Raiders

John Pagano forges unique path while staying in the family business

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USATI

John Pagano forges unique path while staying in the family business

ALAMEDA – John Pagano was born into the coaching profession. His father Sam was a legendary high school coach in Boulder, Colorado. His older brother Chuck rapidly rose through the NFL ranks and has been Indianapolis Colts head coach since 2012.

John idolized them both, and was determined to follow in their footsteps without riding coattails. He didn’t want favoritism from his family, nor did he get it. John Pagano has forged his own path to this current post as a Raiders assistant head coach and the Silver and Black’s defensive play caller. It’s a long one. John Pagano has been an NFL assistant coach since 1996, though most of those 22 years were spent in one spot.

He coached 15 seasons for the then San Diego Chargers, the tenure’s last third as defensive coordinator. He was let go last offseason after Anthony Lynn was hired, and Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio snatched him up quickly as an assistant head coach on defense.

He absorbed play-calling duties when Ken Norton Jr. got fired. It isn’t expected to be a temporary post. Del Rio said he could envision Pagano sticking around, which will allow him to really make a mark on this defense.

Pagano comes from his family’s coaching tree, but considers Wade Phillips key in shaping his defensive philosophy. Pagano worked under Phillips from 2004-06 in San Diego, and considers that an important time in his growth as a coach.

“I learned a lot from my father and my brother, but the biggest influence is probably Wade Phillips,” Pagano said on this week’s episode of the Raiders Insider Podcast, which focused on Pagano’s coaching influences and philosophy. “Understanding how he talked to the players, the philosophy of how he wanted to teach things and the opportunity he gave me (in San Diego) to grow in the National Football League. I’ve taken a lot from Wade, and what I’ve learned from him is to focus on putting guys in position to make plays. That’s our job. …Ultimately it’s about the players, and 11 guys hunting with unbelievable effort.”

John Pagano wants Raiders defenders playing fast, loose and aggressive. His message: Do simple things right. Don’t overthink. Read and react instead. See ball, get ball.

Leave the complexity to him. Pagano’s defenses should be masters of disguise, giving simple instructions complex looks. Or, in other cases, doing different things from the same look.

The immediate goal, especially since taking over as Raiders defensive play caller last week, is to unburden his guys. He simplified things heading into a victory over Denver to help the Raiders defense play faster.

“I thought they played fast,” Pagano said. “That’s what you’re looking for effort-wise. Doing simple better is a simple process. It’s doing the things back when we were kids, tackling, covering and communicating. We have to keep doing simple better. That’s our motto here these next couple weeks.”

Pagano made some defensive tweaks after taking control following Ken Norton Jr.’s firing. Cornerbacks shadowed preferred matchups. He moved Khalil Mack around the defensive front. He also made it less certain uncertain where the pass rush was coming from.

“You have to be able to disguise, to make things look very similar, whether it’s a coverage or a pressure,” Pagano said. “Our guys are starting to understand it’s about being in certain positions. It’s more than just the ball being snapped. It’s about understanding pre-snap rules and pre-snap alignments. It’s an opportunity for our guys to excel at a higher level.”

Inactives: Raiders have healthy offensive line for showdown vs Cowboys

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USATSI

Inactives: Raiders have healthy offensive line for showdown vs Cowboys

There was some concern the Raiders might not have Rodney Hudson or Jon Feliciano, the two offensive lineman that can play the center position.

But they will indeed have both when they take on the Cowboys under the lights Sunday night.

Hudson was added to the injury report Sunday morning due to an illness, but that appears to be ready to go.

The seven players listed as inactive for the Raiders are: CB David Amerson, QB Connor Cook, WR Amari Cooper, DE Mario Edwards Jr., T David Sharpe, TE Clive Walford, T Jylan Ware.

The Cowboys' inactive players are: Brice Butler, Orlando Scandrick, Trey Williams, Justin Durant, Lewis Neal, Blake Jarwin, David Irving.

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

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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.