Raiders

Instant Analysis: Carr goes for it all, final-minute fumble dooms Raiders

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Instant Analysis: Carr goes for it all, final-minute fumble dooms Raiders

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OAKLAND – The Raiders have taken first-round uppercuts several times this season. They typically have a glass jaw, dropping without much resistance or ability to recover.

That happened at Washington, against Baltimore, New England and last week’s gotta-have-it game at Kansas City.

Dallas delivered another haymaker Sunday night. This time, in a virtual elimination game for both teams, the Raiders didn’t drop.

The Raiders bit and scratched and scrapped and clawed back from a double-digit deficit, and were within field goal range when a random rule ended an unlikely comeback try.

The Raiders were down three points with roughly 30 seconds left when quarterback Derek Carr took off running on 3rd and 3 from the Cowboys’ 8-yard line and dove for the goal line. He got hit during the dive and lost control, fumbling the ball through the end zone.

By rule, that’s a touchback.

It was confirmed upon review. The Raiders lost 20-17 on Sunday night at Oakland Coliseum, taking playoff hopes down with them.

Carr’s effort gone awry ended a crazy game full of ups, downs and wild rulings.

The Raiders needed help to reach the playoffs and didn’t get much from the weekend slate, but aid only gains power with Raiders victories. They didn’t uphold their end, falling to 6-8 and well behind in the AFC wild card hunt. The Raiders technically aren’t eliminated -- they advance with certain four-way ties at 8-8 or a five-way tie that includes the Chargers -- but it’s virtually certain their season ends with the regular season.

Carr’s gutsy play for the end zone decided the game, but it swung on a 4th-and-inches near the Dallas’ 40 midway through the fourth quarter, when Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott’s sneak was so close officials had to slide a folded piece of paper between the ball and the first-down marker to determine the result.

It was called a first down, Dallas. That, and a 40-yard reception by Dez Bryant paved the way for a Dan Bailey’s deciding 19-yard field goal.

Carr’s passing totals weren’t pretty and he was anything but perfect, but he got by. This ranks among the grittiest performances of his career. That stands, even in a losing effort.

He found a way to make plays, often throwing off balance, on the run or while being tackled. He kept the ball moving and the Raiders alive after a terrible start for the entire offense. He ended up with 218 total yards, and needed but a few more to complete a comeback.

He fell just short going for the end zone.

Running back Marsahwn Lynch was equally tough, with 76 yards on 16 carries, and a significant portion after contact.

Carr’s second touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree tied it 17-17 early in the fourth quarter, completing a 10-play, 53-yard drive. Dak Prescott’s 5-yard touchdown run came a series prior, making the response vital to the Raiders’ efforts.

The Raiders were shut out in the first half for the fourth time this season – the fourth time! – and hit halftime down 10-0, though it could’ve been a little better. Smith’s first interception cut off a strong Cowboys drive. Then a controversial offensive pass interference call negated a Raiders touchdown and Giorgio Tavecchio missed a 39-yard field foal attempt to close the half.

A foot injury removed left tackle Donald Penn early on, but the offensive line held tough. Right tackle Marshall Newhouse took over Penn’s spot and Vadal Alexander filled switch’s vacancy, but didn’t miss much.

That was important as the Raiders mounted a third-quarter comeback. It momentarily seemed like a lead, when Smith returned his second pick for a touchdown. He was ruled down at the 22-yard line upon review; the offense couldn’t move and left with a field goal.

Raiders receiver quest may continue in NFL Draft

Raiders receiver quest may continue in NFL Draft

Go ahead and put receivers Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson into the Raiders starting lineup. Use a pen. Only injury would be cause to reach for the White Out.

New Raiders head coach Jon Gruden loves both guys. He said Cooper will be the passing game’s main attraction. He imported Nelson for his on-field production and locker-room leadership.

The Raiders are looking to upgrade receiver depth, a point made clear in free agency. They went after Ryan Grant, who eventually signed with Indianapolis. They brought Eric Decker in for a visit, though he left without a deal.

The NFL Draft could provide an upgrade. The Raiders could use some help in the slot, and with a sure-handed speed demon to take the top off a defense.

This draft class doesn’t feature a pass catcher worthy of the No. 10 overall pick, with few considered first-round talents. Help can be found down the draft, with early contributors seemingly available in the early and middle rounds. Here are a few options that could help the Raiders passing game:

Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
-- The former Aggie is a strong, target well suited for the slot. He can handle physical play at the line of scrimmage, has good hands and analysts say he’s adept at finding soft spots in zone coverage. He doesn’t have a huge catch radius, and doesn’t have burner speed to thrive on the outside, but he could be effective taking the smaller chunks offered in Gruden’s offense. He’s also a solid return man, and could help on special teams.
Projected rounds (per NFL.com): 2-3

James Washington, Oklahoma State
The former Cowboy doesn’t have D.J. Chark’s raw speed, but has plenty of big-play ability the Raiders need offensively. He uses solid positioning, hands and high-point ability to make important catches down the field. Analysts say he has great build-up speed and avoids physicality at the line. He can work inside and out, but could create space inside for Cooper and Nelson to work in favorable matchups. He isn’t built like a typical NFL receiver, but finds ways to make plays.
Projected rounds (per NFL.com): 2-3

Dante Pettis, Washington
-- Gruden likes precise route running, a trait Pettis has in spades. He could be a weapon from the slot, and can create separation quickly. Analysts also say he’s good finding open space during scramble drills, and has reliable hands. Physical corners can be bothersome, and he doesn’t have top-end speed. He could be an impactful member of an offense, and could help return punts as well.
Projected rounds (per NFL.com): 3-4

Deontay Burnett, USC
-- Burnett is built like a slot receiver, with plenty of experience playing inside. CBS Sports considers him a solid sleeper prospect among slot receivers, and analysts say he’s good making catches in traffic. He’s good in scramble drills, and can take big hits without losing possession. He isn’t great on deep passes and scouts say he doesn’t have room to add significant muscle mass to his relatively thin frame. He could be an asset in Gruden’s scheme, and available later than aforementioned receivers.
Projected rounds (per NFL.com): 4-5

Damion Ratley, Texas A&M
-- NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah tweeted about Kirk's teammate on Saturday morning as an intriguing prospect with size, speed and solid route running. He could be available late, a viable option if the Raiders look toward other positions earlier in the draft. He averaged 23.1 yards per catch, with an ability to make plays after the catch. His draft profile suggests he needs help battling physical corners, and may need better focus each play to compete steadily at the NFL. 
Projected rounds (per NFL.com): 6-7

Why Raiders players should pay close attention to NFL Draft this year

Why Raiders players should pay close attention to NFL Draft this year

ALAMEDA – Raiders players should keep a close eye on who gets drafted next week. Pros typically follow the NFL’s amateur selection to see where their team gets help, or whether competition’s coming to their position group.

Some Raiders, however, might see their roster spot given away.

The Raiders have 76 guys on the roster already, a high sum created by a hyperactive free-agent signing stretch. They have 11 draft picks coming. If each one gets used, that leaves three open spots on the 90-man offseason roster.

GM Reggie McKenzie will sign more undrafted free agents than that. The Raiders have a penchant for finding diamonds in the rough, and will target several after the draft concludes.

“What we’re going to do is we will evaluate all of those free agents after the draft and if we feel like we can upgrade, we will,” McKenzie said Friday in his annual, required pre-draft press conference. “So, that’s not going to hinder us from trying to sign some players. We’re just going to have to compare, you know, to what we have. We’re going to bring in the best 90. We only have X amount of spots. We may have to create some.”

That last line means some guys on the Raiders roster won’t stay long. They won’t get a chance to impress Jon Gruden’s coaching staff over an offseason program. They’ll get two weeks of offseason workouts and next week’s voluntary minicamp. That’s about it.

It’s fair to say fringe players signed before Gruden came aboard should be worried, considering the influence Gruden has on the roster. That includes players last year’s practice squad and maybe some recent draft picks who haven’t established themselves yet.

There are plenty on reserve/futures contracts who can be filtered out to create the roster space required to add preferred members of this year’s amateur class.

A well-known name may be among them, considering the Raiders must free some cap space to sign their rookie class. Per the NFLPA, the Raiders have $1.8 million in cap space. Their rookie pool is $9.454 million. The space required to sign the class isn’t found with simple subtraction – we won’t bore you with the details – but the Raiders will have to create a little bit of space to get everybody signed under the cap. Such maneuvering could include cuts or restructures or 2018 space created by a contract extension given to a certain elite edge rusher. The Raiders have options in that regard.

Roster space, however, is a bit more cut and dry. Only 90 spots exist. They’ll have to shuffle folks out to bring others in, and it’s going to happen soon.