A healthy McClain key to defense


A healthy McClain key to defense

Criticism comes at Rolando McClain in waves, like some mammoth pulling guard or a shifty running back.He has trouble shedding blocks. He takes bad angles. He's not a game-changer at middle linebacker.Some is justified. Some, not so much.But this much is true -- the Raiders defense definitely feels it when McClain is not on the field. There was a drop-off last season in Jacksonville, when a foot injury kept him sidelined. Same as two weeks ago against Denver, when he could have spied his old SEC rival in Tim Tebow.
"I can't put the loss to the Broncos on Darryl Blackstock," Raiders defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan aid of McClain's backup, "but to me, you have a starting Mike linebacker, you miss that starting Mike linebacker, you say 'Next man up.' And Darryl did that. But again, to not have Ro out there was huge."My point to Ro is that he has continually gotten better as the year has gone on. When he came into this week, he challenged the team in the locker room, he challenged the defense in the meeting room during the week and he stepped and became the leader of the defense. And that's the type of stuff he has to do, is provide that leadership when he's on the field so it's been huge to get him back."Despite missing one game and being hobbled with a sprained right ankle since the Houston game on Oct. 9, McClain ranks second on the team with 48 tackles, 33 solo, and has a sack (strong safety leads with 69 tackles).Still, he is without the signature blowup play so associated with dominant middle linebackers. But after a stand-out game in San Diego last Thursday, the defense seems to have settled again. With McClain in the middle of it all."We never worry about what everybody says," McClain said the day after the Chargers game. "We have a good sense of each other in this locker room and that's all that matters. We believe in each other. We know we just have to take it a game at a time. If you get caught up in so much like, 'You have to lead the AFC West, you got to do this, you got to do that,' we just try to get back to the basics of one game at a time."Being 1-0 after every game and at the end of the year the record will speak for itself."Against the Chargers, McClain started slow and seemed hindered by the ankle. Then he, and the rest of the defense, solidified and clicked."We pride ourselves on being real physical," McClain said."When we stepped on the field, we already had that mindset. Last year we went down there with the same mindset and took over the game. We went in with that exact same mindset this year and we got the win."Now that McClain is as healthy as he's been since Napa, Bresnahan sees big things from him going forward."If you remember back at the beginning of training camp, we're going through the beginning of preseason, he was doing some things really well and then all of a sudden he got nicked up here and there and that's really been the thing that's set him back a little bit," Bresnahan said. "When he's healthy and he's ready to go, he's a true factor in the middle. We've got to get him doing that every week."He really stepped up as the leader in the room and took it upon himself that, Hey, he's back, he's gotta take control, the reins, and really steer the defense in the direction we want it to go."

Raiders put Amari Cooper in position to break out vs Chiefs


Raiders put Amari Cooper in position to break out vs Chiefs

Raiders receiver Amari Cooper has been creating steady separation for a few weeks now. That didn’t break him out of a prolonged slump.

Coaches were impressed by Cooper’s route running in a Week 5 loss to Baltimore. It only earned two targets and an eight-yard catch. They tried to find No. 89 more often in a Week 6 loss to the L.A. Chargers, though six targets generated five short catches for 28 yards.

Low production stretched through a four-game losing streak, with nine catches for 51 yards. Including stats from to early wins, Coopers season stats (18 catches, 146 yards and a touchdown) were worse than nearly 200 others.

Even that astonishment didn’t make Cooper demand the gosh darn football, please. The low-key Cooper attitude: The ball will find me.

It finally did in Thursday night’s 31-30 victory over Kansas City. Several times in fact.

Cooper had 11 catches for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He was targeted 19 times. Nineteen. That’s no coincidence.

They moved him around, including significant snaps in the slot. He was targeted 11 times from that position, per analytics site Pro Football Focus, and produced six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.

They schemed opportunities and quarterback Derek Carr used them to create big plays early.

Carr’s first pass went 12-yards to Cooper. His third was a 38-yard touchdown strike. His seventh was an in-stride delivery that Cooper took across and then up the field for a 45-yard score.

Just like that, Cooper was off and running for the first time this year.

“We put him in positions to make plays, obviously,” Carr said. “We knew that there were certain things that we liked. Nothing changed in his demeanor or his mentality or the way he worked or anything like that. We just stayed the course. We know what we have here and we know that if we just stay the course and work and grind through the tough times.

“…For ‘Coop’ to just continue to grind and get on the other side of it, I just felt good for him. You guys know Amari. I think we all felt good for him.”

Cooper said the early explosive touches provided confidence. Ability produced a signature performance. The Alabama product is excellent extending production with his legs, and had 78 of his yards come after the catch. That’s an average of 7.1 yards after the catch per reception, per PFF.

His second touchdown reached him 15 yards downfield, and he hit the jets and reached the end zone. He turned a short catch into 15 crucial yards to start the game-winning two-minute drill, and later high pointed a 39-yard receptions.

“The way he finished after the catch was really special,” Carr said. “Obviously, we all know he can go up and get a ball and all those things. That second touchdown where he cam across, the burst that he had, that’s freakish. Not a lot of guys have that. To turn the jets on like that and just out run the angles of the defense, that was really special. I think just after the catch he just played with some dog in him, which we know he has. We were able to get him the ball and let him shine and do what he does.”

Cooper’s showcase was vital to a huge victory that kept his team in the hunt. It also ended a rough month where Cooper and the Raiders both struggled. Veteran running mate Michael Crabtree was never concerned with the downturn and told the young receiver to stay the course during tough times.

“(I told him), ‘Just be you,’” Crabtree said. “It’s just about everything coming together. Coop’s a fighter, man. Coop has got skills. I don’t worry about Coop and I’m sure he doesn’t worry about me. That’s why we are so good together.”

Reports: Peters to speak on Marshawn’s behalf during appeal hearing


Reports: Peters to speak on Marshawn’s behalf during appeal hearing

First it was Marshawn Lynch coming to the defense of Marcus Peters. Now, it appears the Oakland native is returning the favor. 

The Chiefs cornerback will be speaking on behalf of Lynch during the Raiders' running back's appeal of his one-game suspension, according to multiple national reports. The appeal will take place on Monday.

Lynch was ejected in the second quarter of the Raiders' 31-30 victory over the Chiefs on Thursday night. After the Chiefs and Raiders saw themselves in a heated exchange from a controversial late hit by Peters on Derek Carr, Lynch ran off the sidelines and came to the defense of his close friend Peters with multiple Raiders going after the young defensive back. 

But in doing so, Lynch put his hands on an official and was immediately ejected from the game. He was then handed his one-game suspension on Friday.

“They can say what they want to say, but one thing’s for certain: Family do come first," Peters said to Logan Murdock of The Mercury News on Thursday.

FOX Sports was first to report the news.