Sunday, November 22, 2015

One Postgame Take

Wow, what a letdown. The Lions are not a good team. That was low-hanging fruit left on the vine. 

At the end of the game, when you need to stop the other team to get the ball back and give yourself a chance, you have to wrap up the runner before he gets a first down, not bounce off him with your shoulder. Come on. 

We will know more soon, but it's looking like what seemed like a leap year may turn out to be one of incremental improvement. Three weeks ago, the Raiders were being hailed as relevant, a strong playoff contender at four wins, three losses.

After today, this looks like a team that is coming back down to earth, to that balance point between the god-awful spectacle of the first game to the upstart contender after beating the Jets. 

I'm still bullish on our passing corps, as far as the future is concerned, and despite it being out of sync all day today. But other chickens are coming to roost in terms of overall personnel and depth. 

There is work to be done. It's too early to be writing this season off and talking about next year. But the arrow is pointing down on each of our division rivals. The Broncos are making one last push until they tumble over the Manning cliff. The Chiefs are who we thought they were. The Chargers are getting creaky and Lil' Phil isn't getting any younger. 

It's an opportunity that should not be missed. The table is being set for an enduring division takeover. We need to be ready to feast. Which means we need more forks and knives, Reggie.

In the meantime, let's try not to get eaten. 

Lions Gameday Thread

Mid second quarter, gotta pick up the pace!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Vikings Gameday Thread

This thread is coming near the end of the first half. No matter how this game ends, this is the best Raiders offensive unit we've seen in a dozen years. That is something to be savored and excited about.

Monday, November 09, 2015

One Postgame Take

If ever there was a game that was simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, this was it. If ever there was a game that straddled the pivot point of the past and the future, this was it...

Seriously, in so many ways, this was a typical Raiders loss. Skill players on the other team just absolutely and historically torching us (first game ever in NFL history with one player gaining 300+ total yards and a teammate gaining 200+). Ill-timed turnovers. The big play that just guts us in the last minute and sets up the winning points. Another loss on the East Coast. The halting of momentum when it was really gaining. Sound familiar?

And yet there is much that remains happily unfamiliar about this loss, and this team. Starting with an offense that means business, and that is poised to become the class of the division. Continuing with the tenaciousness and the coming back late in the game instead of folding. Further continuing with the sense that this loss did nothing to dispel the notion that this team will put a scare into an opponent who has them on their schedule going forward. 

The Raiders. Are. For Real. That seems to be what's going on here. 

There's always the chance of the second-half implosion that exposes all of this as a mirage. Go have a look back at the 2011 season to remind yourself what that feels like. 

But what's going on here feels much more convincing. Aside from the first game of the season (remember THAT!?), this team feels like a nucleus, not a patchwork. It has legitimate superstars in the making. 

In other words, it feels like the future taking shape. And if that's the case, then the Raiders, after so many years, are truly back in business. 

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Steelers Gameday Thread

Awesome opportunity today to make a statement. Go Raiders!

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Quick Postgame Take

Wow, that was decisive. The defense was actually punishing at times, exhibiting some good old-timey Raiders mojo. Carr is the real deal. That was a grown-ups victory right there.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Quick Take

Well, that was "hello NFL" moment for the Raiders today...

Think of all of those years when we tried to convince ourselves that this guy or that guy could be a legit star. Think of all of those receivers we've fielded over the past five or ten years, pinning our hopes on them.

Then in struts a truly elite talent like Amari Cooper, who was playing college ball 10 months ago, and it's like, "Oh, that's what a superstar looks like."

It's been so long since we've had one, it's almost alien to watch someone like that turning on the jets in the silver and black. 

Give it up for Mack, too. And Carr. Like I said before the season started, the past two drafts were Reggie's lifeline, and he delivered. 

There's no doubt who the players are that this team revolves around, and they are really young and from the past two drafts.

There's a lot of work to be done. And that game got stupidly close with all of the marshmallow defense in the fourth quarter.   

But it looks like the laughingstock era is finally, mercifully, coming to an end. RAIDD-ERRZ!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Broncos Gameday Thread

Today is the day we are going to learn a lot about this team and what it is made of. Go Raiders!

Friday, October 02, 2015

Bears Gameday Thread

If the Raiders are truly going to exercise their demons, this is exactly the type of game they need to win, specifically because it's a game they are supposed to win. We haven't gotten many such games in recent years, and even those traditionally haven't gone well.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Raiders are giving up 414 yards per game so far this year. That is rock bottom in the NFL. 

Meanwhile, the Bears have lost three straight to...the Packers, Cardinals and Seahawks, three of the most formidable teams in the NFL. In other words, the Bears might not be quite as bad as they look at first glance.

So while the Raiders should win this game, it likely won't be a cakewalk, and the defense had better tighten things up. It will help if Jimmy Clauson is slinging it on Sunday, but we'd better not be looking past this team.

So GO RAIDERS, go forth and build upon the momentum and turn this mini-turnaround into a trend on Sunday.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

One Postgame Take

Sundays have been rough on me so far this September, but I was able to find a quiet place to watch the second half last week and witness the majestic accomplishment of reaching 2-1 after a Clown Car start to the season.

The ridiculous conservative playcalling on our second-to-last drive could have undone the whole thing, but a flubbed punt return by the Browns bailed Musgrave out.

It was an example of the breaks finally going our way, just as they did late in the Ravens game. 

It was also an example of the Raiders winning exactly the type of of game they've been known for losing, just as they did against the Ravens (you know, the close game where they prevent a win on a defense, or can't punch in that final score in the last minutes). 

It was an example of building on momentum, which is something we've rarely seen lately. 

It was a sense of "out with the old, in with the new" cultural shift, with Mack, Cooper and Carr cutting loose and redefining the Raiders.

On paper, these are two solid wins. But there's something that feels immensely symbolic about them, as if demons are being exorcised. They are the games we always lose--but somehow didn't. 

(Speaking of symbolism, how about the Niners going down the drain over the past two weeks after a strong first game)

The sample size is still small, but there's no denying that a blast of Minty Fresh air has suddenly blown through the Raider Nation.

So now come the Bears. Another type of game we typically lose--you know, the momentum buster, the "how did they lose to those guys when they looked so good last week" kind of game. 

If we go 3-1, it's time to fasten your seat belts. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Browns Gameday Thread

My apologies for not doing a postgame take this week, lots of traveling, didn't even get to see the game but was able to tune into the radio call of the fourth quarter. It was an amazing victory, they kind of game the Raiders seem to have always lost lately, but this time they didn't. Hopefully some demons were buried. 

Now onto the beatable Browns. Let's make this 2-1. GO RAIDERS!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Ravens Gameday Thread

The sooner we can move on from last week, the better, so I'm getting this gameday thread going early. 

Picking up from last Sunday, areas where we need improvement are: running, receiving, throwing, secondary, pressuring, special teams, preparation, playcalling....oh, I give up.

There is simply NO excuse for a continuation of what we saw last week. We have to assume, or at least hope, that it was a blip on the radar. 

On that note, we should see some vast improvement and a competitive game on Sunday. Let's GO RAIDERS!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

One Postgame Take

I'll make this quick, because I'm on the road and on my mobile. I tuned into the second half on the radio just in time to hear Tom Flores describe the overall effort as "horrible," with a nod to "ridiculous." After the game, Jack DR describe it as "embarrassing." Mind you, these are not my words, although they very easily could be. They are the words of the current head coach as well as of one of our Super Bowl winning coaches.

I will add the Clown Car graphic to this take as soon as I can, as it was justly earned.
How can this team change personnel, change coaches, have drafts, have free agency, and still look so freaking similar to last year, and the year before that, and the year before that? It's like an ongoing episode of the Twilight Zone.
Let's just hope it was some sort of weird blip, and not a sign of things to come, which would be yet another trip back to the future.

Bengals Gameday Thread

As demonstrated, the minimum expectation heading into this year (at least as far as the ownership-management regime is concerned) is a .500 record.

So let's get the party started today, in Oakland, against a capable but by-no-means indomitable team. Stuff the run, don't give up the big play, establish tempo on offense and be judiciously creative. GO RAIDERS!

Friday, September 04, 2015

The Math of Expectations

The Raiders should be expected to notch eight wins this year at a minimum, given the time and tools available to Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie in recent years. And here's the fuzzy math to prove it: 

For starters, this exercise aims to be conservative and reasonable in its analysis. On that note, let's give Mark/Reggie a complete pass for 2012. It was a year to clean house, or at least get it in order. That year, the Raiders went 4-12. 

So our win basis for today's exercise is four. That is our starting point.

Now, the whole point of free agency and the draft is to get better, not worse. In other words, with each draft and free agency period, there's an expectation of improvement with a positive impact on results.

Furthermore, the arrival of a better coach and coaching staff should also have a positive impact on results.

In other words, there are expectations that come with executing things like the draft, free agent signings and coach hirings. 

Which brings us to what I would call The Math of Expectations:

Let's begin by assigning values to minimal expectations of a job done well in running an NFL team, and specifically a rebuilding team that sorely lacks talent.

For a rebuilding team, a competent job in free agency should conservatively result in a gain of .75 of a win in the standings. Over the past two years (when we've truly had money to spend), that would add up to 1.5 wins.

I think you could also make a conservative estimate that the same holds for the draft (a gain of .75 wins per complete draft). Therefore, the past three complete drafts should add up to at least 2.25 expected wins.

Therefore, the cumulative conservative expectation is 2.25 wins + 1.5 wins since 2013.

Together, this adds up to an expected gain of 3.75 wins accumulated over the past three drafts and two free agency periods. 

Next up, the coaching factor. I will be conservative on this front as well. At a bare minimum, replacing Dennis Allen & Co. with a better staff should be worth at least one extra win. Improving results is the whole point of changing coaches, right?

Given that, we now have a minimum expectation of 4.75 wins gained.

Now, as explained at the top, our baseline starting point for Mark/Reggie was four wins. Add to that the 4.75 expected wins gained as outlined above, and you have a reasonable expectation of 8.75 wins by the conclusion of the 2015 season. And to be more conservative, let's round it down to eight wins, ie: a .500 record.

Some will say, hey wait a minute, we went 3-13 last year, so how can the baseline be four wins. My answer is that the expectations are not simply erased by missing the expectations. You're supposed to get better in the draft and free agency. That's the expectation. If you don't  get better, that doesn't mean the expectation was wrong or that it has been erased. It just means that the expectation was not met. 

So there you have it. The Raiders should reach .500 this year. Now it's time to see if they will. Aim high, go Raiders!

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Reggie McKenzie, Home Run Hitter

I have to laugh when folks defend Reggie McKenzie's first complete draft as general manager of the Raiders in 2013.

It was not a good draft. For our first pick, we selected a CB who was recuperating from a life-threatening injury. For our second pick, we selected a lineman who'd been playing the game of football for less than three years. More than two years later, both have yet to demonstrate value comparable to their draft slots. They smacked of projects at the time, and they still look like projects, which is exactly what a rebuilding team didn't need: multi-year projects. The decision making was nothing short of bizarre in the first two rounds.

In the third round, we got Sio Moore (Associated Press headline last week: "Sio Moore Fighting for Spot on Team). In the fourth round, we drafted a quarterback who was demoted to the practice squad before the start of the season.

Latavius Murray and Mychal Rivera in the sixth round were nice gets, but not enough to salvage the earlier missteps.

Those who defend the 2013 draft apparently don't know what a good draft looks like, which is odd, because they've had a front-row seat to what a good draft actually looks like, because Reggie McKenzie has turned in a couple over the past two years. 

In the first two rounds (the money rounds) of the 2014 draft, Reggie grabbed what looks like a Hall-of-Fame caliber talent in Kahlil Mack, and a possible long-term starting quarterback in Derek Carr. He followed that up with a what looks looks like a game-changing WR in Amari Cooper in the first round this year. Mario Edwards in the second round looks pretty strong, too. 

Talk about an about-face. Talk about hitting some home runs. Talk about back-to-back  triumphs. Those are really good drafts, if not truly great (we need to play some games first).

It's no secret that I have been critical of Reggie McKenzie. I still am when I think it's merited. I think our free agency execution has been lacking, and I think that, combined with a bad draft in 2013, has led to a snail's pace on the comeback trail. I'm not sure why we had to wait three years for Jack Del Rio to come in and inform the organization that it needed to get its football facilities up to standard

So while I don't give Reggie and A-grade as general manager so far, he seems to have aced the past two drafts as far as the money rounds are concerned.

I've always said that elite talent never takes long to assert itself. That's why Amari Cooper is already our #1 receiver, why Derek Carr beat out Matt Schaub to cement his position as the starting QB as a rookie, and why Kahlil Mack is already renowned across the NFL. 

Kudos to Reggie for a pair of drafts that have netted us one, two or possibly three of the finest talents we've seen on a Raiders roster in a long time (kickers excepted). It gives us something to watch and to be excited about headed into 2016.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Run Fred, Run...To Oakland?

Look, I'm not advocating making a declining running back an alleged centerpiece of our rushing attack (ie: MJD circa 2014).

But Fred Jackson just got cut, and he's probably a better option than our current backup, Trent Richardson.

Jackson caught 66 passes and averaged 3.7 yards per carry for the woeful Bills last year. Richardson caught 27 passes and averaged 3.3 yards per carry last year for the powerful Colts. He has never averaged more than 3.6 yards per carry over a season. 

Our rushing attack looks woefully thin once again. Last night, we gained 37 net yards on the ground. I'm sorry, I don't expect Latavius Murray to light the world on fire this year. I'm sure he'll be good. But great? Unlikely. 

And if for some reason he gets hurt, it will be the "Trent Richardson show."

(From "In three games, here's the preseason rushing line for Oakland running back Trent Richardson: 15 carries, 42 yards, 2.8-yard average. Sound familiar, Browns/Colts fans?")

I don't know about you, but the "Fred Jackson show" may have a better ring to it? 

If so, maybe that's a hedge we want to play while he's still available.

A meaningful rushing attack is going to be vital to maximizing the potential of Cooper & Co. through the air. 

To meet that goal, no option should be left unexplored, even at this late hour.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Back on The Horse

Well, my annual spring layoff went right into summer this year...

In trying to analyze my extended ennui this offseason, I realized that I'm somewhat exhausted. 

Consider that 2015 marks the 10-year anniversary of Raider Take, which was inaugurated right before the start of the 2005 season. 

For 10 straight years, I've had the privilege of keeping the lights on here for you rowdy renegades, and I will continue to do so. 

Along the way, I've aimed to stay informed for the purpose of producing my own original takes. The Raiders haven't done me any favors in this department, with a 10-year period of play that has been one of the most abysmal in the history of the NFL. It can wear a blogger down after a decade.

But even though there hasn't been a lot to celebrate, it's been a lot of fun. On that note, I'll stop driving down memory lane and try to get back on track...

Last year around this time, my big question mark was the skill positions. We were heading into the season with zero playmakers (no true #1 receiver and a couple of dogs at RB and a guy named Matt Schaub at quarterback), which is sort of unfathomable in today's NFL, and which produced predictable results despite the fact that Carr unseated Schaub and showed great potential.

The addition of Amari Cooper is therefore a game changer, while the addition of Michael Crabtree hopefully provides enough oomph to keep Cooper from being gang-defensed. 

The running game, well, it all hinges on Latavius Murray. Did you see this video of Trent Richardson the other night (click here). I have very little faith in anyone behind Murray, so Murray not only needs to stay healthy, but also rise to the occasion. 

We don't have a shutdown defense. I think we're going to need to score a lot of points in order to notch wins. If the offense clicks, it could be fun. If it stutters, get ready for another long season. 

Carr and Cooper can't do it alone. It's going to take a breakout season from Murray, a return to form by Crabtree, and stout effort by the o-line in order to make this season successful.

Let's plan on that and see how it goes.