ALAMEDA -- Marcel Reece isn't putting much value behind the numbers he's had in the two games since taking over as the Oakland Raiders' starting running back.He might be the only one.Oakland's primary fullback the past two seasons, Reece has amassed nearly 300 yards in total offense while providing some much-needed stability to a backfield that has been plagued by injuries this year. Last week against New Orleans, he fell 10 receiving yards shy of joining Hall of Famer Marcus Allen as the only players in franchise history to have 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in one game.Just don't expect him to make a big deal about it."None of that matters unless you get a W," Reece said Friday. "I don't care if it's number of touches. I don't care if it's number of yards or lack thereof. If you're not winning, it doesn't matter."With the Raiders (3-7) mired in a three-game losing streak, Reece shrugs off his achievements as little more than stats on paper.Yes, he's got a higher yards-per-carry average than Darren McFadden. And his 151 rushing yards over the past two weeks are more than backups Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones have combined for the entire season.But for a player who has never been on a team that won more than eight games since entering the NFL as an undrafted wide receiver out of Washington in 2008, the numbers are meaningless without the corresponding success in the standings."When it really comes down to it, you're just trying to make plays the way you're supposed to make plays," Reece said. "It's about being able to contribute to trying to help your team win and being productive at it."Reece toiled in relative obscurity for the first two months of the season despite being one of the Raiders' most productive players in 2011.That all changed when McFadden and Goodson got hurt during Oakland's Nov. 4 game against Tampa Bay. While Jones, a fourth-round pick last year, seemed like a logical replacement, he's had problems hanging onto the ball so the Raiders turned to Reece.Thus far the results have been impressive."I knew he was a weapon (but) I didn't know exactly how he was going to fit or how he was going to run," Oakland coach Dennis Allen said. "He's done an outstanding job. As long as he continues to do the things he's doing we'll continue to give him opportunities."Including this week in Cincinnati.McFadden and Goodson are both out while Jones is questionable. All three have ankle injuries, and while McFadden has made slow progress, it hasn't been enough to get back on the practice field.That means a third straight start at tailback for Reece, though fellow fullback Owen Schmitt isn't sure his teammate should even have a position title next to his name."He's just an athlete in a big-man's body," Schmitt said. "Yeah his title is fullback, but really he's a guy that can do it all. He can, when needed, do anything you ask. A guy like that is so valuable on the team."Quarterback Carson Palmer has started relying more heavily on Reece, too, as the Raiders' wide receiving corps battles its own injury issues.After catching 18 passes for 177 yards in Oakland's first seven games, Reece has 19 receptions for 241 yards over the past three.At some point over the next two weeks, Reece is also likely to double his career output in both rushing and receiving. If he does, don't expect much talk about it."It's just whatever," Reece said. "You just go out there and do your job to the best of your abilities. You fight for the guy that's to the left and to the right of you and behind you. No one man, no one group, is bigger than this team."Notes: DT Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring) accompanied the team on the flight to Cincinnati but will sit out his third straight game. ... SS Tyvon Branch practiced without limitations and is expected to start after missing last week's game against New Orleans with a neck injury.
ALAMEDA – Todd Downing has friends with fantasy football teams. Those faux general managers, like many across the roto world, took Raiders with high draft picks.
They would like to know why Derek Carr isn’t throwing touchdowns in bulk, Amari Cooper’s in a slump and Marshawn Lynch isn’t getting more carries.
“I have friends that have him on their fantasy team that are mad at me for that,” Downing said after Wednesday’s practice. “That’s part of the business.”
Ah, the life of an NFL coordinator. Players get credit when things go right. Play callers sit over a Bunsen burner the rest of the time.
Downing understands that part of this gig.
“I welcome the responsibility that this job has afforded me,” he said. “I understand that I’m going to have to deal with negative comments and consequences when things aren’t going well. I’m looking forward to standing up here in a more positive fashion some time soon.”
Positives were expected right away. He was given the keys to a Lamborghini with a franchise quarterback under center, 1,000-yard receivers on each flank, an older back considered among the best of his generation, and the NFL’s biggest and most expensive offensive line.
The Raiders ranked No. 6 in total offense before adding Lynch, tight end Jared Cook and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency. Now they’re 30th heading into Thursday night’s game against Kansas City.
The mob is lighting torches, armed with pitchforks. After six weeks.
Everyone has an opinion on what’s wrong and how to fix this offense. More interior runs, less outside zone. More play action, please. Go deep, a lot. Have Derek hold on to the ball longer. Have Derek get rid of it quick. Do all that at once. Do it now.
Downing’s going to stick with his system. The Raiders will stick with their process, thank you very much, with faith that things will turn.
“When you look at the tape, you can see that we’re so close on so many things,” Downing said. “I know that sounds cliché and I know that sounds like someone sitting up here and trying to give you the rose-colored glasses, but it’s the truth. We know that we’re just this close to making a couple more plays each game and being able to come out on top and feeling like we put together a good product.
“…We’re looking for answers right now, but we know those answers exist in our room and in our scheme. Once we hit our stride, we’re excited to see what it looks like.”
There’s reason to believe that can happen. Take the season’s first two games, for example. The Raiders scored 71 points in that span. There’s talent everywhere in the starting lineup and behind it.
That’s why concern reigns during a four-game losing streak where the offense is averaging 13.1 points. They can’t sustain drives, come through on third down or block consistently in the run game. Their play count is dismally low. According to the Associated Press, the Raiders aver averaging 54 plays per game. Every other team has at least 60. The 2005 49ers were the last team that averaged such a sum. The Raiders haven’t had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher or a 100-yard receiver.
Offense is blamed for a dismal 2-4 start. Even the universally beloved Carr has taken some heat for lackluster performances.
“I don’t think there’s a single guy that can look back over the last few weeks and say, ‘You know what, I’m really pleased with how I’ve played over the last three weeks,’ or, ‘Called the last three weeks’ or, ‘Coached my position the last three weeks.’ We all own this together,” Downing said. “There’s no one guy that is going to save it or break it or anything in between. We need to do this as a team and everybody needs to make the plays they’re afforded the opportunity to make and I need to call the right plays when afforded the opportunity to call them.”
The Raiders can and must do better before falling further. Righting the ship too late to reach the season’s goals might hurt as much as a completely dismal campaign.
Pressing, however, isn’t the answer.
“You do have to stay patient,” Downing said. “I tell the offense this every week, but it’s never been more true than where we’re at now as an offense. We have a belief in what we’ve done this far, and the system we’ve put in place, and the playmakers we have in that room, and the coaches that are up in the room with me, and you will never see me waiver in my belief of any single one of those guys, including myself. If I did, and I started acting different or started calling games differently, then that would mean I didn’t really believe in the first place.”
ALAMEDA – Obi Melifonwu participated in a Raiders practice Tuesday afternoon, his first session in months.
The second-round safety has been on injured reserve all season and hasn’t done football activities of any kind since suffering a knee injury in a preseason game in Dallas.
He had arthroscopic knee surgery and was put on the shelf for the season’s first half. Melifonwu's professional career barely started and then quickly stopped. That's why Wednesday's practice was such a big deal.
“It was awesome to get back out there, finally,” Melfonwu said. “It’s been a while. It was beyond fun to just be out there and practice with the team."
He nearing a return to game action. That’s why the Raiders designated him to return off injured reserve. Wednesday marks the start of a three-week practice window where the Raiders can decide whether to put him on the 53-roster.
He’s expected to do so when eligible. Melifonwu was first able to practice this week, and can join the 53-man roster after Week 8. His NFL debut could come in Week 9 at Miami.
He can't wait, especially because he's physically ready now.
"I feel 100 percent," Meilfonwu said. I feel fine."
The Raiders still struggle covering the aforementioned skill players, using young linebackers or an undersized safety against those guys. The Raiders have given up the most yards to tight ends and running backs in the NFL this season. Melifonwu was drafted to help cover tight ends and running backs right away in sub packages, with a long-term eye on a full-time starting spot.
"I bring versatility, and I think I’m a guy who can fit into a lot of different spots," Melifonwu said. "Wherever the coaches need me to fit and help the team win, I’m all for it."
He has missed significant development time while out. He also missed most of training camp with an apparent ankle injury. The team hopes he can be ready to contribute when eligible despite missing so much time. The downtime was difficult, but Melifonwu now hopes to hit the ground running.
"It was definitely tough," he said. "As a competitor, you always want to be out there helping your team win. As a guy who hasn’t been hurt, it was pretty tough. It comes with playing football. I’m just glad to be out there now."