Raiders

Lynch won't go alone: Richard, Washington vital to Raiders offense

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AP

Lynch won't go alone: Richard, Washington vital to Raiders offense

ALAMEDA – The Raiders announced offensive starters before Sunday’s home opener against the New York Jets.

Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington aren’t in that class. The second-year rushers were headed out to the field with everyone else when Marshawn Lynch halted the advance.

“We were getting ready to go out and he was like ‘Hey, I want you all to come out with me’. I was like, ‘They cool with this?’” Richard said. “He said ‘It doesn’t matter what they say. You boys are coming out with me.’”

It seemed off. This was, after all, Marshawn’s homecoming. A sellout Oakland crowd was waiting to cheer their favorite native son.

Marshawn didn’t care. He wanted the running backs to go out as a unit.

“They’re my (boys),” Lynch said.

Marshawn jogged through a deafening roar, flanked by his protégées.

“That just got me pumped from the get-go,” Richard said. “That just lets you know how much he believes in us, the confidence in us. It makes us play harder.”

The kids have played hard, and listened to Lynch’s sage advice. That’s a requirement in this offense, because Lynch can’t do it alone. Not anymore. Not at age 31.

The Raiders plan to use all three backs in rotation, with Lynch as its lead dog. He carried 18 times in a season opening win at Tennessee. He had 12 in a 45-20 victory over the Jets.

Thus far Lynch has started most games and can close games where the Raiders hold a late lead.

Washington and Richard will have moments in the sun. They generally split remaining touches – unless, like Sunday, Cordarrelle Patterson gets in on the action – to bring a change of pace.

They might also pull a star turn.

Richard did so the Jets, even on Marshawn's big day. Richard registered 109 yards of offense and a touchdown on just eight touches. That included a 52-yard run blocked expertly by tackles Marshall Newhouse and Donald Penn, with Seth Roberts doing dirty work downfield.

“I caught the ball and felt somebody rush up the field,” Richard said. “It made me come inside. The whole week they were telling me to wait rather than get out, so I waited and the Jets overflowed. I put my foot in the ground and creased it. The safety couldn’t see me because I had a blocker, he went this way and I dipped right and then I outran everybody to the end zone and scored. IT was a great blocking play, great game plan play. It was cool.”

Richard also had a 39-yard reception where he took advantage of open space, proving adept finding the right time to turn on the afterburners.

Washington will have his turn making big plays in the backfield, with an efficient track record as a rookie. Lynch has a certain set of skills, able to get tough yards by brute force. The younger guys are game breakers in their own right – Richard proved that Sunday – and will be counted on at times to make the offense go.

“Jalen and DeAndré, they’re both explosive,” quarterback Derek Carr said last week. “We all know that. Really good hands, good route runners, they’re really good in pass protection… I think that with both of those guys in the game, they do similar things, but they give us two options. They give us two fresh bodies so to speak.”

Blame game: Carr opens up after taking criticism for Raiders' rough season

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AP

Blame game: Carr opens up after taking criticism for Raiders' rough season

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr has been criticized more this season than any other time in his professional career. That includes his rookie year, when youth and a lackluster supporting cast excused tentative tendencies and poor yards per attempt. Can’t knock Carr’s hustle from 2015 or last year, when he was a legitimate MVP candidate.

Those seasons set the bar sky high. July’s $125 million contract extension put it over the moon, and Carr has limboed under.

Carr hasn’t been bad, but hasn't been as good this season. That’s tough to argue. Neither have those around him, but they’re drawing far less ire. Why? Quarterbacks and head coaches (and coordinators) take the Ls.

Carr seems fine with that, comfortable as a human shield when times get tough. He tried to set up a force field after Sunday’s 26-15 loss to the Kansas City, which put the Raiders near playoff extinction.

His message: blame me.

Carr has done that before, several times in fact. It rang hollow through the fan base this time, despite a plea uncharacteristically twinged with anger and frustration.

"I think we’re all pretty upset. If you’re not, then you’re obviously not putting enough into it," Carr said. "If you’re wanting to point a finger or those kind of things, I don’t think that that’s right either. If you’re upset with yourself and you’re upset that you didn’t win the game...I still stand by how I felt, man. I was hot, to be honest. I put way too much effort into this to go out there and not play my best." 

Fans don’t want apologies. They want to see anger lead to action. And improvement.

That hasn’t happened much during a disappointing 6-7 season falling well below expectations, despite best efforts. The mob wants answers or blood or both. Same might be said of ownership.

Offensive coordinator Todd Downing’s job is in jeopardy. Head coach Jack Del Rio’s feeling some heat, though that might be a year too early at best, unless things completely unravel down the stretch.

Carr makes a lot more than those two. He isn’t getting fired either way. The guy is a franchise quarterback. He is, however, taking flak. Common criticial refrains include a penchant for check downs and getting unnecessarily flustered in the pocket. Add deep passes to that. He's completing fewer, and was 0-for-7 on passes of 20 yards or more against Kansas City.

“Things come out when it’s not going right,” Carr said. “I think I completed more deep balls last year, throwing it times I shouldn’t have thrown it. Throwing it up, and we all high-five and clap about those things. Again, when you lose, people just have a different way of spinning things.”

Carr is immensely talented, with football smarts and leadership skills. Sometimes good quarterbacks have hiccup years before getting back to normal. He’s 26 years old, with several prime years ahead. Expect him to be a good quarterback for a long, long time.

He could use some help, but Carr isn’t one to chuck others under the bus. He generally leads with positive reinforcement, even when fans hope he’ll channel Rich Gannon.

He looks inward, knowing he must play better to get this team going right.

This is an average team if Carr is anything less that excellent. That may well have been the case last year, when seven fourth-quarter comebacks sparked an incredible 12-4 run to the playoffs.

He hasn’t been as dominant this season, and the Raiders hover around .500. No shocker, there. That fact, combined with lofty expectations, has created some hostility toward the Raiders and their typically popular quarterback.

Carr is still looking to lead the Raiders toward better days this season, even with three games left and unlikely playoff prospects. His key during dark times, doesn’t include a rah-rah speech.

“You don’t really have to say much, True character reveals itself when times are hard or it doesn’t go your way or you think something else should have happened,” Carr said. “Pointing fingers and all those things…again, true character reveals itself. That kind of stuff has a way of working itself out. When you have guys in the locker room coming together saying, ‘What if we did this? Would that be better?’ That’s how we fix things. That’s problem solving. If guys want to be part of the problem, that kind of stuff, that just airs itself out. You don’t need to ask. That stuff will just come out.”

Del Rio hopes the offense will “let it rip,” play fast and a bit cavalier down the stretch. That’s fine with Carr, someone with a Brett Favre streak. It hasn’t been out consistently this season, but Carr promises to go big down the stretch.

“That’s something I’m looking forward to,” Carr said. “We’re only promised three more and I can assure you I’m going to go out there and let it rip man, because that’s what the head coach wants. That’s what he’s asking us to do. So, I’m going to go out there and give it everything I have.”

Raiders shut down LB Cory James, pull from practice squad

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USATSI

Raiders shut down LB Cory James, pull from practice squad

ALAMEDA – Raiders weakside linebacker Cory James has battled knee injuries all year. That dates back to the preseason, when he had arthroscopic surgery. He started the first six games before knee issues crept back up. He missed a Week 7 win over Kansas City and the last two games.

The Raiders decided to shut him down Wednesday and let his knee heal. James was placed on season-ending injured reserve, the team announced.

Darius Latham was promoted from the practice squad in a corresponding move. Defensive end Joby Saint Fleur was took Latham’s place on the practice squad.

James has developed into a steady starter. Last year’s sixth-round pick played most every linebacker spot at Colorado State, but the Raiders focused him on the weak side. He had 67 tackles, two passes defensed and a forced fumble in 10 games this season.

James took 15 snaps in a Week 12 win over Denver, but hasn’t played since. A knee that might need another surgical repair couldn’t get him through the year.

Undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow will continue taking James’ snaps. He has been a near-permanent fixture in the lineup the past two games. He has 12 tackles in that span, and allowed two receptions for 14 yards on three targets Sunday against Kansas City.

James is firmly in the team’s future plans, one set spot on a defense that could see significant turnover this offseason. The Raiders have to restock that unit, which could have 4-6 new starters next season.