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“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.

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“GRADES: Raiders Brought Back Down to Earth v.s. Chiefs. Looking Ahead To Jacksonville”

 

Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Kansas City Chiefs; Week 6:

Kansas City Chiefs  26 (3-2)

Oakland Raiders  10 (4-2)

In a game where the Raiders could have taken sole possession of first place in the AFC West, the Raiders were brought back down to earth by the Kansas City Chiefs. For old school Raider fans the Chiefs are the big rival and this one hurts. The Raiders are now the only AFC West team that has scored less points than they’ve given up. Andy Reid is now 16-2 after a bye and Alex Smith is now 8-1 in his games with the Raiders. The Raiders had 286 total offensive yards. Ugly numbers for sure.

Overview:

There are some in the local media that said the Raiders were beginning to read their own press clippings and they may have been right. After the Denver loss to San Diego, social media was filled with Raider fans saying their time was now. Then the Chiefs happened.

Quarterback:

After the first drive, the Raiders could do nothing on offense. They had all the momentum and Carr tried to throw a deep pass off his back foot for an easy interception which changed the game early. Coach Jack Del Rio said it was an ill-advised throw. Carr got away with two other very poor throws that should have been easy interceptions but were dropped by Kansas City. In the fourth quarter Carr’s fumble sealed the game. He fumbled earlier but recovered it. He was off all game and it was a really bad day.

GRADE: D-

I do look for him next week to bounce back and there should be no worries but wow did Carr stink.  The Chiefs had the 31st ranked pass rush and blitzed to get to Carr but even then only put occasional pressure on him. When he is struggling he has to look to tight ends but he seems to rely very heavily on WR.

Running Backs:

The Chiefs were doing their best to stop the Raiders running game and they did for the most part.   The Raiders ran the ball 14 times all game for 57 yards. DeAndre Washington had some nice runs but overall it was nothing special.

Grade D

The Chiefs LB’s did a nice job in coverage and it’s obvious they did a lot over the bye week to help their run defense. The Raiders RB were not much of a factor but they also didn’t get much of a chance with so few runs.  And please stop with the Latavius Murray would have made a huge difference stuff.

Offensive Line:

The Chiefs were doing their best to stop the run and they blitzed a lot as well. The OL didn’t have a bad game but it wasn’t their normal dominating game. Carr was rushed on occasion and it definitely bothered him. Kansas City filled the box to stop the run and the Raiders never seemed to get going. The Raiders will not go as far as Carr takes them; they will go as far as the OL takes them.  Last year in the 4th quarter, KC blitzed on EVERY play and they blitzed often in this game as well.

Grade D+

They still played fairly well but Carr did get hit more than they’d like and the run game never got going.  The OL has been stellar this year so they should bounce back.

Wide Receivers:

Kansas City had a game plan to stop the run and take away the medium passes to Crabtree. No problem; the Raiders then wen’t to Cooper and he was on fire. His first half was a top 10 performance so far for the NFL year. In the second half, the adjustments included safety help against Cooper and playing more physical press coverage. The Raiders in the second half were awful and the wide receivers struggled. Cooper caught one pass after half time.  In game adjustments continue to be an issue for the Raiders offense at times.

GRADE: D+

Cooper had an epic half and Andre Holmes great catch in the red zone in the pouring rain lit up the crowd early. With the adjustments at half and Carr struggling the Raiders did little after half time.  Lack of in game adjustments are not a new thing to this offense.

Defensive Line:

The Raiders are now ranked 32nd against the pass and 30th against the run (yds/game) and as I said after week one, this is NOT a good defense. The Raiders are 28th in the NFL with only 8 sacks in 6 games. This pass rush and defense scares no one.

Other than a few occasions, the Raiders could not get to Alex Smith. The Raiders also struggled against the run. The DL just isn’t cutting it right now which was a huge fear of mine at the start of the year. Kahlil Mack did get a sack.

Grade: D-

The Raiders DL just isn’t getting it done.

Linebackers:

Another long day for this group. They struggled against the run and were atrocious covering the pass when they had to. Mack was in pass coverage for a few passes and he was beaten twice. The Chiefs ran for 5 yards a carry for 184 yards if you take out Alex Smith’s numbers. Ouch.  Bruce Irvin’s tackling was awful today as he whiffed on two long runs including the 30 yard run by Ware.

Grade D-

The Raiders need a physical middle LB thumper that can play on 1st and 2nd downs and stop the run.   They don’t have one. Ben Heeney isn’t playing so he can’t get any of the blame from fans so I’m sure Norton will get it all.  While he may not be a great DC, this defense stinks.  It’s not like the Raiders are playing the Patriots, Steelers or Cowboys either.

They have a group of finesse speed players and they can’t stop the run. Cory James was a late round draft choice and isn’t the answer right now.

Defensive Backs:

Alex Smith would rather eat dirty glass than throw to a WR so there really wasn’t much long passing.  Amerson did get burned again for a long pass.  Teams seem to realize on outs and medium patterns, Amerson is pretty good.  But on the deep ball he struggles.

Smith was an amazing 19 for 22 in the passing game and the defense couldn’t keep them off the field. Safety Karl Joseph is more a run stopper right now than a coverage guy but I like him a lot and his coverage will hopefully improve with experience.  Reggie Nelson seems to take some awful strange angles when he helps CB’s on long pass plays.

Grade C  

The Chiefs don’t throw much to WR so it wasn’t a busy day for this group.

Coaching:

KNBR Radio host and Warriors announcer Bob Fitzgerald went on a 5 minute rant about how ridiculous it is for fans to blame coaches when their teams lose.  With so many ex jocks now announcing, it’s near impossible for analysts to be critical about players; especially popular stars. The players on the defense aren’t getting the job done and they aren’t good enough.   You can only blame the coaches so much.

The Patriots coaching staff didn’t all of a sudden stink when they were shut out at home by Buffalo.  Playing a 3rd string QB instead of Tom Brady was the cause of that.  Carolina coaches weren’t geniuses last year and now are they the 3 stooges?  No; they’ve had departures and injuries in the secondary and their DL is playing terribly.

I’m sorry but I get bored sometimes with the Raiders offense. They should be putting up 30 and 40 points a game. The TE should get 5-10 throws a game.  The Raiders TE had 4 targets with 3 being caught for 41 yards.

Grade D

The defense isn’t good.   As a coach what can you do. The Raiders blitzed more, and put Joseph up in the box to help with the run; and it didn’t help.  The DL and the LB’s have been awful.  As I’ve said a million times if I’m starting a team I get a QB first, and then a DL, OL and LB’s in that order.

Even with Andy Reid’s ridiculous red zone play calling, Kansas City beat Oakland in every facet of the game.

Special Teams:

Janikowski missed another FG but again, how do you get mad at a long FG miss. Marquette King was ok but didn’t have one of his better games.   He had a bad punt that rolled about 20 yards that helped. Jalen Richard has shored up the return game and looks great and TJ Carrie hasn’t been bad in the punt return game. The coverage team gave up two long returns; one for 50 yards on a punt and one for 30 yards on a kick off.

Grade C

The special teams have been good this year but today wasn’t one of those games.

Conclusion:

The Raiders laid a big fat egg. This was by far the worst game of the year for Oakland. There are few really good teams in the NFL this year so redemption can be a week away.   This was a great disappointment to fans and the team and to do it at home was humbling.

On to Jacksonville:

Jacksonville comes off a 17-16 loss against a bad Chicago team in the windy city. They fall to 2-3. The Jaguars aren’t a bad team on defense but their offense is rough.   They are 14th against the run and 8th against the pass. On offense they are one dimensional and are 15th in passing but have no running game and are ranked 31st. They are 21st in points per game on offense.  QB Blake Bortles already has 7 interceptions on the year and has struggled off and on after playing fairly well against Green Bay in the opener.  With the Raiders probably being able to stop the run and the Jags usually being behind in game, look for a better pass rush in this game.

Outlook:

The Raiders travel is tough but the teams they are playing aren’t the elite by any means. Jacksonville is just what the doctor ordered and it’s hard seeing the Raiders lose to the Jags but this is the NFL; nothing is for sure. The Raiders offense is going to have to carry this team so there will be lots of ups and downs all season. Some fans overreact to every game; bad or good; but seasoned fans and the Raiders know this is a marathon and they can’t get caught up in hype or expectations or the extreme negativity social media brings when they lose.  Even with their limitations, with this schedule I think the Raiders can go 10-6, but as we all know nothing can be taken for granted in the salary cap era of the NFL.

 

“Who is Ken Norton Jr. and Why The Raiders Should be Excited About Their New Defensive Coordinator”

ken norton jr. 

“Who is Ken Norton Jr. and Why the Raiders Should be Excited About Their New Defensive Coordinator”

After much speculation, Ken Norton Jr. was hired as the Oakland Raiders Defensive Coordinator today.

Norton Jr. is the kind of coaching hire that is exciting.  An excellent player in college and in the pro’s who loves football.  He has proven that he really wants to be a coach by paying his dues first being a linebackers coach at USC, and then following Pete Carroll to the NFL in the same position for the Seattle Seahawks.

He is a charismatic person, who was a jokester as a player.  He was very serious on the field though, priding himself in stopping the run and being tough and physical.  Pete Carroll’s philosophy is to rush the passer and stop the run and that is right up Norton Jr.’s alley.

When he played, Norton Jr. famously would celebrate big plays by getting into a boxing stance and pretending to spar.  This was in honor of his father, boxer Ken Norton Sr. who was one of the few to beat Muhammad Ali.

Some Raider fans may remember him as being the player; along with San Francisco 49ers Bryant Young; who tackled Napoleon McMcallum and caused his horrific knee injury.  When Norton Jr. knew McCallum was hurt, he famously would not move allowing people to attend to him.  Other than Joe Theisman’s injury, it was the worst that was ever seen.

Norton has had a long history of coaching pro bowl linebackers.  He helped Seattle’s Bobby Wagner become one of the best in the NFL and at USC, he was credited for mentoring many quality future pro bowl linebackers including Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews III, Rey Maualuga, Lofa Tatupu, Dallas Sartz, Keith Rivers, and Kaluka Maiava.

His style of coaching is very aggressive and physical; a take no prisoners style that is intimidating.  The Raiders have talented linebackers and if they can shore up the defensive line and stay healthy, the front 7 can change the fortune of the Raiders very quickly.

If you look at the quick turn arounds of teams in recent history, it is due to the front defensive 7.  Teams like Seattle, San Francisco, and Arizona have turned around their fortunes the last 5 years due to the great defensive pressure they put on offenses.  If you can rush the passer with 4 players, and stop the run, you will have an elite defense.

I’m not a retread guy; I’d rather have a young, exciting and hungry head coach with no coordinator experience who has a proven track record of success, over a 15 year veteran coach who rarely succeeds or has average success.  Norton Jr. has won at every level as a coach, and as a player and he can bring a winning mindset that is also needed.

The Raiders have had serious issues the last 12 years but with Norton Jr., this is a big time hire that won’t make much publicity.  I think with the additions of Mike Tice and Ken Norton Jr., they will begin to instill a physical toughness that has been needed in Oakland for a long time.  The Raiders and their fans should be excited about this one.

 Coaching History:
University of Southern California (2004–2008)
Linebackers CoachUniversity of Southern California (2009)
Linebackers Coach/Assistant Head CoachSeattle Seahawks (2010–2014)
Linebackers Coach

Oakland Raiders (2015–present)
Defensive Coordinator