Oakland Raiders Regular Season Awards

The Oakland Raiders regular season ended way earlier than any of us had hoped.

We would all rather watch our team in the AFC Championship. Unfortunately, that did not happen.

Instead, we’re forced to review the regular season. Here is my take on the key players for the Raiders season, as well as a bonus award.

MVP

Derek Carr is the MVP and it is not even close. Oakland’s score in the combined two games without Carr did not surpass the Raiders’ per game total.

Added, he was the emotional leader of this team via multiple fourth quarter comebacks. Carr may also have a claim to the league’s version of this award. He is also the obvious choice for Offensive Player of the Year too.

DPOY

Khalil Mack was one of the lone bright spots for a Raiders defense that ranked towards the bottom in most categories. Mack graded as the best defensive player per Pro Football Focus. He also registered 11 sacks and four turnovers.

Rookie of the year

Jalen  Richard wins this award for his contributions to the running game and return game. He provided sparks for this offense in the playoff game via a return and during a touchodown that occured on his first professional carry.

Moreover, Richard started the year behind fellow rookie DeAndre Washington but Richard finished the season with more rushing yards.

Best Newcomer

Kelechi Osemele came over from the Baltimore Ravens. He brought a nastiness to the guard position and the entire offensive line. Osemele is the one of the biggest reasons the Raiders had a top offense. He should anchor one of the best lines for a while.

Reggie Nelson and Bruce Irvin also contributed as newcomers. However, Osemele completely changed the culture of the offensive line. This earns him the row. Not to mention, the offense was superior than the defense.

Biggest Flop

Dan Williams deserves this award, despite being one of the best character guys on the team. Williams was one of the Raiders most consistent players in 2015. This year, he entered the season as a backup behind Justin Ellis. Williams eventually got his spot back, but he was not a gamechanger.

The Raiders cycled through multiple players at defensive tackle all season. A lot of that was Williams’ inconsistency. The Raiders struggled generating rush and stopping the run. Williams deserves a lot of the blame.

I published a similar version of this article on Inquisitr. You can read more about the Raiders awards on the website.

 

 

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.