With the announcement of Oakland Raiders star pass rusher Khalil Mack’s hold out, some began to worry if there was a possibility the Raiders may eventually lose Mack after this season. I love social media and it already has many comments on the subject. Some are tweeting Mack is done with the Raiders and others are saying he won’t be there week 1. As we always do, let’s be realistic about this situation.
I said after the Super Bowl that if I was Khalil Mack, I would not play another play without a long term deal. If Mack plays the last year of his contract and gets hurt, he will lose money, and maybe a lot of it.
Some said that they want Mack to just show up and play because he is making a good salary now but that would be ridiculous. At 27 years old, this will be Mack’s biggest contract signing of his career, so he needs to cash in on it big time.
Last year the Rams all world DT Aaron Donald held out until the day before the season started wanting a new contract. Rams fans/writers were losing their minds saying he ruined his season and he was done in Los Angeles. After a few weeks Donald was back to form terrorizing offenses while being double teamed most of the year. I do agree that it remains to be seen if the Rams burned a bridge with him but the hopes there is that they can work out a long term deal.
Le’Veon Bell didn’t show up for Pittsburgh until September 1st and after a sluggish start, began to dominate in week 4 becoming maybe the best all around RB in the NFL. After the season ended, ridiculous rumors started popping up that the Raiders were in the lead to get Bell. I reminded a national writer and several local writers that this was nonsense. For a year Pittsburgh said that they were going to franchise Bell and that was that. Well, that is exactly what happened.
You have to think these things through and not just throw things on the wall to get a rise out of people. Thus when you hear rumors, read the people you trust and do your own homework and see that most rumors are nothing to worry about.
The Reggie McKenzie Factor:
Just like with Derek Carr, Reggie McKenzie isn’t the type to want to wait until the last second to sign a player. They want to sign Mack quickly before his final year begins. Both sides are reasonable, want to have a relationship, and feel good about getting it done. Remember that Derek Carr signed on June 22nd of last year so there is no need to panic. I would not overreact to all of the nasty nipping and fighting that may occur during these types of negotiations. When a deal is done, most everything is forgiven no matter how nasty the negotiations.
Last year in a nice interview with NBC Bay Area, Mack stated that he knows this is a business. He also said he wanted to be a Raider for life and that it’s a no-brainer for him to stay with Oakland for the rest of his career. Mack has shown himself to be honest and level headed. Nothing has changed and I see Mack signing something long term most likely sooner than later.
Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald are playing a cat and mouse game to see who signs first, so the other player can get an idea of what to ask for. As for head coach Jon Gruden, he just wants him on the field again. Even in a couple of press conferences this week, Gruden said that what the Raiders do in contracts is private, but he said they would like to have Mack back signed as quickly as possible and he’s hopeful they can reach an agreement. He also commented that part of coming back as a coach was to coach for Mack.
Should Raider fans be worried right now? No. If I was Mack I’d hold out until the season started if needed, and then I’d tell the Raiders the time to talk ended and I’m opting out for free agency at the end of the season. Of course during the season I’d still be negotiating and trying to sign a deal.
I personally think Mack will sign in late June or even July. I don’t think it could play out until August but who knows. Either way I’d be shocked and stunned if he kept holding out. It’s the same thing I told fans back when Derek Carr signed and people got worried. If Khalil doesn’t have a contract after the season starts then I’d worry, but even then I wouldn’t lose my mind.
The Raiders are not going to be pushovers and just cave in to his demands but as long as he’s not hurt, Mack is holding all of the aces. With him there are still some big questions on defense for the Raiders but without him there are HUGE issues. The Raiders are not going to let him go because they need him big time. This is not Jr. High School loyalty folks, this is the NFL and it’s business. In the end I see Mack playing for the Raiders for a long, long time and I’d worry more about other things in life like what you are having for dinner and who will win the World Cup.
On a cool winter bay area night after a 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Derek Carr grasps hands with players from both teams on the field. He leads them in prayer thanking God for all that they have been given in life and for their continued safety. His disappointment though is obvious. Carr had fumbled out of bounds in the end zone on the Raiders last play of the game for a touchback. With that, a bad season officially got worse. Less things have to happen to make Justin Bieber win an Oscar than for the Raiders to make the playoffs. And in reality they don’t deserve it.
As he walks off the field Carr hears the manic responses that are so prevalent after an NFL game, win or lose. Some fans are cussing, and there is the occasional you suck, mixed in with a supportive word. As he leaves the field, two young fans ask for his autograph and he obliges instantly with a grin. Just like the times when he visits children in hospitals or does some of his charity work, he always does it with a smile. The life of Derek Carr has it’s up’s and downs.
History of Domination:
It was a history lesson for some and a reminder for others. Two of the most storied franchises in history were meeting in Oakland. It wasn’t Stabler v.s. Staubach but it still meant something extra.
The network showed that for 2 ½ decades, the Raiders and the Cowboys were NFL royalty. They always topped the NFL in tv ratings and they were must see TV. The goody America’s team with the cheerleaders and the too much makeup Texas look, against the bad boy Raiders and the cheerleaders who looked like the girls your mom warned you about. The NFL world stopped when the Raiders or the Cowboys played. When it looked like the Raiders and Cowboys were destined to play in the Super Bowl in 1978, the Raiders were derailed by several key injuries and a little event called the Rob Lytle fumble in Denver in the AFC Championship game. When the Broncos won, the network and the nation groaned. They wanted to see Oakland v.s. Dallas. The Cowboys dominated Denver 27-10 in a boring Super Bowl. What might have been.
(below are the condensed highlights. Click on the YouTube Icon on the bottom or double click on the video. The NFL will only allow viewers to watch it on YouTube)
What Do the Raiders Have in Derek Carr:
Four years ago some of us said the truth about Derek Carr. He’s got a good arm, is accurate when not rushed, and is a good leader. He also has limitations that may not improve with time. Even the melodramatic Chris Collinsworth said the same thing. He showed a shocking statistic that Carr’s QB rating was a whopping 60% less when he was rushed. He’s been that way since his Fresno St. days. I remember him literally imploding against USC. His psyche is a little fragile at times and he has to become more Brett Favre and Ken Stabler and less Bert Jones and Alex Smith. He needs to be a little more confident and borderline cocky but that isn’t in his makeup.
Even with the rules making breathing around a WR a penalty, the QB situation in the NFL is at an all time low. With this in mind, the Raiders are lucky to have Carr but they also have to realize he has limitations. Just look at the over-hyped Dak Prescott. He was the media darling last year but rarely did the game fall upon his shoulders. When they won though, he got the credit often. Cowboy fans fought with me online when I said how overrated he was. Well, with Ezekiel Elliott out for 6 weeks, the games were put on his shoulders and he failed. Even when they won, he struggled. People don’t think he’s elite anymore. It shows the Carr’s of the NFL world are very valuable. When you ask people who want to get rid of Carr what their choice is to replace him, many shrug and say I don’t know. One guy said just keep looking. This is why “geniuses” in the social media world will never run an NFL team.
If I were the head coach or GM, I would go back to the Daryl Lamonica tapes and show Carr and the Raiders who they should be. The more things change the more they stay the same. This zone blocking scheme was created for a quick, fast OL and needs to be trashed yesterday. The Raiders ran for 122 yards last night with 47 of them coming from Carr’s scrambles. The Raiders are not a zone blocking team.
What they are is a huge, physical, bruising OL and they need to go back to being that. Collinsworth pointed out something I’ve been writing about all year. They have no offensive identity.
They need to go back to being a physical power rushing team that throws deep. During their glory days, often the Raiders would throw deep on their first offensive play of the game just to let teams know that Warren Wells, or a Cliff Branch or a Tim Brown was going to beat them some time that day and they better not forget it. You send a message that you will throw deep at any time and from anywhere. In one year the Raiders were in the top 5 for rushing and passing. That’s balance.
Oakland needs that identity. With a solid running game they now can use the play action pass and look downfield. Carr can excel in that type of offense. Carr is a solid B to B+ quarterback and in today’s game, those are getting harder to find.
I’d also tell Carr I could care less if you throw 4 interceptions. Stop worrying about reactions on social media, in the media itself, as well as perceptions and stupid stats. I want that ball going deep. Use those speedy WR talents to the limits. No one respects the Raiders deep throws anymore and it’s obvious Carr is playing not to make a mistake. Carr has been lucky the last 3 weeks. He’s thrown 6 passes literally right in the hands of defenders who just dropped the balls. He did it again last night with 2 more passes that defenders dropped which were thrown right at them.
It’s comical to have 3 super fast WR and not throw deep. And stop blaming everything on OC Todd Downing. I agree he’s not the answer but Carr wanted this guy as OC and the Raiders did it for Carr.
In regards to play calling, Carr can change the play any time he wants. Even an average fan can see when the two safeties are crowding the line that you don’t go with a run play; you throw the ball. Unfortunately on a few occasions last night, again no audible was called. The QB is the coach on the field and Carr needs to be that. Right now sometimes he’s not. Carr is the highest paid player in the NFL and the excuses have to stop and he needs to get to the next level.
Do you think John Elway, Brett Favre, or Ken Stabler ever worried about an interception or would ever let a play happen if they didn’t like it? Gunslingers in the NFL have one thing; a short memory; and a whole lot of wins. They are control freaks who play the game like they are playing chess. Carr needs to have that mentality. When he gets flustered he looks like Alex Smith at times, hoping something bad doesn’t happen. Carr works hard and he’s a good NFL QB but if he wants to be very good he has to improve his control of games.
Were the Raiders a One Hit Wonder?:
No, but they also weren’t as good as their record last year. At 12-4 the Raiders played the second easiest schedule in the NFL; and 7 of those wins were last minute or even last second games. They beat a lot of bad teams, with a lot of effort. This year they have the 2nd or third hardest schedule and it shows. You can’t just get by against good teams. You have to beat them. The Raiders had improved last year but no where near as much as their record said they did.
Teams have adjusted to the Raiders and now they have to adjust. OC Todd Downing will almost certainly be gone but Carr still has to evolve and improve. As Marshall Faulk said, you want the big boy money then you have to play like a big boy. Next year Carr will be 27 and in the prime of his career. Many teams would love Carr but due to his huge salary and guaranteed money, he’s their quarterback for the present no matter what. John Elway often had little talent around him and even without a consistent run game, he was one of the all time greats. Derek Carr is not going to be at that level. What he is though is a solid QB who struggles against a rush. Not an uncommon problem but it means that a good running game is imperative to his success.
In reality the Raiders have a long way to go. They still need a lot of help on defense and their drafts outside of the 2014 draft have been borderline train wrecks. Until they have a consistent pass rush and can stop the run on a daily basis, it doesn’t matter who plays in the defensive backfield. And on offense the Raiders have to be tougher. Carr has to have more of a killer instinct and just let the ball go. It’s hard to see that happen though with his personality. He needs to know you can be a good guy off the field but a different one on it.
As Carr answers the last of the mundane and never ending questions of the media last night, he leaves with an obvious disappointment on his face. He looks forward to seeing his wife and kids I’m sure. And when they are fast asleep he will still be awake and fumble over and over all night long in his head with the outcome always being the same. And with the next game being against a tough Philadelphia team in cold weather and a slight chance of snow on Christmas day, he’s gone to bed with better thoughts. The life of Derek Carr has it’s up’s and downs.
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.
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.
In a fire storm that some are calling apocalyptic, 670 people are now missing and 3500 homes are destroyed. It’s also far from over. Sadly, as was being reported last night by several news outlets, All-Time Raider great Cliff Branch announced his house was burned down during the Santa Rosa fire storm. He lived near the Coffey neighborhood which looked like a war zone after the raging fire went through the area. All he could get out of his house was money, and his 3 Super Bowl rings. He drove off in one car but lost his other 2.
(below; Mercury News Story on Cliff Branch’s home)
“My house was a Raiders house” said Branch. “All three Super Bowl trophies are gone. We all got replica Lombardi Trophies when we won the Super Bowl. A lot of great Raider history from the 1970s and 1980s is gone.” When Mark Davis saw his home he called it a Raiders museum.
I’m sure all of Raider Nations positive vibes and prayers of support are with the Raider great during an extremely difficult time. At least Cliff is safe.
How to Fix the Raiders On the field:
Yesterday I read on social media some very interesting comments. Let’s address them and see how to make the Raiders as good as they can be to have a successful season.
I have one word for Jack Del Rio and Raiders OC Todd Downing. ADJUST!
The Raiders are running the same plays as last year but teams are attacking them differently. I’ve been saying it for 3 weeks, the Raiders have to change their philosophy. No longer are teams afraid of the deep ball against Oakland, so teams are going from a cover 2 to press coverage. If you look at the films of last year, many games the Raiders got easy short passes due to the huge cushions Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree got.
Former Cowboys QB Tony Romo said it best in the Washington game; “teams are no longer giving the Raiders the easy short to mid range passes, so they have to adjust and look to go deep more often to stretch them out”.
Teams don’t allow Cooper to run free on short passes. They are in his face playing physical and he has not responded well.
How to Fix It?:
The Raiders bragged all off season about picking up Cordarrelle Patterson, the speed burner WR from Minnesota. NOW USE HIM. The Raiders have 3 fast WR; Patterson, Cooper and Johnny Holton who has already caught a deep ball for a TD. Throw to these guys. It’s funny; when you start to hit some deep passes all of a sudden the DB’s start to give you cushions and the offense opens up. Cooper has lost his confidence and if there was ever a confident Raider, him talking to Cliff Branch would not be the worst thing for him. He has to be involved more.
All you heard this off season was beast mode, beast mode, beast mode. I wasn’t thrilled with the signing of Marshawn Lynch and in fact said several times the Raiders committee of running backs was more than enough. I stand by that.
How to Fix it:
The Raiders need to make Marshawn Lynch a short yardage, goal line back. He does not have the burst he did during his younger days. I like youth in my RB’s and Lynch is now 31 and is not the same player. You see the same thing with Frank Gore at Indianapolis. When someone with speed comes in it’s like night and day.
Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington need to start getting the brunt of the carries. Jamize Olawale is an underrated player and also needs 5 touches a game. All 3 are good pass blockers and pass catchers. Lynch is limited and it’s limiting the offense.
After their amazing season from last year, the standards are very high. The Raiders have only given up 12 sacks in 5 games but for this group that’s a lot. Last year Carr was the best protected QB in the NFL and he thrived. This year there have been 12 sacks and he’s struggled. It’s not a coincidence. His weakness is throwing under pressure and keeping him free of pass rushers is imperative to the offenses success.
How to Fix It:
There is only one answer; they need to step up. Oakland is #1 in spending on the OL with 26% of their salary cap spent on this group. You can’t spend more money on the OL especially when the defense needs so much help.
Carr got spoiled last year when he had so much time, and on occasion he has held onto the ball too long this year. He’s now being rushed more and it’s obvious he is not comfortable in the pocket.
How to Fix it:
He needs to audible more and be much more aggressive with the deep ball. Some old fashioned play action passes while throwing a deep pass on first down would stretch the field and make Al Davis up in heaven happy for sure. Dump off passes to the RB would also take off the pressure some.
Linebackers and Defensive Backs:
This group has no interceptions in 5 games. I’m tiring a little with some fans on social media saying how great this defense is and that if they had a good DC they’d be awesome. Ken Norton may not be the answer, but this defense is not talented. Before the season started, Sports Illustrated and ESPN had the Raiders LB’s ranked last in the NFL. Their DB’s are not much better at times and take out Mack out of the DL and it will make any Raider fan cry.
Teams found out David Amerson struggles with the deep ball, and Sean Smith now struggles with any ball. Safety Reggie Nelson really isn’t making much of a difference and Karl Joseph is better against the run v.s. the pass but he’s still learning. Rookie Gareon Conley is still hurt and rumors have him being out for a while, but take that for what it is worth. Conley was not good against the run at Ohio St. and it remains to be seen how good he is covering because he’s missed so much this year. The hope is that Conley is a great cover guy but this may be a wasted year for a #1 pick.
How To Fix It:
Shalom Luani deserves a chance at safety. Allow him to play more. I’d like him to get some time with Joseph because he has such good safety instincts.
At LB, the Raiders are in big trouble. There are a handful of people in the free agent pool but to be honest, there are no answers for this group this year. They need to disguise their blitzes and be super aggressive and get to the QB to hide their week back 7.
Unless you have a pass rush in today’s NFL, you are going to struggle. These rules are so biased for the offense that passing records are falling left and right. As Jack Del Rio has said, they are a few times that they are the Khalil Mack show and not much else. Mario Edwards Jr. has his moments early in a game but he disappears and is not consistent. Bruce Irvin doesn’t have a sack all year and hasn’t had the impact the team was hoping for. Eddie Vanderdoes has also not been as impactful as was hoped and Justin Ellis has occasional good moments but it isn’t enough to make a difference.
How to Fix It:
Again, this is going to have to be addressed next year. Someone on social media was raving about the possible signing of ex Bear DT Jaye Howard but that is beyond positive thinking. Howard played 5 years; 2 missed from injury and he only has 7.5 sacks and no one would sign him this year.
The Raiders HAVE to get to the QB. Start blitzing like mad on 3rd down and long and make sure that you do a better job at disguising it. Also it’s insane to blitz and then give WR cushions because you know a quick pass is coming. Get in the WR faces when you blitz. Sometimes the DB’s are lazy when they are blitzing and they give it up too quick. I saw Nelson and Joseph Blitz against Baltimore and you could see it a mile away.
This is a must win for Oakland. San Diego is not a great team and they finally scored a TD late in the 4th quarter for the first time in 24 games. Oakland should handle the Chargers but nothing is for sure. With the last part of the Raiders schedule being so difficult, this is a must win.
They are running the same offensive plays as last year and teams have caught up. Oakland also has been trying to solve their pass defense for years with DB’s and it doesn’t work. Until the Raiders get a stud DT and a pass rush, get ready for issues up front. And if the Raiders draft an offensive player over a LB or DT next year, heads should roll. Defense wins championships and this defense isn’t winning any championships. Seeing the response online, if the Raiders don’t turn this thing around this is going to get real ugly.
If the offensive philosophy changes and the Raiders adjust, the offense can carry them a long way. The defense will have to take chances and blitz though. It’s put up or shut up time in Oakland and a win against San Diego would be a nice start to a new chapter.
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.
What a fun year it will be for the fans in Oakland. With a fun team and great personalities, there will be many smiling faces all around. Some have said 12-4; some say 9-7 due to the defense. Let’s quickly look at each position and get a better understanding of the 2017-18 Oakland Raiders.
Quarterback: (Derek Carr, EJ Manuel, Connor Cook)
It’s nice for the Raiders to be set at QB. Derek Carr was the best protected QB in the NFL last year and he sliced and diced his way to a great season. Carr struggles at times if he’s rushed, but as long as their OL protects him the way they have, he should have another stellar year and will wow the NFL.
Even with today’s rules making passing so easy, the QB position has never been worse in the NFL. That means an excellent QB like Carr’s value is huge. EJ Manuel and Connor Cook are not waving around a Super Bowl trophy any time soon so Carr’s health is obviously imperative. No team can win without their starting QB.
I think the Raiders have the best set of running backs in the NFL. If Marshawn Lynch can find some life left in a body that has taken a lot of punishment, the Raiders running game should be excellent. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington can do it all at a smaller level. They can run, catch, and are the best pass blockers against the blitz in the NFL. Add an underrated fullback like Jamize Olawale and this crew is as good as it gets for 2017.
Offensive Line: (LT Donald Penn, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Rodney Hudson, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Marshall Lawson; T Jylan Ware, G Denver Kirkland, T Vadal Alexander, G-C Jon Feliciano, T David Sharpe)
Donald Penn did what many players used to do in the NFL. He took training camp off with a hold out. With him back the Raiders OL is intact. I’ve seen some on Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports say the Raiders OL is overrated and that’s laughable. This is a top 3 line in today’s football. Carr was the best protected QB in the NFL and the Raiders were solid on the ground and they will again be a top 10 offense; maybe even top 5. This group is the engine and driving force of the Raiders. This group HAS to stay healthy.
Wide Receivers: (Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Cordarrelle Patterson, Johnny Holton)
The Raiders have an excellent core of WR (maybe the best) with the addition of speedster Cordarelle Patterson. This is a huge upgrade to Seth Roberts who the Raiders are infatuated with. Johnnie Holton is solid and plays a key role in special teams.
Tight Ends: (Jared Cook, Lee Smith, Clive Walford)
Bill Musgrave gave me a headache. His WR heavy and at times conservative offense has been replaced with new offensive coordinator Todd Downing. So far I like what I’ve seen. The Raiders tight ends were near the bottom in attempts thrown to them last year. Can’t have good TE if you don’t throw to them. Lee Smith is the best blocking TE in the NFL and can catch the ball when needed. The Raiders are excited about the addition of Jared Cook from Green Bay. Clive Walford is set at #3 but should see more time in obvious passing downs. Walford has been a bust so far and he needs to show he belongs.
Defensive Line: (DE Khalil Mack, DT Eddie Vanderdoes, DT Justin Ellis, DE Mario Edwards Jr.; DE/LB James Cowser, DT Darius Latham, DT Treyvon Hester, DL Denico Autry, DL Jihad Ward)
The Raiders were last in sacks in the NFL last year and 26th in overall defense. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are fine but then what? Justin Ellis looks good at times but he hasn’t had a sack in 3 years and is inconsistent. Jihad Ward started 13 games last year and played in all 16. In those games he only had 16 tackles, 14 assists and no sacks and was invisible at times. If he can’t step it up this year, it may be another draft bust.
To bolster the DT position the Raiders drafted Eddie Vanderdoes out of UCLA. He was hard working and tough against the run, but not a good pass rusher. He had 4 sacks in 4 years. Mario Edwards Jr. comes back for a key year but it remains to be seen if he’s the answer. A bright spot this pre-season has been Treyvon Hester out of Toledo. He has been a quality pass rusher with a big motor. He had 5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss his senior year at Toledo and was a great pick at #7 this year.
Linebackers: (SLB Bruce Irvin, MLB Marquel Lee, WLB Cory James, Tyrell Adams, Nicholas Morrow, DL/LB James Cowser)
Jack Del Rio has told the media several times that the Raiders haven’t put as much into LB’s than they were able to. “When you have only so much money, you can’t fix everything”. Many times Irvin rushes the passer so he’s kind of a hybrid LB/DL. A couple of publications have said the Raiders linebackers are the worst in football. The biggest knock on this group is that they play passively and are more finesse than physical. To be fair, these guys give huge effort, but it’s obvious there needs to be improvement. Cory James has had his moments and the hopes are that he’ll keep improving. Free agent Jelani Jenkins is now out for the year on injured reserve. Rookie Marquel Lee has good mechanics and he may start but he lacks speed and coverage skills. Shalique Calhoun; the 75th player taken in last years draft; was recently cut and signed to the practice squad. A wasted pick.
Defensive Backs: (LCB Davis Amerson, RCB Sean Smith. Backups–Gareon Conley, TJ Carrie, Antonio Hamilton, Dexter McDonald)
For several years the Raiders have tried to fix their pass defense by constantly drafting and signing DB’s. It hasn’t worked & it’s a bad philosophy. I think if they spent the same money and drafts on pass rushing DT’s and tough LB’s, things would be a lot better on defense. I’ll take a great front 7 over stud DB’s any and every day. With today’s rules making it so easy to pass, DB’s have no chance if there isn’t a pass rush in front of them.
It took teams a year to realize David Amerson struggles against the deep ball. It took teams a week to find out high priced CB Sean Smith was a lot better with Chiefs safety Eric Berry and the Kansas City Pass rush in front of him. TJ Carrie has really struggled. Gareon Conley was drafted out of Ohio St. but missed all of training camp and pre-season. To get a rookie corner to jump in with out much preparation and expect him to excel is a bit much. He’s a straight cover guy and isn’t a good run tackler but people are excited about his potential in coverage. With all of the money and picks the Raiders have spent on this group, it’s been a big disappointment. The hopes are Conley will be a mainstay. Raider fans on social media have also pointed out that it’s hard watching 49er’s rookie LB Reuben Foster look like a one man wrecking crew as well.
Safety: (FS Reggie Nelson, SS Karl Joseph, S Erik Harris, S Shalom Luani, S Keith McGill)
Obi Melifonwu has been placed on IR today and the Raiders have signed veteran Erik Harris. Karl Joseph is a tough player and has looked good against the run, but he’s struggled in coverage. He seems more passive and has to improve his positioning on tight ends. Reggie Nelson is good for interceptions every year but he’s far from great. Draft pick Obi Melifonwu is a physical specimen and a great athlete. He’s a good tackler but lacks instinct in coverage and is a project. I like Shalom Luani a lot. He has good size but also has amazing instinct and a nose for the ball, something that seems to be getting rare in the NFL. With the NFL so obsessed with size and athleticism, the Raiders think that they got a huge steal getting Luani who was a great player at Washington St. Look for Luani to get more playing time as the season progresses & maybe even take over for Nelson. I’d like to see him and Joseph play together.
The Raiders are set with Marquette King but the Raiders want Sebastian Janikowski to rework his contract & he said no. The Raiders are worried about his bad back and age (he already looks to be out for week 1) and they have been working kickers out. He’s getting 4 million in this, his final year of his contract. I give you permission to slap all of the Monday morning quarterbacks in the back of the head who say that players should honor their contracts when 90% of the contracts in the NFL are NOT honored by the teams.
Grade: A (for now)
The Raiders have a solid coaching staff lead by Jack Del Rio. With the defense lacking talent in areas, look for Ken Norton Jr. to be on the hot seat all year with fans. They say change the scheme. WHAT SCHEME? If the Raiders blitz, now their DB’s who struggle in coverage are playing man to man and they will be exposed. If they play zone, the Raiders have a poor pass rush so the QB has too much time to throw and will pick them apart.
And with DB’s getting penalties for being anywhere near WR in today’s NFL, no DB is going to be able to cover for that long of a time. If you take out the 2014 draft, the Raiders have had a ton of busts with signings and draft picks. Hayden, Calhoun, Ward, Woodley, Schaub, Walford, Smith, Amerson, Lofton, Allen and many other names are adding to the list of busts. I defended Reggie when few would and here is part of his history. Some good, some bad.
While Philip Rivers is being lauded by many in the press, they forget how bad he was in the 4th quarter last year and that he lead the NFL in interceptions with 21. The Broncos still don’t have a QB & have questions at OL. On defense they have to rely on the health of often unhealthy Shane Ray and Derek Wolfe for their defense to thrive. The Chiefs have an aging defense (pass rusher Tamba Hali literally has no cartilage in his knees) and a conservative offense that is built, “not to lose”. It took them this long to see Alex Smith will never win anything? They also lost their starting RB to a season ending injury. What this means is that the Raiders are prime to take over the AFC West. If they don’t, this will be a disappointing season.
Detractors to Defenders:
I think it’s ridiculous for some writers to say the Raiders are overrated. Larry Kreuger of KNBR had them going 9-7 and missing the playoffs and some have them 10-6. Not a chance. With teams struggling to score at times, and with the QB position so bad in the NFL, (Matthew Stafford gets 27 million and he’s 5-46 in his career against teams with winning records) the Raiders offense will shine and be the key to their quality season. They will flat out beat teams with their offense. That style though doesn’t work in the post season.
Now I get the detractors. The Raiders will have some good moments, but overall this looks like a really bad defense. I get that the Raiders won close games against some bad teams last year and that their schedule is much tougher (4th hardest) but their offense is better and they are more balanced.
They start off the year with 3 very winnable games that could get them on a roll. The first 9 games are a lot easier than the second half and they should go 7-2 or 8-1 (again, no win is for sure). In the last 7 games though they play New England in Mexico and host Denver, Dallas and the NY Giants. They have to play 2 cold December games, at Kansas City and then on Christmas at Philadelphia before ending the season in San Diego. Christmas in Philly? That’s a rough second half.
My Prediction: 11-5; AFC West Champs; losing in AFC Championship game
Calm down non-Raider fans; I’m not saying Derek Carr is as good as Dan Marino, but the Raiders remind me somewhat of the 80’s-90’s Miami Dolphin’s. This defense is no where close to being a championship defense. Offense excites the fans and puts butts in the seats, but defense wins championships. If the Patriots defense doesn’t completely shut down Atlanta in the second half, Tom Brady doesn’t get the chance for a come back. And as Matt Millen said several times, the Raiders defenses dominated in all 3 Super Bowl wins. In the future they have to get a pass rushing DT, a physical LB and to a lesser extent another CB before they can get to the next level. If somehow a DT comes out of the ashes this year to have an amazing year putting pressure on the QB, then something magical can happen. I don’t see it but crazier things have happened.
With the Raiders ability to score, even with the tougher schedule I don’t see them losing anything more than 5 games. If the AFC West tanks, then a 12-4 season is possible. Getting home field advantage is vital because winning in New England or Pittsburgh in the Winter is near impossible.
With the Raiders in full lame duck mode before their move to Las Vegas, this will be a wild ride, so hang on. And loyal Raider fans of all ages, keep your wits about you. If you thought Bay Area millennials jumped on the Warriors bandwagon, you ain’t seen nothing yet. So move over and let people on because NOTHING about this NFL season will be boring in the city of Oakland.
Charlie Chaplin once said our greatest enemy is time.
As time goes on, more and more of the great people that we’ve come to know and love in our lives are leaving us. The sting of loss hit again yesterday with the passing of an all time great Raider fan, Raider Gloria. She had struggled with an infection due to complications from a recent knee surgery. Gloria Trujillo Malvaez was quite a character that no one will ever forget.
Gloria began dressing up as Raider Gloria in 1987. She became quite well known and was always ready with a quick wit and a willingness to take pictures with anyone who wanted a photo opportunity. She was feisty, but kind and passionate and loved by all. To find a kinder, sweeter and more gentle person would be hard. The outpouring of love and support upon her passing on social media has been amazing and heartfelt. This loss is a big one.
In 2013 she was asked by ESPN to be a part of their ESPN magazine spread with other iconic fans being featured. Eventually she was told that she was not only going to be in it, she was going to be featured on the cover. Below is her story on ESPN.com. She was also mentioned in People magazine in 2003.
She often told people that it took 2 ½ hours to get ready to become Gloria Raider; but only 90 if she wasn’t drinking. Even though he did not dress up, her beloved husband Gabriel would go to the games to represent his Raiders as a regular fan without ever asking her to tone it down. “He let me be myself”. She dressed up and he didn’t and they were a great pair. She was married to him for 21 years until he passed away in 2010. There were some close to her that said she never really got over the loss. They are now together once again.
Gloria was a character with many funny stories. She often talked about going to the Raider games as a kid before the Oakland Coliseum was built. She talked about her father and godfather being huge fans and they took her to the games. At 14 y/o they would bring pillows for her to sit on and she often would drive home because they would be “blitzed” and couldn’t drive. She would wear a hat and they were never pulled over.
In probably the biggest Raider fan wedding in history, she was a part of the over 1000 people who attended the wedding of Gorilla Rilla. Super fans Marc (Gorilla Rilla) and Marilyn (Jungle Jane) Acasio had a wedding with famous Raider fans in full makeup and Raider dress. Gloria proudly was a part of her friends Marc’s nuptials which even the Raiders themselves covered.
As with many of the “characters” that dress up, they have very warm hearts. Gloria was quick to help others and was an encouraging force in many peoples lives. Here she is below feeding the homeless without much fanfare. A selfless, kind soul who’s actions were often for the benefit of others. She encouraged and supported and was a positive voice in many peoples lives.
In the last few years that I’ve gotten back into writing it’s been both rewarding and heartbreaking. I’ve written about several amazing people and triumphs but all and all the tragedies are hard to take. A spouse of one player that was lost said I was their memory. I don’t know about that but I guess I just don’t like us to forget good people. The losses lately have been great.
Other Raider fans like Social Media Raider Icon Tim Casto was lost in a tragic house fire at 49.
It would take a lifetime to list all of the lives they touched with their positive and enduring spirits. I hope that no one forgets these great people and their love and contributions to so many. The friendships we create through meeting such unique people are more important than any win or record.
So again sadly we have to say goodbye to another amazing person who represented her team so well, but more importantly represented humanity even better. In a country so divided and angry and lost, remember the spirit of people like Gloria. Encourage each other and be positive. Have fun, enjoy life, help others and don’t take yourself too seriously. Live life with a wink in one eye and a twinkle in the other. And don’t worry Gloria. It’s ok to wear full Raider gear when you get to heaven. God and Gabriel will totally understand.