No Trap or Revenge Needed in Week 3 Vs Miami

Is it really different this time?

The Raiders are 2-0 much like last season. This time their defense is receiving a lot more praise off standout performances from Solomon Thomas, Carl Nassib, Maxx Crosby, and more. 

Also, Derek Carr is getting a lot more praise and recognition this time around. Dude is already amidst lots of MVP conversations. The Raiders are also doing it in Las Vegas and with fans in the building. Much different than last year’s COVID season.

How Did We Get Here?

Listen, I’ll take beating the Steelers any day. However, we got to acknowledge that they were down two key starters with Devin Bush and Joe Haden out. Trai Turner left the game due to his own B.S.

One side of the coin, the Raiders beat two tough AFC North teams which will be critical for playoff seeding. The other side, the Raiders beat two overrated AFC teams with major injuries.

Either way, it’s clear the Steelers are a solid team. I think they took more lateral steps this year than many expected. However, many said the same thing about Baltimore last week. The Ravens just answered any questions about their contention by upsetting the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football.

There were a lot of things to love about Sunday’s win. Trayvon Mullen made a crucial pick that reminded us all our DBs are actually legit now. Casey Hayward still ain’t given up a reception.

Solomon Thomas came up big with two sacks. Mad Maxx Crosby kept up his pressures and hits on the QBs. The run defense improved thanks partly to K.J. Wright. They held Pittsburgh’s key rookie rusher to under 40 yards for the game. Starting tight end Eric Ebron was a non-factor for the Steelers thanks to improved linebacker and safety play.

On offense, Carr was 28/37 with no interceptions. The Raiders quarterback earned his MVP consideration all week. More importantly, he was 4/4 on deep passes. Carr lead PFF and ESPN advanced QB metrics last week.

Henry Ruggs also eclipsed 100 receiving yards and scored a touchdown. Daniel Carlson converted a game winning field goal and had his highest scoring game in his young career.

Otherwise, there were some ugly moments. The tussle between Turner and Crosby earned them both fines this week. Najee Harris stiff-armed Johnathan Abrams’ soul. The Raiders gave up some deep plays to the Steelers.

Our Silver and Black never really established the run game either. The offensive line played well enough but they were far from perfect.

Keys Versus the Dolphins

Don’t call Week Three a trap game. Yes, the Raiders are favored. Nonetheless, Vegas will need to show they can beat a struggling team without struggling. This will make Raiders Nation feel like things are finally different this time.

We also can’t forget the Dolphins lead a miraculous comeback that ended the Raiders’ playoff chances when these two teams played last year. Carr didn’t play in that game last season but this time the Dolphins will be down their starter. Jon Gruden still won’t call this game a revenge game since Ryan Fitzpatrick is long gone.

Regardless, Miami damn near got mercy-ruled last week as the Bills gave them a 35-0 loss. Tua left the game with a ribs injury and Jacoby Brissett entered. Brissett will make his first start since 2019 after throwing an interception in limited action last week. He should find himself under constant pressure as the Raiders defensive line comes to town.

Miami has not done anything too scary on offense this season. Still, Davante Parker is a big name and he brings a big body that should give the Raiders some problems in the end zone. They’ve got a phenomenal rookie and Will Fuller should return this week too. Vegas will have to respect Brissett’s legs and Mike G. at tight end. Yet, the Dolphins have yet to find a featured back.

On defense, Miami features a solid mix of young players and veterans. Corners Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are among the highest paid duo in the league. You add veteran safeties Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty, along with nickel Justin Coleman. This young Raiders receiver group will get tested. There’s a reason why some think this can be a trap game.

Moreover, Christian Wilkins is a beast. John Jenkins and Emmanuel Ogbah compromise a versatile front that could cause problems for the Raiders offensive line that features some inexperienced players due to injuries.

This team is also well coached with Brian Flores. Also, shout out to former Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie who has been a part of the Miami front office since leaving Oakland.

Keys To Beating the Phins

If the Raiders want to beat the Dolphins, they have to establish their identity. That means running the ball effectively enough to get short second and third downs. It means converting downfield shots without turning the ball over. The Raiders have done that for the most part the last few weeks.

Now, their offensive line must step up and do it against a tricky Miami front. They can’t take any steps back just because they are the favorites. We can’t kill ourselves with penalties or let them hang in the game.

One-on-one, the Raiders young receiver corps face a tough matchup versus the Dolphins. They can answer any questions about the group with a solid games versus the Phins. Vegs should win if Carr can continue his efficiency while also stretching the field. Again, Carr’s success will rely on the success of his young receivers, offensive line and hobbled backfield.

This is also a prove-it game for the Raiders’ secondary and defensive line that is capturing national attention for their turnaround. Don’t let Miami find their rhythm in the run game or gain confidence with big scramble plays or pass completions.

Even if he wasn’t the Week One starter, Brissett is not a bad player. He could expose the team if they don’t play discipline. The Vegas defense can’t have any lapses versus a hobbled Miami offense that appears subpar on paper. It’s about establishing their dominance with turnovers and big hits but also playing with enough discipline to keep the Phins from having a chance.

Ultimately, the Raiders can prove they are not the same team that collapsed in the second half of the last two seasons by dominating a team they should beat at home. They can show their defense is real by a third straight strong performance from the defensive line, along with continued consistency in the secondary and increasingly improved play by the backer.

Offensively, this young group should benefit by many reps versus a stout Dolphins defense. It is up to them to prove themselves in the trenches and one-on-one from the outside. We know what Carr and Waller will bring in terms of efficiency. Kenyan Drake could also use a big game on the ground versus the team that drafted him. Drake has been a weapon in the air but the Raiders will need him to make some big rushing plays as Jacobs continues battling injury.

The Raiders handling the Dolphins should continue building playoff momentum and rhythm for the young Raiders offense and defense. It’s a chance for a statement made over a team that narrowly edged them out over some B.S. last year. A statement that says we aren’t just the same Raiders as last year. Plus, who doesn’t want to be 3-0 heading into Chargers week on Monday Night?

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Petty Pete’s thoughts on Steelers win, McKenzie, stadium woes and this week

They say trauma is passed down. If you’re a Raiders fan, you know this by your hate for the Steelers. Unless you read up or watch ESPN classic, you might not know why.

Once upon a time, the Raiders and Steelers has battles in the playoffs. They were physical teams who hit each other and kept hitting each other.

There are multiple classics including the emasculate deception. Nonetheless, as a Raiders fan on this era you might hate the Steelers and not even know why.

That’s why a win over the Steelers feels so good. And that’s also why it felt so weird for Reggie McKenzie to get fired the next day after a big win over a playoff contender.

Why Reggie McKenzie got fired

Reggie McKenzie got fired for a lot of reasons. Mostly, his draft picks.

McKenzie dropped the ball in every second round. He passed on Pro Bowlers throughout. McKenzie only had nine picks on this roster.

Then, there’s the Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack trades. Both players were among RM’s top successes. The Raiders asked McKenzie to trade his favorites because the team wasn’t ready for limelight. Most of that was because Mark Davis didn’t get along with the agent of Mack and Cooper.

Turns out McKenzie could’ve got more. In fact, it turns out Davis wish he got more. What took him all season to realize that?

Speaking of power struggles, we can’t act like Gruden didn’t have a say in this move. Dude got a ten million dollar per year deal to bring Oakland a Super Bowl. He’s gonna be given as much support as possible including his own personnel, scouting and front offices.

All that aside, we got to be thankful for Reggie being the bridge. He got marquee free agents to seriously consider Oakland. A few signed.

McKenzie notoriously got the Raiders out of salary cap hell after Al Davis. He brought the organizations technology and facility out of the dark ages. RM was a small peace of consistency in an organization that needed it in the fallout of losing their iconic owner.

He got us back to the playoffs. Fans loved him. Fans hated him. He signed team friendly deals. He found solid starters and good backups in the late and undrafted rounds.

McKenzie is respected around the league. He was drafted by the Raiders and groomed in Green Bay’s front office. McKenzie turned down an interview for his dream job with the Packers because he believed in Gruden and the Raiders. That was his biggest undoing.

Moving forward

No GM and now no home. It’s uncertain where the Raiders will play next year. They’re being sued by the City of Oakland for a number of reasons mostly that they’re leaving. Now, the Raiders are including every option from Sacramento to Reno to San Diego to Fresno to Glendale.

I get it from both sides. The Raiders are supposably paying anywhere from 2 to 7 million in rent. Oakland will always be their home. The colors and logo were designed based off the city. They’ve always been a cultural icon that connects the different consciousnesses in the Bay. They want to stay but they can’t play where their playing. Vegas was willing to build them a billion dollar home and Oakland wasn’t.

For Oakland, I get it too. California isn’t building stadiums. We’ve got too many taxes already. The city hasn’t even paid off the renovations they did for the Raiders to return in the 90s. They’re also loyal to the A’s who also need a home but never left Oakland.

At the same time, they can’t just sit back and let the Raiders and Warriors leave Oakland within a few years. The lawsuit is an easy PR move.

Either way, the Raiders better leave if their smart. It’s going to get ugly next year if they don’t make leaps and gains. No Marshawn Lynch homecoming or Gruden return can save their relationship with a city they’re turning their back on for the second time.

It doesn’t appear they’re gonna make a lot of on-field gains next year. I fully anticipate the Raiders will continue the purge of players signed and drafted by McKenzie. They’ll field a bunch of their draft picks again. They’ll tank again to get a high draft pick before Vegas. They’ll trade anyone who can get them closer to that goal. Then they’ll get booed every step of the way.

Back to football

The Raiders favs the Bengals this week. It’ll be the second time they face a coaching staff with Hue Jackson. Jackson was fired from the Browns this season and he’s on the Bengals now.

Still, the Raiders can completely end the Bengals playoff hopes. They very well might end the Marvin Lewis era too.

To win, the Raiders will need to continue improving their offense. They’ll need to show some sort of pass rush. It’s the same thing that’s been said all season long.

Bye Week Blues: Coop Gone and More

Listen, it’s been a couple of weeks since I have written here. How can you blame me? What should I say after our season’s first win came in OT of a toilet bowl versus the Browns? Or after that embarrassment to the Chargers in a defacto home game? Or that ass whooping in a London game that got yanked off TV?

My mom told me if I don’t have anything nice to say then I shouldn’t say anything.

This week was supposed to be different. A bye week means we didn’t lose. It means that adjustments are coming and hopefully a surge towards relevancy. Unfortunately, we got some bye week blues today.

Gruden Strikes again

Man, oh man, another week and another franchise player moved unexpectedly. It was only a few years ago that Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack were seen as exemplary, elite and franchise players. I remember the last time I was in the Coliseum. Hearing those, “COOOOOOOPPPPPP!!” chants was an experience. Now, both are gone from the roster.

Cooper’s trade isn’t the same as Mack. With Mack, the Raiders gave up on a contract situation and generational talent way too early. With Cooper, they realized he was wasting away on their roster and cashed in asset before they couldn’t get equal value.

This past season was the first time I’ve noticeably seen Cooper frustrated. He argued with Carr a few times and other times they looked out of a sink. You could see Coop’s body language wasn’t the most engaged even if he never said anything publicly.

Statistically, he’s had a fall from grace the past two seasons. Last year he had under 1,000 yards for the first time in his career and this year he only had 280 receiving yards on 32 targets in six games. Of course, you can’t blame that all on him. You’ve gotta look at how the play calling has changed as well as how QB and O-line played have declined in that same timeline. You also gotta watch how he is open on every play and how he can take it to the case on every damn play.

Stop Saying, Cooper, ain’t worth a first rounder

For real, it is getting corny. The Raiders did not pull a fast one as Cooper is worth a first-round pick. His two Pro Bowl seasons in 2015-16 alone prove that. Not to mention, his blocking, route running, mental processing and competitive toughness are second to few at his position. I don’t care if he doesn’t holdout every year, isn’t six-foot-five, actually catches a TD, doesn’t get hurt often or take pictures with Drake.

Personally, I would’ve asked for a first round pick and another player who can help now. Then again, I’m a stan who understands what Cooper brought to the field as a playmaker and leader. I’m also one who sides with stars and proven-commodities over draft picks because the draft is really a shot in the dark. I know how hard it is to find star players and I know what kind of hope they bring fans. The point is, teams hope they draft Amari Cooper each year and the Cowboys did what they could to make sure they got Amari Cooper.

I don’t even care about the drops or drop off in statistics because Cooper has proven he can play through that. He’s also been exactly what he was build. Sure, he isn’t gonna surprise you with his size or even his speed and jumping. However, he’s gonna bring it every single play. That’s the type of player you build around especially if you’re a locker room like the Cowboys which has way too much off-field and on-field drama. Cooper will shut up, play ball and he might teach that locker room something.

Moreover, he’s probably gonna be better this next season and a half than any rookie receiver who still has to adjust to the game. Hopefully, Dallas can get their line and QB situation figured out so Cooper can thrive and remind everyone that he is an elite receiver still. Dude is only 24 too so he is still getting better.

Fire Sale

Honestly, I’m happy Cooper is gone. He deserves better than Oakland. In fact, I’m hoping everyone with value gets traded. Derek Carr, Kelechi Osemele, Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson, KJ, BI, Gareon Conley and anyone else with value should be shopped. As much as I hate saying Goodbye, I’d rather see them get a chance somewhere else than sacrifice their bodies or waste away for a garbage team. The Raiders already command this draft with five picks combined in the first round of this year and next year’s drafts. They mine as well sell whatever they can for more picks and embrace the tank. I don’t see many bright spots on this roster anyways.

A team was formerly known as the Oakland Raiders

All that hard work for nothing. It seems like the Raiders were so close in 2016. Finally, Reggie McKenzie’s process was bearing fruit. All those waiting on draft picks, cutting dead money and not making trades was finally looking good. Remember, Carr, Cooper, Murray and Mack all in the 2015 Pro Bowl? That seems so far from now.

Honestly, the real loser in all this is Oakland. They’re the ones who have to watch this team the next half season and possibly next year. We were all told Gruden wanted to bring a Lombardi to the team on the timeline.

Now, it seems like that timeline is at least double. There are more voids on the roster than bright spots. We’re looking forward to drafting picks over Sundays. Our team continues to move on from previous draft picks. OK, stagnant veterans are being played over developmental players with even a little potential. All things we’ve experienced before.

Of course, that’s the issue. Raiders fans in these past two decades are experts on rebuilds. We know tanking and projects for sure. We’ve learned to accept them and ride anyways. However, we were told and are still being told this team wants to be competitive. We were baited and switched. Betrayed by our own. Gruden was the last great folk hero in our team’s historic legacy and he is letting us down. Our team seemed close and now it seems so far.

Gruden is insulting our intelligence and trying to run misdirection with our minds by making us think he isn’t tanking. He is giving more sound bites in press conferences than meaningful halftime adjustments. Gruden is cashing in what talent we had for assets that will complement his future ego. He is playing his rookies and giving up on young players who were established and developing.

The point is, Gruden clearly has some sort of plan and image. Unfortunately, it doesn’t align with what Raider Nation sees or feels. What would Al Davis think about his team abandoning franchise corner stones? What would he think about Jon Gruden having infinity gauntlet power in Oakland?

Maybe Al was right to trade away his egotistical boy-wonder of a coach in 2002? IT was hard to believe since he was suffering from his own stubbornness and game passing him bye. Ironically, Gruden’s second tenure is starting to feel more and more AL. Giving up on players too young the same way his owner gave up on him prematurely.

Then again, what does it mean to be a Raider nowadays anyways? Al has been gone almost a decade. The team has a handful of winning seasons this millennium. They’re abandoning their home, for the second and last time. It seems the Oakland Raiders are not only becoming physically extinct but maybe the aura and mystique are going away too. Maybe Gruden has that on the trading block too. Who knows anymore?

Either way, good luck at getting excited for watching Carr and the offensive line look like shells of their 2016 versions. Enjoy watching an overmatched defense battle for one half. Good luck looking for big plays from Jordie Nelson and hoping Martavis Bryant knows where to lineup. It’s gonna be a long final stretch for the city of Oakland. I hope fans show up just to boo. Not the players and dudes giving up their body but the front office that continues to let us down in the most tragic ways.

Petty Pete’s Points: Hue’s Revenge and more thoughts headed into Week Four

Once again, the Raiders are headed into a must win and they couldn’t have a more ironic game. The Browns come into town giving Baker Mayfield his first NFL Start. Hue Jackson also returns to Oakland riding the high of his first win in damn near two years.

Moreover, Hue returns to the team that fired him after an 8-8 season. There’s an argument that he deserved it because he abused his power and Reggie McKenzie was bent on changing the culture. Now, the entire culture that McKenzie built is in jeopardy with Jon Gruden now having the biggest salary, ego and shot-calling rights. Still, a loss here would signify that the entire seven seasons was a waste. Not only would it redeem Jackson as a coach but it may cost McKenzie his job as Gruden continue pointing fingers for this 0-4. A loss here could bring the Raiders full circle and back to square one. What a way to end an era and have the bottom fall out of a franchise… You couldn’t make up this much irony in a story.

Hue’s Revenge

Yes, a loss here would signify Hue Jackson’s revenge. It would prove the old man, Al Davis, was right when he believed Jackson could lead and team. Remember, Al took a chance on Hue after limited OC experience. Jackson was the last coach Davis would hire and he kept the team in the playoff hunt until the final week (Sorry, for the hard memories).

Still, Hue also got blackballed from head coaching jobs for a few years after the fall out of the Raiders.  A win for Hue might also lead Raiders fans to second guess why they even let the man go after a .500 season.

In Reggie we trust, right?

Well, now it appears Reggie and most of his guys are in the rear view like Hue was when Reggie came in. Karma is a b… but Reggie should understand a new head honcho bring in, ‘his guys,’ since that’s exactly what he did.

Moreover, you don’t have to be an NFL insider to understand what is happening in the Raiders locker room. There are reports that Gruden is already phasing out McKenzie and his guys in roster decisions. Gruden is listening to his own advisors and personnel people instead of McKenzie’s scouting and personnel people. McKenzie re-did that entire group when he came in not too long ago so I don’t think it would be a good thing to start over again.

Of course, you could make the argument that phasing out Reggie isn’t a bad thing. Fact is, he hasn’t drafted or developed well over the past few seasons. Mack was the best thing he ever did and he is gone. Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson, Amari Cooper and Karl Joseph were once seen as hits but they’ve regressed under Gruden so far. The jury is still out on Gareon Conley and other draft pick still on the roster. Otherwise, many draft picks aren’t on the roster anymore. Shout out to Jihad Ward, Mario Edwards Jr., David Sharpe, Obi Melifonwu and many more. The point is, maybe Gruden is justified in phasing out McKenzie who has only seen one winning season.

The Step Parents

Again, it isn’t that complicated to understand what is going on in Oakland. Anyone with step parents can understand how players favored by McKenzie might feel.

Gruden is the sexy, new stepdad swooning Mark Davis. Davis is so happy he is willing to give Gruden as much power as he wants. On one hand, you could stay loyal to the person that put you on the team, Reggie McKenzie, but you risk the backlash from Gruden or Davis in terms of losing your roster spot. You could also sellout and behave with the new sheriff in town.

Either way, it’s a conundrum where you get your ass beat either way. You can say Gruden ain’t my dad as much as you want and tell your mom that he ain’t it but that isn’t going to do anything but make you look immature. You can stay loyal to McKenzie but soon enough you’ll be out in the cold with him.

Ok, Back to Clevland

That’s enough family laundry. Let’s look into the actual game this week.


The offense is lead by the combination of Hue  Jackson and Todd Haley. What do these men have in common? A philosophy that has always included running the ball and using multiple backs. They’ll also use the RB as a pass catcher so expect Duke Johnson to see mismatches versus the Raiders all day. They will also take their shots downfield, especially with Antonio Callaway and David Njoku creating speed nightmares versus the Raiders safeties.

Moreover, I’d expect some adjustments this week. Cleveland should go full RG3 rookie year by utilizing Baker in bootleg play actions and plenty of reading options. The Raiders ends are undersized and overaggressive. They and their spin moves will get out of their passing lanes and lose contain. They also struggle to keep the edge as we learned with that jet sweep versus the Dolphins and the stretch play versus the Rams. Both Key and BI like to chase backside too so expect Baker to get some yards on keepers as well as the RBS having cutback seems for days. The Raiders ends will need to step up and pressure the QB without sacrificing their assignments if Oakland has any chance in this game.


Greg Williams has orchestrated a Super Bowl defense previously in New Orleans and set the foundation for another potential one in L.A. Either way, he’s in Cleveland now and finally putting together all of his athletes into a real defense. The Browns are top ten in points and top twelve in yards. They’ll get after the QB and create some turnovers.

Williams is notorious for taking chances with aggressive blitzes and coverages from a base 4-3 defense but they’re calculated risks. In this game, Williams should be able to lean on his front four to get a rush. Between Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah and Larry Ogunjobi. The Raiders offensive line has been stout but they’ll need to do more to finish drives. Oakland’s offense has mostly been dink and dunk but last week we saw them hit on some big plays. Still, they left too many points on the board. They will need to convert those especially as their defense wears down in the fourth quarter.

Ultimately, this won’t be an easy home win for either side of the ball but the Raiders need to figure out a way if they have any hopes of keeping the bottom from falling out of the season.

The Raiders already made their big splash

If you expected a marquee free agency signing or hoped for one like I did, you’re real disappointed with this week’s haul. It’s understandable since the Raiders signed a 33-year-old Jordy Nelson, four defensive starters from non-playoff teams, three reserve skill players you’ve never heard of and a long snapper.

This really shouldn’t be surprising since Oakland prefers to build through the draft. Plus, the Raiders already made their major move in free agency. That was signing head coach Jon Gruden.

Adding Gruden won’t impact the salary cap but it’s the marquee move of the free agent. If you were expecting a big name with dollars to upstage that you were setting yourself up for failure.

Yes, there’s no Suh, Honeybadger or Tru coming despite whatever source said that might happen.

Instead, Oakland will try to grab impact players in the draft. They’ll bank on Gruden coaching up mediocre plays. They will hope a new staff wit structure and scheme will help this team improve naturally.

Hopefully, there right. The regime will need to bat 1000 in the NFL Draft if they hope to construct a Super Bowl roster.

Plus, this team needs to win immediately as they’re facing relocation in a season or two. If this team stumbles out of the gate, expect a ton of hostile fans at home. They will cite this free agency and last season as examples of McKenzie letting them down.

Again, the hope is McKenzie and Gruden are right that they can coach up some average NFL talent. That these veterans are hungry and ready to buy into Gruden’s schemes.

That means all we can do is what and see. Trust the process, no matter how tired of it you are.

Gruden and McKenzie Free Agency 2018

This year’s free agency is going to be super interesting. Even more interesting than usual given it will give us our first public taste of the Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie dynamic.

Traditionally, McKenzie and the Raiders sit out the first wave of free agency. Unless, there is a guy RM really wants he usually waits for the big dollars to come out and he spends his money on second-tier players. There are some exceptions like Kelechi Osemele and Rodney Hudson who the Raiders wasted no time persuing. However, it’s more likely that they look at second wave free agents like Sean Smith and Bruce Irvin.

Except, Jon Gruden is in the picture now. Gruden, traditionally loves his veterans. His schemes also demand new team needs. They’ll need a tradional fullback and blocking tight ends. As well as upgrades at the possession receiver and catching back positions. Oakland may prefer to address these needs in the draft.

However, both Gruden and McKenzie need to win now. Las Vegas relocation is creeping up and Oakland is desperate for a contender. McKenzie will need to prove his worth to Gruden too since this will be R.M.’s third regime.

The point is, free agency will be interesting to see the relationship of McKenzie and Gruden play out. How will their different strategies integrate? Will they attack tier one upgrades? Will they wait and add low-budget depth players. Is it a quality or quantity approach? Do they value the players already on their roster?

Justin Ellis

Justin “Jelly Roll” Ellis is a fan favorite of the Raiders largely due to his name as well as him being a part of the infamous 2014 Raiders draft class that is the foundation to this team. Ellis got a 3-year, $15 million contract ($6 million guaranteed) before he hit the open market.

At face value, this is Oakland re-signing a part of the No. 12 ranked run defense. This is rewarding home grown talent which is something the Raiders have done under McKenzie. It is even more important given Eddie Vanderdoes torn ACL and uncertain future.

However, Ellis finally played himself into shape in a contract year. He hasn’t progressed much as a pass rusher or run stopper over the past few years. Neither is he a great fit for the new regime.

Plus, it is expected that the $6 million in guarantees will be all upfront for Ellis. That means he’ll be making a salary close to what Bennie Logan and Dontari Poe signed last year. He neither has the name recognition or production to warrant that contract.

This is not an indictment on Ellis. He’s a solid player and good rotational defensive lineman. It is not his fault the Raiders offered him this contract.

Nonetheless, why wouldn’t McKenzie and the Raiders let the market tell them Ellis’ value? It’s unlikely he gets that deal anywhere else. Moreover, big-name tackles like Mo Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Poe could’ve been signed with this similar number in mind. They would’ve been considerable upgrades too.

Overall, Ellis’ contract gives us precedent on what to expect for Denico Autry and T.J. Carrie. Both players were also key contributors for the Raiders over the past few seasons. Both will hit the open market and it will be interesting to see if Oakland will overpay them or let them leave. I’d argue that both those players deserve more than Ellis so it will be interesting to see if they get more or less in free agency.

Lastly, the Raiders have to ink Khalil Mack at some point. Mack wanted Ellis back but will Jelly’s money make it harder to cash out Mack? Either way, the Raiders got to lock Mack up before the Rams pay Aaron Donald. Donald is another DPOY from the 2014 class and he will set the market higher than Mack if he is signed first. Either player will use the other’s contracts as the baseline for the new extension. Thus, the Rams and Raiders are in a sort of arms race to re-sign their defensive franchise player before the other sets the market stupid high.


Gruden Era Can’t Trust the Process

The Oakland Raiders blew up the process by firing Jack Del Rio and hiring Jon Gruden. You don’t hire Gruden from the booth, assemble of group of experienced and expensive assistants and pay Del Rio off to win a Division title. The expectations for Gruden and company is a Super Bowl ASAP.

Of course, that means the Raiders will need to fill their roster with Super Bowl level talent. They have glaring needs for elite talent and depth across the roster. They could wait for some draft picks from the previous regime to develop but that was the process that failed them in 2017.

The Raiders need to get top level talent in the draft, obviously, but they need to do that in free agency as well. Gruden has been out of coaching for a while so he doesn’t have a pipeline of active players ready to go. He’s got to get a new generation of players to buy into his legends of the 2000s.

Del Rio needed to attract free agents too. He did to some extent. They found budget guys like Perry Riley Jr., Reggie Nelson, David Amerson, Michael Crabtree, Marshawn Lynch and Navarro Bowman. They got top guys like Keleci Osemele and Rodney Hudson. They capitalized on second tier free agents like Sean Smith, Dan Williams, Donald Penn and Bruce Irvin.

Now, Gruden has got to take it a step further. In the past, general manager Reggie McKenzie has been hesitant to pay older free agents or handover big contracts. That will have to change in the Gruden era. They will need take some short cuts and that means signing the top free agents.

We’re seeing it in Jacksonville. The Jaguars spent dollars on elite free agents. They also drafted well and developed those players. Now, they’ve got a deep roster with veterans and young players. Oakland needs to follow a similar format.

On the other hand, we’ve seen teams like Giants sign free agents and take steps backwards. That proves the Raiders need a balance of draft picks and free agents to improve their depth.

When Reggie McKenzie took over this organization, he tore down the roster by releasing underperforming players. He hired Dennis Allen to lead the rebuild.

A few years later, McKenzie started reconstruction. He hired an experienced coach like Del Rio. He started attracting under the radar free agents that offered the most return on their investment. He found veterans willing to buy-in and prove themselves.

Now, the Raiders will enter the re-tool part of the process. They have cornerstone players like Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson and Amari Cooper to build around. They have veterans who have proved themselves like Osemele, Irvin, Hudson and others. Gruden will need to take this nucleus and mold into a true contender.

Gruden is tasked with getting this team an identity. He’s got some talent that he needs to get to buy into his vision. However, he’s going to need to get some more talent around them that fits his image. This is how the team takes the next step.

It means getting rid of players who don’t fit the character or play style that Gruden needs. Those who don’t buy in or fit in will need to be replaced.

That means bringing in talent that elevates the quality of the roster and is willing to fill specific needs. They need elite talented players willing to buy into Gruden’s image of the Raiders. Oakland will need to spend on elite players that compliment the nucleus they already have and will fit Gruden’s identity.

The Raiders can’t waste anymore time waiting for players to develop. They can’t keep players on scholarship. They can’t squeeze round pegs into Gruden’s image.

Hiring Gruden didn’t just speed up the process. Combine that with the Raiders moving to Las Vegas in two years and the entire process is blown up.

Oakland is taking a huge gamble on Gruden. They’re taking a huge gamble moving to Las Vegas. Oakland needs a Super Bowl ASAP.

The Jaguars and Titans both won a playoff game before the Silver and Black. If that is not an indicator that the team needs to speed up the process, what is?

The Raiders can’t stop gambling now. They got to gamble by spending money on specific, elite free agents. Sorry McKenzie, but your entire process is blown up. Oakland can’t wait for you draft picks to develop. You gotta open up that checkbook and take some shortcuts to help Gruden build his identity.

$100 million later, Jon Gruden is officially official head coach of the Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders officially got their white whale. They gave Jon Gruden $100 million over 10 years so the ESPN commentator would return to the sideline. ruden’s assistants are expected to be heavily compensated as well.

It is rumored they’re hiring Rams QB coach Greg Olsen as offensive coordinator and Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia and Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will hold the same positions in Oakland.

Why Gruden’s return is good

Every Raiders fan remembers the last time Gruden wore Raiders colors as a coach. It was the infamous Tuck Rule game. If his return reverses that curse, then I’m all for it.Other fans, look forward to the nostalgia of Gruden getting the offense back in shape and making plenty of great sound bites. If the coordinator rumors are true that is great too. Guenther is a true 4-3 guy who will finally give this defense an identity. They won’t hide behind a hybrid scheme. They won’t get pushed around either. Gruden is also a proclaimed offensive guru. That means it will be on him to get Amari Cooper and Derek Carr back on track after both regressed in 2017.Ultimately, the move is a signal from Raiders owner Mark Davis. You don’t give that kind of money to Gruden and eat Jack Del Rio’s contract if you aren’t committed to winning a championship as soon as possible. The Raiders have up to two years left in Oakland and it is clear they want to make a playoff push before that. Having an organization committed to a winning culture is always a good thing. It’s a move that should lift the morale of fans too.

Why Gruden part two could get bad

Remember the last time Mark Davis made a move that fans loved but everyone else questioned. That was the addition of Marshawn Lynch a year after retirement. The jury is still out on that move.Don’t forget it was also Davis who hired Del Rio. Del Rio was a great hire at the time but that turned sour quick.Gruden will have even higher expectations. Ownership will expect a significant playoff push before they leave Oakland. If not, Reggie McKenzie could get his pink slip next. Speaking of that, it is rumored that Gruden may want to make some additions to the personnel department too. McKenzie will stay onboard for the interim. However, it remains to be seen if he will stay with Gruden long term. Then there’s the whole matter of Las Vegas. The Raiders are taking on a lot of debt to make the move happen. They’ll need Gruden to make the team into a winner before, during and after the move. The success of the relocation to a smaller city and new sports town depends on the Raiders on-field-product.Additionally, there’s a huge elephant in the room. Gruden hasn’t called a game in nearly a decade. Certainly, he’s analyzed the game and become aware of new trends as an outsider. However, that’s completely different than leading men and putting together a game plan.On top of that, he’ll lead on Greg Olsen as offensive coordinator. Olsen held the same title with the Raiders during Carr’s rookie year. That’s good for continuity but let’s remember that is the year Carr earned his check down Derek nickname. It also reminds me of the time we rehashed Gregg Knapp. It can’t be much worse than that. Olsen did help Jared Goff develop this year. He probably learned some modern west coast offense from Sean McVay too. But Olsen didn’t do anything in his second stint with Jacksonville. Olsen’s offenses have been average throughout his career. Don’t forget that. Otherwise, John DeFillipo was the QB coach that year and the year before. He’s the real attributed mastermind behind Carr’s rookie year and the year that brought us Terelle Pryor. Except DeFillipo will probably get a head coaching job and not return to Oakland with Olsen. Hopefully, Gruden and Olsen don’t expect to dink and dunk their way to a title in 2018. If that’s the case, expect Raiders fans to turn their morale real quick. On both sides of the ball, the Raiders are going to have to add some guys to help the transition to Gruden’s regime? If it works, is to be determined…

The verdict

Applaud the Raiders for doing what they had to do and gambling on Gruden seems like the sexy bet. It won’t come without challenges because all coaching changes result in growing pains. Nonetheless, it was clear they had to move on from Jack Del Rio. Del Rio looked old and tired as the season went on. He never could find the answers during the games or in post game press conferences. There was a ton of weird drama from Lynch, Carr, the defense and the offensive line. Del Rio couldn’t keep it under control. Reports also said Del Rio wasn’t staying as late as much either. It seems like Del Rio always found someone to blame besides himself. He could never build a defensive culture or limit penalties during his entire tenure. He couldn’t maximize his talent in 2017. Del Rio wasn’t going to persuade any free agents moving forward either.Further, all this offseason lockerrrom snitching proves the Raiders lost their camaraderie. It proves that they weren’t responding to Del Rio. Raiders fans saw that as the team lacked motivation and often looked beaten during games. This prestigious franchise seemed like they were losing the physical battle each week. It was time to move on. Props to Del Rio though. He took getting fired from his dream job in stride. Del Rio got the news directly after a road game but still delivered his post game pressed. I can only imagine the emotions of losing your dream job. As fans, we all dream of doing the job that Del Rio worked his way into. He probably had the same dreams as a kid in the bay. His family and him also did a ton for the community. Del Rio built a foundation and moved the culture forward. Hopefully, Gruden can get the Raiders to the next step. This would be like the Warriors firing Marc Jackson and hiring Steve Kerr. In that same comparison, Gruden has got to win and win fast. He’s got to get this team contending for serious titles each year. He’s got to get a couple of Super Bowls over the next ten years. He’s got to get one with this core group, preferably before the team leaves its home. At the very least, Gruden needs to win a Super Bowl in four years or this could be a huge embarrassment for every one involved.Gruden has got to be more than just an upgrade over Del Rio. Gruden has got to turn the offense around and get the defense playing hard again. He’s got to sell tickets in Oakland and Las Vegas. He’s gotta coexist with Davis and McKenzie to get quality draft picks and feee agents. Can Gruden do all that? That is to be determined.

Cash Carr: Derek is worth the fat extension

Forget the yards per attempt. Forget the happy feet in the pocket and the leg injury. Derek Carr is worth every penny and he hasn’t won the Raiders a championship or NFL MVP, yet. Carr and the Raiders seemed poised for both until Trent Cole sacked the Raiders QB and ended hopes for either.

But this 5-year, $125 million extension isn’t about Carr’s past. It isn’t about Carr being the Raiders most stable quarterback since Rich Gannon or the most promising prospect since Kenny Stabler. It isn’t about Carr’s comeback wins or low interception rates. It isn’t even about the viable comparisons to Aaron Rodgers.

This extension is about Carr’s future as the unquestioned face of the Raiders franchise. I know he will share that title with Khalil Mack for most of their careers, but Carr plays the position that touches the ball the most. He will be a Raider until 2022 which means he will lead the team to their relocation to Las Vegas.

Carr is already renowned for his community work as well as sharing his beautiful family on social media. Just look at all the respect he got from opposing players and coaches. Todd Gurley and Kyle Long both congratulated him. This is because the California native is the face of the modern Raiders era. He understands what it takes to be an NFL quarterback because he watched his brother flame out but he also understands what it means to be a Raider on the field and the community.

For Raiders fans, we’ve witnessed Andrew Walters, Aaron Brooks, Dante Culpepper, Jamarcus Russell and so many other QBs who were not worthy of the Silver and Black. On countless Sundays, we watched the most important position let us down. For decades, we cringed as QBs couldn’t keep us in games or bring us back. Therefore, you can’t put a price on the intangibles that Derek Carr brings.

Many people have called this one of the best days in Raiders history. Many have broken down the contract and found that it is a fair deal for many. In fact, Carr might not even be the highest paid player for much longer if Kirk Cousins cashes out.

Either way, Carr is worth every penny. You can dive into the stats like everyone else. However, every Raiders fan can tell you he is worth it. You can’t put a price on feeling like your team has a chance against anyone. You can’t put a pricetag on knowing that your team is never really out of a game. This is the effect that Carr has on the Raiders and it is a wonder that he fell into the second-round.

Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie understands how lucky he was that  Carr turned out alright on and off the field. Like Raiders fans, he does not take that for granted. He locked up Carr and now it is time for the Raiders QB to deliver on his side of the bargain with an NFL MVP and Super Bowl.

Nonetheless, props to McKenzie and Carr for getting the deal done before we all sweated about it into the season. This is how contract negotiations should go on both sides. Teams should play their players and good players should want to stay with great franchises. Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised. Carr has been a textbook franchise quarterback since he landed in Oakland.

God Bless DC and the Raiders. Just Spend Baby!


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.