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“Raiders Off Season; Derek Carr & Kahlil Mack Contracts; Salary Cap; Who Stays, Who Goes”

NFL: Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders

It was a fun season for Oakland Raider fans but now the off season lull begins. I am extremely optimistic about the Raiders next season but there is work to do.  Let’s see if we can’t fill that void with early off season talk.

Salary Cap:

First off, if you are new to my writing my regulars would tell you I only write one way; honestly.  I’m not a homer and I don’t say what people want to hear.  I’m also not a hater.  I have the following I do because I respect the game and the readers.  I want to inform readers of all levels; whether you are new to the game and the Raiders or whether you know about schemes and techniques.  This is supposed to be fun and informative.

The salary cap was created by the NFL to create parity. The NFL felt that if they leveled the playing field and prevented dynasty’s, there would be more fan interest because different teams would be in the playoffs. Both Super Bowl teams from last year didn’t even make the playoffs this year.

Remember when Seattle won the Super Bowl? QB Russell Wilson was making under 1 million. His average annual salary is now 21.9 million. With that salary cap hit, they are struggling with their OL & depth at many positions. Well the Raiders are now in that same boat.

Last month the Raiders and Derek Carr both said that they wanted to finalize a deal in the off season. Carr is set to make 1.7 million in 2017. They were looking at a 4-5 year deal for 20 million a year. If the Raiders wait another year, they may get into a bidding war with teams and most feel the price would go up to 23-25 million per year.  Resigning players in their contract year is the smart thing to do.

In 2018 they now have to resign Kahlil Mack. He also is going to get a huge raise from his 4.6 million dollar average. The good thing is they can franchise him so they won’t lose him. Those are huge chunks taken out of the salary cap. Most that are looking ahead also think it’s near impossible for the Raiders to keep OL Gabe Jackson when his contract is up. He’s going to get a big raise from his 4 year average salary of 770k. Some think he’ll get around 7-8 million/year.

Derek Carr’s contract will dictate what the Raiders do in the off season.   The days of having a ton of money under the salary cap are gone. Seattle has done it right by emphasizing good drafts and player development through good coaching.  Raiders need to do the same.

The Reality:

The Raiders have to limit their busts. The Nate Allen’s and Sean Smith’s of the world can’t happen anymore.   The Jihad Ward and DJ Hayden draft picks can’t happen anymore (both picks that I took heat for from fans for hating them). If your 1st, 2nd, or 3rd round draft choices aren’t starting within 2 years and at least playing fairly well, then they were not good picks.   Before the salary cap you could bench picks and let them learn over time. Those days are gone. The standards need to be high if you want to keep winning.  Let’s now look at each position.

Quarterbacks:

Derek Carr will be back and healthy after healing up from his injury. Matt McGloin’s meltdown in Denver pretty much sealed his fate.   He’s an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and he said he’d like a chance to start somewhere. Look for McGloin to sign elsewhere and Cook to be the backup.   I said it at the draft last year, I think Cook is a back up at best in the NFL and I’m not a huge fan of his but he’s ok.

Running Backs:

DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard at times really stole the show.   Both are explosive and can catch the ball. I don’t think either is a franchise back but they are very valuable in a RB by committee way which has been the trend in the NFL.

Latavius Murray is a nice back but he doesn’t thrill me at all. Some have said he’ll ask for 6-7 million a year.   If he wants a lot of money I let him go and pick up a free agent or a later round rookie power back. There are some steals that can be had in later rounds. I still like Jamize Olawale and I wish he’d get more carries. The Stanford RB “Christian McCaffrey to Oakland” in the second round rumors have already begun.

Wide Receivers:

The Raiders are set with Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. They both dropped a lot of balls this season though, including one each in the playoff game so hopefully that improves. I said it last year; Seth Roberts is not a good #3 and he also had the dropsies. The Raiders have the rights to Roberts but you wonder if they move on. Lower down the Raider needs list, adding a good #3 WR would be a plus. Andre Holmes has his moments and is solid at #4, but where he shines is special teams where he has become a big contributor. He’s an UFA but I think he’ll come back.

Offensive Line:

The engine of the Raiders.

I still remember Donald Penn being raked over the coals on social media by many Raider fans when he asked for a lot of money in his last contract.   Well he is worth it. He had his best year and didn’t allow a sack until Carr was hurt late in the season; and on that play he slipped.

The OL will stay intact but there will be some changes. Menelik Watson is an UFA and may not be resigned. He is hurt a lot and his play is sporatic.   Mike Tice loved Jon Feliciano; I didn’t. I still didn’t get drafting him and he hasn’t been great either. Look for some new faces backing up the starters next year.

Tight End:

It’s hard to evaluate the TE’s because the Raiders throw so little to them (Part of the reason I didn’t like Bill Musgrave’s offense). During the year they were always top 8 in catches v.s. targets.   When they were thrown too they usually caught the ball.

Clive Walford is a good blocker and pass catcher. Mychal Rivera is a good pass catcher but can’t block and may not be resigned. Lee Smith; a loss that no one brings up that was a big one; will be back after breaking his ankle in week 4. He is the best run blocking tight end in the NFL and can catch a ball or two when needed.

Defensive Line:

The great Woody Hayes once said when asked about the potential of his freshman QB Rod Gerald, “Potential? Potential means you ain’t no damn good yet!”. The Raiders can’t be enamored with potential anymore. They need results.

The Raiders were LAST; DEAD LAST in sacks. They also were last in yards per play (6.1). I said it last year and I’m saying it this year; clean house in the DL.   Stacy McGee and Denico Autry have shown glimpses of good play, but injuries and inconsistencies have limited their success. McGee is UFA and Autry is restricted. Raiders need to move on unless the price is right.

I ripped on the Jihad Ward draft pick and still don’t get it. He started 13 games this year and played in all 16; did anyone notice?   They drafted him too high but I would not have drafted him at all. You can’t miss on early picks in the salary cap era.

Dan Williams and Justin Ellis were bad this year and their days are numbered.

The best way to help your DB’s is to have a great pass rush. The Raiders have to sign or draft a DT that can put pressure on the QB.   Mario Edwards so far isn’t the answer either. He’s hurt too much and has had some good play but it’s still not a given he’ll be good. Aldon Smith? In my personal life I avoid high maintenance people or drama so this whole thing gives me a headache.

Linebackers:

The Raiders LB’s this year at times were awful. They could not cover tight ends and they struggled in the running game. Malcolm Smith gets lots of tackles but many are much more downfield than they would like. He usually is good in coverage but he struggled at times there too.   He’s never been great against the run; that’s why in Seattle he was not a 3 down LB; and he’s not now to be honest.   Do you resign him for big money? No.   Lesser money? OK. He along with Perry Riley Jr. are UFA. Riley Jr. played great when he was first picked up but his play tapered off the longer he was on the field. He’s an ok player but as a starter, he may not be the answer.

The Raiders need to sign a physical LB that can shore up the position and they still haven’t found that.

Defensive Backs:

Clean House. For years the Raiders have wasted a ton of money, draft picks and signings on DB’s to fix their defense and it hasn’t worked. I’d rather spend less money on them and more money on the DL. The Matt McGloin fan club has almost been as annoying as the DJ Hayden fan club. No he’s not a shut down corner.   No he’s not a great slot cover guy.   Let him go. It didn’t work and I said it when he was drafted; it was a bad pick and it’s time to move on.

When Raider fans last year had David Amerson as the king of the world while holding up Pro Football Focus stats, I said hold your horses and give it time. I was right. Amerson is good on outs and short to mid range passes but he struggles a lot against the long ball. He was burned often this year with the deep ball and it’s the reason he struggled at Washington. The poor play of the safeties didn’t help him either.

Nate Allen has been a bust. He and Reggie Nelson take so many bad angles it’s hard to watch. Allen is an UFA and I let him go. Bad signing. TJ Carrie is more of a backup and Keith McGill was very bad at times and his days may be numbered.

Karl Joseph struggled in pass coverage but did well against the run for the most part.   Hopefully a healthy year and experience will fix that but the Raiders are hoping he’s not injury prone.

Sean Smith was a huge bust. Many of the people ripping on Smith now were applauding his signing back then (see, being a GM isn’t so easy). Smith is tentative and I’ve never seen a guy give so much cushion near the end zone. A couple of writers said he needs better technique; huh? So he’s great for 3 years but he forgot everything the next? Come on.   The truth is Smith played on a team known for their pass rush and great safety play at Kansas City. He seems to need it and he gets neither in Oakland.   The Raiders are stuck with him for one more year at least; possibly two.

Coaches:

Jack Del Rio has done a good job but these dumb penalties still need to be fixed.  Also, the Raiders lifeless performance against Denver can’t happen.  Even if you lose your QB you still die hard.  Del Rio has said the standards need to be higher now and that’s a good sign.

I don’t know what else Ken Norton Jr. was supposed to do. He did a great job at Seattle but Seattle had players. The Raiders LB’s are not good and their DB’s are worse.   Then add the poor DT play. Their Safeties and LB’s flat out can’t guard TE’s.   They have the worst pass rush in the NFL. Love to see what genius can make that work. The Raiders agree with me and are bringing back Ken Norton Jr. for 2017.

Some Raider fans are clamoring for Wade Phillips to take over as DC. Only thing is, Denver was 28th in the NFL against the run this year and it was one of the main reasons they struggled. What was different? Stud run stopper Malik Jackson signed with Jacksonville and LB Danny Trevathan signed with Chicago. The year before? Denver was #3 in the NFL against the run. Did Phillips forget how to stop the run? No. He didn’t have the same players.   Coaches help but some fans need to stop giving all the credit to the players when they win and then blame the coaches when their favorites don’t play well.

I wrote this article below when Bill Musgrave was signed and I flat out didn’t get it. The Raiders letting him go is a good thing. (Conservative; poor adjustments in game). The Raiders have the 2nd best OL in the NFL and great talent on offense.  They were #6 in the NFL in offense because of their great talent; not because of Bill Musgrave.

The only thing is they sure like to hire their friends.   Todd Downing goes from QB coach to OC.   Downing is a good friend of Mike Tice who hired Downing in the early 2000’s when he was coaching the Vikings.   He has very limited success up until now. Time will tell. Rookie OC’s don’t tear up the NFL either for the most part.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/who-is-bill-musgrave-the-raiders-hire-a-new-offensive-coordinator/

How to Keep the Success:

With Mack and Carr making so little money compared to others, the Raiders have had it easy.   Now the hard work comes in. The Raiders can still keep their success but they have to stop taking reaches on some draft choices and their signings have to be right on. They also can’t keep dead wood around if they aren’t getting the job done or staying healthy.

Like everyone else, the Raiders have holes to fill; mainly on defense. For me, DT, LB and DB should be addressed in that order.   Personally, the Allen’s, Murray’s and Malcolm Smith’s of the Raider world may have to go. Even if they are doing a fairly good to good job, it’s all about the salary cap and staying under it. Look for the chips to fall after they sign Derek Carr. This will be the most important off season for the Raiders in 15 years, and one of the most interesting.  It will be stressful but exciting to see what they do.

“GRADES: The Raiders With Another Stirring 2nd Half Comeback; Looking Ahead to Kansas City”

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders

Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Buffalo Bills; Week 13:

Buffalo Bills  24 (6-6)

Oakland Raiders 38 (10-2)

In another fun day in Oakland, the Raiders came back and beat a tough Buffalo Bills team 38-24.  In a game that was up and down; a lot like most Raider games this year; the Raiders now will go onto key road games in the AFC West.  The Bills have beaten only one team with a winning record and that was against a 3rd string QB against the Patriots during Tom Brady’s suspension.

Co-MVP’s: 

I like Derek Carr.  In fact I watched him twice in person when he was at Fresno St. and I lauded his draft pick before Raider fans even knew who he was.  But the Raiders pattern of winning; and their winning in general is lead by someone else.

The co-MVP of the NFL this year is the Raiders and Dallas Cowboys OL.  College fans remember Dak Prescott with some pretty bad epic fails for MSU late in games in the SEC.  He had a rep for it.  But behind that OL in Dallas; the best in the NFL; and one of the best running games in the NFL and they give Dak all day to throw and succeed.

There is a saying; give an average QB time to throw and he will be good.  Give a very good QB time and he will be great.  Prescott & Carr are loving it.  They’ve played great all year. The Raiders OL is wearing out teams in the second half.  Do you think it’s a coincidence that the Raiders offense starts to get going in the mid to the end of the third quarter?  No it’s not.  The Raiders huge, physical OL is wearing teams out over time.  Opponents get some pressure on Carr in the first half; Carr and the offense struggles; and then they go off in the second half with Carr having all day to throw.  NOT a coincidence.

Media Blowing it Big Time:

Where is the outrage at another failed season by media darling Rex Ryan?  After the Bills got the 2 TD lead what does Ryan do?  He goes Wildcat!  How genius.  Your team is making almost 8 yards a run and you now become one dimensional bringing up the Raiders safeties.  Then in the next 10 plays after getting their 15 point lead, they use one of the worst passing QB’s in the NFL; Tyrod Taylor; passing 6 out of the next 10 plays.  Are you kidding me?  Too many ex-jocks who are analysts who don’t want to make waves.

I’m sorry; but if Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan were my coaches, I would need counseling.  Buffalo has no QB but because Taylor can run and is athletic, the media like him.  Buffalo’s front 7 on D and run game are really good but they are going nowhere with their QB and head coach leading the way.

Quarterback:

Carr had another great second half.  His throws were crisp and on target.  Derek Carr didn’t have all day to throw in the first half and the Raiders offense struggled at times.  He had all day to throw in the second half and he torched the Bills ordinary secondary.  Again; NOT a coincidence.  Carr is playing at a high level but his level is higher when he’s not touched.

GRADE:  A-

Slow start, fast finish.  Carr is on fire!

Running Backs:

The Raiders running backs ran for 139 yards at a 4.3 clip.  Another solid if not spectacular game by a good group.  Jalen Richard is now the #2 back for sure getting 9 carries.

Grade B +

A good, solid game by this group.  What is impressive is their ability to pick up blitzes.  Their pass blocking is unnoticed by everyone but Carr and the coaches.  Excellent job.

Offensive Line:

Same stuff different day.  They are physically wearing teams out into submission.  Another half of dominance.  Carr had no one near him in the second half.  Only Dallas has a better group.

Grade A

Donald Penn STILL has not given up a sack all year.  That is unreal.  These guys are the key to the success of the Raiders.

Wide Receivers:

Amari Cooper, Seth Roberts and Michael Crabtree had drops.  They redeemed themselves in the second half and had another excellent finish. Tight End Mychal Rivera had another solid game, catching 3 passes for 57 yards and Clive Walford added another for 18 yards.  The Raiders have to use their Tight Ends if they are going to do any damage in the playoffs.

GRADE:  B +

Carr has a lot of solid weapons and he used all of them against a game Bills squad.  A good day all around for the receiving core.

Defensive Line:

A tale of two cities.  First the bad.  That was the worst run defensive performance in the NFL this year.  The Raiders gave up 212 yards at 7.1 yards a carry.  Those are high school numbers.  I’m still not getting Jihad Ward.  He was not a factor in the run game.  He did have one sack but even that one wasn’t all on him.  Not counting the sack he had no other tackles.  It’s not just him; this DL doesn’t get penetration in the run game.

On the pass rushing side, with the offense staying on the field, a rested group came after the QB with abandon.  They ended up with 4 sacks and 2 key plays from Kahlil Mack who’s slow start is forgotten.  Mack is on fire right now and has 10 sacks on the year.  He did get fooled on 2 read option plays but otherwise he had a great game.

Grade: C+

The run defense was a joke.  The pass rush though played well in the second half.  I’m in a generous mood I guess because of the holidays.

Linebackers:

Watching tape of this game was hard.  I’ve never seen a group make so many tackles 5-10 yards downfield against the run.  Malcolm Smith was pancake blocked twice and Jihad Ward was pushed around.  Perry Riley Jr. was active and made a lot of tackles but few were really productive.  The Raiders only had 4 tackles for loss all game and 3 were sacks.  Not good.

Grade D+

The LB’s were physically beat up this game.

Defensive Backs:

It was funny watching Bills WR Sammy Watkins frustration yesterday.  On three occasions he threw up his hands when Bills QB Tyrod Taylor missed him on pass plays.  He was open for big plays twice but the passes weren’t near him.  Taylor is not a good passer and it’s hard to know if it was the defense or Taylor that limited the Bills passing game.  Probably both.  TJ Carrie played better as the game went on, regaining the confidence that had left him.  Amerson was beaten for moderately long passes twice but Taylor missed badly on both.  Amerson is good in short to mid range passes and struggles against fast WR that can go deep.  Tough game to judge.

Grade B  

Not a bad day by this unit, but it was against a bad QB.

Coaching:

It’s not hard to out coach Rex Ryan but the only thing that stood out was the Raiders running read option plays with Carr.  Carr is not particularly fast and even though his pinky situation is beyond overly dramatic (I’ve had that happen to me twice in basketball games; many have had it happen; I never missed any time) if a team in the NFL loses their starting QB, there goes the season.  Carr should NOT be running the ball unless it’s while being rushed.

Grade B-

Don’t run Carr.

Special Teams:

Sebastian Janikowski had a solid day.  The Raiders didn’t have many opportunities in the return game.  Marquette King had a good day punting with 2 inside the 20 including one late in the game.  King seems like a nice guy but his need for attention is getting to be a bit much.  I guess if you are a young Raider fan you love the flag routine but getting a penalty isn’t what you want from your punter.  What’s next, an onfield selfie while planking or doing the mannequin and cinnamon challenge?  Not getting it Marquette.

Grade A-

Solid game all around.

Conclusion:

The Raiders OL wears down another opponent; gives the defense lots of rest time late, and they get another win.  The Bills are near out of the playoff picture now and to be honest with that coaching staff and QB they are not going anywhere anytime soon anyways.

Kansas City Chiefs:

Ah the winter months.  The Raiders will play Thursday night in Kansas City.  Snow is predicted for Wednesday, and Thursday nights prediction is for a high of 27 and a low of 13.  Some forecasters say the snow may linger into Thursday and it may get into single digits.  Predicting weather for cold states is a crap shoot but if you are a fan traveling to Arrowhead, prepare for cold and lots of it.  (For fans going, the Chiefs have announced they are opening the parking lots at noon).

Now the fun starts.  The Raiders will play 3 of 4 on the road.  The Raiders are winning but they still have holes big time on defense.  Let’s be real though.  EVERY NFL team has holes.  The days of the 1970’s super teams are definitely over with the salary cap era.

The Chiefs have owned the Raiders in recent years.  Their QB Alex Smith has a 6-1 record as a QB against the Raiders.  Their pass rush and blitzing dominated the Raiders early in the season.  Carr struggled mightily in maybe his worst game of the year 26-10.  What’s worse is now star pass rusher Justin Houston is back and he’s getting healthier and better every day he plays.  Add new pass rusher Dee Ford who is tied with Kahlil Mack with 10 sacks, and an aging Tamba Hali, and one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL now is one of the better ones.  Eric Berry had 2 huge interceptions including a return of a missed 2 point conversion which won the game for the Chiefs.  They too have had a magical season.  The Chiefs have given up a lot of yards this year but their D tightens up in the red zone.

Last week against Atlanta, coach Andy Reid played very aggressively.  Fake punts, throwing deep; it was way out of his nature.  In the the last months though, Alex Smith has struggled.  The Ichabod Crane of the NFL has thrown 2 interceptions in the last 4 weeks.  If you are going to play scared and conservative to not turn the ball over, then don’t turn the ball over.  Smiths play will dictate a lot of the game.  The often injured Jeremy Maclin is questionable against the Raiders but lightning fast Tyreek Hill has been a huge weapon alongside steady WR Albert Wilson.  Add one of the best TE in the game in Travis Kelce alongside a capable rushing attack and the Chiefs on offense can do some damage.

Look for both teams to try and establish a running game in the cold weather, and if by chance it snows, FG kicking will play a big part in this one with both teams have solid kicking games.

Outlook:

I know the fans are excited and that is fun to see, but this is the game that really is going to show where the Raiders are.  Beating bad to average teams like Carolina and Buffalo with stirring comebacks is fun and exciting but it isn’t exactly championship stuff.  Beating the Chiefs and Broncos on the road in the cold is though.  Will the Raiders take control of the division or will they be swept by KC?  This game will go a long way to seeing how the Raider season may end up.  If they win, a division title is almost certain.

“Grades in Raiders Big win v.s. Ravens; How Do the Raiders Match-Up With the Chargers”

crabtree2

 

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Baltimore Ravens; Week 4:

Baltimore Ravens  27 (3-1)

Oakland Raiders  28 (3-1)

On Sunday the Raiders came back and beat the Baltimore Ravens 28-27 in an exciting game.  The Raiders are now 3-1 heading home for a game with the Chargers.

Reggie McKenzie:

I’ve been very honest about Reggie McKenzie.  Here’s my article on his tenure with the Raiders.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/how-reggie-mckenzie-turned-around-the-oakland-raiders-what-lies-ahead/

Some bash him when the Raiders lose but in reality SIX of the 7 2016 NFL draft picks played a significant role in the Ravens game, and in the entire year.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr saved his best for last. The Ravens have a solid defense and they held the Raiders to only 13 first downs, 3 for 12 on third down, and 0 net yards in the 3rd quarter. Not his best performance; only threw for 199 yards; but a gritty win on the road with clutch throws in the end.

GRADE: B

Carr came through in the 4th quarter but he did have his struggles. He had a costly delay of the game penalty and was a little rattled at times early with the pass rush. Those should be fixed and look for a big game next week against the Chargers.  Carr looks forward to a juicy match-up against the weak Charger pass defense.

Running Backs:

The Raiders RB by committee has worked wonders this year but it just wasn’t their day. Latavius Murray was ineffective and DeAndre Washington had a big fumble. Carr’s passes to him didn’t have much touch on them but Jalen Richard dropped a couple of passes that I’m sure he regrets. Washington had a really nice run of 28 yards but if you take that away, the RB’s had only 18 carries for 34 yards. Sometimes it’s just not your day.

Grade C

The Ravens made a point of stopping the run and they did loading the box at times. Better days ahead for this group after 3 excellent weeks.   RB’s pass blocking was pretty good.

Offensive Line:

After the first couple of drives Carr again had lots of time to throw. Rarely did the Ravens get to him. Baltimore had a good game plan to shut down the running game but the Raiders OL and RB’s picked up the blitz well. Due to injuries, Vadal Alexander was thrown to the wolves at tackle and the media were on him. He had 3 holding calls and 1 false start but Baltimore was putting Terrell Suggs on his side much of the time. Suggs is not the monster he used to be but he’s still solid. Alexander was tough and at times got no help against Suggs but he helped in the final TD drives protecting Carr.

Grade B-

The Raiders running offense struggled but the passing game and protection excelled. Alexander is a project but he was made to start and he gave a gutsy performance that will be a learning experience.

Wide Receivers:

NOW people know why I was touting Michael Crabtree when he came out for the NFL draft. At Texas Tech and San Francisco he was a huge talent when healthy. He’s the best possession WR in the NFL right now and a top 6 WR. The Carr to Crabtree connection is on top of their game.   Crabtree’s route running is fun to watch. Seth Roberts with a nice TD catch was also a plus. Teams continue to keep Amari Cooper from going deep and that is opening up the middle of the field. Still would like more TE throws; the Raiders had injuries at TE which may have helped limit that.

GRADE: B

It was quality over quantity. The Raiders offense struggled but when they needed to pass, they did a good job. The stupid call by John Harbaugh to take the penalty allowing a 3rd and long changed the game and allowed the Raiders to take a 2 score lead.

Defensive Line:

The Ravens averaged only 19 points a game in the first 3 games versus 1-8 teams. As I said, Joe Flacco and the rest of the offense is not that good and the Ravens were very overrated. I had the Raiders winning this game and some that I was a little crazy. Khalil Mack’s annual slow start is hopefully over. He terrorized Joe Flacco all day.  Mack has been solid against the run, but not much of a factor in their pass rush. The entire line had good push and Flacco was under pressure much of the time.

Against the run it wasn’t a good story again. The Raiders gave up 130 rushing yards at 5.0 yards a rush with 2 TD’s. Ward and Autry are playing more to get a push on the QB but it’s hurt the run defense. I’m not sold on either playing so much. Williams and Ellis are only playing around 15-20 plays a game. but they are limited in the pass rush.

Grade: B-

The Raiders against the pass were great, but another fail against the run. It’s not like the Ravens have Adrian Peterson either.   They gave a healthy scratch to their starting RB Justin Forsett but still rushed for 130 yards.

Linebackers:

Pretty much you can see the DL. The Ravens like the Titans don’t have much team speed on offense. The Raiders handled them fairly well in the passing game but struggled again in the running game. Cory James was beaten more than the Raiders would like against the run but he was excellent in pursuit and covering the pass. Bruce Irvin also had a nice game with his coverage and his pass rushing.  James is definitely an upgrade at LB but the Raiders still don’t have that stud run stopper.

Grade B

Again, the mantra for the Raiders all year is can they stop the run. The answer so far is not really. That has to change if the Raiders are going to get to the next level.

Defensive Backs:

All week the Baltimore media had brought up Joe Flacco being an elite player (announcer Steve Tasker did too) including Pro Football Focus’ rating of him the first 3 weeks. We must have been watching different players. Flacco has looked horrible at times this year and has the 2nd worst 4th quarter quarterback rating in the NFL. Last week against the Jaguars, his 2 key interceptions almost blew the game. Four TD’s and 4 INT’s is NOT elite.  That’s why I said the Raiders should handle them and they did.

The Raiders speed was evident against the slow offense of the Ravens.   The game plan was perfect; put David Amerson on Steve Smith and not worry about the others and it worked to perfection. Every DB played well.   Karl Joseph is getting more comfortable and he hopefully can help with the run defense.

Grade A-  

With the Titans pretty much having no deep threat, the DB’s played aggressive and physical again.   Other than a blip here and there and the long pass and run to iconic WR Steve Smith Sr., there were few worries.

Coaching:

Overall a well coached game. Raiders offense didn’t have a great game but enough to win.  No yards in the 3rd quarter and another slow start is a worry.  I think the Raiders should go more no huddle and put pressure on the offense.

On defense the game plan of putting Amerson on Smith Sr. was a great move that helped limit him.  Funny how Ken Norton’s name is never spoken when the Raiders defense plays better.  Some casual fans give all the credit to players when they win, and all the blame to coaches when they lose.  Crazy.

Grade B

The Raiders have to start the games better. Another 2 drives with little to nothing to show for it. They also had 0 yards in the third quarter. I wish their offense was more aggressive.

Special Teams:

Marquette King is really becoming a force. He helped the Raiders with great field position earlier in the game when the offense was struggling. Richard is a good return man.

Grade A-

Solid day all around.

Conclusion:

As I said going into this game, it’s a very winnable game. Joe Flacco is not a great QB and their offense only averaged 19 points a game. The Raiders run defense is still an issue and they did give up 27 points to an average at best offense. That has to change.  Offense came through in the 4th quarter and King is a weapon as a punter.

San Diego Chargers:

Philip Rivers had another last second drive fail against the Saints; something he’s done a lot of in the past; and the Chargers dropped to 1-3 losing to the Saints late. Rivers to me is this era’s Steve Deberg. A good QB who gets great stats in the first 3 quarters but doesn’t win anything. Nothing wrong with that but the networks push to make QB’s great is annoying at times. His epic fails late are more than people think.

The Chargers defense is 27th against the pass and 8th against the run. Look for a big game from Carr and the WR’s may have a field day. The Chargers lack talent and on paper this looks like a great match-up for Oakland. Rivers will always have his stats but they greatly miss WR Keenan Allen who is out for the year.

Joey Bosa may make his debut against the Raiders but the Charger fans are ready to blow him off for the year. The late signee has been hurt and hasn’t been ready to play.  He has not endeared himself to the fans that’s for sure.

Outlook:

Oakland is winning the close games and that is a big maturing process in a losing franchise learning how to win. There is a lot of excitement but there still is much work to do.  The Raiders are playing with fire playing close games. A good team like Atlanta made them pay for it. The Raiders run defense is probably going to be an issue all year. They have a very favorable schedule especially with Kansas City, the Colts and Carolina struggling so much.  Seems like all the stars are aligning as long as they beat the teams they should beat.

They can’t take anyone for granted. On paper the Chargers look like a team they can handle, but the Raiders have to start putting teams away and play a good consistent game for 4 quarters. Something they are looking to do against San Diego.

Defensively, the Raiders will be tested by the passing game of the Chargers but they always seem to fall short.  The Chargers are 1-3 and the big loss was the opening game loss to Kansas City in OT when they were up big early.

Look for a fun game with the Raiders flexing their muscle on offense again.  The Chargers running game has improved but is still only 19th in the NFL.  Look for San Diego to try and establish a running game and when it struggles, they will be throwing often from behind.  Should be a high scoring affair with the Raiders looking to continue their road to success.

 

 

“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.

“The One Thing That Will Keep the Raider Nation Together During This Emotional Season”

3Oakland-Raiders

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1619746154914188/

https://www.facebook.com/RaidersHomeport?fref=ts

Please feel free to join either one of these two great groups!

in memory of all the Raider fans we’ve lost this year including Yvonne Esquibel Avalos.  Be good to each other; God’s Peace. 

“The One Thing That Will Keep the Raider Nation Together During This Emotional Season”

One thing is needed to keep the Raider Nation together during this upcoming crazy year.  We’ll get to that later though.  It was nice taking a break but it’s time to gradually get back into the race.  I hope everyone’s summer is going well. Things are copacetic with me and I’m having a good time in life.

I would like to give a quick thank you to all of you for your support in reading my items on different websites, social media and on wordpress. When I came back last February, I couldn’t imagine that the support would be this great. I have a total of 42,000 twitter followers (30k in sports; 12k for politics) and some of my items and articles (and your comments) are read by people from 26 different countries.   From celebrities to famous athletes to politicians to regular people like you and I; I have some of the best people on the internet following me and I’m very proud of them. I’m really overwhelmed. Thank you again for making your voice be heard and for being such an inspiration to me. No voice is too small.

The reason I said that this would be such a crazy year for Raider fans is pretty obvious. People are Hopeful that this nightmare stretch of bad football is over; the possible move; stadium sagas and rumors, and so much more. Social media; for good or bad; has changed the world forever. It’s like the world magnifying glass that makes everything bigger. Social media can be a great place to express yourself but it has also become, stressful, dramatic, and a haven to show us how crazy things have become in our world and country.

Many Raider fans tell me about some of their interactions with some very interesting people online. Some are nice, some are angry and some you can’t make up.

For 2 1/2 years I’ve been writing a book on my communications with people online. I will finish it this winter.   Some I’ve gone out with, some I’ve done business with, and a few I’ve called the cops on. I never knew the internet could be this way with so many troubled people.

I was listening to a radio psychologist who was explaining the three types of social media posters. There are the pretty much normal people who may go off on a tangent occasionally but for the most part are pretty level headed. There is the bully that can’t say two words without an F bomb and who usually start responses with an insult or an attack. And there is the victim that can find you disrespecting them in anything you say including complements. He said unfortunately the latter two groups are growing.

I stopped writing a couple of years ago and was just kind of done with social media because of this nonsense. I’m a very private person but people told me to be much more open and available to people. They told me to be an open book with my photos, life and work. My girlfriend at the time and I would share our lives.

I began writing for about.com, ehow, medical sites and various sports sites. Things were flowing. I also was a regular on 2 radio shows. I was a regular emailer to Gary Radnich’s show on KNBR and he called me the best and smartest emailer their show had. I would call twice a year to say hi and like Gary said, he made me. I also started a dating blog talking about the insane people and world of dating as well as politics. Bad idea. Gary once told me, “act like you don’t know something sometimes and people will like you more”. LOL He was right! Wow. I never thought it would get so bad.

Try going home at 11:30 pm and seeing a stranger there at your door step who wants to “talk to you” about what you wrote, or a nice girl you just met online is in your office making a scene because you don’t want to see her and she loses her temper & shows extreme emotional issues. Or come out to your car and have it keyed with **** you, niners baby! The best was a tea party person who said I was lower than dirt commie scum and he needed to eliminate me. I called the cops, deleted all my accounts, and disappeared.

We talk about it often in the medical field. How people have become so out of control emotionally and how disturbed and scary they are. Everyday people are finally getting what we’ve been saying by their interactions online with people.  Many online and in our lives can’t argue properly or they can’t handle conflict without losing it.   Some people we interact with we won’t even be alone with. I’ve actually had a couple people; from information on my old social media accounts; come to my house to “talk”.

I say all this because my hopes are that we all learn that one thing that we need to be is civil. No one should ever feel uncomfortable.  We’re supposed to be looked up to by our kids and families and we are supposed to be adults. It’s ok to argue or disagree and part as friends, but it’s not ok to be abusive, psycho, or overly sensitive acting like the world is against us.  Save the drama for reality shows, not online interactions.  Class is becoming very rare in our society.  If skinny Justin Timberlake can bring sexy back, we can bring having class back.

Lets be real; even bad people think they are good and rarely wrong and even bad people can be nice sometimes. Some can easily forgive themselves for hurting you, but they will hunt you down and kill you for any slight they think you have done to them. We talk about it often. It doesn’t matter how rich, famous, handsome or cute they are. It’s what’s inside that really matters.  Our society can be very shallow; but lets not us be shallow too.

That One Thing to Bring Unity:

I spoke at a business meeting recently and during a Q & A I was asked If I could give the business world one thing, what would it be. Many thought I’d say 3-D printers, or something else.  I told the gentleman I’d give the world and business one thing; a Conscious.

To have a conscious is to read the room. You are sensitive and aware of the people around you. The minute you don’t have a conscious, you then lose the ability to communicate or argue in a healthy manner. Without a conscious you think you are better than someone else, and if you think you are better; smarter; better looking; stronger; or whatever; then you lose all ability to reason. If you think you are better than someone else you also lose all compassion for them and the ability to really hear them. Wars have been caused many times for a lack of conscious.

Anyone can communicate well when you agree or when you are complimenting each other, but real communication comes when you disagree. That’s when maturity, spirit, humbleness and knowledge takes over. And if someone lacks those things, the outcome won’t be a good one.

My hope for all Raider fans is to have a conscious this year. We don’t know where the Raiders will be playing, but be a part of the team. Be sensitive to how people feel, and if you haven’t grown up in Oakland for God’s sake stop telling them how to feel. It’s like telling a woman, “pfft; that child birth thing doesn’t look so hard”, or a non pet person telling a pet owner, “It’s just a dog, my God stop treating it like it’s a part of the family”. I don’t care if you are 16 or 46, if you didn’t experience something than it’s the ultimate sign of immaturity and ignorance to tell other people how to feel.

And Oakland fans I feel your pain but remember most Raider fans are cool.   I know that there has never been a city in any sport, in any part of the world that has lost their team twice, but don’t take it out on non Oakland fans. Oh sure there are jerks that will say nasty things, but don’t let them get to you. Life is too short to let petty squabbling ruin you.

Remember; have a conscious whenever you post online. Here’s to a successful year on the field, and to a civil one off of it.   One team; one family.

“The Greatest Defensive Backfield of all time! The Oakland Raiders Soul Patrol”

soul patrolf

There will never be a defensive backfield like the Oakland Raiders Soul Patrol of the 1970’s ever again.  They were the most intimidating and greatest group of all time.

The 70’s will always be remembered as the greatest era for the NFL.  It’s the era when there were many great teams and great quarterbacks.  Without a salary cap some backups on the great teams could start elsewhere.  Defenses could do as they please with little to no protection for QB’s and WR’s.  Television helped make the Superbowl become a must see event.  Teams like the Raiders, Steelers, Dolphins, Chiefs, Cowboys and Vikings made this a decade of excellence.  The Steel Curtain, the No Name Defense, and the Purple People Eaters are all revered names in NFL lore.  When the Steelers met the Raiders in the mid 70’s, there were no less than 22 hall of fame coaches, owners, and players on the field at one time.  That will never happen again.

“There was nothing like them”, said HOF QB Fran Tarkenton in a KNBR radio interview.  “In 1979 the NFL created the 5 yard chuck rule because of Atkinson, Tatum and the Raiders.  Wide Receivers could not get off the line of scrimmage against them.  Atkinson and Tatum and the rest of the gang were so physical and strong that I’d have to wait and hope my guys could get open”.

The wide receivers of the 70’s never get their due because their numbers weren’t the pinball numbers of today.  In today’s NFL, if you exhale near a receiver it is a penalty.  In the 1970’s it was literally survival of the fittest.  They had to worry about the great physical play of the era and you could not be a wide receiver unless you could go over the middle. I’ve seen pass interference penalties in today’s game where a defensive back literally brushed by a player.  The rules are so comical now that records are being broken almost weekly.  The 70’s on the other hand was an extremely brutal and tough era, and the most talented and toughest defensive backfield of them all was the Soul Patrol in Oakland.

The center of the sporting world in the 70’s was Oakland California.  In 1975 a team lead by superstar Rick Barry silenced all the east coast and their writers by sweeping the Washington Bullets for the NBA title.  The Oakland A’s dynasty had an amazing 3 straight World Series Championships beating national league royalty in the Dodgers, Reds, and NY Mets.  And then oh by the way, for a 25 year stretch the Raiders were the winningest team in all of sports with several division titles, and 3 superbowl wins.  No city ever had so many titles in such a short time.

The Soul Patrol embodied what the Oakland Raiders were all about.  They were tough, borderline dirty, intimidating and extremely confident.  Each member played their role and they roamed the NFL like a pack of wolves.

atkinson4

George Atkinson Jr.:  (“Butch” 6’ 0”; 180 lbs.)

There may have never been a tougher Raider than George Atkinson.  Listed as 6 feet tall, many say it was more like 5’ 10” but no one had the guts to tell him that.

Atkinson was an intimidator that roamed the field like a lion ready to pounce.  He was the trash talker of the group often seen taunting and intimidating players that were much bigger than he was.  He once broke Russ Francis nose with a vicious forearm hit, and his hits against Lynn Swann of the Steelers are a part of NFL history.  He had blazing speed and in fact still holds the single game record for punt return yardage for the Raiders at 205 yards.

Atkinson took it very personally when someone tried to block him low.  He learned from Tatum to go after a Wide Receiver if they tried to hit their knees or ankles.  In some films you can actually see Raiders defensive backs going towards blockers to actually hit them after they tried to hit them low.  All time great Paul Warfield once said when you went over the middle against Oakland and didn’t account for Tatum and Atkinson, you would not be in the game long without being carried off the field.  Against the run, he could go through blockers and make amazingly hard tackles.  If you ran wide against the Raiders, their DB’s would make you pay.  Atkinson loved to make players pay.

willie brown

Willie Brown:  (6’ 1”; 195 lbs.)

Amazingly Hall of Famer Willie Brown was never drafted when he graduated from Grambling St.  He was signed by the Buffalo Bills who cut him and then he was picked up by the Denver Broncos.  He soon became an all star but was traded to the Raiders in 1967 where he played for the rest of his career.  Unlike the other 3 members of the soul patrol, Brown was fast, graceful and laid back.  He wasn’t a talker but a great defender who was a shut down corner. He had good size and played the run very well, but he was a master of the bump and run, man to man game that the Raiders loved so much.  His famous interception in the Superbowl with the great announcer Bill King’s call of old man Willie is as famous as any highlight NFL films has.

skip thomas

Skip Thomas CB (Dr. Death; 6’ 1”; 205 lb.):

In a day when cornerbacks were just as important in attacking the run as they did the pass, Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas role was to make everyone that came near him remember that he hit them.  What is funny is he was nicknamed Dr. Death by Raiders great Bob Brown who said Skip Thomas looked like the cartoon character Dr. Death.

Skip Thomas was a vicious tackler who was the king of the clothesline tackle.  Many times his padded arm was seen knocking the ball out of wide receivers hands.  When he hit people, sometimes he would actually launch his whole body and his arm swung like a Russian sickle.  It was intimidating, violent and sent the message to not come his way.  He had a two year stretch of 6 interceptions per year.  Due to the great talent of Willie Brown, teams would try to pick on Skip Thomas and usually the results were not good.

People forget that in the Super Bowl, Minnesota moved their fine wide receiver Sammy White around so that Thomas mostly guarded him in the first half.  White didn’t  catch a pass in the first half and Thomas was on him like glue.  As the great Raiders announcer Bill King once said, the Raiders have 3 safeties.

Sadly he passed away in 2011 at the age of 61, but he will always be remembered for his talent, toughness and personality as one of the great members of the Soul Patrol.

jack tatum

Jack Tatum Safety (Assassin; 5’ 10”, 205 lb.):

During the Super Bowl break, the NFL show with Cris Collinsworth was discussing players that should be in the hall of fame, and to a man they all said the same name.   Chris Berman and many others kept bringing up one man; Jack Tatum.

He may have been the most intimidating force in NFL history this side of Dick Butkus. Sadly he was mentally saddled with the hit on Darryl Stingley which paralyzed him for the rest of his life.  Many close to Tatum said he really never got over it up to his death in 2010 at the age of 61.

Earl Campbell said no one ever hit him harder than his touchdown run where he and Tatum hit head on.  Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton said he thought Tatum knocked Sammy White’s head off in the Superbowl hit that Tatum laid on him when the Raiders dominated the Minnesota Vikings.

I remember a story that Ahmad Rashad told.  He said that days before the Vikings were to play the Raiders in the Superbowl, Tatum had walked into a room where the Vikings were relaxing.  Tatum walked into the closet and just stood there for a couple of minutes.  He then walked out of the closet and left.  Rashad said that not one Viking laughed or said a word until they saw Tatum walking out of the building.  Rashad said that it was a mind game of intimidation and he said it worked.  He said, “we laughed; we just made sure Tatum couldn’t hear us”.

Tatum was a linebacker playing safety.  He also was dominating against the run and would take on guards and tackles at any given notice.  Many game films show Tatum chasing blockers trying to hit them before the blockers would try to block them.  Tatum was vicious, fearless and ready to hit anyone.  He epitomized the great physical play of the day, and what the Raiders defense always tried to do; stop the run and make the quarterback go down, and go down hard. With a good pass rush, the Raiders defense was hard to beat as was seen in their dominance.

With today’s rules there will never be hits and aggressive play like the Soul Patrol did.  Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers pretty much do as they please and the Soul Patrol would not be allowed to do what they did best; intimidate, make plays, and be legends.  In the most physical era, the Soul Patrol was like a pack of wolves ready to take down any sized prey.  They remain the greatest defensive backfield of all time.