles at times in pass coverage.   Fitzpatrick is instinctive and can tackle. The Raiders have missed a lot on draft picks, and you can’t keep redrafting and resigning positions due to mistakes and win.

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  1. Mike McGlinchey, OT Notre Dame

McGlinchey is the sexy pick of late for draft “guru’s”. He is a polished player who is 6’ 8” and 310 pounds.   Most feel that he needs to hit the weight room a bit but overall he is a great talent who can start right away.   They need defense so I’m not so sure about this pick.   The Raiders defense isn’t that good and they have to upgrade the talent.

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  1. Vita Vea, DT Washington

I love this pick. He can move the pocket and he’s as strong as it gets. He’s a beast in the middle and he can push the pocket back and be a huge problem for offenses to block. Problem is, it shows again wasted picks with Jihad Ward who is a probable bust, and Eddie Vanderdoes who didn’t supply a pass rush up the middle just like he didn’t at UCLA. I personally think because of the picks the past 2 years, Vita might be passed over if he drops this far but it would be a mistake.

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  1. Derwin James, S Florida St.

He’s got classic Raider pick written all over him and I don’t like it. He’s big at 6’ 3” 215 lb., and he has good speed. He’s more of a safety than a CB. I’m not thrilled with this pick but with the Raiders revolving door of DB busts draft picks and signings they’ve had over the recent years, I still have nightmares of bad first round DB draft choices dancing in my head.  Don’t be surprised if this is their guy.

Jims Jamz:

Barring a trade, these are probably the draft picks the Raiders will choose from. A new rumor yesterday said the Raiders may draft up for stud DE Bradley Chubb out of N.C. State, but wake me up if that happens. (I’m still waiting for the LeVeon Bell to the Raiders and Odell Beckham Jr. to the Patriots rumors to come true). The Raiders have had many chances to sign a stud pass rusher but they didn’t spend the money and I find it hard for them to move up to do this.  Getting Chubb would immediately improve their defense but me winning the lottery would improve my goals of buying cars for everyone.

So there  you have it.  Pour yourself an adult beverage and enjoy the draft. But remember, it’s easy to be right after the fact and complain about others on social media, than it is to be accountable for your picks.  If you have the guts though, start drafting for your favorite team and see how you do versus the experts like we’ve been doing for 19 years. It’s a lot easier being a critic than a GM.

 

“Are Raider Fans Being Too Hard on Derek Carr; Is He Worth The Money?; What Happened to the Offense?; Derek Carr Thursday”

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When will I learn.

Sometimes I get a little carried away on Facebook. I admit it. The good is that I see thoughtful, smart people bringing good takes and knowledge into many subjects.  Some have even sought me out on social media to talk to me or ask me questions.  Others personally email me or even talked to me on the phone.   I’ve even become friends with some famous people who are mad enough to like my writing.  Then I see some of the most insane comments and it makes my eyes pop out. From Tom Brady is a bad QB, to what leaders are part of the reptilian race, to the “fact” that the world is really flat and we could still fall off the end of it; there is no end to the Facebook insanity.  The statements would be funny if these people didn’t have kids, but that’s for another day. In regards to the Raiders though, I was surprised at how nasty some Raider fans have been in regards to Derek Carr.

Is Derek Carr Worth the Money?

The reality is, Oakland had to pay Carr that much especially after such a great year.  I get some people’s issues with spending that much. Let’s be real; MANY of the QB’s in the NFL aren’t worth the money.   Even with the rules making looking at a WR a penalty, the QB position in the NFL may never be as bad as it is today.   When the media is trying to tell us how good Kirk Cousins is, or that Jay Cutler is really a great QB when he wants to be, or that Matthew Stafford might be a hall of famer when he’s 4-45 against teams that eventually make the playoffs, I want to throw up. These are QB’s who are making gobs of money but no way are they great. Their numbers are amazing because the rules have changed so much making passing the ball so easy. Could you imagine Montana, Elway, Stabler or Marino, or Rice with these rules?

The answer is no, Derek Carr is not worth the money but that is the going rate and they had to pay him or they would have lost him. The QB position is in such a bad state that many in the media were raving about Tyrod Taylor who was near last in most every passing category do having Carr is more than a good thing.   The truth is the Raiders had to pay Derek or start over; again. Any Raider fan want to go back to that state?

The Truth About Derek Carr:

I’m so glad Raider fans have come around. Over the last 4 years I’ve taken a TON of heat from them for Derek Carr, but that hate is gone. Those same people are now understanding what I’ve been saying and even agreeing with me.

I said 4 years ago that he would be a good QB but not a great one. When many fans last year said he was the greatest QB in Raiders history I just winced. The media went nuts over him. Now the same media and some of the same fans are pointing out weaknesses and two prominent people in the media said he’s way overrated. One person this morning online wanted to start a petition to bench him. Everything is so manic these days in the world of social media.

AGAIN; Carr is a solid NFL QB. His strengths are his arm and he’s accurate when he has time to step up in the pocket and throw. When he’s on the move and no one is trying to sack him, he’s very accurate and makes good decisions. He’s a positive leader and takes responsibility for the team and the players.   In today’s game that is rare.

What Derek struggles with is that he’s not good when he’s under pressure.   He gets flustered when he’s under a tough rush and then he begins to throw too soon, missing passes. He also doesn’t run enough. It’s just not in his makeup.

He is also not a great game manager at times. Some fan tried to convince me that Derek isn’t allowed to audible but that’s insane; high school QB’s audible. He audibles at times, but not enough of the time. Watch Ben Roethlesberger, or Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. There are some drives where they audible every play. The QB is the coach on the field and he has to have a feel for what plays are needed. You can’t rip on Todd Downing without ripping on Carr who has the final say for what plays are used on the field. A few fans said he’s just uncomfortable doing it. Well if you want to be the highest paid player in the NFL, then get comfortable.

Derek has mostly good and some bad, but he is solid and many teams would love to have him. If you are looking for Ken Stabler and Daryl Lamonica in Derek Carr, it’s not happening. With his arm, I wish Derek would watch a lot of Lamonica’s films because he could learn a ton from the “Mad Bomber”.  I do agree however with some of the fans that have said he’s the highest paid player in the NFL so why should we cut him a break. I get it. I’m just telling you what I think are his talents and his weaknesses, but I hear you.

Why Has Carr & the Offense Struggled This Year:

First off, please stop with the injury excuses. Derek hasn’t been injured in weeks. The back injury he has is not rare. Players usually come back within 2 weeks. Some come back within a week. Tony Romo talked about the injury and said it sounds worse than it is. Yet months later some fans want to use that as an excuse. No; Even Derek said he’s good to go and has been for a while and he’s not even listed on any injury report. The NFL goes crazy if you are injured and you don’t report it. Tom Brady has been on the injury report for weeks with an Achilles injury but in reality it’s not a big deal. You have to report it though.

The rumor that the team turned on him due to the national anthem thing is ridiculous. These guys love him and are personal friends with him. Carr every year gets all of the OL big gifts for Christmas to thank them for their play.   This issue was high school drama and the media tried to fuel it like they were creating a reality show. The NFL even got caught up into it thinking it would increase ratings but it did the opposite. Now you are hardly hear about it and the NFL doesn’t comment on it any more.

What DID happen is that the Raiders are playing a much tougher schedule than last year for one. Last year the Raiders were barely beating bad teams for much of the year. They were 12-4 but they also had the 2nd easiest schedule in the NFL. This year they have the 29th-30th easiest. That makes a huge difference.

Another thing is the Raiders are doing NOTHING different. Teams have adjusted to the Raiders and now play press coverage to take away the short passes. Last year if you look at tape, teams were giving the Raiders 10-15 yard cushions worrying about the deep ball. Carr lead the NFL on how quickly he got rid of the ball because the short throws were there all day. Unfortunately he leads the NFL again this year in that category. The problem is that teams are no longer giving the Raiders the short ball.

Look at the Chiefs? Head Coach Andy Reid won’t adjust anything even after a long losing streak. Teams now play 2 deep to take away the deep ball and try to take away the run on first down. He won’t change though.   Change is a 4 letter word in the NFL.   It’s been an Andy Reid weakness for years. Now QB Alex Smith is still trying to throw deep with really bad results.

The Raiders need to readjust but with an inexperienced OC and a QB who is not big on audibles, you have defenses daring the Raiders the throw deep. Carr has thrown many more interceptions this year and he seems gun shy now. Another area of concern is the Raiders WR’s have struggled with drops. Amari Cooper has been bothered by the more physical play of the DB’s on him and he needs to be stronger off the line. The press coverage has really controlled him. In Cooper’s big game against the Chiefs, KC played an insane defense of ½ cover 2 but then played up on Crabtree, and they gave a cushion to Cooper. Cooper was open all day. Andy Reid has a history of over coaching and over thinking things and he did it again.   The Chiefs were one of the few teams that had been giving the Raiders trouble last year, but they changed their defense. It makes no sense.

The Raiders also went to the zone blocking scheme up front to suit Marshawn Lynch which was ridiculous. The Zone blocking scheme was popular when the 49ers and Broncos of the 80’s and 90’s used it due to them having smaller but quicker OL. The Raiders have a huge, physical OL. They need to go back to the power run game and tell Marshawn it is what it is.

The Future of Derek Carr with the Raiders:

Derek Carr is going no where so you can want to trade him, drop him or bench him, but none of that is happening. Until next year, he’s the highest paid player in the NFL. He’s going to be the Raiders QB for the upcoming years at least. The Raiders need to hire an experienced OC who is going to push Carr to be more aggressive on the field, something that won’t be easy.

Ken Stabler would throw an interception, look who’s in the crowd watching the game, and then throw a TD to Cliff Branch on the next drive. For the great ones, their confidence levels are extremely high and they get over an interception quickly and come out swinging.   Derek is different and when he starts throwing INT’s you can literally see his demeanor change.

Even with the hiring of Downing, Carr has to take some blame. Part of the reason they hired him was to make Derek Happy because he really likes him.  It’s obvious Downing is not the answer as offensive coordinator.

Jims Jamz:

When you see the state of the NFL QB today, Derek Carr is a solid option and many teams would love to have him. He’s the Raiders QB and he’s a good one, but he also has limitations.  Put Carr on Buffalo and they immediately become a top team. With the Raiders defense lacking talent, and their coaches on the hot seat trying to keep their jobs, the Raiders have a lot more bigger fish to fry than to worry about Derek Carr. This off season will definitely be a wild one in the east bay.

 

 

“Evaluating the Oakland Raiders from GM & Coaches to DB & QB: Who Stays in 2018 & Who Doesn’t; Plus Possible Draft Picks”

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You are what your record says you are.

The Raiders laid another egg yesterday in a 26-15 loss to Kansas City.  Thanks to Alex Smith’s horrible day, he kept it close in a game that really wasn’t that close.  Some say how can they be this bad after a 12-4 season.  Part of the reason was that they played one of the easiest schedules in the NFL last year and barely won several games.  They weren’t as good as their 12-4 record said.  Also on offense where teams now no longer give them the easy, short passes, the Raiders have done little to adjust.  After this disappointing loss in Kansas City, even though it’s way too early, let’s take a quick look at each position and coach to see who may or may not be back next year.

 General Manager:

Mark Davis likes Reggie McKenzie and it’s hard to see him not back for at least one more year. I think the Raiders are frustrated though at another lost draft pick to injury just like DJ Hayden, and Karl Joseph who all missed significant time their rookie seasons just like CB Gareon Conley did this year.

From Derrick Gibson and Philip Buchanon, to DJ Hayden, the Raiders have been missing on DB’s for a long time. They also have had several signed busts as well. The Raiders front 7 has never been the focus; the DB’s are always the focus and it’s a terrible plan. Shore up the defensive front 7 and your defense will improve immediately.   The best defenses in the NFL have stud front 7’s. With the new rules, the days of shut down corners and DB’s like the soul patrol are over. This is a huge off season for McKenzie.

Jack Del Rio:

When Jack Del Rio was hired, I wrote 2 articles saying this wasn’t a great hire. The Raider nation called me a fool. Huh? Oh how the mighty have fallen. All off season and last year you heard in Jack we trust and all of the other corny sayings. Those same people now want Jack’s head. Many fans online are calling for his firing.

KNBR’s Gary Radnich is not one to spread rumors. He said he’s close to some of the people on the Raiders present staff and they are saying Del Rio isn’t exactly the most loyal guy to his staff and he’s a huge micro manager. There are also grumblings that he’s not exactly getting along with Mark Davis and/or Reggie McKenzie. His firing which was once thought to be crazy may happen. Problem is he’s owed a ton of money after signing a 4 year extension in February. Look for Jack to be back for at least one more year.  And remember in his tenure at Jacksonville he went through 19 coaches.

Todd Downing:

He hasn’t’ done a good job but he’s the fans and amateur writers scapegoat. The truth is Derek Carr holds some of the blame too.   Carr is the coach on the field and he has the last say on plays that are called. If you are going to trash Downing then you need to trash Derek Carr who seems to only occasionally audible. Carr for this year is the highest paid NFL player.  Rodgers, Brady & Roethlesberger to name a few, audible for most of the game.

Downing was in over his head and it’s hard to see him back next year but Carr loved this guy and this was a hire to please him.

John Pagano:

Pagano is a solid defensive coordinator and he should be retained.   He still has a lot of work to do though. Kansas City’s offensive line and QB Alex Smith were horrible yesterday but they still got a 26-0 lead at one point. Smith in particular was bad with his decision making and accuracy being a mess when the Chiefs should have had 40 points easy.

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Defensive Line:

The Raiders for years have tried to fix the defense by signing and drafting defensive backs; it doesn’t work. If you look at most of the teams that are thriving, the key to their defenses are the front 7. They may have quality DB’s but you have to have a pass rush to win in the NFL. The Raiders don’t.

Fans will lose their mind when a player has a big game but there is no consistency. Khalil Mack had a 6 game stretch this year where he had only 1 ½ sacks and only 27 tackles. The Raiders were 2-4 in that stretch. He once was benched for poor play. In the first 10 games of the year, Bruce Irvin had 2 ½ sacks and only 34 tackles. That doesn’t scare any opponent.

Mario Edwards had a few moments but he also has not proven he’s the answer to the DL issues. Jihad Ward was not a good pick last year and even though he played most of 2016, he had very little success. Even though he’s been healthy, the Raiders have not even had him suit up for some games so already his days may be numbered.

Eddie Vanderdoes is this years Ward and he has not had much of an impact as well with has only 13 tackles all year even though he’s started often. The Raiders have to sign or draft a dominating DT who can put pressure on the QB or they will struggle; AGAIN.

Linebackers:

Navorro Bowman loves the bay area and Reggie McKenzie loves him; he did a good job in signing him. Look for Bowman to be back next year. He’s not the player he once was but he definitely is an upgrade to what the Raiders had and he’s a hard worker with good leadership skills. I love him on the team.

To be honest other than Irvin, the rest of the LB core are borderline NFL starters. The Raiders LB’s still struggle a lot in pass coverage. The Raiders need another starter and if I’m drafting next year my first 2 picks are a DT and an LB. The Raiders have to improve their front 7 or not much will change. And to watch the 49ers Reuben Foster have 45 tackles in the last 5 games and 3 for loss, is a little rough when the Raiders could have drafted him.

Defensive Backs:

If there was ever any ammo against Reggie McKenzie, it’s his signings and drafting of DB’s. DJ Hayden was a huge bust and now he finally is starting on a bad Detroit pass defense after being a nickel back for most of the year.

David Amerson did well his first year but teams found out that he struggles covering the deep ball. If the Raiders keep him it will definitely be at a lesser salary. Sean Smith has been a bust and his big salary will be taken off the books in the off season. Reggie Nelson has never been a great factor and his 4 million will also be taken off the books. Whether Gareon Conley is ready or not, he’s going to start next year. He was never good against the run at Ohio St. but his claim to fame was as a coverage man. He will get his chance quickly next year after being another injured Reggie draft pick that didn’t do much his first year.

Karl Joseph is what he is. A hard hitter who is good against the run but will struggle at times in coverage.   Covering the tight end is still an issue in Oakland. Joseph had a bad game in KC with some awful missed tackles.

Safety Obi Melifonwu is an amazing athlete and good tackler but he has a lot to learn. His struggles in college were due to a lack of instinct and he also will probably be thrown into the fire next year. That could get ugly. TJ Carrie is an OK DB but he’s never going to be the shut down corner or key safety.   He can provide depth though. Due to the wasted money and mistakes, the Raiders will need help in free agency. PLEASE; No more high DB picks. I beg of you.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr is now the highest paid player in the NFL and he’s feeling the pressure. He is a good, solid NFL QB, but he will never be a great QB. His reluctance to run and his uncomfortable movements when he’s rushed are obvious even to the average fan. Last year teams gave the Raiders the short ball and this year they took it away and Carr and Todd Downing never adjusted. EJ Manuel signed a 1 year 800k contract so it’s not known if he will resign. To be honest if the Raiders are relying on their backup to win, they are in huge trouble just like everyone else in the NFL.

Running Backs:

Marshawn Lynch is signed for one more year and the Raiders are solid with DeAndre Washington Jalen Richard. Jamize Olawale is also a good player. I like these guys. Lynch is not a consistently good pass catcher though so when the Raiders are behind, his presence will diminish.  The Raiders are not a zone blocking team and many have said so.

amari-cooper-102715-usnews-getty-ftr_1ux25gwah6gzl1qv5adpzl1ljj

Wide Receiver:

Cooper and Crabtree are solid but both have struggled with drops. Cooper needs to get more physical and with DB’s now playing on the line, he’s had issues getting into his routes. He’s a hard worker and has too much talent not to come back next year. Cordarrelle Patterson runs the worst routes in the NFL but he can run fast downfield and also is great on reverses. He makes plays and is a great return guy. Johnnie Holton is a wild card who can make plays but he doesn’t show consistency.  He’s also a fumble machine if he’s hit after the catch. Seth Roberts is liked by the Raiders but his days may be numbered as the #3 WR. With issues in other areas, WR can be fixed easier than the defense.

Offensive Line:

The Raiders OL is set for at least another year. They’ve played better in the second half of the season and they are a huge key to the success of the team. Using a zone scheme on running plays has hurt this team. They need to go back to the power scheme and Marshawn Lynch needs to accept it.

Draft Choices:

First off the draft positions change like the wind. These are players that I like early on. Oakland almost always picks a DB in the first 2 rounds so this may be wishful thinking. I haven’t agreed with a lot of their draft picks especially the DB’s, but it is what it is. Here are a handful of names that may help the Raiders.

Roquan Smith LB, Georgia:

The Raiders defense would immediately improve with this guy. He’s probably the best LB in the draft and he’s been a huge key to making Georgia a top defense. Many feel he should have gotten more Heisman hype than he got. A big playmaker that can start immediately.   He would be great beside Navorro Bowman and can play all downs.

DaRon Payne DT, Alabama:

Payne has really come on this year after working hard in the off season to shed a little weight which has improved his speed. At 6’ 2” and 310 pounds he runs a 4.93 40 and is a freakish athlete. He can play in passing and running downs and can create pressure on the quarterback.

Maurice Hurst DT, Michigan:

Hurst has had a good season and is solid as a run stopper and a pass rusher.   He’s very athletic and is projected as a first rounder by some, a second rounder by a few.

Clelin Ferrell, DE Clemson:

The Raiders really need a DT that can push the OL back and put pressure on the QB, but Ferrell is an excellent pass rusher that they might not be able to pass on.

Like I said, social media has a lot of people that love a player and coach one day and then wants them fired the next. In reality this is business. You evaluate long and short term to see if the person or player in the position will eventually be the answer to the problem.

Also the salary cap plays a role. You can’t fix everything so you need to fix the biggest issues and do your best at other positions.

This has been a disappointing year for Oakland but they played a much tougher schedule than last year. Last year the Raiders beat a lot of bad teams and often in the last minutes of games.   I think the Raiders were not as good as their record was last year and they’ve now come back down to earth.

The defense has huge issues though and that has to be fixed. The Raiders also need to get an OC that will challenge Carr to be more of a game general out there. He will never be a running QB but a scramble now and then would help as well.

This off season will see changes and lots of decisions. Time will tell if the Raiders have the people to make the right ones, and the players to carry them out.

 

“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.

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

 

nick_saban_09182012

What a difference 10 years makes.

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

The Reality in Norman:

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

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

When Bob Stoops Arrived at Oklahoma:

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

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

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

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

Nick Saban Comes To Alabama:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recruiting Rankings:

2007:

Oklahoma #5

Alabama #17

 

2008

Oklahoma #8

Alabama #3

 

2009

Oklahoma #11

Alabama #2

 

2010

Oklahoma #20

Alabama #3

 

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

(www.rivals.com)

2013

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

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

 

2014

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

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

 

2015

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

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

 

2016

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

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

 

2017

Oklahoma #4

Alabama #2

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

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

Oklahoma: (2 five star, 39 four star)

Alabama: (19 five star, 50 four star)

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

Alabama a Step Above:

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

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

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

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

The SEC Formula; Nick Saban’s Way:

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

-have great team speed

-stop the run to make offenses predictable

-put great pressure on the QB and control the tempo

-have a great offensive and defensive line

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

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

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

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

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

Saban’s Way Saved the Mississippi Game:

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

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

Bob Stoops To LSU?:

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

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

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

“Raiders Grades; Positives On Defense; How Do The Raiders Match-Up With Baltimore”

Michael Crabtree, Da Norris Searcy
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) loses his helmet after catching a pass as he was defended by Tennessee Titans strong safety Da’Norris Searcy, left, in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Tennessee Titans; Week 3:

Tennessee Titans  10 (1-2)

Oakland Raiders 17 (2-1)

On Sunday the Raiders outlasted the Titans 17-10. It was a nice game for the defense which played well.  The Raiders dominated in the first half but did not score in the second half.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr definitely didn’t have his best day. He made some good throws but he missed two long passes and was late on more than a few passes. Twice Amari Cooper had his man beaten deep and Carr missed him. Carr was frustrated with himself after the game. He got rattled a little bit when the Titans began blitzing but overall he had a pretty good game. Overall though he had an ok game.

GRADE: B-

You can’t be really good every game but Carr will have a much stiffer defense to go against next week.   Plus Pro Football Focus in their evaluation kept calling him David. Better days ahead.

Running Backs:

The Raiders multiple headed monster at RB is working well. The Raiders ran for 123 yards. After Latavius Murray’s 22 yard TD run though, he ran 9 times for only 15 yards. He seems to glide through holes while DeAndre Washington (6 carries for 28 yards) and Jalen Richard (6 carries for 37 yards) hit the holes like rockets. Washington and Richard have been in during important parts of games this year, and it’s worked wonders. I like the 3 of them sharing carries.

Grade A-

Murray struggled after his TD run but Washington and Richard picked up the slack. In the first half especially the Raiders were dominating the Titans defense.

Offensive Line:

In the first half it was like a college team playing against a high school team. The Raiders OL flat out dominated. Carr was sacked only once, and for the most part they played really well. The Raiders running game had another 100+ yard game. The problem today was penalties, which lead to a sloppy game.

Grade B

Maybe I’m being hard on them but there were a lot of penalties that hurt drives. Overall though, another good performance.

Wide Receivers:

Michael Crabtree is one of the best WR in the NFL right now. With another 100+ yard game with 8 catches, he’s the best possession WR in the NFL. He’s the glue in the passing game. Cooper had 4 catches for 62 yards but Carr missed him on a couple of long throws. Cooper has avoided the drops for the most part but he dropped a key 3rd down pass that was right in his hands. Clive Walford caught only 2 passes and against good teams, the Raiders have to make him a bigger part of the offense. Seth Roberts caught a TD pass on a nice catch and run, but he also dropped a key pass that was right in his hands.

GRADE: B

Carr wasn’t himself and that hurt them but they had a few drops. A pretty good day but it could have been better. The Titans don’t exactly have speed with their cornerbacks so a long connect to Cooper would have been nice.

Defensive Line:

Khalil Mack had another bad game; only 1 solo tackle, one assisted tackle and no sacks with a penalty.   I’ve never seen a guy start off so slow every year. The pass rush for the most part was absent again; the Raiders had one sack; and now they have only 3 on the season. By himself Von Miller has 5 sacks and 1 forced fumble that lead to a TD and sealed the game against the Colts.

Against the run it got ugly. The Raiders gave up 181 rushing yards at 6.2 yards a rush. Ouch.

Grade: D

You can’t just blame the DL. The LB’s struggled as well and even though S Karl Joseph made some tackles, he made them more downfield than he’d like. Right now the Raiders DL is lucky they are playing lesser competition.

Linebackers:

DeMarco Murray and TE Delanie Walker are pretty much all the weapons Tennessee have. Walker didn’t play. This helped the Raiders greatly because the Safeties and LB’s didn’t have to cover the tight ends much. The Titans lack talent and team speed and the LB’s could play aggressively.   They still were bad against the run, struggling to shed blocks. The Raiders gave up scoring drives of 59, 93 and the last drive the Titans went 71 yards in a minute and looked like they should have got a penalty on TJ Carrie in the end zone.

Grade C+

They had a hit or miss day. Against the run they were awful; against the pass they were better but the level of competition was pretty bad.

Defensive Backs:

With all of these high draft picks the Titans have used on Wide Receivers, you’d think they’d have a great group. They may be the worst in the NFL. Their only deep threat Kendall Wright didn’t play but even he has had only 1 good year in his short career. Without any speed at WR the Raiders DB’s were not in fear of getting beaten deep and as I said before the game, this is a great matchup for them.

David Amerson played an excellent game and is turning into a solid corner; a great pickup by Reggie McKenzie. Safety Karl Joseph made some tackles but you could tell he’s getting his sea legs. He made a lot of tackles 5-10 yards downfield; in time those hopefully will be at the line of scrimmage or even behind the line. It’s a lot more fun not going up against Julio Jones & Brandin Cooks. The DB’s had a couple of good hits on tackles as well.

The Raiders caught a break on the final play for the Titans which was an obvious pass interference; the second year in a row a controversial call cost the Titans against the Raiders; but the Raiders will not complain. TJ Carrie was smiling in a local interview and joked with the reporter, ”It was a good play right?” The Titans drove down in the last drive 71 yards in 1 minute which was the worst sequence of the game for the DB’s.

Grade B+  

With the Titans pretty much having no deep threat, the DB’s played aggressive and physical. They are not the soul patrol and hopefully they can at least become a pretty good group. I like Joseph.

Coaching:

It got a little confusing in the second half. On 2 third down plays (5 yard and 3 yard), the Raiders ran the ball and then punted.   It was somewhat conservative especially since the Titans DB’s were giving 5-7 yard cushions to the Raiders WR all game.

The Raiders had a chance to put away the Titans in the first drive of the second half and didn’t.   On 3 first down plays the Raiders ran Murray up the middle for 5 yards on 3 rushes. After 7 plays they punted. Very conservative. They should have come out swinging.

Funny how when the Raiders defense does good you don’t hear anything about the coaches. You can’t give coaches the blame when the team struggles and then give them no credit when they do well. Aw fans.

Grade C+

The first half the Raiders looked pretty good. You thought they’d come out blazing in the second half, but again they were predictable and conservative on offense.

Special Teams:

Sebastian Janikowski now has the record for most 50 yard plus field goals. Marquette King gets better each week and had 2 booming punts.   Richard had a pretty good day running back punts. Jones only ran back one kickoff for 16 yards.

Grade A-

The return game was better for the punting team and King and Janikowski are solid.

Conclusion:

The Titans right now are the second worst team in the NFL behind the Bears. The Titans are 2-18 in their last 20 home games and 6-29 in their last 35 games overall.   With all their failed drafts, the Titans are now where the Raiders used to be. As I said on draft day, Mariota has moxy, is athletic, but he’s just not accurate enough for my taste.  Any win on the road is good but the Raiders in reality should have torched them.   Oakland still doesn’t have a dominating signature win yet. If the PI is called and the 2 point conversion fails in New Orleans, this could be a different season. They have to play better.

Baltimore Ravens:

The Raiders are 2-7 lifetime against Baltimore, and 0-5 playing the Ravens on the road. This is a place that has given them nightmares. It’s loud and the Ravens play very physical at home.

While this isn’t the great Baltimore defenses of the past they are still solid so far. They rank #3 against the pass and #8 against the run. They have 9 sacks on the year which is 7th overall in the NFL. They’ve beaten the Bills at home, and the Jaguars and Browns on the road. Not exactly the NFL elite for this year so being 3-0 isn’t as impressive against these teams.

On offense they have Joe Flacco but not a whole lot else.   Backup Terrance West and Justin Forsett share carries, and ageless Steve Smith is still their go to man at WR.   Journeyman WR Mike Wallace is their deep threat. Their TE Dennis Pitta is having a great year and is a big part of their offense. He has 18 catches in 3 games. They are the 19th rated passing team and the 25th rated running team.

Outlook:

The Raiders on defense should have another good game. The Ravens don’t have a lot of speed and are not a team to score a lot of points but they will play a physical style on defense and rush the passer. Running yards may be difficult for the Raiders offense and the OL will be tested.

Look for a physical game in Baltimore next week with not a lot of scoring. The Raiders travel a lot but their schedule is not hard so this game would be a nice win for them.  Look for the Raiders to make a statement.