Raiders

Marshawn's homecoming focal point of Raiders season opener

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USATSI

Marshawn's homecoming focal point of Raiders season opener

OAKLAND – Leaving Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey unblocked normally spells trouble. The two-time Pro Bowler, after all is 6-foot-1, 305 pounds backfield wrecking ball. A lack of communication up front left Casey free and Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch exposed approaching the line of scrimmage.

Lynch didn’t dodge. He went full battering ram in that instant, slamming into someone 90 pounds heavier. Size didn’t matter here. Lynch trucked Casey on that play and stay upright for a 6-yard gain.

The Raiders sideline went crazy.

Just imagine if that play happened at Oakland Coliseum. Roar might’ve registered on the Richter scale.

That could happen Sunday against the New York Jets. That’s Marshawn’s homecoming game.

Beast Mode is a national brand, but Oakland is its capital. Lynch is The Town’s most popular resident, a proud native who has given so much to his community. Tales of his generosity are legend in these parts, though never, ever told by him.

They get out nonetheless, drawing a complete picture of someone who cares about far more about community than football.

Lynch came out of retirement for Oakland. He made that clear in one of two meeting with the media since returning to football. He did so after the Raiders were approved to bolt for Las Vegas and leave Lynch’s hometown for a second time.

“A lot of the kids probably won’t have an opportunity to see most of their idols growing up and being in their hometown (after the Raiders leave),” Lynch said on June 6 “With me being from here and continuing to be here, it gives them an opportunity to see somebody who actually did it from where they’re from and for the team they probably idolize.”

It will be a big moment for many, one that has captured local attention to a point that you haven’t seen headlines about leaving for Las Vegas. This could mark the beginning of the end for Oakland football. It won't. Not on Marshawn's day. Maybe not while Marshawn's in silver and black. 

That especially true after last week’s performance, which was vintage Beast Mode. This is Marshawn’s game, in his house.

“Super excited to be at home and knowing that Marshawn is a home boy,” said head coach and Hayward native Jack Del Rio. “This is his home, like me, grew up here in the East Bay. I know he’s going to have special feelings being out there and it’s going to be great. It’s always great when we come in front of our people here at home.”

The crowd will be emotional. Lynch might not be. Left tackle Donald Penn, one of Lynch’s best friends on the team, says Beast Mode knows how to compartmentalize.

“I know he’ll be happy, but he’ll be cool about it,” Penn said. “But, you know what? Marshawn is a professional on game day. He comes in there focused. We always joke around, but on game day he’s a different person. He’s a businessman. I know he’s going to be excited. I hope we get him in the end zone this weekend in front of his home team.”

Raiders make good use of trade bounty, add dynamic WR Martavis Bryant

Raiders make good use of trade bounty, add dynamic WR Martavis Bryant

ALAMEDA – Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said the NFL draft’s No. 10 overall pick was popular on Thursday night. He was fielding calls from teams who wanted it to help the Silver and Black move up or down.

“It seemed like our pick was pretty favorable,” McKenzie said. “After sorting it through, we just went ahead and pulled the trigger.”

McKenzie and head coach Jon Gruden executed a trade with Arizona, giving the Cardinals No. 10 for Nos. 15, 79 and 152.

That’s not a king’s ransom, even for five spots, considering Arizona used the pick to draft UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen.

The Raiders made quick use of two picks. They drafted offensive tackle Kolton Miller at No. 15, and traded No. 79 to Pittsburgh for receiver Martavis Bryant.

“Martavis was all about being able to use that (extra) pick and get another player,” McKenzie said. “We feel like we’ve drafted Martavis Bryant.”

There are some obvious differences. The Raiders get a proven commodity over a college player. They get a 27-year old entering a contract year over someone under control for four years.

Bryant automatically upgrades the receiver corps, and should be the No. 3 option behind Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson. It’s also bad news for Seth Roberts, the team’s third receiver in recent seasons. Cooper and Nelson can play his spot in the slot, and he might end up with fewer opportunities in 2019.

Bryant brings something different to the mix. He’s a speed demon who can produce while stretching a defense.

He averages 15.2 yards per receptions, and 31 catches of 20 yards or more in three seasons played. Bryant should have four years under his belt, but missed 2016 while suspended as a repeat offender of the NFL’s substance abuse program.

Bryant was reinstated in April 2017, and turned in a lackluster year with 50 catches for 603 yards and three touchdowns. He was the subject of offseason trade rumors, and ended up with the Raiders on draft day.

The Raiders were comfortable taking him despite 20 games missed over multiple suspensions, confident he can help this offense.

“When we talk about character, we’re not going to condemn them. We’re not going to nail them for life, so to speak,” McKenzie said. “If we see some semblance of whether it’s remorse or whether it’s getting on the right path. … We feel good about giving Martavis an opportunity. We think with our resources, we could help him.”

Bryant’s set to make $1.97 million in 2018. That puts the Raiders over the salary cap, per the NFLPA numbers. They would’ve made moves to help pay the rookies and create roster spots, but they’ll have to get creative financially to work everyone into the financial threshold.

Why the Raiders made decision to take Kolton Miller at No. 15

Why the Raiders made decision to take Kolton Miller at No. 15

ALAMEDA – The Raiders entered the NFL draft's opening round with a couple defensive players in mind. 

They were known to like North Carolina State edge rusher Bradley Chubb, as the Athletic first reported, and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith. They couldn't secure either elite prospect on Thursday evening. Denver took Chubb at No. 5. Chicago snagged Smith at No. 8. That was no surprise.

Then the Raiders shifted focus solely on the offensive line.  

They honed in on Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, universally considered the best offensive tackle in this draft. The 49ers snagged him at No. 9, a selection won with a tiebreaking coin flip against the Raiders.

The Raiders didn’t use their No. 10 pick. They regrouped quickly and traded back with Arizona, taking the Nos. 15, 79 and 152 selections for the drop.

Florida State safety Derwin James and Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds were still available at No. 15. The Raiders liked them both, but were undeterred in their quest to improve the tackle spot.

The Raiders took UCLA’s Kolton Miller at No. 15, the next tackle on their draft board.

The pick was met with some skepticism from the fan base, which considered him unworthy of the draft slot. That was especially true with top defenders available who play sexier positions. Leaving James on the board, in particular, was a point of contention for many.

The Raiders stuck with a guy NFL Network said they would’ve taken at No. 10. They got a couple extra picks – one quickly turned into Pittsburgh receiver Martavis Bryant – and shored up an area of weakness.

The Raiders have unheralded veteran Breno Giacomini and a mix of developmental prospects at right tackle. Miller will compete to start there this season, with a long-term plan of moving to left tackle when 35-year old Donald Penn’s contract ends after 2019 at the latest. The three-time Pro Bowler is still recovering from foot surgery, though a full recovery’s in the cards. Penn will make roughly $8 million in 2018 with a $10.3 million sum due the next year, though his 2019 money isn’t guaranteed.

Miller will cost far less than that. Having someone on a rookie deal playing a premium position – left tackles often get eight-figure salaries – will help the Raiders survive paying massive sums to Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and several star members of the offensive line.

Those plans are contingent on one key thing: Miller’s development. He has the physical tools to be an excellent NFL blocker, but must improve in some areas to reach full potential.

“He’s a big man that can move his feet,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “He’s played left tackle and right tackle. He’s been an offensive lineman pretty much his whole life. He understands the game. He’s an excellent athlete who has great potential, so we feel really good about adding him to the Raider roster.”

Miller was a second choice behind McGlinchey, but he still solves an issue on this offense. The right tackle has been a mess for years. Head coach Jon Gruden, this team’s primary shot caller, understood that. The Raiders have plenty of developmental linemen. They needed to use a premium pick in an effort to satisfy present and future needs.

While one source said there was some debate over Miller within the organization, offensive line coach Tom Cable is happy about this pick. He was a big Miller fan, and McKenzie said he played a big role in making this pick.

His 2017 game tape wasn’t great, but he tested well at the NFL combine. Miller’s known as a hard worker focused on shoring up individual weaknesses, vital to someone who needs to develop.

“When you talk about pass protection and staying in front of his guy, that’s what he does,” McKenzie said. “I mean he’s got the length, he’s got the great feet and when you’re talking about playing at the second level, pulling. I mean, this guy has a lot of talent and we think if we can get him on scheme and get (Cable) working with him, he’s going to flourish.”