Raiders

Season review -- Raiders WRs

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Season review -- Raiders WRs

The purported strength of the Raiders receiving corps was that there was no clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver. And as such, no divas living in their ranks.

But something happened when quarterback Jason Campbell went down with a broken right clavicle on Oct. 16 and Carson Palmer was acquired two days later. Heyward-Bey emerged as the top target and Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy, both of whom are standing up in Campbell's wedding next month, became afterthoughts.

Yes, injury had a lot to do with it, but their close off-field relationship with Campbell, at whose house they crashed during the lockout for workouts, might have been a positive for the team before Campbell's injury, a hindrance after it.

And now that it appears fairly certain Campbell will be leaving as a free agent, it will be interesting to see how the young receiving group responds with a full offseason with Palmer as their quarterback.

And despite any rift, real or imagined, the Raiders receivers helped Oakland finish with the No. 11-ranked passing attack in the NFL.

Grade: CWIDE RECEIVERSDarrius Heyward-Bey -- Raise your hand if you predicted before the season began that Heyward-Bey would not only lead the Raiders in receiving but would be within a mere 25 yards of hitting that 1,000-receiving yards threshold? Now give yourself a Barry Horowitz-style slap on the back.
Not bad for a guy that entered his third season on the fast track to Bustville, right? Well, his maturation as a pass catcher has been a sight to behold -- a week after being carried off the field on a stretcher at Minnesota he started against Chicago -- even if he is more of an intermediate route runner than the deep threat Al Davis envisioned when he took him with the No. 7 overall pick in 2009.
He still has his fair share of drops, though no receiver on the Raiders roster works harder off the field to improve. And his work ethic has paid off as quarterbacks have begun to trust him with aplomb -- he was targeted a team-high 115 times, including 17 targets in the season finale -- and his 64 receptions were 27 more than Oakland's second-leading pass catcher, running back Michael Bush.
He had four touchdowns but no reception was as impressive, or important, as the 53-yard long bomb from Carson Palmer on the first play of overtime at Kansas City on Dec. 24 that put the Raiders in field-goal position.Denarius Moore -- The fifth-round rookie revelation turned heads in training camp with ridiculous plays seemingly every day. "I'm not a playmaker," Moore said in ah-shucks fashion. "I just make plays."
That he did, especially at Buffalo (five catches for 146 yards and a TD), at San Diego (five for 123 and two TDs) at Kansas City (four for 94 and a TD) and in the season finale against the Chargers (three for 101).
His five touchdown receptions led the team, even as he missed three games with an injured right foot and ankle suffered at Minnesota on Nov. 10.
Moore's 18.7-yards per catch average on 33 receptions, for 618 yards, led the team.
Yet as explosive as he could be, he would also sometimes disappear. He had a total of five catches in games against Denver, Houston, Cleveland, Kansas City, Minnesota and Detroit.
With experience and more reps, he only figures to get more consistent. "Denarius Moore," coach Hue Jackson said, "I give him an A." He's also considered the Raiders' best pure route runner.Chaz Schilens -- The oft-injured possession receiver stayed relatively healthy in 2011, missing only one game after missing a combined 19 games the previous two seasons.
Schilens tied a career-high with two touchdown catches and his 23 receptions for 271 yards were both second-best in his four-year career. No, Schilens did not have the impact expected of him when the Raiders trumpeted him in a famous (infamous?) press release a few years back.
But that's the issue with proclaiming receivers as game-changers -- they can only do so much when the ball is thrown their way and can do nothing when the ball is not thrown their way.Jacoby Ford -- A broken hand suffered in training camp was followed by a lost fumble the first time he touched the ball in the season opener, ensued by a strained hamstring, and bookended by a sprained foot.
The icing was the, ahem, icy glare Ford received from Palmer when Ford purportedly "slipped" in the season finale and Palmer's throw to the diminutive receiver was picked off.
Not exactly a season to write home about for Ford, who did, however, return another kickoff for a touchdown, in Week 6.
In all, Ford missed half of the season and caught 19 passes for 279 yards and a TD. Not quite the playmaker he was as a rookie in 2010, when he had 25 receptions for 470 yards and two scores while returning three kicks for touchdowns.
He seemed to take especially hard the loss of Campbell and how the arrival of Palmer was handled.Louis Murphy -- An offseason Viagra-related arrest preceded sports hernia surgery and Murphy was not the same player he had been the previous two seasons, when he led the receiving corps in catches and averaged 38 receptions, 565 yards and three TDs in nine starts.
In 2011, Murphy started one of the 11 games in which he played and caught 15 passes for 241 yards and did not have a touchdown catch.
Like Ford, he too seemed to struggle with the transition from Campbell to Palmer and some might say the most interesting nugget we learned about Murphy this season was that he prepares his chicken without washing his hands, courtesy of CSN California's "Raiders Unplugged."T.J. Houshmandzadeh -- The 11-year veteran's mere arrival on Nov. 1 as a free agent raised some hackles in that he was seen as Palmer's personal receiver, what with their prior relationship in Cincinnati.
After all, Houshmandzadeh caught an NFL-high 112 passes in 2007 with Palmer as his QB. Really, though, the 34-year-old Houshmandzadeh was used more as a third-down safety valve.
In eight games, he ended up catching 11 passes for 146 yards and his 13.3-yards per catch average was actually the second-highest of his career. Small sample size, yes, but it was also the same average he had the previous year in Baltimore, when he had 30 catches.Derrick Jones -- An undrafted free-agent rookie who blew out his Achilles' tendon in training camp and spent the season on Injured Reserve.

Three things you need to know from Raiders’ 31-30 victory over Chiefs

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Three things you need to know from Raiders’ 31-30 victory over Chiefs

OAKLAND – Three things you need to know about the Raiders’ 31-30 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night:

1. Back from the brink

The Raiders are still under .500. They face an uphill climb getting back into playoff consideration following a crippling four-game losing streak.

Still. 3-4 is a whole heck of a lot better than the alternative.

“Yeah, 2-5 did not sound good,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “That made our stomach hurt. We wanted to come out here and get a big win. This is a big win. For our team, especially with the adversity we’ve gone through.”

The Raiders looked lost during their downturn, when a loaded offense averaged 13.1 points per game. They fell to 14th in the AFC and last in their division. Perceived strengths proved suspect. Everything was called into question.

If the Raiders were drowning, Thursday was that point in the movie where the hero reappears taking a huge, dramatic breath.

The Raiders are alive again, especially in beating the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs. There’s work ahead to make it more than a really fun night, but Thursday proved their survival instincts are still keen.

“It felt good,” left tackle Donald Penn said. “I wish it would have happened a few weeks ago. We wouldn’t be sitting here like that. You all would have been talking like ‘OK, we’re on a run.' I’m glad to get things going.

“I told them today I was going to go out there and let it rip. I told some other guys to go out there and let it rip. This offense was trying to be too perfect. We had high hopes going into the season when we started, then we hit adversity. We couldn’t find a way to get out of there fast enough. Now we’re getting out of this, but we have to keep it going. One thing we have been doing is we’ve been working as hard as we do every week. It’s starting to pay off.”

2. Dormant volcano erupts

The Raiders offense was horrible four straight games. The season’s first two games proved what a loaded unit can do when functioning well, but those efforts got lost in a wash of bad play.

An MVP-caliber quarterback’s play was openly questioned for the first time. So was a bright young coordinator taking shrapnel for the team’s misgivings. Averaging 13 points per game will make a fan base an angry mob. The offense grossly underperformed, but raw talent didn’t diminish.

Production was hot lava, bubbling underneath the surface. It erupted on Thursday night, with the previously cautious Raiders offense opened up and consistently took yards in chunks.

In doing so, a lost offense may have found an identity, a fallback: The Raiders can flat out sling it.

Quarterback Derek Carr was throwing darts all over the field, completing 29-of-52 passes for 417 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 8.0 yards per pass play and, at times, threw people open or allowed receivers to make a play in tight coverage.

Pass catchers certainly did that. Amari Cooper had 11 catches for 210 and two scores. Tight end Jared Cook had six receptions for 107 yards. Michael Crabtree only had 24 yards, but snagged the game-deciding touchdown.

It felt and looked like the Raiders offense everyone expected each week, finally back on track. That was clear after Carr threw Amari Cooper a touchdown pass the first two drives.

“We struggled to do a lot of things over the last month,” Carr said. “To start fast, again I think that gives life to a team. That’s a sense of hope, which we always have and belief and those kind of things, but to start fast, it always just gives your team a little boost at the beginning that you have to have.”

In previous weeks, the Raiders were wound too tight. They strived for perfection and failed to attain anything close. They just let loose, and went for it. An offense with no TNT blew up, to the tune of six explosive plays.

“We got so many weapons, we got so many explosive athletes on our offense but just in these last four games that we loss we were just so out of whack,” running back Jalen Richard said. “It was little stuff here and there, technical, maybe a missed assignment here and there. Guys were doing their thing, guys were playing hard. We believed the whole game even when we got down a little bit. We pulled through and got the win.”

3. Return of the 2016 Raiders

Last season’s Raiders owned the fourth quarter. They generated seven come-from-behind victories last season thanks to offensive magic and timely defense.

That’s how they erased a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit against Kansas City. They never wavered, even in tough times. The defense provided opportunity. With two minutes remaining, the offense got it done.

Derek Carr orchestrated an 11-play, 85-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Crabtree on the second straight untimed down brought on by defensive penalty.

That moment produced great emotion. It should’ve after completing one of the wildest comebacks in franchise history. The drive itself, however, was clinical.

The Raiders believed they would score. They expected it.

"There was no panic, or anxiety or anything like that,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “We were going to get the job done. There was never, ever any doubt.”

That’s exactly what last year’s Raiders did. On the regular. They couldn’t respond well to adversity in recent games. They found their magic on Thursday night.

Mark your calendars right now for Raiders-Chiefs 2.0 in December

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Mark your calendars right now for Raiders-Chiefs 2.0 in December

In case you were asking, and you shouldn’t have been because this game deserves to be savored a bit longer, it’s December 10.
 
That’s when the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders play each other again, in case Thursday night wasn’t good enough for you.

You philistines.

And while there are some folks who won’t be happy (those who like the Chiefs or bet the Chiefs), there won’t be a more magnificently bizarre game this NFL season – because these two teams are exactly that.
 
Bizarre.
 
The Chiefs, who two weeks ago were the best team in football as voted on by the instant punditocracy, made enough mistakes in the last two minutes of Thursday’s 31-30 defeat to lose 47-10.
 
And the Raiders did the same, capped off by Marshawn Lynch’s gloriously Oaklandish reaction to fellow citizen Marcus Peters’ late hit on Derek Carr – namely, “I got your rules and your respect for officials right here!”
 
But in the end – the glorious, bizarre, untimed end – the Raiders saved themselves from pre-Halloween doom, the Chiefs reverted to the team you can never fully trust, and the rest of the NFL can only shake its collective neckless head in wonderment at the power of the old American Football League.
 
Because that, ultimately, is what this was – a game out of time. This was a throwback game, all the way back to the mid- to late-60s, when the Raiders and Chiefs hated each other not out of historical duty but out of genuine solar-generated animosity. When they both played as though their cars were being looted in the parking lot, and when 750-yard combined passing nights were actually not that unusual. They were hell-bent then, and Thursday showed that they still have that bent in their DNA even now.
 
This was that era, played out in a way that old Raider and Chiefs fans can tell their grandchildren, “Now you’re sitting there scratching your head and all, but I’m telling you that used to happen all the time. You think Marcus Peters was bad? Google Ben Davidson on Len Dawson, little Tad.”
 
And it ended the only way it could for the good of the rivalry – with Oakland winning, and in the most staggeringly improbable way.
 
Not because the Raiders are more noble human beings or a superior life form from a time long ago, but because that December 10 game needs to mean something. The Raiders needed to win Thursday because losing meant their playoff hopes would be deservedly dead, and their remaining nine games would be reduced to competitive afterthoughts, and the year would be reduced to wondering why what should have been never came close to happening.
 
And the Chiefs needed to lose because running away with a division this difficult just seems wrong. There is nothing that says Kansas City isn’t better than Denver, or Oakland or the Fightin’ StubHubs, but it shouldn’t be this easy. The Patriots may have eaten the AFC East and spit the bones into a dumpster long ago, but the AFC West clung harder to its AFL roots than the East ever did.
 
And Thursday was the evidence required to show that, at least for the Chiefs and Raiders, the old days can be recreated with a keen eye for the most malevolent details and the most bizarre turns of fortune.
 
Call it nostalgia on crank – seemingly the only thing we have left that can bond the generations in these otherwise mean-spirited days.