Raiders

Time to give Terrelle Pryor a start?

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Time to give Terrelle Pryor a start?

ALAMEDA -- Limping along at 3-10 while carrying around a six-game losing streak like some silver and black albatross, the line between trying to win games and playing youngsters for evaluation is a thin one indeed for Raiders first-year general manager Reggie McKenzie and rookie coach Dennis Allen.

But it's one they have to navigate with three games left in the season, including the home finale on Dec. 16 against Kansas City.

So yeah, the time is growing nearer -- if it has not already passed -- for the Raiders to throw third-string quarterback Terrelle Pryor into a game. Maybe even start him in a not-so-hostile atmosphere in Oakland against the Chiefs, to give him a better opportunity to succeed.

But not with the sense that starter Carson Palmer is being benched, or with the understanding that backup Matt Leinart has been surpassed on the depth chart. Rather, the Raiders need to see what Pryor can do in a game, against legit NFL defensive players, and not the third-stringers and washouts he faced in the exhibition season.

Pryor is the most intriguing player on the roster but the questions surrounding him as a potential NFL quarterback are outnumbered only by his athletic skill. Meaning, the Raiders have to see if he is indeed cut out to be a QB for them.

"I think the biggest thing is to start getting him in a game, a little bit of game action," Allen said Friday. "I'm not ready to say that he would be a starter. I think that Carson, obviously, he's made a couple of mistakes the last couple of weeks but yet, Carson's been one of the reasons why, specifically, earlier in the year, why we had a chance in certain games.

"So I'm not down on Carson at all. Obviously, we want to see some of these younger guys play."

The first name Allen drops is that of offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom, the first player drafted by the McKenzie-Allen regime. But a grunt does not move the needle like Pryor. Then again, no one on the Raiders roster moves the needle like Pryor…even if, as the joke goes, he could not thread one with a pass.

"What we have to understand as players and coaches, we've got look to the future also," Allen said. "We're trying to go out there and win and it's our job to go out there and win on a ay-to-day basis.

"This process is not an overnight process; it's going to take a little bit of time. So the only way we can continue to move forward is to continue to look at some of these young guys."

In 2005, the Raiders faced a similar situation with Norv Turner as the coach and Kerry Collins under center. Collins was having a decent season stats-wise but even with LaMont Jordan and Randy Moss, the offense was stuck in the mud. And having lost four of five, the Raiders turned to Marques Tuiasosopo.

For a game. Against the New York Jets. In the Meadowlands. In December. Just to see what they had in the popular "Tui."

It didn't work out so well as Tuiasosopo was pummeled for six sacks with 19 yards rushing on two attempts and harassed into a 14-of-26 passing day, for 124 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions in the Raiders' 26-10 defeat.

The next week, Collins was back under center and he finished the season with 3,759 yards passing, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 15 games. The Raiders went 4-12.

The next year, though, Collins was gone. As was Turner.

Palmer, meanwhile, is on pace to pass for 4,683 yards, a mere six yards behind Rich Gannon's 2002 franchise single-season franchise record, with 27 TDs and 17 INTs. That 2002 Raiders team went to the Super Bowl.

"I've got a big-picture view of what I want this football team to look like and Reggie and I have talked about it," Allen said. "And we knew what we were dealing with when we came here, and we knew that we had some depth issues on the roster and we couldn't sustain a lot of injuries and we've sustained some injuries in a few spots.

"We all want to win and I understand that and I want to win now. But I'm looking at the long-term future of this team and we've got to prepare for the future."

Then how close is Allen to having the roster he envisions?

"I wouldn't put any time frame on it," he said. "It's going to take time. It doesn't happen with one decision; it's a cumulation of decisions made over time that gets everything to be exactly how you want it."

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

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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

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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.