Sunday, September 29, 2013

Five Postgame Takes

1. After one game, I've already seen enough of Matt Flynn.

2. I just loved that corner blitz from Woodson, where he came flying around the edge to hit RGIII right in the sternum. Brought back good memories. 

3. Crap That Bugs Me Dept.: Just under five minutes to go, down by 10 points. First and 15 at the Washington 31, and Flynn hits Mastrud for eight yards. Tick, tock, tick, tock...THIRTY FIVE seconds then elapse before the next snap. What, did we think some sort of quick strike was coming from Flynn? If we were going to score twice, it was going to take time, and there we were, just wasting it. You could make the argument that we had two timeouts and that there was still plenty of opportunities left, but it just seemed out of touch with the plodding (at best) ability of our offense to gain yards and move the ball. Of course, it was all moot after Flynn attempted that lame sneak on fourth down with 3:30 to go...

4. I know there were some breakdowns, but I'm liking our defense. We finally have some modernized energy going on...They're getting after it, mixing it up, and showing some fight. I think a foundation is being built on that side of the ball.

5. It's our offense I'm worried about. There's no question now that Pryor is our man, at least this year. Without him, we're hopeless on offense. I think we've seen enough of McFadden to know that he's nothing terribly special, and he's considered our "star" skill player. Reggie's got a lot of work to do on this side of the ball.

Redskins Gameday Thread

My theme for this game is "time to step up." 

In their current state, the Redskins are the perfect test for the Raiders. Are we still a bottom feeder, able only to beat the lifeless Jaguars? Or are we ready to take the next step and beat a capable but vulnerable foe?

Now is the time for the Raiders to get to 2-2 and show some growth. GO RAIDERS!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Broncos Gamenight Thread

So far this year, I've given each game an advance theme...

Prior to the Colts game, at which time the pundits had the Raiders getting demolished by the Colts, the theme was "you never know."

Last week, I characterized that Jaguars game as a "must win," a crucial step toward avoiding the classic Raiders letdown moment.

So far, so good, thematically speaking.

Tonight, my theme is "fight to the finish." I wouldn't bet my house on a win. But if we can avoid the predicted blowout and give the Broncos a real run for their money, victory or not, then it will be a third building block in three games.

On that note, GO RAIDERS!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Five Postgame Takes

1. I can't figure out the ho-hum attitude that some fans seem to have toward Terrelle Pryor right now. What have you been watching? Have you seen anything this electric lately in a Raiders uniform? Sure, he ultimately blew it in Indy, but without him we're not even in that game. Then, on Sunday, he manages the game and avoids mistakes, and his mere presence as a running threat blows holes open for Darren McFadden. He's got a ways to go, but he's certainly made things interesting. And before you pick apart his stats, who does he have to throw to? Any one see any hall-of-fame receivers on this roster?

2. When McFadden starts rolling downhill, and when he feels like it, he looks really good. Angry and vicious.

3. Anyone missing Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Michael Huff or Rolando McClain right about now? Didn't think so. Our defense might not be a powerhouse at this point, but you can't call them overpaid and overdrafted. And it looks to me like they're playing with more purpose, more energy and more violence than any Raiders defense in recent memory.

4. Just chew on this for a second: "On February 17, 2011, Richard Seymour agreed to a two year, $30 million contract extension with the Raiders, making him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL." As of right now, two weeks into the 2013 season, Richard Seymour is an unsigned free agent. Say goodbye to craziness.

5. Meanwhile, Charles Woodson's one-year deal is worth a maximum of $4.3 million and includes a $700,000 signing bonus. The same Charles Woodson who saved the day with a jaw-dropping leap to horsecollar MJD short of the goal line on Sunday. Say hello to value.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Jaguars Gameday Take

Last year, the Jaguars came into Oakland and pushed the Raiders to the limit, but ultimately the Raiders won by three points in overtime, notching one of just four victories on the year.

Last week, in the realm of popular opinion, the Jaguars unseated the Raiders for the title of worst team in the NFL, gaining just two points in an ugly loss to the Chiefs. Now their starting quarterback is out, although some say that backup Chad Henne gives them a better chance.

The Raiders have to win this game. This is a ladder game. Last week, they showed us something we didn't expect. This week, they can do it again by avoiding the classic "letdown" game. 

This game is a proving ground. We may not win a lot of games this year, but it's time to start winning the winnable ones, and the Jaguars at home is the most winnable of all this year. GO RAIDERS!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

And So It Begins...

There's one thing going for the Raiders this season: very low expectations.

Through all of those seasons "reloading," of new head coaches and overspending in free agency and high draft picks and duct tape, September always seemed to come with a sense of "well, you never know..." 

So hopes would be raised early, only to be crushed shortly thereafter. Eventually, we eked out a couple of .500 seasons, but they proved to be a house of cards. For all of that spending, for all of those high draft picks, after all of those years, we finally built a roster that was capable of a .500 record...and not much more. 

Now Reggie McKenzie is eating fistfuls of dead money in order to clear the plate for next year. Here are some examples of dead-money drags on the organization this year: Carson Palmer ($9.3 million). Rolando McClain ($7.26 million), Tommy Kelly ($6.3 million) and Darrius Heyward-Bey ($5.26 million).

Where does dead money comes from? It comes moving the financial ball downfield, hedging short-term gain against long-term pain. An example, as reported by USA Today: "The Raiders converted $11.675 million of Carson Palmer's 2012 base salary to an OATSB (other amount treated as signing bonus) to help their cap last season, and 80% of it accelerated onto the 2013 cap when he was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in April."

So the demolition is fully underway, and why we didn't get more of a jump on it last year remains a mystery to me. 

On paper, our roster looks really weak. On the field during the preseason, it looked eminently beatable and largely rudderless. Some of us, despite empathizing with Reggie's cap plight, are getting a bit anxious to see some progress on the field. 

You can have a will without wins. You can discern direction amid disaster. There are ways to lose without the Clown Car popping wheelies. You can make progress in small but meaningful ways. We are 18 months into the Reggie McKenzie-Dennis Allen era, and by the 24-month mark at the end of this season, the arrow needs to be pointing upward. 

Today, the Raiders open the season in Indianapolis, against a team that went 2-14 two years ago. The legendary "memdf," a longtime Raider Taker, is en route to serve as our lucky charm, but the Colts have Andrew Luck. It's going to be an uphill battle today.

For now, the expectations are lower for the Raider than they have ever been, as far as I can tell. They are universally considered by the pundits to be the worst team in the league. Even the most hopeful fans sound like they expect around four wins. 

But it's early September, and as we say every year around this time: You never know...

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Wilson, Kluwe Walk The Plank

The Raiders made news by keeping four quarterbacks on their initial 53-man roster, but apparently three is now the magic number, as Tyler Wilson is reportedly being waived.

If this is true, I think that ProFootballTalk sums it up nicely, "On one hand, it’s gutsy that the Raiders were willing to admit they were wrong about Wilson. On the other hand, a team that is mired in a rebuilding mess can’t afford to waste any draft picks. Especially not fourth-rounders."

The Raiders earlier paid Wilson a signing bonus of $490,000.

I know that our ship was fairly sunk when Reggie and DA arrived, but at some point we've got to stop bailing water and start sailing in a straighter direction. Hopefully, we'll see some evidence of this as the season begins and progresses. 

Last year, we swam upstream by hiring Greg Knapp, which several folks here immediately predicted would end in disaster. 

This year, we've spent a fourth rounder and a half million dollars on Tyler Wilson, and a fifth rounder (as well as a conditional pick) on Matt Flynn, only to discover that the best guy for the job may be the guy who was right under our nose but who only got 30 passing attempts at the end of a garbage year when it was clear that Carson Palmer would be gone. 

Look, I know it's going to take time to get us out of this mess. All the more reason we need to be very careful about creating new messes.

If this sounds like I'm being panicky or harsh or unreasonable, I get that. Let the games begin, and let's hope we see some signs pointing toward true momentum heading into 2014.

On the bright side today, at least we can finally stop hearing about our punter competition.