Keys For Battling The Mack Attack And More From A Weird Week For Raider Nation

Forget about the Raiders and Chargers on Monday Night. It is not worth remembering the poor line play, ineffective running game and our QB falling into old ways.

Vegas got 21-0 skunked in the first half after the lightning delay. They came out and made plays but they never really got the offense rolling on full cylinders. Former Raiders TE Jared Cook also cooked em. One more reminder the Raiders have a long history of not covering tight ends. 

Truth be told, I won’t remember much about the game thanks to the food poisoning I got from that SoFi hotdog. What I will remember is all the Silver and Black surrounding the stadium in rain and shine. I will remember Hunter Renfrow looking like a safety making a play on fourth down. There were also notable highlights from Henry Ruggs, Darren Waller and Derek Carr. 

Still, the defense was not horrible. They kept getting in bad spots thanks to poor offense. Their secondary was also banged up. The offense took too long to wake up and they did not capitalize on a few big plays.

Either way, the Raiders find themselves looking up to the first place Chargers. The Raiders, Chargers and Broncos are all tied for the division’s lead now. It’s early in Justin Herbert’s career but it feels like he already has our number. It is his second time beating us in his young career.

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More Chaos From The Week

Our week got even weirder as Mercury continued in retrograde. First, it was Derek Carr talking about Joey Bosa’s reaction to the win. Carr felt disrespected by Bosa saying he falters under pressure and after big hits. Carr said he did not know why he said that?

C’mon Derek, you don’t know why he said that? Bosa has played and studied Carr as much as anyone as they are only a season apart and played their careers in the AFC West. Carr’s whining just made him sound weak after he got outplayed by a second year QB. It wasn’t all Carr’s fault but he did not sound like a competitor with the Mamba Mentality. There was no need for him to even respond.  

Then, the week got even weirder as the NFLPA director tried to get elected for another term. A report leaked Jon Gruden using a racial trope when describing NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith in 2011. 

Obviously, it is not a good look for the Raiders who have always stood for diversity and inclusion. However, let’s not act surprised.  Our bosses probably say the same shit in their emails. What he said was stupid and offensive but firing someone for an email sent a decade ago sets a bad precedent. 

Regardless, the Raiders shouldn’t get punished because Gruden was not even with the organization at the time. To be determined if anything bad happens.

Moving Onto the Bears This Week

Moving forward, the Raiders face a familiar face with Khalil Mack coming to town. Good teams find ways to bounce back after disappointing losses.

Mack comes into the game with four sacks for the season and he could double that if the Raiders offensive line does not improve from last week. Robert Quinn is also having a renaissance season with 4.5 sacks this year. That’s already more than double his sack total from last year. He is a big part this team leads the league in sacks.

On the other hand, the Bears will be down defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. Hicks really disrupts the middle of the offensive line which makes it easier for the edges and linebackers to make plays. The Raiders will happily take all the help they can get after their front five looked terrible last week. Linebacker Roquan Smith will still be roaming the middle. 

This Bears defense has played together for a while but they are not dominating like before partly due to bad spots caused by poor offense. 

Rookie QB Justin Fields turned in his best game in his second start. However, he has thrown two interceptions and only completed 49 percent of his passes across his two starts and four times playing. The only time he found the end zone was by rushing in Week One. The Bears should intro more QB running with Fields as the full-time starter and the Raiders aggressive defensive line. Fields also brings arm strength to stretch the field which is something the team missed with Andy Dalton. Allen Robinson, Marquise Goodwin and Darnell Mooney offer big play threats. Jimmy Graham could also have an awakening much like Mike G. and Jared Cook found ways to carve up the Raiders the past couple weeks. 

Starting running back David Montgomery is on IR so former Chiefs starter Damien Williams gets the start. It will be his most significant role since he left KC and opted out of last season due to COVID. 

Further, the defense allowed the 11th most passing touchdowns and the 13th most rushing yards. Chicago beat Detroit and Cincinnati but lost to the Browns and Rams. They sit at 2-2. 

How Can the Raiders beat the Bears?

This game could get ugly if the Raiders offensive line does not improve this week. They made a move by starting Brandon Parker and moving Alex Leatherwood to guard. Parker has been up and down his career but he has developed since coming into the league from a smaller school. Parker’s presence should help as long as he doesn’t lose confidence like he did last year versus ATL.

Hopefully all that size and athleticism will help the Raiders maul the Bears defensive line in on the right side. We’ve seen KO, Khalif Barnes and Denzelle Good all hold down the guard spot after playing right tackle so Leatherwood could follow that lineage. That still won’t answer questions at center or the other guard spot. 

This starting offensive line rounded out by Andre James, John Simpson and Kolton Miller is really a cast of homegrown and drafted players. Miller is the only proven starter. The rest of the group must step up to keep the Raiders postseason hopes alive and validate this front office’s questionable draft history. 

Either way, the Raiders should have the edge in the run game with Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake. They need to pound the rock to neutralize the Bears pass rushers and get this offensive line some confidence. 

Otherwise, Derek Carr gets an instance chance to redeem himself versus a great pass rush and a defense that wants to create turnovers. Again, it’s a careful balance between managing the game and knowing when it is time to make a big strike. Carr walks that line between keeping his team in the game and making the play that will help them win.

The running game will help Carr get that balance. It will keep the pass rushers off him and allow him to setup the play action. 

Defensively, the Raiders gotta limit lapses versus the tight end. They will also be down two of their top four corners with Damon Arnette and Trayvon Mullen both set to sit with an injury. This week’s receivers won’t test the Raiders like the Chargers last week. However, they’ve got speed and size to make the Raiders pay if Justin Fields is given too much time in the pocket. Allen Robinson is still one of the best receivers in the game and we can not let him get back on track versus us. 

Raiders Please Make This One Easy

When Was The Raiders Last Blow Out?

Thus, the Raiders must double down and establish their identity at home this week. Let’s see them get an early lead and force the Bears sputtering offense to force big plays. Vegas should run the ball, take deep shots and don’t turn the ball over. Pressure the young quarterback, don’t get beat deep and stop this running game from getting established on your way to a decisive win.

The Silver and Black must show their identity versus a middle of the road Bears team if they want to stay in playoff consideration. Impose your will, dominate this team or whatever cliche you need to eliminate any questions about the Raiders’ legitimacy.

Don’t let Chicago stay in the game by giving up sacks, getting beat for big plays or letting this running game get established. All eyes will be on our corners. Yes, we’re short-handed but everybody got to step up. Great teams don’t lose to so-so or good teams. We will have a better idea where the Raiders fall on the ok to great team scale by how they come out after a loss.

Can Carr and Gruden make the necessary adjustments to help this team avoid another midseason collapse? Prove this ain’t last year with a decisive win over a Bears team that is trying to find themselves. Carr and Gruden need conversations focused on their performances again, rather than the off field stuff too. Just get back on the winning track this week.

Oh, and please stop comparing Mack and Madd Maxx. Totally different players.

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Goodbye to Khalil Mack + Raiders versus Rams

Imagine going off the grid and coming back to a bunch of text messages, group chats and push alerts saying the unthinkable was done. That’s exactly how I found out Khalil Mack was traded and I still can’t believe it.

Seeing Mack in a Bears uniform felt like a slap in my face each time. It made me long for going off the grid again.

Last night, Raider Nation sat and watched the entire world marvel at Mack in a Bears uniform. Dude got a strip sack and pick six in one half. Sure, the Bears did not win but the nation watched the impact a player like Mack has on a team. This is the impact Raiders fans watched every single week. Yet, somehow we’re supposed to accept this trade?

Trading a generational talent like Mack takes balls. Think back, have the Raiders ever had a player with Mack’s talent on the edge? You would have to go back to Charles Woodson or Tim Brown to find another player that has had Mack’s impact this early, regardless of position. The point is, you work in the draft to find a Khalil Mack. Giving up on that sort of player sends the wrong sort of message to players and fans. You’re supposed to build around your best players. You’re supposed to pay the ones that work hard, are role models off the field and captains every day. That’s the plan Reggie McKenzie has been seeking us since he came into the picture.

At the very least, this proves Gruden has a plan and he’s not afraid to execute it. I’m unsure what McKenzie’s role is in Gruden’s plan but clearly Jon didn’t see Mack in his vision. That’s the sort of balls and arrogance reserved for teams like the Spurs when they traded Kawhi Leonard. How can a team destroy a relationship with their star player who seamlessly fits the culture?

Either way, the Raiders don’t have the championships or the culture to fall on like the Spurs which makes this trade even weirder. Perhaps, Gruden looked at the roster and realized it was a longer rebuild than he anticipated.

Maybe, he and Davis didn’t picture many of these players in Las Vegas and they figured it would be better to start rebuilding soon. Of course, that would make sense if the Raiders didn’t cut most of their Draft Picks from the last few classes and replace them with old vets. Some of that falls on McKenzie for sure as he has reached on guys and not always had a plan for development.

However, I still don’t know why you would trade the best thing RM ever did. Taking a Buffalo player and turning him into a franchise defender who can play any position in the front seven is amazing. I don’t know what the Raiders plans are now that they’ve traded Mack but they exist.

I guess I’m supposed to move forward. I’m supposed to buy into the nostalgia of the Raiders and trust Gruden. I’m supposed to act like this team isn’t abandoning its roots in Oakland. I’m supposed to act like this team is trying to win now when they traded their best player. I’m supposed to be ready and excited for Week One as we take on the Rams in Gruden’s return to MNF.

Nonetheless, part of me hopes the Raiders get their ass kicked. They need that sort of wake up call. You can’t get by just signing veterans over the age of 30 who no one wants. You can’t win by not developing and retaining your talent.

In fact, what would be more Raider than winning without your best talent or by winning with a bunch of rejects? That’s where the rub is.

Plus, I’m tired of losing. I can’t shake my Raider fandom no matter what and honestly my life is better when the Raiders are good. I get tired hearing what happened to your Raiders. I’d rather get compliments on how great the team is.

Still, what gets lost in all of this is the fact that Al Davis would’ve got this deal done. He would’ve re-signed a small school player who defeated the odds to be one of the best defenders in the league. Al understood talent and appreciated those who represented the Raiders best. Mack would’ve been Mr. Davis’ favorite.

Again, that doesn’t really matter because Gruden is the new sheriff in town. His plan clearly involves retooling around those picks from the Bears. Hopefully, you’re not letting this distract you from the fact that the Raiders gave up a second round pick in this trade so they really only got one first rounder for Mack. Chicago should also improve so they might not be as high selections as the Raiders would’ve hoped.

Don’t forget Gruden gave the Cardinals Josh Rosen and didn’t get enough to trade back. Not to mention, they cut Martavis Bryant who cost them what compensation they did get in the move back. The point is, Gruden has already made a lot of questionable decisions. Shoutout to David Sharpe, Mario Edwards Jr. And few other players that had draft capital and playing time invested into them but Gruden cut anyways.

Combine that with the move and losing, it’s no wonder many many Raiders fans including myself are questioning their fandom. What else are we supposed to do? Is Gruden really worth our blind faith? Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side? I guess we’ll find out on Monday night, especially Raiders fans in LA. Regardless, I can’t talk regular season without talking about Mack first. 

Here’s a Breakdown of the Rams OC

The Rams don’t have an offensive coordinator since they lost Matt LeFleur to the Tennessee Titans. Aaron Kromer is the run game coordinator after being OL coach last year and tight ends coach Shane Waldron is the passing game coordinator. Sean McVay will still call most of the plays. McVay has roots connected to Gruden’s brother Jay in Washington and he is often credited as part of Jon Gruden’s mentee too.

Strengths

Expect a lot of what we saw last year from the Rams. They will rely on the running game and the offensive line to open up the passing game. They like to use a lot of deception out of the backfield. Expect them to find creative ways for the backs and tight ends to get mismatches versus linebackers and safeties. Los Angeles should also use Brandin Cooks to stretch the field vertically while attacking with Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp in the medium and short game. This year, I expect McVay to take more shots deep as Goff continues to develop.

Weaknesses

The offense didn’t get a ton of action in the preseason so they could come out rusty. Moreover, they’re not very deep on the offensive line outside of their starters. They are waiting for a spell back to emerge behind Gurley too. Tavon Austin was dynamic in that role last year but is there anyone else capable of that on the roster now? Moreover, they could use some more consistency at the tight end position between Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett.

Verdict

Ultimately, the Raiders gotta find different ways to get pressure and force Goff into some mistakes otherwise this might be a long day with Oakland getting picked apart.

Here’s a breakdown of Wade Phillips

Everyone knows Wade Phillips is a legendary coordinator. Sure, he’s had mixed results as a head coach but defensively he brings a lot to the table. He’s led great defenses even before the Rams including the Super Bowl winning Denver Broncos.

Strengths

Versatility is huge in Phillips’ scheme. It is a 3-4 defense sure but Phillips uses a wide range of concepts. That should include different fronts since the Rams defensive line is incredibly versatile and the LBs leave much to be desired. The point is, don’t expect all zone blitzes and two-gapping from Wade Phillips. He’s too smart to not like Donald and Suh get upfield and penetrate. He should also get aggressive in coverage because he has a lot of ball hawks across the secondary.

Weaknesses

Run defense has plagued the Rams for a while. Part of that is their aggression against the pass and the other part is their younger linebackers. Either way, they’ll hope Suh sures up some of the run game. Either way, their linebackers should get tested versus a rough Raiders running offense.

Verdict

Expect a battle of wills between the Raiders offensive line and defensive line. Whoever gets more push in that battle should win this game. Oakland’s re commitment to the running game gets a huge first test here.

 

Five Questions headed into the final preseason game

Questions ahead of the Raiders final preseason game of the season versus the Seahawks at 7 PM today.

First question, where is Khalil Mack?

Odell Beckham Jr. got his deal. Aaron Donald is getting his deal. Even Le’veon Bell is expected to end his deal. Yet, we’re still hearing rumors about how Khalil Mack and the Raiders aren’t even talking. We’ve heard the trade rumors and the coaching speak from Jon Gruden but when is this deal done?

To make matters worse, the Bengals signed two of their defenders who didn’t hold out. The Packers are even re-signing Aaron Rodgers to a record deal. I can’t imagine all these numbers make it easier to pay Khalil Mack. If anything, it just means Mack will probably command more money.

I don’t want to hear how he should report to get his deal. People with this sort of thinking are simple minded and probably applying for new jobs on their work servers. Moreover, those people aren’t making a living in a dangerous sport that will cost them their mind and  could be taken away at a second. Not to mention, they’re probably not one of the best in their industry where they can command any price.

The fact of the matter is, Mack hasn’t gotten hurt. He is not a distraction. He is the best player at his position and one of the best players in the entire league. Pay the man so we can move to real questions.

Question Two: What’s the defensive line finished rotation?

Khalil Mack ain’t signed so that’s gonna mess up the rotation.  Where will Tank Carridine land when Mack does show up?

Don’t forget the fact that rookie Arden Key, Maurice Hurst and PJ Hall have all showed glimpses in preseason. Otherwise, the starting rotation will be what you expect. Mario Edwards Jr., Justin Ellis, Bruce Irvin.

Plus, the team has taken risks on veterans like Fadol Brown, Gabe Wright and Frostee Rucker. Do any of those guys make the rotation?

There are also more familiar names from the previous regime including Treyvon Hester, Shilique Calhoun, James Cowser and Eddie Vanderdoes. Are any of those guys worth the investment of a draft pick? Obi Melifonwu apparently wasn’t.

Question Three: How does the secondary finish?

On that same note, the Raiders secondary has been fluid this offseason. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is the recent addition. However, remember Gareon Conley is healthy and they signed Rashaan Melvin. That means the starters are locked down.

Nonetheless, Shareece Wright and Leon Hall are other veterans on the roster. Daryl Worley was a player they took a chance on despite off-field questions. Nick Nelson was drafted even though he is off an injury. Dexter McDonald and Antonio Hamilton have seen their fair share of reps this preseason so are they going to break into the rotation?

Don’t forget the safeties. Karl Joseph, Reggie Nelson and Marcus Gilchrist are going to combine for the two primary starter roles. Shalom Luani got a lot of reps last year but does that really help him? Obi Melifonwu not being on the roster sure does help.

Question Four: What’s the starting tackles look like?

On one side, you have David Sharpe and Kolton Miller battling it out left tackle.

Miller is the favorite because of his draft status but he could easily be surpassed by David Sharpe or Donald Penn.

Plus, you have Penn who is moving to right tackle because of a hold out and Miller’s draft status. Brandan Parker has looked like a developmental prospect despite his third round talent.

The team already waived Vandal Alexander and cut Breno Giacomini so the depth at the position is limited.

Question Five: What’s the backup QB situation?

Conner Cook looked good, then he looked bad. E.J. Manuel’s performance has been somewhat laughable considering he played well in start duty last year and he was actually a first round pick at one time.

The two players offer opposite skillsets. Who gets the QB 2 nod? On second thought, aybe it is someone not on this roster.

 

Pay Khalil Mack

The Raiders need to quit playing and pay Khalil Mack. How has his holdout for a new deal persisted this long?

Amy Trask, former No. 2 of this prestigious organization, broke down how extensions work. She was perplexed as to why the Raiders hadn’t gotten a deal done.

What makes it even crazier is that the Rams are rumored to be close to a deal to end Aaron Donald’s holdout. Still, the Raiders reportedly stopped talks with Mack.

First, it was new head coach not even speaking to Mack. Now, there are trade rumors. Las Vegas puts odds that Mack will be traded to Green Bay. How does this make any sense?

Mack has been nothing but consistent. Dude has played through coaching and scheme changes. This man has even earned All-Pro honors at two positions and DPOY. Plus, he hasn’t missed a single game in his career. Mack sat quietly as two players from his own draft class (Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson) got huge deals last offseason too.

One could argue Mack is the best player drafted by the organization in decades. Outside of Khalil Mack, what players have been transcending talents for Oakland this early in their career? You’d have to go back to Charles Woodson to even have an argument. Maybe, throw in Marcus Allen or Tim Brown if we’re talking all-time.

The point is, the Raiders need to pay Khalil Mack the franchise money he deserves. He’s a turkey transcendent talent that has been nothing but a classy representation for an otherwise dysfunctional organization. I don’t care if the Raiders defense has been bad in spite of Mack’s greatness, the Raiders need Mack. They need him ASAP. Pay him.

Oakland Raiders: Why the Silver and Black should keep defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

It is pretty easy to list off the reasons why the Oakland Raiders should not keep defensive coördinator Ken Norton Jr. A recent Just Blog Baby article makes a compelling argument for firing Norton Jr.

Additionally, head coach Jack Del Rio called out the defense it in his closing press conference.

“There were far too many explosive plays allowed this year, whether it be run or pass,” Del Rio said. “That’s, you know, that’s an area that must be addressed. That might be the number one thing that we must do better going into 2017.”

Not to mention, the Raiders gave up the most yards per play in the league. They also gave up the 13th most points per game. Oakland ranked No. 4 in penalty yards for defense. The Raiders also gave up the No. 10 most rushing yards per game and the 9th most passing yards per game. They also finished last in the league with 25 sacks.

All that said, Ken Norton Jr. deserves to keep his job for another season.

Placing the blame on him for the poor defensive play is irresponsible. Norton Jr. is merely the figurehead, coordinator and collaborator. He is not out there to execute plays, although he did once roam NFL fields.

Now, let’s look at why Ken Norton Jr. should stay another season in Oakland.

Defense played well in stretches

We all remember the horrible outings versus the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons. It has also been cited that the Raiders gave up more points than any other team during the third quarter.

However, the Raiders played well in stretches. Quarterback Derek Carr led many fourth quarter comebacks but the defense put him in a position to do that. The defense clinched victories versus the Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans.

Not to mention, the team led the league in turnover differential. That is precisely the culture Norton Jr. was supposed to bring with him from the Seattle Seahawks.

It is not all Ken Norton Jr.’s fault

Ken Norton Jr. earned some criticism for his play calling this season. There were times where he needed to blitz and didn’t. There were other times he made questionable coverage calls.

However, Norton was not out there missing tackles on big plays. He was not out there holding receivers and committing pass interference. That is execution.

Something all the Raiders defenders could have done better.

Not to mention, Jack Del Rio is a defensive mind. Therefore, I’d put some blame on him too. I’m sure Del Rio hired Norton Jr. as a first-time coordinator so the defensive head coach could still have some say in the day-to-day operations of the defense.

I don’t want to overlook the Raiders terrible defensive standings. However, let’s remember this team played with a ton of defensive linemen and linebackers. On-field adjustments are difficult when you go through three starting middle linebackers and play callers via Ben Heeney, Cory James and Pat Riley Jr.

It is hard to do anything when your interior players are either true defensive ends or out of shape. Denico Autry, Jihad Ward, Mario Edwards Jr., Dan Williams, Justin Ellis, Darius Latham, and Stacy McGee all took turns playing injured and inconsistent.

As for coverage, the Raiders lost their nickel corner to injured reserve and went through three starting strong safeties. You can blame play calling for poor coverage assignments, but corners David Amerson and Sean Smith are paid well enough. They should cover anyone via any scheme.

I’m not saying Ken Norton Jr. doesn’t deserve any blame, but he does not deserve all of it. This team featured new starters at both safeties, corner, two linebackers spots and two defensive line positions. Give Norton Jr. a break. These guys should improve with playoff experience and another year in the scheme.

There is no better replacement

Don’t give me your Wade Phillips rumors. No disrespect to him, he is a great football mind.. However, the Raiders need a coördinator who is more connected with their players like Norton Jr.

The only name that might be better is Gus Bradley, who also has a Seahawks pedigree.

Remember, Del Rio has maintained that he is building a winning culture. Part of that culture includes updating the facilities and playing music at practice. Another part of it is winning.

Phillips may know about defense and winning, but they do not know about this new Raiders culture. Del Rio does not need the old heads stepping on his toes.

Further, Norton Jr. and Del Rio played and coached together. Entering a third season with the Raiders, the duo will develop more chemistry and make better adjustments next season.

The team could roll the dice on an internal candidate, but you’re still talking about a team adjusting to a new leader and play caller. Let the defense continue to develop under Norton Jr. in 2017.

The defense will improve in 2017

https://twitter.com/RaiderNation_x/status/816795141474320384

I get the frustration. The defense did not make a sack in the last three games. They failed to rise to the occasion in the last regular season game versus the Denver Broncos and against the Texans.They also did not recover a couple of fumbles versus Houston.

Plus, the defense did not grow enough in year two of Norton Jr. This is especially true when you factor in offseason additions like draft picks Jihad Ward, Karl Joseph and Cory James and free agents Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson.

Still, championships are not won in free agency. The Raiders should finally address the middle of their defense with the No. 24 pick in the NFL Draft.

Expect them to take a linebacker and/or defensive tackle with the first couple of picks, like I’ve said for three seasons.

Del Rio even admitted that the team did not get enough push in the middle via ESPN. He called out the whole defensive tackle group for not being factors this season.

Therefore, this team will get better when they get some consistency at middle backer and defensive tackle.

Plus, the Raiders should see Aldon Smith finally reinstated. That could allow Bruce Irvin or Khalil Mack to concentrate more on linebacker duties.

Further, Smith’s presence on the edge may slide Jihad Ward or Mario Edwards Jr. into full-time defensive tackle play. Both players could use some bulk to better anchor against the run, but they both have the god-given traits to terrorize guards in a pass rush situation.

Additionally, I expect Joseph and James to improve with another year in the system.

In the end, I believe Ken Norton Jr. deserves some blame for the poor defensive play. However, firing Norton Jr. will not solve all the Raiders problems. Give him one more season so this unit can develop together.

Good teams do not fire their defensive coordinators. The Raiders are finally a perennial playoff team and firing Norton would only set them back.

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.

Oakland Raiders: Midseason Awards

The Oakland Raiders (7-2) entered their bye week with a first place spot in the AFC West, fresh off a win over their AFC West rival the Denver Broncos.

It was a long week for Raiders Nation. Besides not having a game last week, they watched as the Kansas City Chiefs and Broncos both escaped with narrow victories.

Nonetheless, the Raiders have a lot to celebrate over the first half of their season. Headed into a Monday Night Football game versus the Houston Texans in Mexico City, it is time to hand out some awards.

Unlike other Midseason Awards, I will not keep this team specific. The Raiders are on the national stage and their players deserve consideration for NFL recognition.

MVP: Derek Carr

The Raiders are tied for the best record in the AFC West, and Derek Carr deserves a lot of credit. He led game-winning drives against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints. He also helped the team close out games versus the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens. He’s thrown 17 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. Carr is also on pace to throw for more than 4,500 yards in the season.

Candidates Ezekiel Elliott, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan all get consideration for this award. However, Brady missed four games. Elliott plays behind a dominant offensive line and Ryan could drop off in the second half of the season. Carr has a case for midseason MVP, and it should not be that close.

Offensive Player of Midseason: Derek Carr

Clearly, Carr is a candidate for the offensive player of the year award if he is an option for overall MVP.

Granted, Amari Cooper is having a great year. The Raiders defense would not be the same without him.

However, Cooper and Crabtree should both surpass 1,000 receiving yards. That is due to Carr.

The Raiders quarterback also shattered a franchise record for passing attempts and yards. He’s won AFC Player of the Week twice.

Even if you give the MVP of midseason to another player in the league, you must make Carr the offensive player of the year. He leads a Raiders offense that ranks No. 5 in yards per game and No. 6 in total points. Carr also owns one of the best touchdowns to interceptions ratio in the NFL.

Defensive Player of Midseason: Khalil Mack

Khalil Mack turned his season around by registering six sacks in four games. That puts him on pace for 14 this season. PFF ranks Mack as one of the best edge players this season.

Von Miller is also in the conversation. Aaron Donald may be as well. Both of those players may have a better argument because their defensive units rank better than the Raiders in most categories.

Thus far, Miller has 9.5 sacks and Donald has five sacks. Donald faces a disadvantage for the award because he plays inside, where he gets fewer opportunities to sack the quarterback. Also, Donald’s Rams seem most unlikely to make the playoffs.

Therefore, Mack’s shot at this award lies with the entire defense. Currently, Oakland ranks 16th in total points and fifth in most defensive yards per game. If Mack wants to win the NFL DPOY award, he must help turn those stats around. Taking the AFC West from the Broncos could also help Mack claim the award from Miller’s hands.

Rookie of the Year: Karl Joseph

Rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott make it hard for Joseph to win this award on a national scale.

Joey Bosa’s four sacks and Leonard Floyd’s five sacks make it hard for Joseph to win the defensive edition too. Also, Deion Jones also has a couple of interceptions, a touchdown and a gang of tackles.

Joseph’s best argument centers around his one interception and holding the second highest tackles mark on the team. Joseph did not start the first three games of the season, but he can easily win this award with a few interceptions.

Coach of the Year: Jack Del Rio

Listen, I don’t care what Jason Garrett is doing with his rookies. I don’t care how many times Bill Belichick can win this award. I don’t care what Gus Bradley is doing in his own franchise turnaround.

Jack Del Rio deserves this award, especially if he ends the Raiders 14-year playoff drought. Del Rio turned around the losing culture in Oakland. He brought them back into the national spotlight with some of his gambling playcalls.

Del Rio’s biggest obstacle for this award revolves around that struggling defense. Afterall, Del Rio is a defensive coach.

Biggest Disappointment: Clive Walford

Sean Smith has made enough plays to get himself out of this conversation. Instead, we can award it to our second-year tight end. Fantasy football experts hyped him up as our third passing target. Unfortunately, he only has one touchdown catch and is barely on pace to eclipse his rookie totals for catches and yards.

You could add some players like Dan Williams or Menelik Watson into this list. That is partly because they have not commanded the roles of full-time starters. Williams for his condition and Watson for the nagging injuries.

However, Walford was suppossed to become elite. He’s barely progressing.

Remember, they do call this the Not-For-Long league. Therefore, I gotta imagine there is a bigger bust somewhere in the league.

Oakland Raiders: Turn up or Turn Down from Week 4

The Oakland Raiders secured their third road victory of the 2016 season via a defeat of the previously undefeated Baltimore Ravens. Here are more lessons from the 28-27 victory.

Turn Up: 3-1 overall record for the 2016 season.

Forget the fact that Oakland won all three games by a single score. The Raiders have their best start since 2002, the same year they won the AFC title.  Not to mention, the team seems poised for their first winning season since that year. That all sounds like  cause for celebrations.

Turn up: The Special Teams

Marquette King registered the best-graded game ever rated by Pro Football Focus. Jalen Richard also added a 47-yard punt return. Special teams really gave the Raiders an edge in the one-point contest versus the Ravens. Especially when Devin Hester sparked his team with a few nice returns, the Silver and Black needed to execute on special teams.

That is exactly what head coach Jack Del Rio said in Monday’s press conference.

“All three phases playing complementary football, impacting the game, and it’s about us and our team, and what we’re able to do when those three phases work together like that. That’s a great example of it.” Del Rio said.

Let’s see more sparks via corner punts and long returns as the season continues.

Turn Down: The talks about an elite offense

Oakland played an efficient game on offense. Derek Carr threw four touchdown passes and went 25 of 35 for 199 yards. The leading rusher was DeAndre Washington with 30 yards on five carries. Plus, the unit only converted a quarter of their third down attempts.

Obviously, the Silver and Black will take the win. However, we need to see more from the rushing attack before this unit becomes elite. An example of this includes Baltimore winning the time of possession category by more than 9 minutes. It could help not having a rookie like Vandal Alexander at right tackle. Some of his penalties killed the team. An improved rushing attack also makes for more easily managed third downs.

Either way, Oakland still ranks in the top 10 as far as offensive averages for rushing and passing. They just need a little better execution to become an elite unit.

Turn Down: Defensive hype

 

Yes, the Raiders defense came up with a four-and-out stop in the final two minutes before winning on the road. Yes, Bruce Irvin got a strip-sack and Khalil Mack got his first sack of the year in the fourth quarter. Plus, the team pressured Joe Flacco all day.

https://twitter.com/blackhanside/status/783100760800178176

However, Ravens running back slashed through the Raiders defense for 113 yards on 21 carries. Joe Flacco also got 298 yards, even if it took him more than 50 attempts. Also, 37-year-old Steve Smith caught 8 balls for 111 yards and 1 touchdown.

Clearly, Oakland has a long way to go before the unit is actually good. They still rank last in total yards and average per pass. They are also second to last in opponent rushing yards per game.

It is great that the Silver and Black can rely on their team to make plays when it matters. Nonetheless, it would be great if they made plays through the entire game.

Turn Down: The Penalties

Overall, the Raiders have had too many penalties. They are No. 1 in offensive penalties with 43. They are in the top-five as far as defensive penalties too.

The margin for error is so low in the NFL. Oakland can not keep winning these one score games if they consistently lead in the penalty category.

Blame it on the Raiders-bias if you want. However, the Raiders need to look themselves in the mirror and execute better. This is especially true for an offensive line that is too good for holding calls and false starts.

Turn Up: D.J. Hayden in the nickel corner.

Hayden played 70 percent of the team’s snaps despite not starting in the base defense. He made six tackles and defensed one pass. Not to mention, he made some hits.

We’ve grown so much, man,” Hayden said. “As far as our execution; we’re playing smarter. We’re just out there playing. We’re not thinking, we’re just reacting.”

Considering how many fans were ready to write him off, we should definitely celebrate that Hayden is coming into his own  via the inside corner spot.

 

Raiders Rants: D.J. Hayden, Mario Edwards, Karl Joseph, Matt McGloin & more

The Oakland Raiders finished minicamp a couple of weeks ago. Here is my take on the biggest headlines since then.

Matt McGloin

Raiders QB Matt McGloin started minicamp as the No. 3 quarterback, behind Connor Cook.

My Take: It should not come as a surprise. McGloin was drafted by the previous regime. He is a game manager at best. Let’s see what we got in Cook. All reports indicate he looks good.

Karl Joseph

  • Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said this secondary is more talented than last season’s crop.
  • Norton Jr. said Raiders rookie Karl Joseph is a stick of dynamite, because of his explosiveness via film.

My Take: Norton Jr.’s comments are in line with what everyone has said about the Raiders secondary. However, they need to get healthy. We gotta see it on the field, because they haven’t played together yet due to injuries.

D.J. Hayden

Speaking of the Raiders secondary, head coach Jack Del Rio said D.J. Hayden had a good spring. He said he was excited about Hayden’s development.

My Take: I’ve made it a point to defend Hayden. I’m glad the Raiders are doing so as well. It is clear he will have the first shot at winning the slot corner position.

Max McCaffrey

My Take: Max McCaffrey made a name for himself this spring. That is a lot considering he is the son of a Broncos great and brother to a Stanford great. McCaffrey should be one of the leads to breakout as an UDFA this year. Think Seth Roberts, Andre Holmes, and Rod Streater mold.

Read more on dude here.

Pro Football Focus

  • The popular stats website graded Khalil Mack as the No. 6 overall player in the league.
  • Other Raiders like Amari Cooper and Derek Carr also made the list.

My Take: Shout out to the Raiders finally catching some respect.

Kick Returners

  • Apparently, the Raiders will keep the status quo at the returner positions.
  • T.J. Carrie is expected to keep his job as the punt returner, while Taiwan Jones will return kickoffs.

My Take: No surprise here. Both Jones and Carrie could see reduced roles at their normal positions. Carrie is no longer a starter at CB and Jones could lose his spot as RB No. 2. Both dudes are athletes who should make great contributions on special teams still.

Mario Edwards Jr.

Mario Edwards participated in minicamp. His status was questionable with an undisclosed neck injury.

My Take: Good for Edwards. He should breakout with more talent around him on defense. He balled as a rookie, until injuries cut his season short.

 

 

 

 

Reaction to Raiders’ first official depth chart

Depth Chart via Raiders.com.
Depth Chart via Raiders.com.

The Oakland Raiders released their first depth chart, Aug. 10. Headlining some of the surprises are some position changes and incumbents who have fallen behind because of injuries.

Khalil Mack shocked a lot of people, because he is listed as DE. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who follows the team, because they have been adamant about him rushing the passer. My worries are about his long-term development. How many times did Jacksonville need a DE when JDR was head coach there?

Speaking of high draft-picks. D.J. Hayden claimed his rightful spot a top the depth chart. Then again, it shouldn’t be an accomplishment for the player drafted No. 12 in 2013. Moreover, it is a testament to the lack of talent the Raiders have at the position. Regardless, Hayden has displayed the right mentality so far in the offseason. Hayden said he plans to play all-out, without worrying about mistakes.

Then there were the snubbs. Rod Streater has yet to practice in training camp, so it is no surprise he has fallen behind. The Raiders have signed lots of competition at the position. Streater has the versatility to reclaim the spot, however, the coaching staff needs to see it.

Other injured players tumbling include Sio Moore. He is listed as a Will linebacker on the depth chart. The Will and Sam have some slightly different specifics, but I think Moore is better fitted at the Sam. Either way, he faces a tough challenge getting back into the starter role. Ray-Ray Armstrong has the coaching staff praising him constantly. Then there is the starting Will, former Super Bowl MVP, former Trojan and Seahawk Malcolm Smith. Smith’s versatility in coverage better suits the other two linebackers. Plus, Ken Norton Jr. is familiar with him from Seattle.

How about the Raiders other top position battles?

Well, the right tackle position has pretty much been Menelik Watson’s to lose. The former second round pick is listed as the starter, despite missing some time. Austin Howard and his $6 million dollars who? The tight end position will probably be an on-going one, throughout the season.

Mychael Rivera is listed as a No. 2, despite media praising him as a camp stand-out. His chemistry with Derek Carr gives him an advantage over the rookie third round pick Clive Watford. However, Lee Smith is the one getting the nod for the first pre-season bout. The primary blocker listed as a starter probably has more to do with the offense’s commitment to running the ball then anything else.

Remember Trent Richardson? Vic Tafur said his chances of making the team were 50/50, but I would put them higher. Helu is currently listed as the No. 2 runner behind Latavius Murray. However, Helu is primarily a receiving back. With Marcel Reece and Rivera taking most of the snaps at H-back, Helu might be repetitive. Maybe, just maybe, Richardson can seize the spot. The slimmed down Richardson has too much potential not to.

Yes, it is only preseason. Lets not read into these too much just yet. Not to be corny, but it is not where you start on the depth chart, but where you finish. The Raiders will sort out their depth chart more in a preseason game against the Rams.