Raiders

Handicapping Raiders' Pro Bowl chances

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Handicapping Raiders' Pro Bowl chances

The Raiders should want nothing to do with the the Pro Bowl.Yes, it would be nice to be selected for the NFL's annual all-star game. No doubt a free trip to Hawaii in the dead of winter would be a welcome reward at the conclusion of a grinding season.But if you're "playing" at Aloha Stadium on Jan. 29, 2012, that means that neither you nor your team is in the Super Bowl the following Sunday. And that, is the true end game for every player in the NFL.Still, it wouldn't be football without some pigskin prognostications. So, as we enter to the fourth quarter of the 2011 regular season, a look at some Raiders who should garner consideration for the Pro Bowl as fan voting for the exhibition game runs through Dec. 19, with players and coaches voting that week and the initial Pro Bowl teams announced Dec. 27RELATED: Handicapping 49ers' Pro Bowl chances
NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTS--Punter Shane Lechler: The best punter in the history of the game -- just look at the stats -- will be making his TKth trip to the game. And really, the 12th-year veteran might not deserve it anymore than this season, or have you already forgotten that 80-yard bomb he unleashed against Chicago? He is leading the fan voteby a wide margin.
--Placekicker Sebastian Janikowski: Finally, mercifully, the man known as SeaBass and first-round draft pick from 2000 will get his overdue recognition. At least, he should. He's made 22 of 24 field goals and he tied the NFL record with his 63-yarder in the season opener. Janikowski, who also converted a franchise-record six field goals against Chicago despite a gimpy left hamstring, might actually be the Raiders' team MVP. He too is leading the fan voteby a wide margin.
--Strong safety Tyvon Branch: Quietly, at least on a national level, he's put together the finest season of his four-year career. Still, what he lacks in national appeal -- he was only third in fan voting, behind Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu and Buffalo's George Wilson -- he more than makes up for in gritty play against both the run and the pass. That he has only one interception belies his importance. "He is the epitome of a Pro Bowl player in my mind," said Raiders defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan. "Anybody that knows football, sees the impact he has on a game."SERIOUS CONSIDERATION--Defensive tackle Richard Seymour: He not only has name recognition, but stats, as in six sacks. The TK-time Pro Bowler is second in fan voting behind Baltimore's Haloti Ngata and is highly respected among his peers, even if he gets kicked out of the occasional game for throwing a punch.
--Fullback Marcel Reece: A matchup nightmare with his myriad skill set, Reece is no mere lead blocking back. Opposing teams have to actually gameplan for the converted receiver who is third in fan voting, behind San Diego's Jacob Hester and Baltimore's Vonta Leach. Reece missing four games due to injury, though, might work against him.
--Left tackle Jared Veldheer: Just because he's not in the top 5 in the fan vote does not mean he's not deserving. Take a look at the job he did at Minnesota in shutting out Jared Allen. Then throw in the relatively low number of sacks he's surrendered and penalties for which he's been called all season in protecting the QB's blind side. Yes, the second-year lineman He deserves serious consideration.ALSO IN THE MIX--Free Safety Michael Huff: Fresh off being named second-team All-Pro last season, Huff suddenly has name recognition with fans, ranking fifth in the vote behind Baltimore's Ed Reed, San Diego's Eric Weddle, Pittsburgh's Ryan Clark and Indianapolis' Antoine Bethea. It would take a lot of withdrawals and one of those guys going to the Super Bowl to get Huff to Hawaii, though.
--Strongside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley: He's not in the top 5 for outside linebackers but he does have seven seven sacks and there are two Ravens and a Steeler in the top 5.
--Special teamer Rock Cartwright: A highlight of the Raiders season was Cartwright taking the direct snap and rumbling downfield on a game-turning fake punt at Houston. He is third in fan voting, behind the Ravens' Brendon Ayanbadejo and Pittsburgh's Arnaz Battle.
--Long snapper Jon Condo: Hey, Lechler and Janikowski can't do their jobs without Condo, right? Well, he already went to the Pro Bowl two years ago, so that might be held against him.
--Left guard Stefen Wisniewski: That a rookie is fifth in the fan vote speaks to his popularity. His ability to transition from guard to center and back again should only help his candidacy with Li'l Wiz's peers and opposing coaches.
--Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly: A Pro Bowl alternate a year ago, Kelly's play has maintained, if not improved, as evidenced by his 5 12 sacks with four games to play. He'd need some serious help from the coaches and players, though, as he is not in the top 5 of the fan vote.BEFORE YOU ASK --Running back Darren McFadden: He was the most explosive back in the NFL and its leading ground gainer through five weeks and seemed primed for the Pro Bowl. But he has not played since Oct. 23, and while was was still shockingly second in the fan vote to Arian Foster, he has become an object of scorn, of sorts, for frustrated Raiders fans of late.
--Cornerback Stanford Routt: He's acquitted himself quite well, thank you very much, as the Raiders' top cornerback in the wake of Nnamdi Asomugha's departure. But even with a Top 5 "burn rate," he's not in the top 5 of the fan vote.
--Kick returner Jacoby Ford: A threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball, unfortunately for the Raiders, and his Pro Bowl chances, he has not touched the ball since Nov. 10, when he went out with a sprained left foot.

Snap count: Raiders' Melifonwu experiment at cornerback backfires

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USATSI

Snap count: Raiders' Melifonwu experiment at cornerback backfires

The Raiders are razor thin at cornerback, without many bodies or talent they can trust. They were down to three healthy career cornerbacks heading into Sunday’s game against New England, with TJ Carrie, Sean Smith and Dexter McDonald available.

Head coach Jack Del Rio added a new name to the mix. He started second-round safety Obi Melifonwu at cornerback against the high-flying Patriots, an experiment that didn’t work out well.

Melifonwu played 26 snaps at cornerback, where he had been working some in practice since becoming eligible to return off injured reserve. He spent the early season on IR after having arthroscopic knee surgery.

Melifonwu was put in a tough spot, and struggled as a result. He allowed two receptions for 69 yards on four targets, including a 64-yard touchdown to Brandin Cooks where he had his eyes in the backfield when the Patriots speedster blew right by.

This position switch came in Melifonwu’s second NFL game, with just seven defensive snaps under his belt. 

Head coach Jack Del Rio admitted it was a move made out of desperation.

“Yeah, a little bit,” Del Rio said after Sunday’s 33-8 loss to New England at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. “We need more production (at cornerback). We're willing to try just about anything and we talked about being lean there and needing more production from that spot.

“(Melifonwu’s) a talented kid and it was probably asking a little too much, but we are going to roll those guys, we rolled our guys in the secondary tonight, and we're going to do that. We have got to do that until somebody starts playing well enough to stay in there full-time.”

The Raiders are in a bind at cornerback with Gareon Conley on injured reserve and David Amerson out three straight games with a foot injury. Demetrius McCray and Antonio Hamilton are also on season-ending injured reserve.

Carrie was a mainstay on Sunday, playing all 60 defensive snaps. Smith took over early, when the Melifonwu experiment wasn’t working out. He played 43 snaps, allowing three catches for 34 yards on five targets. McDonald played just eight snaps.

The Raiders are hoping someone can improve and settle into a full-time spot. The secondary has been thin for some time, but the personnel department has declined to sign anyone new off the street for depth.

That means Del Rio’s staff is still searching for answers at that position from a small pool.

“We're not playing really well on the back end and we have to find a way,” Del Rio said. “And we're going to make it competitive and let guys challenge for it and challenge for time and the guys that play the best are going to play the most.”

OFFENSE
Quarterback – Derek Carr 74
Running back – DeAndre Washington 24, Marshawn Lynch 21, Jamize Olawale 14, Jalen Richard 11,
Wide receiver – Amari Cooper 67, Seth Roberts 59, Michael Crabtree 58, Cordarelle Patterson 25, Johnny Holton 13
Tight end – Jared Cook 54, Clive Walford 14, Lee Smith 10
Offensive line – Kelechi Osemele 74, Rodney Hudson 74, Donald Penn 74, Gabe Jackson 74, Vadal Alexander 74

DEFENSE
Defensive line –
Khalil Mack 53, Mario Edwards 44, Justin Ellis 38, Eddie Vanderdoes 34, Denico Autry 31, Treyvon Hester 24, James Cowser 14
Linebacker – NaVorro Bowman 51, Bruce Irvin 46, Cory James 44, Nicholas Morrow 15, Marquel Lee 9
Cornerback – TJ Carrie 60, Sean Smith 43, Obi Melifonwu 26, Dexter McDonald 8
Safety – Reggie Nelson 60, Karl Joseph 51, Shalom Luani 9

SPECIAL TEAMS
Nicholas Morrow 18, James Cowser 18, Marquel Lee 15, Erik Harris 15, Xavier Woodson-Luster 15, Keith McGill 15, Jamize Olawale 15, Cordarrelle Patterson 13, Dexter McDonald 12, DeAndre Washington 11, Jalen Richard 9, Shalom Luani 9, Lee Smith 7, Khalil Mack 7, Mario Edwards 7, Eddie Vanderdoes 7, Denico Autry 7, Treyvon Hester 7, Jon Feliciano 7, Johnny Holton 6, TJ Carrie 6, Jon Condo 4, Marquette King 4, Karl Joseph 2, Cory James 2, Obi Melifonwu 2, Giorgio Tavecchio 2

DID NOT PLAY
QB EJ Manuel, OT David Sharpe

INACTIVE
QB Connor Cook, OT Jylan Ware, DL Jihad Ward, CB David Amerson, LB Shilique Calhoun, RT Marshall Newhouse, DT Darius Latham

Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley having surgery

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USATSI

Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley having surgery

Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley will have surgery to repair his injured shin on Monday, a week after he was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

This year’s No. 24 overall pick announced that news in an Instagram post, accompanied by a picture of his young son.

Surgery was always a likely outcome after heading to IR, though the team never formally stated that would occur.

The Raiders believe Conley will return completely healthy for the 2018 campaign, and have high hopes for him as a lock down cover man.

They could certainly use him this season. He was expected to contribute heavily as a rookie, but a shin injury suffered in a June minicamp prevented that from happening. He missed training camp and the entire preseason slate, but eventually made his NFL debut in Week 2. He suffered a setback in a Week 3 game at Washington, and was shut down indefinitely on Oct. 6.

Conley was re-evaluated early last week, and the Raiders didn’t see enough progress to keep him on the 2017 roster.

The Raiders are lacking at cornerback with Conley down and David Amerson dealing with a foot injury.

Head coach Jack Del Rio will speak to the media Monday afternoon, and provide an update on Conley’s procedure.