Week 4 Preview Podcast: The Litmus Test

A recap of the first three weeks of the season and why the Oakland Raiders Week 4 game against the Baltimore Ravens is a good litmus test.

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Week 2 Review Podcast

I recap the Raiders devastating loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2.

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2016 NFL Draft Review Podcast

The 2016 NFL Draft is in the books. Let’s review what the Oakland Raiders did and how it will impact the team in 2016 and beyond.

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Oakland Raiders Swing for the Fences in 2016 NFL Draft

These aren’t your daddy’s Oakland Raiders or even your younger self’s Raiders. If anything, these are your newborn’s Raiders or your puppy’s Raiders. These are the Raiders we’ve never seen before.

Indicative of the freshness of the franchise was their 2016 NFL Draft. No longer slave to a high draft pick and desperate needs, the theme of the draft for the Raiders was upside.

It’s as if general manager Reggie McKenzie got so used to hitting his draft picks out of the park that he started swinging for the fences. We’ll have to wait a couple of years before we know if he struck out or if he’ll continue his Ruthian ways.

First, McKenzie boldly went with a safety at No. 14 overall. Kyle Joseph is coming off a torn ACL and fills a major need, but safety isn’t a premium position. Only a handful of safeties have been drafted in the first 14 picks in the last 15 years and include names like Earl Thomas and Eric Berry.

Joseph needs to be a star safety for the pick to be a success. He needs to help the Raiders slow down tight end Travis Kelce and the slew of other top receiving tight ends in the league. Joseph must be a dynamic playmaker like he was in college at West Virginia.

Unlike Joseph, the Raiders are counting on their second-round pick to produce more in the NFL than he did in college. Defensive end Jihad Ward is relatively new to football having outgrown safety and wide receiver before finding a home on the defensive line.

Ward possesses the size and athleticism to be a plus NFL player, but he’s still learning. He needs coaching to fulfill his potential. In the most basic terms, he has a ton of upside. He’s a pick for the future that could easily be a giant swing and a miss with the 44th overall pick or a home run.

The Raiders tripled down on upside in the third round with Michigan State edge rusher Shilique Calhoun. Calhoun didn’t put it all together in college, but he has the bend and short area quickness to be a great pass-rusher in time.

While it’s true that every prospect needs to develop in the pros and to some extent all of them have upside, the Raiders didn’t settle for average athletes as they have in the past. They didn’t settle for known commodities in exchange for more predictable results.

The Raiders drafted a quarterback. A quarterback in the fourth round! Plus, they traded up to get him. The head-scratching pick was grounded in two basic principles. One, let the board determine how you draft. Two, always draft a quarterback because they have the most value of any position in football.

Value equals upside when it comes to Connor Cook because he checks just about all the physical boxes. If he develops, that’s a good problem to have. If he develops just into a backup, well, that’s still good value.

The Raiders started filling needs in the fifth round–or so it seemed from the fact they selected a running back. Deandre Washington is a 5’9″ jitterbug to complement Latavius Murray, but you never really know when a jitterbug is going to be a jitterbust or a jitterboom. The Raiders didn’t necessary draft him to be more than a complementary player, but he certainly has potential to be more.

In the sixth round, the Raiders selected outside linebacker Cory James. While it might seem like a pick for need, James needs a ton of development before he sees the field. However, he possesses a ton of raw ability and flew under the radar because he played at Colorado State and is undersized at just 6’0″ and 229 pounds.

He needs to develop both his game and his body, but he makes enough plays to be something special if he does. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and head coach Jack Del Rio are both former linebackers that have turned little-known linebackers into productive starters in the past.

The seventh round brought mammoth offensive lineman Vadal Alexander to the Raiders. The 6’5″ player tips the scales at 326 pounds. Yet another physical specimen that needs to refine his game to stick in the NFL, but if he does could become something really special.

Upside. Upside. Upside.

It’s also become clear in the last two years just how much Del Rio and his coaching staff influence the draft. It’s also clear that the scouting staff has the confidence to draft athletes and let the coaching staff turn mere lumps of athletic carbon into football diamonds.

Time will tell which draft picks pan out, but the times have changed in Oakland. The Raiders are now drafting players for what they could be in a couple years and not what the franchise needs them to be today. The Raiders are swinging for the fences instead of trying to string together a few singles.

It’s the clearest sign yet the team has enough hitters that they no longer need every draft pick to play immediately. We may not have seen the 2016 Raiders on the field, but for the first time in a long time, it seems like the front office feels pretty good about the roster.

Posted in 2016 NFL Draft Tagged with: , , , , , ,

The Raiders aren’t who we thought they were….they’re better

The Oakland Raiders are tired of being the team that will be good in a year or two. The team expects to win now and it is winning now.

We thought the Raiders needed more talent. We thought that being in the playoff hunt was a year away for this team, but we were wrong. This isn’t the team we thought they were, they’re better.

On Sunday, they moved to 3-3 on Sunday with a 37-29 win over the San Diego Chargers that wasn’t close until the final minute. It was also the Raiders second road win of the season. The last time the Raiders had two road wins by their sixth game was 2011. Before that, a five-year streak from 1998-2002.

The Raiders went 8-8 in 1998, 1999 and 2011 and narrowly missed the playoffs each year.  They made the playoffs in 2000, 2001 and 2002. They didn’t have a losing record in any of those seasons because teams that can win on the road are usually pretty good.

As the season matures, there is more and more evidence that some of the “best-case scenarios” for the Raiders are coming true. The AFC West also isn’t as strong as it has been in the past.

We already have the answers to many of the questions we had about this team. The questions that had us worried that they were a year—or two—from even competing on a weekly basis.

  • Quarterback Derek Carr has genuinely improved.
  • Rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper is a difference-maker.
  • Veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree is better than advertised.
  • Running back Latavius Murray wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
  • The offensive line has been a cohesive unit.

The defense has issues, but young players are also maturing. As a whole, the unit has been playing better after some early growing pains. Even Raider Nation’s whipping boy—cornerback D.J. Hayden—is starting to turn the corner. Claiming cornerback David Amerson off waivers has also solidified the cornerback group and allowed T.J. Carrie to play more safety in place of the injured Nate Allen.

By no means have the Raiders arrived. They’re 3-3—not 6-0. They’ll still have to scratch and claw their way to the playoffs, but it’s no longer insane to think they can make it. It’s no longer just wishful thinking that this is finally the year the long playoff drought ends.


One obvious fact is that the Raiders need to stay healthy. This team doesn’t have the depth to lose key players. Rookie Linebacker Neiron Ball has been the solution to the team’s inability to cover tight ends, but he left the game Sunday with an injury.

Even a series of injuries to players like Ball could put on a cap on the Raiders’ potential in 2015. Ball starting over Ray-Ray Armstrong is one example of the new coaching staff’s willingness to adjust, but that also ignores the fact that they’ve made their fair share of mistakes. The coaching staff has some great qualities, but they are far from perfect.

There will be some that question the coaching staff getting too conservative too early against the Chargers, mostly due to it being something that has been a recurring theme. The broader criticism is certainly valid, even if the most recent example is hooey. The coaching staff has giveth a lot, but they’ve also taketh away.

The depth, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s insistence on calling hand offs to fullback Jamize Olawale and the offense routinely playing for field goals are prime examples of reasons to temper the expectations of this team. Just don’t grind the expectations into the crumbling concrete at O.co this time around.

Sunday’s win was actually worthy of a small celebration. The Raider Nation should be enjoying this time and not criticizing the coaching staff for letting off the gas with a 31-point lead.

The future is definitely bright for the Raiders, but the now doesn’t look too bad either. For once, fans can say with confidence that more wins are on the way.

Posted in 2015 Regular Season Tagged with: , , , ,

Final 53-Man Roster Prediction

The Oakland Raiders will trim their roster to 53 players today. Expect them to make at least two waiver claims Sunday to address needs at defensive back and on the offensive line. As such, there are a couple guys on this final roster who could be waived on Sunday and could subsequently find their way onto the team’s practice squad.

As is, I’ve included a list of players who are candidates for the practice squad. There is some positional imbalance on the 53-man roster as I expect the Raiders to balance it out with a few waiver claims.

Carrie, TJCBDB532
Hayden, DJCBDB533
McGill, KeithCBDB532
Thorpe, NeikoCBDB533
McDonald, DexterCBDB53R
McDonald, TevinFS/SCBDB530
Allen, NateSDB536
Asante, LarrySDB534
Ross, BrandianSDB534
Woodson, CharlesSDB5318
Autry, DenicoDEDL532
Edwards, Mario Jr.DEDL53R
Harris, ShelbyDEDL531
Mayowa, BensonDEDL533
Tuck, JustinDEDL5311
Mack, KhalilDEDL532
Ellis, JustinDTDL532
Lumpkin, RickyDTDL531
Williams, DanDTDL536
Armstrong, Ray-RayLBLB533
Heeney, BenLBLB53R
Lofton, CurtisLBLB538
Smith, MalcolmLBLB535
Ball, NeironLBLB53R
Alexander, LorenzoOLBLB539
Hudson, RodneyCOL535
Jackson, GabeGOL532
Barnes, KhalifOLOL5311
Feliciano, JonOLOL53R
McCants, MattOLOL533
Webb, J'MarcusOLOL535
Howard, AustinTOL536
Penn, DonaldTOL5310
Carr, DerekQBQB532
McGloin, MattQBQB533
Reece, MarcelFBRB536
Helu, Jr., RoyRBRB535
Jones, TaiwanRBRB535
Murray, LataviusRBRB533
Janikowski, SebastianKST5316
Condo, JonLSST539
King, MarquettePST534
Rivera, MychalTETE533
Smith, LeeTETE535
Walford, CliveTETE53R
Holmes, GabeTETE530
Butler, BriceWRWR533
Cooper, AmariWRWR53R
Crabtree, MichaelWRWR537
Holmes, AndreWRWR534
Roberts, SethWRWR531
Streater, RodWRWR534
Chekwa, ChimdiCBDBCut4
Mays, TaylorSDBCut6
Wilkins, GaryDEDLCut0
Wilson, C.J.DLDLCut6
McGee, StacyDTDLCut3
Bergstrom, TonyOLOL534
Ponder, ChristianQBQBCut5
Olawale, JamizeFBRBCut3
Tavecchio, GiorgioKSTCut1
Leonhardt, BrianTETECut2
Durham, KrisWRWRCut5
Wylie, DevonWRWRCut2
Edwards, SaQwanDBDBPS0
Valles, MaxDEDLPSR
Orr, LeonDTDLPS0
Hadley, SpencerLBLBPS1
Shirley, JoshLBLBPS0
Bell, MitchGOLPS0
Kistler, DanTOLPS1
Morris, AnthonyTOLPSR
Atkinson III, GeorgeRBRBPS1
Dyer, MichaelRBRBPS0
Posted in Predictions, Preseason 2015 Tagged with: ,

Oakland Raiders’ Studs and Duds From Preseason Week 1

The Oakland Raiders finally look like a competitive football team again. That should be the biggest takeaway from their preseason rout of the St. Louis Rams.

Quarterback Derek Carr and the offense looked significantly improved from a year ago, thanks in large part to some of the studs listed below.

The starting defense was still a little shaky, but there were still a few bright spots. Overall, the Raiders can feel good about their first live action of the year, especially since there appeared to be no significant injuries to come out of it.


Rodney Hudson

Of all general manager Reggie McKenzie’s offseason acquisitions, he committed the most money to center Rodney Hudson. Offensive linemen rarely get the praise they deserve, but a great offensive line as anchored in the middle can be huge for an offense.

Hudson was very solid in his debut against a very good defensive front. If Hudson and the offensive line can consistently protect Carr and get push in the run game, Oakland’s offense will be vastly improved in 2015.2

Perhaps one of the more underrated additions the Raiders made in the offseason may pay off in a big way. Crabtree has mostly been a No. 2 wide receiver in his career, but he’s shown flashes he can be more.

Crabtree really appears to have a chemistry with Carr, as has been reported during training camp and was evident against the Rams. It doesn’t hurt that Crabtree is playing for a big contract and will have rookie Amari Cooper to draw attention away from him.

Khalil Mack

It would be easy to just put him on this list after every game. In this case, Mack dominated Greg Robinson and created opportunities for his teammates.

It will be on Mack and the defensive front to protect the secondary and linebackers all season like they did Friday night. Mack is the lynchpin that this defense simply can’t do without.


Gabe Jackson

For all the hubbub about how great Jackson looked in training camp, his first preseason performance wasn’t very good. Jackson struggled to contain Aaron Donald and missed a key block.

Specifically, Jackson whiffed on a block at the goal line in which running back Trent Richardson took the blame for the result. The internet blames Richardson for not cutting back, when in fact there was no lane and he made the right decision following his pulling guard. Jackson also really struggled to keep Donald from creating penetration with his speed off the line.

D.J. Hayden

There was a miscommunication on the first drive that resulted in a big gain on a pass to tight end Lance Kendricks. It’s impossible to know if Hayden was responsible for the coverage, but even not counting it against him, he had a subpar performance.

At least two seperate times Hayden followed the wrong man and had to make a recovery. He was lucky to not have allowed more catches.

Keith McGill

McGill is Hayden’s main competition at the cornerback spot, but he didn’t play particularly well against backups either. Although his feet seem to be improved, he struggled to stick with speedier defenders and his stiff hips were apparent when he couldn’t get his hands on his him.

McGill must use his length to his advantage or he’ll struggle, but it was a good sign to see his improved footwork. The poor showing from Hayden and McGill got Neiko Thorpe first-team practice reps on Sunday per Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Other notable performers include Seth Roberts, Benson Mayowa and Matt McGloin. Cooper made a mistake on Carr’s interception, but nothing to worry too much about. Ray Ray Armstrong, Curtis Lofton and Charles Woodson all took poor angles and over pursued on Tavon Austin’s big catch and run.

Posted in Preseason 2015

Preseason Week 1 Players to Peruse

The Oakland Raiders season officially kicks off Friday night. Unfortunately, it’s preseason. Fortunately, there are still plenty of things to watch.

It seems like this every year, but this truly is one of the most interesting Raiders teams in years. For starters, there is a lot of young talent. Unlike past years, there is also plenty of veteran talent that isn’t over 30.

While all eyes will be on first-round pick Amari Cooper, there are at least a half-dozen other players Raiders fans should keep a close eye on during the game.

D.J. Hayden

He hasn’t been able to stay healthy, nor has he been particularly awesome when he is healthy, but cornerback D.J. Hayden still has a lot of talent. General manager Reggie McKenzie will take his lumps if Hayden doesn’t pan out this year, but more importantly the Raiders will also be dangerously thin at cornerback.

The Raiders need Hayden to solid, even if he doesn’t live up to the potential he had coming out of the University of Houston. Even if he ends up as the No. 3 cornerback, he’s still essentially a starter with defenses using the nickel defense almost 70 percent of the time last season.

Hayden’s biggest problem appears to be that he’s reacting too slowly, which could improve with more experience. The preseason is a good time for Hayden to gain that experience before the Raiders need to rely on him. Don’t be surprised if the Raiders give him extended playing time for that reason.

Keith McGill

In many ways, Keith McGill is the anti-Hayden. He’s long and a little stiff in the hips, but there is room for both types on the Raiders and in the NFL. McGill didn’t see much action as a rookie, but he made a big enough impression that the Raiders didn’t feel the need to bring in another cornerback this offseason. That means the Raiders expected McGill to at least be the nickel cornerback.

The Raiders really doubled down at cornerback this offseason as they need Hayden and McGill to both be solid contributors. If McGill can build on his start to training camp, which by most observations has been a net positive, he has a chance to start opposite T.J. Carrie. If McGill plays well, it could soften the sting if Hayden isn’t anything more than a No. 3 cornerback.

Nate Allen

As a veteran starter, he might not play extensively, but the Raiders could sure use some highlight plays from one of their top additions in free agency. A lot of eyebrows were raised when the Raiders gave Allen a contract befit a star safety, so fans will be expecting impact plays from him.

Can you tell that one of the biggest question marks on the team is the secondary?

Menelik Watson

Like D.J. Hayden from the same draft class, right tackle Menelik Watson needs to become a solid contributor in 2015. He is loosely hanging on to the starting job at right tackle over veteran Austin Howard, but his preseason performance will go a long way in determining if he holds onto it.

The Raiders have a solid line from left tackle to center, but the right side needs to prove they won’t be a problem this season at the very least. Offensive line coach Mike Tice will rotate through a few players at right guard, but right tackle is Watson’s spot to lose.

Ben Heeney

The other signing that raised eyebrows this offseason was the Raiders picking up linebacker Curtis Lofton. The veteran may be the starter at middle linebacker, but he’s clearly not a long-term answer. For that reason alone, rookie middle linebacker Ben Heeney is worth keeping an eye on Friday night.

Heeney has also made his share of plays during training camp and will see extended playing time. Heeney didn’t have elite measurables, but he was a top performer in college. If he keeps making plays against backups, the Raiders may have to consider getting him some snaps against starters to see if he can keep it up.

Posted in Preseason 2015 Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

2015 Offseason Preview Podcast

In the long-awaited return of the Raidersblog podcast, I discuss the completed coaching staff and preview free agency and the draft.

Posted in 2015 Free Agency, 2015 NFL Draft, Free Agency, NFL Draft, Podcast Tagged with: , , , ,

Podcast Episode 30: Start the Carr & 53-Man Roster Discussion

In the long-awaited return of the podcast, I discuss starting Derek Carr and predict the 53-man roster as well as discuss various roster scenarios.

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