No days off: Raiders offense looks to align stars on offense with bye week


No days off: Raiders offense looks to align stars on offense with bye week

ALAMEDA – The Raiders beat the Miami Dolphins 27-24 Sunday night, flew across country and were back at their Alameda training complex around 6:45 a.m. Monday morning.

The bye week technically started then. Vacation, however, did not.

The Raiders put in work through Thursday, with two practices and meetings to refine operations before starting the stretch run Nov. 19 against New England in Mexico City. Their main focus, however, was on rest and recovery.

The offense is under a microscope. It was supposed to be a juggernaut. A unit that finished sixth in total offense and seventh in scoring now sits at No. 15 in both categories. That isn’t good enough, and must be better if the Raiders (4-5) are to make a legitimate playoff run.

Offensive coordinator Todd Downing knows it. He’s squarely focused on improvement, and is using the bye to find ways his talented unit can consistently do better.

“(We’re) diving into a really, really extensive self-scout and looking for efficiency,” Downing said. “(We’re looking at) what we’re good at, what we’re not good at, seeing if we need to tweak some things we’re doing schematically.

“Also, it gives us an opportunity to emphasize some of the things we’re doing well or possibly even eliminate some stuff that we’re not doing so well. We’re definitely looking forward to diving into that and being able to come out of the week with some hard information that we can use.”

Offense must key a second-half run after causing first-half troubles. That unit averaged 13.4 points in five losses this season and 32.3 points in four wins, proving how reliant this team is on putting up points to win.

“It’s obvious that in some of the games that we lost, we were not able to put up some points,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said in a Friday meeting with local press. “We definitely need to get better there and find a way. We have some guys we feel like can get that thing done and that’s what they’re working on. We’ll get it done. We just have to be consistent in the way our approach is.”

The talent is there, however, it doesn’t always show up.

McKenzie didn’t want to evaluate Downing publicly on Friday, though it’s become a common occurrence on the outside. The rookie play caller has been criticized, though he deserves praise for excellent game plans in wins over Kansas City and Miami that seem like efforts to build on. Those victories sandwiched a disappointment in Buffalo, which points again to consistency issues.

The Dolphins plan was especially impressive, with encouraging signs that the Raiders may be able to crank things up for good down the stretch.

That’s mandatory in McKenzie’s mind, though the other units must also pick up some slack.

“We need to get better offensively and score some points and move the football and help the defense out,” McKenzie said. “And vice versa, the defense has to get the ball back for our offense. We have to continue to work together in every facet of our game, starting versus New England.”

Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?


Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?

Jon Gruden doesn’t love offseason restrictions on player-coach interaction. They weren’t so strict when Gruden last coached nine years ago, but the new collective bargaining agreement prevents the new Raiders head coach from extended contact with his players at this stage in the NFL’s downtime.

He has, however, run into several Raiders stopping by the team’s Alameda complex.

Count running back Marshawn Lynch and receiver Michael Crabtree among them. Conversations with those talented, yet mercurial players will be key as Gruden and general manager Reggie McKenzie decide how best to use the salary cap.

Both guys have a long history of NFL production. Both guys are getting up there in age, and have some drawbacks. Both guys can be cut without a salary cap hit.

Gruden had nice things to say about both guys in a Wednesday interview with the Bay Area News Group.

He was asked directly if Lynch will be on the 2018 roster.

“I don’t know,” Gruden said. “I bumped into him. Some of these players that live locally do come to the facility to get a workout, see the trainer. I’ve been downstairs and met several guys. I have talked to Marshawn briefly. We’ll see. We’ll keep everybody posted. Right now, he’s our leading ball carrier. He’s our back, and we’re counting on him. Hopefully we get an opportunity to work together. That’s a man that has a lot of respect in this league as a player and I certainly have respect for him also.”

Lynch started slow but finished strong, and was the team’s best skill player in the season’s second half. He’s contracted to make up to $6 million in 2018.

Crabtree came up later in a discussion of what he likes on the roster.

“I got to bump into Crabtree,” Gruden said. “Hopefully we can get the best out of Crabtree and his career.”

Crabtree is coming off a down year following two stellar seasons in Oakland. He had just 58 catches for 618 yards – he still had eight touchdowns – but his targets and snaps decreased the last two weeks. He seemed at odds with the previous coaching staff, a group that was dismissed at season’s end.

Crabtree is set to make $7 million next season, though none of it is guaranteed.

Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders


Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders

PALO ALTO – Raiders cornerback T.J. Carrie became a father on Super Bowl Sunday. Newborn son Elijah Carrie has been the sole focus these last few weeks, as T.J. learns on the job how to be a dad.

Pardon him if he hasn’t thought much about impending free agency. The 2014 seventh-round pick turned full-time starter has a rookie deal expiring soon, with a raise on the horizon following his best season as a pro.

That’ll come in March. Early February, however, has kept him otherwise engaged.

“I’ve been so busy with my little one, and I haven’t been getting any sleep,” Carrie said Thursday. “Learning how to be a dad has been so engulfing that I haven’t delved into the details of what free agency will mean to me.”

Soul searching wasn’t required to realize his dream scenario. The East Bay native wants to stay in Oakland, with a Raiders team he loved as a kid.

“My intention is to be here,” Carrie said. “I’m a Bay Area guy, a hometown kid. I couldn’t see myself being anywhere else. This is a passion for me. I dreamed about playing for the Raiders for such a long time. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to play there for four years, I want to finish (with the Raiders).”

Carrie wants to work with a new Raiders regime. He visited the team’s Alameda complex on Wednesday and met with new head coach Jon Gruden and defensive assistants. The interaction left Carrie wanting more, furthering his belief that be belongs in Silver and Black.

“Coach Gruden is very energetic,” Carrie said. “He’s a coach that likes to have fun but it a very business oriented guy. There are a lot of things, I imagine, that are going to change, just from the way he has done things. It’s going to be different, but I embrace it. It’ll be very challenging entering into a new regime, but there are a lot of positive factors involved with it.”

The Raiders don’t have many cornerbacks under contract come mid-March. They released David Amerson, and could do the same with Sean Smith later this offseason. Gareon Conley should start at one spot, but everything else is wide-open entering free agency and the draft.

Carrie could find value on the open market after recording 70 tackles and nine passes defensed in 16 starts. He’ll explore his options further next month, before free agency begins in earnest March 14.

“I know March is really when it starts to go down,” Carrie said. “My son will be a little older then, so I can focus more on free agency and make some more decisions.”