Raiders

Expect dynamic Raiders tight ends to make greater impact

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AP

Expect dynamic Raiders tight ends to make greater impact

NAPA – Raiders tight ends weren’t good enough last year. That position group was inexperienced, inconsistent and worn down by injury, making two things crystal clear.

The Raiders missed Lee Smith. They needed someone like Jared Cook.

Smith broke an ankle in Week 4 that ended his season and left the Raiders without an in-line blocking tight end vital to their power-rushing scheme. Clive Walford and Mychal Rivera didn’t strike fear in the pattern.

Cook certainly does. That’s why quarterback Derek Carr recruited him so hard this offseason. Carr’s vision and a respectable contract offer brought Cook to Oakland.

There’s little doubt the Raiders are deeper and better at tight end. Health and new blood saw to that. Upgrades should get that position group more involved.

“We haven’t really gotten our tight end position going as much as I’d like,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I think we’ve really addressed that. I think you’re going to see a team that can utilize the tight end position more in their offensive plan and attack.”

Cook’s speed and track record should change the way opponents cover Carr’s Raiders, drawing attention toward their new weapon.

“It should,” Carr said. “But, if it doesn’t, he should catch a lot of footballs.”

Smith will catch a few, but adds toughness and versatility to the Raiders offense. He was a top-10 pass protecting tight end and an excellent run blocker in 2015, his last fully healthy season.

“He’s a great blocker,” offensive coordinator Todd Downing said. “He works hard at everything that we ask him to do. He actually has really good hands. He’s more than just a blocking tight end.”

Walford remains a project. He’s a versatile talent with great potential, but the 2015 third-round pick has struggled with injury and consistency. Cook’s arrival puts him in a backup role, though he could be a weapon in two-tight end sets on passing downs. Gabe Holmes could well make the team as injury protection and a special teams contributor.

The Raiders don’t have a true superstar in the group, but have assembled a well-rounded group with complimentary talents. They have a guy for every situation, which should make tight ends a real weapon in 2017.

“This is the tight end group I’ve ever been a part of, probably the most talented,” Cook said. “Guys know their role and play it well. All of them are good guys. Lee, Clive and (tight end coach Bobby Johnson) really made it easy for me in my transition to a new team. Lee’s been a great spearhead and leader of the group. I’m really excited about what we’ll be able to do (this) year.”

Del Rio calls out NFL for Raiders losing home games to go abroad

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AP

Del Rio calls out NFL for Raiders losing home games to go abroad

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders have played in Mexico City the last two years, and have given up a home game to do it.

You already know head coach Jack Del Rio’s stance on the matter. He doesn’t like it. Not one bit.

The NFL announced Sunday morning that Mexico City will host games annually through 2021. The Raiders will be on the short list to return during that span.

“They’ve done a nice job for us over the last two years,” Del Rio said. “If it was a road game, I’d enjoy it. If they stop making (international contests) our home games, we’ll be fine.”

Hate to be the bearer of bad news Jack, but the Raiders will keep giving home games away. That’s expected each year until the Raiders formally move to Las Vegas.

The Raiders might not come back to Mexico for a third straight season, but could host a game in London next year. The NFL sent four games to the United Kingdom this year.

The Raiders have a massive fan base in England and Mexico, which makes them an attractive option to play abroad.

It might make financial sense for the team and the league to expand its base beyond borders, but the football people don’t find it fun.

The Raiders had more fans watching Sunday’s 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots at Estadio Azteca, but it’s no substitute for playing in Oakland.

“I think the crowd down here is pretty excited for the Raiders, so we appreciate that,” Del Rio said. “When you travel four-and-a-half hours, you’re not at home. We appreciate the hospitality and the good people who came out and supported us, but it’s hard to call it a home game.”

This one, especially. The Raiders had overwhelming support last year’s game against Houston, but Patriots fans were a large and vocal minority. They had plenty to cheer, as the Patriots waxed the Silver and Black over four quarters.

It’s hard to say the Raiders had a home crowd this time around, with plenty of noise when they were on offense.

“You know what, traveling down here, I think it was like four hours or something like that, and getting here, I think that hospitality was great, but it really wasn't, it wasn't the Coliseum,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “It didn’t have that feel. Now, we loved playing here, we loved coming down here and playing, but it felt more neutral.”

Instant Analysis: Ugly loss to Pats in Mexico City sums up Raiders' season

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USATSI

Instant Analysis: Ugly loss to Pats in Mexico City sums up Raiders' season

BOX SCORE

MEXICO CITY – There was a point this summer when the Raiders were a fun, sexy selection to challenge New England for AFC supremacy.

That hot take hath frozen over.

The Raiders have meandered through a disappointing season in the middle of the conference. And, in case there was any doubt, the Patriots proved Sunday that they’re still king.

They flat whooped the Raiders in Mexico City. The Silver and Black got outplayed, outcoached, outschemed, out-everythinged at Estadio Azteca, looking like a team unworthy of playoff consideration.

NOTE: The paragraphs above were written at halftime. That’s when this game was over.

The Patriots took a three-score lead and a shutout into the break. The Raiders offered little resistance then or later on, killing themselves time and again with inexcusable mistakes.

All that resulted in a 33-8 beat down.

This was Week 3 in Washington all over again, maybe worse. The Raiders haven’t played this bad in years, maybe in the entire Jack Del Rio era.

Despite all that, the Silver and Black are still in it. The Kansas City Chiefs are in a free fall, and dropped to 6-4 after losing to the lowly New York Giants.

The Raiders remain two games back in the AFC West and are still in the wild-card hunt, though their margin for error is officially nil. They need to go on a run there’s zero indication they can make, with Kansas City, Philadelphia and Dallas among those left on the slate.

Mathematically speaking, the Raiders can still finish 10-6.

We all know they won’t. The Raiders haven’t been on a winning streak since Week 2 thanks to maddening inconsistency and, at times, simply awful play.

They surely can’t compete with the NFL’s elite, a point the Patriots made crystal clear.

New England dominated from the outset, with a long touchdown drive the Raiders never answered.

The game formally turned late in the second quarter, with the Raiders driving down 14-0. They were marched toward the end zone when receiver Seth Roberts left the ball away from his body and got it knocked free. The Patriots recovered, worked downfield in no time and set up Stephen Gostowski’s 62-yard field goal.

That gave New England a three-score lead extended to four on the Patriots’ third play of the third quarter. Tom Brady connected with Brandin Cooks on a 64-yard touchdown. The conclusion was forgone, but that play was a dagger to the heart.

It also negated the one thing the Raiders did well. Marshawn Lynch ran effectively throughout, but the score eliminated his opportunities. He had xx yards on xx carries, and looked ready to take over a game. When you’re down so far, you gotta throw.

That posed a problem. Derek Carr was passing to receivers with a case of the drops that routinely stalled drives.

The offense never found a rhythm, the defense got beat soundly by Tom Brady’s brilliance. All that coming off a bye.

Each part of the Raiders organization deserves blame for this loss and this disappointing season. The personnel department failed to address voids on the roster. The coaching staff got outschemed despite having extra time to prepare, and the players failed to execute well.

And yet, as we stated earlier, the Raiders are still in it. The only way they stay there is by playing far better than they did on Sunday, and there’s little confidence the Silver and Black are capable of that.