Raiders

Raiders key matchup No. 3: Myers vs. Berry

myers_brandon_raiders_vs_chiefs.jpg

Raiders key matchup No. 3: Myers vs. Berry

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Chiefs matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m. (CBS), at the O.co Coliseum

Raiders TE Brandon Myers vs. Chiefs SS Eric Berry

Tale of the tape
Myers (83): 6-foot-3, 256 pounds, fourth season, Iowa
Berry (29): 6-foot, 211 pounds, third season, Tennessee

ALAMEDA -- Two games ago, Brandon Myers caught a franchise record-tying 14 catches, equaling Tim Brown's 15-year-old mark, against the Cleveland Browns.

Last week, against Denver, Myers caught one pass.

"That's just the game," said Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer. "Some guys get a hot hand one week and there's a lot of plays called their way because of certain matchups, because of certain schemes. And some weeks you're called on to block, or called on for the run game. So it's not anything we lost any confidence, obviously, in Brandon at all. It has nothing to do with anything like that.

"It's just, some games your number's called more often than others and it was just of those weeks where he was blocking a little bit more and they had shown some things where they weren't going to let him catch 14 balls."

Neither, it seems, would the Chiefs want to allow such production out of Myers, whose 70 receptions thus far leads all AFC tight ends and is the most by a Raiders tight end since Todd Christensen caught 95 balls in 1986 and the most by any Raiders pass catcher since Jerry Porter had 76 in 2005.

And for what it's worth, 33 of Myers' catches have come in the fourth quarter.

Berry, who was a Pro Bowler as a rookie in 2010 but suffered a season-ending injury in the Chiefs' season-opener in 2011, has started all 13 games this season. As the strong safety, he figures to draw the assignment of covering Myers.

"When you look back earlier in the year, they matched him up with Antonio Gates against San Diego," said Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. "He is a very good safety, in my opinion, who is not just one dimensional. Sometimes safeties can be a box safety or a deep safety. He plays both well. He has great range to play the middle safety. But he has no problem playing linebacker.

"In fact, in their sub packages, he will play the linebacker the majority of the time and he’ll stick his nose in there. He’s good against the run and he can cover a tight end really well."

The experience of sitting out basically an entire season has not gone over well with Berry, who has 65 tackles (53 solo), with six for a loss, an interception and seven passes defensed. As a rookie, he led the Chiefs with four interceptions and also had two sacks.

"I would say, physically I was ready to go, I was in shape and stuff like that," he said of returning this year, in a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "It’s just, I lost all my game experience…I only had one year under my belt. So a lot of the stuff I had to go back, to certain game situations, what I could and could not do.

"Obviously, my role has changed a lot from my rookie year. I was more in the box as far as like, I don’t even know what to call the position. Just little stuff like that. As far as physically though, I felt I was back where I was supposed to be. But I just had to get that game experience, and I feel great now."

Will a Gruden-Lynch partnership work? ‘Guys like him interest me’

gruden-lynch-ap.jpg
AP

Will a Gruden-Lynch partnership work? ‘Guys like him interest me’

Jon Gruden asked to speak with Marshawn Lynch several times but got turned down.

His job title earned an automatic veto. The enigmatic running back doesn’t talk to the press, even a Monday Night Football analyst with Gruden’s street cred. No production meetings, no insight flowing outside the inner circle.

Lynch must honor the next request. Gruden’s his boss, after all.

“I’m anxious to sit down with Marshawn and meet him,” the new Raiders head coach said Tuesday during his introductory press conference. “We’ll talk about his future and the Raiders. I can’t wait. He came back to the Raiders for similar, I think, reasons that I did. I think he loves Oakland. I think he loves the Raiders and guys like him interest me, so I’m looking forward to talking to him.”

The veteran running back and Oakland native has a year left on a two-year deal struck last April. The 2018 payouts, per overthecap.com, include a $4 million base salary, a $250,000 workout bonus, a $1 million roster bonus and $750,000 in per-game roster bonuses. There are also significant performance-based incentives.

Marshawn is under contract, but also has some say in this matter. He could post an image of cleats hanging on a telephone wire like he did after the 2016 Super Bowl and call it a career. Lynch made it clear in a rare press conference that he didn’t miss football. He returned for the opportunity to play in front of a East Bay community he champions and bring attention to his significant charitable efforts.

There are several possible outcomes from the Gruden/Lynch tete-a-tete. Gruden might not consider him worth the while. Lynch may walk away, for good this time. Or, the two could traverse 2018 together.

Predicting Marshawn’s movements is a fool’s errand. We can, however, make an educated pros and cons list. Let’s take a look at some factors influencing the ultimate outcome.

PROS

-- The phrase in Gruden’s last sentence above may have tipped his hand: “Guys like him interest me.” Lynch is an intense presence, one of his generation’s most physical runners. Gruden can use on-field talents like him, though it’s uncertain whether he’s a perfect fit in an offense that has certainly evolved during nine years in the broadcast booth.

Also, Gruden loves Oakland. Lynch loves Oakland. That may be a good starting point.

-- Marshawn still has it. The 31-year old was the Raiders’ most productive skill player in 2017’s second half. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry over the last season games, totaling 625 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He also had at least 92 yards total offense in five of those contests. When he’s motivated and healthy – he didn’t miss a single practice with injury – Lynch can be a force on the ground

-- Gruden reportedly hired Tom Cable as offensive line coach a few days back. That’s probably a plus from Lynch’s perspective. Cable was Seattle offensive line coach, and heavily involved in the running game, during Lynch’s best seasons. He ran a system that fit Lynch well, though Gruden said schemes will be based around team strengths. Lynch and Cable reportedly get along well, and could be a major reason why Lynch finds it appetizing to return.

-- Lynch carried locker room clout. Last year’s coaching staff didn’t love him, but player certainly did.

CONS

-- Lynch comes with some baggage. He’s an eccentric sort who does his own thing, at times without regard for small rules. That may rub Gruden and staff the wrong way. It certainly bothered Del Rio’s crew, especially when he seemed to have his own set of rules.

The Raiders tolerated Lynch’s choice to sit during the national anthem all year, despite being vocal against such actions the year before. He also had a production crew following him around quite often, especially in camp.

He got suspended for sticking up for the other team in Week 7, protecting great friend, Oakland native and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters in an on-field altercation. He then practiced with his old high school during the suspension.

Gruden may not love the prospect of dealing with extra weight, depending on how strict he plans to be during this coaching tenure.

-- Lynch turns 32 in April. While Lynch might be an exception, running backs often fall off a production cliff in their early 30s. Can the Raiders get good value from Lynch at that age, knowing full well another running back might be added to the roster?

-- Lynch may simply not be into another year in Oakland. He enjoyed taking 2016 off, travelling the world and increasing charitable and business endeavors. Is his drive still strong?

Report: Former Raiders head coach returning to join Gruden's staff

cable-ap.jpg
AP

Report: Former Raiders head coach returning to join Gruden's staff

Jon Gruden isn’t the only Raiders head coach returning to the Silver and Black.

Tom Cable’s on the way, albeit in a lesser role. Gruden already has the top job. Cable’s coming back, NFL Network reported Saturday afternoon, as offensive line coach.

He occupied that role in Oakland from 2007 until he assumed the head coach role when Lane Kiffin was fired five games into the 2008 season. The interim tag was lifted in 2009, and he coached the Raiders to an 8-8 record in 2010.

He followed that feat with the now famous quote, “We’re not losers anymore.” The Raiders had seven straight losing seasons before finishing .500 in what would be Cable’s last season with the club. He was 17-27 in two-plus seasons as Raiders head coach.

He went to Seattle after that, and spent seven seasons as Seahawks assistant head coach in charge of the offensive line. He also worked extensively with Marshawn Lynch during the rusher’s salad days in Seattle.

Cable returning to the Raiders seemed highly unlikely after late owner Al Davis detailed Cable’s misgivings in a post-firing press conference. Cable was allegedly involved in a 2009 incident where then Raiders assistant Randy Hanson was left with a broken jaw. ESPN also aired a report where three women accused Cable of domestic violence. One of Cable’s accusers sued Cable and named the Raiders as a co-defendant. Davis docked Cable’s pay in relation to that litigation.

Cable is a respected position coach, though the Seahawks offensive line has fallen on hard times. He and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell were fired after a disappointing season where the Seahawks missed the postseason.

Offensive line coach was a top priority as Gruden built a staff. Cable is known for using a zone blocking scheme, though it remains uncertain what he’ll use in Oakland with a powerful, expensive offensive front locked in place save the right tackle spot.