Raiders

Raiders midseason report: Defense

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Raiders midseason report: Defense

First-half storyline: Coming into the season the loss of All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was the main story line. Buried in there somewhere, though, was the fact that the Raiders returned 10 of 11 starters on defense, giving the unit some much-needed continuity, especially coming off a 47-sack season, which was tied for second-most in the NFL (they only have 18 sacks now).

The same concerns, however, were there, especially when it came to defending the run. And lo and behold, those same problems have crept up again at the midway point, despite an added emphasis on stopping the run and, really, knowing exactly what was coming at them in the form of Tim Tebow. The defense on Sunday against Denver was as bad as it's been since 2003, especially the run defense in giving up 298 yards, the fourth-most surrendered in franchise history.

Eight games in, the Raiders' defense is 29th against the run, giving up 139.6 yards per game on the ground. Losing defensive end Matt Shaughnessy for the season three games in with a shoulder injury did not help.

MVP: Richard Seymour. The 11th-year defensive tackle owns the locker room in his third season in Oakland and leads the Raiders with five sacks. More impressive, perhaps, is how he's transformed the defensive line in his image, especially fellow DT Tommy Kelly. Still, Seymour's intensity sometimes goes awry, as it did when he picked up two personal foul penalties for 30 yards total against New England on the Patriots' opening 80-yard touchdown drive.Biggest surprise: The respect opposing quarterbacks have given Stanford Routt by essentially avoiding his side of the field has been somewhat Asomugha-esque. Then again, with Chris Johnson hurt all year and a pair of rookies in DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa filling in the gap opposite Routt, why would you go after Routt, who has one of the team's seven interceptions.Biggest disappointment: Granted, the bar is set high for Rolando McClain. But it should be. And as such, the second-year middle linebacker is not the game-changing force many saw him as being when the Raiders used the No. 8 overall pick on him in 2010. He has trouble shedding blocks and is easily re-directed and oftentimes takes bad angles on ball carriers. And yet, slowed by an ankle injury since Oct. 9, his absence is most definitely felt, especially in run defense, when he's out of the game. Go figure.Best play: The day after Al Davis passed away, and with only 10 men on the field, Michael Huff stepped in front of Matt Schaub's five-yard pass to Jacoby Jones in the end zone as time expired for the interception to seal the Raiders' emotional 25-20 victory at Houston. Nothing else comes close.Worst play: Hmmm, take your pick from any of Tebow's zone-read option runs against them on Sunday. Tebow galloped for 117 yards against Oakland, though two runs especially stood out as the faked-out duo of Kamerion Wimbley and Jarvis Moss are both still searching for their jock straps.Key to the second half: The same as the previous eight years -- stuffing the run and limiting big-chunk plays. Could recently-released DT Albert Haynesworth be a target and, if signed, be kept in check by Seymour, Kelly and John Henderson?

Raiders expect Lynch ruling soon; 'it would be the fairest thing'

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USATSI

Raiders expect Lynch ruling soon; 'it would be the fairest thing'

Running back Marshawn Lynch formally appealed his one-game suspension on Monday afternoon.

The Raiders hope to hear a ruling by Tuesday.

“I think we expect to hear something early in the week, hopefully by tomorrow,” head coach Jack Del Rio said in a Monday press conference. “(It) would be the fairest thing so that the team can prepare.”

That’s the expectation, according to an ESPN report. The Raiders should know by Tuesday whether Lynch’s suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct will stand.

The suspension stems from a Thursday night incident where he left the sidelines to join an on-field fracas involving Raiders offensive linemen and Kansas City cornerback Marcus Peters. The third-year pro was penalized for a late hit on Raiders quarterback Derek Carr his linemen didn’t take kindly.

Peters and Lynch are extremely close friends and Oakland natives, and Lynch instinctively went out to protect someone he views as family. He inadvertently grabbed an official by the jersey and let go shortly after. He was flagged and ejected by rule.

He missed most of Thursday’s 31-30 victory over the Chiefs, and the NFL suspended him one game without pay on Friday. That could cost Lynch a $79,411 game check and a $31,250 per-game roster bonus.

ESPN reports that Peters by phone spoke at Lynch’s appeal hearing, where the running back’s team also cited precedent of others contacting an official without getting suspended. Leaving the sideline, however, may not help his appeal.

Del Rio said he hadn’t spoken with Lynch since the ejection.

“I said the other night I was disappointed that we had a player leave the bench,” Del Rio said. “It’s something we talk about – don’t leave the bench area.”

The Raiders ran with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington after Lynch’s ejection, and combined for 67 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The pair with shoulder a rushing load Sunday at Buffalo if Lynch is unavailable.

“They don’t have the size and the power but they have a little more quickness, they catch the ball a little easier, better route-runners, things like so,” Del Rio said. “So, if you’re playing a little more wide open, in some respects they give you a little more juice. Marshawn give you the power back when you want to finish people and in tough situations. Those guys give you more than a change of pace.”

 

Raiders put Amari Cooper in position to break out vs Chiefs

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AP

Raiders put Amari Cooper in position to break out vs Chiefs

Raiders receiver Amari Cooper has been creating steady separation for a few weeks now. That didn’t break him out of a prolonged slump.

Coaches were impressed by Cooper’s route running in a Week 5 loss to Baltimore. It only earned two targets and an eight-yard catch. They tried to find No. 89 more often in a Week 6 loss to the L.A. Chargers, though six targets generated five short catches for 28 yards.

Low production stretched through a four-game losing streak, with nine catches for 51 yards. Including stats from to early wins, Coopers season stats (18 catches, 146 yards and a touchdown) were worse than nearly 200 others.

Even that astonishment didn’t make Cooper demand the gosh darn football, please. The low-key Cooper attitude: The ball will find me.

It finally did in Thursday night’s 31-30 victory over Kansas City. Several times in fact.

Cooper had 11 catches for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He was targeted 19 times. Nineteen. That’s no coincidence.

They moved him around, including significant snaps in the slot. He was targeted 11 times from that position, per analytics site Pro Football Focus, and produced six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.

They schemed opportunities and quarterback Derek Carr used them to create big plays early.

Carr’s first pass went 12-yards to Cooper. His third was a 38-yard touchdown strike. His seventh was an in-stride delivery that Cooper took across and then up the field for a 45-yard score.

Just like that, Cooper was off and running for the first time this year.

“We put him in positions to make plays, obviously,” Carr said. “We knew that there were certain things that we liked. Nothing changed in his demeanor or his mentality or the way he worked or anything like that. We just stayed the course. We know what we have here and we know that if we just stay the course and work and grind through the tough times.

“…For ‘Coop’ to just continue to grind and get on the other side of it, I just felt good for him. You guys know Amari. I think we all felt good for him.”

Cooper said the early explosive touches provided confidence. Ability produced a signature performance. The Alabama product is excellent extending production with his legs, and had 78 of his yards come after the catch. That’s an average of 7.1 yards after the catch per reception, per PFF.

His second touchdown reached him 15 yards downfield, and he hit the jets and reached the end zone. He turned a short catch into 15 crucial yards to start the game-winning two-minute drill, and later high pointed a 39-yard receptions.

“The way he finished after the catch was really special,” Carr said. “Obviously, we all know he can go up and get a ball and all those things. That second touchdown where he cam across, the burst that he had, that’s freakish. Not a lot of guys have that. To turn the jets on like that and just out run the angles of the defense, that was really special. I think just after the catch he just played with some dog in him, which we know he has. We were able to get him the ball and let him shine and do what he does.”

Cooper’s showcase was vital to a huge victory that kept his team in the hunt. It also ended a rough month where Cooper and the Raiders both struggled. Veteran running mate Michael Crabtree was never concerned with the downturn and told the young receiver to stay the course during tough times.

“(I told him), ‘Just be you,’” Crabtree said. “It’s just about everything coming together. Coop’s a fighter, man. Coop has got skills. I don’t worry about Coop and I’m sure he doesn’t worry about me. That’s why we are so good together.”