Sunday, September 21, 2014

Patriots Gameday Take

Well, this isn't going to be much of a take. The Raiders have a chance to surprise us all with a competitive effort today. By 1 p.m. Pacific time, we'll know if there's a glimmer of hope, or if we're further lurching into oblivion. Bang your takes here as the game progresses.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Revisionism or Realism?

Here's some gasoline on the fire that you may have missed...

In this piece by Steve Corkran, Jared Veldheer has this to say about his departure from the Raiders: "The whole time, the understanding was that something was going to happen, there was something that was going to be done," Veldheer said. "But then nothing ended up happening. There wasn't any back and forth that kind of let me know where I stood."

Here's more:

As they prepare to play the 49ers on Sunday, Carson Palmer, Jared Veldheer and Matt Shaughnessy are far away from the disaster they believe began with the dismissal of Hue Jackson as coach.

"Guys loved playing for Hue," Palmer said. "Hue was a great head coach. Unfortunately, they decided that it was time for him to go, and a number of our guys that had been there awhile."

However, it's worth reminding Palmer and the others that if they loved playing for Hue so much, why did they go out with such a whimper in 2011, losing four out of five to close the season? On that note, Just Blog Baby has this rebuttal to all of the Hue love.

There are really two points to discuss in Corkran's piece. The first is whether or not it was a mistake to fire Hue Jackson. I do believe that the players liked and responded to him on some level, but he really prepared his own walking papers at the end of 2011 with all of his blather and power grabbing. It would have been interesting if he'd checked his ego and stuck around, I doubt it could have been worse than what we've got with Dennis Allen, and it might have been much better. But it's all water under the bridge. 

The other point is the one made by Veldheer, and it's more troubling and relevant to our current season. I suspect that there's some fire to that smoke. We lost Veldheer, Jennings and Houston in fairly rapid succession during free agency. To me, that suggests some sort of operational or communication shortcoming, as Veldheer suggested. 

If you are trying to figure out how this team might possibly be worse than last year's edition (and so far, it's looking that way), then our free agency losses are probably a good place to start. 

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Bye" Bye

For the sake of Dennis Allen's job security, the one thing the Raiders couldn't do this year was get worse. Yet, based on the first two weeks of the season (as well as the tea leaves of the preseason), it seems like that's exactly what they've done.

It's one thing to take a step back from eight wins to four wins in your first year when the ship has already run aground. It's even another thing to still only win four games in your second year amid varying excuses (some valid, some not) and the promise that things will get better.

But after yet another full draft and a free agency period flush with cash, and with another year of experience under the coaching belt, and with ample time logged at the helm for exerting culture change...if, after all that, the team gets worse on the field?

Well, that's when the axe will fall, and it will fall sooner rather than later if something doesn't change very soon in the on-field performance of the 2014 Oakland Raiders.

Merely matching last year's efforts would be a dubious distinction and worthy of a pink slip by year's end. But actually taking a step back? Well, that's when a bye-bye can be expected during the bye week.

If that happens, the seat under GM Reggie McKenzie is going to get awfully hot as well. 

To date, the main complaint from the Raider Nation and owner Mark Davis is that the progress has been painfully slow under DA's and Reggie's watch.

But now, with the progress yielding to apparent regress, we are on the brink of yet another regime change in Alameda.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Five Postgame Takes

1. The more things change, the more they stay the same, so fire up the Clown Car! I have also included a screenshot from Arian Foster's first-quarter touchdown romp. Look at the Clown Car, look at the screenshot, and let me know if you notice any resemblance.

2. This isn't just a matter of being 0-2. It's how we got here, with a weak effort against the Jets, and a beatdown by the not-so-mighty Texans in our home opener. We are clearly bad in all phases of the game right now. At this point, it's looking like we'll be lucky to win four games. 

3. What is it about the Raiders that turns a perfectly competent #2 receiver from the Packers like James Jones into a bumbling, careless double-fumble offender? Alameda is like the Bermuda Triangle, where fundamentals go to die.

4. Derek Carr will likely be fine. I think he has the ability and mindset to be a cornerstone quarterback. But he's been thrown into an awful situation. He's like the lone beacon blinking through the dirty fog of a vast wasteland. He deserves better. 

5. I said it before, but it bears repeating: No matter what situation Reggie and DA walked into three years ago, there's simply no excuse for a lack of improved performance after three years of (alleged) culture change, two full drafts and a free agency period with tons of money to spend. So either things will improve, or we'll be watching the end of the Reggie-DA era in slow motion as the season progresses.

Texans Gameday Take

Here's the thing...The reason the Raider Nation is (justifiably) freaking out right now is that the Raiders are showing little indication of on-field improvement in 2014 compared to 2013 and 2012. 

That may change, hopefully starting today, but that's where things stand right now for anyone who has eyeballs.

Now, here's the other thing...No matter what situation Reggie and DA walked into three years ago, there's simply no excuse for a lack of improved performance after three years of (alleged) culture change, two full drafts and a free agency period with tons of money to spend.

So either things will improve, or we'll be watching the end of the Reggie-DA era in slow motion as the season progresses. 

That, amigos, is where we stand right now, and time is getting short.

So here come the Texans and J.J. Watt for the first home game of the season. It's time for the Raiders to step up and give the Nation a glimmer of hope that this team is better that it has looked so far. GO RAIDERS!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Five Postgame Takes

1. In my pregame take, I noted that this was no time to be conservative, and that the Jets' secondary was considered "depleted" going into the game. But as Steve Corkran noted after the game, "The surprise came in how little offensive coordinator Greg Olson called for rookie quarterback Derek Carr to throw downfield. Just about every pass until real late in the game called for Carr to get rid of the ball in a hurry, near the line of scrimmage and without risk of being sacked or hit. In other words, just the opposite of what Carr did so well against the Seattle Seahawks, even if much of that came against the Seahawks backup defense."

2. Look, we were flush with $$$ during the offseason. So now you tell me where we made a substantive positional improvement during free agency with all that money. Reggie has had three years figure out a way to stock our skill positions, and we still don't have a legitimate #1 running back or receiver. DMac and MJD (combined 26 yards) looked like two guys on downslope, which is what they are. Streater, Moore and Jones are okay, but come on, none of them are true #1 receivers. Jones was brought in to help set the pace, yet he started the game on the bench behind Moore. Who's minding the skill position store for this team? 

3. Therefore, Derek Carr can't be faulted for what happened. today. The playcalling was questionable, the protection was inconsistent, and his support was limited. I just hope that he keeps his chin up, particularly if we keep trotting him out into greasefires like this one. Don't kid yourself, the score looks close on paper, but the game didn't pass the eyeball test. We looked awful.

4. Our defense was a train wreck. No pressure on the QB, receivers left wide open, the dreaded "big play" on the Chris Ivory run. Different year, same ol' Raiders "defense."

5. I am this close to revving up the Clown Car on this game. But somehow, some way, we technically kept it close, so I'll keep it parked for now.

Jets Gameday Take

Today, conservative won't cut it.

Rex Ryan is going to reach into his extensive bag of defensive tricks to try to rattle Derek Carr early. The goal should be to rattle him back with quick strikes and even long bombs if necessary, to keep the Jets from stacking the box and succeeding at the blitz. The secondary is the Jets' weak spot on defense right now.

All that said, we have to be careful. We need to establish the run, and make sure that we're not so aggressive with the pass that Carr is baited into careless early picks. The Jets' DBs may not be world beaters, but neither are our receivers.The worst thing would be for Carr's psyche to be shaken early in this game.

Here's the thing: careful and conservative may be related, but they are two different things. We'll know if the Raiders are playing conservatively, or carefully. 

One other thing: We need to prove that we can tackle on defense. The era of bad angles and pansy tackling leading to big plays just has to stop. This Jets' offense isn't special. It can be shut down, and the Raiders can do it. 

The 2014 season is now. GO RAIDERS! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fourth and Final

Well, don't expect much tonight during the fourth and final preseason game...

Per JMac, here's who won't be playing at all: Quarterback Matt Schaub, kicker Sebastian Janikowski, running backs Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew, fullback Marcel Reece, wide receivers Rod Streater and James Jones, tight end David Ausberry, defensive linemen Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith, linebacker Kaelin Burnett, linebackers Nick Roach and Sio Moore, cornerbacks Taiwan Jones, Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chimdi Chekwa and safety Charles Woodson.

As JMac says, "Coach Dennis Allen has seen enough of them in meaningless games and he has deemed the final game better suited to taking a look at players who aren’t assured of making the roster."

I see the wisdom in that...and yet after last week's drubbing by the Packers, Allen said, “It was a good opportunity for us to measure ourselves to see exactly where we’re at. We’re obviously not there yet as a football team. We’re going to continue to work. We’re going to get there.”

You wonder if this group couldn't use at least a bit more game time to get things in snyc?

But Derek Carr will be there, trying presumably to just not get thumped and to somehow make a statement without any legit help at the other skill positions. 

I'll watch, probably with my hands over my eyes. Bang it here for your in-game takes!


Friday, August 22, 2014

It's Showtime!

Tonight, I'd like to see Matt Schaub seize the reins of the quarterback job and to show us why we put the 2014 season on his shoulders in the first place. 

I'd like to see our receivers hang onto the ball. I'd like to see our defensive backs figure out a way to stop getting smoked. I'd like to see Mack take a firm step forward. 

I've actually heard some people say that Matt McGloin is, at the moment, our best option at quarterback. You know the saying that if you have two quarterbacks, you don't have any? How about three quarterbacks? 

We don't need three quarterbacks. We need Schaub to be what he was brought here to be, not become Matt Flynn redux. We need Carr to get healthy quick and show us that he's ready to be the future, whenever that comes. And we need McGloin to be a capable backup, not our best option--because if McGloin ever becomes our best option this year, then something has gone terribly wrong.

There will be penalties. I don't buy into the conspiracy stuff. Everyone's talking about the proliferation of penalties right now. There were 32 flags thrown in a game the other day. The NFL is instituting new rules that leave receivers completely untouched after five yards. It's the new NFL, I don't like it, it's too video game-ish for me, but we have to adapt or die. The important thing is that we cut down on the stupid penalties. Those are things we can control, at least theoretically. 

I've got a sinking feeling about this season, but tonight might make me feel better. I plan to be blogging away here during the game, hope you will join me. Let's go RAIDERS!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Preseason Action

The first half of the first preseason game is nearly over, and Schaub is 3 for 7 and Carr is 4 for 7 with a pick. Zero points. Nowhere to go but up...Bang it here with your Raiders v. Vikings takes.

Monday, August 04, 2014

"Depth" Chart

So, the Raiders released their depth chart today, and here's how we look on offense: 

WR: Andre Holmes, James Jones, Denarius Moore, Brice Butler, Mike Davis, Rashaan Vaughn

LT: Donald Penn, Jack Cornell, Erle Ladson

LG: Khalif Barnes, Gabe Jackson, Lamar Mady

C: Stefen Wisniewski, Kevin Boothe, Jarrod Shaw

RG: Austin Howard, Tony Bergstrom, Emmitt Cleary, (Lucas Nix)

RT: Menelik Watson, Matt McCants, Dan Kistler

TE: David Ausberry, Mychal Rivera, Brian Leonhardt, Nick Kasa, Jake Murphy, Scott Simonson

WR: Rod Streater, Greg Little, Juron Criner, Greg Jenkins, Seth Roberts

QB: Matt Schaub, Derek Carr, Matt McGloin, Trent Edwards

RB: Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden, Latavius Murray, Jeremy Stewart, Kory Sheets, George Atkinson III

FB: Marcel Reece, Jamize Olawale, Karl Williams

My take? On paper, this doesn't look so hot. Schaub had better be damned sharp this season, otherwise it will be a long one. What's your take?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

2014: A Bridge...Or A Cliff

Ah, training camp. Gotta love it. It's not even August yet, but there seems to be just a hint of Autumn Wind in the air...

Now, as far as which way the wind blows in 2014, I foresee this season either being a bridge or a cliff. I don't see much middle ground, and I think this season breaks one of two ways:

If it's a bridge, it will mean that our older free agent acquisitions still have gas left in the tank, and that Matt Schaub can still capably sling the ball, giving room for young players to grow while providing a competitive lift. Our latest draft picks will prove to be impact players, and earlier picks like Hayden will begin to gain ground. If this is the case, then we will have evidence to suggest that the ship has been righted, and that Captain Reggie and Crew are navigating us in the direction of the promised land. 

If it's a cliff, it will mean that we did too little, too late in matters of reconstruction, with Schaub and our free agent acquisitions failing to make a substantial impact. It will suggest that the offeseason action was more of a desperate act to play catch-up after two abysmal seasons rather than the next steps in a carefully orchestrated plan. The preceding two-year period of so-called "deconstruction" will fail to bear obvious fruit, and Reggie and Crew will go tumbling off of the cliff, and we'll be starting over again. 

If it's a bridge, you will sense it. It may not translate to a winning record yet, but the momentum will be palpable. Mark Davis put it brilliantly the other day: "You can feel progress. You can see it in games. Are we finishing games? Are we starting off games well and not finishing them? There were games last year where we didn’t show up."

If it's a cliff, it will be obvious as well. But let's not entertain that possibility any further at the moment. 

As Davis said, we're undefeated right now. Let the Autumn Wind blow, and may it carry us along a bridge toward a new horizon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Skill Drill

So, our offense will ostensibly be led by Matt Schaub this year. My hope is that we get good Matt, and not bad Matt, ie: the 2013 edition.

Last year, bad Matt had Andre Johnson (1,400 yards) on his side, as well as a half season of Arian Foster (4.5 yards per carry). 

If good Matt shows up this year, he still may find his support group lacking in the skills (ie: skill position) department. 

Here are the Raiders' 2014 projected top two skill position players at WR and RB, along with their stats from last year:

James Jones - 59 catches, 817 yards (for the Packers)

Rod Streater - 60 catches, 888 yards

Darren McFadden - 379 yards, 3.3 yards average per carry

Maurice Jones-Drew - 803 yards, 3.4 yards average per carry (for the Jaguars)

TE: Ausberry (injured last year) or Rivera (38 catches, 407 yards)

Not sure there's a real #1 at either the receiver or running back position, which could really handcuff our offense this year. 

Even good Matt Schaub can only do so much. Needless to say, our RBs and WRs not only need to step up, but also stay healthy. 

If they do, significant progress can be made. If they don't, it could be brutal. 

Which way do you think the offensive wind blows this year?

Friday, May 30, 2014

When Opposites Detract

Is it possible to be supportive of the Reggie McKenzie Regime and excited about things going forward, while maintaining a critical eye and questioning decisions along the way? 

Increasingly no, at least not if you surf around the Raiders message boards, including this one. It's either Reggie Sucks or Reggie Is The Bomb, with very little middle ground. 

Once again, we are eating our own, not unlike the later Al Davis days, when one side was always shouting loudly to gloss over obvious horrible decision-making, and the other side was intractably giving the man no credit for returning the team to some measure or respectability with 8-8 records.

Here's an exchange from a live chat the other day with the Oakland Tribune's Steve Corkran:

Q: I feel like I wasted 2 years of my Raider life on the past 2 seasons. This 'deconstruction' should have happened in 2012 and the 'reconstruction' should have been last year. Agree Cork?

A: I have banged that drum for two years. People want to give Reggie McKenzie a free pass for two years. Not me. He should have done the entire purge in 2012 and added more core players than he did the past two seasons.

Now, that's just the opinion of one beat writer, but I think it's a reasonable opinion, although an easy one to have in retrospect.

Anyhow, why can't you be excited about the Raiders (seemingly) being ready to turn a corner, while being critical of them for not turning the corner sooner?

The idea that you can't question or critique your own team--even when things are going well--is ludicrous. Even fans of the NFL's perennial contenders are naturally driven to question and critique decisions.

It seems like we're no longer willing to listen to each other. 

It's more about picking a side and defending that side to the bitter end, and refusing to acknowledge that in any sports organization, there are going to be both good and poor decisions made on an ongoing basis, with the balance of those decisions making the difference between a winning team and a losing team.

As fans, we observe these decisions in real time, and give our takes in real time. That's what fans do. You might love a draft pick that I don't. If that's the case, it shouldn't be because we're on opposite sides of an ironclad mindset, but because we're applying some form of impartial, reasoned analysis, even if we agree to disagree.

Here's my take: If you don't like to hear any negative takes, tough. If you don't like to hear positive takes, tough. Because here are Raider Take, you're always going to hear both.

Monday, May 05, 2014

2014 Draft Thread

Let's get this draft party started early! Thursday will be here before we know it, so let the pontifications and prognostications begin.

Now, regarding the pre-draft statements and rumors surrounding the Oakland Raiders, this is what I have to say: Smoke, meet Mirror.

One recent report declared that the Raiders have zero interest in drafting a quarterback in the first round. Today, Reggie McKenzie said there's not a bit of hot-seat urgency impacting his draft board. Okey, dokey. We'll see about that.

“You draft for the future...You don’t draft for right now," Reggie said.

But I would say that drafting for the future and drafting for right now aren't mutually exclusive. It's possible to draft immediate impact players who also elevate your future. It happens all the time in the NFL.  

Elite talent tends to assert itself pretty quickly in the NFL. So when you are savvy enough to select an elite player, you're not drafting for the future nor are you drafting for today. You're drafting for both.

In other words, it's high time for an elite player to be identified and selected by the Oakland Raiders, and for the Raiders to find their gem and outsmart the competition, be it in the first round or beyond.

So go ahead and draft for the future. 

Just remember that the future is now.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Narratives of 2014

I don't know how this next season is going to turn out. I don't think anybody does. We might have a better sense after the draft, but even then, we’ll just be guesstimating. Will Reggie’s picks pan out? Will our new free agents mesh? Will Dennis Allen come into his own as a coach? We shall see.

But I do know what the narratives will be if we show tangible improvement…and if we don’t.

If the Raiders show up for real in 2014, the narrative will be that patience pays off, and that Reggie was finally able to mold the roster in accordance with his vision. The many veteran free agent pickups will viewed as savvy moves. The misadventures at the beginning of free agency will be forgotten, and the recent drafts will be viewed in a softer light, if not as a smashing success. The doubts about Dennis Allen will fade, and the Raiders will be viewed as an up-and-coming contender.

If the Raiders bomb in 2014 (which I consider six or less wins), the narrative will be that Reggie forgot that the word "deconstruction" contains the word "construction." The veteran free agency pickups will be viewed dubiously for making the team costlier and older without generating substantive improvement. We'll be wondering just how many drafts and how long it will take for Reggie's Raiders to merely rise above the median of eight wins. Four years? Five? The question might be moot, as Reggie will likely be canned.

So while I can't say what will happen in September, I do know what we'll be saying come December.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Case of Deja Vu

The last time the Raiders were relevant, they rose to prominence with an unproven head coach, a journeyman quarterback, and a mix of young homegrown talent and older veterans acquired through free agency.

It kind of sounds like the 2014 Raiders, doesn't it?

The problem is, that it also sounds like the Raiders of 2003 - 2011.

During that period, the Raiders fielded no shortage of unproven head coaches, journeymen quarterbacks, high draft picks and veteran free agents. 

Such is the difference between Jon Gruden and Lane Kiffin or Tom Cable; between Rich Gannon and Aaron Brooks or Jason Campbell; the likes of homegrown legends like Tim Brown and Charles Woodson vs. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Michael Huff; motivated acquired veterans like Bill Romanowski, Rod Woodson and Jerry Rice vs. non-factors like Warren Sapp, Richard Seymour, DeAngelo Hall and Randy Moss.

There's no doubt that Reggie McKenzie has cleaned up some of the craziness that plagued the Raiders prior to his arrival, which included some of the most awful free agent signings in memory, and an apolcalyptic four-year stretch of first round draft picks that looks like this: JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Rolando McLain. 

That said, and it's something I haven't heard anyone else talk about, it's almost eerie to me how much the "new" Raiders resemble the old Raiders. 

Now you can debate whether or not the new Raiders are closer in potential/upside to the 2000-2002 model or the 2003--2011 model.  

But when you get right down to the hiring of an unproven first-time head coach in Dennis Allen, the turnstile of journeymen quarterbacks, the focus in free agency on older vets who may or may not have much left in the tank, all layered upon a core of young draft picks (and right down to the questionable first-round cornerback pick of last year, which was remeniscient of Mr. Davis), well, it sort of looks like deja vu all over again.

Hopefully this time it will help us recapture the glory days instead of spinning our wheels.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's Hot Stove Time

So word on the street is that Rodger Safford failed his physical, so the deal is off, and a hole has re-opened on our offensive line.

Yes, it's early. Yes, free agency is a marathon, not a sprint. But it never hurts to start strong.

Here's where my patience is being tested...

From the perspective of the GM position, wouldn't slashing the payroll, getting the financial house in order and notching two 4-12 seasons in the process be relatively easy?

What wouldn't be easy is being shrewd in coaching hires, in the draft, and in free agency along the way to keep the ball moving forward for a quicker turnaround. And I don't see evidence that we've done much of that over the past two years.

If I tell you to cut your grocery bill by 40 percent, it's painful, but not hard to do. You just spend less. 

But cooking a great meal on that smaller budget? Now that's where the chef shines or fails.

Chef Reggie needs to get cooking, even though he just lost another ingredient.