Goodbye, Gruden’s Casualties: OTAS

I know it is OTA’s and it is all about moving forward to the 2018 season but I want to take a few moment to remember the legacies of a few Raiders casualties. You won’t read about any of these guys in Raiders Hall of Fame. They’re the casualties of the lost 2017 season.

Michael Crabtree, Sean Smith, David Amerson, Clive Walford and Marshall Newhouse were all let go before their contracts expired. Jamize Olawale and Cordarelle Patterson were traded even though they flashed at times for the Silver and Black. Don’t forget Marquette King, JDR, TJ Carrie and Denico Autry who will also move on. Otherwise, peace out to Darius Latham and Jihad Ward. 

Marquette King, Broncos

I get it. Marquette King had more followers than some of these NFL teams but let’s not pretend like he wasn’t legit at his craft. And really, to let him go on the first day of the new year when he hadn’t met his new coach? Even if Gruden wants a punter who will be quiet and kick, adding one more roster question doesn’t help Oakland’s cause. King wasn’t the only person that got his walking players.

Still, let’s remember King not only for his dances after punts but all the work he did in the community. Plus, he was the league’s lone punter. He made us forget about Shane Lechler and was actually athletic in a similar way as Raiders legend Ray Guy.

Michael Crabtree, Ravens

Crabtree was the biggest surprise since he’s been Carr’s favorite weapon especially in the redzone. Crabtree’s numbers and relative contract, that had $6 million in non-guaranteed money, made him a likely candidate to stay on the Raiders. Instead, the Raiders cut him.

However, Gruden and the Raiders had other plans. It was clear that Crab fell out of favor with the last staff and for whatever reason, Gruden wasn’t ready to give him a restart. Lookout for Crab to really play with a chip on his shoulder this season.

Either way, let’s not forget Crab for being one of the first players to buy into the new era of the Silver and Black. He took a below market value contract to play with Derek Carr and prove his worth. He was the start of a culture change. Crabtree was more than a gold chain and Talib antagonist. He was a Raider.

David Amerson, Chiefs and Sean Smith, Free Agent

The greatest cornerback duo that never was. Amerson and Smith didn’t live up to their expectations. They were supposed to be the big, cornerback duo that could make plays on the ball. Last season, Amerson couldn’t stay on the field, despite being an underrated addition when he signed a few years ago. Smith couldn’t even get practice time after being a key free agent before the previous season.

As a unit, it took the Raiders nearly the whole season to get an interception. Some of that falls on these veterans. Plus, their contracts, Amerson’s health and Smith’s legal trouble just made it all to easy to start over. 

Marshall Newhouse, Bills

Speaking of upgrades, Newhouse was cut because he really didn’t solidify the right tackle spot. Newhouse was adequate on the right side. He also had experience playing a variety of positions on the offensive line. However, he wasn’t better than average and the Gruden regime wanted someone better for their scheme. Newhouse will always be remembered for recovering that fumble versus Miami and getting flipped when he tried to run and advance the ball.

Jamize Olawale, Cowboys

Here’s another trade that hurt. Olawale hadn’t been utilized by the previous regime. When he was, he flashed running ability like that big run versus the Steelers a few years ago. Otherwise, he was a balanced player with blocking, catching and special team abilities. Olawale was a class act in the community and still relatively young.

Cordarrelle Patterson, Patriots

Speaking of under utilization, Patterson played more than expected due to injuries to other WRs. However, he didn’t always see a lot of designed targets. He did give the Raiders some game changing runs, kick coverage and kick returns. That alone gives him a reason to be on an NFL roster. Now, Belichick gets to use his game changing speed and special teams ability. Patterson should see some extra snaps at RB too. Guess he had to go since the Raiders are deep at WR but we really chose Seth Roberts over him? And all we got back was conditional pick in this trade, SMH.

Navarro Bowman

Oh yeah, Navarro Bowman isn’t signed after a solid year as our runstopper. He is probably not in the plans since the Raiders already signed three veteran linebackers. 

Jihad Ward, Cowboys and Darius Latham, free agent

Here are two players that played a ton their rookie year but injuries and other competition kept them mostly out of the rotation. Latham isn’t too surprising since he was an undrafted player. However, Jihad Ward was a second round pick and he never even sniffed that potential. Both players didn’t seem like fits in the new defensive scheme and both are easily upgraded. Ward was traded and Latham waived.

Clive Walford, Jets

Another tragic draft pick waived. Walford never regained his career projections after he injured himself in an ATV accident before his sophomore season. He played well last year but we all knew Jared Cook was the starter. Walford had all the tools to be both a good blocker and pass catcher. He just never consistently put it all together. That’s why the Raiders always needed to bring in another player to compete or compliment him. Walford is the type of player who might benefit from a change of scenery though.

Corey James, Free Agent

Another player waiver with flashes who battled injuries. Hopefully he catches on somewhere else?

TJ Carrie, Browns and Denico Autry, Colts

Two surprise contributors who got more money elsewhere. I ain’t mad at them even if they’re both sorrier teams. Both Carrie and Autry served and represented the Silver and Black every week. Yes, we could’ve used more consistency out of both players but they both showed willingness to play multiple positions. They both fought for playing time and a roster spot. Plus, they arguably got better every single year. Carrie was undrafted and Autry was claimed from another team. These were too Raiders who I wish the best for moving forward.

Aldon Smith, N/A

An obvious subtraction since he hadn’t played in two seasons. Tragic story where unlimited potential was derailed by demons. Hopefully, he can get his life together.

Jack Del Rio, N/A

The bay area native, living his dream job. We’ll remember Captain Black Jack for his gutsy fourth down calls and weekly media cliches. He should also be remembered for modernizing the Raiders facilities, getting decent free agents and giving this team direction and foundation. The weird thing is, he lost all of that just as fast as he built it.

The truth is, 2017 was a weird season especially to those of us not in the lockerroom. Someone needed to pay the price and it was JDR. Not only did he let players impact the lockerroom culture, but he failed to make weekly or halftime adjustments. He got comfortable and the team got stagnant.

Don’t feel too bad though. He signed an extension before the year and he got cashed out to not work.

The New Guys

Regardless, you don’t really get mad until you realize who the Raiders replaced said players with. For a minute, there was a running joke that they were cutting black players for white players. That wasn’t entirely true but it was a weird coincidence. For instance, they signed Jordy Nelson to take over at receiver for Crab despite his added age and more recent injury concerns. Adding Martavis Bryant helps soften the loss of Crab and Patterson too. 

Smith, Carrie and Amerson were replaced with veterans like Rashaad Melvin, Shareece Wright and Leon Hall. It remains to be seen if they’re upgrades. Reggie Nelson was re-signed despite him getting beat bad a lot last year. Journey man tackle Breno Giacomini replaces Newhouse but that might not be an upgrade either. 

Oakland added Derek Carrier and Keith Smith and re-signed Lee Smith to replace Olawale and Walford in the new offensive scheme. Again, lateral moves at best.

They spent a bunch more draft picks to restructure their offensive line with the roster moves and new scheme. Emmanuel Lamur, Derrick Johnson and Tahir Whitehead will takeover for Bowman’s leadership.

The point is, yes Gruden made changes but it is unclear if any of them are really upgrades. Either way, it is clear Gruden is trying to change the culture and schemes and he doesn’t care where a player was drafted or signed. Hopefully, it all works out, the Raiders win and we forget all these casualties.

Oakland Raiders: Keys to beating the Carolina Panthers

Last week, the Oakland Raiders nearly suffered a letdown. The Houston Texans led throughout the Monday Night Football matchup in Mexico City.

However, the Raiders found a way to win.

This week, the Raiders can not rely on the same heroics. Despite their record, the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers (4-6) still have the reigning MVP, big receivers and a scary defensive line. Don’t forget Oakland’s only two losses this season came at home. Hence, this could combine for a huge Panthers’ road victory over the Raiders.

Here is the formula which should help Oakland protect their home-field

1) Pound the football

Oakland made their running backs relevant via pass attempts. Jamize Olawale and Jalen Richard both caught touchdown passes and Latavius Murray caught five passes for 59 yards.

Otherwise, Oakland only rushed for 30 yards on 20 carries. The Texans owned them in time of possession by more than 13 minutes.

Hence, Oakland must bounce back this week. The Raiders have one of the best offensive lines in football, and they face a great Carolina defensive line that is deep. It should be fun watching Kelechi Osemele and Kawann Short battle in the middle. Hopefully, the Raiders can take advantage of their versatility at the running back position with Murray, Richard and company.

Plus, Carolina will be without their all-pro run linebacker Luke Kuechly. This should open up some running lanes for the Raiders.

Expect them to get back to the ground game against the Panthers. This is the easiest way to limit Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s impact on the game.

2) Pressure Cam Newton

Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack enters this game with a chance to get a sack in his sixth consecutive game. However, it won’t be easy against the forever mobile Newton.

Thus, it will be on the entire defensive line to contain Newton. It is well documented that Newton has problems with the way he is hit on the run and in the pocket. Therefore, Oakland must get into his head by pressuring and hitting him in legal ways. This will keep the Panthers’ rushing and passing attack out of rhythm.

Further, the Raiders must stay in their passing lines. Newton can extend plays with his feet, so the Raiders must not let him run around. The Raiders secondary makes too many mistakes, and the Panthers receivers are too big and fast. It could spell disaster if the Raiders do not pressure Newton and keep contain.

Granted, that is easier said than done.

3) Secondary must improve

The Carolina secondary has not been the same since losing Josh Norman to free agency. Therefore, the deep group of Oakland receivers should exploit the Carolina corners.

However, the Panthers could make this a shootout. We know the Raiders secondary makes mistakes via penalties and big plays. This week, they matchup well against the big-bodied receivers in Carolina. Raiders corners Sean Smith and David Amerson are just as big and skilled as Panthers receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Tedd Ginn Jr.

Hence, the Oakland secondary must improve. D.J. Hayden, Karl Joseph, Reggie Nelson, Malcolm Smith, and Perry Riley could all see matchups versus tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen is one of the best in the NFL.

Oakland can not let the Panthers keep this game close by giving up big plays in the passing game. No mistakes this week, guys!

The Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers play at 1:25 p.m. PST.