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“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; Raiders Magic v.s. Chargers Curse; Looking ahead to rival Kansas City”

raiders-chargers

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Baltimore Ravens; Week 4:

San Diego Chargers  31 (1-4)

Oakland Raiders  34 (4-1)

In a crazy game in Oakland, the Raiders outlasted the San Diego Chargers 34-31.

Overview:

There are some years where everything seems to go right and so far all the bad years in Oakland are forgotten for the moment.  The San Diego media; usually very soft on their teams; sliced and diced the Chargers like a Ginsu knife commercial while the Raiders and their fans basked in the California sunshine.  The Chargers have been train wrecks late in games.  Add a punter who has now played key roles in losing 2 games, and the fervor for the city of San Diego to want to have the Chargers stay has waned a bit. With another fourth quarter fail which has been the downfall of QB Phillip Rivers career, the Raiders again did just enough to chalk up their 4th victory of the season.  Rivers is a good QB but I don’t like when they say all time great because he isn’t.

Don’t look now but the Raiders are now tied for first place with the Broncos who found out quick Rookie QB Paxton Lynch holds onto the ball longer than a 4 year old on Christmas morning.  As for the Raiders, the magic goes on.

Quarterback:

Carr had a pretty good day.  In the first 4 games of the season, Carr had been TOUCHED only 7 times.  (Colts QB Andrew Luck has been sacked 20 times and touched 39 times).  The offensive line has been amazing.  In the Chargers game they blitzed Carr often and he struggled at times.  Carr made a poor throw on the interception during the screen, and also avoided another interception when San Diego backup CB Steve Williams flat out dropped an easy pass.  On the good side Carr calmed down and clicked with Amari Cooper much of the day, and his long throws were great.

The Chargers brought up a safety much of the game to help with the run defense and that freed up Cooper in a lot of easy matches against backups due to injuries.  Easy pickings for a quality WR like Cooper.  If they play 2 deep, throw to Crabtree; if they try to stop the run, go to Cooper.

GRADE: B –

Carr’s connections to Cooper were nice to see.  He was sacked 3 times and his throws were rushed in the first half.  I like Carr and his poise.  The key though isn’t Carr, the key is keeping people off of him.

Running Backs:

Most fans don’t notice it but wow, do the Raiders miss TE Lee Smith who is maybe the best run blocking TE in the NFL.  The Chargers game plan was to rush Carr and stop the run.  They now have the 13th best run defense in the NFL.  The Raiders rushed for 89 yards but their RB’s also caught 12 passes for 97 yards.  Their pass blocking wasn’t bad as well having to deal with the blitzes of the Chargers.  They looked fast out of the backfield and were a key part to the win.

Grade B

In the 3 key facets of the game, they played well.  They didn’t have a lot of breakdowns in pass blocking.  The Chargers wanted to stop the run so they improvised.  I liked the effort, speed and the results of everyone.

Offensive Line:

The Raiders are now #1 in sacks allowed in the NFL.  The Raiders OL continues to be the glue that holds this team together.  The Chargers really came after Carr and disrupted his rhythm at times.  The OL also had several penalties that still are a problem.  Not the best day of the season for this group but they got the job done.

Grade B-

They still played fairly well but Carr did get hit more than any other game and the Chargers weren’t bad stopping the run.  The penalties eventually will catch up to the Raiders if they don’t fix them.

Wide Receivers:

Overall this was another quality game from this group.  As long as Crabtree and Cooper don’t start worrying about their TD’s and catches, this is a solid tandem that is as good as any in the game right now.  Crabtree had a drop but in the end came through with the key TD grab.  Cooper was given one on one coverage more than at any time this year and he made the Chargers pay.  Andre Holmes and Seth Roberts contribute as well.

GRADE: A

The Chargers defensive backfield is a mess with so many injuries but this was still a quality performance and break out game for Cooper.

Defensive Line:

I’ve been saying for a while that Dan Williams needs to be playing more and rookie Jihad Ward a lot less.  The Raiders listened and their run defense improved.  Williams played 28 plays; by far the most he’s played all year; and Ward’s playing time was cut in half.  Williams even had half a sack.  San Diego only had 72 yards rushing on 19 carries.

The pass rush was a little better getting to Rivers twice, but overall he had time to throw for most of the day.  The Raiders are now 27th in the NFL in sacks with only 7 in 5 games.

Grade: B-

The Raiders were good against the run and not so good against the pass.  This pass rush isn’t scaring anyone right now but with Williams playing more their run defense is much better.

Linebackers:

The Raiders LB’s played well against the run.  In the blitzes they did though, there was only occasional push.  Cory James struggled all day covering the pass.  Newly signed Perry Riley Jr. lead the team in tackles.  He was beaten on a couple of pass plays but his forced fumble on Antonio Gates was a huge play early.  The Raiders overall struggled with the tight ends again giving over 100 yards passing and 2 TD’s to Hunter Henry and Gates.

Grade C+

I said it at the start of the season; there are going to be plenty of highs and lows with this group.  Riley Jr. played instead of Malcolm Smith and he was a burst of energy to the team but at times its a struggle.

Defensive Backs:

The Raiders defensive backs are going to also have ups and downs all year.  They struggle against fast WR and they did again Sunday.  They gave up 3 plays over 50 yards and Rivers threw for 359 yards total and an amazing 17.1 yards a reception.  Amerson was beat deep twice and Travis Benjamin juked him for a long pass and run.  Sean Smith had an INT but he also was torched often.  The last 2 weeks Oakland played 2 teams with little team speed at WR and they looked good.  Against New Orleans, Atlanta, & San Diego who have fast WR, they struggled.  Not a coincidence.  The 2 starting WR for the Chargers caught 12 passes for 234 yards and a TD.  Smith and Amerson really struggled all day.

Karl Joseph several times played 5-8 yards near the line of scrimmage for much of the game to stop the run and the short TE pass.  It also freed up their WR’s though for the long ball with one less safety.  I’m not a Reggie Nelson fan; he takes a lot of bad angles when he helps.  Joseph got his first INT when Rivers just heaved one.

Grade D  

They will struggle against speed, and thrive against teams that lack it.  Giving up 17.1 yards a catch in today’s game is bad.  Really bad.

Coaching:

I didn’t get why the Raiders were so worried about the running game of San Diego when it’s ranked 20th in the NFL and really isn’t that great.  I also don’t get if you have a good offense why they just lay back.  Playing bad teams you can get away with that but they need a killer instinct.  With 4 turnovers and 4 drives starting in San Diego territory, this is a game you need to hang a 40 on them and send a message.  It’s just too conservative on offense for my taste.  Some fans want Rocky Road and the Raiders are serving Vanilla.  It’s not a huge issue but I dont like playing good enough to win because eventually you won’t.

Grade B

With the rules of today, there is no reason why the Raiders should not be hanging 40’s on these bad defenses.  What good is having a Hemi if you are driving the speed limit all the time; take it to the track and let it go!

Special Teams:

Marquette King is a force.  Janikowski was awful on one FG try; not close; but redeemed himself.  The return game wasn’t a big factor and the coverage teams were fine.

Grade A-

Solid day all around other than the missed field goal.

Conclusion:

Already in 4 losses this season Rivers had chances to seal the games or win them with 4th quarter drives and his offenses failed several times; the story of his career.  The Raiders played well enough to win but there still is work to do especially on defense.

Explaining the Raiders/Chiefs Rivalry:

Kansas City Chiefs:

When everyone was screaming the KC Chiefs will win the West, I said no way.  There are 3 reasons why; no pass rush, Alex Smith and Andy Reid.  I told 49er fans at the time after the 49ers beat the Saints in the playoffs that you are not going to hoist any trophies in the NFL throwing 1-3 yard passes with Alex Smith.  Reid and Smith are just too conservative.  Their unwillingness to take chances throwing to WR is of legend.  The Chiefs running game also has suffered and with an aging Tamba Hali and an ailing Justin Houston who will probably miss most of the season, this team has no pass rush and are now 31st in sacks.

Outlook:

Raider fans hold on to your seats because this is going to be a wild one.  Nothing is going to be easy but the Raiders should be favored for almost every game looking ahead.  Look for another close game with the Chiefs.  The Raiders defense has holes but this offense is good.  With Kansas City and Carolina struggling, the Raiders schedule is a lot easier than first thought.  Other than Denver the Raiders don’t play any elite team.  No Minnesota, New England, Dallas, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.  All of a sudden this really is turning into a magical year.  Fans can afford to go overboard but teams can’t.  Look for the Raiders to take every week the same and not overlook anyone.  For older Raiders fans the Chiefs are the big rival game that they look forward to every year.

“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.

 

 

“Real Answers to Raider Fans Questions; Murray, LB’s, Tight End, Musgrave;”

derek carr

 

Raiders Final 2015 Stats:

2015 Offensive Stats:

17th in points per game (22.4)

28th in rushing offense 91.1 yards per game

16th passing offense yards per game 242.4

24th total yards per game

 

2015 Defensive Stats:

22nd yds per game 363.6

12th 104.9 rushing yards per game

26th 258.8 yds per game passing

 

It changed everything.

When the NFL administered the salary cap, it was for 2 reasons.  To limit salaries and spending on teams and to create parity.  Both occurred.

Some fans are predicting Super Bowls every year for their teams; others predict doom and gloom.  The reality is that EVERY NFL team has a weakness.  This isn’t the 70’s where super teams with few to no weaknesses played.  This is an era where the 2 Super Bowl teams have many questions to answer.  Carolina now doesn’t play the 27th hardest schedule in the NFL and their offensive line was exposed; and Denver’s QB and offense is a mess.

With that said, fans of the Oakland Raiders should be wary of the weaknesses, but also not scream the sky is falling.  In reality every team has issues.  Let’s take a closer look at the Raiders.

Latavius Murray:

In my opinion Murray is a RB by committee player. He’s not the work horse that the Raiders envision him to be.  I like the Raiders loyalty but this is business.  Murray should get 10-15 carries a game and then others should get their touches.

The Raiders have enough Running Back talent to win in the NFL and to be honest, thrive. The question will be will the Raiders use their RB’s properly.  Murray will look great in one game and very ordinary in another. He plays smaller than his size and he goes down too easily at times. In some games he flat out disappears. Giving him the reigns is a mistake. I would start him but play him a lot like Denver or New England plays their RB’s. The Patriots never have had a great starting RB the last 10 years but their RB’s play a role and they do it well. You go with the hot hand.

Marcel Reece & Jamize Olawale need to get carries. Both are too talented not to get touches. Again, I’m not a big Bill Musgrave fan and I have doubts he can do that. He’s a very vanilla offensive coach.

The change of pace guy who the NFL experts said was too small is former Texas Tech star Deandre Washington. At 5’ 8” 213 lbs., he is a wrecking ball with speed. Most Californians are really not that much into college football but he was the go to man at Texas Tech who’s amazing offense has been near the top of college football for about 10 years now. He can catch the ball and run with quickness and authority. He was a steal of a pick in the 5th round. He isn’t a very good blocker in the passing game and that is a big negative though.

I would use him like San Diego and New Orleans used Darren Sproles. A great weapon in the passing game who gets at least 10-15 carries a game.

Jalen Richard has some Raider fans giddy, but in reality he was never even a full time RB in college at Southern Mississippi.  He shared the role but he played well.  He’s shown flashes and looks like he’ll make the team but the “plays like Barry Sanders” stuff?  His speed is hard to ignore.  Wow.

The Raiders have talent at RB, but the question is will they use it.   If they rely mostly on Latavius Murray at RB, the grumbling in Oakland will and should be loud.

Linebackers:

As I said in my preview last year, the linebackers on the Raiders have strengths but each has a weakness. Ben Heeney is not big and he’s also not fast. In college he struggled at times in the passing game.  I think he’ll have his moments but he also will struggle at times. I think he’d be great off the bench but not as a starter.

Malcolm Smith is the opposite. He is solid against the pass; can rush the passer at times; but he’s not a good run stopper. As Matt Millen talked about in a couple of the Raider games, he side steps blocks instead of taking them on and shedding them.

Free Agent Bruce Irvin is pretty good against the run; not great; and not bad in pass coverage; his strength is rushing the passer and making plays.   Something the Raiders want him to do more of. He’s a nice pass rusher but there is still a question whether he can be an elite one which is needed.

In reality the Raiders don’t have that stud middle linebacker; or linebacker for that matter; on this roster that can dominate 1st or 2nd down running plays. The fact is at times the Raiders are going to struggle stopping the run. That’s a problem because then safeties have to make more tackles and they get beat up. The Raiders safeties last year took a beating. With quality defensive linemen, using a 4-3 lineup on obvious running downs may help. Blitzes will also help.

Bill Musgrave/Tight Ends:

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

Above was my article when Bill Musgrave was hired. A hire that I’m still a little puzzled about.

Last year before the Minnesota Vikings game in week 8, the Raiders averaged 26.6 points a game. After the Vikings game they averaged 18.2 points a game.

The reason was that Minnesota took away the long pass and played their safeties deep. It’s called a bunch of names; cover 2; Tampa 2, etc…. When they took away the long ball Carr struggled in the medium passing game and so did offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.

Matt Millen said a couple of times during pre season that Coach Jack Del Rio wants Carr to be a better QB at the line of scrimmage.  What he meant by that is that he needs to start calling audibles much more than he does.   Teams on 1st down would bring a safety near the line of scrimmage.  Instead of changing the play at the line of scrimmage, Carr would often go with the play and the Raiders running game struggled.  You can’t blame the offensive line when the defense is expecting it and you don’t change the play.  

What bothered me a lot with the Raiders offense in the second half of the season, is that Musgrave made no adjustments. Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford played a very minor role in the offense. If the Raiders want to get to the next level, they have to get a mid range passing game to exploit the middle when people play 2 deep. They also have to use audibles and play action passes on first down.

I don’t even know if Tom Brady can throw past 40 yards but he and Drew Brees are masters at the mid range passing game. In fact if you look at the top 12 passing teams in the NFL last year, 7 of them had top 12 tight ends. And that doesn’t include Green Bay’s Richard Rodgers and the Chiefs Brad Kelce who were top 12 tight ends but were on more balanced offenses who weren’t top 12 passing teams.

The Raiders can beat most of the bad to good teams without much of a mid range passing game but against the elite defenses in the NFL they will struggle at times. Musgrave must find a way to make the Raiders offense more balanced.

Even in the last pre season game against Tennessee. The Raiders didn’t even throw to the TE until the last minute of the half when Derek Carr missed Clive Walford. The Raiders tight ends could dominate in the red zone if they throw to them.  Walford especially is too talented to waste.

Derek Carr/Bill Musgrave:

With Carr’s talent and this quality offensive line, Derek will have lots of time to throw and should have a great year. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have things to work on.  If you look at the Raiders stats from last year, they have a ways to go to be elite.

Derek Carr is a lot like Carson Palmer. If you give him time to throw and he can set his feet, he’s very accurate and can tear you apart. If   you rush him you can rattle him.   Protecting him is key.

In the first 8 games Carr threw 19 TD’s and had 4 interceptions. In the last 8 games, he threw 13 TD’s and had 9 interceptions. Teams began to realize how often Carr looked at his outside WR for significant gains and attempted to take them away. Teams also blitzed constantly. In the second half of the Kansas City game, the Chiefs blitzed on every play from the middle of the third quarter on. Denver also blitzed on any 3rd down. There were no adjustments in the game plans by Musgrave and only rare audibles by Carr.

The next time you watch a Raider game look at the offense. Most passes are on the sidelines and they do not use the middle of the field much. For quality passing teams like the Patriots, Saints, Chargers, Panthers and others, the middle of the field are key components against teams with great DB’s and a solid pass rush.

Cam Newton and the Panthers had an amazing year last year and his leading WR was his tight end Greg Olsen who caught 33 more passes than any other pass catcher on Carolina’s top ranked offense. Many couldn’t name a starting WR for the Panthers.

You can’t get on Musgrave without getting on Carr who is the coach on the field.   It will be interesting to see how they grow together.

Jims Jamz:

I’m excited about this year for the Raiders. Every team has weaknesses and it’s important to keep it in perspective.  The Raiders travel is hard but their schedule is fairly easy playing some very bad defenses.  They should excel to a 10-6 record but in reality this isn’t a Super Bowl caliber defense, and the Raiders need to get more balance on offense.  Nothing is for sure in the NFL though.

With social media, the highs and lows of fans should be a reality show in itself.  Coaches and seasoned fans though know that the NFL season is a marathon.  Mostly skill, part coaching, mixed in with a little luck with a lot of patience in between.  But if you think this team is filled with holes, or if you think they are reinventing football and their offense is amazing, I think you need to change lanes.  Stop stressing and get out of the fast and slow lane and put yourself on cruise control.  This should be a fun ride and with so many losing seasons, that is a great improvement. 

 

 

 

 

 

“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.

 

“Pimps, Drugs & Busts; The Oakland Raiders Top 10 Worst Draft Picks of All Time”

 

nfl draft

Insiders have said that Al Davis was always looking for 4 players; the new Cliff Branch, Ken Stabler, Willie Brown & Jack Tatum.  Here are the Raiders attempts that failed.

#10:  Darrius Heyward-Bey: #1, 7 overall (2009 draft)

Before the 2009 draft, most experts had Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin as the top 2 WR in the NFL draft.  Then along came the NFL combines.  DHB ran a 4.3 40 at the combines and Al Davis was smiling like the Grinch on Christmas morning.  Even though he only had 138 catches for 1958 yards in 3 years at Maryland, DHB shockingly was chosen.

I remember destroying this pick in an article the next day and getting destroyed back by Raider fans saying I needed to give him time.  Was 4 years enough?

In an amazing 300 targets in 4 years, DHB only caught 140 passes for 11 TD’s.  In that same time Michael Crabtree caught 260 catches on 429 targets and 21 td’s.  Local station KNBR radio joked that for Raider fans sake 40 times at the NFL combines should be kept away from Al Davis.

#9 Jessie Hester WR: #1, #23 overall (1985 draft)

This pick is usually forgotten by most.  During the glory days of Florida St. football, Jessie Hester was a star.  He was quick and loved to go deep.  At 5’ 11” and 175 lbs. He looked like Cliff Branch and the Raiders drafted him in the first round.

In 3 years Hester caught 56 passes for 10 touchdowns and the Raiders cut him before year 4.  He found a short term home for 4 years at Indianapolis as the #3 and #4 WR but he mostly was a second tier player.  He ended up being a huge bust for the Raiders that few talk about.

#8 Derrick Gibson CB: #1, #28 overall (2001 draft)

At the NFL combines Derrick Gibson was a star.  He bench pressed 400 lbs. and ran a 4.40-4.45 forty.  At 6’ 2” and 210 lbs., you could see teams swooning.  Marquez Pope blew a coverage and was beaten by Baltimore’s tight end Shannon Sharpe for a 96 yard TD in the playoffs that sealed the Raiders fate.  A safety was needed.

Gibson struggled a lot in tackling and he had terrible instincts against the pass.  Many college safeties are free lancers with little responsibility and that’s what Gibson was.  After 5 years the Raiders cut Gibson and no other NFL team ever picked him up.  Another in the long line of NFL combine and work out warriors Al Davis fell in love with who was a huge bust.

#7 John Clay OL: #1, #15 overall (1987 draft)

When Missouri stand out John Clay was drafted by the Raiders #15 overall, the Raiders thought they had a tackle for the next 10 years.  At 6’ 5” and an athletic 300 lbs., he fit the mold as a huge Raiders OL.  After 1 year though the Raiders realized they had made a mistake.  They traded him to the Chargers along with two draft choices for all world OL Jim Lachey.  Problem was they traded Lachey; who starred for Washington; for Jay Schroeder who never panned out at QB.  Clay only started in 10 games and played 2 seasons in the NFL until he was out of the league.

#6 Ted Watts S: #1, #21 overall (1981 draft)

What made this pick so painful is that the Raiders also had the #23 pick in the first round and they selected OL Curt Marsh who rarely played due to injuries.  In 5 years Marsh was out of the NFL with only 22 starts.  If it wasn’t for 2nd round pick Howie Long this draft would have been disastrous.

Al Davis told the media, Hanford Dixon, and anyone else that would listen that he was taking the Southern Mississippi CB if he was there at the #21 pick.  Dixon was there but Al Davis took Ted Watts out of Texas Tech instead.  Why?  Because he had better 40 times than Dixon and because Dixon refused to run more than once.  Dixon went on to a storied 9 year career at Cleveland being one of the best CB’s in the NFL.  The 3 time pro bowler is revered in Cleveland and in all those years he missed 5 starts.

Ted Watts only started 22 games in 4 years with the Raiders and he just never caught on as a starter.  He was not a good tackler and seemed over-matched in coverage.  He bounced around to the New York Giants and San Diego Chargers and was out of the league in 6 years only starting in 25 of the 74 games he played.

#5 Patrick Bates S: #1, #12 overall (1993 draft)

Some thought the Raiders might go with Alabama safety George Teague who thrived on making big plays but the Raiders stood pat and chose Texas A & M star Patrick Bates.  He was a part of the Aggies famous “Wrecking Crew” defense.

His first year was at UCLA and within a month of each other his mother and grandmother; who he was very close to; both died.  After transferring to Texas A & M for a new start, he was arrested for assault.

He was eventually arrested for holding a woman at gun point.  On the field he wasn’t much better.  He seemed more athlete than football player and wasn’t that big of a hitter either.  He was out of the league in 3 years ending his career with 1 interception.  Teague had a 9 year career and even though it wasn’t great, he had some great moments and some good seasons.  He still holds the record for a post season interception returned for a touchdown with his 101 yard interception return against Detroit in the first round of the 1993 playoffs.

#4 Bob Buczcowski DE: #1, #24 overall (1986 draft)

This guy really was a pimp.  This is a name that the Raiders; and especially the NFL want you to forget.  Bob had a good career at Pitt and the Raiders seemed to like him more than some other teams which had him going in the second round.  The Raiders chose him and the rest is infamous history.

He played for the Raiders one year and was let go.  He then played a year each at Arizona and Cleveland before he was out of the league.

In 2005 he was arrested for being a co-conspirator in a drug and prostitution ring in Pennsylvania.  His live in girlfriend was Amy Schifano who was known as the Monroeville Madam.  It was said that they had up to 300 calls a day and they rented hotel rooms for clients.  There also was cocaine distribution involved.  Facing 87 years in prison, Buzcowski turned states evidence and became a witness for the prosecution for a much reduced sentence.  His final sentence was 90 days house arrest.  A bust that got busted.  Don’t blame me; it writes itself!

#3 Marc Wilson QB: #1, #15 overall (1980 draft)

First off you will not find a nicer guy than Marc Wilson.  He ended up being a successful businessman.  In a couple of interviews in the last 10 years he summed up his career.  “It may not have seemed it at times but I really put my all in my career.  Football is my least favorite sport and when I played in the NFL I never felt I was good enough to have control over the game.  It was always a struggle.  In basketball and baseball I felt in control.  I just wish it would have went better.  I don’t even watch football anymore and have no desire to go to games.”

With a rocket arm but little accuracy, Marc Wilson was drafted by the Raiders out of BYU.  He was one of the originators of the QBU era of the Cougars.  In a QB poor draft the Raiders knew that Jim Plunkett was still kind of a crap shoot.  From 1980-1986, the Raiders had a revolving door at QB.  Plunkett would start and then struggle and then Marc Wilson would take over.  Wilson would struggle or get hurt and then Plunkett started.  Add an injury here and there and it was a mess at times.  In that time Plunkett had one really good year in 1983 (Raiders won the Super Bowl), and Wilson had one good year in 1985 (Raiders were considered favorites to go to the Super Bowl).

In 1985 Wilson was atrocious in the first round of the playoffs and the heavily favored Raiders lost to the Patriots 27-20 at home.  Wilson was 11 for 27 with 3 INT’s and 1 TD and was booed off the field.  The upstart Patriots shocked the NFL by going to the Super Bowl and being destroyed by the 1985 Bears.

In his 8 years as a Raider QB he only started 50 games.  He was 31-19 and he gave Raider fans nightmares.  Many feel if it wasn’t for injuries in the 1970’s the Raiders would have had 1 more Super Bowl win, and if it had better QB play in the 80’s they would have had 1 more Super Bowl win in that decade as well.  The Raiders had a lot of talent but the Plunkett/Wilson roller coaster was a hit or miss saga with more misses than hits as time went on.  To old school Raider fans, just the mention of Marcs name brings tingles down the spine.  What could have been.

#2 Todd Marinovich QB: #1, #24 overall (1991 Draft)

In the late 1980’s ESPN started picking up a loyal viewership and Todd Marinovich was one of their first media darlings.

Lost in Robo QB history, was that his father Marv was the first ever strength and conditioning coach in the NFL.  He was hired by?  Al Davis.  He studied Eastern Bloc training methods and many of his methods were used in the origination of core training and are still used today.

Todd as an infant teethed on frozen liver and kidneys.  He could not eat white sugar or processed food and only drank raw milk.  Up until his adulthood he was not allowed to eat fast food or sweets.  He rarely ate red meat.

After his parents divorced he really was out of control.  His pot use was so bad in high school opponents fans chanted Marijuanavich & he was busted for cocaine.  President Reagan honored Todd at his home after a big win & he was the Johnny Manziel of his time with celebs always wanting to party with him.

In the pro’s his drug use was worse.  He passed NFL drug tests by using friends urine, until once he used a friend that had partied all night and he tested positive for alcohol.  He then turned to LSD which wasn’t tested for.  He was out of the league in 2 years starting only 9 games including 1 playoff game where he threw 4 INT’s in a 10-6 loss to Kansas City.  Pittsburgh attempted to sign him but he told them he no longer wanted to play in the NFL.  He played in Canada for a short time.  A real troubled person who seems to be doing better in life.

#1 Jamarcus WR: #1, #1 overall (2007 draft)

It’s funny how many Raider fans defended these picks at the time  (Come on; you know who you are).  My fights online with them are of legend.  This was another one of those picks I hated and maybe received the most hate of all time.  Here were iconic college players Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson who were men among boys in college being thrown away for Jamarcus Russell.  A guy that got famous in a bowl game against a Notre Dame defense that was one of the worst in the country and the NFL combines where he threw 65 yards on one knee.

Russell in college was an amazing athlete.  He was huge; 6’ 6” and 270.  Problem was against teams like Auburn and others who ran a pro style type defense he struggled.  He was not an accurate QB but he could throw it a mile.  At the NFL combines he wowed teams with his size and big arm.  John Clayton said, “how could anyone not pick him #1.”

He played 3 years for the Raiders and in 25 starts he was 7-18.  With his poor conditioning and his struggles with drugs, he was let go.  He tried some come backs but was never really taken seriously.

Well there you have it.  The importance of quality drafts can’t be explained any more clearer than with these busts.  The draft is the key to creating and sustaining a winner in the salary cap era.

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

mckenzie mack

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.