Notes: 'Angel in the outfield' changed pass on pivotal incompletion to Cooper

Notes: 'Angel in the outfield' changed pass on pivotal incompletion to Cooper

ALAMEDA – The Raiders missed several golden opportunities to even the score against Kansas City on Thursday night. That gave the Chiefs a 21-13 victory and a season sweep that gave them pole position the AFC West race.

One stands out more than others. The Raiders’ penultimate drive was stalled after Derek Carr couldn’t connect with a wide-open Amari Cooper on a deep pass that, if caught, likely would’ve resulted in a touchdown.

Carr’s pass changed direction upon descent and ended up incomplete, leaving some fans to wonder if the ball hit a cable supporting a camera rigged to provide aerial shots. There was no evidence the ball hit a camera or a cable. A gust of wind could’ve impacted a wobbly pass, though it’s hard to say for certain exactly what happened.

Trying to make light of the situation, the Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio had another theory of what happened.

“The angel in the outfield,” Del Rio said. “I mean, it moved. I don’t know if it hit a wire or the angel in the outfield moved it, a gust of wind. I don’t know. It moved. To me, it was like one of so many plays that could have gone differently. I’m certainly not sitting here hung up on that play.”

Del Rio was hung up on a decision to throw on 3rd-and-1 on the Raiders' final series. A low percentage pass to Andre Holmes fell incomplete. Then Austin Howard false started to make it 4th-and-6 and the Raiders eventually turned it over on downs.

“It would’ve made a lot of sense to run right there,” Del Rio said. “As we look at it as a staff we’re going, ‘Geez, what the heck?’”

Del Rio thought about calling a timeout to re-evaluate the play call, but didn’t want to burn one in that situation.

“I let the play ride and thought we’d be able to get it on the next snap if we didn’t get it,” Del Rio said. “It’s one of those things. When you play the game, you get these opportunities and you look back 20/20, looking back always. At the end of the day that was one as a staff we say, ‘We really would have like to hand that ball off.’”

Del Rio wishes the Raiders would’ve run even more than they did against Kansas City. They were effective running the ball, with 31 carries for 135 yards and a touchdown. That couldn’t helped the Raiders considering the weather and the passing game’s struggles.

“I would have like to see us play a little more big boy ball in that game with the weather, the fact that he was having an off night,” Del Rio said. “We have that big line, I would have liked to see us hand that ball off a few more times behind that line.”

Edwards Jr. progressing: Raiders defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. started practicing last week, though there was no contact during a short week where recovery was king. Edwards Jr. will continue practicing as the intensity increases this week before Sunday’s game at San Diego.

“We’ll get another look at him this week and see how quick he gets up to speed and conditioning and all of that,” Del Rio said. “He stayed behind and conditioned through the weekend. We should get him on the field this week.”

Since he returned to practice last week, the Raiders have hoped he can return in time to play the Chargers, even if it’s as a rotational player.

Crabtree playing through injury: Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree suffered a finger injury similar to Derek Carr’s dislocated digit, Del Rio said on Monday. It kept him from playing several key snaps against Kansas City, and may have played a role in key drops against the Chiefs.

It isn’t, however, an ailment that should keep him out of action.

“Him and Derek both had similar type of deals where the finger kind of bent the wrong way,” Del Rio said. “Both of those guys are playing through it.”

As expected left guard Kelechi Osemele has recovered from his illness and should practice this week.

Del Rio didn’t have an update on Karl Joseph’s toe injury, and it seems likely he’ll miss another game at least. Nate Allen will continue to play in his stead.

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”

Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini


Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini

The Raiders need help at right tackle, the lone vacancy along their offensive line. They signed a veteran presence on Thursday afternoon, adding 32-year old Breno Giacomini as the frontrunner to join the starting five.

He has 86 starts in 94 career games, and has been a full-time starter three of the last four years. Giacomini spent 2017 in Houston and the previous three seasons with the New York Jets.

He was a Seattle Seahawk before that, working with Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable for three of his four years there. Cable gave Giacomini his first chance to start in the second half of 2011, and held the post through 2012.

The bond between the two is clearly strong, considering what Giacomini tweeted shortly after Cable got fired in Seattle.

Coach and player will reunite, hoping to provide steadiness on the right side of the Raiders offensive line.

He’ll compete for a starting spot with Vadal Alexander, second-year pros David Sharpe and Jylan Ware and possibly a drafted player. Giacomini should be considered the favorite unless the Raiders use an early pick on an offensive lineman.

Giacomini has plenty of starts, but his Pro Football Focus numbers aren’t pretty. The analytics says he allowed nine sacks, eight quarterback hits and 64 pressures with Houston last year. He had some decent years under Cable, and a return to that form might push him into the starting lineup for good. Time will tell on that front.