Monday, March 31, 2014

CB Carlos Rogers Signed

The Raiders continue to fill their missing pieces in the secondary with veteran defensive backs.  This marks the second take-away from the cross-Bay franchise.

Rogers will likely serve as the slot corner in Jason Tarver's diverse defensive scheme.
















4/4/2014 - The Oakland Raiders signed free agent P Daniel Zychlinski


MJD Signing Thoughts, #DJaxtoOakland and Updated Top 32


I thought the Raiders should go out and get Maurice Jones-Drew before the start of free agency.  My thought process was that the fit was perfect.  Rashad Jennings, MJD's backup excelled in his role.  A healthy MJD is a much talented and productive player.  Now that he's officially a Raider, he's coming home.  Just a few years ago, both MJD and Darren McFadden shared the backfield in the Pro Bowl.  Now they're going to share the workload in 2014.

The general consensus with the national media is that MJD is not the same player he was and he's just another also-ran declining veteran that Reggie McKenzie's collected this offseason.  There are only a few out there that think this is a good signing or that MJD will have a productive year.  Is the negativity because its the Raiders or is MJD really washed up?

Looking at it from a production standpoint, MJD did have a down year.  The Jaguars were also one of four teams that were worse than the Raiders last year.  With the only other legit offensive weapon in Justin Blackmon playing all but 4 games last year, opponents stacked the box and dared Jacksonville to throw the ball.  Obviously a tandem of Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne didn't strike any fear for an opposing secondary.  On top of seeing 7 man fronts on a regular basis, MJD was coming off a serious Lisfranc injury that derailed his 2012 season which, interestingly enough, ended against Oakland.

The good news is that MJD is going to be one extra year removed from the serious midfoot injury.  He's also going to be playing close to home.  MJD has always found a way to motivate himself and bounce back.  What kind of player he will be for Oakland remains to be seen, but I'm gonna put my money on MJD.

Even better is the money that the Raiders will be committing to MJD.  Word was leaked today that his deal is only worth an average of $2.5M per year.  That's a great team deal with very little money tied to the salary cap.  Kudos to Reggie for signing him to a team friendly deal.  Not only does he help Oakland in the short term, but it also keeps the teams options open with cap space for the future.

Here's a E:60 on Jones-Drew from back in 2011.  It shows the type of competitor MJD is and what kind of person he is off the field.  I've followed him since his UCLA days and personally I'm stoked to see the Raiders bringing in a player who has something to prove AND is a great veteran fixture in the locker room and in the community.



I may be in the minority when it comes to DeSean Jackson and his possible (imminent?) signing with Oakland.  I'm not 100% on board with his addition to the Raiders.  First and foremost, as a Raiders fan, I would love to see an offensive weapon be added to the roster.  The Raiders haven't had a legitimate perimeter threat since pre-Jamarcus Russell.  Jackson would instantly upgrade and enhance the signings of Matt Schaub, MJD, and James Jones.  He would be the key in stretching the field and opening up the Raiders offense.  The other added element in Jackson's game that has been lacking as of late for the Raiders is the return game.  From the potential of what D-Jax would bring to Oakland, the ability to sign him and bring him back to the Bay would be a win-win.

I'd be lying though if I said I'm not worried about some of D-Jax's off the field associations.  The NJ.com article using Aaron Hernandez in their article about D-Jax's purported gang ties was ridiculous.  Hernandez was convicted of manslaughter.  He actively took part in the death of another human being.  Though D-Jax may have some ties to the Crips, that could very well just be childhood buddies and school friends that he's still in touch with.  Jackson went to Long Beach Poly High School and that surrounding area of Southern California is well known to have a presence of both Crips and Bloods.  It is a cause for concern that his off-field associations and activities may have a negative effect on him as a team player.

If this was any other year besides this one, I'd be inclined to think that the Jackson to Oakland idea was a bad idea.  With no veteran leadership and an unstable QB situation, Jackson would probably have a meltdown every week.  He'd probably have ended up with every other failed free agent WR experiment (ie. Jerry Porter, Randy Moss, Javon Walker).  When there is a player who's seen as a diva at WR, it only works if there is a experienced veteran QB in place.  A developmental QB like Terelle Pryor throwing to Jackson would have been a recipe for disaster.

But this is no longer the case in Oakland.  Even with a bad year, Matt Schaub is still an experienced veteran with Pro Bowl credentials.  That might not be on the Peyton Manning or Phillip Rivers level (like HC Dennis Allen compared it to), but its a huge upgrade from an inconsistent QB who's still learning to throw or an undrafted free agent behind center.  This team is now also loaded with respected veterans with the additions of the aforementioned Schaub, James Jones, Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley, and Antonio Smith.  Having guys like that in the locker room could help Jackson keep his mind right and on football.

The thing that will determine if Jackson is a good or bad fit is the contract.  I'm almost certain that Jackson will go to whatever team that will pay him the most.  The Jets have the most money left in cap space and the presence of Michael Vick might tempt him enough to sign there (if New York is interested of course).  Jackson is visiting the Redskins today.  Robert Griffin to Jackson might be too enticing for owner Dan Snyder to resist.  It would be a double get for the Redskins adding a weapon like Jackson and keeping him within the same division as his former team.

But the point that I'm making is that as much as there are ties to California and the Bay area, Jackson is not going to play at a bargain price.  He's been unhappy in the past with his contract situation and has made it known publicly.  #DJaxtoOakland may be trending, but ultimately he's going to go to the highest bidder, whether or not its Oakland.  If Reggie holds true to form with his offseason dealings, he's not going to overpay or get tied up to any deal that weighs down the team.

DRAFT IMPLICATIONS


The addition of Maurice Jones-Drew tells me that the Raiders most likely will not draft a running back.  McKenzie recently stated that none of the additions this offseason will affect the way he approaches the draft.  That means of course he values talent over need.  I think if the Raiders stick with their picks and don't acquire additional picks, they're going to pass on RB in the early rounds.  With a crowded backfield of MJD, DMac and Latavius Murray, even a talent like Bishop Sankey or Ka'Deem Carey in the early rounds wouldn't make sense.  Not with the other positions that need upgrading.  If Murray shows anything this year, he could be the back of the future for Oakland.

So if the Raiders do go RB, it will most likely be in the later part of the draft.  A couple of late RB possibilites:  Rajion Neal (Tennessee), Silas Redd (USC), Kapri Bibbs (Colorado State), Alfred Blue (LSU) and Brandon Oliver (Buffalo).

I don't want to speculate too much into what D-Jax's addition will do for the team's draft strategy until he officially becomes a Raider.  But I will say that if Sammy Watkins is on deck at pick #5, the Raiders must draft him, with or without Jackson on the roster.  A player like Watkins is too good to pass up on.  If the Raiders did get D-Jax, I'd be inclined to think that they'd probably trade Denarius Moore for a pick.  Its not that I don't want him on the team, but he would be a tradable asset with a bargain rookie contract to boot.

Updated Top 32 3/31:

1. Jadeveon Clowney DE South Carolina
2. Sammy Watkins WR Clemson
3. Greg Robinson OT Auburn
4. Khalil Mack LB Buffalo
5. Jake Matthews OT TAMU
6. Anthony Barr LB UCLA
7. Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville
8. Derek Carr QB Fresno State
9. Justin Gilbert CB Oklahoma State
10. Blake Bortles QB UCF
11. Mike Evans WR TAMU
12. Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State
13. Taylor Lewan OT Michigan
14. Eric Ebron TE UNC
15. Aaron Donald DT Pitt
16. Kony Ealy DE Mizzou
17. Zach Martin OT Notre Dame
18. Brandin Cooks WR Oregon State
19. Calvin Pryor FS Louisville
20. CJ Mosely LB Alabama
21. Marqise Lee WR USC
22. Johnny Manziel QB TAMU
23. Hasean Clinton-Dix FS Alabama
24. Jason Verrett CB TCU
25. Rashede Hageman DT Minnesota
26. Odell Beckham Jr. WR LSU
27. Louis Nix III DT Notre Dame
28. Kyle Van Noy LB BYU
29. Kelvin Benjamin WR Florida State
30. Ryan Shazier LB Ohio State
31. Timmy Jernigan DT Florida State
32. Kyle Fuller CB Virginia Tech



Carlos Rogers Visiting...

Another former 49er cornerback is in Alameda today...


Saturday, March 29, 2014

The DeSean Jackson FA Saga...

...has just begun.

Mutual interest exists between DeSean Jackson and the Oakland Raiders...it has been reported, but not entirely confirmed, that there may be an initial deal set in place for DJax to become a Raider, but the Jackson camp will run meetings with other teams to see if the price can be driven up.

Jackson is set to visit the Washington Redskins on Monday (a divisional foe of the Eagles)...we'll just have to wait and see where this ends up going.

#DJaxToOakland overwhelmed Twitter Friday night and most of Saturday.  Raider Nation is definitely on board with Jackson becoming a Raider.  Signing Jackson would give Oakland an instant #1 WR target in a corps that has been lacking star power for far too long.

Question marks and speculation are running rampant on Jackson right now.  From gang affiliations to poor locker room morale, to missing meetings, to being extremely outspoken and disruptive...whether or not all, or any of these negatives are true...the real question is whether or not Oakland has the locker room to handle a personality like Jackson.  Football-wise, it's a no brainer...Jackson would be a huge boost for the offense.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Pat Sims Re-Signs and DE/DT C.J. Wilson Signs

Out of nowhere, former Packer rotational DE/DT C.J. Wilson has signed with Oakland.  A very versatile player along the defensive line, Wilson is recovering from an ankle injury that hindered his playing time for Green Bay last season.


Photo courtesy of @raiders
























In addition to the MJD signing today, NT/DT Pat Sims has also resigned with the Silver and Black.

One year deal.


Dennis Allen on The State of the Raiders

Thanks to RaiderCentral on YouTube:



Maurice Jones-Drew

OFFICIAL

Photo courtesy of @raiders

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2014 NFL Draft Prospect: DE Jadeveon Clowney - South Carolina


Jadeveon Clowney
South Carolina
Defensive End
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 266 lbs.
40 Time: 4.53s
Vert Jump: 37.5"
Broad Jump: 10'4"

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

2011 Freshman Season: Starting 12 games as a true freshman, Clowney made an instant impact, credited with 36 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 6 QB hurries and 5 forced fumbles.  Clowney was named SEC Freshman of the Year and 2nd Team All-SEC.  He also made numerous freshman All-American teams.

2012 Sophomore Season: Clowney emerged as one of the best defenders in all of college football in his second year.  Clowney set South Carolina single season records in sacks (13) and tackles for loss (23.5).  He also had 54 tackles, 5 QB hurries and 3 forced fumbles.  Clowney was voted a unanimous First Team All-American, along with winning the Ted Hendricks Award on top of being a finalist for the Benarik, Lombardi and Nagurski awards.

2013 Junior Season: After a stellar sophomore campaign and the media hyping him up as a potential Heisman candidate, Clowney had a down year dogged by nagging injuries and questionable work ethic.  Clowney finished the season with 40 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 9 QB hurries, 4 deflected passes and 1 forced fumble.





Strengths
+ Elite athlete; genuine freak
+ Rare speed and explosiveness for his size
+ Blends speed with power
+ Vast arsenal of rush moves
+ Dips and bends effortlessly turning the corner
+ Great hand use, extending and keeping OL off his pads
+ Gets his arms up to disrupt passing lanes
+ Very fluid and agile
+ Versatile lining up and down the LOS

Weaknesses
- Effort and work ethic came into question junior year
- Inconsistent effort; disappears for long stretches in games
- Needs to fully grasp how to impact the game in other ways besides rushing

NFL Player Comparison:  DE Julius Peppers - Packers
There are two players in the NFL currently that Clowney gets compared to the most: Julius Peppers and Mario Williams.  Like both players, he's the type of player that opposing teams have to account for at all times.  Clowney shares their rare athletic ability with elite size, speed and strength to be a franchise defender and a fixture to the Pro Bowl.  I give the nod to Peppers when comparing Clowney because of his suddenness and explosion as a quick twitch athlete at the position.  

The comparison is even deeper when you look at Clowney's heavy reliance on his natural talent.  At this point in development, Clowney is ahead of many of his fellow draft prospects.  He has an extremely quick get off the line of scrimmage and closes in pursuit instantly.  He has a variety of rush moves that he combines with that speed to keep opposing linemen off balance.  One minute he's using a rip move, then follows it up with a juke and spin on the next play.  

The biggest issue with Clowney when watching him play is.....Clowney.  Like Julius Peppers, Clowney needs to focus mentally on keeping his head in the game and giving consistent effort snap after snap.  If he's not involved often and early, it seems like that's when Clowney's overall impact on the game wanes.  Clowney needs to develop into a leader and has the ability to do so.  Sky's the limit.



Raiders Draft Analysis
There was a time early last season when the very thought of Jadeveon Clowney in Oakland gave Raiders fans the chills.  He was everyone's favorite as the top pick in the 2014 draft.  After the lackluster junior season (depending on how you look at it) and questions about his effort and intensity in games, there aren't as many Raiders fans on the Clowney wagon.  To be clear, I'm not on that wagon.

Currently the 3 teams that are the most in play for Jadeveon Clowney ahead of the Raiders are Houston, Atlanta (if they trade up with the Rams) and Jacksonville.  Houston looks more and more like they're going to draft a QB with the 1st pick, either it be Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater.  The Jaguars are also on the market for a QB, even before they traded away former 1st round pick Blaine Gabbert to the Niners.  They do have a defensive minded coach in Gus Bradley and are eager to hit big on this year's draft choice.  The Falcons are the true wildcard, considering that they've come out and openly said they are open to trading up.  Whether its just talk or posturing, its interesting to take note nonetheless.

It most likely won't happen, but its also not far-fetched to say that there could be a potential scenario for Clowney to be available with the #5 pick overall.  After trading Schaub to Oakland, the Texans need a top notch QB to ring in the new Bill O'Brien era.  If the Rams stay put, WR Sammy Watkins could be the answer since both Robert Quinn and Chris Long are already on their roster.  If Jacksonville and/or Cleveland go QB, Clowney could realistically be in play with Oakland's pick.

Jadeveon Clowney, solely from a talent standpoint, is the most athletically gifted and potentially dominant prospect in the entire draft.  Guys who are that big, explosive and fast don't come along every year....more like once in a decade.  The scary part about Clowney is that he's got the talent and the potential to get even better.  His biggest knocks are all correctable since it all has to do with consistency and effort.

Clowney recently came out in an interview and said the criticism about his work ethic is the same as spitting in his face:

"When they say that, I take that as spit in the face, really," Clowney said. "I wouldn't question that about me personally. I love the game and don't think I take plays off. And I wouldn't question how much I love it because I wouldn't be playing this game if I didn't love it."

Whether or not the criticism fuels Clowney to be a better player remains to be seen.  What has been overlooked during this draft prospect by a large chunk of the media is that Clowney's exposure and success following his sophomore year had something to do with his down 3rd year.  Teams were gameplanning around Clowney and he was constantly being doubled and even triple teamed.  One could argue that the emergence of a prospect like Kelcy Quarles has a direct correlation to the attention Clowney received this past season.  Inconsistent effort aside, it becomes that much more difficult to make plays when that happens, but his presence does change things.  Don't get me wrong, its still an issue, but one that can be corrected.

To that end, now that Reggie McKenzie has added some much needed veteran leadership, especially at defensive line.  It makes the possible addition of Clowney that much more appealing compared to pre-free agency.  One of the things said about Clowney is that he's more of a follower than a leader.  Guys like Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and Lamarr Woodley could all be a good influence on how to be a pro and teach him some tricks of the trade.  The knowledge they can impart on Clowney would be invaluable.  Having a dominant foundation player like Clowney would give the Raiders a sorely lacking face of the franchise moving forward.

Monday, March 24, 2014

2014 Comp Picks & Final 2014 NFL Draft Order

2014 Comp Pick Breakdown (# of...):
Ravens 4
Jets 4 
Falcons 3
Cowboys 3
Texans 3
Steelers 3
Rams 3
Bengals 2
Lions 2
Packers 2
Patriots 1
Giants 1
49ers 1

FULL AND FINAL 2014 NFL DRAFT ORDER: LINK

Sunday, March 23, 2014

2014 NFL Draft Prospect: OLB/EP Khalil Mack - Buffalo


Khalil Mack
Rush Linebacker
University of Buffalo
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 251 lbs.
40 Time: 4.65s*
Vertical: 40"*
Broad Jump: 10'8"*
* Top Performer

COLLEGE CAREER
2010 Redshirt Freshman Season:  After redshirting, Mack broke into the starting lineup and made an instant impact to the tune of 68 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 10 pass breakups, 8 QB hurries and 2 forced fumbles.  Mack was named 3rd team All-MAC.

2011 Sophomore Season:  Mack left off where he started, improving upon his freshman numbers.  Mack lead the team in sacks, tackles for loss and fumble recoveries, compiling 65 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 13 QB hurries, 1 interception and 5 forced fumbles.  He was named 1st team All-MAC.

2012 Junior Season:  Mack missed the first game of the season, but turned in career numbers with 94 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 4 QB hurries, 4 forced fumbles and 1 blocked kick.  Mack earned 1st team All-MAC for the 2nd consecutive season.

2013 Senior Season:  After a stellar junior campaign, Mack returned for his senior year even after receiving high grades from the draft advisory committee.  Mack saved his best for last, with 100 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 7 pass breakups, 6 QB hurries, 3 interceptions (2 TDs) and 5 forced fumbles.  Mack ended his Buffalo career setting NCAA records for forced fumbles (16) and tackles for loss (75).

HIGHLIGHTS





STRENGTHS
+ Explosive speed rush; elite first step
+ Plays with an edge; self-motivator and extremely competitive
+ Has good on-field awareness; always around the ball
+ Surprisingly strong at the point of attack; hits with violence
+ Plays with low pad level and good body bend
+ Has a good assortment of pass rush moves
+ Excellent in pursuit
+ Comfortable playing in space and in coverage
+ Scheme versatile; can play in 3 point stance

WEAKNESSES
- Questions with level of competition
- Needs to focus on playing in control
- Shedding blocks more consistently
- Sometimes overruns plays due to his aggressive style of play

NFL Player Comparison:  DE/LB Terrell Suggs - Ravens

Khalil Mack has physical tools similar to Pro Bowler Terrell Suggs.  Mack broke a NCAA record shared by Suggs for forced fumbles last season, not to mention also end his career as the leader in tackles for loss.  Like Suggs, Mack is a jack of all trades, with the athleticism to play in space and the elite burst and first step to rush the QB effectively.  Suggs had an extremely productive career, playing for a much competitive conference than Mack.  The plus thing for Mack is that even against top level opponents (ie Ohio State, Baylor), he was the best defensive player on the field.

Mack is an extremely active defender.  Buffalo used him to rush the passer or drop back and play in coverage.  Where Mack will impact the game most will be generating pressure off the edge.  He's got an assortment of pass rush moves to go along with his quick first step.  He plays with consistent pad level, getting low and turning the corner.  If he can get better anticipating the ball off the snap, he'll be downright scary.


Raiders Draft Analysis

The obvious take on Mack is that he's an ill-fit for the Raiders unless they're planning on switching over to the 3-4.  Even with DC Jason Tarver's ties to the 3-4 defense, it seems like the Raiders are content playing the 4-3 base while throwing in some 3-4 wrinkles.  The Raiders have two solid veterans at LB with Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett to go along with Sio Moore who's coming off a great rookie campaign.  Reggie McKenzie also added veterans Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley in free agency to upgrade the pass rush.  What the Raiders don't have is a young pass rusher who's versatile enough to play either LB or DE given the situation.

That's Mack's wheelhouse, playing a hybrid role similar to Suggs in the Ravens defense.  Mack is talented enough to play in any defensive scheme.  For the Raiders, he could be the long-term solution to Lamarr Woodley at RDE.  It goes back to my opinion that McKenzie isn't looking for developmental players, but with the 1st round pick he's looking for an immediate difference maker.

Even with the additions of Tuck and Woodley, the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl showed that an aggressive pass rush can trump any high powered throwing offense.  The Seahawks' secondary gets all the press, but its the 7 guys they have in rotation that makes those guys look so good.  Both Tuck and Woodley are signed to 2 year contracts, so Mack's addition to the Raiders would really go a long way in improving that area of the defense both short and long term.  

There's been some talk of Mack going 1st overall nationally.  As long as the Texans keep that 1st overall pick, its highly unlikely that happen.  Bortles will most likely be a top 10 pick and with Reggie McKenzie having personally gone to the Bulls Pro Day, Mack is definitely in play for the Raiders.


2014 NFL Draft Prospect: OT Greg Robinson - Auburn


Greg Robinson
Offensive Tackle
Auburn
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 332 lbs.
40 Time: 4.92s*
Bench Press: 32 reps
Broad Jump: 9'8"*




Strengths
+ Prototypical size and arm length 
+ Extremely athletic 
+ Very good feet and agility; able to mirror defenders on the edge
+ Powerful mauler with violent hands
+ Generates a lot of strength with his lower base
+ Aggressive run blocker
+ Great on the move pulling and trapping
+ Plays physical and mean
+ Sky is the limit with his upside

Weaknesses
+ Raw and inexperienced with only 25 games started
+ Needs to improve hand use and placement pass blocking
+ Technique is work in progress
+ Inexperienced in pass protection
+ Can get overly aggressive, reaching and grabbing

NFL Player Comparison: OT Jason Peters - Eagles

To compare Robinson to a perennial All-Pro like Jason Peters might be too lofty, but that's his upside.  If Robinson can put it all together, he certainly has all of the tools to be the type of franchise left tackle Peters has been for most of his career.  Like Peters, Robinson has above average athleticism at the position.  He has quick and nimble feet to kick out against outside pass rushers.  He also uses his quickness to get out to the second level and maul defenders in the running game.  What separates Robinson with a more refined prospect like TAMU's Jake Matthews is his devastating power and Clowney-like upside.  Where Robinson really stands out is his ability to sink his hips and explode out to rag-doll defenders.

Robinson's one glaring weakness is in pass protection.  He has the feet to slide out to wall off defenders, but his inexperience causes his technique to be inconsistent.  Many times he'll use his legs to mirror the defender, only to stop moving his feet and cause him to reach and grab.  That has more to do with technique on Robinson's part.  The other part that will also come with experience is the ability to recognize blitzes and identify proper blocking assignments.  

Overall, Robinson is the prototype for physical play at the position.  His lower base and his violent punch out of his stance is elite.  Where he needs to be better is with consistency doing it and putting all of his physical ability together.  


Raiders Draft Analysis

Before free agency, it seemed all but a formality that the Raiders were going to re-sign now Arizona Cardinal Jared Veldheer.  Its still a tough pill to swallow for a lot of Raiders fans (me included) but at the end of the day, Veldheer is now going to protect Carson Palmer's blindside.  Reggie McKenzie alluded to how he wanted to keep both Veldheer and Lamarr Houston, but that ultimately they wanted to play elsewhere.  The draft implications after losing Veldheer, signed then failed Rodger Saffold, and landing Donald Penn is that the Raiders sooner or later need to find a long term solution at left tackle.

Donald Penn was a good get for the Raiders, but Penn isn't always in the best of shape and is coming off a bad year in Tampa Bay.  Whether last year was just an aberration, or a player who's had questionable work habits declining remains to be seen.  Even having a guy in waiting like Menelik Watson doesn't exclude the Raiders from looking at OT at #5 overall.

Currently Robinson has been a heavy favorite to go #2 overall to the St. Louis Rams.  If the Rams can't trade down, Robinson could slide in at right tackle for a few years until Jake Long's cap number becomes an issue for the Rams.  Of the teams ahead of the Raiders, both Jacksonville and Cleveland could use some help at OL.  For the Raiders, drafting Robinson would the first pick since Robert Gallery at the top of the 1st round.  Whereas Gallery was widely seen as a safe pick, Robinson is still a neophyte with plenty of developing to do.  I don't say that in a bad sense, more along the lines of his prospect ranking is well warranted in spite of his relative inexperience.  That's saying a lot.  Robinson is being talked about in top 5 conversations and he's still developing.  

Whether or not Reggie McKenzie will go in this direction is highly debatable.  Its been said that it will be important for McKenzie's reputation as a talent evaluator for both DJ Hayden and Menelik Watson to make a jump in year 2.  If that is the case, Watson is being groomed and developed to play one of the bookend spots sometime this coming year.  

That's where an addition like Robinson to the Raiders gets bumpy.  Menelik Watson in some ways is very similar to Robinson.  Watson is short on experience and high on potential and upside, just like Robinson.  Most Raiders fans didn't get to see much of Watson due to his nagging leg injury last year, but Watson's strengths and weaknesses interestingly enough are very similar. "Rare athletic ability, tremendous frame .  He has an explosive first step, light feet, and a violent punch.  There are a lot of things in his game that need to be cleaned up from a technique standpoint."  That's Watson's draft breakdown from NFL.com last year.  It could be the very presence of Watson and McKenzie banking on him developing, that the Raiders might look elsewhere even if Robinson is available.  

The fact is that outside of Watson, there are no young, long term solutions on the outside.  Last time I checked, having a stud OT or two isn't a bad thing.  Having Watson stay healthy and develop into a starter, and pairing him with Robinson could be the beginning of a formidable front for Oakland.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

David Fales: Pro Day Glimpse & Interview

Thanks to Get Sports Focus on YouTube:

Matt Schaub Signing Thoughts and Updated Mock Draft


The Matt Schaub trade will be the most important move for the short term of the team, but will also determine the long term future of GM Reggie McKenzie.  He's hedging his bets that he didn't trade for a bad QB, but for a QB who had a bad year.

In a recent interview with a local Bay area radio show, once former now back-again teammate Antonio Smith stated that it was the playcalling that became predictable in Houston last year.  He put the responsibility on the coaching staff, even going so far as to say that then teammate Andre Johnson stated the opposing defense knew what plays they were running.

Unlike the Carson Palmer trade that cost the Raiders two 1st round picks (still blows my mind) for a player who was watching football from a couch on Sundays, this move by McKenzie is not one of desperation.  Its also not anything like the Raiders giving up a 5th round pick for a life-long backup with Green Bay ties either.  To that point, I think Reggie learned a lesson in sentimentality with former draft picks.

Some critics of this move may wonder aloud why the Raiders would give up a draft pick since Schaub getting cut would be just a matter of time.  Had the Raiders waited for that to happen, they'd be putting themselves in a position with zero leverage.  He's also the best QB option for the Raiders for the immediate future.

Last year wasn't a gradual decline in play for Schaub.  He had a bad year as did the whole Texans team.  All of that can't be put on Schaub.  As bad as a season Schaub had last year, accounted with those abysmal stats, Schaub still averages a 90 QB rating with a 64% completion percentage.  From 2008-2012, Schaub averaged a QB rating of 94 and completed 65% of his passes.  The most important thing for the Raiders now is that they have someone under center with experience.

There's been rumors that once the Raiders sign Schaub, they'd look to trade Terrelle Pryor for a draft pick.  I personally don't see this happening unless another team sees the value in Pryor's potential coupled with an affordable contract.  The obvious potential suitor would be Pryor's hometown Cleveland Browns.  With only Brian Hoyer on their roster, the Browns will certainly look at their options in FA along with the draft.  As a favorite to pickup a QB with one of their two 1st round picks, I highly doubt this happening unless someone in the organization pulls hard for him.

What this signing also does is that it leaves the Raiders with flexibility and options come draft day.  I wasn't sold on the Raiders using their 5th pick on a QB, even if they had their choice between Bortles or Bridgewater.  All of the new free agents Reggie has signed contracts to are for the now, not for later.  With the advantage of the cap space, Reggie understands the pressure he's under and the expectations of fans that's built up steam since he first took the position.  McKenzie can't afford to have another season remotely close to the last two 4-12 seasons.  Reggie and Dennis Allen are now 100% responsible for the Raiders and the fans.  A guy like Schaub is the perfect fit, since he's probably motivated to show last year was an aberration.

Draft Outlook:



Its already been floated that though the Raiders may no longer be looking at QB at #5, it doesn't exclude them from drafting a QB in the early rounds completely.  The best case scenario is that Schaub rebounds and has 2-3 good years left in him.  Even then, there isn't a long-term answer on this roster.  Those who like Matt McGloin might think he could be the guy, my take is that he will be a solid backup who'll flash in spot duty.

I really think that the Raiders are going to draft San Jose State QB David Fales sometime late day 2 or early day 3 of the draft.  If it doesn't happen its because it lines up too perfectly.  There are members of the Raiders staff that know him well, ie. QB coach John DeFillippo who served in the same capacity at SJSU.  Reggie McKenzie chose to go to Fales' pro day over Blake Bortles.  Maybe that had more to do with proximity, but when I connect the dots, I don't believe any of this year's top QBs are options in the first round for Reggie.  Its almost a given now that Schaub's on the roster.  Reggie's been known to favor seniors over early entry juniors, and I believe that is even more true when it comes to QB.

There are other senior QBs, but the reason why Fales also would fit for the Raiders is because of his skill set fit as a WCO QB.  The only true knock on Fales' game is his lack of ideal arm strength.  By all accounts of his pro day, Fales was accurate and threw the ball well.  In the WCO employed by the Raiders, there's no need to have a QB with a cannon arm, but a guy who can get into rhythm and throw with a high completion rate.  That's Fales' game in a nutshell.

Fellow MWC QB Derek Carr is the other obvious link at QB for the Raiders.  Blessed with probably the best arm in this year's draft, the whole coaching staff was on hand for Carr's pro day.  By media accounts, Carr didn't have a bad throw during the whole workout with the only knock being his deep ball accuracy.  Still it was a pretty impressive workout nonetheless, considering he was vomiting and sick enough to require IVs earlier that morning.

Carr in my opinion is more physically talented than Fales, but the only way the Raiders get Carr is via trade down.  Even with the trade down, the goal for Reggie on day 1 of the draft is to find a difference maker on offense or defense who can contribute immediately.  Carr doesn't fit that description, so if the Raiders do go QB in this particular draft, Fales is their guy.

Mock Draft:


Before the start of free agency, the most mocked positions for the Raiders at #5 was either a QB, OT and every once in awhile, Jadeveon Clowney and Sammy Watkins.  Matt Schaub takes care of the QB need, Donald Penn was signed to play LT and both Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley were brought in to lessen the loss of Veldheer.

I think if the Raiders stay put and Sammy Watkins is still on the board, he has to be the pick.  Watkins is arguably the best offensive weapon in this year's draft.  Pairing him with Schaub would help maximize both players' production for Oakland immediately.

1. Sammy Watkins WR Clemson
2. Bishop Sankey RB Washington
3. Marcus Smith DE Louisville
4. David Fales QB SJSU
7. Deandre Coleman DT Cal
7. Carrington Byndom CB Texas



The best case scenario would be for the Raiders to trade down at some point in the draft and attain a couple of picks in the process.  The hope would be some sort of trade situation in the 1st round, but with everyone knowing how deep this draft is, there won't be many teams on draft day looking to crack the top 10 and give up draft picks.  One of the few scenarios in which this could happen is if Jadeveon Clowney somehow makes his way down to Oakland at #5.  I personally don't think he'll fall that far, but if he does, the Raiders will be sitting pretty.  But that's the homer in me talking.  Even if Clowney did fall to Oakland, I'd rather take the impact guy like Clowney and look to make some moves in the 2nd or 3rd round to acquire picks.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Matt Schaub

Thanks to RaiderCentral on YouTube for uploading Schaub's PC:



Update (1:35 pm PT): Schaub deal will reportedly take away Oakland's 2014 6th Rd. pick.  Unconfirmed however, but NFL Live did report a 6th.  It's a 6th...Official.








Photos courtesy of @raiders and Tony Gonzales of raiders.com













































Formal trade expected to happen today between the Texans and the Raiders.

The signing of Schaub is a shot in the arm for the offense.  Lacking a proven, veteran presence at QB, Schaub comes into Oakland as the likely starter heading into the 2014-2015 season.  He is coming off his worst season in the League on a Texan team that was decimated by key injuries and frustration.

In his better years Schaub was a ball control QB, that played well off the play-action.  Obviously, this kind of offense calls for a strong rushing attack.  Given the Raiders signing so many maulers up front, expect Oakland to install a run-first play-action style offense with big play potential.  The only differences are OC Greg Olson and OL Coach Tony Sparano...they will stay creative, yet pound the rock in Power-Man with some Zone Blocking Scheme (ZBS) sprinkled in.  Houston was known for running a heavy ZBS, but don't expect that kind of offensive football to be rekindled...like it was under Knapp.

It's unknown, at this time, as to what Oakland will pay to secure the playing rights of Schaub.  A draft pick will likely be involved.  Unloading the contract ($14.4375M) this season is likely the prime motivating factor for Houston, that and Bill O'Brien looking to establish a new identity on offense.  We'll see how the numbers shake out later today...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

Some Recent Signings

Things have been moving fast for Reggie and Co.

Former Cardinal OG Daryn Colledge also was in recently for a visit, he knows McKenzie from his time in Green Bay.  Former Buffalo DE Alex Carrington also visited Oakland recently.



Those who recently signed with Oakland:

S Charles Woodson (re-signed)

Photo courtesy of raiders.com















OT Donald Penn (formerly with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)





















OL Kevin Boothe (formerly with the New York Giants)


Photo courtesy of raiders.com












WR James Jones (formerly with the Green Bay Packers)


Photo courtesy of raiders.com





















CB Tarell Brown (formerly with the San Francisco 49ers)

Photo courtesy of Tony Gonzales via raiders.com














DE Antonio Smith (formerly with the Houston Texans)















OT Austin Howard (formerly with the New York Jets)















S Usama Young (re-signed)


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Raiders Sign Tuck and Woodley

The Oakland Raiders fared better on Day 3 signing both DE Justin Tuck and LB Lamar Woodley.  Its safe to say that GM Reggie McKenzie needed this.  Tuck and Woodley don't come without "flaws" however.

Photo courtesy of raiders.com

Both Woodley and Tuck have had a recent run of injuries.  Tuck had a rebound year with 11 sacks, but the two year previous had a combined 9 sacks due to nagging injuries, namely a serious neck injury that slowed him down.  Woodley has also had his share with the injury bug.  Woodley played himself into a big contract on the eve of the 2011 season, and deserved every bit that money.  Woodley was the primary rush threat up to that point for the Steelers, having amassed 57 sacks in 4 seasons.  After his well deserved payday, Woodley has missed 14 games since, due to a variety of lower leg injuries.

Photo courtesy of raiders.com

Justin Tuck and Lamar Woodley will help Raiders fans forget the mess of a start to free agency, and will go a long way in helping establish a culture of winning due to their veteran presence in Oakland.  If the two can stay healthy (and that's a big if), they represent a huge upgrade.  Both guys are signed short term and I'm sure McKenzie signed them to team friendly contracts.  On that end, its been reported that Tuck even gave the Giants to match the offer all things being equal.  They were ready to move on, and the Giants loss ends up becoming the Raiders gain.  Woodley would not even be on the market if he had a friendlier cap number.


Woodley:  94 games  299 tackles  57 sacks  9 forced fumbles  9 fumble recoveries  5 INTs  1 TD
Tuck:  127 games  453 tackles  60.5 sacks  20 forced fumbles  6 fumble recoveries 2 INTs 1 TD


I know the Raiders aren't done.  They've still got many moves to make, but the signing of these two is a huge step in the right direction.  I'm more curious as to how this affects the remainder of free agency and the draft at large.  Do the Raiders draft a talented LT or do they add to these veteran pieces with a defensive stud like Khalil Mack?

Guess these two in silver and black will make people step back from that ledge.  More fun to come!

Sifting Through the Saffold Debacle

Day 1 of free agency opened with a flurry and the perception was that Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie fumbled the ball, even with the NFL's largest purse of $65M plus in cap space.  He was widely panned for letting fan favorite Jared Veldheer go in favor of signing ex Rams OL Rodger Saffold instead....for more money than Veldheer.

Day 2 of free agency and a failed physical later, Saffold's returning back to St. Louis.  Word came out that Mark Davis wasn't comfortable with giving the oft-injured Saffold all that money.  The hounds were shortly released, with most media outlets calling out McKenzie saying he was out of his depth.  So called "information" was released that Davis doesn't trust McKenzie calling the shots.

I beg to differ.  First things first, Rodger Saffold has only played a full season once in his four year career.  He's missed a total or part of 17 games in the last 3 seasons.  This is purely speculation, but I think the Raiders' hesitance with Saffold's shoulder holds more weight of why the deal was voided than the reported rift in judgement in personnel between Davis and McKenzie.

Saffold is a nice player, but in the grand scheme of things, this may have worked out better for the Raiders.  Saffold last year played more inside than he did at the position the Raiders were paying him for.  He was better playing inside than he did as a LT.  The Rams came out and said there was nothing wrong with Saffold's shoulder, trying to make the Raiders look foolish.  In reality, the Rams had the same concerns about Saffold's health on top of his performance protecting the blindside.  If they didn't they would have never signed Jake Long to a big money contract.  Why would they if they had someone in house who was more than capable of playing LT....with a more than affordable team friendly 2nd round rated rookie contract?  One of the key reasons most people took negatively to Saffold's signing besides the departure of Veldheer was what was seen as a downgrade at the position.  More money for a more versatile, yet less talented left tackle.  Money guaranteed to a injury-prone player.  After taking that into account, losing Saffold is easier to stomach.

I think the truth is that the Raiders really wanted to retain Veldheer and when things went south with Veldheer's brother, McKenzie had no choice but to go search for a replacement.  Its not that McKenzie is not to blame because he certainly is.  I'm sure most UFAs don't want to deflate their value by exposing any existing injuried until after they get their money.  The more McKenzie and Davis talked it through, at least in my opinion, they both came to the conclusion that the money could be better served elsewhere.

So who will play left tackle for the Raiders in 2014?  Here are some options:

1.  Anthony Collins (Bengals) - As much as I think Saffold is overrated, Collins is the exact opposite.  Collins has played both tackle spots for the Bengals, last year playing very well at left tackle after LG Clint Boling tore his ACL.  Andrew Whitworth slid into Boling's position and all Collins did was not allow a sack in any of the games he played in 2013.  Anthony Collins deserves to start and he'd be a great fit at left tackle for Oakland.  He's best in pass protection, but he helped bolster the running game after he took over at LT.  Collins is still young (28), and if McKenzie liked Saffold for his skill set and versatility, Collins should be just as attractive, minus the injuries.  Best of all, Collins could probably be had for considerably cheaper than what the Raiders paid Saffold.  Hopefully the voided contract doesn't detract Collins and his agent's willingness to come to Oakland.

2.  Michael Oher (Ravens) - At this point in Oher's career his name recognition comes more from his well chronicled life than his actual play on the field.  The "Blindside" star had a pretty good rookie season and since then his play has been shaky and inconsistent at best.  The reason why the Raiders should be interested is because Oher is still young at 27.  Up to this point, Oher has been a better RT than a LT.  The thought of Austin Howard playing LT scares me to be honest.  I believe that Oher's struggles on the field does not outweigh the sheer potential and ability that he possesses.  If there is anyone who could coach up a player who has the type of talent Oher has, its assistant HC/line coach Tony Sparano.  If Oher can harness his ability and play with consistency, he could be a surprise to many, with the main point being that he could be had with a team friendly contract.

3.  Draft a Lineman - If the Raiders stay put at #5, there is a pretty good chance that either  Jake Matthews and Greg Robinson will still be available when the Raiders pick.  Though Robinson possesses a far higher ceiling than Matthews, he also presents a bigger risk.  Its a risk that Reggie McKenzie may not be willing to take given that the seat he's in could get hot very quickly if the roster and the product on the field doesn't improve.  If the Raiders trade down into the early teens, a prospect like Michigan's Taylor Lewan could be a viable option.  Lewan surprised many people at the Combine with his athleticism and agility, both traits many scouts thought he lacked.  Other options at left tackle between the late 1st round and early 2nd are:  OT Antonio Richardson (Tennessee), OT Morgan Moses(UVA), and Cyrus Kouandijo (Alabama).  Joel Bitonio (Nevada), Jack Mewhort (Ohio State), James Hurst (UNC), Seantrel Henderson (Miami), Billy Turner (North Dakota) and Cameron Fleming (Stanford) are also post Day 1 possibilities.

The Raiders are not in dire straits.  No need to panic just yet.  There are still many free agents and teams are also going to be cutting players post June 1.  McKenzie has plenty of time and money to turn the Raiders' free agency around in the eyes of its fan base and the NFL at large.  There are still many opportunities available for this team right now, and even post draft.  This team needs MULTIPLE players at MULTIPLE positions.  One botched FA contract would not have filled the lack of talent on the roster.  It remains to be seen if something comes from the visits of Lamar Woodley and Justin Tuck, and if the Raiders can sign either one or both of them, it could lift the spirit of many Raider fans very quickly.  There are plenty of talented players out there, with more becoming available (like recently cut Chris Clemons) every day.

There's still plenty of drama and suspense left for Raider nation.