Del Rio hopes NFL schedule makers give Raiders 'a fair shake'

Del Rio hopes NFL schedule makers give Raiders 'a fair shake'

The Raiders have a tough slate ahead next season. Their 2017 opponents had a .564 winning percentage last year, with six games against 2016 playoff teams.

The strength of schedule ranks No. 4, only behind other AFC West rivals. They face the AFC East and NFC East, which also creates a difficult road slate for a team on the West Coast.

They travel to the Eastern time zone four times, with two more trips to the Central time zone. The Raiders also have an extra road game, with a home contest against the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots given to Mexico City.

The Raiders must deal with that adversity. Head coach Jack Del Rio hopes NFL schedule makers don’t add more when slates are revealed later this spring.

“I’m anxious to see what the schedule looks like when it comes out,” Del Rio said. “We’re going to the East (several) times this year. It’s going to be a challenge.”

Del Rio has asked for consecutive East Coast games close enough where the Raiders could stay out there and avoid one cross country trip. They were given one in 2016, where the Raiders stayed in Florida while playing Jacksonville and Tampa Bay back-to-back. The Silver and Black won both games.

“We have some things we’ve requested thst would better enable us to withstand what’s coming,” Del Rio said. “Part of that is a recognition of us going to Mexico. Regardless of how you paint it, it’s a home game for us. From a competitive advantage standpoint, we aren’t gaining one. We’re losing one.

“If you continue to go, that’s one thing. If you continue to go and give up home games and playing nine on the road, that’s a competitive disadvantage. Hopefully, in recognition of that, hopefully we don’t have other things like a Thursday night game two time zones away.”

The Raiders were the only team asked to do that last year. They traveled to Kansas City for a Thursday game in Week 14 without a bye before it, and laid an egg in a crucial contest.

“We want to make sure we’re getting a fair shake,” Del Rio said. “Hopefully we will.”

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”

Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini


Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini

The Raiders need help at right tackle, the lone vacancy along their offensive line. They signed a veteran presence on Thursday afternoon, adding 32-year old Breno Giacomini as the frontrunner to join the starting five.

He has 86 starts in 94 career games, and has been a full-time starter three of the last four years. Giacomini spent 2017 in Houston and the previous three seasons with the New York Jets.

He was a Seattle Seahawk before that, working with Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable for three of his four years there. Cable gave Giacomini his first chance to start in the second half of 2011, and held the post through 2012.

The bond between the two is clearly strong, considering what Giacomini tweeted shortly after Cable got fired in Seattle.

Coach and player will reunite, hoping to provide steadiness on the right side of the Raiders offensive line.

He’ll compete for a starting spot with Vadal Alexander, second-year pros David Sharpe and Jylan Ware and possibly a drafted player. Giacomini should be considered the favorite unless the Raiders use an early pick on an offensive lineman.

Giacomini has plenty of starts, but his Pro Football Focus numbers aren’t pretty. The analytics says he allowed nine sacks, eight quarterback hits and 64 pressures with Houston last year. He had some decent years under Cable, and a return to that form might push him into the starting lineup for good. Time will tell on that front.