A win and more draft busting

Last week the Oakland Raiders beat the Arizona Cardinals in a close game. Nothing to boast about considering the Cardinals started a rookie QB who the Raiders basically traded to Arizona for nothing. Still, Oakland’s defense made enough plays to win the game.

Of course, that cost the Raiders in the race for the No. 1 pick. The Cardinals are in the driver seat for the top pick with that loss.

Derek Carr doubled down on the team’s success by saying he wants to continue winning games. Carr said he wants people to be mad at him for ruining the team’s chances at a top pick.

See this wouldn’t be a big deal if the Raiders hadn’t traded two of their best draft pieces. Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack were both trade for first round picks. However, the homegrown talent now has their current team’s in the playoff race. Mack has the Bears looking like a Super Bowl caliber defense. Dallas is back in the playoff picture since acquiring Cooper. That means Oakland’s added draft capital is going to come in the middle to back end of the draft. It’s hard to find impact players that late especially when you consider both Mack and Cooper were top five picks.

Nonetheless, Carr needs to just play good. Forget the wins and losses, Carr just needs to elevate his game and prove us wrong that way. We’ve seen what Carr can do with no talent around him. He’s not that kind of player.

Sure, it’s not all his fault he’ll beat his brothers record for the most losses in their first five seasons. However, he doesn’t not deserve blame either.

The point is, Carr needs great players around him. That’s what the Raiders did in 2016. Unfortunately, I don’t know if they’ll be able to get that talent around him again before his confidence gets ruined on another losing team. The draft is crap shoot and the Raiders would need to hit instantly on all three picks to look like a contender next year. They’ve abandoned too much draft capital over the past few years so they lack talent in many places on the roster.

If Carr really wants to prove people wrong, he better elevate his game. DC is my boi and he would be great on another team with talent. He has the great leadership and talent to thrive somewhere he isn’t the focal point. Carr lacks that ball placement, pocket poise and decision making you want in an elite QB.

That means, Carr must use these next six games to show he’s an elite player and convince Jon Gruden he doesn’t need to draft a QB. Otherwise, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Raiders cash in their very good player for the chance at a great one in the draft.

The key to stopping Lamar Jackson

In other news, it’s looking more like Lamar Jackson will make his second start this week versus the Raiders. Jackson had the most rushing yards for a QB since Colin Kaepeenick. Jackson also showed some throwing ability which shouldn’t be a surprise given his history as a Heisman Trophy winner.

This is probably going to be a real challenge for the Raiders who have already lacked pass rush and discipline across the defensive line. Expect Baltimore to do a lot of misdirection to keep the Raiders defense on their toes. Containing a dual threat player like Jackson means applying pressure but also being discipline when plays breakdown. Players like Arden Key have got to step up.

Key has the length and acceleration to be a real disruptive player. However, he’s gotta work on his awareness. That will be tested this week as the Ravens rely on spread option and play action concepts meant to take advantage of Key’s aggression.

If Key can stay in his lane and react well, he should get some opportunities to make plays versus another rookie. Either Way, the Raiders have their hands full with Jackson in front of his home crowd. He can use one play to ignite his whole team which makes him a true phenom.

Other things to watch versus the Ravens

Seems like the Raiders have played the Ravens every year the past few seasons. Last year’s matchup ended in a narrow win for Baltimore but the Raiders won the previous two season’s close contests. This game should also be close. The Ravens looked like a contender than lost a bunch before Jackson emerged as a new hope.

Now, they’ll play an Oakland team off a nice win and looking like they finally have a bit of an identity. We can’t forget Michael Crabtree playing against his old team. However, most of the team and coaches he new left with the changing of the guard.

Regardless, the Raiders secondary looked improve last week. The Ravens receivers have been hot and cold. That will be a key matchup of inconsistent players.

2016 Minicamp Quick Updates

The Oakland Raiders wrapped up minicamp this past weekend. Here is what you need to know from the three-day event. 17 undrafted free agents and 20 try-out players participated in the event, as well as some of the Raiders drafted rookies.

Jihad Ward

All reports indicate that Ward is as good as advertised. He was flying around camp, playing fast and being an imposing force.

More importantly, the second round pick remained healthy. Some teams questioned if Ward would need another knee surgery, but the Raiders gave him a clean bill of health.

Max McCaffery

McCaffery was already one of the Raiders biggest UDFA names because of his last name.

The Duke product still needs polishing in the weight room, but his ability to catch the ball was on full display throughout camp.

Connor Cook

All signs say that the Raiders got a steal in Connor Cook. Multiple sources say Cook was impressive in camp.

Of course, it is still shirts and shorts season. It will be interesting if Cook can carry his performance into padded practices.  Could he beat out Matt McGloin for second string duties? Either way, Cook is a great backup option.

Jaydon Mickens

The Washington product is another receiver that shined in camp. Mickens is undersized but he could bring value as a returner. He also comes from years of production at Washington. However, he did not make the roster so far.

Shilique Calhoun

The versatile Michigan state linemen should lineup with his hand in the ground and standing up. That is much of what he did in minicamp. He should fill in until Aldon Smith comes in.

James Cowser

Cowser is a little older for a rookie at 25-years-old. However, he made an impression with his passion, leadership and noticeable hair.

Darius Latham

Latham is a big body, but he also moves well. He could be the next undrafted linemen to dominate for the Raiders… cough.. Denico Autry.

Again, none of this really matters until real training camp begins next month. Still, it is good to see the Raiders adding some practice, depth and talent.

Hopefully, Karl Joseph can get back after training camp. The first round pick should steal all the spotlight.

*All information via Raiders.com.





Reviewing the Oakland Raiders NFL Draft


The Oakland Raiders entered the draft with most of their starters set, but glaring needs for depth across the roster. How did they do with their picks? Why did they make the selections that they did?

Jack Del Rio and Reggie McKenzie shared insights onto their picks. As a bonus, I’ve also recapped my thoughts on the picks since the dust settled on the NFL Draft.

S Karl Joseph, West Virginia (No. 14 overall)
McKenzie: “You can feel his toughness. He has a very aggressive mentality. He’s versatile. He can play all over the field, and he’ll run and hit anything that moves.”

Del Rio: “We just think he’s a really good football player, and he’ll have an infectious kind of personality and demeanor about himself. So, [we’re] really excited to get our hands on him and looking forward to working with him.”

My take: Initially felt like the Raiders reached on a 5’11 strong safety coming off of a knee injury. However, the Falcons took Keanu Neal at No. 17, so the safety position was in demand. Heard nothing but good things about Jospeh’s mental processing and competitive toughness. His selection fills the biggest gap on the roster. Excited to see what he can do. 

DL Jihad Ward, Illinois (No. 44 overall)
Del Rio: “ He has played all the way out as a nine technique all the way down to into a three technique. He has been exposed to a lot of football. And, defensive line is not as complex as playing quarterback. We think we can help him grow as a player and we like what we are starting with.”

My take: Again, felt like the Raiders reached for Ward. I liked some of the other defensive tackles like Andrew Billings and Jonathan Bullard on the board at this point. However, Ward is extremely versatile. Not only did he play across the d-line at Illinois, but he played safety and receiver at the lower levels. Ward brings top-level athleticism which will push Mario Edwards Jr. and the rest of the defensive unit. Glad they took someone to improve the depth in the pass rush. 

Edge rusher Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State (No. 75 overall)
Del Rio: “He’s a very productive young man, really understands how to rush the quarterback. He’s been an All-American and he’s been a very productive guy at a good college program. ”

My take: Calhoun was a great value at this point in the draft. Even though the Raiders took Ward, they should use Calhoun as a hybrid linebacker. He should learn a lot behind Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith. I hope he can improve coverage skills as he may need to play some Sam linebacker. Either way, I like players like Calhoun who showed lots of leadership and production for winning programs in college. 

QB Connor Cook, Michigan State (No. 100 overall)
McKenzie: “ “Derek (Carr)’s our quarterback. Whoever we bring in, we’re just looking [at] can he help us? Can he add to the depth? Can he help our team? That was the only reason we went after him. Leadership issues, that was of no concern.”

My take: Again, this was a case of selecting the best player available. The Raiders traded up and got a player that could develop into some nice trade bait. Regardless, the Raiders only have Matt McGloin under contract for this season. Hence, there was a need to develop a backup quarterback. Cook brings production and a solid NFL arm to the Raiders scout team.

RB DeAndre Washington, Texas Tech (No. 143 overall)
McKenzie: “He’s the one guy that every time we watched him play, it was very difficult for the first guy to get him down. He had power, quickness and he had speed. He was the kind of the guy that can do it all. ”

My take: I liked some other running backs in this draft like Paul Perkins. However, everyone talks about Washington’s versatility. Remember the Raiders got Latavius Murray late in the draft. Maybe they struck gold again in Washington. He will push Taiwan Jones and Roy Helu for playing time early.

LB Cory James, Colorado State (No. 194 overall)
McKenzie: “He has played a lot of positions. We’ll see. For the beginning, we’ll let him play off the ball and see if he can play weakside linebacker, teach him both inside linebacker spots, and nickel. But he’s definitely going to have to try to make his money on special teams.”

My take: At this point in the draft, teams look for special teams guys who might develop into something more. James fills that role. Seems like a quality athlete with a decent motor. I trust Reggie McKenzie, Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton Jr. when it comes to linebackers. The Raiders did well with Neiron Ball and Ben Heeney, last year. 

OL Vadal Alexander, Louisiana State (No. 234 overall)
McKenzie: “(I was surprised he slipped in the draft), because big guys, they usually get taken. We felt really good about that and we like big people. He’s going to work both (guard and tackle). The versatility is what we liked about him.”

My take: The Raiders got lucky at this point. They found a big body and versatile player in the final round. He also fills the depth need on the offensive line with experience at guard and tackle. Plus, all that I’ve read says that he should have gotten drafted way earlier than this. 

*All quotes via Scott Bair.