Raiders

Consistency, or lack thereof, the defense's bugaboo

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Consistency, or lack thereof, the defense's bugaboo

ALAMEDA -- Dennis Allen is a defensive-minded coach, so you know it just has to pain him to see the Raiders give up 97 points over the past two weeks.Especially when the defense appears to "fix" one problem one week and then, the next, something else springs a leak.Or, as the loquacious Tommy Kelly said, "It's like a dam right now. You put your finger in one hole, and three or four more holes pop up."To be more succinct, the Raiders gave up 278 rushing yards to Tampa Bay. They followed that up in Baltimore by "limiting" the Ravens to a mere 78 yards on the ground. But Oakland surrendered 341 yards through the air and was pummeled, 55-20."We feel like you fix one thing and then you feel like you're fixing something else," Allen said in his weekly media conference Monday. "But at the end of the day, we've got to do a better job at being more consistent. And that's what it's really all about."And this from the glass-is-half-full department: it is the second time this season the Raiders had a 200-plus yard improvement in rushing yards allowed from one week to the next. Against Miami, Oakland gave up 263 yards on the ground; against Pittsburgh, the Raiders surrendered but 54 rushing yards.Consistency, or lack thereof, see?Perhaps more frustrating, though, was the Raiders' defense continuing to give up "explosive plays," which are defined by the Raiders staff as pass plays that yield at least 16 yards and run plays that gain at least 12 yards.The Ravens had 11 explosive plays -- 10 passes, which included two touchdowns, and one run -- on Sunday.This a week after Tampa Bay had 10 explosive plays -- four passes, one TD, and six runs, three TDs."I wish there was a magical answer," Allen said. "I know everybody wants a magical, 'This is the solution,' but at the end of the day, and I've said this over and over, it's about us doing our job the right way every single time. And when we develop that consistency, when we've had that consistency, we've played well in all three phases. But that's the key to having success."Everything we do is in a constant evaluation. But I'm not going to stand up here and say we're making wholesale changes. We're going to look at every aspect of what we do, offensively, defensively and the kicking game, and if we feel changes need to be made, we'll make those changes."On the season, the Raiders have given up 69 explosive plays (48 passes with six TDs and 21 runs with six TDs) while getting 63 explosive plays of their own (54 passes with five TDs and nine runs with one TD).It all begs the question, with so much inconsistency on defense, do the Raiders have enough raw talent on that side of the ball to win?"Yeah, we have enough talent," Allen said. "We have to play at a high level on every single snap in every single game. Just like anybody else in the National Football League, if you dont play consistently, youre going to have the ups and downs like weve had. I dont look at it as a talent issue. We have who we have. Our job is to go out there and win football games."And no, no one on Allen's staff is on a hot seat."Nobody is on the bubble," Allen said. "I dont think this is the appropriate time to even comment on that anyway."

Will a Gruden-Lynch partnership work? ‘Guys like him interest me’

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AP

Will a Gruden-Lynch partnership work? ‘Guys like him interest me’

Jon Gruden asked to speak with Marshawn Lynch several times but got turned down.

His job title earned an automatic veto. The enigmatic running back doesn’t talk to the press, even a Monday Night Football analyst with Gruden’s street cred. No production meetings, no insight flowing outside the inner circle.

Lynch must honor the next request. Gruden’s his boss, after all.

“I’m anxious to sit down with Marshawn and meet him,” the new Raiders head coach said Tuesday during his introductory press conference. “We’ll talk about his future and the Raiders. I can’t wait. He came back to the Raiders for similar, I think, reasons that I did. I think he loves Oakland. I think he loves the Raiders and guys like him interest me, so I’m looking forward to talking to him.”

The veteran running back and Oakland native has a year left on a two-year deal struck last April. The 2018 payouts, per overthecap.com, include a $4 million base salary, a $250,000 workout bonus, a $1 million roster bonus and $750,000 in per-game roster bonuses. There are also significant performance-based incentives.

Marshawn is under contract, but also has some say in this matter. He could post an image of cleats hanging on a telephone wire like he did after the 2016 Super Bowl and call it a career. Lynch made it clear in a rare press conference that he didn’t miss football. He returned for the opportunity to play in front of a East Bay community he champions and bring attention to his significant charitable efforts.

There are several possible outcomes from the Gruden/Lynch tete-a-tete. Gruden might not consider him worth the while. Lynch may walk away, for good this time. Or, the two could traverse 2018 together.

Predicting Marshawn’s movements is a fool’s errand. We can, however, make an educated pros and cons list. Let’s take a look at some factors influencing the ultimate outcome.

PROS

-- The phrase in Gruden’s last sentence above may have tipped his hand: “Guys like him interest me.” Lynch is an intense presence, one of his generation’s most physical runners. Gruden can use on-field talents like him, though it’s uncertain whether he’s a perfect fit in an offense that has certainly evolved during nine years in the broadcast booth.

Also, Gruden loves Oakland. Lynch loves Oakland. That may be a good starting point.

-- Marshawn still has it. The 31-year old was the Raiders’ most productive skill player in 2017’s second half. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry over the last season games, totaling 625 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He also had at least 92 yards total offense in five of those contests. When he’s motivated and healthy – he didn’t miss a single practice with injury – Lynch can be a force on the ground

-- Gruden reportedly hired Tom Cable as offensive line coach a few days back. That’s probably a plus from Lynch’s perspective. Cable was Seattle offensive line coach, and heavily involved in the running game, during Lynch’s best seasons. He ran a system that fit Lynch well, though Gruden said schemes will be based around team strengths. Lynch and Cable reportedly get along well, and could be a major reason why Lynch finds it appetizing to return.

-- Lynch carried locker room clout. Last year’s coaching staff didn’t love him, but player certainly did.

CONS

-- Lynch comes with some baggage. He’s an eccentric sort who does his own thing, at times without regard for small rules. That may rub Gruden and staff the wrong way. It certainly bothered Del Rio’s crew, especially when he seemed to have his own set of rules.

The Raiders tolerated Lynch’s choice to sit during the national anthem all year, despite being vocal against such actions the year before. He also had a production crew following him around quite often, especially in camp.

He got suspended for sticking up for the other team in Week 7, protecting great friend, Oakland native and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters in an on-field altercation. He then practiced with his old high school during the suspension.

Gruden may not love the prospect of dealing with extra weight, depending on how strict he plans to be during this coaching tenure.

-- Lynch turns 32 in April. While Lynch might be an exception, running backs often fall off a production cliff in their early 30s. Can the Raiders get good value from Lynch at that age, knowing full well another running back might be added to the roster?

-- Lynch may simply not be into another year in Oakland. He enjoyed taking 2016 off, travelling the world and increasing charitable and business endeavors. Is his drive still strong?

Report: Former Raiders head coach returning to join Gruden's staff

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AP

Report: Former Raiders head coach returning to join Gruden's staff

Jon Gruden isn’t the only Raiders head coach returning to the Silver and Black.

Tom Cable’s on the way, albeit in a lesser role. Gruden already has the top job. Cable’s coming back, NFL Network reported Saturday afternoon, as offensive line coach.

He occupied that role in Oakland from 2007 until he assumed the head coach role when Lane Kiffin was fired five games into the 2008 season. The interim tag was lifted in 2009, and he coached the Raiders to an 8-8 record in 2010.

He followed that feat with the now famous quote, “We’re not losers anymore.” The Raiders had seven straight losing seasons before finishing .500 in what would be Cable’s last season with the club. He was 17-27 in two-plus seasons as Raiders head coach.

He went to Seattle after that, and spent seven seasons as Seahawks assistant head coach in charge of the offensive line. He also worked extensively with Marshawn Lynch during the rusher’s salad days in Seattle.

Cable returning to the Raiders seemed highly unlikely after late owner Al Davis detailed Cable’s misgivings in a post-firing press conference. Cable was allegedly involved in a 2009 incident where then Raiders assistant Randy Hanson was left with a broken jaw. ESPN also aired a report where three women accused Cable of domestic violence. One of Cable’s accusers sued Cable and named the Raiders as a co-defendant. Davis docked Cable’s pay in relation to that litigation.

Cable is a respected position coach, though the Seahawks offensive line has fallen on hard times. He and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell were fired after a disappointing season where the Seahawks missed the postseason.

Offensive line coach was a top priority as Gruden built a staff. Cable is known for using a zone blocking scheme, though it remains uncertain what he’ll use in Oakland with a powerful, expensive offensive front locked in place save the right tackle spot.