Tag Archives: reggie mckenzie

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

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

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

Oakland Raiders v New Orleans Saints
Derek Carr

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

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

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

Grade:  A

deandre washingto
DeAndre Washington breaking a run against the Titans

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

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

Grade:  A

Panthers Raiders Football
Raiders LT Donald Penn

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

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

Grade:  A+

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Michael Crabtree warming up before a home game in Oakland

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

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

Grade:  A

jared cook
New Tight End Jared Cook

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

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

Grade:  B+

khalil mack
Khalil Mack rushing the QB

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

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

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

Grade:  C+

corey james
LB Corey James

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

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

Grades:  D 

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.

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“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.

“Coach Jack Del Rio States Raiders Greatest Need; How Well Do Experts Pick Mock Drafts? Who Will the Raiders Choose in the NFL Draft”

 

Marshawn Lynch Signs with Raiders

We are going to be kicking off our 18th annual draft party in a few hours.  Oh the stories, the frustrations, the ribbing, and the hollow looks when a team picks someone puzzling.  This draft will definitely have those with so many questions.

How Many Picks Right Do Experts Usually Get In Their Mock Drafts?

On average, the best draft analyzers get 5 to 9 correct for their mock drafts each year.  Last year was one of Mel Kiper Jr.’s best getting 10 correct in the first round.  Todd McShay got 7 correct last year.  It also can get ugly.  I think it was 4 years ago that host Bob Fitzgerald on KNBR radio spent hours talking about Mel Kiper Jr. getting one right in the first round.

What does that mean?  It means these “insiders” know about as much as we do.  Do people really think a billion dollar NFL team is going to leak information through the press to their competitors?  Come on.

draft 2017 nfl

Stop the Offensive and RB Madness!:

Facebook has some good, smart Raider fans.  And Facebook has some that aren’t so hot but who are loud.  It shocked me again that for the 2nd straight year many fans clamored for a RB.  Even with the signing of Marshawn Lynch, some still want to draft a RB preferably Christian McCaffrey.  Ridiculous.  The Raiders were #6 in rushing in the NFL last year and were #13 in passing yards.  Oakland was the #7 best scoring team in the NFL.  Panicking for a RB means you need to drink decaf from now on.  They don’t need another one.  On a passing team there isn’t enough balls to go around anyway and they are fine.

Some are losing their minds saying they need a right tackle.  In reality they do but there are free agent moves that can be taken.  Rosters are far from set in stone.  And the reality is every year most fans just worry about the offense but players can be picked up.

I’m sorry but this is the salary cap era.  You can’t have all pro’s at every position.  Wait until Carr and Mack get paid.  The luxury of spending big money on the Nate Allen’s, Sean Smith’s and Reggie Nelson’s of the world and seeing them struggle will be over.  Less cap space means you have to make fewer mistakes.  And don’t forget they are trying to pay Gabe Jackson who will get 7-8 million a year when he gets a huge raise.  Every team has weaknesses.  You just try to limit them.  This isn’t the 1970’s where you could have all pro’s everywhere.

jack reg

The Raiders Dire Needs According to Jack Del Rio:

Here at Jaxville, we believe in one thing; facts.  And the facts are ugly.  Jack Del Rio said it again this week in the local media.  “The most glaring weakness we had was a lack of a push and pass rush up the middle.  We have to address that.”  The problem here is that this draft doesn’t have a for sure DT that can get to the QB, especially in the first round.

The Raiders also desperately need a MLB and a CB.  Some have said OLB TJ Watt from Wisconsin is the answer but he’s an edge guy and the Raiders are full of them.  Some have said just draft a CB in the first round.  In a draft chock full of them, I would say no.

The Raiders defense was:

-23rd against the run

-32nd in sacks

-24th against the pass

-20th in scoring defense

That is bad.  Doesn’t matter how good your offense is, that defense is not getting you far in the playoffs.  Every good offense the Raiders played had success against the Raiders last year, & some games were ugly.  The Patriots defense shut down Atlanta after half time in the Super Bowl.  Without that, the Pats comeback doesn’t happen.

Who Should Oakland Pick?:

Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. are now both saying they feel the Browns are drafting NC QB Mitch Trubisky for the first pick.  He’s not a top player in my mind but the Browns QB situation is a train wreck.  The 49ers are lighting a candle for that to happen because then they get their edge pass rusher in Myles Garrett.  I’m not thrilled with any of the QB’s in this draft but if it happens, it could change a lot of picks.

For the Raiders, the wild card is Alabama LB Reuben Foster.  His off the field troubles aside, this guy can play and you can plug and play him at MLB from week 1.  How far will he fall?  He’s a thumper with instinct and speed to go from sideline to sideline.  If he somehow falls to the Raiders; which I highly doubt; you draft him yesterday.

The guy that I like is Florida MLB Jarrad Davis.  He’s a high character type of guy that the Raiders are stock piling.  He makes plays, is smart, plays while hurt, and has a lot of great leadership skills.  He’s not a great player, but he’s a very good one who can start right away and make a difference playing 3 downs.

Many have Zach Cunningham the MLB from Vanderbilt moving up but I’m not a huge fan of his.  He’s a good playmaker who fills the stat sheets but he is a finesse player.  Davis and Foster are thumpers where Cunningham is a solid tackler but when I saw him play he struggled at times against big, strong OL.  Even in the second round I don’t know if I get him.  The Raiders defense needs to get more physical and Davis and Foster are more physical than Cunningham.

The dilemma though is if Alabama OT Cam Robinson falls to the Raiders at #24.  Man, even though the defense isn’t very good, how do you pass up on Robinson?  If I’m drafting and Robinson is there, I would have issues not taking him.  He has 10 years at right tackle written all over him.

Defensive Backs:

This draft is packed full of quality DB prospects, especially at CB.  Sean Smith was an all pro with the Chiefs.  Take away KC’s pass rush and good safety play and he struggled in Oakland.  It took a year for the NFL to find out that David Amerson is good in short to mid passes but struggles with the deep ball.  And Reggie Nelson’s angles to the ball at times are unique let’s say.  Lots of missed opportunities on the field.

There are lots of CB prospects to choose from.  Tre’davious White the CB from LSU, or Kevin King the CB from Washington, or even ultra-athlete Adoree Jackson from USC, who is a little undersized.  The Raiders can also wait until the second or even third round to get a DB in a deep DB draft.  There is also a chance these guys won’t last that long.

Defensive Line:

Here is the issue; there aren’t any that are for sure studs and in fact I don’t think any warrant a first round pick.  The Raiders need a 3 down DT that can rush the QB and there isn’t anyone in the draft that is a super star in the making.

I hated the 2nd round Jihad Ward pick last year and even though he started most games and played in every game, Ward was near invisible during the season with no sacks and no tackles for loss.  Your #2 pick needs to make a difference within the first 2 years so he has a lot to prove.  I just didn’t see this pick and never was overly impressed with him when he played for Illinois.

The guy that people are talking about as being a possible sleeper is DT Chris Wormley out of Michigan.  The Raiders should be able to get him in round two after picking an LB in round 1.  He’s another high character guy that is a coaches dream.  He works hard, and makes plays but many feel he can be better and underachieved with sloppy technique.  Some say he just needs more coaching to reach his potential.  It’s a risk.  Having 2 busts at DT would be a huge nightmare.

The guy that I think would be a good pick in round 2 is Auburns DT Montravius Adams.  At times he looks like a world beater and at other times he looks like he’s bored.  He lacks consistency and I think with Kahlil Mack and the leadership the Raiders have, this guy could become a good NFL player.  He’s big and athletic but doesn’t show up all the time.

Safety:

Karl Joseph is solid and looks to be a real stopper in the run game, and has potential to hold his own in the passing game, but the Raiders struggled at the other safety position.  The most popular Raider picks here could be Budda Baker out of Washington or Marcus Williams out of Utah.  Both would be good picks.  Obi Melifonwu out of Connecticut would be a solid pick as well in the first round.  He can play at CB as well.

What Will Oakland Do:

The Raiders need a pass rushing DT and an LB in the first 2 rounds.  There are no great DT’s so they should go LB in the first round.  The Raiders have shown a history of picking DB’s though when you least expect it and I think that might be the way they go.  I still cant’ get over picking DJ Hayden over DT Star Lotulelei years ago.  Reggie may want to right the DJ Hayden mistake.  If it were me though, a MLB would be the pick here.  The best one available out of the ones we mentioned but I have a feeling the Raiders would go DB which I think is a mistake with a draft so deep in CB talent.

Pour-a-Guinness-Bass-Black-and-Tan-Step-7

How Are Your Picks?  Here are mine!:

I see a lot of bold predictors online who never keep track of their picks so there is never accountability.  As I said before, if I’m wrong all the time then don’t follow me.  My friends and I have kept track of our picks for going on 18 years.  We pick for the teams we like.  Below are the Raiders picks and mine.  Ok I picked Matt Leinart but I also picked Aaron Rodgers, Calvin Johnson, Shaun Alexander & many others.  I want football players, not NFL combine warriors.  If you are bold enough to make picks, be bold enough to back the ones you miss and make.  Most don’t do that.  I want to be accountable but even the high profile guys try to hide their failures in the draft.

Man carrying tray of burgers and hot dogs

I’m ready to go; we are getting ready for the 18th annual NFL draft party.  One round on day 1 isn’t enough, but it will have to do.  May all your draft picks be golden.  And have some fun.  Be a GM for a few days and jot your picks down on your computer.  The results may surprise you!

___________________________________________________

2000 Raiders pick:  Sebastian Janikowski K Florida St.

Jim’s Pick:  Shaun Alexander RB Alabama

(borderline hall of famer; only Seahawk MVP in a season; most yards rushing in Seattle history; 100 TD’s & only back w/4 consecutive seasons of at least 15 td’s; Seabass has been a long time good kicker; probably HOF someday; but I’d still rather have Alexander)

2001 Raiders pick:  Derrick Gibson DB Florida St. 

Jim’s Pick:  Kendrell Bell LB Georgia

(Bell was defensive rookie of the year & a key member of the Steelers but several bad knee injuries derailed his career.   Had to retire after 2007 season due to his knees.  Gibson is one in a long line of DB draft busts)

 2002 Raiders/Jim’s pick:  Phillip Buchanon CB Miami Fla.; Napoleon Harris LB Northwestern

(Neither panned out and were considered busts)

2003 Raiders pick:  Nnamdi Asomugha CB California; Tyler Brayton DE Colorado

Jim’s Pick:  Nnamdi Asomugha CB California; Boss Bailey LB Georgia

(Aso was very good; Bailey was an average player other than one year and Brayton was a solid backup with spurts of being a good starting player at Carolina)

2004 Raiders pick:  Robert Gallery T Iowa

Jim’s Pick:  Larry Fitzgerald WR Pittsburgh

(Fitzgerald is a future hall of famer.  Gallery was considered a bust at tackle but became a solid guard.  He never became the player the Raiders thought he would be.  Retired in 2012)

2005 Raiders pick:  Fabian Washington S Nebraska

Jim’s Pick:  Aaron Rodgers QB California

(Rodgers is a future hall of famer; I literally fell to the floor when they didn’t draft him)

2006 Raiders pick:  Michael Huff S Texas

Jim’s Pick:  Matt Leinart QB USC

(Leinart was a lazy party frat boy, bust; Huff was average with spurts of quality play; didn’t live up to the pick)

2007 Raiders pick:  Jamarcus Russell QB LSU

Jim’s Pick:  Calvin Johnson WR Georgia Tech

(Megatron is a future hall of famer; I was ripped apart by Raider fans for 2 years for hating the pick of Russell. By the time you prove you are right, no one cares anymore)

2008 Raiders/Jim’s Pick:  Darren McFadden RB Arkansas

(other than one year he could not stay healthy and never could equal his physical college style)

2009 Raiders Pick:  Darrius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland

Jim’s Pick:  Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech

(A really dumb pick by the Raiders.  DHB was a bust as I predicted on draft day; Crabtree has had a good career; Stupid NFL combine 40 times got Al Davis again)

2010 Raiders/Jims Pick:  Rolando McClain LB Alabama

(emotional issues, bust)

2011 Raiders/Jims Pick:  Stefen Wisniewski C Penn St.

(2nd Round; Raiders had no 1st round pick)

(good at guard ok at center; lost to free agency)

2012 Raiders Pick:  Tony Bergstrom T Utah

Jim’s Pick:  Frank Alexander DE Oklahoma

(Raiders did not have a 1st or 2nd round pick)

(Both are backups; Alexander was suspended for 4 games for substance abuse)

2013 Raiders Pick:  DJ Hayden DB Houston

Jim’s Pick:  Star Lotulelei DL Utah

(Lotulelei is a key member of Carolina’s defensive rotation and he fell right into the Raiders lap.  As I said on draft day, Hayden was an awful pick)

2014 Raiders/Jims Pick:  Khalil Mack LB Buffalo

(Excellent pick/player)

2015 Raiders/Jims Pick:  Amari Cooper WR Alabama

(I fought with several Raiders Facebook groups who wanted Kevin White instead. Cooper has 2 pro bowls.  White has played in only 4 games in 2 years and in those games had only 19 catches in 35 targets and gained the Chicago media’s wrath; mmmm)

2016 Raiders/Jims Pick:  Karl Joseph S West Virginia

(Joseph had a nice rookie campaign especially against the run.  He may never be a great cover guy but he’s a thumper against the run, and makes plays).

“The Tragic Loss of Raider Derrick Jensen & the Mounting List of Players ALS & CTE are Claiming”

Derrick_Jensen2

The nightmare continues.

When ESPN’s article on the money grab which is the brain injury lawsuit against the NFL came out recently, it showed just how little is being done for former NFL players struggling with head injuries. So far they have not seen one dime of the settlement money. With lawyers charging outrageous fees, and medical corporations and doctors practically targeting them, you wonder how much money the players will really see. The extreme greed is hard to watch.  The sad part is, more players are being diagnosed with ALS and CTE and many feel this is just the tip of the iceberg.

http://www.espn.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/19029607/billion-dollar-nfl-concussion-settlement-turns-nasty-lawyers-others-vie-pieces-payouts-players

Studies now show NFL players are 4-5 times more likely to get ALS than the regular public. The famous Italian soccer study showed Italian soccer players were 6 times more likely to get it. Severe forms of CTE are now feared to be a cause of ALS.  Former woman’s US soccer star Brandi Chastain has agreed to donate her brain to CTE studies. The first MMA fighter has now been thought to have CTE. Even BMX legend Dave Mirra was shown to have CTE after his suicide at the age of 41.

Now present and former NHL players are coming out to talk about it.   If you thought the NFL was obtuse about head injuries, the NHL makes them look like Mother Theresa. They sued to block their emails dating back to as much as 10 years ago trying to block studies on the effects of concussions partly because they didn’t want to limit fighting.

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl-doctor-slams-situational-ethics-on-concussions-in-unsealed-lawsuit-documents-1.708729

Last month the NFL world was shocked and dismayed to hear that former 49er great Dwight Clark was diagnosed with ALS. Alabama great Kevin Turner; an 8 year veteran of the NFL; died last year at 46 from ALS. He was one of the key witnesses in the CTE trials v.s. the NFL. His brain was later studied and he was found to have severe CTE damage. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2010.

Raiders stud FB Steve Smith has been battling ALS for 15 years. And sadly the Raiders and Seattle families lost a valuable person last week in Derrick Jensen.

I still remember Cowboys owner Jerry Jones last March saying he personally still didn’t think there was a link to head injuries, concussions and CTE.   That’s what players are up against.

Mark Davis & Reggie McKenzie honoring Derrick Jensen
Mark Davis & Reggie McKenzie honor former Raider Derrick Jensen before Seattle Seahawks game

Derrick Jensen Loses His Battle With ALS:

http://www.raiders.com/news/article-1/Raiders-Mourn-the-Passing-of-Derrick-Jensen/ca64a3e6-8b9d-4ceb-8815-1a93ad9ba9d0

Raiders super sub and special teams captain Derrick Jensen lost his battle with ALS last week after being diagnosed in 2012. Jensen was 60. He was a key member of the Raiders and won 2 Super Bowls. In the first 5 minutes of Super Bowl XVIII, Derrick blocked a Washington punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown that set the tone for a huge win against a team that most in the media at that time was calling the best ever.   I remember pretty much going insane as a kid when it happened.

derrick jensen 2
Davis & Derrick Jensen

Derrick was a solid and valuable player, but he also was a long time respected scout for the Seattle Seahawks with over 2 decades of amazing evaluations.   He was beloved for his kindness and respect towards people. He was eclectic and fun and went out of his way to just say hi to Seattle staffers.   You would be hard pressed to find a more loved guy. His death was a great loss to the NFL. The Seahawks have renamed their draft room in his honor. Sadly Derrick lost his wife Amanda in 2009 in a car accident and now his 19 y/o son Davis (in honor of Al? I don’t know) must go on without his parents.

http://www.seahawks.com/news/2017/04/07/seahawks-remember-longtime-scout-derrick-jensen

A 5-Star Must Read Book on Players & Their Families Fighting CTE:

Many are reading this book in one sitting.  If you want to get a raw, in depth look at what players & families go through with CTE, read Cyndy Feasel’s book “After the Cheering Stops”. Her late husband Grant Feasel; a former Seattle Seahawk OL; was struck by CTE and this story is an amazing one. I can’t recommend this book enough. Grant sadly, was far from being the only one.  RIP Grant.

http://afterthecheeringstops.com/

NFL Royalty Now Struggling:

When Ken Stabler’s partner Kim Ross-Bush came out talking about the CTE symptoms that Ken was suffering from, it seemed that more people started to listen.   Sadly, the list of players struggling continues to grow.

Cowboys great Tony Dorsett has done several national interviews talking about his battle with depression, mood swings and extreme memory loss.  Ex-Raider/Eagle/49er RB Charlie Garner says he can’t go anywhere without someone coming with him because he forgets where his car is & has trouble in conversations.

NFL Royalty and super man Gale Sayers barely talks anymore.  One of the most articulate and smart people in NFL history, can no longer remember some people or even carry on simple conversations.

http://www.espn.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/9931754/former-nfl-stars-tony-dorsett-leonard-marshall-joe-delameilleure-show-indicators-cte-resulting-football-concussions

Detroit Lion legend Mel Farr died in 2015 and it was shown he had severe CTE which he suspected.  At one time Mel had the largest African American owned company in the U.S.

Frank Wycheck, Mike Adamle, and so many others are now saying they are afraid of what lies ahead with their symptoms.  Raider great George Atkinson says it’s hitting him as well and Phil Villapiano says it’s the scary thing everyone is talking about.  Their memories fading, while their thoughts get lost in a fog.

http://www.espn.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/18585718/former-detroit-lions-rb-mel-farr-had-stage-3-cte-died-2015

These aren’t dumb football players folks. These are smart, articulate, and successful men who contributed great things to the NFL and they are now losing their faculties. AND STILL, no support from the NFL.

The NFL Needs a Wake Up Call:

http://www.myajc.com/sports/football/fate-dwight-clark-gale-sayers-reaffirm-nfl-not-doing-enough/oh3s4BqtAVhI6nye7XQbEN/

People have changed in our country and some leave their brains at the door.  If some belong to a political party, love a football team or belong to an organization, they will blindly defend it no matter what.  Right and wrong no longer matters to them.  It’s like they take it personally if someone questions what they are a part of.  It’s pathetic and insecure to be honest.  You can’t fix problems unless you admit them.

The NFL see’s that same phenomena.  “Don’t be a hater, don’t be negative; you are a troll”. It’s like a bunch of cult members are walking around saying question nothing. To admit a terrible mistake by something they belong to or like is out of the question.

“I’m loyal from the crib to the grave. Win lose or tie, loyal til I die”. These are sayings that are seen often in fan groups of all NFL teams.   Unfortunately the league, the teams, and the owners don’t feel the same. They will move to another city without a worry, buy off politicians and not support the players that made them rich while not thinking twice about it. Their goal is one thing; make more money.  Some NFL fans are the abused spouses of the sporting world and they don’t even know it; enabling the NFL to the end blindly defending anything they do, or fail to do.

Cheerleaders had to sue to get minimum wage and the overwhelming support in social media was for the NFL. The names these women were called by some male fans on social media shouldn’t be repeated. The Ref’s were destroyed by fans for wanting to be full time employees with full time training and salaries. This would greatly improve the calls in games and improve the integrity of the game. Sadly the “cash strapped” NFL said they couldn’t afford to pay them full time. Most fans backed the NFL and told refs to get other jobs if you don’t like it.

The treatment of the retired players is worse. Our society has lost it’s ability to be compassionate, especially to elderly people. If I wrote a story about Derek Carr giving someone a ride, I’d get thousands of readers an hour. Talk about the sad demise of a great player from the past and the numbers drop significantly with a yawn. It’s too sad and no one wants to bother.

What Can We Do:

It will take maturity and confidence from fans to create change. First, we can listen. We can listen to the players and their families.   We can support them by complaining to the league and owners in social media or in actually writing letters that we need to respect them and their needs. A little bit of effort goes a long way. The NFL was going to do nothing in the Ray Rice case until fans were outraged when TMZ proved them to be liars.

The NBA had a known racist, Donald Sterling as an owner.  They knew and supported him for years through his racist actions and rants.  They defended him until a video came out that was seen by fans.  The outrage was epic and public opinion forced the NBA to get rid of him.  Professional leagues morals are based on money & public opinion.

We can also support pages, stories and the players themselves.   Instead of putting up that 1000th team meme or 5000th cat photo on Facebook, teach yourself and/or your kids about the history of the teams and the great players from the past. These players sacrificed a great deal to play football and many were extremely loyal to the cities and fans.  Some became integral parts of the community with many living and dying in the area they played in. We need to stop acting like 18 y/o gang members and respect all players from all teams. You can hate a team or player in fun but remember we are all in this game called life, and that is much more important than any football rivalry or team loyalty.

What is happening to retired players is unacceptable and we need to be the answer. You can still love football and the players in it while not condoning some of the actions of the NFL and the owners. The NFL’s actions show it is loyal to one thing; money. It is their god. Well it’s not mine. They are not loyal to players, fans, cheerleaders, cities and even the refs.   I’m not letting ANY corporation or person use me or disrespect me, and you shouldn’t either. Look at their actions, and not the words. Love the game, and the teams and players but be respectful of what’s going on.  And if we are as loyal and respectful to the game as we say, let’s make a difference and show the NFL that the sport is about the people in it, and not the profit from it.

“A Football Family Reunion for the Ages; Ken Stabler’s NFL HOF Induction”

 

ken stabler hof bustA family reunion for the ages.

In a night that went as perfect as a last minute Ken Stabler drive, Ken Michael Stabler took his rightful place in the NFL pro football hall of fame. For one last time, Ken Stabler lead everyone on a magical ride that will never be forgotten.

With decades of Raider tradition all around mixed in with a little Southern warmth from the state of Alabama, Canton looked more like Oakland, Ca than the sleepy town that wakes up for a week every year before the NFL season starts.

With several Raiders by their sides and HOF WR Fred Biletnikoff giving support, Ken Stabler’s grandsons unveiled the HOF bust of their beloved grandfather. In one action, all of the emotions that have built up from decades of frustration, anticipation, sadness and hope was released. Tears flowed, and closure began to fill the air slowly like a soft mist on a hot night.   All the years of waiting; all the unjust votes and comments came out in a healing moment that hopefully now brings closure to an amazing career by an amazing man.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-hall-of-fame/0ap3000000681148/Ken-Stabler-Enshrinement

Brett Favre’s Moment:

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-hall-of-fame/0ap3000000681185/Hall-of-Fame-QB-Brett-Favre-shares-a-story-about-Ken-Stabler

Why He’s Loved So Much:

I have many good friends from around the country who ask me, why was there so much emotion and love for Ken Stabler. I think the answer is easy.

When the Snake saw a fan he didn’t care what color you were. He didn’t care if you were famous or rich.   He truly appreciated the adoration that was given him. I think Ken always knew how important he was to the City of Oakland, Alabama and the bay area. That’s why he was so kind to so many. He never judged; never lashed out; he was always good to those that supported him, and shrugged off those that hurt him. Many saw a little of themselves in Ken. Sometimes misunderstood, often doubted, and occasionally misjudged. Ken was an every man and in reality so many people related to the things he went through.

Ken was real. He made mistakes; he failed at times; he was ripped in the media at times; but he ALWAYS dusted himself off and kept coming. He never quit and the harder someone pushed, the harder he pushed back. The Raiders and Ken Stabler smashed people in the mouth and never gave up. That’s why when most teams would have quit, the Raiders usually won due to the never give up attitude of the Snake. Ken was a lot like the fans that supported him. He was a lot like the City of Oakland and the East Bay; always fighting, never quitting.

 

 

Why Younger Fans Should Be Excited:

Some younger Raider fans seem to be in a fog at the great adoration for Ken and this amazing era. Let’s face it, we live in a society where history to some is what pokemon go character you caught last night. If it’s old, society seems to not care about it.

If you are a younger fan, look at the extreme excitement that is seen in social media today for the upcoming season. The Raiders were 7-9 last year and some are nearly losing their minds with excitement. Nothing wrong with that especially with all the improvements, but put it into perspective.

Think about going 56-13 in Ken’s first 69 starts. Think of going 18-1-1 on Monday night football. Think of having the highest winning % of ANY professional team in the U.S. of ANY sport for a 25 year stretch. Think of 3 Super Bowls in 7 years and 5 straight AFC Championship games. For almost 3 decades the Raiders and the Cowboys were consistently on top of the NFL ratings for most watched teams on television. Oh and don’t forget having more wins in the greatest NFL decade of all time, the 1970’s. Could you imagine what Ken and the Raiders offense could do with today’s rules?   Now you understand OUR excitement.   As Raider great Tim Brown said Friday, “When Ken walked into our locker room you saw everyone change. It was like royalty had just come into the room.   The Raiders of that time were just that good; people adored him.”

A Leader to the End:

The reason this meant so much to so many is because Ken really was the Raiders leader in every way.   He was a leader on the field and off.   Players felt he was invincible and looked to him when things got rough. Even after his death he inspired. Raiders greats like George Atkinson, Art Thoms, and George Buehler followed in Ken’s footsteps and decided to donate their brains to the study of CTE and give them to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after they passed away.   Truly unselfish acts inspired by the Snake’s selflessness and the encouragement of his partner Kim Bush.

“When you see your teammate deteriorate a lot through the end of his life, to see him go out like that, it brings us together,” Thoms said in a Mercury News article. George Atkinson has complained often of his memory issues. “Ken meant so much to us and we felt we needed to do this.”

The Closest Team in the NFL:

Many of the retired Raider players talked about how close they were to each other. Many stated how no team was as tight as they were.   Even after retiring, they would meet for dinner often and even if players were out of state, they would fly back to join their fellow teammates. It was important to them to stay in touch with an incredible time that gave them so much enjoyment.

Jim Jamz:

We have many older patients and one is Mr. & Mrs. C who live deep in the wine country (I wont give their name for health privacy reasons.) They used to be a Raiders season ticket holders in the 60’s and 70’s.   I visited them recently.

Mrs. C is the classic sweet nurturing elderly woman who still feels a good meal will solve any problem. Mr. C was a successful businessman who’s health is failing. I go to their house so he doesn’t have to go into the office. I also know they enjoy my visits. Mr. C usually holds court with a scotch in his hand while I get my usual pay for a house call. A cold beer with a roast beef or turkey sandwich or the occasional German Chocolate cake and cold glass of milk.

“You know something James, those times were so special and those guys meant the damn world to us.   Players like Tom Keating and Art Thoms; Tony Cline, Warren Wells, Charlie Smith, Raymond Chester. Tatum and Atkinson, Skip and Willie. Otto, Beuhler and Dalby; Upshaw and Shell; Sistrunk and Kinlaw; Rod Martin and Vilipiano. Sumner, Wolf, and Al Locasale. So many great men that gave their all to win. And Kenny was everyone’s favorite. No group of players and fans were closer. The minute you forget this son, you won’t be worth a damn as a writer, or as a fan.”

After a pregnant pause, Mr. C showed a moment of rare emotion. Pointing his finger at me he said softly while winking, “Ken in the Hall of Fame? This one means something son; this one means something.”

It sure does Mr. C.   It sure does.

 

“Answering Critics of The Oakland Raiders Draft; Why Draft Connor Cook? Grading the Picks.”

 

shilique calhoun
Michigan St. DE Shilique Calhoun against Ohio St.

For the first time in my life time, it seemed that most teams did fairly well at the 2016 NFL draft. One of those teams that did really well was the Oakland Raiders.

Many fans though have expressed their displeasure at certain picks, so let’s answer all the questions that people have in regards to these picks.

Value Pick v.s. Karl Joseph:

I got beaten up on Twitter a little bit when I was for the drafting of West Virginia Safety Karl Joseph. Like most people I had him as a top 30 player. My favorite DM on twitter was, “I thought you liked value picks; then how can you defend choosing Joseph?”

The answer to that is this. The Raiders desperately wanted Joseph in the second round. They also wanted Reggie Ragland. With the news coming that Ragland had an enlarged Aorta that would need yearly monitoring, Ragland dropped like a stone in the draft.   There were several teams that wanted Joseph in the late first round and early second round. NO WAY was Joseph falling to the Raiders in the second round.   The Raiders knew that to draft him they had to draft him earlier than expected. The hope was for Ragland to drop to them in the second round and he almost did; Buffalo nabbed him. But looking back Joseph is a really good player; probably a late first round talent that will greatly help your team. It was a risk they took and I would have too.

Emphasizing DL made me very happy. I’ve said it a million times; look at history; the DL is so important to Super Bowl winning teams.

Some say on social media, “where can you watch these players play?   I follow all the experts and I don’t see film on these guys”. The answer is, WATCH THE COLLEGE GAMES! College Football has DOZENS of stations that show games not once; but several times in reruns. Almost all college conferences have tv networks. You DVR the games and watch the players you want to see. If you watch a game and the player plays great or the announcers say he stands out you pay attention to them. If the player never gets mentioned but is drafted you say wow; I didn’t even remember this guy.

Our fathers began taping & recording famous games audio and then when VCR/VHS came out they taped the games. My dad has the Holy Roller on tape; a friend of mine’s dad has Notre Dame’s stunning upset of UCLA to snap their 88 game winning streak on a tape recording; from 1974! I have hundreds of games transferred to DVD in my large library at my home. If you are a sports & history junkie, start your own collection.

For example 2 years ago I taped 3 games with an up and comer in the NFL draft, WR Tre McBride from William & Mary. I fast forwarded and when you get the hang of it you can watch a players plays in 10-15 minutes. There are 128 college teams in Division 1 only, and many more in D II and DIII.   NFL is a passion for people; college football is a religion. Here in silicon Valley you can live stream anything and also don’t have to worry about regional games only being seen. We’re techies and you learn things.

With that being said let’s look at the Jihad Ward and Conner Cook picks below and all of the critic questions should be answered.

1st Round: Karl Joseph S (14, West Virginia)

I’ve already written about Joseph here.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/the-oakland-raiders-mindset-on-day-in-depth-evaluation-of-karl-joseph-lots-of-good-little-bad/

Grade A-

2nd Round Jihad Ward DL (44; Illinois)

I’m not a fan of this pick.  I thought the Raiders drafted him too early and even then I’m not a fan.  He’s more athlete than football player. The after draft comments were interesting. When Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was asked if Ward was raw he snapped that he wasn’t. “The defensive line isn’t like playing QB”. When GM Reggie McKenzie was asked, he stated, “he’s definitely raw but we are not looking at him having a redshirt year. Hopefully if we coach him up he can be ready to contribute something this season”.

I don’t like quoting Pro Football Focus but to the few that defend this pick; PFF comments on Ward, “he had the 69th overall grade of edge defenders”. PFF then went on to say he may end up being a good run defender. Later on they say he may be a good pass rusher.   (see why PFF drives some people crazy?)

I watched Illinois several times and to be honest I barely remembered him. This was a reach at best in my mind. I think the Raiders were shocked too when Austin Johnson; stud DL out of Penn St.; and MLB Reggie Ragland was taken before their pick. With Alabama DL’s AShawn Robinson & Jarran Reed; as well as Clemson CB stud Mackenzie Alexander still on the board; this pick makes no sense in my mind but who knows. He’s a good story and I hope he does well.

GRADE: C-

3rd Round: Shalique Calhoun DL (75, Michigan St.)

Michigan St. was in so many featured games even the casual fan saw them often. Calhoun was a stud on a very physical and talented defensive line that at times carried the Spartans and kept them in games. He had 27 sacks for his career and 44 tackles for loss. He’s a playmaking pass rusher that needs to bulk up a bit and improve his run stopping skills. Some scouts say he’s too passive. I don’t think he’ll have a middle ground. Could be a diamond in the rough or struggle. I think the positive greatly outweighs any negative.  Great Pick!

GRADE: B+

4th Round: Connor Cook QB (100, Michigan St.)

The Raiders traded up to get Cook at #100. This one still has Raider nation scratching their heads. Let’s look at the facts.

History again is so important. All of those people guaranteeing the Raiders will move up in the first round every year forget that they’ve never done it in 57 drafts yet every year they predict it. Look at history. Well this pick was ALL about Ron Wolf and his history.

When Reggie was learning under Raider and Green Bay Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf, the Packers drafted QB’s all the time. I’ve said it for years. Every team should draft a QB every year in the late round.

Even with Brett Favre as their starter, Ron Wolf and the Packers drafted Mark Brunell (5th round), Aaron Brooks (4th round), and Matt Hasselbeck (6th round). These 3 became key NFL starters for other teams. (In a famous John Madden story, when Al Davis asked his staff about drafting a young Alabama QB with bad knees, Al’s staff said no. He then asked Ron Wolf who said yes; Ken Stabler was then drafted).

Wolf had an amazing eye for QB’s and ALL three of these picks were eventually traded for key draft picks and players who helped create a winning organization keeping talent flowing.

Some have now said trade Carr. Ridiculous; I personally don’t like Cook and don’t think he’s going to be a starting NFL QB; he’s not accurate in the medium and short game. Some teams like him though.  He’s also not exactly a leader type at times as was seen in some of his comments when he was injured and missed the Ohio St. game.   Some experts and teams will disagree with me but that’s my take. Some have said his personality is a turn off and he needs to greatly mature to be a leader in the Pro’s.

This was a Ron Wolf type pick that will eventually be trade bait if he pans out. If not, he can then be a backup.   Matt McGloin will be on trade watch this pre season. In today’s QB world with so little talent, teams are willing to risk money and picks on projects that they think they can make into something special and some will want Cook; maybe badly. If your starting QB goes down though, your team is in trouble.

GRADE B+

5th Round: Deandre Washington RB (143 Texas Tech)

I’m a Big 12 guy and I’d like to thank Deandre Washington for being such a fun player to watch these last 4 years. I hope he does well. Most had Washington either a 6 or 7th rounder; few had him in the 5th round; and a handful even had him going undrafted.

This is a productive player who plays hard every play.  He can catch and run and was a work horse back for the Red Raiders. He returned kicks as a freshman. Many scouts complained that Washington may be a system guy at Texas Tech. The Big 12 is known for bad defense and wild west offenses so some question his numbers.   He’s also only 5’ 8” 205 and many scouts said he will struggle pass blocking. He is not a speed merchant but he’s fast enough and he’s tougher than he looks.

I like Washington but my pick here was Paul Perkins who I like a little more.  Many had Perkins going in the 3-5th round. Washington is a bit of a reach but time will tell if he pans out. I think he can be a situational player and a good pass catcher.  A tough guy that plays confident with football smarts. Fans will enjoy this guy this season.

GRADE B

6th Round: Cory James LB (194 Colorado St.)

At 6’ 225 lb. James has been a consistent 4 year starter for the Rams.   They moved him to MLB in his senior year but he is too small for that position in the NFL. He was also used as an edge rusher on passing downs and showed speed and athleticism. Some experts have really trashed this pick and I don’t know why. A project who should do well in special teams and will be a good backup.

GRADE B

7th Round Vadal Alexander T/G (234 LSU)

My SEC friends are asking how in the heck did this guy make it to the 7th round. Most had him going 3-4 round and this is a great pick. Alexander came to LSU around 370 and even at 6’ 5” he looked too bulky. He’s lost 30 pounds as a 4 year starter and was all SEC last year. He played guard and then later switched to tackle in college. He is a masher in the run game with crazy strength. He lacks athleticism and good foot speed which is why teams dropped him so low. He has inconsistent mechanics and needs work but this guy should be a solid backup and even get a few snaps here and there in time. Huge potential. This is the type of pick that winning teams make. Huge upside. He’ll be projected as a guard in the pro’s for his lack of foot speed but he has the potential to really help this team as a backup. I am shocked he lasted so long.

GRADE A-

There you have it; it seems that there is still a need for an MLB but remember that many things can still happen in the off season, pre season and even salary cap cuts before the season starts. Overall I really like this draft. Pick for today and for the future.

OVERALL GRADE:   B+

“The Oakland Raiders Mindset on Day 1; In Depth Evaluation of Karl Joseph; Lot’s of Good, Little Bad”

 

karl joseph
First Round Selection for the Oakland Raiders, Karl Joseph S

Raiders Draft Day 1; What They Thought About:

I love draft day and it is always good to reconnect with old friends for the 17th time.  Draft day is special to us and we love it.

To start out I was shocked when ESPN was reporting that the Raiders were going to take William Jackson III out of Houston.  I watched him play in 3 games and he was kind of soft in my mind but he was a great athlete.  A rich man’s DJ Hayden.  The NFL and NFL junkies LOVE their athletes but I only love athletes if they have an instinct for football.

Reggie Ragland was plummeting like a stone due to a story that broke that he had an enlarged aorta.  That isn’t rare and he can live a normal life with yearly checkups.  Problem is the hyper neurotic NFL is NOT going to want to take a chance like that.

Myles Jack (does any of these agents ever tell their clients to keep their mouths shut?) in another “I’m an open book” moment told Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post/NFL that he has a degenerative condition that may require microfracture surgery in the future.  In an innocent tweet, Hubbuch reported this.  Jack’s exact quote was, “If I can play 3 years in the NFL then that would be above average.”  Yikes.  Bart confirmed that’s what Jack said.  Yes kids I did my homework so you don’t have to!

Injury reports are a hit or a miss thing.  Remember Star Lotulelei?  The Utah DL stud was considered a top 3 pick but in pre draft checkups he had a heart condition that was created by a bad virus he had.  After two weeks he was cured of the virus and his heart function was normal but that didn’t matter.  The NFL freaked out and he dropped like a stone to Carolina at #14 and now he stars for Carolina who just went to the Super Bowl.  In my 2013 draft I picked Star; the Raiders picked DJ Hayden. (ok ok, the counseling about the Raiders bad drafts didn’t cure me after all).

In last years draft 15 minutes before the first pick ESPN radio announced that Leonard Williams shoulder may need surgery and he may be out for the year.  The top 2-4 pick dropped to 6.  The shoulder injury was from 2013 and since then  Williams didn’t miss a game.  Remember ESPN saying Carr broke his wrist before the season last year?  You have to be careful with all these rumors; many of these reports are to freak people out so they will listen or read what they’ve created.  Oh those ad dollars will make you lie like a beast.

One thing that many have talked about outside of California is just how little California fans watch and like college football.  Many really don’t know much about the players other than highlight tapes.  Nothing wrong with that but it’s just not their thing. I feel like an SEC/Big 10 guy sometimes trapped in a Pac 12 body.  I love college football so much and on a cold & wet Saturday, good food, good company, a fire and lots of college games is a joy to me.

Why Karl Joseph?:

First off in my draft I chose DL Shaq Lawson.  I had Joseph as a late first rounder or early second round talent.  The Raiders wanted Karl Joseph in the second round but they didn’t think he’d last until their pick.  I think the Raiders also felt Reggie Ragland was going to fall like a rock and he has.  I think no way without that health report is he not going in the first round.

Even though this wasn’t a great value pick in my mind, the Raiders may have thought that Ragland would be there to them in the second round so in reality they would get their safety and their MLB.  If that was their thinking, wow is that smart.  If not, then you just hope it works out.

The Raiders need a starting MLB in This Draft.

Other than Ragland I don’t think any of the MLB draft choices are ready to start.  It’s a bad year for MLB.  There may be a dark horse.  I do love Scooby Wright III out of Arizona though because he is just a ball hawk and a tackling machine so picking him up wouldn’t be the dumbest thing.  Some have him going round 3, others on day 3.  Critics say he’s not fast enough to cover the pass but they said the same thing about Zach Thomas and recently 49ers Chris Borland and they excelled big time.  Wright is a tough, smart football player and I get him in the 3rd or 4th round all day.  He’s too talented to not have on the field and even as a backup he’s much better than Ben Heeney.

(I’m not a big highlight video guy; the games are what shows the truth but just a few plays to let people know who he is.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_M1PTdQyRVY

The Positives of Karl Joseph;

(Read above; I’m not a big highlight video guy; anyone can look good in them; but here is a little sample of Karl’s good plays.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L88OIVNvsVA

Grades from Yahoo Sports to ESPN had this pick as a C- to a B+.  I predict he will be a huge fan favorite.  He’s an old school safety that loves to tackle and hit people.  He has a passion for football and is a born leader.  His technique is solid and he often hits runners flush.  If you are looking for an NFL combine genetic freak who runs 4.3 40’s then this isn’t your guy.  Karl is one thing; a football player.  The word that is used most to describe Joseph is that he is a thumper.  He’s a physical player who loves to hit people.  He’s a good tackler and is excellent against the run, mixed in with quality pass coverage talent.  His weight is between 195-205 lbs. so at 5’ 10” he’s not a huge guy.

Remember that newly signed S Reggie Nelson is going to be 33 in September so he’s only going to be playing in Oakland for 1-2 years.  Safety will be a priority.

Some will say oh great, Mike Mitchell 2.  But that’s not the case.  Joseph is a good cover guy and is a ball hawk.  He’s smart with good instinct.  He plays very physical football and rarely misses tackles.  Mitchell was just a hitter who could run fast.

At 5’ 10” people are calling him a poor mans Bob Sanders, the Colts great safety (Sanders was 5’ 8” or 5’ 9” depending on who you asked).  A compact guy who always seemed to be around the ball making plays.  Joseph is a very confident player with football smarts who should fit in nicely with the Raiders defense. Look for the Raiders to put Reggie Nelson at Strong Safety and Joseph to Free Safety.

The negatives:

He’s coming off an October ACL injury and probably will not be 100% the first part of the season.

Before he got hurt he ran a legitimate timed 4.6 40 which isn’t burning up anyone’s speed meter (he ran from 4.5 to 4.7) but he’s fast enough.  He’s a risk taker at times and sometimes got burned trying to do too much.  For good or bad, with his slower 40 time, Al Davis doesn’t make this pick.

Many wonder with his size and style of play can he stay healthy.  Bob Sanders was a beast when he played but he was hurt; a lot.  As people saw with Charles Woodsen, he said he wanted to play 10 more years after week 6.  The Raiders then put LB’s on the tight ends because the Raiders were struggling covering TE’s and this freed Woodsen up to stop the run and he took a beating.  He announced he was retiring after week 14.  Playing safety in the NFL is a rough go and a healthy one is key to having success.

Was Choosing Joseph a good pick:

NO ONE.  I mean NO ONE has been as honest as I have been about the Raiders and their draft picks for the last 13 years.  I’m not a homer and I’m not a hater; that’s why both those groups don’t like me sometimes.  I deal with what is and not with what might be.  I have the following I have for a reason and that’s because like or dislike what I write, you get honesty.

That being said, I say this is a solid B+ pick.  I like Joseph’s instinct and hitting ability.  He has great technique and he’s a ball hawk.  Another swagger guy but he has a passion for the game and is a born leader.  These are the guys the Raiders are stock piling.

He’s smart and a good solid player that will make plays at safety.  He loves hitting and tackling and if he can stay healthy, he will be a solid player for years to come.  He’s not Jack Tatum but he’s also not Mike Mitchell, Patrick Bates or Derrick Gibson.  I don’t think Joseph is a top 15 pick but there was no way he was going to be there in the 2nd round so I understand the pick and it’s all good.

If the Raiders get Ragland in round two than I give this pick a big fat A +.  The Raiders still need a MLB desperately but this is a nice start to the draft.