ALAMEDA – The 2002 Raiders got off to a hot start. Then they went in the tank.
As y’all recall, that downturn didn’t kill a season. The Silver and Black rallied together and ended up in the Super Bowl.
Quarterback Rich Gannon was in the driver’s seat for that incredible run. That year’s NFL MVP was awesome then.
He believes Derek Carr can be a catalyst now. This year’s Raiders are in a rut, mired in a three-game losing streak heading into Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Their franchise quarterback will return after a game sidelined with a fractured back, and needs to get these Raiders back to .500 after unexpected early-season struggles. The Raiders were a sexy Super Bowl pick. Now they’re trying to turn things around.
“The expectations were so high,” Gannon said in on this week’s Raiders Insider Podcast. “They got off to a good start, but they’ve kind of flat-lined a little bit. Look, the year we went to the Super Bowl back in 2002, we started 4-0. We were the hottest team in football, and then we lost four straight games. We go it turned around, and finished 7-1.
“They have to find a way to flip the switch. There’s no secret formula. You have to keep grinding it out.”
The Raiders certainly expected better than 2-3 through five games.
“This is a team that went 12-4 last year, and they need to realize that there’s nothing guaranteed in this business,” Gannon said. “It doesn’t entitle you to anything, not even a first down. You have to earn it.”
The Raiders entered this free agency period needing defensive help throughout the depth chart. They signed presumptive starters earlier in this veteran acquisition process, but didn’t stop there.
The Silver and Black have added depth this week especially, signing a key cog in linebacker Emmanuel Lamur on Wednesday afternoon.
Lamur spent the last two years in Minnesota and the previous four in Cincinnati with new Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Guenther was his position coach from 2012-13 and his DC from 2014-15. He also knows Raiders linebackers coach David Lippincott from the Bengals days
Lamur has primarily been a reserve, but Guenther gave him an opportunity to start in 2014. He had 59 tackles and two interceptions in 13 starts that year as a strongside linebacker.
The Raiders have options at that spot, but no firm starter at this stage if Bruce Irvin plays defensive end full time.
Lamur hasn’t played much defense the last two years, but is known as a quality special teams contributor. The Raiders have signed several of those players in an attempt to improve coverage and returns.
All told, the Raiders have signed 14 unrestricted free agents with a shot to make the 53-man roster since last week began. The roster will turnover significantly in Jon Gruden’s return to the Raiders, and it’s possible he signs more players in coming days.
The Raiders are still looking for upgrades at receiver, and might add another bargain defensive lineman.
Ndamukong Suh won’t meet with the Raiders, after all. The star defensive tackle cut Alameda out of his free-agent tour, according to NFL Network, choosing instead to head home after stops in New Orleans, Tennessee and the L.A. Rams.
NFLN reports that Suh had dinner with Rams coach Sean McVay on Tuesday night, and was due in Oakland the following day. The Rams made a solid impression
Suh is reportedly mulling options from all three aforementioned playoff teams, all of which have more working salary-cap space and other stalwarts along the defensive line.
That’s surely a disappointment for the Raiders, who have had interest in Suh dating back to his last free-agent experience in 2015. The Silver and Black couldn’t afford him then. It seems unlikely they can afford him now, with precious little salary-cap space remaining after being active in free agency’s second wave.
The Raiders also hope to lock Khalil Mack up long-term with a massive extension this offseason.
It’s uncertain at this stage whether player or team cancelled the meeting, or exactly why it was called off. The Raiders could still sign a veteran defensive tackle, and/or acquire one early in the NFL Draft.