Tag Archives: NFL 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.

https://www.spreaker.com/user/10814098/1-22-2019-two-mp3-pos-edit

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. A team that has not yet been ruined by the greed of NFL owners who’s only loyalty is to the money they can make.  They have an old stadium, the second lowest ticket prices in the NFL, and a raucous loyal fan base.   While everyone else changed, Buffalo didn’t.  It is a special place.

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.

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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.

pancho billa suit

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.

“The 5 Best NFL Draft Classes in Raiders History; With Video Comments from Phil Villapiano, Madden, Atkinson, Tatum & Stabler”

 

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Phil Villapiano

*Raider fans are the best!  Please show your Raider loyalty and sign the petition to put Cliff Branch in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/276/842/889/

 

*Please follow Phil Villapiano’s Facebook page supporting him entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (#PhilVForHOF)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1878470965816620/

 

*And Follow Phil’s page on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/VillapianOk?lang=en

 

*Want some Phil V “Foo” Gear for the HOF?  His College BGSU has you covered! 

Phil Villapiano Hall of Fame Rally T-Shirt

NFL: Oakland Raiders-Jack Del Rio Press Conference

The NFL draft can make or break you.

The NFL draft has always been fascinating to me.  It’s an amazing thing to see how teams choose who they want to create the foundation of their team.  It’s not a coincidence though that with the greatness of the Raiders of the 1960’s into early 1980’s, most of their drafts were excellent getting at least 2 good starters in many drafts.  Director of Player Personnel Ron Wolf was a key element of these drafts and he is now in the HOF.  As John Madden said, “Al listened to only one person and that was Ron Wolf”.

To establish a great team you have to have excellent drafts.  Back in the day, a guy that could scout and pick out a good player was worth their weight in gold.  A recent ESPN study showed just how bad the NFL teams of today draft, especially missing on so many QB’s that it’s ruined some franchises for years.  In the olden days they relied on game films and occasional interviews with the players and their coaches.  Now they over analyze and see things that aren’t there and refuse to see things that are.  Paralysis by analysis.  If you look at something long enough you begin to see flaws.

For now though, and look to the draft picks that did work out well often leading to wins and championships.

henry lawrence

#5:  1974 Draft:

1st Henry Lawrence T

2nd Dave Casper TE

3rd Mark Van Eeghen

4th Morris Bradshaw

Henry Lawrence was a pillar in the OL for 13 years for the Raiders with much of it being as a starter. He has 3 Super Bowl rings and in the last 2 Raider titles he was a starting tackle.  Dave Casper is a HOF player and was one of the best all around tight ends in history.  With his tough and physical blocking and his amazing hands; Casper, Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, and Ken Stabler made one of the greatest passing combinations of all time.

mark van eeghen

Mark Van Eeghen took over for Marv Hubbard and could do it all.  He wasn’t fast, but he was amazing at following his blockers and soon became one of the best all around RB’s in the NFL.  A great pass catcher, Mark also was a key pass protector for his ability to pick up blitzing LB’s.  Even though he ran for over 1,000 yards in the 1976 season, Oakland’s game plan was for Mark to be the lead blocker for most of the game and the speedy Clarence Davis (who ran for 516 yards the same year) would get the bulk of the carries against an older Minnesota Vikings team.  The plan worked to perfection as Mark had an amazing game blocking and Davis ran 16 times for 137 yards.  Van Eeghen ran for 73 yards and the Raiders rushed for 266 yards which is still the 3rd highest Super Bowl rushing game in history.  You wonder if players of today would sacrifice like that.

In the 4th Round the Raiders got WR Morris Bradshaw who became a key member of their special teams unit for 8 years.  He also was a part time starter with his best year being 1978 when he caught 40 passes for 552 yards.

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Cliff Branch scoring another Post Season touchdown this time against Washington in SB XVIII

#4:  1972 Draft: 

1st Mike Siani WR

2nd John Vella OL

4th Cliff Branch WR

4th Dave Dalby OL

7th Alonzo “Skip” Thomas DB

To be honest you could interchange the #4 and #3 drafts and still have winners.  What a problem to have.  Mike Siani was a poor man’s Fred Biletnikoff and while he never lived up to his #1 status, he was a vital contributor in the Raiders passing game with many key pass catches in important games.  John Vella and Dave Dalby were part of what many consider the greatest offensive line of all time.  Their size and toughness wore opponents down.  Dr. Death Skip Thomas was a key member of the famous “Soul Patrol” that many feel is the greatest defensive backfield in NFL history.

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Dr. Death Skip Thomas

Cliff Branch will eventually get into the Hall of Fame but he remains one of the greatest deep threats the NFL has ever seen.  During a talk show Raiders great Ken Stabler said, “I had a great offensive line, Casper, Biletnikoff who caught anything and Cliff Branch who could outrun half of the cars in the parking lot”.  This amazing draft class is just another reason why the Raiders were so dominating.

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Mike Davis & Lester Hayes

#3:  1977 Draft:

2nd Mike Davis

4th Mickey Marvin

5th Lester Hayes

5th Jeff Barnes

8th Terry Robiskie

12th Rod Martin

Maybe this draft didn’t have the iconic talent of other drafts, but it definitely filled a lot of holes with excellent players.  Mike Davis was a key member at safety and his interception against the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs helped propel the Raiders to eventually win a Super Bowl. Mickey Marvin was an excellent OL for years.  Lester Hayes started out slow, but eventually became one of the best cover corners in the game and should be in the HOF.  Jeff Barnes and Rod Martin were excellent LB’s that helped the Raiders shore up their defense after the Villapiano, Willie Hall and Monte Johnson era.  Terry Robiskie was a great special teams player and backup RB.

 

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Clarence Davis with the “Sea Of Hands” catch surrounded by 5 Dolphins

#2:  1971 Draft:

1st Jack Tatum DB

2nd Phil Villapiano LB

4th Clarence Davis

5th Bob Moore

12th Horace Jones

“They changed the rules because of Tatum and Atkinson”, said HOF QB Fran Tarkenton on San Francisco’s KNBR radio.  “The 5 yard chuck rule was created because of them and the other Raiders DB’s because the WR’s literally could not get off of the line against them.  They were so physically imposing and strong.”

Jack Tatum hit harder than any DB in history and should no doubt be in the HOF.  Phil Villapiano said, “Tatum’s shots just sounded different.  His hits sounded like a car wreck”.  George Atkinson added, “I once saw Jack hit Denver’s Riley Odoms so hard that I thought he killed him.  It sounded like a car wreck”.  He was a star at Ohio St. where Woody Hayes loved his hard hitting style and instinct to be where he needed to be, and he brought that to the Oakland Raiders.  Jack’s timing was unmatched.  If it wasn’t for the Darryl Stingley hit, Tatum would already be in the HOF.  RIP to both of them.

A huge get was Phil Villapiano.  Supposedly an undersized LB out of Bowling Green, most teams had him as being too small.  Almost everyone had him as a possible 3rd round pick, but most had him going into the 4th round.  The Raiders; who were the only team that would not share information with other teams; picked him in the second round.  They knew that Phil was really 225 and not the 210 that everyone else said he was.  Villapiano became a key element shoring up their back 7 on defense.  He could tackle and stop the run, and with his lateral speed and timing he was a great pass defender.  There are many that feel Phil should be in the HOF as well.  His personality and fun spirit is classic Raider.  The below video shows Phil Villapiano leading the Raiders on and off the field.

Clarence Davis was a fast and clutch player.  His catch in the famous “Sea of Hands” game and his amazing performances in post season including his 137 yards rushing in the Super Bowl win against Minnesota are immortalized.  Bob Moore was a solid NFL back up tight end and Horace Jones was an important defensive starter for four of the 5 years he played for the Raiders.

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This is the 1979 popular Eerie Magazine cover paying homage to the Raiders and Ken Stabler

#1:  1968 Draft:

2nd Ken Stabler QB

3rd Art Shell T

4th Charlie Smith RB

7th George Atkinson DB

11th Marv Hubbard

Now finally the greatest draft in Oakland Raiders history, the 1968 draft.   If you can draft 2 quality starters in your draft, usually your draft is considered pretty good.  Draft 5 key starters and 2 Hall of Famer’s and I’d say your draft was awesome.

In 1967 the Raiders drafted HOF guard Gene Upshaw who would help anchor an amazing offensive line.  In 1968, they chose other big pieces that would lay a foundation for their success in the 1970’s.

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Marv Hubbard on the cover of Sports Illustrated

This draft was the key to the Raiders success in the 60’s and 70’s and this draft topped them all.  They now had one of the greatest QB’s in history in Ken Stabler, and another HOF player on the OL in Art Shell.  With Charlie Smith and Marv Hubbard they had a set of starting RB’s that could run and catch the ball.  All 4 players were big parts of the success of the Raiders in the 1970’s and late 1960’s.

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Charlie Smith catching a pass and scoring the go ahead touchdown in the famous “Heidi” Game v.s. the New York Jets

Then oh by the way add 7th round pick George Atkinson who was considered too small to be a full time safety.  What teams didn’t get is that Atkinson was as tough as nails, hit like a ton of bricks, had a bad attitude on the field and was as fast as lightning.  Early in his career he was a great kick returner on both punts and kickoffs and held records for a number of years in the return game.  He was also the voice of the famous “Soul Patrol” defensive backfield.

Jim’s Jamz:

So there you have it.  These are the 5 greatest draft classes in Raiders history.  The hope of all fans is that their favorite teams draft choices will reach their full potential and step up to be great players.  In the following years we will find out how the draft choices of the new millennium rank.  History shows us that if you consistently draft poorly, you will eventually erode your foundation and have to start over.  If you excel in the draft, you create a winning team for years to come.  When the Raiders had great drafts, they succeeded and were the winningest franchise in U.S. sports.  When they didn’t, they failed and struggled breaking records for futility.  Here’s to a future of great draft picks and great success to this amazing franchise.

 

“Oakland Raiders great Phil Villapiano; A Hall of Fame Man, Living a Hall of Fame Life”

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Phil & his daughter Andrea

(I humbly thank Andrea Villapiano Kelly for allowing me to use some of her private photos that I’m able to share with you)

Please follow Phil’s Facebook Page; get him into the NFL Hall of Fame!  Show that Raider loyalty!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1878470965816620/ 

Follow them on Twitter:     https://twitter.com/VillapianOK

 

A Hall of Famer in my world.

Friends used to ask who do you want on a podcast or even to just have a beer with.  The 4 people remain the same.  Ken Stabler, Bill King, John Madden, and Phil Villapiano. Today I’m writing about one of the most popular Raider players of all time, and one of my dad’s favorites in Phil Villapiano.   “Foo” was a Raider from the start.

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Phil during his days at Bowling Green; team MVP and defensive player of the year

From Day One:

When Phil Villapiano was drafted, most teams had him going in the 3rd or 4th round. The Raiders drafted him in the 2nd round out of Bowling Green which was a surprise to some. Many teams had Villapiano listed at only 210 pounds, being too small to play linebacker.   Back then there was no NFL combines or official weigh ins, so most teams would share information with each other to save money and time.  The Raiders refused to share information.

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Phil with his sons Phil & Michael

What the Raiders knew about Villapiano was that he was legitimately 225 pounds. He was an instinctive player who loved to hit. His speed laterally was excellent and a big part of his game. He could play every down and had great feel in pass coverage.   In the same draft Oakland selected Jack Tatum, Clarence Davis, and backup tight end Bob Moore. With Tatum and Villapiano, they had 2 hard hitters to go with another that loved contact in George Atkinson. The Raiders added Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas in the following draft and their back 7 was as physical and skilled as any in the history of the game.

The Raiders offenses were awesome but most forget that in 3 Super Bowl wins the Raiders only gave up 33 points and had three great QB’s in Fran Tarkenton, Ron Jaworski & Joe Theismann running for their lives most of the time.  In fact all 4 teams in last years AFC and NFC Championship games were in the top 5 scoring defenses in the entire NFL.  It isn’t sexy but defense still wins championships.

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Dave Rowe, Ted Hendricks, Phil Villapiano, Ken Stabler

Phil’s Coming Out Party:

In week 3 of the 1971 season, rookie Villapiano was thrown into the fire and he had to start due to injuries at linebacker. Phil had an amazing game on national television against the Browns in front of 84,000 screaming Cleveland fans. To the dismay of every fan outside of Oakland, Howard Cosell raved about Phil during the Raiders 34-20 win, making him a household name over night and announce another weapon for the hated Oakland Raiders.

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Phil Speaking after he was elected to the College Senior Bowl Hall of Fame

A Key Member of the Raiders Defense:

Phil soon became a mainstay in the Raiders physical style of play.  He could cover all parts of the field, and his violent play was just what the Raiders wanted.   In front of the famous “Soul Patrol” and behind an aggressive and relentless defensive line, Monte Johnson, Ted Hendricks, Willie Hall, and Villapiano manned one of the more underrated LB crews and defenses in the NFL. Al Davis and Ron Wolf’s motto for their defense was one thing; the QB must go down, and go down hard. Raider fans loved seeing Villapiano slowly and methodically hitting his arm pad on the line of scrimmage letting opponents know that he was coming and he was going to hit somebody.

(A video showing the brutality of the Raiders defense and Phil Villapiano’s team “activities”)

The renegade Raiders were by far the king of bay area sports and they capped off their success in 1976 with a dominating performance in Super Bowl 11 with a win over the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14. There were some sweaty palms at the start of the game though. The Raiders took the opening kickoff and went down the field but kicker Errol Mann missed a 29 yard field goal. Later in the 1st, Viking great Fred McNeil blocked a Ray Guy punt for Guy’s first blocked punt in his career.   Minnesota recovered it on the Raiders 3 yard line and Raider fans began to worry. On third down, Villapiano forced a fumble from RB Brent McClanahan which fellow LB Willie Hall recovered and the Raiders went on a long drive for a short FG. Phil’s key play changed the momentum of the game.

(Phil is even clutch during a fun time at the 2009 Biletnikoff Celebrity Golf Tournament)

The Wild Days In Oakland:

Along with their amazing winning ways, Oakland also lead the league in having fun. The Raiders off the field craziness was unequalled, with Phil Villapiano being the unofficial ring leader of all of the antics. The stories of the Raiders training camp days in Santa Rosa are of legend. So many fans enjoyed spending time with players at North Bay hotspots and one of their favorites to party with was Villapiano and Ken Stabler.

(Phil’s interview on his foundation to save the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy)

He would set up activities and games to break the monotony of training camp.   And as many players have said, cheating was not only encouraged but a necessity. Players drank with fans, outcasts, and anyone else that was considered part of the Raider family. Hells Angels and the Black Panthers would befriend some Raiders, and even a few shady figures would emerge. While most celebrities loved glamorous teams like the Cowboys, actors like James Garner became friends with the Raiders of the 70’s along with owner Al Davis.

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Phil Loves his golf especially charity events

From paying a woman to run naked across the practice field, to setting a small fire to stop the monotony of training camp, the pranks were wild and Phil was usually the instigator. Phil once even helped put on a wedding at one of the restaurants with some of the Raiders helping with the direction and officiating of the nuptials. After passing the hat around they helped the couple go on a honeymoon. Of course the wedding was bogus, and to this day no one knew if the couple ever found out they really weren’t married.

Phil & the Raiders Legacy:

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Phil is all smiles giving the #1 sign late in the game of the Raiders 1st Super Bowl win against the Vikings

I fought with some old time NFL fans and writers last year who tried to downplay how good the Raiders were. We all know how I love facts so I was loaded for bear. Daryle Lamonica was 38-4-1 in his first 43 starts for Oakland.   Ken Stabler was 50-11-1 in his first 62 starts and the Raiders were 18-1-1 in their first 20 Monday night football games. No offense, but if Derek Carr and the Raiders had those stats today, with the fervor of social media, they would be erecting statues for them.

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Raiders Greats; Phil Villapiano and Jim Otto

The Facts About The Raiders & the 1970’s:

The Raiders won more games than any other team in the NFL in the 1970’s, the greatest decade in NFL history.   During the 1970-75 dynasty of the Miami Dolphins, the Raiders were 4-2 against the mighty Dolphins including 2-1 in the playoffs. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970’s, the Raiders were the only team with success owning a 6-5 record. They were 2-3 against Pittsburgh in the playoffs but one of those wins was the Immaculate Reception, and another was the 16-10 loss in Pittsburgh, where “somehow” outside the hash-marks the field had become completely frozen after the Steelers groundskeepers allegedly watered it down in the frigid cold of a Pennsylvania winter day. One of the few players Pittsburgh Hall of Famer Mel Blount struggled with was Cliff Branch. Al Davis got in an argument, yelling at Pete Rozelle before the game on the field saying how this now limited Cliff Branch’s speed. And they say the Raiders cheated!

In an online contest created by the NFL on their website, the 1976 Raiders were voted the greatest team in NFL history by over 5.2 million fans.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/over-5-2-million-nfl-fans-vote-the-1976-oakland-raiders-the-best-team-of-all-time/

Phil was a big part of all this success. In fact most felt the Raiders were better in 1977 but Phil and OL John Vella had season ending injuries.  The beat up Raiders were never healthy for the rest of the decade.   Eventually he was traded to Buffalo not long after he made comments that the Raiders needed to stay in Oakland. He said that he never felt those comments got Al Davis mad, but Phil is a nicer guy than I am and I’m not so sure.

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Phil making sure Steelers great Franco Harris goes nowhere.

Phil is Just as Good Off the Field:

First off, congratulations to Phil who just won the Jersey Shore’s greatest Sports Personality in the last 50 years! We hope that this is not the last HOF he gets into.  Again, please go to his Facebook page to support his Hall of Fame run.

http://shoresportsnetwork.com/phil-villapiano/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1878470965816620/

When I first worked for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation in honor of my cousin Celestina, I was so happy to see Phil Villapiano being such a huge contributor for them. Phil has lent himself to many charities and he is beloved by fans and organizations alike. Phil is in various Hall of Fames and his other charities include saving the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy and MDA & ALS.

http://www.niashf.org/inductees/phil-villapiano/

The story of Phil giving his Super Bowl ring to inspire a man in a wheel chair is amazing and continues to spread online.

http://www.nj.com/sports/index.ssf/2017/02/one_raiders_star_walked_the_walk_with_the_gift_of.html

He also has bravely offered his brain to CTE research as well. Players like Jim Plunkett and George Atkinson have discussed the issue and the struggles they are having, and Phil also has done several interviews on the effects that football has had on his body.

https://www.mercurynews.com/2016/04/21/raiders-great-phil-villapiano-pledges-brain-to-research/

Phil recently has joined his voice with other former NFL players to support flag football instead of tackle football for kids under the age of 14.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/18/health/nfl-no-tackle-football-kids/index.html

Jim’s Jamz:

Phil joins the ranks of so many special Raider players. Their love of life, football and their fellow man is both inspiring and endearing. Born in Long Branch, New Jersey and raised in Asbury Park, Phil has left his mark on many hearts around the country. He has seen pain and tragedy but through it all he lives life with joy and a smile. Graduating from Bowling Green and making a name on the national scene in Oakland, he is more than a college icon, former NFL Rookie of the Year, 2 time all NFL player, or 5 time all AFC player. A lot more.

I was once asked on a podcast why the Raiders players relationship with the fans was so special because they said they just didn’t understand it.  I said, “Most people look at the players as celebrity athletes. It’s their team. Even though I was too little to understand anything, in Oakland the Raiders were not celebrities but they were considered family. The players were underpaid so many worked, played and were socially active with the fans.   They also genuinely enjoyed and cared for each other, and the players were a part of the community. From Al Davis who the NFL and most owners hated; to the great Bill King who the networks and the Warriors took off of tv for looking like the Devil; neither they, the players or the fans really fit in anywhere.  Except in Oakland”.

“They worked hard and played hard and loved their families. They were outcasts and throw aways that made sense to no one. The players were always too old, wild, or too slow or not big enough.  Al Davis would see their heart and take them in.  Then you put them all together with an East Bay attitude under an overcast, grey sky in Oakland on a crisp fall day, and together they all made sense. They won and they dominated.  The pride; the winning; the diversity in race and religion; it was the best relationship in sports.  No stadium was louder, no bond stronger”.

From New Jersey to California, Phil has never lost who he was and who was there for the ride. His loyalty and love for fans and family is contagious. And anyone that could put a smile on my mom and dad’s face has my loyalty.

(The Amazing run of the Raiders; The Rebels of Oakland)

They say never meet your heroes, and when I first started my medical business in the bay area, I was able to meet some A-List athletes and celebrities that I admired.  Most were ok, but a couple turned out to be arrogant, self absorbed and just plain strange and it hurt.  Raider fans are lucky because for the most part they are never disappointed.  Meet Lester Hayes or Jim Otto or Phil Villapiano, and they will have you leaving with a smile.  Phil is a fan favorite due to his whit, love of life, and passionate heart.  He’s never really received the credit he deserved on the field, but let’s be real, many Raiders haven’t.  People forget the east coast media dominated sports at the time.  I’m sorry but waiting this long for Cliff Branch, Lester Hayes, Jack Tatum and Phil Villapiano is unacceptable and I’ve told the NFL writers as such.  (Don’t get me started on Ken Stabler). Phil is already in our HOF and I hope Phil truly knows just how special he is to the bay area.

So if you are having a rough day, open your favorite adult beverage and go on youtube and enjoy the Super Bowl and championship games all over again. Check out Phil’s interviews that will leave you inspired and always laughing. Reminisce about the players and friends and family that you shared these amazing times with. Remember loved ones that are no longer with us that you shared so much with and who started your journey as a Raider fan.  The Sea of Hands; The Holy Roller; the Ghost to the Post; the Heidi Game; and all that winning. For me, every time I watch these videos and see the feelings of joy in the fans and the players, it’s as exciting as the Klondike, flying over the Atlantic, or the story of the White Whale.

How innocent were those days….how rich we are to have known them.

“Some Raider Fans Are Happy & Some Mad; The Good & Bad of Drafting Kolton Miller on Another Crazy Draft Day in Oakland”

 

kolton miller

Never a dull moment.

In true Oakland Raiders draft day fashion, they had people scratching their heads, mouths agape, while some clapped their hands with hope. In one hour they managed to tick off 75% of the fan base, and had me laughing my head off with the Twitter rants of upset Raider fans.  Even though 95% of fans had no clue who Kolton Miller was before yesterday, there was much battling online about the choice.  Welcome to the 2018 NFL Oakland Raiders Draft kids.

ESPN Study Shows ALL NFL Teams Struggle With the NFL Draft:

Since 2000 at our draft party, I’ve been flat out documenting my drafts. (Last year I drafted Reuben Foster and the Raiders drafted Gareon Conley). This year I drafted Vita Vea and the Raiders drafted Karlton Miller.

When fans and writers were telling me that all Jamarcus Russell, Darius Heyward-Bey, and Fabian Washington needed was time, I was choosing Calvin Johnson, Michael Crabtree and Aaron Rodgers. I’ve tried to get other fans and writers to document their drafts with me. Still I have NO takers, mainly because drafting is hard and most don’t want their picks to be remembered.  As I tell all of my followers, if I’m not right most of the time, don’t follow me. It’s easy to be a Monday morning QB and question bad drafts of the past when in reality many backed the choices.

ESPN finally proved what I’ve been saying for years. With all of the nonsense at the NFL combines and the stupid questions that teams ask, many are missing on their picks.

http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/23039883/history-tells-us-nfl-terrible-evaluating-quarterbacks-means-2018-draft-prospects

The NFL especially sucks when drafting Quarterbacks. I didn’t really love any of the picks this year and Josh Allen? If you are tall and have a big arm, you are anointed a QB prospect to most NFL scouts. And most NFL scouts have been proven to be WRONG when it comes to the NFL draft.   DOCUMENTED.  FACTS.

So when fans and online writers tell me that everyone should just bow down to the “experts” because they know more and are right much more often, well they are WRONG. I’m not bragging but I’ve been out-drafting the Raiders for years and if some amateur like me (and others) can outdraft an NFL team that spends millions on it, then there is something wrong with the process.

Someone once said if you look at a pretty women day after day for months, eventually you will find flaws and soon she’s not that pretty. That’s what the NFL does with the NFL combines and other nonsense. To throw out years of game films for a few days of drills in gym shorts in an air conditioned arena or in nice sunny weather, is insanity. That’s why John Madden once said on CBS radio, “I watch what they do on the field.   Not in gym shorts doing drills”.

Ok enough talking Jax, what happened yesterday and was it a good thing?

Why UCLA OT Kolton Miller Was a Good Pick:

To be fair, the Raiders needed a Tackle either this year or next.  Unfortunately this was one of the worst drafts for Tackles in recent memory. In contrast there are already 4 offensive tackles; and possibly more; that I like for next years draft over miller. Neither Mike McGlinchey out of Notre Dame or Kolton Miller out of UCLA are a sure thing but both have a lot of potential.   I read over about 50 evaluations about Miller from scouts and even his biggest fan said he’s a B- type draft pick who could start in the NFL and be average to very good. That’s not exactly Jonathon Ogden type fervor but a very good NFL tackle is worth their weight in gold.

They don’t say it but Oakland knows the key to the engine of their offense is Derek Carr, and the key to Derek Carr is protecting him. He’s straight up a bad QB when he’s rushed and had the worst QB rating of any NFL starter against a pass rush.  Protect him and he’s a very good QB.

The 49ers made a nice pick in the more seasoned Mike McGlinchey out of Notre Dame. With Trent Brown a year away from a huge payday and looking overweight following shoulder surgery, they wanted to make sure they had insurance at a much lesser price.

mike mcglinchey

The Raiders took the second best tackle in Kolton Miller out of UCLA. He’s 6’ 8” and has great athleticism. He had the fastest 40 time of any OL (why that matters I don’t know) and before he wowed people at the NFL combine, he was considered more of a second round pick by most.

Miller and experts have said he wants to improve against smaller, quicker pass rushers and become more polished. He’s not a plug and play guy like McGlinchey, and it will take a year or two of seasoning to see what the Raiders got in him but he has the ability to be a quality linemen. He’s insurance on the OL and that isn’t a bad thing.  If somehow he can overcome the tall man tackle syndrome (struggle getting low against speed rushers) and shore up his technique, the Raiders feel they have a tackle for several years that can shore up the OL.

By trading down the Raiders got 2 extra picks.  They used the #3 pick to trade for Pittsburgh’s WR Martavius Bryant.  I like his talent, but hate his attitude of always thinking he’s never getting enough balls or credit, but think he’ll do great with Oakland. Problem is you trade down to get a coveted #3 pick that is going to be with you for 10 months. Next year he is an unrestricted free agent so he’s pretty much a rent a player. He told the Pittsburgh press, I want a lot of balls and a lot of money. He’s making 1.94 million this year and has been underpaid. He’s talented so he’ll probably get both.  If you thought Michael Crabtree was a pain in the ass, Bryant says, “hold my beer”.  He’s a talent though.

Was drafting Miller and trading down and getting this pick a good thing? Bryant will be good for 2018 but beyond that it won’t help much. Miller is a project but may have to play now.  It wasn’t Bill Walsh or New England Patriots trading down, but it wasn’t bad.  I still think there are many more plug and play tackles for next years draft.

Why This was a Bad Idea:

In the last 21 drafts the Raiders have drafted a defensive front 7 player only 2 times and one of them fell in their lap; Khalil Mack. They’ve drafted 8 DB’s in that time. They have 1 winning season in 15 years and no playoffs wins. NOT a coincidence. The Raiders refusal to use #1 draft picks for defensive front 7 players is killing them. Stop the run and rush the passer.  You do that with DL and LB’s.

Some said the Raiders Super Bowl wins were mainly because of the OL. Well it wasn’t mainly but they played a big role for sure. The defense though only allowed 33 points in 3 Super Bowl wins and great QB’s like Tarkenton, Theismann & Jaworski spent their Super Bowls running for their lives due to the Raiders great defensive front 7’s.

With the new rule changes, it’s near impossible for DB’s to cover for long periods of time. You have to put pressure on the QB. The Eagles, Rams, Saints, Broncos, Jaguars and a few other teams are going out of their way to get as many pass rushers as they can find. With Von Miller, Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett and now Bradley Chubb, the Broncos have some extreme heat to put on Qb’s if they can stay healthy. The Raiders only have Khalil Mack.

The Raiders defense isn’t good; it’s not even average. Their obsession with using #1 picks for defensive backs and offense and then using later rounds to pick DL’s and LB’s has straight up been an epic fail. Take out the 2014 NFL draft and Reggie McKenzie’s drafts are brutal. The Raiders have one of the best pass rushers in the NFL but still can’t crack the top 20 in sacks. Two years ago they were last in the NFL in QB sacks and last year 24th.

The Raiders obviously are not into the defensive side of the ball like they are on the offensive side.   Vita Vea is a straight up disruptive player that made a big difference in the Washington Huskies defense and he is much more explosive and physical than Ward and Vanderdoes. He dropped to the Raiders but no dice. And if you are obsessed like the Raiders are with DB’s, Derwin James was there to pick to play safety. I’m not super high on him like I was Minkah Fitzpatrick but he would have been a quality pick. Now the Chargers polished off their defensive backfield by choosing him.  Tremaine Edmunds was considered the best LB by many in the draft and he’s going to turn 20 next month.  He was available as well and was taken in the next pick after Miller.

Tom Brady had 2 final drives to beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl. Both drives failed because of the Eagles quality pass rush. The Eagles now got another quality pass rusher in Seattle great Michael Bennett. Did I mention yet that the Raiders have only Khalil Mack?

What Will Happen in Day 2:

The Raiders will do what they’ve been doing for years.   They have all their toys so now they are going to try and get things they really need like DL and LB’s. They will use later round picks to try to keep fixing their defense and their recent history shows it doesn’t work.

Obi Melinfonwu is more athlete than football player and still has a lot to learn. Karl Joseph is good against the run but still struggles covering people. It’s more clear who will start at cornerback, but not clear if any will succeed. The Raiders LB’s struggled last year and they could not put up a consistent pass rush even with Khalil Mack. An aging Navorro Bowman was their best LB and he’s unsigned and it’s unclear whether he will choose dollar signs or stay in his beloved bay area. And the Raiders have been very spoiled with Mack’s health. What if Khalil Mack gets hurt? Did I mention the Raiders only have Khalil Mack to rush the passer?

Jim Jamz:

I get what the Raiders are doing and it’s not the worst idea in the world, but they wanted a tackle no matter what and the defense isn’t good. With the defensive talent out there, I would have chosen for defense in Vea, Edmunds or James and then looked for a Tackle that could start right away in 2019. Already for next year I see 4 tackles for the 2019 draft that I like better than Kolton Miller. If Miller is a year or two away then why not just draft a better tackle next year who can be a plug and play player?

I think what bothered fans yesterday is the pattern. Draft DB or offense in the first round and then try to plug the defensive front 7 holes in the later rounds. That strategy doesn’t work. The defensive front 7 is the key to your defense; especially in today’s NFL; and until the Raiders get that, Super Bowl trophies are not happening.  And with 1 winning season in 15 years and no playoff wins, fans that say give them time and be positive are beginning to be drowned out more and more by the Just Win Baby crowd. You can’t lie about facts.  Time will tell.

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

inminkah final

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.

roquan smith final

  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.

minkah 2

  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.

mike mcglinchey

  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.

vita-vea-washington-660-350

  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.

derwin james

  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”

derek carr struggles

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”

jack del rio ref

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.

irvin

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.

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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.

 

“Will the Raiders Let Sebastian Janikowski Go?  Updating the Situation Between The Raiders and Their Kicker”

sebastian janikowski

ESPN broke the story last night that the Oakland Raiders and kicker Sebastian Janikowski are at an impasse in regards to his contract and that there is a chance the Raiders will let him go.  He is the second longest tenured player on one team behind Tom Brady.

Janikowski turned 39 in March, and he presently is struggling with a bad back and has missed 2 pre-season games.  The Raiders do not know if he will be ready for opening day.

He is in the final year of his contract which will pay him 4 million this year.  The Raiders have asked him to rework his contract and take a price decrease and Janikowski has said he will not do it.  The next time fans complain about a player not “honoring” their contract, needs to be reminded that approximately 90% of the contracts in the NFL are NOT honored by the teams. Many outlets are reporting that the Raiders have held tryouts with Mike Nugent, Josh Lambo, and Marshall Koehn.

Mike Nugent was cut from the New York Giants.  The 35 year old kicker was 23 for 29 last year for Big Blue but his longest FG was 47 yards and he was 0-3 from 50 plus yards.  He also was only 23 for 29 on extra points.

Josh Lambo was 26 for 32 last year for the Chargers and was 0-3 from 50 yards or more.  He was 42 for 46 for extra points.

Marshall Koehn is a rookie from Iowa.  He was 16 for 20 in field goals and 47 for 53 in extra points for the Hawkeyes.  He was also a backup punter kicking 8 times for a 40.9 yard average.

Several reporters are stating online that Janikowski really looks awful and isn’t close to being ready to play.  Take that for what it is worth.  I’ve seen him in reports this pre-season and he didn’t look that hurt but you never know.

The reason the Raiders want this resolved so quickly is that if they don’t rework his contract by 1 pm today, Oakland will owe Janikowski 1/17th of his contract, or $238,000.00.  Even if they keep Janikowski, they will need to sign a kicker if he’s out for any games.

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

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

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

Oakland Raiders v New Orleans Saints
Derek Carr

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

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

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

Grade:  A

deandre washingto
DeAndre Washington breaking a run against the Titans

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

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

Grade:  A

Panthers Raiders Football
Raiders LT Donald Penn

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

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

Grade:  A+

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Michael Crabtree warming up before a home game in Oakland

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

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

Grade:  A

jared cook
New Tight End Jared Cook

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

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

Grade:  B+

khalil mack
Khalil Mack rushing the QB

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

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

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

Grade:  C+

corey james
LB Corey James

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

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

Grades:  D 

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CB David Amerson

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

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

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

Grade D:

joseph-raiders
Safety Karl Joseph

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

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

Grade:  C

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Raiders punter Marquette King

Special Teams:

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

Grade:  A (for now)

Jack Del Rio
Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio

Coaching/Front Office:

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

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

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

Grade:  A-

AFCwest

The State of the AFC West:

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

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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.

“Raider Fans Upset @ Average Draft Grades: Let’s Look at these Players & How They Fit into 2017-18”

ConleyJog
Gareon Conley During Pre-Game Warm ups in Norman, Oklahoma

After the NFL draft, writers and fans LOVE post draft grades.  For me, I don’t like them much.  I feel that it takes 3 years to really know what a draft is about.  I think if a player is drafted in the first 3 rounds, they need to contribute significantly in their second year or you are bordering on bust.  This is the salary cap era and you can’t afford to have guys sit for 3-4 years before they are good.

Most grades for the Raiders from the media have been luke warm.  From Mel Kiper Jr. and others giving them a C, to various others giving them up to a B-.  Overall I like some of the things the Raiders did but was disappointed that certain things were not addressed.

I think the main problem is when you have the worst pass rush in the NFL and you are not good at stopping the run, why draft two DB’s in your first 2 picks?  That didn’t make sense.  Some say well Fosters health is an issue?  Why.  He’s coming off of rotator cuff surgery and will be cleared for all football duties before training camp.  He never missed a game and rarely missed a practice in 2 years at Bama.  The Raiders picked a guy that had late season knee surgery in Karl Joseph so that’s not the issue. McKenzie said they thought Conley was the better player.  I watch a TON of college ball and I’m not seeing that at all.  The SEC championship game MVP didn’t miss a game the last 2 years and was all over the field for much of the time.

Let’s look below at the mostly good, but sometimes bad things in the Oakland Raiders 2017 draft.

1st Round Gareon Conley CB Ohio St.

Positives:  Experts say he’s an excellent cover guy who can stick with his man especially going downfield.  Fast; rarely gets beaten badly and is always around the receiver.  He is a solid cover DB in either man, zone press coverage, or even against slot receivers.  Not a spectacular player but very solid in all areas.

Negatives:  Other than Marshon Lattimore, it was hard to watch the DB’s of Ohio St. tackle and play the run and Conley was one of those that struggled big time tackling.  Conley is not physical and even though he’ll line up on guys at the line of scrimmage, he doesn’t like to jam them.  He did give up some big plays against more physical WR and struggled in crossing patterns or slants.

Overview:  I do not like picking DB’s so early whent the rules are changing so much in regards to cover. A pass rush is vital and the Raiders haven’t had a consistent one in years. Reggie Mckenzie said he went for the best player available but Reuben Foster & Jabil Peppers are more talented.  Foster was a perfect fit in the Raiders defense and is on schedule to be ready before training camp after his rotator cuff surgery.  I take Foster all day but the Raiders obviously think the keys to a defense are DB’s and not the front 7.  Go figure.

Patriots_Obi_Melifonwu_Josh_Hill_Merrimack_2
Obi Melifonwu

2nd Round:  Obi Melifonwu S Connecticut

Positives:  Some say he’s the best athlete in the NFL draft since Vernon Gholston who the NY media called Adonis.  Obi is 6’ 4”, 220 lb. and is extremely fast.  He’s excellent against the run leading the team in tackles in some games and breaking records for tackles by non LB’s .  His draft stock sky rocketed during the NFL combines.  Very long arms that he uses well when tackling.  He has a long neck and looks a little like a bigger Merton Hanks from 49er’s fame.

Negatives:  As raw as it gets in pass coverage.  Tentative, and lacks instinct.  He has a lot to learn if he’s going to be good in the NFL in coverage.  It will take a year or two to see what the Raiders really have in him.  UCONN was outscored 130-16 in their last 4 games last year and they weren’t exactly playing Alabama so you wonder about his elevated stats, because their defensive front 7 was not good.     

Outlook:  I HATE this pick. Watching him at UCONN he made great plays if he got to where he needed to be but that was hit or miss. He’s still learning how to play and is a project at best. I always worry about NFL combine warriors.  Karl Joseph is good against the run but just ok against the pass so right now they have a bigger Karl Joseph in him.  I think this is going to be a great pick or a pure bust; and I personally think this will be a bust.  Time will tell.  With Raiders Safeties struggling to stay healthy we may find out quickly.

3rd Round:  Eddie Vanderdoes DT UCLA

Positives:  He is a powerful, athletic DT.  He had a bad year last year coming off of ACL surgery.  He gained a lot of weight and didn’t seem very motivated.  The good news is that he’s lost 30-40 pounds and seems much more into football.  He was a top ten 5 star recruit out of high school.

A tough guy to block against the run who can handle double teams and keep his ground.  If he keeps his weight down, he has the possibility of being a solid DT in the NFL.  When he’s motivated, he’s fun to watch because of how physical he plays.

Negatives:  Most experts had this pick being too high, which was similar to Jihad Ward last year (I hated the Ward pick last year).  Some had him going in the 4th and even 5th round.  Even with his top billing out of high school, Vanderdoes is not a good pass rusher.  He has only 4 sacks in 3 years and is more suited to be a rotational DT run stopper.  McKenzie said he wanted the DL to get more athletic and they’ve done that with Vanderdoes but where is the pass rusher?

Overview:  Not a horrible pick but this is far from solving the Raiders DT issue and again, I don’t get it.  Again, DB’s rule the day in Oakland and the Raiders reach for a guy that isn’t a pass rusher.  I think he can help the DL but a third rounder with question marks isn’t going to get you to the next level when you are last in the NFL in sacks.

4th Round:  David Sharpe OT Florida

Positives:  HUGE.  He’s 6’ 6” tall and 350 lbs. and that might be before meals.  He’s a monstrous tackle.  If he can get his hands on defenders, he usually blocks them.  Surprisingly good pull blocker on occasional running plays and has strong hands.  A hard worker that showed up every week.

Weaknesses:  He plays like a statue in pass protection.  Anyone that watched a lot of SEC ball knows he’s not quick and he struggled with the speed end rushers of the SEC.  Florida was only 10th in allowed sacks in the SEC and at times defending the pass rush was a big problem.  Already some are saying he’s a guard trapped in a tackles body.  Think of a little bit stiffer and slower Robert Gallery who also had to be switched to guard after struggling at tackle.

Overview:  Raiders like them big at OL and this wasn’t the worst pick but after watching him struggle at times in the SEC with speed edge rushers, it’s hard to think he’s quick enough to play tackle in the NFL.  They will try him there but guard may suit him better. A project with potential.

5th Round:  Marquel Lee LB Wake Forrest

Positives:  Had great numbers at Wake Forrest.  He’s lean and athletic and has the speed to make plays on the outside.  Not bad in pass coverage but not great.  He is a pretty good tackler in the open field using his speed and length to take down runners.  A smart player with good leadership abilities, who was well liked by his coaches.  Consistent player who will always give his best effort and is good to have on your team.

Negatives.  More of a speed/finesse player than a physical player.  Not a physical tackler.  He has great numbers but on a bad team with a bad defense that went 13-24 the last two years.  He’s lean and only weighs 235 so his skill set and body type are more for an OLB and not an MLB.  Again, not really an attacking play maker but he gets the job done.

Overview:  I think he has potential to be a starting OLB, maybe even this year.  The Raiders LB’s have holes in their game and he has a chance for playing time.  He’s a nice 5th round pick but if he’s your starting MLB, you’ve got issues. I like the pick though.

7th Round:  Shalom Luani S Washington St.

Shalom played on a team that used him mostly in zone defenses.  He’s a high effort guy but is a bad tackler and at times WSU actually hid him in their zone defense to allow him to roam over guarding players one on one.  The Cougars aren’t exactly into defense to be honest. Mike Leach teams are about one thing; offense.

7th Round:  Jylan Ware OT Alabama St.

A long term project.  He is 6’ 8”, 290 pounds.  He has to add bulk.  Scouts say he needs more speed and a lot of coaching to improve his technique.  Hard pressed to make the team.

7th Round:  Elijah Hood RB North Carolina

Hood was a star coming out of high school.  He’s had good years at NC but last year he had somewhat pedestrian numbers.  Most thought he would go back to college for one more year to improve his stock.

A straight ahead runner with not much speed.  He might be good for short yardage but he’s an excellent pass blocker and not a bad pass catcher so that may help him get time too.  A banger who isnt’ going to outrun anyone. Plays hard but might not be fast enough for NFL.

7th Round Treyvon Hester DT Toledo

He will have a hard time making the team but they could keep him on the practice squad.  He has potential.  He had a nice senior year and works hard.  Has a lot to learn and is a long term project.  May have the potential to be a run stopping DT in a rotational system.

Reuben Foster, Curtis Samuel
Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster (10) hits Ohio State running back Curtis Samuel (4) in the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal game, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Jim’s Jamz:

Do I think the Raiders had an awesome draft?  No way.  But unlike other drafts I at least can see what they are thinking. Conley is a good cover guy and should be a good player at CB but his lack of physicality is troubling.  The Raiders DB’s have struggled with injuries so he will see playing time I’m sure.  With Sean Smith and David Amerson’s contacts coming up next year without a cap hit, the Raiders are counting on Conley to learn quickly because he will probably be starting next year. Obi is a great story and a freak athlete but he has a long way to go to be a factor in the NFL in my opinion.

Since 2001 the Raiders have amazingly drafted a DB in the first round 7 times!  Only 1 of them panned out but that includes Joseph who we don’t know about yet.  That’s a ton of busts. Time and time again the best defenses in the NFL can do 2 things; stop the run and rush the passer.  The Raiders struggled doing either last year.  Vanderdoes might help out against the run but the pass rush doesn’t improve with him playing.

They have to upgrade their talent level and I think they did a little bit with this draft but they have a long way to go. The Raiders said loud and clear that their DB’s right now aren’t good enough and they want an upgrade.  Meet you back here in 2-3 years to see how they did. I have a feeling this will be another draft that the Raiders missed out on.