The lack of a running game will be a sticking point when the Oakland Raiders review this mostly miserable season on offense.

The Raiders were expecting to be a run-first offense after having had success in the run game in recent seasons. Both original coach Dennis Allen and interim coach Tony Sparano alluded to wanting to emphasize the running game on offense.

But it never developed.

The Raiders are last in the NFL in rushing, averaging just 73.8 yards per game.

Sunday’s 31-13 loss at Kansas City was a perfect example of Oakland's tendency to go pass-heavy, as Derek Carr passed on 56 of Oakland’s 73 plays. Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Thursday that perhaps the team should have tried to run the ball more.

“Going back to look at it, there may have been a series there in the third quarter when it was 24-6, there was a time I think we could have,” Olson said. “...There was a succession there of about 10 plays where we needed to play better, and it would have kept us in the game and we could have stayed with the game plan and run the ball more.”

Oakland Raiders injury report

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
9:20
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders cornerback Tarell Brown continues to be sidelined with a foot injury but the team continues to be optimistic that he’ll be able to play in Sunday’s home finale against the Buffalo Bills.

Brown had been nursing the injury for several weeks then aggravated it when he landed awkwardly trying to break up a pass during Oakland’s Week 14 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Brown was held out of practice most of last week then played every defensive snap in the loss at the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Raiders are hoping the same pattern works again this week.

Brown was held out of practice again on Thursday, and interim coach Tony Sparano indicated the cornerback is in essentially the same position he was a week ago.

“Everybody needs practice but some guys can do it with less and less time,” Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “He’s been able to do that and play at a pretty good level for us.”

While Brown didn’t practice, the news on rookie quarterback Derek Carr is more encouraging. After being limited in practice on Wednesday due to a sore right thumb he injured late in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs, Carr was cleared and worked out without restrictions on Thursday.

The rest of the Raiders injury report is below.

Did not practice: WR Vincent Brown (groin), CB Chimdi Chekwa (groin), WR Denarius Moore (knee/ankle), RT Menelik Watson (foot/ankle), TE Brian Leonhardt (concussion).

Limited: CB TJ Carrie (ankle), DL C.J. Wilson (knee), CB DJ Hayden (back).

 

Despite success, rookie Khalil Mack still looking to improve

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
8:50
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Khalil Mack might be a strong candidate for defensive rookie of the year honors, but the Oakland Raiders' outside linebacker is far from a polished product.

The fifth overall pick in this year's NFL draft, Mack has been attracting attention and garnering praise from opposing players and coaches around the league from the moment he first stepped on the field in the preseason.

Mack
Despite frequently facing double-team blocking schemes, Mack is among the team leaders in tackles, is tied for the team-high in sacks and is second in the NFL behind Denver's Von Miller in quarterback hurries. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Mack also has 15 tackles for losses which is second among all rookies behind St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

In Mack's eyes, however, there is plenty of room for improvement.

"There are a lot of things I need to work on," Mack said Thursday. "My vision looking in on plays, playing with my hands better, especially pass-rushing. A whole lot of things I want to work on. It's always something to get better at, whether I'm excelling at it or not."

Mack had a decorated career in college while attending the University at Buffalo but there was some apprehension and debate over whether he could make the transition to the NFL. That chatter died down and was quickly replaced by talk about how many postseason awards Mack might be in line for.

Through 14 games Mack has the highest grade among all linebackers, according to ProFootballFocus.com. It's worth noting that Mack has been so strong that until this week the website listed him as an outside 3-4 linebacker even though the Raiders play a base 4-3.

ESPN analyst and former NFL running back Merril Hoge was effusive in his praise of Mack when discussing the rookie linebacker recently.

"Every week, one of the teams I watch early on is the Raider defense," Hoge said. "And the reason I want to watch is Khalil Mack. He's not just one of the best rookies to come out, he's the best linebacker in the National Football League, and he is the best against the run."

Mack won't go that far.

He long ago shed the feelings of being a rookie and has steadily improved throughout the course of the season, one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season for the 2-12 Raiders.

"I'm trying to go out and get better every week," Mack said. "I know I'm playing against the best in the world whenever I'm out there on the field so I want to play at my best. I can't really look at it as being a rookie."

Having a locker next to two-time Super Bowl champ Justin Tuck has kept the young linebacker humble and has helped keep Mack focused on the task at hand.

"You can see me out on the field, I'm always bugging him about something but he's always teaching me lessons," Mack said. "He's in my ear as well. It's great to have that type of guy in the locker room. He's a stand-up guy. He's like a big brother."
Rookie Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack seems to be getting stronger as he prepares for his 15th game of the season.

Mack has flashed in recent weeks, getting all three of his sacks since Week 11. There has been no rookie wall for the No. 5 overall pick from Buffalo.

“It doesn’t seem to happen with him,” Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano said. “He’s been really steady and has gotten progressively better each week. That’s a guy who hasn’t hit the wall. He’s got a lot of gas left in his tank right now and it’s been good to watch.”

In other Raiders notes:
  • Sparano said the coaches challenged the special teams unit to be better against a Buffalo Bills team that brought back a punt for a touchdown in Week 15. Oakland’s cover units have been awful this season. It hit bottom Sunday when the Kansas City Chiefs' De'Anthony Thomas returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown.
  • Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver praised the play of young players, defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin and linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong at Kansas City. They are playing more because of injuries.
  • The game is a sellout and will be shown on local television. All seven games in Oakland this season were declared sellouts. The Raiders also had a "home" game in London.
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The NFL Live crew make their picks for Buffalo at Oakland.
ESPN Insider Todd McShay has come up with his first of many mock first-round drafts.

Of course, there are a lot of caveats. First, we need to finish the season. Then we have to get through the pre-draft process. But, it’s truly never too early to take a draft gander.

Let’s take a look at what McShay has in store for the Oakland Raiders. In this mock, the Raiders are picking fourth because that is what the order would be if the season ended now. Of course, it could change in the next two weeks.

McShay has Oakland taking Nebraska pass-rusher Randy Gregory. Here is some of McShay’s reasoning: "The Raiders need an edge rusher, and the presence of Gregory and Khalil Mack along the same front seven would create problems for opposing offensive lines for seasons to come."

By all accounts, Gregory will be a top pick and I could see the appeal of putting him in Oakland. It would go a long way toward making this defense tough for the immediate future and for the long haul.

Still, right now, I think I’d take Alabama receiver Amari Cooper. Derek Carr needs a new toy and Cooper could be special. He is available at No. 4 in McShay’s mock.

Again, it is just the beginning of the process. If you don’t like this mock, don’t worry. There will be plenty more to come.
Derek Carr knows he will be the Oakland Raiders quarterback next season, but he is unsure of who his coaches will be.

With just two games remaining, the 2-12 Raiders are expected to make changes. Carr gets it. He saw Oakland fire coach Dennis Allen a quarter into the season and he went through coaching changes in college at Fresno State.

Still, the uncertainty isn’t easy.

“The fact that I don’t know what’s going to happen, that’s hard,” Carr said.

Still, he said he is focused finishing the season under interim coach Tony Sparano. As he did with Allen, Carr has praised Sparano.

“But right now, I am focused on playing my heart out for [Sparano] because I love him,” Carr said. “I love him to death. I love playing for him. He pushes the heck out of me, and I love it. That’s how I like to be coached. Him, [offensive coordinator Greg Olson] and [quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo], they push me hard. Not knowing [what the future holds] is hard, but I am grateful that I do get to play for him now.”
For Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr his rookie season has been an extended lesson.

The only rookie quarterback to start every game this season, Carr left Sunday's 31-13 drubbing at Kansas City -- one of his worst performances of the season -- with an education. The Chiefs put constant pressure on Carr and he was never able to get comfortable. Now he knows there will be days like that.

"When you get hit early, a lot of times in your natural ability, you just got hit in the face and it's like, 'Oh man, is it going to be like this all day?' You learn a lot about yourself, like I've said a lot this year," Carr said. "I learned about myself that I can continue to stand in there and take the hits and make the throws I need to make, make the reads I need to make. That is going to pay off so much. There is so much that goes on when those hits happen and you come to the sideline and know you have to go back out there. There is so much in your head that goes on. It's good to know that I can do this all day. It's really cool, too, when other people notice it. Older, veteran teammates come up to you and say something about how that's going to pay off for you, and how it's good to see. That kind of stuff is encouragement. That was the biggest take away. It was good."

In other Raiders notes:

The Raiders have put 13 players on injured reserve this season, including nine on defense. Interim coach Tony Sparano said that gave the team an opportunity to look at young players such as defensive linemen Denico Autry and Ricky Lumpkin, who otherwise likely wouldn't get a look.

The Raiders are tied with the Jets and the Chiefs with 11 takeaways. It's the fewest in NFL.

The Raiders added receiver Greg Jenkins, who has been in the program before, and defensive back Vernon Kearney to the practice squad.

Practice squader Spencer Hadley went back to working at linebacker because Raiders have just four active linebackers. He has been getting reps at fullback lately.
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Is a reunion at the Big House going to get in the way of the Oakland Raiders' big plans?

ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that Michigan is making a push for San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who played quarterback at the school. Harbaugh is not expected back with the 49ers and is expected to be the target of the Oakland Raiders after the season.

Schefter reported Harbaugh is “considering” the Michigan job. There are reports that the school is offering Harbaugh a six-year, $49 million deal.

Here are some thoughts on how it affects the Raiders:

It’s not over yet: This is high speculation season. Lots of rumors are floated. The key is leverage. Harbaugh has plenty of it and it's being played. Let’s see what happens.

Raiders can match that deal: If Mark Davis really wants Harbaugh, he knows he has to pay big. I believe he’s prepared. So, if Harbaugh is patient, more cash could be had in the Bay Area and in the NFL.

What if Harbaugh goes to Michigan? Well, the Raiders will be bummed. Gruden is staying at ESPN. Harbaugh was the big fish. If not, the Raiders will have to lower their expectations. There will still be plenty of good candidates. But no Harbaughs left.

Injury to Sio Moore gives Raiders' Ray-Ray Armstrong a chance to audtion

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
9:53
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Raiders don't have much to play for, having long ago been eliminated from playoff contention. For linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong, however, the final two games of the season qualify as a golden opportunity.

With Sio Moore on season-ending injured reserve with a hip injury, Armstrong is getting a mini-audition on defense after playing almost strictly on special teams since being claimed off waivers from St. Louis on Oct. 6.

Armstrong
A safety in college who went undrafted out of Miami, Armstrong started in place of Moore at weakside linebacker during last week's 31-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Armstrong made a few flash plays in the game and finished with four tackles.

The 23-year-old is expected to start again this week when the Raiders close out their home schedule Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

"It's always good to get game reps," Armstrong said. "I'm going out there just trying to take every game in and get better off of each mistake. You can't get the same speed of a game in practice. It's a lot different."

Moore, Oakland's colorful and outspoken linebacker, was among the team's leading tacklers before getting sidelined by a hip injury he's been nursing for nearly a month. He was placed on the injured reserve list on Tuesday.

That leaves first-round pick Khalil Mack as the Raiders' lone remaining starting linebacker still playing. Middle linebacker Nick Roach, who played every defensive snap in 2013, has been out since suffering a concussion in the preseason.

With Armstrong joining Mack and Miles Burris -- Roach's replacement -- on Oakland's first-team defense, the team has very little depth at linebacker. Undrafted rookie Bojay Filimoeatu is the only other linebacker on the 53-man roster.

Spencer Hadley, a practice squad player who was converted to fullback earlier in the season, was moved back to linebacker for Wednesday's practice to add some depth.

Interim Raiders coach Tony Sparano said he was encouraged by Armstrong's debut against the Chiefs.

"I thought Ray-Ray played well in the game the other day," Sparano said. "I felt him quite a bit, felt him in some pressures. I thought he did some really good things in the run game, got around the football quite a bit. He was active and played with a good edge to him.

"Ray-Ray's a young player, and I'm sure at some point you could get that young guy on a mistake that jumps up out of there, but that didn't happen this past weekend. This guy wasn't a linebacker prior to a few years ago, so all of a sudden he's playing linebacker and starting out there and doing those type of things. His skillset is more of a sub type of a player, but I liked what he did out there. He kind of had a little bit of slink to him and found the football."

Armstrong was a bit more subdued in his self-evaluation.

"I think it went OK but the end result is you want to win, so it doesn't matter how I played," Armstrong said. "Getting that win is what we're all going out to do. You're a backup so you have to expect those things, that at any point in time you can get out there. With limited reps in practice you still have to perform and do your job."

Raiders not talking about Sio Moore's injury

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
9:20
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Raiders are keeping mum about Sio Moore's injury and are not saying if the second-year linebacker will require surgery in the offseason.

Moore
Moore was placed on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday after battling a hip injury for several weeks. Oakland's second-leading tackler, Moore did not play in last week's loss to Kansas City. He also missed two games earlier this season with an ankle injury.

Interim Raiders coach Tony Sparano, however, declined to discuss details about Moore's situation and would not confirm or deny if the linebacker was headed for surgery.

"That's not something were going to talk about right now," Sparano said. "He's on IR."

Several other players might not be far behind.

The Raiders' injury report is filling up faster than a water bucket in the Bay Area, with seven players unable to practice and two others limited during Wednesday's workout.

Defensive lineman C.J. Wilson is the latest to go down. Wilson injured his knee after recovering a fumble in the third quarter of last Sunday's loss to the Chiefs. He was tackled by Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith following a 21-yard return that led to a Sebastian Janikowski field goal for Oakland.

Wilson was among the seven who did not practice on Wednesday. The rest of the injury report is below.

Did not practice: CB Tarell Brown (foot), WR Vincent Brown (groin), CB Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring), TE Brian Leonhardt (concussion), WR Denarius Moore (knee/ankle), RT Menelik Watson (foot/ankle).

Limited: QB Derek Carr (right thumb), CB TJ Carrie (ankle).

Oakland Raiders not worried about Derek Carr's thumb injury

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
8:44
PM ET
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is nursing a sore thumb on his throwing hand but team officials don't believe it's serious enough to keep him out of Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills.

Carr injured the hand when he hit his hand on a helmet or opposing player at some point late in the fourth quarter of last week's 31-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders' second-round pick stayed in and finished the game but was limited in practice on Wednesday.

"I don't know if it was a helmet or a hand or something but I hurt it on that last drive," Carr said.

Although he was restricted in practice, Carr was able to throw the ball without being hindered and interim Oakland coach Tony Sparano didn't sound too concerned when discussing the injury with reporters.

"Not from what I just watched," Sparano said.

Of more concern is Carr's left ankle, which he injured early in the second half after getting hit by Kansas City linebacker Tamba Hali. Carr jumped up after the play and immediately began limping noticeably before joining the huddle and continuing the series.

It's the same type of injury Carr suffered earlier in the season during a Week 4 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Carr was knocked out of that game midway through the third quarter and replaced by backup Matt McGloin, who played the rest of the way.

Carr has taken every offensive snap since then, save for 19 plays against St. Louis in Week 13 when he was pulled late in the blowout loss and replaced by Matt Schaub.

The Raiders only listed Carr's thumb on their injury report and the young quarterback didn't seem to think it was too serious either.

"I think Tamba rolled up behind me and it just folded up underneath," Carr said." The same direction that I hurt it in London, but I was able to go today so it was good."

Raiders pleased with progress of Khalil Mack

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
10:00
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ESPN Raiders reporter Bill Williamson talks about first-round pick Khalil Mack coming into his own entering the Bills game.
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SAN DIEGO -- In a renewed commitment to getting a stadium built here, the San Diego Chargers said Tuesday the team will not exercise its right to terminate the lease at Qualcomm Stadium, committing to play in the city for the 2015 season.

"The team will not be exercising the lease termination clause and will keep working to find a publicly acceptable way to build a Super Bowl-quality stadium in San Diego," Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Chargers president Dean Spanos and the team's point person on the stadium issue, said in a prepared statement.

"Calendar year 2015 will constitute the team's 14th year of work on a San Diego stadium solution."

Since 2007, the Chargers have had a three-month window to renew the team's year-to-year lease with the City of San Diego for Qualcomm Stadium that permits the team to terminate the lease at any time between Feb. 1 and May 1.

The Chargers would have to pay the City of San Diego $17.6 million to leave next year.

The Chargers, the St. Louis Rams and the Oakland Raiders are teams that could potentially relocate to the lucrative Los Angeles Market in 2015.

According to Fabiani, the Chargers are keeping a watchful eye on what happens in Los Angeles, with 30 percent of the team's local revenue -- which includes advertising, sponsorships, club seats and suites -- originating in the Los Angeles market.


(Read full post)


Carr
In Week 14, Derek Carr had his best total QBR game (91.2), but it was sandwiched between his worst two Total QBR performances of his rookie season.

The second-round pick from Fresno State had a 14.5 Total QBR score in a 31-13 Oakland Raiders’ loss at Kansas Icy in Week 15. His only worse Total QBR score came in a 52-0 loss at St. Louis in Week 13 (9.5).

Consistency has been an issue for Carr this season and his recent up-and-down performances reflect that. For the season, Carr was a Total QBR of 41.5. it is 25th in the NFL. Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater, who was taken four spots higher than Carr at No. 32, has the highest rookie Total QBR at 46.4. That is 23rd in the NFL.

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