Tag Archives: reggie mckenzie

“Will Oakland Raiders Khalil Mack Sign a Long-Term Deal or Won’t He? Cutting to the Chase”

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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.

Recent Holdouts:

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.

 

Jim’s Jamz:

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.

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

 

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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.

“Evaluating the Oakland Raiders from GM & Coaches to DB & QB: Who Stays in 2018 & Who Doesn’t; Plus Possible Draft Picks”

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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.

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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.

 

“From Coaches to Players; Why Are the Raiders 3-5 & How & When Can They Fix It”

jack del rio hc

With so many expectations, the Raiders are a disappointing 3-5 half way through the 2017-18 NFL Season. Let’s look at why this has happened, and how and when it can be fixed.

Reggie McKenzie:
You heard a whole lot of Raider fans using the expression, “In Reggie We Trust” this off season. Many are now looking for him to either be fired or put on the hot seat.

I’ve written about McKenzie in the past. He’s done some good things but he’s also had some really bad signings and drafts. For every Derek Carr & Khalil Mack, there are the DJ Hayden’s, Jihad Ward’s and Clive Walford’s. Reggie has missed on several high picks and it’s hurt the Raiders.

The Raiders philosophy of trying to fix the defense with DB’s is wrong. They’ve been doing it for years. The Raiders need to stop pouring money and high draft picks into DB’s, and start building a dominating front 7. If you can’t rush the passer, you can’t stop teams in today’s NFL.

Fix:
Khalil Mack’s contract is now up and Oakland must pay him. This will make things even harder for the Raiders and they can’t have so many misses in their signings and their draft picks.
The Raiders need a physical front 7 that can stop the run and get to the passer. They need to draft and sign players to fix this part of the defense. McKenzie has to dump many of the contracts that are coming off the books in the off season including Reggie Nelson, Sean Smith, and David Amerson. They need to get tougher as well.

I’d love to see the Rams disgruntled stud DT Aaron Donald on the Raiders. He may be the most dominating player in the NFL today. A pass rushing DT would be my first priority. If I’m GM the teams defensive identity would be a physical one that gets to the QB. On offense I’d run a power running game with an emphasis on throwing deep. With their financial belt tightened you better be right on who you sign and draft.

Jack Del Rio:
Another popular phrase this off-season was in “Jack we trust”. Now many are questioning whether he is a winner and if he’s a good enough leader.

When Jack was hired, I was of the few that really wasn’t into this signing. Del Rio is a very popular coach with the owners and players. He’s likeable, says the right things, and makes sure the guys writing his checks are happy. He also has limited success. In 12 years of coaching Oakland and the Jags he has only 4 winning seasons and one playoff win. At Jacksonville things got worse the longer he coached. In his last 4 years coaching the Jaguars he was 23-36 and was let go during his last season with them.

Del Rio is usually very loyal to his players and coaches and is not one to throw anyone under the bus. That is a good trait, but he’s also not good in press conferences during bad times. His “I don’t know what happened” comment in press conferences have a bad look to it and fans of the Raiders like it as much as Jacksonville’s fans did before.

Fix:
The Raiders have to get an identity and stick to it and that is Jack Del Rio’s job. Bill’s head coach Sean McDermott has built an image in Buffalo that is equal to his. He’s also gotten rid of players that didn’t buy into his philosophy. The Bills are now tough, physical on defense, and have a good running game. Buffalo does not have a good QB and they are last in the NFL in passing offense but are 5-2 and they straight up believe.

Are the Raiders a pass happy team that doesn’t care about the run? Do they want to be a power running team that can throw deep? Do they want to be a physical defense that gets to the QB? Choose an identity and follow it.

Del Rio also has to be more authoritative and take control. Saying it’s my fault or saying we have to work on a better scheme is a lot better than shrugging your shoulders and saying I don’t know what happened. Some in the media have said he’s played a big role in the defense and it hasn’t helped. If the Raiders struggle for the next season and a half, his job won’t be his anymore.

Offense:
Even some in the media are now saying Derek Carr might be overrated. That’s way too simple. The truth is Carr is a good but not great NFL QB. He’s also a QB that gets rattled under a pass rush. Carr’s interceptions have got to him mentally. He’s now throwing to the check down receiver much more than in the past, and he’s trying to pinpoint passes in between defenders instead of airing it out and throwing deep. Some have said the Raiders threw deep more than anyone last year and that’s not true. The Raiders were 11th in completed passes past 20 yards and 12th over 40 yards.

There were more than a few bad passes yesterday that were caused by the pressure Buffalo was putting on Carr. He looked like he did when he was a rookie at times. He anticipated the rush instead of feeling it and it showed. Last year he was the best protected QB in the NFL and he thrived. This year the OL has struggled and so has he. NOT a coincidence.

Raiders OC Todd Downing is also getting trashed by many and he deserves some of the heat. He’s made few changes to the offensive scheme and the rest of the league has changed a lot to defend the Raiders. For instance on the turnovers yesterday, each play Buffalo played in the face of the Raiders WR. Instead of airing it out, Carr nervously went for the check down passes or tried to pinpoint the ball in between defenders.

Marshawn Lynch struggled his last year with Seattle, and he’s still struggling. He looks like a 31 year old RB and RB’s usually don’t get better or faster with age. He’s taken a lot of punishment over the years.

The Raiders have solid RB’s that can run, block and catch the ball but the Raiders have to run more. Some fans tried to say after yesterdays game, “see; look how bad the Raiders RB’s are”. Well they ran only 14 times all game with DeAndre Washington leading the way with 6 carries for 26 yards. The Raiders are an amazing 26th in the NFL for the number of rushing attempts so far this year. Last year they ended the year with the 11th most rushing attempts.

Fix:
Unless Downing steps up, a new coordinator is needed. They also need to back to the power blocking scheme and run the ball down teams throats. Marshawn Lynch enjoys the zone blocking scheme for his OL but it hasn’t worked. The identity of the offense should be a power running game and then use the deep ball with the play action pass. You can’t blame Todd Downing with poor play calling and not get on Carr. Carr is the coach on the field and he’s got to audible more. He has the final say on what play will be called. Part of being a QB is calling a great game and he was fooled a couple of times when the Bills showed blitz but didn’t.

Defense:
Where do we start. At the start of the year some publications said that the Raiders had the worst LB’ s in the NFL. The Raiders still have 17.5 million guaranteed until next year with CB’s David Amerson and Sean Smith. Reggie Nelson’s 4.25 million will be off the books too. Amerson struggles guarding the deep ball and Smith has struggled with everything. Reggie Nelson is on his last legs and Karl Joseph still struggles defending the passing game. Gareon Conley’s rookie year is pretty much not going to amount to much and that’s another round 1 pick that didn’t help much their first year.

The Raiders defensive line still can’t create a pass rush or stop the run. Khalil Mack had only 2 tackles yesterday with no sacks and was kept out for a small part of the game without any injury. The team has only 12 sacks in 8 games and it’s the same old story, different day.

Fans posting that the Raiders have this amazing amount of talent on defense and all they need is good coaching are ridiculous. They need talent big time on defense. Ken Norton Jr. and Jack Del Rio may not be the answer to fix the defense, but until they improve the talent, NOTHING is going to change.

Fix:
Blow it up. Get an experienced, quality coordinator. The Raiders want to win now. Mario Edwards Jr. has his moments but he’s not the answer so far. Jihad Ward was a bad pick. Keep Navorro Bowman but they need more help at LB. Let Amerson, Nelson and Smith walk. They have to get a DT that can put pressure on the QB and stop the run adequately. The Raiders have been fooling themselves on the defensive side of the ball for years. What they’ve done for 15 years hasn’t worked. It needs to be fixed yesterday.

Jim’s Jamz:
Most feel it will take 10 wins to ensure a playoff spot this year. If that is true, Oakland will have to go 7-1 the rest of the way. The Raiders have games left at home with Dallas, Denver, and the Giants and have to play Kansas City, San Diego and Philadelphia on the road. In regards to the struggles the Raiders had with the weather in rainy Buffalo, that is a beach party compared to playing in Kansas City and Philadelphia in December. This doesn’t include a game in Mexico with the Patriots right after the bye week.

Next week the Raiders play at Miami which is always a tough game for them. Realistically they will have to play amazing football the rest of the season to get to the playoffs. The offense can be improved to a point this year with some adjustments but the defense needs a lot more help that must be addressed in the off-season.

The Raiders players have a good attitude saying that they are going to work hard and stay committed. They are sticking together and not throwing blame to each other. They also can’t think about playoffs but they do need to think about the next opponent.

The Raiders will have to play amazing football the last 2 months to make the playoffs. The off season darlings of the NFL are in trouble. The castle that looked so sturdy is now having it’s foundation checked for damage. Time will tell how much work will need to be done to fix the team and if they do it right.

“What the Oakland Raiders Must Do To Beat Kansas City Tonight; The Season is on the Line”

 

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders
Raiders OC Todd Downing & QB Derek Carr

I’ve seen some of the craziest theories for some fans and even writers trying to explain the issues with the Raiders.  I’m just not that smart I guess; I break it down to what is and not to what might be so let’s look at the statistics.

Raiders Issues:

If you follow the NFL you know that owners and coaches have 2 flaws.  They hate change and when they do change they copy someone.  Right now the Raiders need to change their philosophy on both offense and defense to combat the changes other teams have done to stop them.  For 4 straight weeks they’ve refused to adjust and it’s cost them against teams with less talent.

What Needs To Change On Offense To Beat the Chiefs:

The Raiders have completed only 2 passes over 40 yards this year and 15 passes for over 20 yards.  That is on the same pace for last year.

The problem with that is for the last 4 games teams have begun to play press coverage on the Raiders.  Commentators have talked about how teams no longer give the Raiders the easy short throws and the Raiders have to stretch the field.  So far they haven’t adjusted to the defensive changes of other teams.

Bill Musgrave is not a genius and he was not a big loss even though some are getting way too carried away with his importance.  He’s now the QB coach at Denver and Trevor Siemian is borderline atrocious, and is a big reason their offense struggles.  What OC Todd Downing and Derek Carr are not getting is that they need to adjust their philosophy and they aren’t.  Teams are taking away the short game so now you have to throw deep.

The first thing I’d do tonight is run a play action pass on first down and throw the deep ball.  Even if it isn’t caught, it will give the threat of it.  Cordarrelle Patterson is lightning fast and so is Amari Cooper & Johnny Holton.  What good is that speed if you are not going to stretch the field?  The NFL is a game of adjustments and those that don’t adjust, fail to keep their jobs.

Marshawn Lynch & The Formula to Beat Kansas City:

I was in the 1% who did not like the Lynch signing.  He’s not the same player and he’s lost his burst.  I like youth at RB; always have.  Also the Raiders changed to a zone blocking scheme to accommodate his running style.  The zone blocking scheme is more for smaller and quicker OL.  The Raiders have a mammoth sized OL and they should be running the power scheme and NOT zone blocking.  The running game has suffered for it.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 5-1 against the Chiefs in their last 6 games.  Why?  Because they stopped the nonsense of throwing 40-50 times and ran the ball down Kansas City’s throat each time.  They also took away the run and the short pass to the RB’s and TE’s and tried to force Alex Smith to throw deep which is not his strength.

The Raiders need to run and run often.  Jalen Richard & DeAndre Washington have to run the ball more.  He’s quick to the hole where Lynch isn’t.  If it were me Lynch would not even start, Richard would.  I would employ Lynch as a short yardage or goal line back.

What Needs To Change On Defense:

The Raiders are 27th in the NFL in sacks with only 11.  Sound Familiar?  If you can’t rush the passer your defense will not be good; end of story.  Especially in todays game with the rules protecting WR.

The Raiders also lack talent and you can’t fix that mid-season.  Navorro Bowman was a great signing for the LB’s but he’s nowhere near what he was in the past.  He’s had two terrible leg injuries and his speed has suffered a lot.  If he can get there he can make a tackle that is for sure.  On the Raiders though he immediately becomes their best LB.  Bowman is not a blitzer; he’s a straight up LB and in his prime was as good as anyone in the game.  All these ridiculous predictions of multiple sacks and 12-15 tackles and multiple fumble recoveries are fun stuff on Facebook groups I guess but it’s far from the real world.  Hopefully Bowman can get into a regular rotation and get his sea legs in the Raiders defense for his first game.

The philosophy for years for Oakland was to sign and draft great db’s to fix the defense.  That plan has failed miserably.  With the rules today making looking at a WR a penalty, the QB and WR stats are like pinball scores.  You have to have a pass rush or your DB’s are toast.  The Raiders have failed to emphasize the DL and the LB and focus on DB’s and it doesn’t work.  Right now they can’t cut Sean Smith who has around 9 million in cap room.  They have to wait until next year.  David Amerson who struggles with the deep ball, has 8.5 million on the books.  That’s a huge amount of wasted money on limited return.

The Raiders DL still can’t rush the passer and for another painstaking year it’s killing the team on defense.  Add that the last 2 weeks Mack has been quiet as well and wasn’t double teamed very much, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

It will take a miracle for the Raiders to win big with this defense but you have to make do.  If I’m Jack Del Rio I go crazy with my play calls.  The Raiders do not have the talent on defense to stop a lot of teams so I make sure on any third down with more than 5 yards to go I blitz someone.  In fact I would blitz a lot but I’d change it up.  If the Raiders do not get to the QB their DB’s and LB’s can’t cover.  Karl Joseph struggles a lot covering TE and the LB’s coverage skills are so bad, ex-Raider Rich Gannon said he’d throw to the RB’s almost every time.  The thought of Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce running wild after catching passes tonight is a definite worry.

The Player The Raiders Need To Change Their Defense Immediately:

Rams DT Aaron Donald is extremely unhappy where he is.  This guy at times is unblockable.  He’s double teamed often but he still gets big numbers.  He is probably the best DT in the game.  He’s 26 and in the prime of his career and he want’s big money.  Well I make it work.  The Raiders overpaid for some free agents and their money is coming off of the books.  Sign him and Mack and now you have a special tandem.

I’d play Donald on the same side as Mack.  I’d then start moving Mack around when teams figured that out. This would give the Raiders a pretty much unblockable DL especially on obvious passing downs.  Now THIS tranforms your defense immediately.  Not a DB that you hope works out when you don’t have a pass rush.  Will the Raiders give that type of money to the DL along with Mack?  Probably not.  A man can dream can’t he?

What is Going To Happen Tonight?

If the Raiders do nothing to their schemes and keep throwing short and keep trying to play their defense straight up, then a close loss at home is probable and a 2-5 start will destroy their season.

If the Raiders wake up and start throwing deep and setting that up with a physical running game, then they can score some points.  Their defense also needs to become much more aggressive on blitzes to hide their deficiencies in coverage.  If they do these adjustments I think the Raiders win.  If not, a 2-5 start is assured and this is with the hardest part of their schedule waiting ahead.  And if I’m the GM and they don’t make these adjustments for the entire year, both coordinators will be looking for jobs elsewhere.  I’d also tell Jack Del Rio he will be next if they don’t adjust.  When teams adjust NFL coaches, change is good.  I guarantee it.

“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+

Crabtree-extension-12-09-15
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 

david amerson jjj
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

marquette king
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.

raiders win

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:  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 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:  A good pick but when Reggie Mckenzie said he went for the best player available and Reuben Foster is still there then I disagree.  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:  A raw talent who’s athleticism is hard to pass up.  I always worry about NFL combine warriors though.  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; no in between.  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 he’s not going to help their pass rush.

Overview:  This is far from solving the Raiders DT issue but the pick isn’t a bad one.  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, and I like him there.

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.  Some Raider writers have him starting at MLB already and that is ridiculous in my mind.  They are writing with their heart and not their head.  He wen’t in the 5th round for a reason.  He’s a nice 5th round pick but if he’s your starting MLB, you’ve got issues.

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.

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.  But I also think it wasn’t bad either. Conley is a good cover guy and should be a good player at CB.  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.  And if Obi can learn how to play safety in the NFL, they may have a great player on their hands.

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 will pretty much be the same.

As I said in week one of last year; this defense is not a championship defense and I say the same now, but roster moves could still be ahead.  MLB’s and DT’s are becoming a rarity in the pro game so passing up on Foster was the wrong thing to do in my mind especially when next years draft so far also seems to be void of them both.  That could change obviously but 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.