Del Rio eyes NFL scoreboards with dual purposes


Del Rio eyes NFL scoreboards with dual purposes

Jack Del Rio is an NFL fan. That was the case 32 years ago, before beginning his career as a professional player and then coach.

His love for the league was fostered at Oakland Coliseum, cheering for his hometown Raiders. The job hasn’t changed things. Not one bit.

The Raiders have a bye this week, but their head coach will carve time to watch Sunday’s slate. As it was decades ago, Del Rio has a rooting interest.

He has always wanted the Raiders to succeed while rivals struggle. Now he needs that to happen.

Del Rio’s team is 4-5 heading into a Week 11 showdown with New England in Mexico City, with an uphill climb remaining to be a legitimate contender.

Del Rio could use a combination of Raiders wins and favorable results, which is what happened Sunday. The Chiefs, Broncos, Ravens and Bills lost. The Silver and Black beat Miami, and jumped from 14th to ninth in conference. They’re 1.5 games back of a wild card spot and two games behind Kansas City in the AFC West.

While adjacent results don’t matter if the Raiders lose too often, Del Rio admits to watching scoreboards even with so much football left.

“You can’t help but look. I mean if you’re a fan… Heck, I’m looking all the time,” Del Rio said Monday. “That’s just the fan aspect, but the professional aspect, we have to just focus on the process of what goes into playing really well, understanding your assignment, being accountable, doing your job, basic stuff. And that’s what we want to keep the focus of our attention.”

The Raiders focused inward during their bye and got ahead on their preparation for an excellent Patriots squad. But…since they can’t add to their win column this weekend, they wouldn’t mind having Buffalo and the New York Jets lose. A tie between the Jaguars and Chargers would be ideal. Having New England beat Denver wouldn’t hurt either.

That would be quite a parlay. No matter what happens, what will near future results mean?

“We’ll find out at the end,” Del Rio said. “We’ll find out at the end. For us, just keep stacking wins and find a way to win the next one and we have a tough challenge going against the Patriots.”

The Raiders face a brutal schedule, with the Patriots, Chiefs, Cowboys and Eagles highlighting the slate. The home stretch wouldn’t feel so daunting had the Raiders made hay early. Instead they lost to beatable teams and fell behind the back.

No one in the Raiders organization thought they’d had to watch scoreboards. That’s a chaser’s activity. Frontrunners are overwhelmingly concerned with their own results.

The Raiders hope to find consistency in all phases and go on a run.

"We need to get better on defense. We need to get better on offense and special teams,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “We have to improve. Our record is what it is, but we’re right in the thick of it. We have to worry about winning the next game. We’ve got to figure that out."

That has to happen in a hurry. They have to go 6-1 in remaining games to hit their target record.

“It’s been my experience in this league that you typically have to get to 10 and that doesn’t always get it done,” Del Rio said. “I think this year is one of those years where it’s very competitive throughout the league. I don’t know that there’s one team that’s so dominant that everybody shudders at the thought of playing them. I think there are a lot of good teams, and a lot of very capable teams. It’s a matter of going out and executing well and playing good football and finding a way to win on Sunday.

“The bottom line is you keep playing. Keep improving. You want to get hot at the right time. For us, there’s no time like the present to get hot.”

Norton looks at his Seahawks days to slow down Brady: 'I have a good feel'


Norton looks at his Seahawks days to slow down Brady: 'I have a good feel'

ALAMEDA – Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. has a good feel for Tom Brady. He faced New England’s legendary quarterback three times as Seattle’s linebackers coach, with some positive results. The Seahawks won two regular-season games and lost the Super Bowl at the last second.

He knows what worked then, and believes that should help prepare the Raiders defense for what’s coming Sunday in Mexico City.

“I played Brady a couple years ago in the Super Bowl with Seattle. We played very well against him,” Norton said Thursday afternoon. “I’ve had some success against him so I have a good feel for what can be done and what cannot be done. It’s just a matter of having the right emphasis and the ability to make the plays.

“Having a guy like (Brady) on the team who’s capable at any point of throwing a deep ball, capable at any point of getting it to the right players at the right time. He understands who is around him. He understands how to get the ball to the guys. He’s got a long resume of doing it well.”

Having success against Brady, however, is a relative term. He still produced against a loaded Seattle defense far better than this year’s Raiders unit. He will produce again Sunday, even if most goes right. Limitation, however, if key.

Norton believes certain things are essential when facing a Patriots team. Sure tackling. Impacting the quarterback.

The first is vital, something the Raiders have done well save a Week 9 win over Miami. The Raiders have to limit explosives and keep the ball in front of them, especially with the way Brady likes to play.

“The Patriots do a really good job of underneath coverage,” Norton said. “They have guys that catch and run really well. The backs, the tight ends, the matchups underneath, they catch and make people miss. They try to match up with your linebackers and safeties. They feel like their guys are pretty good. Tackling is something we’ve been really outstanding with all year but this last game against Miami we didn’t do so well and it kind of stands out, especially when it’s something we’ve taken a lot of pride in.

“I really feel like our emphasis and what we do well matches up well with that they try to do.”

There are some problem spots. One is limiting deep shots, something Brady has unleashed with startling efficiency. He’s 19-for47 for 410 yards and four touchdowns on passes of 20-plus yards, with speedsters Brandin Cooks and Phillip Dorsett able to haul them in. The Raiders have proven vulnerable to track-star receivers. 

Impacting Brady is mandatory, but also difficult given his excellent pocket presence. He’s especially good at feeling pressure off the edge, where reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack typically lines up opposite Bruce Irvin.

Brady has proven vulnerable to interior pressure, which is why Mario Edwards Jr. will be an X-factor on passing downs. He has four sacks this season and needs to break free in the backfield to force difficult decisions or, at the very lest, disrupt New England’s timing.

Brady gets rid of the ball fast at times. Raiders rushers can’t get frustrated by that, especially Mack.

“If the quarterback is going to throw the ball in less than two seconds, it’s going to be tough to get there,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “So when the quarterback is throwing the ball quick like that, we’ve got to tackle and have their punt team come out. They’ll get tired of punting or turning the ball over and they’ll sit and hold the ball a little bit and Khalil can get there. If they’re throwing the ball in two seconds or less, it’s going to be hard to get sacks.”

The Raiders only have 13 sacks this season, second worst in the NFL. Getting a few could swing a tight game. Norton’s Raiders believe they have a solid plan to mitigate somewhat the Patriots ferocious attack, that features versatile tight ends allowing them to do different things from one personnel package.

Don’t expect a shutout, or anything close. The Raiders understand that, but believe they can mitigate some damage.

“If you go back to the New England Patriots five, six, eight years ago they’re doing similar things,” Norton said. “They do what they do really well. They’re a fine-tuned machine. Everybody knows exactly what their role is. Guys know exactly what’s expected of them. Obviously the quarterback is the heart and soul and the one that makes that train run. Really, really good players that really understand what their role is and play well against leverage, run after catch, tough and they make plays.”

Khalil Mack wants to be Raider for life: 'That’s a no-brainer for me'


Khalil Mack wants to be Raider for life: 'That’s a no-brainer for me'

The Raiders gave quarterback Derek Carr a massive contract extension last June. Right guard Gabe Jackson got paid later that month.

Khalil Mack’s big deal is coming, likely this offseason. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie anticipates a deal getting done, and hopes Mack’s agent feels the same way.

Mack’s rep and Raiders contract folks will work out details of a massive contract extension. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year doesn’t have interest in all that. He has one preference above all.

Mack doesn’t want to go anywhere. He wants to stay with the Raiders long term.

“Of course. That’s not even a question,” Mack said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Fallon Smith, which airs in this week's episode of "Raiders Central." “That’s a no-brainer for me, especially when you think about coming into this organization and try to build something special, that’s something you want to be a part of for a lifetime”

Mack has plenty of money, top-5 overall draft picks often do. The No. 5 selection in 2014 considered that first deal life-changing money, enough to help his family.

“That has been a treat for me so far,” Mack said.

He doesn’t daydream about signing a nine-figure contract. He doesn’t long to be the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player (although that might be in the cards, anyway).

“I’m not really even thinking about that,” Mack said. “I’m thinking about the Patriots, that’s just my focus that’s just my mindset – anybody who talked to me about that matter, whether it be my best friend, my mom, my dad, I tell them the same thing. I’m thinking about the Patriots and sacking Tom Brady.”

That, unlike signing a record contract, was a career a goal. Mack said in a post-draft press conference he wanted to sack legends. Peyton Manning and Brady topped the list.

Manning retired before Mack could check his box. Mack will have a second chance at Brady Sunday when the Raiders play New England in Mexico City. He had eight tackles and two quarterback hits against Brady’s Patriots in 2014, but didn’t bring the quarterback down.

Mack considered his third regular season game a welcome-to-the-NFL moment.

The University of Buffalo alum has accomplished a ton since then, with 34.5 sacks and last year’s top defensive honor to his credit. He’ll need a Herculean performance against the Patriots to help the Raiders win a pivotal game. A sack would certainly help, but Mack isn’t calling his shot.

“Yeah, I’m not one to talk,” Mack said. “I’ll express that when I get on the field, but I can’t wait, I can’t wait to play against him.”