Instant Analysis: Raiders alive in AFC West hunt after win over Giants


Instant Analysis: Raiders alive in AFC West hunt after win over Giants


OAKLAND – The Raiders don’t look like a team worthy of playoff consideration. Yet, here they are, right in the thick of things after Sunday’s 24-17 victory over the New York Giants and a little help from an old rival.

Kansas City lost its sixth game in seven tries on Sunday against the New York Jets, turning the AFC West into a late-season free-for-all.

The Raiders, Chiefs and Chargers have six losses through 12 games, and winter football will determine the champion of strange, strange division.

The Raiders play the Chiefs next week and close the season against the Chargers, giving them an opportunity to control their fate in the division. They bookend difficult games against Dallas and Philadelphia, meaning there’s significant work ahead before postseason prospects become realistic.

They’ll have to play a whole lot better than they did Sunday. The Raiders were bad. The Giants were worse. Both teams tried to give it away, but mistakes on both side kept it interesting late.

The Raiders (6-6) went up two scores late, and hung on to secure their first winning streak since starting the season 2-0 and their first time at .500 or better since Week 4.

That’s the good news for Raiders fans. The bad news: This remains a flawed football team, with holes, inconsistency and talent deficiencies at key spots.

They certainly missed top skill players Amari Cooper (concussion, ankle) and Michael Crabtree (suspension). Remaining receivers were largely ineffective save a big Cordarrelle Patterson catch and run and, if not for Marshawn Lynch, the offense might’ve been permanently stuck in neutral.

Lynch was effective for a second straight game, with 101 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He also had two catches for 20 yards.

The defense, however, was a saving grace.

That unit had key takeaways to keep the Giants’ score low. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin harassed Giants quarterback Geno Smith most of the day, and were integral in this victory.

Marshawn Lynch kicked started this game with every game of an opening touchdown drive. He ran for two yards, then seven and then went 51 for a touchdown. Left guard Kelechi Osemele opened a huge hole and Lynch blew threw ii into open space, where he rumbled for the game’s opening score.

It was his longest as a Raider, and an important play in a lackluster first half for offense and special teams.

This outcome might’ve been different without two huge defense plays.

The Giants were in field goal range and pushing for more when Bruce Irvin stripped and sacked Smith. NoVorro Bowman recovered to kill that drive and the offense turned that into a field goal.

The Giants gained possession inside the Raiders’ 10-yard line after Marquette King had to eat a punt attempt with a man in his face, but Khalil Mack stole the ball right back in his best play of the year. He had an easy sack lined up, and went straight for the ball. He ripped it away from Smith, and kept the Giants from scoring late in the first half.

The Raiders weren’t getting those types of defensive plays earlier in the year. An improved pass rush has led to more takeaways and easier scoring opportunities. That must continue, and the offense must find elusive rhythm if the Raiders hope to go on a late-season run and seriously challenge for the division title. 

Raiders to sign former 49ers defensive lineman


Raiders to sign former 49ers defensive lineman

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden wanted veterans to help turn his defense around. He added a linebacker and defensive backs aplenty. Then, on Friday night, he gave the front some help.

Former 49ers defensive lineman Tank Carradine will sign with the Raiders, the 28-year old announced on his Instagram page. 

The Sacramento Bee first reported the news. 

He visited the Raiders on Thursday and was in Seattle earlier Friday, but will sign with the Silver and Black.

Carradine could help their transition to a more traditional 4-3 alignment, able to play end in the base defense. He has proven himself as a solid run defender, but believes he can be an effective pass rusher if given the opportunity.

Carradine didn’t get many pass-rushing chances with the 49ers, who generally removed him on passing downs. He has 5.5 sacks in four professional seasons. He played 37.9 percent of 49ers defensive snaps during eight games with the 49ers last season. He missed the same amount on short-term injured reserve with an ankle injury.

At 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, he has the size to be a 4-3 base end. He’ll likely have to battle Mario Edwards Jr. for snaps opposite Khalil Mack, though Bruce Irvin will take that spot in sub packages.

Carradine will be the 10th free-agent signing expected to make the roster, which means the roster turnover this summer should be significant. 

Here was his Instagram post from Friday night: 

Proud to become an Oakland Raider! Let's go #raiders#nation

A post shared by Cornellius Smith (@tank.carradine) on

Adding Rashaan Melvin the key move to Raiders' revamped secondary


Adding Rashaan Melvin the key move to Raiders' revamped secondary

The Raiders started this offseason looking to revamp their secondary around their last two first-round picks. Gareon Conley would start at one cornerback spot. Karl Joseph was penned at strong safety.

Every other job, however, was wide open and likely filled from the outside.

Safety Marcus Gilchrist came aboard Thursday, but one premium spot remained open opposite Conley. Veteran cornerback Rashaan Melvin took it Friday afternoon, agreeing on terms of a one-year $6.5 million contract.

NFL Network broke the news of a bargain compared to other cornerback free-agent deals. They aren’t attached to him long term, and Melvin can sign a bigger deal if he plays well in 2018.

The Raiders declared interest in the former Indianapolis cornerback early this week and worked toward an agreement sealed during a Friday morning visit at the team’s Alameda practice facility.

The 28-year old’s fresh off a career year, allowing just 29 receptions for 328 yards and two touchdowns on 55 targets in 2017. He had three interceptions and 13 passes defensed. Quarterbacks had a paltry 60.3 passer rating against him.

Melvin stands 6-foot-2, 196 pounds and has the athleticism to excel in Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s system.

Melvin bounced around before settling with the Colts, struggling to find footing in Tampa Bay, Baltimore New England and two offseason programs in Miami. He found a home in Indianapolis, and became a regular starter in 2016. His breakout 2017 season was cut short by a hand injury that kept him out the last five games.

Melvin projects to start right away. The Raiders will be thrilled if he stays healthy and retains recent form. Melvin has solid ball skills, regularly forces incompletions and thrived in tough assignments that came with being the Colts’ top cornerback.

Gilchrist’s addition, Melvin’s deal and the Friday addition of Shareece Wright fills a cupboard in the defensive backfield laid bare by design.

The Raiders cut David Amerson and now-jailed Sean Smith this offseason. TJ Carrie took a big deal in Cleveland. Reggie Nelson’s allowed to walk as a free agent.

The Raiders added three free agents to the group thus far, and could well draft another defensive back next month.

They’ll have safety Obi Melifonwu in reserve – he’ll have to earn a role after missing most of 2017 with injury – and cornerbacks Antonio Hamilton and Dexter McDonald vying for spots.

Melvin will be plenty motivated to have a big year and cash in at age 29, for what might be his last shot at a big payday.