When Ken Norton was released from being the defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders, it started the ball rolling. According to some reporters, the ball is still rolling.
With Offensive coordinator Todd Downing being the scapegoat to all of the Raiders offensive problems, he is probably gone. He definitely didn’t do a good job, but there was a lot of blame to go around. People forget the main reason to hiring him was to make Derek Carr happy before negotiations to his huge contract. Carr loved the hire. Todd Downing was not ready for the job but it is what it is.
The blame is also being given to OL coach Mike Tice now which is puzzling. He’s a good coach and I feel something is fishy here and we will talk about this in a bit.
Going back to Downing, Some complained about the play calling but Derek Carr has the final say on what plays are called. He can audible any time he wishes but usually doesn’t. You can’t blame Downing without giving blame to Carr. And that’s the tip of the iceberg on offense and defense.
Is Del Rio Still The Answer?:
When JDR was hired, only a few would say that the hiring of Jack Del Rio was not as great as many thought. Most Raider fans loved Jack Del Rio; “in Reggie we trust; in Jack we trust!” was all you heard all off season on social media. Now the same loyal soldiers are carrying pitchforks and torches.
As is the norm, I took ton of heat for my article on Jack Del Rio when he was hired but many of the things I warned fans about are now coming to fruition. It was a safe hire but there were many others I liked more.
To refresh our memories, Jack Del Rio went through 19 coaches during his 9 years at Jacksonville. Usually when coaches are fired and the head coach isn’t, that means the blame is being put on the coaches instead of the head coach. (Insert Mike Tice’s name here). In 2016 when Mike McCoy kept his job for the Chargers, most of his staff was fired. John Pagano the defensive coordinator of the Raiders was one of them. Frank Reich the Offensive coordinator of the Eagles was also fired by the Chargers, who before their Qb’s injury was the #1 offense in the NFL. His staff was sliced and diced but Mike McCoy Survived another year before he was fired.
Gary Radnich of KNBR 680 and KRONTV fame, is a media icon in the bay area and he never says insider information unless he has facts to back them. When Norton was fired Gary said he knew people in the Raiders front office and there were grumblings about Del Rio. The complaints were mostly about the same issues he had at Jacksonville. Jack was a control freak and didn’t let the coordinators or other coaches do what they wanted. Jack also manipulated people so that he deferred blame to some players and coaches when things didn’t go well. The magical kingdom was crumbling.
The question is will the Raiders give Jack Del Rio three years of free money to go away and get nothing in return? It’s hard to think they will do this but crazier things have happened.
Every teams fan base is pretty much the same. The New York Giants fans last year raved about their front office and coaching staff when they made the playoffs. Now after a terrible season, the fans want their entire front office fired; which most will; even though this was the same coaching staff that lead them to the playoffs last year. I guess they all have Alzheimer’s now and forgot how to coach. The fact that they had more injuries than any other team in the NFL might be more of the reason but that would be too easy. Many fans give all the credit to the players when they win, and all the blame to the coaches when they lose. And if the player is on the field but not playing well, then he has to be hurt. Personally I don’t get it.
And the fact that the Raiders played the 2nd easiest schedule in the NFL last year and had to struggle to barely beat some of these teams with 7 last minute wins means nothing I’m sure. This year they had the 2nd toughest schedule. There are many other reasons but I’ve talked about it at nausea in previous articles. Firing Downing is not going to bring a Super Bowl to Oakland.
Will Jack Del Rio Survive:
As I said previously, it’s hard to think that the Raiders will pay Jack Del Rio 3 years of salary to go away. I think he gets one more year. They have other problems too. The Raiders are near the poorest team in the NFL. The Las Vegas stadium is a mess. If the new GOP tax plan passes, it eliminates any public funds to be used for NFL stadiums. This means the Raiders would have to somehow be grandfathered in, but that will take time and may never happen. That means they may now have to come up with 750 million more dollars. It could get ugly real quick.
At the end of last year there was so much hope, and now there is lots of turmoil. This is the era of the salary cap and this is how things can change so quickly. With the Raiders making changes and getting an easier schedule next year, I see them coming back and having a good season. In reality I hope this makes more fans appreciate the 3 Super Bowl Titles the Raider greats of the past won. Daryle Lamonica was 40-4-1 in his first 45 starts as the Raiders QB. Ken Stabler was 56-13 in his first 69 starts. Oakland was 18-1-1 in their first 20 Monday night games. That’s why the Raiders of the past are so revered. It’s not that easy folks.
I’ve seen some of the craziest theories for some fans and even writers trying to explain the issues with the Raiders. I’m just not that smart I guess; I break it down to what is and not to what might be so let’s look at the statistics.
If you follow the NFL you know that owners and coaches have 2 flaws. They hate change and when they do change they copy someone. Right now the Raiders need to change their philosophy on both offense and defense to combat the changes other teams have done to stop them. For 4 straight weeks they’ve refused to adjust and it’s cost them against teams with less talent.
What Needs To Change On Offense To Beat the Chiefs:
The Raiders have completed only 2 passes over 40 yards this year and 15 passes for over 20 yards. That is on the same pace for last year.
The problem with that is for the last 4 games teams have begun to play press coverage on the Raiders. Commentators have talked about how teams no longer give the Raiders the easy short throws and the Raiders have to stretch the field. So far they haven’t adjusted to the defensive changes of other teams.
Bill Musgrave is not a genius and he was not a big loss even though some are getting way too carried away with his importance. He’s now the QB coach at Denver and Trevor Siemian is borderline atrocious, and is a big reason their offense struggles. What OC Todd Downing and Derek Carr are not getting is that they need to adjust their philosophy and they aren’t. Teams are taking away the short game so now you have to throw deep.
The first thing I’d do tonight is run a play action pass on first down and throw the deep ball. Even if it isn’t caught, it will give the threat of it. Cordarrelle Patterson is lightning fast and so is Amari Cooper & Johnny Holton. What good is that speed if you are not going to stretch the field? The NFL is a game of adjustments and those that don’t adjust, fail to keep their jobs.
Marshawn Lynch & The Formula to Beat Kansas City:
I was in the 1% who did not like the Lynch signing. He’s not the same player and he’s lost his burst. I like youth at RB; always have. Also the Raiders changed to a zone blocking scheme to accommodate his running style. The zone blocking scheme is more for smaller and quicker OL. The Raiders have a mammoth sized OL and they should be running the power scheme and NOT zone blocking. The running game has suffered for it.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 5-1 against the Chiefs in their last 6 games. Why? Because they stopped the nonsense of throwing 40-50 times and ran the ball down Kansas City’s throat each time. They also took away the run and the short pass to the RB’s and TE’s and tried to force Alex Smith to throw deep which is not his strength.
The Raiders need to run and run often. Jalen Richard & DeAndre Washington have to run the ball more. He’s quick to the hole where Lynch isn’t. If it were me Lynch would not even start, Richard would. I would employ Lynch as a short yardage or goal line back.
What Needs To Change On Defense:
The Raiders are 27th in the NFL in sacks with only 11. Sound Familiar? If you can’t rush the passer your defense will not be good; end of story. Especially in todays game with the rules protecting WR.
The Raiders also lack talent and you can’t fix that mid-season. Navorro Bowman was a great signing for the LB’s but he’s nowhere near what he was in the past. He’s had two terrible leg injuries and his speed has suffered a lot. If he can get there he can make a tackle that is for sure. On the Raiders though he immediately becomes their best LB. Bowman is not a blitzer; he’s a straight up LB and in his prime was as good as anyone in the game. All these ridiculous predictions of multiple sacks and 12-15 tackles and multiple fumble recoveries are fun stuff on Facebook groups I guess but it’s far from the real world. Hopefully Bowman can get into a regular rotation and get his sea legs in the Raiders defense for his first game.
The philosophy for years for Oakland was to sign and draft great db’s to fix the defense. That plan has failed miserably. With the rules today making looking at a WR a penalty, the QB and WR stats are like pinball scores. You have to have a pass rush or your DB’s are toast. The Raiders have failed to emphasize the DL and the LB and focus on DB’s and it doesn’t work. Right now they can’t cut Sean Smith who has around 9 million in cap room. They have to wait until next year. David Amerson who struggles with the deep ball, has 8.5 million on the books. That’s a huge amount of wasted money on limited return.
The Raiders DL still can’t rush the passer and for another painstaking year it’s killing the team on defense. Add that the last 2 weeks Mack has been quiet as well and wasn’t double teamed very much, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
It will take a miracle for the Raiders to win big with this defense but you have to make do. If I’m Jack Del Rio I go crazy with my play calls. The Raiders do not have the talent on defense to stop a lot of teams so I make sure on any third down with more than 5 yards to go I blitz someone. In fact I would blitz a lot but I’d change it up. If the Raiders do not get to the QB their DB’s and LB’s can’t cover. Karl Joseph struggles a lot covering TE and the LB’s coverage skills are so bad, ex-Raider Rich Gannon said he’d throw to the RB’s almost every time. The thought of Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce running wild after catching passes tonight is a definite worry.
The Player The Raiders Need To Change Their Defense Immediately:
Rams DT Aaron Donald is extremely unhappy where he is. This guy at times is unblockable. He’s double teamed often but he still gets big numbers. He is probably the best DT in the game. He’s 26 and in the prime of his career and he want’s big money. Well I make it work. The Raiders overpaid for some free agents and their money is coming off of the books. Sign him and Mack and now you have a special tandem.
I’d play Donald on the same side as Mack. I’d then start moving Mack around when teams figured that out. This would give the Raiders a pretty much unblockable DL especially on obvious passing downs. Now THIS tranforms your defense immediately. Not a DB that you hope works out when you don’t have a pass rush. Will the Raiders give that type of money to the DL along with Mack? Probably not. A man can dream can’t he?
What is Going To Happen Tonight?
If the Raiders do nothing to their schemes and keep throwing short and keep trying to play their defense straight up, then a close loss at home is probable and a 2-5 start will destroy their season.
If the Raiders wake up and start throwing deep and setting that up with a physical running game, then they can score some points. Their defense also needs to become much more aggressive on blitzes to hide their deficiencies in coverage. If they do these adjustments I think the Raiders win. If not, a 2-5 start is assured and this is with the hardest part of their schedule waiting ahead. And if I’m the GM and they don’t make these adjustments for the entire year, both coordinators will be looking for jobs elsewhere. I’d also tell Jack Del Rio he will be next if they don’t adjust. When teams adjust NFL coaches, change is good. I guarantee it.
Tomorrow I will be writing about the solutions the Raiders need to be successful this year. But today I’m doing something much different.
I pride myself on being objective but today I’m writing as a fan. Yesterday I read a lot of social media after the Raiders 30-17 loss at home to the Baltimore Ravens. I’ll have to agree with many Raider fans; never have I seen so much anger and nastiness from Raider fans towards the team, players and other fans in all of my life. The last 10 days there has been a heaviness on so many people. With the Las Vegas shooting and the overall dysfunction of our country in general, we are a depressed mess.
Athletes Acting Badly:
I see the anger and nastiness on Twitter and it’s scary that people like this are living among us. Why do athletes listen so much? We see it almost every day on social media. So many 20 and 30 something athletes losing their minds on social media over fans or media who say negative things about them. The NBA is the worst. You see players constantly slap fighting with each other verbally like little spoiled Jr. High School girls over petty squabbles or imaginary slights.
The Golden State Warriors Kevin Durrant; who many around the team say is a tad eccentric; was hurt by such negativity and was even caught with a fake Twitter account that he used to attack fans and to defend himself. He later apologized. A grown friggin man worried about what mostly young fans said behind a computer screen. That’s some kind of insecurity.
That pales in comparison to what is going on with others. We now have a video going viral of a long time NFL offensive line coach snorting a “white substance” and sending the video to a female stripper. How many players like Adrian Peterson are exposed with bad lifestyles when so many look up to them. Steve McNair; one of the most respected players in the last 25 years and the 1994 recipient of the Walter Payton Award; was murdered by his 20 y/o mistress. Why? Because he was seeing another mistress.
(Below; Miami Dolphins Offensive Line Coach Chris Foerster snorting a white substance)
Some players in the NFL have some pretty insane lifestyles; I get that; but it’s out of hand how inappropriate they and society have become.
Raiders Fans & Players Behaving Badly:
Donald Penn was the darling of Raider fans last year. The year before on social media he was trashed for being old and that he wasn’t worth the money. He gave up only one sack to Raiders QB Derek Carr all year but unfortunately that sack resulted in Carr breaking his ankle. It’s all been downhill after that.
Penn held out but eventually signed for a 21 million dollar contract, and he’s struggled at times this year. Fan’s have made him know how upset they are about it on social media and Penn called out one of the fans. The fan showed up after the game and it got ugly.
Penn has had several young male Raider fans trash him online and he’s no stranger to battling with them. During the confrontation several Raider fans started taunting him calling out 21 million, and other fun loving things. Internet trolls trying to make a name for themselves on social media acting inappropriately; wow there’s a shocker. Players feeding into the negativity due to frustration and anger at a 2-3 start with the hardest part of there schedule still in their future has fueled the fire.
There was also a video that I’m not going to post of Raider fans urinating in the stands. Men are pathetic at times.
What the Hell Has Happened:
Our society is a train wreck of classlessness and selfish behavior. The arrogance is through the roof. People hurt others and don’t think twice about it. Anger and violence is acceptable to many and it’s seen in NFL fans behavior time and time again.
The anger of the team going to Las Vegas and the poor play has created a negativity that I’ve never seen before. Even as a kid when the Raiders were leaving to Los Angeles, we didn’t want to hurt the players and people for the most part weren’t angry; they were just very sad they were leaving.
The day Al Davis moved to Los Angeles is the day the magic of the Raiders died. They have never and they will never be the same. The innocence of that time is gone. The Raiders were the winningest TEAM in U.S. sports for 25 years (and it wasn’t close) and would soon lose their mojo in Southern California. When they left, most in LA didn’t bat an eye. Even the LA Times said good riddance.
The team has never been the same but neither have the fans. The Raiders have a nice niche of younger fans in Southern California but as Raider great Tim Brown said on 95.7 The Game, “not enough to support an NFL Team unless everything is going great”. In LA the violence of fans during a tumultuous time in society fueled the crime and anger at Raiders games, and it’s been continued to some in a new generation. In the first 3 months of 2016, 3 of my female Raider followers had been MURDERED by their partners. All 3 were from Southern California and all 3 of the males had past gang involvement and were vocal Raider fans. Obviously not all So Cal fans are bad or violent, but this was greatly disturbing.
How to Not Get Caught Up In It:
I’m not Pollyanna. Raider fans were always pretty vulgar and aggressive, but they were never like this. And Oakland never was the cesspool of violence that the media portrayed they were.
(Below: link to my article on Raiders v.s. 49ers Fan violence)
In reality some people have forgotten what it is to be a Raider fan and they are too caught up in the drama or the attention of it. It’s about loyalty and family. The Raider tradition is about winning and having high standards without trolling on the internet and attacking players verbally. And for God’s sakes it’s not about violence and not being able to control your anger like an 8 year old bully. Appreciate the tradition and the amazing success the team has had in the past and grow from that tradition to generation to generation. Life is tough but Raider fans always came through for each other.
It’s not about acting like angry pigs. It’s not about classlessness and disrespecting the players and those around you. It’s ok to say something about a players play if they are failing, but to attack them like an anger management flunky shows a new kind of low.
NO ONE; has told the truth about how bad the Raiders have been over the years like I have. So many trashed me online for being negative but I wasn’t negative. I was honest and right almost every time. But I also see improvement in this team with still more work in the front office and on the field to do. I’ve been honest. Many have been blind to my honesty and just believe what they want to believe. Facts > biased opinion. Being critical is one thing though; being abusive, vulgar and so angry is just weird.
What’s worse, is that many of the people that were so angry yesterday, were the same ones attacking fans and writers who questioned just how good the Raiders were at the beginning of the year. They change like the wind. They used to call others haters and now they hate. Often wrong, never in doubt. Some seem to always be attacking someone.
Yesterday was the 6th Anniversary of Al Davis passing. One of the 5 greatest and most important figures in modern football. And in all of my years of knowing about this amazing team and dynasty, I’ve never seen so many bad displays from fans.
I was too young to remember a lot of what happened in the Raiders early years, but I’m going to watch a bunch of Raiders videos from the Ken Stabler era tonight. So many things are messed up with fans behaviors that I just need normality. I need to see winning and I need to see loyalty. And I need to feel a team and a fan base acting as one with pure joy, win or lose. This has been an awful year for me personally and with all that is happening with the Raiders and the fans, I feel like crap and I don’t want to anymore.
Young fans always wonder why people love to talk about the glory days of the Raiders. It’s because it was life changing. It was special, fun and inclusive. No Racism; no violence; no anger in losing. It was a time of glory and family. Tomorrow I’ll talk about what is needed on this team and if they can salvage the dreams of this season. But for today, I’m celebrating the Raiders. I need this and I think others do too.
Social media has literally changed everything in our country. It is the fuel of any online forest fire. With most people on facebook and some on twitter, issues get blown way out of proportion. Where before we were somewhat open minded, tolerant and respectful, the world now laughs at us for being childish, close minded, ignorant, and drop outs for anger management. Some are so hyper sensitive, even the smallest things can set them off. Honey Boo Boo’s reality show looks like Masterpiece Theater compared to what is happening now in America. The mantra in the U.S. today is, think as I do or you are an idiot. I thought people were supposed to get smarter with age? Instead many are more aggressive and close minded as ever. Are you sick of it? Let’s look at how we can survive all of this Jr. High School drama.
How To Survive This Drama:
Be Open Minded:
Good leadership is so rare in our country because most can’t do 4 things; listen, understand, be compassionate and compromise. If you can’t do these 4 things, you can never be a great leader.
In this situation I totally respect and understand both sides. I think both have good and bad points. If you listen and understand people’s feelings in a rational manner without acting like a hot head, you can get that both sides have valid thoughts and a compromise can be reached. If we respected each other’s opinions, we could see both sides.
Don’t talk about it or react online.
When people talk about it online, I just move on. Everyone says the same thing over and over and I’m pretty sick of it. The media is loving this. They now show the national anthem as if it was a game itself. And oh the commentary.
I’m not a drama guy so I don’t get off on it. I’ll avoid it and watch the game. I don’t care what some jock, ex jock, celebrity or team owner has to say about the situation. I don’t know them and they are not my role models. I don’t look up to them for moral or spiritual leadership. And for all the love he is getting, I especially don’t look up to Jerry Jones. Just look on the internet to Jerry Jones history and partying ways. Character is what you do behind closed doors, NOT what you do when you know everyone is watching.
So many are nasty online and if you engage with them, you are just going to make yourself crazy. On Facebook just keep scrolling. Even if it’s a friend or even if you are asked what you think, just move on. People no longer want to talk about things so they can get others viewpoints. All they want to do is have people agree with them, or to attack those that don’t.
Stop debating with those that are close minded:
Remember that a lot of adults today are close minded and it really comes out online. Two thirds of the country blindly back either the Republican or Democratic party like cult members, and the final third of the country is shaking their heads. Social media has also made us all feel very self important; especially through our viewpoints. For many their biases and prejudices from their parents have really stuck to them.
I remember being 18 and my father trying to tell me how to vote in my first election. I told him I’d listen to him but I’d vote how I felt I should. My dad liked that I stood up to him and thought for myself. My parents told me to always do what is right even if the world is going the other way. When you deal with facts and what is right or wrong, you realize you should not trust ANY politician or ANY political party. Just look at history. In fact it sounds ignorant and naive to me to trust these people.
AVOID talking to biased people about this situation like the plague. NO GOOD can come from it. You cannot debate them or reason with them. They will not listen to you and they think if you don’t think like them then you are an idiot. I personally listen to everyone but I also realize talking to a rock is pointless.
First off I have several relatives and friends that have and are serving in the military. That’s from WWII, to Vietnam, to the Gulf War to the Iraq War. They fought for the very rights and freedoms that we have today and I’m extremely proud of all of them. As some of them say, one of those freedoms they fought for is the freedom to protest. I would like the players to stand up but it’s not a big deal if they don’t. I don’t look to them to set my moral standards.
Our country was founded on protest. Many of the same people ripping on the players now are the same families that called people against the Iraq war Commies, un-America traitors, and many even thought they should be charged with treason. A total of 93% of Americans were for that war when the 7% were right. History. Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.
And as I watch the amazing Vietnam series by Ken Burns on PBS, I see the millions of people of all ages; including soldiers and ex soldiers; who protested a war that was motivated for all the wrong reasons. The day after the Kent St. murders, millions of students across the country protested on the streets and highways of our country demanding justice in an unjust war. Millions of mothers, fathers and ex military protested on Washington and other areas to bring our brave young men home. They were so passionate and loud that President Nixon listened. He had to. If you haven’t watched it you should. It has inspired me and brought a new respect for those of that time that fought, and for those that fought to bring them home.
The National Anthem issue hasn’t affected me in any way. If fans feel they need to burn their jerseys and not go to games or watch, then I respect that. If players and fans want to protest racism and other issues then I support that too. THIS IS AMERICA! When did we lose the right to do what we wanted? When political parties infused into the older generations that they were perfect, that’s when.
What is funny is that many of the people that are burning jerseys, are white and I don’t think that is a coincidence. If you never experienced racism and you live in a non sensitive society like we have today, you are not going to understand the issue or the feelings. And some that are for the protesters have little to no knowledge of the sacrifice of the military and their families. Remember those 4 points of leadership I had? If both sides would follow that, they both would understand each other.
I think the players are misunderstood as well. They don’t hate America; right or wrong, they think this is the loudest way of protesting the lack of justice and racism that they see in our country today. I guarantee if dozens of rich white people were unjustly killed by cops in rich areas around the country, caucasians would be outraged and wonder what is going on!
If you are sick of the pettiness, anger and dramatics of this issue and you just want to watch football, then do it. Personally I don’t see any change coming from this, only more division. Change is only found with dialog and compromise; something most adults are no longer willing to do in America. Men’s ego, close mindedness and greed has screwed up so much in the world and the NFL is no exception.
Our love for Patriotism is strange. While some scream USA and say respect the flag, almost half of people that can vote don’t. Corporations take jobs away from Americans just so they could get slave labor wages overseas so more generations of trust fund babies can be taken care of. On the other hand, many that are kneeling during the Anthem have never done much of anything in their lives in regards to fighting for people’s rights. Many of them now talk like they are civil rights experts when in reality they have a lot to learn.
So in ending, in true GOOD American fashion, I say respect people’s view points and then YOU do what you think is right. I for one will continue to worry about the X’s and O’s and still watch the NFL while respecting people’s rights to be angry at the players, and the players right to protest. I’ll also greatly respect those things that our country holds dear, but THAT IS MY RIGHT. If you do what you think is right without berating others that disagree, you will not only be a good American, but you will also be rid of the drama.
What a fun year it will be for the fans in Oakland. With a fun team and great personalities, there will be many smiling faces all around. Some have said 12-4; some say 9-7 due to the defense. Let’s quickly look at each position and get a better understanding of the 2017-18 Oakland Raiders.
Quarterback: (Derek Carr, EJ Manuel, Connor Cook)
It’s nice for the Raiders to be set at QB. Derek Carr was the best protected QB in the NFL last year and he sliced and diced his way to a great season. Carr struggles at times if he’s rushed, but as long as their OL protects him the way they have, he should have another stellar year and will wow the NFL.
Even with today’s rules making passing so easy, the QB position has never been worse in the NFL. That means an excellent QB like Carr’s value is huge. EJ Manuel and Connor Cook are not waving around a Super Bowl trophy any time soon so Carr’s health is obviously imperative. No team can win without their starting QB.
I think the Raiders have the best set of running backs in the NFL. If Marshawn Lynch can find some life left in a body that has taken a lot of punishment, the Raiders running game should be excellent. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington can do it all at a smaller level. They can run, catch, and are the best pass blockers against the blitz in the NFL. Add an underrated fullback like Jamize Olawale and this crew is as good as it gets for 2017.
Offensive Line: (LT Donald Penn, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Rodney Hudson, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Marshall Lawson; T Jylan Ware, G Denver Kirkland, T Vadal Alexander, G-C Jon Feliciano, T David Sharpe)
Donald Penn did what many players used to do in the NFL. He took training camp off with a hold out. With him back the Raiders OL is intact. I’ve seen some on Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports say the Raiders OL is overrated and that’s laughable. This is a top 3 line in today’s football. Carr was the best protected QB in the NFL and the Raiders were solid on the ground and they will again be a top 10 offense; maybe even top 5. This group is the engine and driving force of the Raiders. This group HAS to stay healthy.
Wide Receivers: (Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Cordarrelle Patterson, Johnny Holton)
The Raiders have an excellent core of WR (maybe the best) with the addition of speedster Cordarelle Patterson. This is a huge upgrade to Seth Roberts who the Raiders are infatuated with. Johnnie Holton is solid and plays a key role in special teams.
Tight Ends: (Jared Cook, Lee Smith, Clive Walford)
Bill Musgrave gave me a headache. His WR heavy and at times conservative offense has been replaced with new offensive coordinator Todd Downing. So far I like what I’ve seen. The Raiders tight ends were near the bottom in attempts thrown to them last year. Can’t have good TE if you don’t throw to them. Lee Smith is the best blocking TE in the NFL and can catch the ball when needed. The Raiders are excited about the addition of Jared Cook from Green Bay. Clive Walford is set at #3 but should see more time in obvious passing downs. Walford has been a bust so far and he needs to show he belongs.
Defensive Line: (DE Khalil Mack, DT Eddie Vanderdoes, DT Justin Ellis, DE Mario Edwards Jr.; DE/LB James Cowser, DT Darius Latham, DT Treyvon Hester, DL Denico Autry, DL Jihad Ward)
The Raiders were last in sacks in the NFL last year and 26th in overall defense. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are fine but then what? Justin Ellis looks good at times but he hasn’t had a sack in 3 years and is inconsistent. Jihad Ward started 13 games last year and played in all 16. In those games he only had 16 tackles, 14 assists and no sacks and was invisible at times. If he can’t step it up this year, it may be another draft bust.
To bolster the DT position the Raiders drafted Eddie Vanderdoes out of UCLA. He was hard working and tough against the run, but not a good pass rusher. He had 4 sacks in 4 years. Mario Edwards Jr. comes back for a key year but it remains to be seen if he’s the answer. A bright spot this pre-season has been Treyvon Hester out of Toledo. He has been a quality pass rusher with a big motor. He had 5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss his senior year at Toledo and was a great pick at #7 this year.
Linebackers: (SLB Bruce Irvin, MLB Marquel Lee, WLB Cory James, Tyrell Adams, Nicholas Morrow, DL/LB James Cowser)
Jack Del Rio has told the media several times that the Raiders haven’t put as much into LB’s than they were able to. “When you have only so much money, you can’t fix everything”. Many times Irvin rushes the passer so he’s kind of a hybrid LB/DL. A couple of publications have said the Raiders linebackers are the worst in football. The biggest knock on this group is that they play passively and are more finesse than physical. To be fair, these guys give huge effort, but it’s obvious there needs to be improvement. Cory James has had his moments and the hopes are that he’ll keep improving. Free agent Jelani Jenkins is now out for the year on injured reserve. Rookie Marquel Lee has good mechanics and he may start but he lacks speed and coverage skills. Shalique Calhoun; the 75th player taken in last years draft; was recently cut and signed to the practice squad. A wasted pick.
Defensive Backs: (LCB Davis Amerson, RCB Sean Smith. Backups–Gareon Conley, TJ Carrie, Antonio Hamilton, Dexter McDonald)
For several years the Raiders have tried to fix their pass defense by constantly drafting and signing DB’s. It hasn’t worked & it’s a bad philosophy. I think if they spent the same money and drafts on pass rushing DT’s and tough LB’s, things would be a lot better on defense. I’ll take a great front 7 over stud DB’s any and every day. With today’s rules making it so easy to pass, DB’s have no chance if there isn’t a pass rush in front of them.
It took teams a year to realize David Amerson struggles against the deep ball. It took teams a week to find out high priced CB Sean Smith was a lot better with Chiefs safety Eric Berry and the Kansas City Pass rush in front of him. TJ Carrie has really struggled. Gareon Conley was drafted out of Ohio St. but missed all of training camp and pre-season. To get a rookie corner to jump in with out much preparation and expect him to excel is a bit much. He’s a straight cover guy and isn’t a good run tackler but people are excited about his potential in coverage. With all of the money and picks the Raiders have spent on this group, it’s been a big disappointment. The hopes are Conley will be a mainstay. Raider fans on social media have also pointed out that it’s hard watching 49er’s rookie LB Reuben Foster look like a one man wrecking crew as well.
Safety: (FS Reggie Nelson, SS Karl Joseph, S Erik Harris, S Shalom Luani, S Keith McGill)
Obi Melifonwu has been placed on IR today and the Raiders have signed veteran Erik Harris. Karl Joseph is a tough player and has looked good against the run, but he’s struggled in coverage. He seems more passive and has to improve his positioning on tight ends. Reggie Nelson is good for interceptions every year but he’s far from great. Draft pick Obi Melifonwu is a physical specimen and a great athlete. He’s a good tackler but lacks instinct in coverage and is a project. I like Shalom Luani a lot. He has good size but also has amazing instinct and a nose for the ball, something that seems to be getting rare in the NFL. With the NFL so obsessed with size and athleticism, the Raiders think that they got a huge steal getting Luani who was a great player at Washington St. Look for Luani to get more playing time as the season progresses & maybe even take over for Nelson. I’d like to see him and Joseph play together.
The Raiders are set with Marquette King but the Raiders want Sebastian Janikowski to rework his contract & he said no. The Raiders are worried about his bad back and age (he already looks to be out for week 1) and they have been working kickers out. He’s getting 4 million in this, his final year of his contract. I give you permission to slap all of the Monday morning quarterbacks in the back of the head who say that players should honor their contracts when 90% of the contracts in the NFL are NOT honored by the teams.
Grade: A (for now)
The Raiders have a solid coaching staff lead by Jack Del Rio. With the defense lacking talent in areas, look for Ken Norton Jr. to be on the hot seat all year with fans. They say change the scheme. WHAT SCHEME? If the Raiders blitz, now their DB’s who struggle in coverage are playing man to man and they will be exposed. If they play zone, the Raiders have a poor pass rush so the QB has too much time to throw and will pick them apart.
And with DB’s getting penalties for being anywhere near WR in today’s NFL, no DB is going to be able to cover for that long of a time. If you take out the 2014 draft, the Raiders have had a ton of busts with signings and draft picks. Hayden, Calhoun, Ward, Woodley, Schaub, Walford, Smith, Amerson, Lofton, Allen and many other names are adding to the list of busts. I defended Reggie when few would and here is part of his history. Some good, some bad.
While Philip Rivers is being lauded by many in the press, they forget how bad he was in the 4th quarter last year and that he lead the NFL in interceptions with 21. The Broncos still don’t have a QB & have questions at OL. On defense they have to rely on the health of often unhealthy Shane Ray and Derek Wolfe for their defense to thrive. The Chiefs have an aging defense (pass rusher Tamba Hali literally has no cartilage in his knees) and a conservative offense that is built, “not to lose”. It took them this long to see Alex Smith will never win anything? They also lost their starting RB to a season ending injury. What this means is that the Raiders are prime to take over the AFC West. If they don’t, this will be a disappointing season.
Detractors to Defenders:
I think it’s ridiculous for some writers to say the Raiders are overrated. Larry Kreuger of KNBR had them going 9-7 and missing the playoffs and some have them 10-6. Not a chance. With teams struggling to score at times, and with the QB position so bad in the NFL, (Matthew Stafford gets 27 million and he’s 5-46 in his career against teams with winning records) the Raiders offense will shine and be the key to their quality season. They will flat out beat teams with their offense. That style though doesn’t work in the post season.
Now I get the detractors. The Raiders will have some good moments, but overall this looks like a really bad defense. I get that the Raiders won close games against some bad teams last year and that their schedule is much tougher (4th hardest) but their offense is better and they are more balanced.
They start off the year with 3 very winnable games that could get them on a roll. The first 9 games are a lot easier than the second half and they should go 7-2 or 8-1 (again, no win is for sure). In the last 7 games though they play New England in Mexico and host Denver, Dallas and the NY Giants. They have to play 2 cold December games, at Kansas City and then on Christmas at Philadelphia before ending the season in San Diego. Christmas in Philly? That’s a rough second half.
My Prediction: 11-5; AFC West Champs; losing in AFC Championship game
Calm down non-Raider fans; I’m not saying Derek Carr is as good as Dan Marino, but the Raiders remind me somewhat of the 80’s-90’s Miami Dolphin’s. This defense is no where close to being a championship defense. Offense excites the fans and puts butts in the seats, but defense wins championships. If the Patriots defense doesn’t completely shut down Atlanta in the second half, Tom Brady doesn’t get the chance for a come back. And as Matt Millen said several times, the Raiders defenses dominated in all 3 Super Bowl wins. In the future they have to get a pass rushing DT, a physical LB and to a lesser extent another CB before they can get to the next level. If somehow a DT comes out of the ashes this year to have an amazing year putting pressure on the QB, then something magical can happen. I don’t see it but crazier things have happened.
With the Raiders ability to score, even with the tougher schedule I don’t see them losing anything more than 5 games. If the AFC West tanks, then a 12-4 season is possible. Getting home field advantage is vital because winning in New England or Pittsburgh in the Winter is near impossible.
With the Raiders in full lame duck mode before their move to Las Vegas, this will be a wild ride, so hang on. And loyal Raider fans of all ages, keep your wits about you. If you thought Bay Area millennials jumped on the Warriors bandwagon, you ain’t seen nothing yet. So move over and let people on because NOTHING about this NFL season will be boring in the city of Oakland.
I told several people last December that I had a horrible feeling about 2016. Personally it’s been a terrible year for me and I know I’m not alone. Several Raider fans; prominent ones; are now gone. Add celebrities and many people’s family members and 2016 is a nightmare that can’t end soon enough.
Over the holiday weekend, in one of the saddest stories I’ve heard in a while, we lost another person that touched many lives.
Tim Casto, owner of Oakland Raiders Homeport and founder of Oakland Raiders Rumors, Rants & Reports, lost his battle for life after a horrific fire burned down his home. He was the only one in the house. Neighbors said they heard small explosions. Tim had to be rescued by two firemen who were at a firehouse near by. His family lost everything they had. He was taken to a local hospital and was in a coma for days before passing away yesterday after life support was turned off. Loved ones talked about how grateful they were to the two brave firemen who entered the burning home to try to save him.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Tim’s family; including his wife Karen and daughter Rhianna; were at his bedside praying for a miracle while Tim lay in a West Virginia hospital on life support. Here was a family who lost every possession they owned now having to deal with even more tragedy. There were prayer vigils and support coming from all over the country. What made it even worse was that during this time, Tim’s wife and daughter had birthdays. Karen spoke about her husbands deep love and kindness towards her and his daughter. His daughter posted on Facebook a few days ago asking for people to pray for her dad to wake up. Sadly he never did.
Tim (A.K.A. the Captain) was the owner and/or administrator of several of the largest Raider pages on Facebook. It’s hard to find someone who didn’t have an interaction or a debate with him on one of the sites. Tim was smart, knew football; especially the history; and was well respected. I liked him immediately.
He was also very caring often forwarding gofundme pages for people that were going through something. His sense of humor was seen so often, especially in his crazy avatar’s on Facebook depicting himself as different Captains. My favorite is still Captain Crunch and he even caused a stir with a Fidel Castro avatar.
When I first got back into writing, I thought I would put an emphasis on the Raiders. They hadn’t been good for years but I took a chance that things would get better. I started out young and had written about the Raiders for years on another site and wow, was it painful. With record setting losing streaks, fans were over the top nasty and as the years went on, less and less fans would be involved with the team. When I started again, I would sometimes write an article that wasn’t positive towards the Raiders, and some Raider fans would go crazy and attack me viciously. Even though I was right most of the time, fans had changed and honesty and truth was out of vogue. It was now about cheerleading and butterflies and puppy dog tails. When some fans tried to ban me, Tim defended me to the nines. I’ll never forget that.
Instead of scolding me about the negativity on his page, he told me he loved my writing and asked if I would send him all my articles so he could put them on all his sites. I was reluctant and told him no. He was really trying to grow his groups and most of the popular people on their were the cheerleader types; some minor social media bullies; and I was a bit turned off by it. He said he understood. He started to copy and paste some links to my articles and forwarded them onto his site anyway. Tim was persistent.
Tim and I would converse a lot online and it was fun. I got on him a few times for being a bit too controlling on his sites. He realized what I was saying and even if someone was way out there, he would let them talk. It helped make his pages more fun.
If Tim had something on his mind he would try to do anything to prove he was right. I loved battling with him. He was the type that had to have the last word so I would mess with him by adding little words to our conversations. He would laugh knowing what I was doing. He said, “I love debating with you; you know we like each other and you never take it personally and I’m the same way”. He GOT social media and all the petty and immature grudges were not what he was about. I liked that.
When Ken Stabler died and I wrote my semi-famous article on Ken, the two people I spoke with that night before writing it were Tim and Mike Yokum. Mike had petitioned to get Ken in the Hall of Fame for years. I knew how much they loved Ken and I needed to talk with people who understood what a big loss he was. I used Mike and Tim’s quotes and takes in the article. I soon was on various ESPN radio shows and other stations talking about Ken. Tim and Mike’s words helped me a lot.
There were some though that liked to take pot shots at Tim but he let it roll off his back. Social media can show how nasty and mean some people are; mostly men; and we talked about having to have a thick skin and not taking things personally. When Tim would bring up his much beloved predictions on who would get traded or cut in the near future, many would attack him. He was right a lot though and it was fun to see his post reactions to his detractors.
He was also a huge voice during the election sparking controversy with some of his more zealous comments. I appreciated his passion.
Tim was a great family man from West Virginia who loved his daughter and his wife immensely. He talked about them at times in a self deprecating manner and you knew he enjoyed his family a lot. Even his young daughter got in the act starting her own Facebook page showing her love for the Raiders as well.
I looked in my Facebook emails and saw the last time we sent emails to each other. It was a couple of months ago where Tim had said his family needed prayer. I sent him a prayer and he told me how much it meant to him and that he really appreciated it.
With the loss of Tim, social media/Facebook for the Oakland Raiders has a huge hole in it. He was a prominent voice on Facebook for the Raiders and there were few groups that he didn’t have a hand in it’s success. Personally, he was one of the reasons I didn’t take a writing job with a major company. He encouraged me to be honest and to keep telling the truth and that I had freedom where others didn’t. He was also the first person on the fan sites that supported me.
It’s going to be hard to get up in the morning now and not see Tim’s meme’s or his posts talking about the Raiders. He was a positive and supportive person online and would help anyone that was going through a hard time. This one hurts deep and I’ll miss him; a lot. He reminds me of a lot of the blue collar Raider fans. Kind and caring but a little gruff on the outside.
Thank you Tim for all you did for so many and for sharing yourself with all of us. Tim proved that you didn’t have to be famous to be great. He was a good man and in today’s world we need more Tim Casto’s.
Who will win the AFC West? Let’s look ahead to the rest of the season and see what may be in store for all of the teams.
In the history of social media, there has NEVER been a tweet or Facebook post about the Raiders being in a playoff game. Let that sink in. In their glory days, for 25 years the Raiders were the winningest team of any Pro Sports team in the U.S. For the last couple of decades, they’ve been the worst. In their glory years, the Cowboys and the Raiders for almost 3 decades were the two most popular teams on tv ratings. Love them or hate them, it’s good that they are back.
The Cowboys Dak Prescott and Oakland’s Derek Carr are having great years. They also are behind the 2 best offensive lines in the NFL. NOT a coincidence. Carr is the best protected QB in the NFL this year and that is important to his success.
The Raiders are now #4 in the NFL in rushing yards and #3 in passing yards. Even though their skilled position players get most of the credit, their OL has been as dominating as any in the game this year and it’s the heart and soul of this team.
On defense it’s another matter. They struggle against good teams and occasionally look good against bad ones. The Raiders are 28th in sacks, 30th against the pass and 27th against the run. And that is after a good performance against a bad Denver offense.
The Raiders have only played 3 teams with winning records; all at home; and are 1-2. They have not played a team who presently has a winning record on the road.
The Raiders schedule is interesting. They struggle against teams that can score points and they really don’t play a lot of good offenses the rest of the way. They still have a game in Denver, in KC and @ San Diego. Outside of that they have Houston, Carolina and Buffalo. These are all good match-ups for them because those teams don’t have great offenses. Even with their bad OL, the Colts will be a tough game because they can score.
Right now the Raiders have the upper hand in the AFC West and barring injuries to their OL; and even with a limited defense; they still should be considered favorites to win the division. This is not a Super Bowl defense in any way and offense may make headlines and put butts in the seats but defense wins championships. Remember this is the salary cap era so every team has some sort of issue or weakness, but for now, the West comes through Oakland.
The Broncos are fading fast due to injuries and a poor offensive scheme.
On offense I really like their 2 young running backs. Rookie Devontae Booker hasn’t had much of a chance to run the ball but he has a lot of potential. Kapri Bibbs showed his playmaking ability on a 68 yard pass and catch late against the Raiders. On defense they still have an excellent pass rush but now they can’t stop the run. The other problem on offense is head coach and play caller Gary Kubiak.
The Denver media; which is fairly soft; has been griping about him for 2 weeks. They have brought up great points. In the first 15 plays against the Raiders, Denver threw 13 times. In the last 5 games Denver has thrown almost 70% of the time in their first 15 plays. Denver is 2-3 in those games. With Siemian as a starter, Denver throws 72% of the time. That’s not Denver football.
Siemian is limited; he throws a nice deep ball but he needs protection; and lot’s of it. The offensive line at Denver has been inconsistent protecting the QB. He does not feel a rush at all and struggles under pressure as was seen with a loss at San Diego and again in Oakland.
Denver needs to go back to the ground and pound with young RB’s that are hungry. Both have mildly complained about their lack of touches in the running game. Kubiak is a borderline arrogant guy though when it comes to coaching and he can be stubborn. Analyst Cris Collinsworth brought up what I said last year. Why don’t they double team Kahlil Mack more? Last year in Mack’s epic game in Denver, they would not help out their tackles and Mack went off. Their tackles are not that great and it took until late in the game last Sunday for them to finally start helping out on him.
When asked about Siemian after the Raiders game, Kubiak said he was still making plays so there is no problem with the QB position. Now Paxton Lynch might not be the answer but if Denver throws 70% of the time for the rest of the year, they are toast. Kubiak acted this way in Houston when Matt Schaub started to tank. Instead of using Arian Foster & Ben Tate with his run game to help him, he threw even more.
The Denver defense is now 30th against the run and can’t stop anybody. The offensive line has also struggled. There may be changes there soon. Even so the Broncos have to go back to being a running team and take their chances. Their LB’s are no longer a strength of the team with changes there this year. Injuries have just killed the Broncos. Aqib Talib and Kayvon Webster are still hurting and Brandon Marshall is hobbling badly. DL Derek Wolfe’s injury is not as bad as first thought but he is another one on the mend. And those are just the bigger names on the list.
The rest of their schedule is rough. Their last 3 games are at home against New England, on the road to KC and back home to play the Raiders. Before that they also have to play the Chiefs in Denver. Denver has a great home field advantage so they will need to use that to keep in the playoff hunt. Get healthy and run the ball should be their mantra.
Kansas City Chiefs:
The Chiefs are a classic Andy Reid team. They are tough, disciplined and they find ways to win. If you watch their games and look at the stat sheet, you wonder how they can be 6-2. They are 22nd in rushing and 25th in passing offense. Their offense doesn’t scare anyone. On defense they are ranked 13th against the pass and 25th against the run. Their once feared pass rush with Justin Houston and Tamba Hali is now 21st in sacks. Houston is set to return this week or next and 33 year old Hali’s days are numbered as he has no cartilage in one knee and tries to play in a specialist pass rushing position. Pass rushing project Dee Ford has shown glimpses of great play and has come on of late, as has DB Steven Nelson who made the game winning defensive play against Jacksonville last week.
KC has had so many injuries; Charles, Maclin, Ware, Houston, Hali; a who’s who if you are a Chiefs fan.
The AFC West has pretty easy schedules this year and KC has played only 2 teams with winning records and are 1-1, and that obviously has helped them.
ESPN seemed to fall in love with the Chiefs last week but slow your roll. The Chiefs have a brutal second half schedule that includes 2 games with Denver, a rematch with Oakland, and road games with San Diego, Carolina and Atlanta. They STILL might make the playoffs though because most of the AFC outside of the West is awful. Their second half schedule will greatly test them and may expose them.
I’ve never been an Alex Smith guy. He’s the Ichabod Crane of the NFL. He and Andy Reid play not to lose with their extremely conservative passing game and you can’t win big with 1-3 yard check down passes. They may make the playoffs but they are not going far. What they will be though is hard playing and competitive. They have owned the Raiders this decade, and play Denver well so you can’t sleep on KC. Their home field on a cold winter day is not the place to be if you are an opposing team.
San Diego Chargers:
You have to give it up for the Chargers. With all of the turmoil surrounding their possible move, the terrible season ending injury to star WR Keenan Allen, and the drama with first round draft choice Joey Bosa, the worst was expected in San Diego. A funny thing happened. Bosa has been a breath of fresh air and has greatly helped the defensive line and pass rush and RB Melvin Gordon has had a great year behind an improved offensive line. If they don’t implode late against KC and go into a coma in the 4th in Oakland, their season could be much different. Their win in Atlanta was impressive and was not a fluke. They earned it.
Their schedule has been the hardest in the AFC West by far. They are 2-3 against teams with winning records. They split with Denver so they just have the Raiders and KC at home along with Houston on the road as their toughest remaining games. The AFC only has 5 teams with winning records and 3 are in the AFC West. Watch out for the Chargers. Stranger things have happened and a playoff push may not seem eminent but they could make some noise. Their slow start really hurt them.
Philip Rivers is a good QB but just like Alex Smith I just don’t think either will win anything significant in their NFL careers. In Rivers San Diego career, the Chargers so often fall short in the second half of games, especially in the fourth quarter. They always seem to do just enough to lose. Sometimes it’s not all Rivers fault but he’s the captain of the ship. A very good QB with great stats who never will win anything who I personally think gets a little too much love. Gordon and Bosa though could be great building blocks for the near future. Add a healthy Keenan Allen and next year looks much brighter in San Diego.
If you sleep on these guys, they can beat you. I don’t think they make the playoffs but they could hurt someone else’s chances if they are taken lightly. They are intriguing.
The NFL has what they want. No more great teams; lots of average to good teams who all have a weakness. Odds now show Seattle to be the #2 choice to win the Super Bowl and they have a bad offensive line that struggles in protection and at times running the ball. Parity and average teams to keep all fans interested is what they want and they got it. Everyone has issues, and what that means is that it is a toss up on who will get to the post season and who will win it all. Most everyone has a shot if they get hot.
Can the Raiders offensive line stay healthy and will their defense hold up? Can the Broncos stop supplying bodies for their medical staff? Will Head Coach Gary Kubiak forget about Siemian’s stats in the Cincinnati game and actually start running the ball again? Can the Chargers play 4 quarters of good football and come through in the second half of games? Can the KC Chiefs get healthy and their pass rush be restored with the return of Justin Houston? And will Alex Smith ever get over his deepballaphobia and throw the ball downfield in big games?
These are all questions that will be answered in the second half of the season. Right now the Raiders look like the odds on favorite but this is the NFL and things could change quickly. Its’ not the good ol’ days when the AFC West dominated in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, but for now it will definitely do.