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Final Oakland Raider Grades @ NY Jets; Week 1: Sept. 7th, 2014

2013-raiders-jets-story

 

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ NY Jets; Week 1:

NY Jets  19 (1-0)

Oakland Raiders  14 (0-1)

 

Offense:

Rex Ryan did exactly what most teams did last year against the Raiders.  They put 7-8 men in the block, took away the run, and dared them to throw downfield.  The Raiders game plan was almost exactly what Rex Ryan would have wanted.

Derek Carr had a predictable first week.  He struggled against the rush and has a lot to learn but he kept his poise and made some nice throws.  Apologists will put all the blame on OC Greg Olsen; which some is warranted; but Carr is in a learning process and it will take time.

The Raiders game plan was awful though.  Bubble screens and quick flare passes are exactly what the Jets were hoping to see.  Many times in the first half, the Jets put a defensive back on the line and had 7-8 guys in the box.  With so many people near the line of scrimmage, there is no way that you can be expected to run so those saying the run game wasn’t there don’t get that it was taken away.

During a rare time when the Jets didn’t blitz, Carr hit WR James Jones on a great catch from 30 yards out.  The Raiders could have used a lot more of those downfield passes mixed with some slants and TE passes over the middle.  The running game had no chance against this defense but the lack of being able to pass did nothing to open things up.

 

GRADE:  D+

The Raiders had 84 total yards of offense going into the 4th quarter.  Against a Jets defense that might have near the least feared corners in the NFL, is just terrible.  The Raiders game plan was awful.  The Jets copied the same game plan that everyone else did last year; make the Raiders throw down field.  The Raiders have to open things up and use the tight end to keep the safeties and linebackers honest.

 

Defense: 

On the good side Sio Moore played a good game.  He was active and ended up with 13 tackles.  Another player who quietly did well too was another linebacker Miles Burris who added 13 of his own.  Khalil Mack still has a ways to go but he played fairly well.  He did get lost on a couple of runs and missed twice on Geno Smith runs.

The DB’s are going to struggle at times but they held their own against the pass today.  Geno Smith isn’t Johnny Unitas but it still was a nice effort. Timeless safety Charles Woodsen made a great interception early in the game.

The defensive line was awful at times.  Other than Justin Tuck, no one was consistent.  Lamarr Woodley and Pat Sims were invisible at times and Anthony Smith was up and down.  The Raiders had little to no pass rush unless they blitzed which was hard to watch.  The Jets don’t have a good offense so the Raiders need to play much better.

The Raiders run defense was absolutely awful.  They gave up 202 yards including a long 71 yard run to seal the win for the Jets.

The Raiders in the past could not rush the passer with only 4 rushing, and they could not stop the run.  So far it’s the same pattern as in the past and that leads to losses.

 

Grade C-

The Raiders were on the field for so long because of the anemic offense but you still don’t give up 200 yards against the run in the NFL.  The defensive line looked terrible at times.

 

Coaching: 

When you start a rookie quarterback you keep things vanilla; I get that; but you could not have called worse plays if Rex Ryan was calling them for the Raiders.

It was a terrible game plan against the Jets who took away the run having so many defenders at the line of scrimmage.  You have to adjust at half time and throw long on the outside or throw slants.  You can even try to get the tight end over the middle more.  You just don’t try to run and throw quick outs and bubble screens.

On defense the problems were more physical than mental.  The 4 man pass rush of the Raiders could not get to the quarterback or stop the run.

No one on the Jets is scary on offense and the Raiders didn’t do as well as they had hoped.  The DL and LB’s did not keep their lanes allowing Geno Smith to run more than they should including 2 long runs for first downs.

I wasn’t a Dennis Allen or Greg Olson fan last year and I feel the same way this year.

Grade D+

The penalties were limited so that was a positive but the game plans and the in game adjustments just aren’t there.

 

Special Teams: 

Sebastian Janikowski didn’t get a field goal attempt.  Marquette King had a good day punting including a 61 yarder and Latavius Murray did an adequate job returning kicks.  The Raiders coverage teams didn’t play overly well with Saalim Hakeem taking 2 kickoffs for 65 yards, and Jalen Saunders taking 2 punts for 15 yards.  Special teams didn’t have a huge role in this game.

 

GRADE:  C+

Nothing really epic to report here other than there were no attempts for Janikowski.

 

Overall:

The Raider fans had high hopes on opening day and this one hurt.  With all of the money spent on signings you’d thought the defense would play better.  The lack of a pass rush especially in the first half was glaring.  The defense was on the field a lot but there is still no excuse for giving up over 400 yards total offense and 202 yards on the ground to the NY Jets.  What will happen when the Raiders play a really good offense like Denver, San Diego, the 49ers or Seattle?

Derek Carr did as well as I thought he would do being a rookie quarterback.  I don’t know if starting a rookie QB against a Rex Ryan defense was overly wise, but Carr has the mentality and the talent to excel.  He had some good moments and some bad ones and you just have to be patient.  The Raiders have to throw deep & use slants and the tight end more to keep defenses honest.

Maybe I’m missing something but I was shocked at the poor offensive game plan and the lack of adjustments.  That’s not acceptable at the NFL level.  Teams now know if you fill the box with defenders and don’t allow the Raiders to run, they can’t and/or won’t throw downfield.  They have to open things up.

The Raiders played hard and they limited the penalties which is a good thing to see.  I like the Raiders linebackers a lot and I think they need to be a part of the pass rush more often.  Burris, Moore and Mack are doing well.

I predicted a 20-17 win by the Jets and they won 19-14.  The spread was 5 ½ when I saw it and like some on ESPN said, the odds makers loved the last touchdown by the Raiders.

 

Grade:  C-

     If this were the Broncos or Seattle it would be a better grade.  To give up 202 yards to the Jets on the ground and only have 84 total offensive yards to the Jets defense going into the 4th quarter is just not good.  The Raiders had some bright spots but these are the types of games that they have to win if they want to get to .500 again.  Right now their Linebackers and safeties have to carry their defense, and offensive coordinator Greg Olson has to open up the play book and throw downfield.  Their schedule is brutal so these winnable games are very important.

 

Next Opponent:  v.s. Houston Texans (1-0; last game, win @ home against the Washington Redskins 17-6)

 

Outlook:

Next weeks game with the Texans in Oakland is a flat out must win.  The Raiders are in the easy (if you can call it that) part of their schedule.   I think the Raiders have to go 4-3 in their first 7 games if they are going to get to .500.

In their last 9 they play at Seattle, San Francisco, Denver twice, and tough conference games with San Diego and Kansas City.  They also play at Cleveland in late October.  Every week is going to be a challenge and hopefully they will open things up next week.

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Oakland Raiders Preview for 2014-15 NFL Season

BlackHoleFans

Oakland Raiders 2014-15 Season Preview

Last years prediction: 4-12

Last years record: 4-12

Overview:

Last year saw the last of the salary cap purging by GM Reggie McKenzie.  The mess that was created from years of overspending for average talent had ended.  What was left was a team with a lot of heart but little depth or talent.  Even playing the 3rd easiest schedule in the NFL, the Raiders could only get 4 wins.

There is hope in Oakland though with a solid draft.  Derek Carr has played well and shows a lot of potential and I love guard Gabe Jackson.  He will be a solid guard for years to come.  I was one of the very few that still isn’t sold on Khalil Mack.  So many predicting greatness for him never saw him play.  So far in pre season his reviews are mixed.  I’m hopeful that he evolves into the special player the Raiders need.

Unfortunately just like in the last 10 years, I’ve been pretty right on about the Raiders.  I’ve predicted their seasons within 1 game each year.  I’ve also been right on a lot about their draft picks including Jamarcus Russell, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and all of the fast DB’s that can’t guard anyone.  (DJ Hayden will soon add to that mix.)  I’m still in shock over not drafting Star Lotulelei. 

Quarterback

There are too few great QB’s anymore in the NFL.  Even with the ridiculous new rules the last 3 years that make breathing next to a WR a penalty, the quarterback play in the NFL is at times just bad.  I don’t blame Reggie McKenzie for the Flynn and Schaub experiments; he took chances and they just didn’t work out; but Matt Schaub in my mind isn’t a starter anymore.  He’s never had a great arm but he’s now lost arm strength.  Watching him throw an out pattern is as nerve wracking as parents watching their kid walk for the first time.

I like Derek Carr.  He’s got a good arm and is accurate on the run.  Like his brother David, he sometimes looks uncomfortable in the pocket and can lack accuracy from there at times.  He has to learn how to handle a rush better.  I think the Raiders made a solid pick.  Another coachable player with a good attitude.  Look for Carr to start very soon if not immediately.  Matt McGloin is a solid NFL backup with a lot of heart.

Grade:  C+ 

Carr will start sooner than later and with any rookie QB there will be growing pains.  He’ll look great at times and really bad at others.  The Raiders have a brutal schedule so look for the manic ups and downs on social media from Raider fans this year.

 

Running back

Maurice Jones-Drew was a great signing.  Many experts said he was done and he took it very personally.  He’s lost a lot of weight and is in the best shape of his life.  Look for a really good year from MJD.  Darren McFadden is a really good running back when healthy, and limiting his touches will help keep him healthy.

Last year the Raiders just couldn’t throw downfield and it hurt the running game.  Teams would almost dare the Raiders to pass and the running backs could find rushing yards hard to find.  Latavius Murray is finally healthy and is a solid backup that will have his moments.  Marcel Reese is only 28 and is a stud at full back and needs to be utilized more in the offense.

        Grade:  B+ 

Jones-Drew and McFadden are a solid 1-2 punch with Murray adding to the mix.  I still want to see more Marcel Reese.

 

Wide receiver

The Raiders have some nice WR this year, but the problem is they really don’t have a #1 WR.  If your QB is Tom Brady you can get away with that.  The Raiders don’t have Tom Brady.  James Jones was signed from Green Bay and he’s a solid player.  Rod Streater is a nice number 3 option but he still will drop an easy pass or two.  Denarius Moore is a good #3.  Look for Andre Holmes and Brice Butler to have their moments.  Greg Little is an enigma and looks like a rookie playing in a hall of fame WR body.  He may be the odd man out.

        Grade:  C +  

The Raiders just don’t have that #1 talent or big deep threat that they need.  Next year they have to get one.

 

Tight end

The Raiders need more production from their tight ends.  Mychal Rivera was a pleasant surprise but getting only 38 catches out of your best tight end isn’t enough.  David Ausberry will back him up.

          Grade:  C – 

Rivera would be a nice safety valve for when the Raiders QB needs a clutch catch.  Greg Olson needs to utilize the tight end more in his offense.

 

Offensive line

The offensive line just got better with the addition of rookie Gabe Jackson.  He’s as solid a player as you get and he should be a staple at Guard.  Menelik Watson has struggled at times and he will be a backup with Khalif Barnes taking over for him at tackle.  The Raiders seem to do well in the running game but they have a lot of problems protecting the quarterback.

        Grade:  C+

The Raiders offensive line has to step up if Carr is going to be effective.  I’m sure they will roll out Carr at times to protect him and give him time. 

 

Defensive line

The Raiders defensive line was abysmal at times last year.  Teams found out if you double team Lamarr Houston, the Raiders really didn’t have much after that.  To make problems worse, instead of drafting DT Star Lotulelei who fell into their lap, they draft DJ Hayden. Another DB with a great 40 time who played on a team in a bad conference with a bad defense that once gave up 70 points.  Star helped transform Carolina’s defense and they now are an elite defensive team. 

Justin Tuck looks to still have gas in the tank and I look for him to have a good year.  Lamarr Woodley comes from the Steelers and his best football may be behind him but the Raiders are hoping a change of scenery is what he needed.  Pat Sims and Antonio Smith have got to step up their games.  Khalil Mack will also play at end sometimes.

        Grade:  C+

I said it then, not drafting Lotulelei was a HUGE mistake.  With Tuck and Woodley, the hopes are that they will now have a consistent outside pass rush.

 

Linebacker

This group has to live up to their potential.  Sio Moore is starting to come into his own.  Nick Roach has had a horrible pre season; especially in the Green Bay game; so hopefully he’ll be back in form for the regular season.  Khalil Mack struggled mightily in his first two games but he had a nice game against Green Bay.  He still has more of a ways to go than the Raiders would like to admit.  I like the depth at LB as well.  Hopefully this will be a position of strength for the Raiders.

 

Grade:  B-

I really like the potential of this group but as the great Woody Hayes said, potential means you ain’t no damn good yet.  For now they are the strength of the defense but their time is now.  The defensive front 7 makes or breaks your defense.

 

Secondary

The secondary struggled last year and has really struggled in pre season.  For that matter the Raiders starting defense has really struggled.  Starting offenses have found the going good against the Raiders starters.  Charles Woodsen has come out a couple of times saying that they have to get better.  The Raiders could do worse than Woodsen and Tyvon Branch at safety but the cornerback position looks wide open.  DJ Hayden can’t stay healthy and even when he is he was burned a lot last year and looked overwhelmed.  He also was not very good against the run.  Carlos Rogers was let go by the 49ers who felt his best football was behind him.  The Raiders pass rush better be in great form this year.

 

        Grade:  C-

There are more questions than answers for the Raiders secondary.  This group needs a lot of work and there isn’t much depth as well.

 

Special teams:

Sebastian Janikowski will be solid at kicker, and Marquette King shined as a punter last year. The Return game will be upgraded with Denarius Moore or TJ Carrie looking to return punts, and Latavius Murray and Kory Sheets being looked at for kick returns.

        Grade:  B

The Raiders should have a solid group on special teams.

 

Coaching Staff:

Dennis Allen needs results now.  A lack of talent has hurt him but many of the Raiders issues that have plagued them have not changed.  What bothers me about Allen though is that EVERY time he’s asked a question his answer is,” I’m not worried”.  When a man says I’m not worried so many times, that means one thing; he’s worried!  I just don’t see how Allen is back next year.  The Raiders still have issues with dumb penalties as well.  He just doesn’t look like he is in control out there at times.  It remains to be seen if Greg Olson is the answer at OC but Jason Tarver at defensive coordinator seems to be on the right track.  The Raiders lack of talent showed up more as the season wore on though.  Bob Saunders did a good job with the LB’s as linebacker coach.

        Grade:  C

I’m not sold on Greg Olson or Dennis Allen and the more time goes by I just don’t think Dennis Allen is the answer.  Dreams sometimes do come true and if the 49ers don’t win the Superbowl and Jim Harbaugh moves on, he sure would look good in a silver and black shirt.

 

Prediction:

The Raiders are now 53-123 in their last 176 games.  That is the worst stretch of football in the history of the sport; and that includes the decades before the NFL.  Benjamin Harrison was president when pro football started so that’s a long time.  As one Raider fan said on a local sports talk show, the time for positive energy and rah rah’s are over.  It’s time to win on the field.

In reality though there are few fan bases in sports that are as much fun and who are as passionate as Raider fans.  There is definitely a split in the fan base though.  Old school fans remember a magical time when the Raiders were the most winning team in SPORTS; not just the NFL.  Their standards are high and their patience is thin. In a 4 year stretch during the glory days, the Raiders were 47-9! 

When a team loses for so long though, a losing atmosphere comes and people grasp for straws to see anything positive.  No one likes constant negativity but some only want to hear the positive and bristle at any negative talk thinking that they are a better fan than others for doing so.  It reminds me of people that are vegans constantly telling everyone they are vegan acting like they are better than other eaters.  The problem is that isn’t reality, and people like that magnify the negative they hear.

I can’t write as a fan; I write as a writer and I have to tell the truth, good or bad.  Jack Nicholson said in the movie a Few Good Men, “you cant handle the truth”.  Unfortunately some can’t.  Even with so much losing, the Raiders have made some good moves in the right direction though.  Life in the NFL isn’t all gumdrops and puppy dogs.  It’s about winning.

Reggie McKenzie had an impossible job, and I like what he’s done with it.  He’s made some mistakes along the way but he seems like a good fit.  McKenzie is trying to get the standards back to a high level and bring about responsibility to this losing franchise.  The salary cap killed the Raiders so there was much work to do and he got it done.  If the Raiders had last years schedule, I could see a .500 season.  Unfortunately they have the #3 hardest schedule and that is too much to overcome.

I see the Raiders winning 6-7 games this year.  I see Derek Carr being the starter and even through growing pains, he gives hope for the future of the Raiders.  I don’t see Dennis Allen back after this year but I’m hopeful that Reggie McKenzie lasts.  There will be some good days in Oakland this year.  The Raiders are a year away from realistically talking playoffs.  They still need a #1 WR and a nip and tuck here and there on defense and offense before they get to the next level.

 

Predicted Record:

Last years’ prediction 4-12; actual record 4-12

2013-14 prediction: 6-10

There will be better days ahead for the Raiders.  They still are looking for a stadium, and aren’t in a hurry to pay for it themselves, so that will continue to be a mess.  Hopefully by next year, on and off the field the Raiders will get stability and bring back a winner to the great fans of the Raiders.

 

 

 

Steve Kerr brings toughness to the Warriors Through a Heartbreaking Past:

kerr_family
Steve Kerr, his 3 siblings and his mom and dad

Whenever change comes to a professional team there are always extremes when it comes to fan reaction. You have some fans who think every move is a good one and all will be great, and you have others that think the sky is about to fall and that all is lost.   Thankfully some fans wait to see what actually happens. The Steve Kerr hiring as the Golden State Warriors coach elicited all of those reactions.

After listening to local talk shows and sportscasters giving their two cents, some have questioned whether the toughness that Mark Jackson seemed to bring will be lost with the more calmer and people oriented Steve Kerr.   In all honesty, there are few tougher than Steve Kerr.

Steve Kerr grew up the son of Malcolm and Ann Kerr; brilliant parents; with Malcolm having an extreme love for the middle east. The Kerr’s were a part of 3 generations of world travelers with Steve actually spending his freshman year in high school in Cairo, Egypt.   Eventually in time, Malcolm finally got his dream job which was president of the American University in Beirut.

Steve through luck, circumstance, and calls from his father to Lute Olson, finally got a scholarship offer from coach Olson and the University of Arizona.   Olson didn’t think much of Kerr as a player, but to have such a great character guy on the team was something he wanted.

Malcolm couldn’t wait to see his son play. When Steve and the family met in Beirut for the Christmas of 1983, Malcolm got to see grainy film of his son play for Arizona. His eyes lit up. It was a dream for him to see Steve play college ball, and you couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face if you tried.

But in the early morning hours of January 18, 1984, Steve got a phone call that would change his life forever. Islamic terrorists had ambushed his father in Beirut and shot him execution style. His crime?   Being American. His mom Ann said, “for us 9/11 started on 1/18/1984.” It ended the life of one of the worlds kindest and most understanding souls and a friend to the Arab world. The rest of his family was thankfully unharmed.

Two days after his fathers death, Steve came off the bench against Arizona St.   His first shot was a long three that hit nothing but net. Lute Olsen and many others in the crowd had tears in their eyes. As Lute Olsen pointed out, “we had so many emotions going on that night that it was hard to keep the feelings inside”. The Arizona fans were so touched by Steve that it was like they held him in their arms. After Steve would make a basket, the P.A. announcer would yell “STEVE KERR” which was always followed by the crowd repeating, “STEVE KERR”.

Steve worked hard and moved up the ladder and helped make the Wildcats one of the best teams in the country. In his senior season though, one of the ugliest things from a college crowd was seen on the road in Tempe against rival Arizona St.  Before the game during warm ups, students started to taunt Steve.  They began chanting “where’s your daddy” and “PLO, PLO”. Some even told him to go see his dad in Beirut.   It was so ugly that some Arizona St. students came down to the bench to apologize to Kerr.

People wondered why the PLO chant was yelled out because the PLO had nothing to do with it, but no one said all college students are very bright. (I think Tempe has more bars per capita than any other city in the country so that tells you something.)

Kerr was overwhelmed. He began to shake and tears filled his eyes. He sat on the bench and his teammates comforted him.   He later said he could not believe people could be so cruel and he became really upset. His teammate Tom Tolbert said it was the only time he ever thought of going into the stands to hit a fan. After regaining his composure, Kerr played his heart out. He was 6-6 from 3 point range and had 20 points at the half and ended with 22 in a 28 point thrashing of their rivals.

When Steve Kerr was chosen in the second round by the Phoenix Suns, few thought Steve would stick with anyone in the NBA. He was considered a journeyman at best who never really found a nitch until he was picked up by the Chicago Bulls. With the Bulls he had a role and he played it well. He was smart, tough, and could shoot in the clutch. In game 2 in the championship series against the Jazz, Kerr missed a 3 pointer but got the rebound and made a great pass to Michael Jordan who made a key 3 point play. In the clinching game, he broke the tie after Michael passed to him as he drained a 3.

At the end of his time with the Bulls, Kerr again found a home at San Antonio. He played the same role that he did in Chicago; make clutch shots and do the little things that win games. After his unlikely career was over, Kerr had 5 titles.   That was 2 more than Larry Bird, and 3 more than Wilt Chamberlain.

He had mixed reviews as a young GM for the Phoenix Suns, including the Shaquille Oneal trade, but he was professional and calm and never shied away from criticism. He later moved into sports casting.

When people talk about Steve Kerr today, they use terms like hard working, winner, and he HATES to lose. Kerr said the only game that he really can’t get over is the final four loss to Oklahoma in the NCAA playoffs when he was only 2 for 12 from 3 point range in an 8 point loss.

Part of his strength is that Steve has his parents charm and heart.   He gets along with people and is honest and caring. He likes to be underestimated by using an aw shucks mentality all the while he is ambitious, smart and competitive to a fault. All his life he’s been told he’s not going to make it but in the end he always seems to succeed and do it with a smile.

The first thing Steve wanted to do before he met with the local media is to meet with the Warriors employees. No not the players; he wanted to meet everyone. He wanted to meet people in marketing, and who worked the ticket sales and the offices. He wanted to meet the people behind the scenes. He also didn’t just call Stephen Curry; he called all of the players and talked to them. He was humble and respectful in a way his dad would be proud of.  He actually is thinking of going to Australia to meet with Andrew Bogut.

Will Steve Kerr be a good coach for the Warriors, especially with the nitpicking type of atmosphere that has been created by the microscope that is social media? I think so. I love the hire.  I know one thing though. The Warriors will be tough, smart, and hard working. They will have a coach that will answer questions and not shy away from criticism. In Kerr they have someone that will demand professionalism and smart play and defense which will take the Warriors to the next level.   I still think they are a player away from doing something special, but adding Steve Kerr as their head coach is a great move.

There hasn’t been this much excitement in Oakland since the Run TMC days.  So go ahead and underestimate Steve Kerr. Go ahead and be fooled by his choir boy demeanor.  In reality this guy is as tough as nails.  And somewhere above you still can’t wipe the smile off of his proud father Malcolm’s face.