Raiders

Future in question, Raiders need hyphy Marshawn in final home game of 2017

marshawn-ap.jpg
AP

Future in question, Raiders need hyphy Marshawn in final home game of 2017

OAKLAND – Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington were headed for the field when Marshawn Lynch held them back. The young Raiders running backs weren’t sure why their position group’s elder statesman would do so, especially before starters were announced to the Oakland Coliseum crowd.

Lynch wanted Richard and Washington to run out with him. Questions ran rapid fire through Richard’s mind: Are you sure you want company? This was, after all, the proud Oakland native’s homecoming game. Won’t that mess up your big moment in the sun? Is this even allowed?

Lynch wasn’t worried about any of that. Lynch rolled three deep into the Week 2 home opener against the New York Jets, flanked by young protégés he has advised all year. His big moment was theirs, too.

”That was my first time going through the tunnel,” Richard said. “The first time, I didn’t think they were going to let us do that. But Marshawn said it was fine, and brought us with him. It’s a different feeling running out the tunnel all three of us, through the smoke and onto the field. It lets you know you’re in the league.”

That was a true Marshawn moment. So was a tackle-breaking touchdown run during the game, and when the scoreboard broadcast him getting hyphy on the sideline. The entire stadium partied with him that day, his first regular-season game as a Raider at Oakland Coliseum.

Lynch has brought Washington and Richard with him each time he comes out of the tunnel, a moment when the hometown crowd praises their favorite son.

“You definitely feel the energy,” Washington said. “He’s a hometown guy. Marshawn wears this city on his back. There’s a roar when they announce his name. It’s been a fun experience throughout the year.”

Sunday night's clash with the Dallas Cowboys is the final home game this season, unless, of course, the AFC West completely and shockingly turns on its ear and the Raiders host a playoff game.

That fact begs this question: Will Sunday be the last time Marshawn plays in Oakland?

The answer remains uncertain, with several factors at play.

Lynch remains under contract next season, with a $4 million base salary and incentives and bonuses that could pay an additional $2 million. None of that money is guaranteed, so the Raiders could cut him without dead money attached.

Lynch could also retire like he did right after Super Bowl 50. He didn’t miss the game in a year away from it, and the enigmatic personality may decide one season in Oakland was enough. He came back to show kids in the community he champions firsthand that someone from their neighborhood could bring attention to Oakland before the Raiders leave. Will an encore season further that goal?

The Raiders signed Lynch for two reasons: to boost their backfield and offer an olive branch to Oakland after being approved to relocate to Las Vegas. The Raiders won’t move until 2020, and having Oakland’s most popular person in Silver and Black helps keep butts in the seats.

He has practiced all year save a few rest days and has been a quality locker room presence, though he rubbed some the wrong way getting ejected and then suspended for defending good friend and rival Kansas City Chief Marcus Peters in an on-field scuffle. Coach Jack Del Rio said he practiced and played with extra zest after serving a one-game suspension. Stats bear that out.

His production lulled before midseason – he struggled to meld with the Raiders scheme and offensive line – but has picked up that pace significantly in the second half.

Lynch had 100-plus yards from scrimmage in two home games preceding last week’s loss in Kansas City, where he had 64 yards on eight touches.

He has averaged 4.2 yards per carry, and his 2.68 yards per carry after contact ranks sixth in the league. Lynch still has it at age 31, and might hit the ground running next season behind a familiar line.

That’s then. The Raiders still need him now, against a No. 11-ranked Cowboys run defense. Local fans would love to see him succeed in person one more time this year, which might mark the end or the halfway point of his tenure playing for the Raiders in Oakland Coliseum.

McKenzie addresses contract situations for Mack, Cooper

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USATSI

McKenzie addresses contract situations for Mack, Cooper

ALAMEDA – The Raiders wrapped their second week of offseason workouts on Friday, with a mini-camp on the horizon. The three-day session is voluntary, but stands as the first time head coach Jon Gruden can run a Raiders practice during this offseason program.

Khalil Mack isn’t expected to show. The elite edge rusher has stayed away from the Raiders offseason program while his representation works out a long-term contract with the Silver and Black.

There’s no timetable to get it done, and a pact isn’t terribly close despite reports of positive negotiations and an understanding from both sides Mack isn’t going to be cheap.

Reggie McKenzie hasn’t heard from Mack recently, which is not cause for concern.

“I have not,” McKenzie said in a Friday press conference. “We’ve just been focusing on the draft and the coaching staff and focusing on these players that are here and getting ready for the mini-camp next week.”

A deal is expected in time, and the Raiders have budgeted to pay Mack top dollar. He’s expected to set the market for defensive players, though Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, taken three picks later in the 2014 NFL draft, is also expecting a massive sum this offseason.

Mack might want Donald to sign first and then have his deal top it. Donald might want the same thing. It may behoove the teams to allow the other to set a market which could offer some savings.

McKenzie said he isn’t worried about what the Rams do with Donald.

“We look at Khalil as his own situation,” McKenzie said. “We’re not looking at anybody else. We’re just focusing on our guy.”

The Raiders will also be focused on Amari Cooper’s future with the club. The receiver’s entering the final year of his rookie contract, though the Raiders have a fifth-year team option available to keep Cooper through 2019.

McKenzie wouldn’t commit to exercising it Friday, though NFL teams must do so by May 3. That would increase Cooper’s salary to the average of the top 10 players at his position when the option is exercised. That would put him in line to make $13.9 million in 2019, though the sum is guaranteed for injury only but becomes fully guaranteed on the first day of the 2019 league year.

“Going into the draft now, that’s what we’re focused on, but we’ve been in contact with his agent,” McKenzie said. “I don’t want to put anything out there before…I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, so to speak. But we like Amari.”

McKenzie on Aldon Smith

The Raiders cut ties with edge rusher Aldon Smith early last month, when he was involved in a domestic violence incident that has since resulted in criminal charges. Smith is now involved with an in-custody rehab program after violating conditions of his bail.

McKenzie lamented not seeing Smith turn things around and the inability to support him after he was banished from the league as a repeat offender of the NFL substance abuse policy.

“It’s hard,” McKenzie said. “Aldon really tried and we tried, but once you get into the program and you have to send him away, there’s only so much we can do as far as getting our hands on him. Pray for the best for Aldon.”

Raiders 2018 schedule released: Analysis and predictions

Raiders 2018 schedule released: Analysis and predictions

WEEK 1
Monday, Sept. 10 vs. Los Angeles Rams, 7:20 p.m.

Jon Gruden goes head-to-head against protégé Sean McVay in primetime, in the season opener and on a Monday Night Football telecast Gruden was on for nine seasons. That's must-see TV. 

Prediction: L.

WEEK 2
Sunday, Sept. 16, at Denver, 1:25 p.m.

The Broncos might be the AFC West’s worst team. The Raiders have to make hay a mile up, a chore made easier with an early-season game. They avoid snow this year. 

Prediction: W.

WEEK 3
Sunday, Sept. 23, at Miami, 10:00 a.m.

The Raiders beat the Dolphins in Florida last year. It’s hard to say Miami’s much better than they were a year ago. This road win’s attainable, even in the first of four morning kickoffs.

Prediction: W.

WEEK 4
Sunday, Sept. 30, vs. Cleveland, 1:05 p.m.

The Browns should be better, but that remains a game you’ve got to win. Hue Jackson’s return to Oakland adds intrigue to these proceedings.

Prediction: W.

WEEK 5
Sunday, Oct. 7, at L.A. Chargers, 1:05 p.m.

The Raiders will have a huge home-field advantage in Carson, as they do each time they play the Chargers in Southern California. That should help against a formidable opponent that has had trouble staying healthy in recent years.

Prediction: L.

WEEK 6
Sunday, Oct. 14, vs. Seattle (at London’s Tottenham Stadium), 10:00 a.m.
The Raiders won’t make their combine their London trip with an East Coast game to make things easier from a travel perspective. Gruden doesn’t want to be away from home that long. How the Raiders handle a long flight to the United Kingdom will go a long way in determining a victor.

Prediction: W.

WEEK 7
BYE

WEEK 8
Sunday, Oct. 28, vs. Indianapolis, 1:05 p.m.

The Colts still stink, even if Andrew Luck is back healthy and throwing for this one. These are games (especially at home) the Raiders have to win.

Prediction: W.

WEEK 9
Thursday, Nov. 1, at 49ers, 5:20 p.m.
A Thursday night game offers plenty of time to get primed in the parking lot. It also guarantees a traffic mess heading into Levi’s Stadium. What could possibly go wrong? This should be a good matchup on the field, with two young quarterbacks leading the charge.

Prediction: L.

WEEK 10
Sunday, Nov. 11, vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1:05 p.m.

The Raiders have lost two of their last three home games to the Chargers. They have to handle business at home, even against a talented squad led by Philip Rivers and Joey Bosa.

Prediction: W.

WEEK 11
Sunday, Nov. 18, at Arizona, 1:05 p.m.

The Cardinals are mired in a rebuilding mode, well behind the Raiders at this stage.

Prediction: W.

WEEK 12
Sunday, Nov. 25, at Baltimore, 10:00 a.m.

Michael Crabtree will be supremely motivated for this one, after the Raiders essentially exchanged him for Jordy Nelson. He’s pretty dangerous in those situations.

Prediction: L.

WEEK 13
Sunday, Dec. 2, vs. Kansas City, 1:05 p.m.

The Chiefs will be a great litmus test, to see if the Raiders can handle big-play threats better than they have in recent seasons.

Prediction: L.

WEEK 14
Sunday, Dec. 9, vs. Pittsburgh, 5:20 p.m.

The Raiders defense better be ready to go against Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and the Steelers scoring machine in the Oakland Coliseum slate’s best matchup. To make matters better, this one's in primetime, on Sunday night. 

Prediction: L.

WEEK 15
Sunday, Dec. 16, at Cincinnati, 10:00 a.m.

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will go up against the team he helped run recently. Guenther should be an expert on stopping Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense. That will help the Raiders here. 

Prediction: W.

WEEK 16
Monday, Dec. 24, vs. Denver, 5:15 p.m.

Marquette King’s coming back to Oakland. He’s looking forward to this one. So is Bruce Irvin. All this plays out on Monday Night Football, the Raiders' fourth primetime game and third at Oakland Coliseum. 

Prediction: W.

WEEK 17
Sunday, Dec. 30,at Kansas City, 10:00 a.m.

Arrowhead Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Raiders in recent seasons. Jack Del Rio could never figure how to play well there. Can Jon Gruden buck that trend?

Prediction: L.