Prepping for Tuesday's Raiders media conference


Prepping for Tuesday's Raiders media conference

PROGRAMMINGALERT: Tune into Raiders Press Conference Live on CSN California at 2 p.m..

It's been a wild and rumor-filled week in the streets of Silver and Blackdom, what with the Raiders' season coming to an inglorious end one victory shy of the playoffs, a whole slew of defensive coaches on their way out the door, a new general manager in Reggie McKenzie on his way in and coach Hue Jackson purportedly blowing in the wind.So here's what we do know -- there will be a media conference on Tuesday at the Raiders' Alameda facility where McKenzie will be introduced. Other that that, a lot of speculation. Following then, 10 looming questions, plus a bonus, sure to come up at the presser

1) Will Hue Jackson be in attendance?All indications areyes. Why wouldn't he be? Unless, of course, the reports over the weekend that he could be in jeopardy have legs. Even if he's not formally invited, Jackson should be the dutiful coach and show up.2) If Jackson is there, where will he sit?Hopefully in the back of the room or off to the side. Jackson does not need to be up on the dais. This is McKenzie's day and Jackson sharing the stage would send a decidedly different message. Then again, Jackson has to play this very carefully. Any wrong move could be taken as a power play by the coach and former de facto G.M. on the new G.M. McKenzie.3) What about Mark Davis, will he be there?No word yet and he had no comment in a text message Monday evening, but talk about a guy reporters would love to lob a few questions at, especially since he has yet to make a public statement since he took over the team following the death of his father on Oct. 8. The younger Davis is an intriguing figure and might want to let this be McKenzie's day as well, though it will be interesting to see who introduces the new Raiders G.M.4) What about that whole power structure thing again?With the passing of Al Davis, Jackson essentially became the Raiders' football czar, answering to no one on football matters before getting things green-lighted by Mark Davis. So with McKenzie now in the house, who answers to whom, and who has the final say on personnel matters when it comes to signing and drafting players? What exactly, is McKenzie's job description and where are both men on the team's power flow chart, so to speak?5) Has Jackson lost some of his Hue-bris?Jackson took a lot of heat for the way he handled matters and the confidence with which he did. But really, what was he supposed to do? Fans loved it when the Raiders were 7-4; not so much when they lost four of their final five games. How deferential Jackson acts towards McKenzie will tell the tale.6) Wait, don't Jackson and McKenzie have the same agent, and couldn't that muddy the waters since each would potentially know how much money the other guy makes?Yes, and potentially. Especially if there is a power struggle atop the Raiders' food chain. Then again, they could be fast friends and quick partners in steering the ship to calmer waters. Kennard McGuire might have his hands full keeping these two clients happy.
7) So you're saying Jackson stays on?Well, in my opinion, he deserves to, yes. Because while Tom Cable changed the culture in the Raiders' locker room, Jackson took it to another level. And he is intrinsically linked to quarterback Carson Palmer, in whom the Raiders, ahem, Jackson, have invested so much. Get rid of Jackson and you have to scrap the entire offensive system, and that does not bode well for a 32-year old nine-year NFL veteran QB. Jackson probably has a shorter-than-normal leash, though.8) But wouldn't McKenzie want to start fresh, like with his own coach?Perhaps, but remember, the offense, under Jackson, is light years better than it was the previous three seasons at the very least. And continuity is ultra-important to this team that, minus a key injury here and there and a key defensive stop against Buffalo andor Detroit, would have won the AFC West and played host to Pittsburgh in a playoff game. A quick fixer-upper is what's needed at this juncture, not a total overhaul. Unless we're talking about the defense, of course.9) How much power will McKenzie really have?The last Raiders G.M before the late Al Davis was really Bruce Allen, who departed to join Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay in 2004. So these are fairly untested waters of late for the Raiders. The sense here is that McKenzie will have full final say over personnel matters. Otherwise, why would he want to leave the tranquility of Green Bay for a potential power struggle that would be between a first-year G.M. and a second-year coach? McKenzie, though, needs to rebuild (build?) the Raiders' personnel department.10) Will there be any overhead projectors involved, any coaches getting eviscerated?We can only hope. Because while any Al Davis presser became must-see-TV in his later years thanks to his use of AV equipment and his sharp wit, this gathering is supposed to be a celebration for the Raider Nation, a welcome-home gala for McKenzie, who played for the Raiders from 1985 through 1988, a coming-out party for Mark Davis and a relief, really, for Jackson. It might be a sad day for Hue Jackson the de facto G.M., but it should be a great day for Jackson the playcalling coach, who can now simply worry about what goes down on the field, rather than taking the entire organization on his shoulders. At least, that's how it should play out.BONUS) What questions would you, the fans, ask?

Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots


Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders cornerback David Amerson didn’t practice all week, but ran just well enough to be considered “doubtful” for Sunday’s game against New England.

Translation: Outlook for Sunday is not good, but Jack Del Rio’s fingers remained crossed real, real tight. The Raiders hope there’s a way he can be active against Tom Brady’s buzz saw attack, because their cover men are beat up.

Amerson has missed two straight with a foot injury, and has dealt with injury all year. Gareon Conley’s season officially ended Monday, when he was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Antonio Hamilton and Demetrius McCray were already there.

Reggie McKenzie hasn’t reached out for reinforcements. That leaves TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald and Sean Smith to play cornerback. Carrie’s been the rock, a sure tackler who hasn’t made spectacular plays but doesn’t give them up. McDonald has been forced into action, with holes let in his game.

Smith should be the No. 1 guy in this group, the steadying presence on the outside. That hasn’t been the case this year, where he lost a starting job in training camp and sub-package snaps during the season, only to have injuries to Conley and Amerson bring him in the fray.

He’s also been dealing with felony assault and battery charges in Los Angeles stemming from a July 4 incident in Pasadena.

Smith has been a lightning rod for fan criticism, a byproduct of his $9.5 million salary this year and explosive plays allowed early in the year.

If there’s an anvil weighing on his mind, teammates insist you’d never know.

“We’re human at the end of the day,” Amerson said. “You feel it, but you have to find a way to remain even keel and professional and do your job well.”

Smith will be counted on heavily Sunday against New England, especially if Amerson can’t play as expected. He has proven vulnerable to speed without help and proper disruption at the line of scrimmage, though that hasn’t been an issue lately because the Utah alum has recovered well after a rough start.

He got pulled after struggling against Vernon Davis in Washington. He didn’t play against the Chargers after giving up two huge plays to Baltimore the week before.

Amerson originally sprained his foot in Week 7 against Kansas City – he hasn’t played since – and Smith was called upon to respond. He wasn’t targeted in that game, and has been strong in coverage ever since.

Smith has allowed three catches for 12 yards in four targets over the last two games. The ninth-year veteran insists he wasn’t doing anything markedly different, and had zero interest in patting himself on the back for recent jobs well done.

“I’m not,” Smith said. “I’m out there doing my job, man, the best way I can.”

Smith says the off-field distractions during a roller-coaster season, one of his career’s most trying yet, haven’t impacted him much

“Nope. Not at all,” Smith said. “As long as I wake up a Raider, I’m all right. I’ll deal with whatever happens. I’ll always be there for my guys, and I’ll do whatever it takes to help our team win.”

Raiders defensive backs laud Smith’s locker room presence, saying he’s an excellent teammate. Cornerbacks in general must have a short memory when things go bad, to refocus and prevent that from happening again. Smith apparently has that in spades.

“I know how things go, especially when you have a target on your back,” Amerson said. “Sometimes you get hit with the perfect pass and you give up some plays. You can’t do anything about that but take advantage of the next opportunity. Sean’s a good player, and he definitely has that mindset.”

Smith will lend experience to this big game, something the Raiders need after suffering so many injuries.

"It sucks that so many of us have gone down,” Smith said. "You want to have all your guys out there, but that’s the NFL. Injuries happen. As long as everybody comes to work and acts like a pro, we’ll be all right. We all have a job to do. We all would like to start, but you have to be ready when your number’s called.”

Raiders standing by strategy for Mexico City altitude


Raiders standing by strategy for Mexico City altitude

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders spent all week at sea level preparing to play 1-¼ miles up. They left Oakland around noon on Saturday confident that altitude won’t be an issue in Sunday’s game against New England.

Estadio Azteca sits at 7,200 feet, a comparable elevation to where the Patriots have been practicing in Colorado Springs. That has created a debate of sorts about which philosophy works best. There’s science to support staying in altitude with New England.

There’s plenty more to back head coach Jack Del Rio’s desire to get in and out of altitude as fast as possible. We won’t break down the arguments here. There are plenty of stories written about that.

We’ll simply say the Raiders believe in their approach, and have experience to support it. The Raiders best Houston in Mexico City last year in a dramatic affair that required two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

“I thought we handled our business well last year and we’ve got a similar approach this year,” Del Rio said. “We expect to go down there and play in a great atmosphere. The fans are very engaged. It’s a great atmosphere to be a part of. Just go down there and play good football.”

The Raiders have worked toward this game the past three weeks. They’ve worked on exercise bikes and treadmills using elevation machine, which matches oxygen outputs at specific elevation. Players have done that and have then been able to recover at sea level. They’ve worn popularized oxygen deprivation masks during other activities, though they’ve practiced as usual.

The Raiders know what to expect in terms of logistics, altitude and air pollution. The Raiders have prepared well for this experience, but that doesn’t mean altitude doesn’t impact finely tuned athletes.

“When you get there, you’re going to feel it,” edge rusher Khalil Mack said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “It’s different than anything you’ve ever felt. It’s different than Denver. It was a way tougher challenge. You felt it right away. It hits you getting off the plane.”

Both teams must play in adverse conditions.

“We just have to go play,” Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. “You guys aren’t going to say the altitude had an effect on the outcome. You can’t use it as an excuse. You can’t think about that. You have to train and prepare the way they’ve been having us prepare and go out there and execute.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick hasn’t talked much about his strategy of staying at elevation after playing in Denver last week. Extended time away from home can be a bonding time, as the Raiders experienced a fortnight past in Sarasota, FL. He didn’t consider the time spent at Air Force Academy to be a significant advantage.

“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Belichick said. “The way the schedule worked out, this worked out for us. We’re here and we’re just doing the best we can to get ready for the game.”

The Raiders anticipate Estadio Azteca to feel like home away from home. Raider Nation turned out en masse last year in Houston, giving the neutral site a silver and black edge. Fans took it to the extreme at times, pointing a green laser pointer in Texans quarterback Brock Osweiller’s eyes.

The NFL will certainly be looking to quell those disruptions, especially with a marquee Patriots team in town. New England fans will be audible this time, but another pro-Raiders atmosphere is expected. That’s why Derek Carr isn’t worried about distractions from the crowd.

“No, no, no, no, no. I think that going down there is a home field advantage,” Carr said. “I’m not worried about the laser pointers. I think that’s for the other guys.”