Olawale comes through with game-changing TD in Raiders' win

Olawale comes through with game-changing TD in Raiders' win

MEXICO CITY – Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will use some wacky formations from time to time to get guys open. Needing a pick-me-up in the fourth quarter, he outlined a play where Amari Cooper set up in the backfield with fullback Jamize Olawale adjacent to him and Jalen Richard out wide.

Cooper leaked into the flat, but Derek Carr was looking to go big. Olawale ran up the right sideline and Carr found him all alone. Then he flashed some sneaky speed and ran away from the competition for a 75-yard touchdown that changed Monday night’s game.

That tied the game early in the fourth quarter and the Raiders scored again to secure a 27-20 victory at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

Olawale has come up with big plays before -- he had a 68-yard gain in similar fashion at Tampa Bay -- but that might’ve been his best yet.

“I saw the corner drop off and I thought the play could really work out,” Olawale said. “Derek made a great throw and I’m happy that I was able to haul it in.”

Carr manipulated coverage with his eyes, and hit his fullback in stride.

“I stepped up and tried to hold the safety inside, and thank the Lord I was able to get the corner to step into the flat and still had time to find Olawale.

“At times like those everybody pats me on the back, but that play only happened because our offensive line gave us time to make it work.”

The play gave the Raiders a jolt, an important factor after Houston proved to be the better team for three quarters.

"It was a huge part for our team," Cooper said. "Everybody was happy on the sidelines and you saw that they felt like the momentum was shifting."

The offense looked flat at times and the run game never got going, but it surged in the second half with Olawale’s play and a 35-yard touchdown catch and run from Amari Cooper that provided the final margin of victory.

The Raiders defense uncharacteristically struggled on third down – Houston converted eight times in 16 tries – but Oakland held strong enough to keep the game close.

The receivers were generally covered well, but Carr got backs involved in the passing game. Olawale had three catches for 90 yards and that huge touchdown. Latavius Murray had five receptions for 59 yards and Jalen Richard had three receptions for 50 yards and the game’s first touchdown.

Olwale does a lot of dirty work that doesn’t show up in the box score, so his teammates were happy to see him in the spotlight.

“’Maze’ is good football player, who does a lot for us on offense and special teams,” center Rodney Hudson said. “I couldn’t be happier for the guy. We see him make plays like that all the time in practice, but he really came through for us when we needed it.”

Reports: Marshawn Lynch to remain with Raiders in 2018


Reports: Marshawn Lynch to remain with Raiders in 2018

The Raiders signed veteran running back Doug Martin on Thursday, prompting many to believe the move meant the end of Marshawn Lynch's time in Oakland.

But as it has been expected, Martin is just another piece to go along with Lynch in the Raiders' backfield. According to multiple national reports, Lynch will remain in Silver and Black this upcoming season. 

The news will become official when the Raiders pay Lynch his $1 million roster bonus on Sunday. 

“One of the reasons I’m excited to be with the Raiders is to join forces with Lynch. We’ll see what happens," Jon Gruden told Insider Scott Bair at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We have to take a look at the entire roster, but I’m counting on him. I’m counting on him being a big part of this football team.”

Lynch, 31, rushed for 891 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry, and scored seven touchdowns for the Raiders in 2017. 

New Raiders cornerback supremely confident, 'here to dominate the league'


New Raiders cornerback supremely confident, 'here to dominate the league'

Rashaan Melvin has the supreme confidence of a No. 1 cornerback, with none of the pedigree. Top cover men are often drafted high, paid well or both, with a steady ascent to elite status.

This undrafted talent bounced around the league without job security, trying and often failing to find NFL footing.

Melvin spent time with Tampa Bay, Miami, Baltimore, New England and Miami again before establishing himself in Indianapolis. The Colts gave him a real shot and he took advantage, evolving into the team’s top cornerback. Last year was Melvin’s best, but it didn’t provide a long-term contract despite a bull market for cover men.

Melvin signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Raiders on Friday, the type of prove-it deal that could establish a big payday down this time next year. The 28-year old doesn’t consider that pressure. Melvin knowns another big year's on the way, one that proves he's an elite cornerback

"I’m here to dominate the league," Melvin said Friday in a conference call. "It might be time for some new faces at the cornerback position. That’s my take on that. I’m excited for it.”

Melvin wouldn’t trade his long road for a conventional path, and believes experience both good and bad has prepared him for a pivotal season.

“I’ve been cut four times,” Melvin said. “I’ve been in four different locker rooms, and I was able to gain my teammates’ trust, my coaches’ trust and the organization’s trust as well. My confidence just grows over time. There are not a lot of players that can say they’ve been cut four times and end up in a situation where I’m at today. Like I said, it’s perfect timing. My work ethic, my style of play and the way I approach the game and the way I approach my job, my business, it speaks for itself.”

Melvin’s work ethic is unquestioned. His reputation as a grinder is well documented, especially after establishing himself in Indianapolis. Commitment to a craft has created a player with consistent coverage and ball skills.

Melvin was excellent last year. According to Pro Football Focus, Melvin created an incomplete pass (combining passes defensed and interceptions) on 23.6 percent of his targets.

Passers had a 60.3 passer rating against him in 2017, with just 29 completions for 328 yards on 55 targets. The passer rating was 86.6 in 2016, his only other season as a regular starter.

The Raiders need that type of player on the outside. They’ve had inconsistent cornerback play (that’s being kind) in recent seasons, and are hoping Melvin provides stability at a key position. The Northern Illinois alum has loftier aspirations, individually and as the leader of a young position group.

“The goal is to be the best player I can be, first-team All-Pro,” Melvin said. “I’m going to show my leadership, help these young guys out this year. They have tons of potential to be successful in their own careers. For me coming in here and being the leader and showing that, hey, this is what it takes to be successful in this football league, that’s what I’m willing to do. That’s what I’m willing to bring to the table. On the football field, but outside as well.”

Paying $6.5 million for all that would be a bargain. Melvin’s the key acquisition in a secondary built around 2016 first-round safety Karl Joseph and 2017 first-round cornerback Gareon Conley. This secondary can be solid if those guys can realize potential and Melvin’s a true No. 1 cornerback.

He considers that title appropriate, and is ready to show he’s more that a one-year wonder. The Raiders have great confidence in Melvin, something clear after targeting him early in the free-agent process. Financing’s always a big factor, but Friday’s meeting with head coach Jon Gruden, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and secondary coach Derrick Ansley convinced Melvin that Oakland’s a proper fit.

“I can relate to these guys,” Melvin said. “They have big plans for me, big plans for the organization. I was born to be a part of something special; that’s happening in Oakland. It was a good thing. We were able to get everything done, a deal done. I’m just excited to be here and I’m excited to see what the future holds for us as a team and me as a player.”