Tag Archives: reggie mckenzie

“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)

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: A –

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.

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.

My pick here was Paul Perkins. He was a do it all RB as well at UCLA and he reminded some of a poor man’s Marcus Allen in his style. He’s shifty and quick and broke a lot of ankles with his cuts. I think he’s a better player and the Giants got a straight up steal with him. 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 pre 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.

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.

“The Oakland Raiders All-Time Greatest Late Round Draft Picks & Steals”

cliff branch

When you look back at the history of the Oakland Raiders, it is a work of art on how to build an NFL dynasty.  Some drafts would get several starters and some even multiple HOF players.  Ron Wolf & Al Davis made it an art form to pick up late round talent and pick players that others had no desire to choose.

http://www.raiders.com/history/draft-history.html

Yesterday we talked about some of the worst picks; today lets look at the top 15 Oakland Raider late round picks of all time; 4th round on dow.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/pimps-drugs-busts-the-oakland-raiders-top-10-worst-draft-picks-of-all-time/

Honorable Mention;  Bo Jackson; 

Even though Bo Jackson was originally drafted by Tampa Bay, he was put back into the 1997 draft and the Raiders took him in the 7th round so technically he wasn’t an original pick.  Al Davis was the only owner that allowed him to play both football and baseball.  Bo never had 1000 yards and only started 23 games and ran for 2782 yards in his career, but his long touchdown runs were fun to watch and will always be remembered.

#15 Reggie Kinlaw DL (1979; 12th round 320 overall)

At the University of Oklahoma, Reggie Kinlaw was a superstar using his great speed to dominate defenders. At 6’ 2” and 245 lbs. experts said he was a huge long shot to even make the NFL let alone be a quality player. He played for the Raiders for 6 years and started on two Super Bowl teams. Many Raiders have said Reggie is one of the unsung heroes in the history of the Raider legacy.

# 14 Shane Lechler P: (2000; 5th round 142 overall)

After a record setting career at Texas A & M, Lechler was selected in the 5th round by the Raiders. He has had a stellar career and is a perennial pro bowler. He currently kicks for the Houston Texans.

#13 Pete Banaszak HB: (1966; 5th round AFL Draft)

A solid player at the University of Miami, he was chosen in the 5th round of the AFL draft.   The Raiders were the first to employ a short yardage RB full time and for 13 years Banaszak played that role to a tee. In 1975; his best year; he ran for 16 touchdowns. In the Super Bowl against the Vikings he scored 2 touchdowns. Nicknamed the Rooster by fans and teammates, he could do anything in the clutch including catch the ball. He was a key element of the Raiders domination in the 1970’s.

#12 Charlie Smith RB: (1968; 4th round 110 overall)

A standout at the University of Utah, here is another unsung hero and my mom’s favorite player.   Charlie Smith was a classic change of pace back of the time that could do anything. He was a great pass catcher with speed and he was an integral part of the Oakland Raiders offensive machine. His most famous touchdown was never seen. He scored the go ahead touchdown in the famous Heidi game.

#11 Tony Cline DE:   (1970; 4th round 102 overall)

One of the great players from the great defenses of the early Oakland Raiders, Tony Cline was as good a pass rusher as there was in football. He has the unofficial rookie sack record in the AFL at 17 ½ sacks in 1970.   Some say due to the hate the NFL had with anything AFL, the NFL does not acknowledge the sack record. Officially the NFL didn’t record sacks until 1982 even though the AFL did. Tony’s son Tony Cline Jr. also played in the NFL. Raider fans will never forget Tony Cline.

#10 Marv Hubbard RB: (1968; 11th round 277 overall)

“Take it to the Cupboard Hubbard” and “Run Like a Mother Hubbard” were favorite signs of Raider fans in the 1970’s. The NFL yawned when Marv Hubbard was taken out of Colgate. Slow and not athletic, he was not expected by most experts to make the NFL. Boy did he ever. He became a 3 time pro bowler and helped lead the Raiders to 4 Western Division titles and 3 AFC Conference Finals.

Hubbard is ranked 4th all time in NFL history in yards per carry (4.8) for fullbacks and is 13th overall. “Marv was one of the toughest players to ever play for the Raiders. I’ve never seen anyone look for contact and then actually enjoy it”. The wars between Hubbard’s Raiders and the Chiefs and their bulldozer Ed Podolak were much awaited games for NFL fans everywhere. Hubbard had a knack of hitting holes perfectly and getting every yard that he could out of runs.

Marv never left the bay area and he had a lot of interactions with fans. He loved muscle cars and could always be seen waving to appreciative fans everywhere. His death last year was a sad end to an amazing life. He also released two music singles. Smart and outgoing, he will never be forgotten.

#9 Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas DB: (1972: 7th round 176 overall)

Another fan favorite, the USC product was a key member of the famous Soul Patrol defensive backfield of the Oakland Raiders. His physical play was as intimidating as any DB before or since. Thomas could play safety or cornerback but his play in the Super Bowl shutting out Vikings WR great Sammy White in the first half will always be remembered as one of the key’s to a huge Super Bowl win. He played his entire career in Oakland and he had back to back 6 interception years. No one will ever forget Dr. Death.

#8 Dave Dalby C:   (1972; 4th round 100 overall)

Another beloved Raider who left us too soon, he is on UCLA’s all century team. He played 14 seasons and NEVER missed a game. He replaced hall of famer Jim Otto and many feel Dave Dalby deserves that same honor. He made one pro bowl and he started on 3 Super Bowl winning teams.   I still see his friends talking about him at times online. A kind person who is really missed.

#7 Clarence Davis RB: (1971; 4th round 97 overall)

A 1969 All-American, Clarence Davis slipped through the cracks in the 1971 NFL draft. People forget that Davis was a part of the famous “All Black Backfield” at USC. With Sam Cunningham and QB Jimmy Jones, it was the first time in college history that a backfield purely made up of African Americans was created.

When USC went to Alabama in Tuscaloosa, they steam rolled the Tide beating them 42-21. This convinced Bama coach Bear Bryant to allow non-whites to play on the team. It also made the Alabama fan base insist on integration to keep up with the west coast schools.

Scouts didn’t think Davis was good enough to be an NFL starter and he was smaller than advertised (5’ 10”, 190 lbs.). Davis was the classic Raider RB of the day. He could block, catch in the clutch (didn’t have great hands though), and play special teams. He ran back kicks his rookie year.

Davis will forever be remembered for his catch in the “Sea of Hands” game and his clutch post season performances. His amazing record setting game in the Super Bowl win against the Vikings put an exclamation point on a great Raider career.

#6 Greg Townsend DE: (1983; 4th round 110 overall)

Greg Townsend was a standout player at TCU who was considered more of an NFL project than super star. He ended up being the all time sack leader for the Raiders with 107.5 sacks and is 16th all time on the NFL list at 109.5. He was a 2 time pro-bowler and a 4 time all pro. He also recovered 8 touchdowns in his career with 3 of them going for touchdowns. A great career for another later round pick.

#5 Rod Martin LB:   (1977; 12th round 317 overall)

The ultimate underdog.  After being drafted out of USC by the Raiders, he was cut. He then signed with the 49ers and was cut again. The Raiders then resigned him and the rest is history.   No one really gave Rod Martin much of a chance to make the NFL. With his weight fluctuating between 200 and 210 lbs., he was the classic tweener.   He was a linebacker trapped in the body of a safety. The Raiders had him gain 20-25 pounds and eventually he took over the starting OLB job.   He then became one of the best LB’s in the NFL.

He was on several all pro teams and made 2 pro bowls. His 3 interception game in the Super Bowl win against the Eagles is still considered by many as the greatest defensive game of all time in the Super Bowl. A clutch player, people forget he also had an interception and fumble recovery in another Super Bowl win against Washington. He also stopped John Riggins on a fourth and 1 in the third quarter when Washington was trying to get back in the game & he had a sack.

Rod Martin now works at USC and remains a beloved member of the great Raider teams of the past.

#4 George Atkinson DB: (1968; 7th round 190 overall)

Not much was known about Morris Brown standout George Atkinson at the 1968 draft. He was a good player at Morris Brown but he was not considered a top prospect by NFL scouts. Boy were they wrong.

In 10 years with the Raiders he played in 16 playoff games and won a Super Bowl ring. He still holds the punt return record in a game for the Raiders with 205 yards against Buffalo in 1968. He ended up with 30 interceptions and 13 fumbles. He was a key element of the famous Soul Patrol and many feel he and Jack Tatum were the greatest safety tandem of all time and that the Soul Patrol was the greatest defensive backfield of all time. The trash talker of the group, George was a mixture of great speed and toughness and will always be a big part of Raider lore.   He still works for the Raiders doing the pre and post game show for their home radio station.

#3 Lester Hayes DB:   (1977; 5th round 126 overall)

When the Raiders picked Texas A & M safety Lester Hayes in the 5th round, the NFL kind of shook their head. Many felt he wasn’t fast enough to play DB in the NFL and in pre-draft interviews many teams said that Hayes was not a very bright person. Most had little confidence in him due to his lack of social skills.

What teams didn’t know is that Lester Hayes had a massive stuttering issue. He also had severe nasal problems including chronic sinusitis.   As a child he had severe head and jaw pain and would wake up with apnea. After using nasal medications for years, he finally got surgeries to correct it after he retired; it took 3 of them. In an interview Hayes said, “As a young player I sounded like Cousin It in the Adam’s family. No one could understand me”.

When he was drafted he literally cried in front of Al Davis begging him not to move him to cornerback. He felt if he went there he’d be cut but Al Davis asked him to trust him and the rest was history. Hayes explained, “It was so much pressure playing CB in our glory years of the 70’s and 80’s. We had to be right in the face of the WR because we were obsessed with rushing the QB. Our defense would blitz constantly and you could see the fear in the QB. They had to get rid of the ball quickly and if we weren’t all over the WR we were going to get burned. The pass rush and our coverage though helped us win and play at a high level.”

In 1980 Hayes won defensive player of the year after his NFL record tying 13 interceptions. He is a 5 time pro bowler, 2 time Super Bowl champion and a member of the 1980’s all decade team. He shares the all time Raider record for interceptions with Willie Brown at 39. How The Judge is not in the Hall of Fame is a miscarriage of NFL and sports justice.   Ridiculous.

#2 Cliff Branch WR: (1972; 4th round 98 overall)

At 5’ 10” and 170 lb. Cliff Branch was a standout track star at the University of Colorado. He was also a 5 year standout in football running back an amazing record 8 kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career.   Many felt he didn’t have the size or the hands for the NFL and early on he struggled with drops. After a lot of practice and mentoring through the likes of Fred Biletnikof, Branch solved that problem and for 14 years was a top WR in the NFL.   He holds the record for the longest pass play in Raider history at 99.

When Branch retired he led the NFL in post season receptions (73) and yards (1289) for an average of 17.7 yards per catch, while scoring 5 TD’s. And remember this was in the time where DB’s could do anything they wanted to WR and get away with it. He remains the only Raider WR with 3 Super Bowl rings. He was a 4 time pro bowler and a 4 time all pro. He ended up with 501 receptions, 8685 yards and 67 touchdowns.   He was a semi finalist for the NFL Hall of Fame and him being omitted from the HOF is another ridiculous miscarriage of NFL & sports justice.

#1 Jim Otto C: (1960; 24th round AFL Draft)

If you look up Oakland Raider in the dictionary, a picture of Jim Otto will appear.  The epitome of what it is to be a Raider, he was undersized, undervalued and a pure winner.  A 9 time all star, 3 time pro bowler, 3 time all pro and a Hall of Famer.  He also was selected to the all AFL team.  In 15 years he never missed a game because of injury.  In his life he’s had 28 knee surgeries and 74 total surgeries.  In 2007 due to infection he had to have a leg amputated.

When he was eligible for the draft, no NFL team wanted him.  He finally was drafted by the Raiders in the 24th round.  At 6′ 2″ and 240-245, it was thought he was no way big enough.  Otto later stated it was a great chore to keep his weight at 250-255 lbs.  The NFL Network voted Jim as the 63rd greatest football player of all time.

Final Thoughts……….

It’s amazing to see how great the Raiders were at drafting good players late in the draft in the 1960’s and 1970’s. NO ONE was as good as Ron Wolf and Al Davis at evaluating College football talent. They remain the gold standard of the NFL draft and how to build a winner.

“Who Will Now Be The Oakland Raiders #1 Draft Pick After Their Latest Signing”

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With the signing of ex Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson, the Raiders filled another hole in their defense that needed to be addressed.  In another cap friendly contract the Raiders get a solid run defender who is also fairly good against the pass.  His high amount of interceptions is a good and bad thing; proves he can get interceptions but it also proves teams are not afraid to throw at him.  He’s going to be 33 in September and that is probably the reason he didn’t get the money he wanted in free agency.

Trading Up:

Someone asks me every week on Twitter why the Raiders don’t ever trade up.  For the most part it’s because it’s not smart all the time.

Unless you need that one player to put you over the top, it’s not a good idea.  Most teams that trade up get burned.  Bill Belichick and the Patriots have been fleecing teams for years.  I still remember the 2013 trade when the Vikings thought they were a WR away from being good.  They traded a #2, #3, #4, & a #7 for New England’s #1 pick.  At the 29th spot they chose Cordarrelle Patterson.  While he’s been a fine return guy, he is now 5th on the WR depth chart and caught 2 passes all of last year.  Four picks for a 5th string WR.

The Bills; overestimating their talent; sent their #9 overall pick in the first round along with a #1 and a #4 in 2015 to Cleveland to pick #4 overall in the 2014 draft to get talented WR Sammy Watkins.  Watkins is good but I didn’t get that trade because the Bills had holes in their offensive line, QB and a few more on the defensive end.

Ron Wolf was never a huge fan of trading the first round pick either at Oakland or Green Bay, so I find it hard to think McKenzie will do it.  Many fans like to talk trade scenarios but NFL teams are huge creatures of habit and unless the Raiders have fallen in love with a player, I don’t see them trading up.

What Are Their Needs Now?

The main needs are at middle linebacker, a defensive back, and another DL.  They probably will also look into a RB and WR in the later rounds.

Ezekiel Elliott will probably go to Philadelphia or the Giants.  A Running Back would be helpful to the Raiders as well but it’s not as big a need as people think.  As I said before, I’m not a fan of Raiders OC Bill Musgrave.  Not giving Marcel Reece and Jamize Olawale more carries is just ridiculous.  The lack of imagination in using Roy Helu Jr. last year also hurt the Raiders.  And to the writer that said Elliott was as good as Adrian Peterson in college?  Elliot isn’t even close.  Stop it.

Paralysis by Analysis:

I’ve been monitoring my draft picks for 16 years now.  I want to be right so I take evaluating players seriously.  Most just give brash comments and then move on to the next year but I want my followers to know they can trust my opinion.  We all will be wrong at times but I want to have a history of quality picks and predictions mixed in with my Matt Leinart’s.

People wonder why so many teams make mistakes in the NFL draft.  I think it’s because they over think it.  Paralysis by Analysis; over analyzing.  The more you look into something the more chance you will find fault in it.  Now NFL teams are using an arrest formula to predict how many arrests a player will have.  You can’t make this stuff up.

I think also NFL teams and experts are obsessed with athleticism over football talent.  Darrius Heyward-Bey had no business being the Raiders top pick; in fact he was on my no draft list and to the dismay of Raider fans who applauded the pick, I destroyed the choice on draft day.  DHB was picked purely because of his fast 40 time @ the NFL combines.  He really wasn’t even that good at Maryland.

Look at the old videos on Youtube.  I was watching the draft day video on Aaron Rodgers.  Experts were justifying why he was falling in the draft.  “He has bad hand placement; he has bad mechanics.  Look how high he keeps his hands.  He still has a chance to be a pretty good QB but Alex Smith by far is the best QB in the draft”.

From teams overreacting to Thurman Thomas’ knee, to Jerry Rice and Marcus Allen not being fast enough, the nitpicking gets to be a bit rough.  I’m not saying the other stuff isn’t valuable but as John Madden said, watch the games, not drills with players in gym shorts.  This is still football.  Now let’s look at each position and the possible first round pick for the 2016 NFL draft.

Defensive Line:

This is going to be interesting.  Many think that DL’s will fall in the draft because there are so many potential good ones.  It wouldn’t be a surprise but my feeling is that only QB is more important than a DL so if there is one you like then you pick him.  It will be fun to see.

Kevin Dodd:

I’m not a fan of this pick because in reality he had only 1 good year in college and his teammate; Shaq Lawson; was the one being double teamed most of the year which allowed him to be freed up.  I like Lawson better.  It wouldn’t be a tragedy to pick him but I think he’s overrated.  I think Dodd is a borderline 1stround pick.  Not a fan.

Robert Nkemdiche:  

When I wrote on how Vernon Gholston would be a huge bust in the 2008 draft, Jets fans destroyed me.  Some Raider fans wanted to draft him.  In 3 years he ended up with ZERO sacks & never played again.  I also was ripped apart on ESPN when someone shared the preview article I wrote with me saying how Jadeveon Clowney would also be a bust; 1500 thumbs down.  This year I’m picking Nkemdiche as the poster child to avoid.  His stats were like theirs.

In 3 years Nkemdiche only had 7 sacks.  In his last 7 games last year he averaged 2 tackles a game.  His best college year he had 3 sacks.  For his career he averaged a little under 3 tackles a game.  If that excites you then then that is cool but I pass on him big time.  His football numbers don’t equal his athleticism.

AShawn Robinson:

His talent and work ethic are not questioned but his interviews are.  He’s a good guy but some think he’s really not that passionate about football and with players retiring early, that is a big issue.  This guy is a super hard worker.  He’s big and has a great motor as they say.  Nick Saban said he’s just learning how to pass rush and I think his push up the middle would be a great plus.  He was double teamed a lot and was told to play a lot of 2 gap so in reality he was a key to clogging up the middle.  As one scout said, he knows how to play and these guys are valuable.

Sheldon Rankins:

I like Rankins as well.  Like Robinson he’s raw as a pass rusher but scouts like him.  He is physical and is a good tackler and he would help the Raiders.

Shaq Lawson:

Even with being double teamed often throughout the year, Lawson thrived.  There were more than a few games where it was obvious he was the best player on the field.  I think he’s a special talent that can’t be passed up.  If Lawson and Rankins is there, I pick Lawson.

Defensive Back:

Mackenzie Alexander:

I think he’s the best cornerback in the draft.  Great instinct, cover skills and recovery speed.  He’s a film room junkie who works as hard as anyone in college football.  Confident, physical and tough and he plays with a swagger.  I love this guy.  Teams just stopped throwing his way.  He gave up 11 passes all last year and no touchdowns.  NFL scouts hate that he’s only 5 10” but I don’t care.  This guy is really good.  If you pick him, now you have a great nickel back who has time to learn the position.  TJ Carrie and Nelson and Nate Allen can play safety with Smith, Amerson & Alexander playing CB.  A good mix of youth and experience.

Vernon Hargreaves:

Oh the fickle NFL draft.  Remember when Hargreaves was in the top 5 of most everyone’s mock draft?  Not anymore.  In fact I just saw him falling as low as 16 now in an experts draft.  Another great athlete but he gave up 16.5 yards per pass play and struggled in Florida’s two toughest games; Michigan and Alabama.  Two months ago I said I liked Alexander over him and again got the idiot tag.  I’ll stick by what I said.

Linebacker:

There are slim pickings for MLB so it’s going to be tricky here.  There really is only 1 first rounder with Kentrell Brothers being the next best MLB after Reggie Ragland but most think he’s a mid to late 2nd rounder.

Reggie Ragland:

Ragland is a classic Alabama linebacker who is a thumper.  He is a good tackler and very physical.  As I’ve said before, Alabama linebackers are a risk.  Nick Saban plays almost all zone and LB’s at Bama don’t have to cover RB’s man to man.  You literally don’t know if they can cover.  The Raiders found that out with Rolando McClain.  He wasn’t a good cover guy and the pick didn’t pan out.  I’m not a fan of this pick because of the risk but again; but their are slim pickings at MLB this year.

Darron Lee: 

Lee is the favorite for some but he is an OLB so I don’t get the love.  It’s also a huge risk.  Lee is a great athlete but he’s pretty lean for a LB position in the NFL and at times struggled against power blockers.  He also has been playing LB for only 2 years; that’s in his life.  He was a QB in high school and he played safety early on at OSU.  A great athlete and again, that’s what the NFL likes but he has a lot to learn.

Leonard Floyd:

Wow; this guy has talent.  I love his potential and I like him over Lee.  He needs to be consistent and with the right coaching he can be something special.  I would not be hurt by drafting Floyd and then getting a MLB in the later rounds.  If he’ll play hard every play, he can be special.  If the Raiders are looking at just talent, this guy is hard to pass up even though it doesn’t fix the MLB problem, but they could address it later.

Who will the Raiders pick?

If it was me I would take Lawson, Alexander and Floyd in that order.  Floyd is moving up the charts I think and if he is a top 10 pick I would not be surprised.  I would then pick a MLB in the 2nd or 3rd round.

No one really knows; not even the Raiders at this point; but I think the Raiders are going to go for the safest pick.  The draft has very slim pickings at MLB and they really need one.  As of now I see them drafting Reggie Ragland MLB out of Alabama.  He can definitely start right away and if you draft an MLB in the lower rounds, they may not be ready to start.  Ben Heeney is a nice backup but he’s not a full time starter IMHO.

Whoever they pick it will be another piece to help the Raiders attempt to be a playoff team.  It’s hard to realize that there has never been a Tweet or a Facebook post that has ever talked about a Raiders playoff game.  Facebook started in 2004 and Twitter in 2006.  Hopefully for the Raiders that will end this year.      

“How Reggie McKenzie Turned Around the Oakland Raiders & What Lies Ahead”

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Patience: 

The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

 

The last 2 weeks I read 14 articles from 2015 on Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie.  They were from professional writers to homer Raider bloggers to ESPN and NFL.com.  Only ONE said keep Reggie McKenzie as a GM.  Oh how the seasons have changed.

The Ron Wolf Effect:

When most fans and many writers wanted Reggie McKenzie fired, I said to give him time.  I ripped on his poor moves as well but I also trust success.  The reason I said don’t fire Reggie was NOT because of Reggie McKenzie.  It was because of Ron Wolf.  Ron Wolf taught and mentored Reggie when he was at Green Bay.

When I wrote an article on the greatest Raider of all time, ¾ of the fans that read it didn’t even know who Ron Wolf was.  I remember my dad raving about him when I was a kid and beyond.  Wolf was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with Tim Brown.  Wolf continues to be excited about McKenzie as a GM.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/ron-wolf-enters-the-hall-of-fame-with-tim-brown-the-greatest-raider-of-them-all/

You’ll Be Sitting With Them:

On a frigid day right before Christmas in 1967, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Joe Kuharich was asked about the angry boo’s in the stands after a tough loss.  “I pay little attention to the 60,000 assistants in the stands each Sunday.  If you listen to the fans, eventually you’ll be sitting with them”.

Reggie didn’t listen to fans and the media when they ripped him and he’s not listening to them now when they are praising him.  If you read your own press clippings you’ll start to believe them.  He smartly always limited his interaction with everyone just like Ron Wolf did.  Something most coaches and athletes should do more.

The Changing Atmosphere Surrounding Him:

We all do it; we are emotional about something and then we write or post something on social media that we later regret.  Either it was too harsh or nasty.  We didn’t really feel that way but it was just a knee jerk reaction out of disappointment or anger.

It’s funny to see many of the “strongest” we’ll say detractors of Reggie McKenzie now turning the other way.  People wonder why most “experts”, “insiders”, mock draft gurus, NFL draft gurus, (and many fans and social media masters for that matter); rarely talk about their past predictions unless it’s the ones they got right.  It’s because they don’t want the accountability and they are often wrong.  You hear them on radio talk shows, online, and social media.  They are often wrong but never in doubt.  Again, it’s ok to be wrong sometimes but if you are wrong most of the time; then use your inside voice.

I say this because many of his early detractors forgot that Reggie McKenzie had to fix a train wreck and he’s done pretty well so far.  I said it years ago when McKenzie was hired and fans were telling me how good the Raiders were.  No they were wrong; this wasn’t a good team for a long time.  No,they didn’t have a lot of talent.  No, giving these draft picks time was not going to make them good. The Raiders were a mess and I said this would be a 4-5 year process; that’s how bad this organization was and I think the Raiders are right on schedule.

The Al Davis Effect; Reggie Fixes the Mess: 

The teams of the 1970’s especially were loaded.  In the greatest era of the NFL, the players didn’t make much money.  Many had outside ventures.  The teams could spend as much money as they wanted and many teams had backups that could start for other teams.  Running a team was easier.

With a financial mess, Reggie McKenzie had a very difficult job.  In the new era of the NFL, there is the salary cap, partially guaranteed contracts and some players are making a lot of money.  Reggie McKenzie had to fix the bad situation the Raiders were in and rebuild.  You then have to fight the media and the fans that have no patience.  In today’s internet age, patience is waiting for lunch time when it’s 10 a.m. in the morning.

Mr. Davis was overpaying underachieving players, and he drafted very poorly.  Al Davis became obsessed with NFL combine numbers and size; especially 40 times; and it destroyed the Raiders.  Their list of bad draft picks; ESPECIALLY most of their Defensive Back Picks with the fast 40 times; are of legend.  When you don’t watch game films and pass up on the Calvin Johnsons’, Adrian Peterson’s and Aaron Rodgers, you are failing.

McKenzie was not in denial though.  He didn’t have Al Davis’ new mentality.  Mr. Davis was in denial like some of the fans were every year; “we are really good and we just need 1-2 key players.”  In reality for a long time the Raiders were NOT really good and they needed to rebuild.  It was like building a house but denying you have a bad foundation.  You were constantly adding floors or making over a room to make it look better when in reality it didn’t change a thing.  Reggie McKenzie got that you have to destroy the foundation and build a new one.  Let’s look at how he has done that in Oakland.

Reggie McKenzie’s Draft History:

Just like his signings, overall his drafts have improved with time.  The DJ Hayden pick made no sense especially when DT Star Lotulelei had fallen in their lap.  Hayden was another athlete playing football.  Some of the “experts” had Hayden as the best CB in the draft.  I watched Houston play a few times and was shocked.  What were they watching?  To see Lotulelei starting for the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl was painful.  McKenzie improved with time though and he’s picked up their QB and other key members along the way.

The 2014 draft was the start of the rejuvenating of the Raiders.  Five of the draft choices ended up being starters who mostly excelled.  Last year’s draft shows a lot of promise as well.  It’s a far cry from where the Raiders were in his first 2 years and it’s the core of their success.

Reggie’s Signings:

Some fans are now going the other way making McKenzie out to be a genius but as I always say, let’s deal with the facts.  The bad signings McKenzie has made are in abundance.  Matt Schaub, Matt Flynn, LaMarr Woodley, Curtis Lofton, Nate Allen, Shawntae Spencer, Andre Hardy, Antonio Smith, Tarell Brown, Maurice Jones-Drew, Roy Helu Jr., Carlos Rogers, Pat Lee, Mike Brisiel, Kevin Boothe, Ron Bartell, Colin Miller, and Dave Tollefson were just some of the epic fails the Raiders had in free agency.

Even with a couple of good pick-ups, his first 2 years of free agency was a nightmare for Reggie McKenzie.  Fast forwarding to 2014 the Raiders had an ok free agent class with more misses than hits.  The big miss was Lamar Woodley who much was expected of.  Donald Penn though was a key contributor with this class.

In 2015 the Raiders overall did a good job in free agency.  Dan Williams and Rodney Hudson were great additions and Lee Smith was a bulldozer as a run blocking tight end that also caught some passes.  Malcolm Smith had his first year as a starter go fairly well.  He tailed off late in the year especially against the run.

On the bad side, Roy Helu Jr. was never used properly and was a waste of a signing.  Curtis Lofton struggled mightily against the pass and Trent Richardson didn’t last long.  A lot was given to Nate Allen but he struggled tackling all year; and that was when he wasn’t injured.

The 2016 free agent class is already a very good one and there still are signings that are ahead.  This has already been the Raiders best free agent signing period; at least on paper; that they have had since Reggie was hired.  The longer Reggie has the job, the better he gets.

How Reggie McKenzie Grew Into a Good GM:

McKenzie is humble; and as a good leader you take the blame and admit your mistakes.  Many in sports; and life for that matter; don’t do that.  When you admit a mistake you can fix it.  His signing of players which are salary cap friendly and dropping them if they don’t work out is often greatly overlooked.

A huge mistake Reggie fixed was that in the early part of his career he would wait way too long to sign players.  He would say they weren’t going to be hasty in their signings but sometimes the Raiders got stuck with slim pickings in free agency because they were just too slow to sign players.

He also improved his draft.  After talking to Ron Wolf, he went back to getting football players.  The defensive line has always been the second most important part of your team behind a QB and they’ve spent lots of money and energy into the DL.  The Quarterback must go down, and go down hard was Ron Wolf & Al Davis’ motto.

What’s Next For Reggie and the Raiders:

As Reggie said last month, there is still much work for the Raiders to do and they haven’t won anything yet.  The Raiders don’t have the DL or the pass rush to win at a high level in the NFL yet, but the off season is still young.  Bruce Irvin has 14 sacks in the last 3 years and Mario Edwards is not a great pass rusher; and that’s if he comes back at all.  Aldon Smith is out for most of the year too.  It doesn’t matter who your DB’s are if you don’t have a pass rush.  I now have trust that McKenzie will not be in denial and the draft will yield another quality DL.  I would love to see either AShawn Robinson or Shaq Lawson drafted in the first round.  Mock drafts are all over the place so as always, they don’t know what players the teams are going to draft and neither do we.  If you get either one of these players, now you have something special.  Both have great work ethics and are hard workers.

The Raiders also need a safety and other bits and pieces.  They are not done in free agency yet and the NFL draft is also ahead.  The salary cap limits how good you can be; that’s the design; to create parity.  So the drafts are a key to success.

Overall though as time passes, Reggie McKenzie has improved every year he has been a GM.  Reggie McKenzie is definitely old school and as long as he doesn’t change and he keeps being humble and open minded, he will be fine.  Not everything works out so admitting mistakes and learning from them are huge keys to his success.  The nightmare of 13 straight non-winning seasons may finally be over and success seems to now be a probability and not just a hope.

 

 

 

 

“What The Oakland Raiders Look Like Right Now, and What Moves Can Help Them Improve Quickly”

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It’s been a good off season so far for the Oakland Raiders.  The Raiders still have much work to do though with their two most pressing needs; a fast #1 wide receiver and 1-2 good pass rushers still worrying many.

The first half of the off season is free agency and the draft and post draft signings are the second half.  Until the post NFL draft signings, you really don’t know what your team has as far as talent.

People are also finding out rumors as an adult are pretty much the same as those when we were kids; false.  Teams often leak lies to fool the media and other teams to get them off the track of what they really wanted to do.  Mike Silver gave up on the Raiders a long time ago realizing at times that the Raiders were playing the media like a fiddle.

Al Davis literally never said anything and sports writers would tell people who the Raiders were going to pick getting information from their “insiders” when in reality they had no clue.  All of these “insiders” that think they know what is going on are often pawns for the most part.  Why in the world would billion dollar corporations leak information to tell their competitors what they are going to do and what they want.  If they do that, all their leverage is lost.  The NFL and their owners may be greedy and narcissistic at times, but they aren’t stupid.  Again, it’s fun for fans but take it with a grain of salt.

Everyone for months had the Raiders taking a wide receiver for their first draft pick but I’ve CONSTANTLY disagreed.  I think there is no way that the Tennessee Titans are NOT taking a quarterback or at least trading down to a team that want’s a quarterback; namely Oregon QB Marcus Mariotta.

With that happening, all around good player DL Leonard Williams will be available and the Raiders HAVE to take him.  Their pass rush might be the worst in the NFL and they need 2 pass rushers.

I think in the free agency sector, none of the pass rushers that are left are really worth much money and they are not going to help very much.  With the release of DL Antonio Smith, I think the Raiders are looking to make a trade soon by freeing up a little more cap space.  A really good defensive end in New Orleans, Cameron Jordan has been rumored by some teams including the Raiders.  He’s young and his 28 sacks in 3 years is going to help some team a lot.

I personally felt that the Raiders should have a 2 year plan.  They had a lot of holes to fill and you can’t do it in just one off season.

Today, lets first look at the Offense and how each position looks as of now, and how it can be improved.

Quarterback:  Derek Carr, Matt McGloin, Christian Ponder

Even with so many internet people trying to stir the pot, Derek Carr is the Raiders starting quarterback for the 2015-16 season.  He showed a lot of potential and with hard work and improvement, the Raiders hope that he will turn into a good NFL quarterback for years to come.  He HAS to audible a lot more to help out the run game and he needs to handle a pass rush better, but overall, he survived the rookie season with a good grade for the most part.  The Raiders were anemic on offense on the road and that obviously has to improve.

Matt McGloin is an adequate backup.  The Raiders dropped Matt Schaub and added Christian Ponder.  People scratched their heads when the Vikings picked him in the first round and he never panned out.  He was benched several times at Florida St. for poor play but lets face it; if you are tall with a big arm, the NFL will always have a home for you.  Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was the coordinator for the Vikings so that is the connection to Ponder.  Ponders best play was handing off to Adrian Peterson in sprint draws.

Outlook:

Lets just say like most teams the Raiders hope their starter Derek Carr stays very, very healthy.

Sleeper Solutions:  

None.  Unless you can put Ken Stabler in a time machine, this should be the depth chart at Quarterback.

Running Back:  Latavius Murray, Roy Helu, Trent Richardson, George Atkinson III, Jamize Olawale

Gone are Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew.  The Raiders added 3rd down specialist Roy Helu, and much maligned Trent Richardson.

Helu is a very good third down back who can also carry the load on occasion.  He lead the NFL in yards per touch on third down and is a great pass catcher.  He is tough and durable and is a good signing.

After his rookie season teams found out Richardson has little to no vision and is a straight ahead runner.  In college he could run over people, but in the pro’s not so much.  Anything they can get out of him will make the Raiders happy.

Latavius Murray showed flashes of brilliance last year.  He’s big and fast, which is what Raiders OC Musgrave likes.  He must prove he can stay healthy though.

Marcel Reece was vastly underused last year and the hopes are that he will get 10-15 touches a game at an H-back or tight end position.  George Atkinson Jr. and Jamize Olawale are probably the odd men out.

The fullback used to be such a powerful weapon and now the NFL just wants them to block.  The Raiders need to use Reece more like an 80’s or 90’s full back and not just be a follower and do what all the other teams are doing.

Outlook:

Helu is a solid third down back and the hopes are that Murray can carry the load and stay healthy.  Anything Richardson can give is the berries and the hopes are that Marcel Reece will get more touches.

Sleeper Solution:

If the Raiders do draft a running back I would LOVE for them to take David Cobb from the Minnesota Gophers in the 3rd or 4th round.  He is built exactly like Marion Barber and he’s a load.  At 5’ 11” and 235, he won’t run off 80 yarders but he’s powerful and tough, somewhat elusive and is a work horse who finishes runs.  He has some speed and 54% of his yards came after the first contact which is pretty amazing.  He was made for the NFL power running game.

Wide Receiver:  James Jones, Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Brice Butler, Kenbrell Thompkins, Seth Roberts

James Jones is a solid #2 WR and is a good red zone target.  Rod Streater is an average WR and I’m not getting why Kenbrell Thompkins gets so much playing time.  He has never been very productive in the NFL.

Andre Holmes needs to step up and achieve success instead of just having loads of potential. The wild card is Brice Butler.  He needs to get on the field.  His 47 yard touchdown catch and run against San Diego showed eye popping speed.

Outlook: 

The Raiders obviously still need a #1 wide receiver and they will for sure draft one.  Butler and Holmes have to get the bulk of the playing time after Jones.  This group has potential.  I’m not going to add to the thousands of posts on Kevin White and Amari Cooper.

Sleeper Solution: 

I still think the Titans are going to draft a quarterback and I see USC DL Leonard Williams being there at #4.  If he is and I’m the Raiders, I take Williams in a New York minute.  Without a pass rush the Raiders don’t win anything.

I then turn around in the second round and get the speed merchant big time playmaking wide receiver Devin Smith out of Ohio St. who should be there in the early second round.  He makes big plays at the biggest times and he is unique in that he doesn’t break stride or lose speed when he is going after a ball.  A guy named Cliff Branch had that same talent.

You now have Smith, Jones, Holmes and Butler.  Now you got the start of something.  Three speed burners and a great red zone target.  Not bad.

If the Raiders draft White or Cooper because Williams isn’t there, then I still get that too.  In the 2016 draft there are 6-8 really good possible first round pass rushers with possibly more to show up on the board.

Offensive Line:    Donald Penn, Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson, Khalif Barnes, Austin Howard

With the addition of Center Rodney Hudson, the Raiders have the makings of a really good OL.  Gabe Jackson is all they thought he would be and the OL protected Derek Carr well against the pass.  Donald Penn is solid at Tackle but he will be 32 next year and with it being a contract year he may not stay.

The Run game was blamed on the OL but when you have a quarterback that doesn’t audible, and play calling that would make Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler scratch their heads, you are not going to run the ball successfully. They were more conservative than Ronald Reagan in a red state.

The hopes are that with a more experienced quarterback, much better play calling and with more downfield weapons, the Raiders will have a much better running game.

Outlook:

Khalif Barnes was inconsistent last year.  Look for the Raiders to get another OL either in the later rounds of the draft or in free agency.

Sleeper Solution: 

None; unless they get an OL in the later rounds for depth, these will be the starters for the Raiders.

Tight EndMychal Rivera, Nick Kasa, Brian Leonhardt, Scott Simonson, Lee Smith

No one will mistake the Raiders tight ends for Dave Casper, Raymond Chester or Todd Christensen.  They definitely need some help.

Mychal Rivera was solid, but they didn’t throw to him much.  His blocking did improve and he can be a weapon.  Other than Rivera, there really isn’t any other pass catching threat.

The Raiders signed Lee Smith from the Buffalo Bills.  He is a big, brash run blocking tight end with very limited pass catching skills.

Outlook: 

I think eventually the Raiders may sign a veteran.

Sleeper Solution:

Zach Miller could also be an option.  He wasn’t used very well by the Seahawks.  He is 29 and was cut by Seattle for a failed physical last month.  Supposedly he’s able to pass one now and Tom Brady and the Patriot’s love his game and are quietly talking to him.

Marcel Reece would be perfect as a tight end in passing situations.  Reece is too talented to not give him the ball.

That’s a look at the offense of the Oakland Raiders.  Tomorrow we will take a look at the defense which has some very good additions.