Touchdown catch gives Raiders' Olawale rare moment in spotlight

Touchdown catch gives Raiders' Olawale rare moment in spotlight

ALAMEDA – Fullbacks are an endangered species. The old bruisers of the past have been exchanged for extra receivers or tight ends as the NFL gets more pass-happy.

There is still a place for versatile players, and the Raiders have one in Jamize Olawale. He’s a physical presence who can act like a lead blocker/short-yardage runner/pass protector, yet has enough speed to burn you for leaving him open.

The Houston Texans learned that the hard way.

They didn’t account for Olawale late in Monday night’s game and paid for it, as Derek Carr found him for what became a 75-yard touchdown reception that turned the tides toward a 27-20 victory for the Silver and Black.

“I think it was a well-designed play to put the safety and the cornerback in a bind,” Olawale said before Wednesday’s practice. “They had to play (Amari) Cooper, myself or (Mychal) Rivera. You have to pick your poison. It was a perfectly placed ball.”

Olawale secured possession, stepped inside a lunging tackler and sprinted for the goal line. Nobody caught up.

The fourth-year pro has sneaky speed, and ran away from the competition. That’s rare for a fullback to show running-back speed.

“When you break off a big one like that he’s going to think he has the upper hand (winning a foot race),” running back Latavius Murray said with a smile. “I’m still going to say I’m the fastest in that position group. We can figure it out in the offseason if they want to.”

Olawale is one of the coaching staff’s favorites, someone who does significant dirty work on offense and special teams.

“He’s quiet, he’s funny and he works extremely hard,” quarterback Derek Carr said. ”So, whenever you have a guy like that having success, everyone in the locker room feels good for him.”

Olawale’s a grinder who signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2012 and was added to the Raiders roster in December of that year. The San Francisco native played wide receiver at North Texas after two years at El Camino junior college.

He has found a home in Oakland as a versatile offensive option, one given a three-year contract extension last season.

Olawale has carved a unique role here, one trusted to do a ton. He doesn’t mind that most of it occurs off the stat sheet, and doesn’t relish in efforts that do.

“I enjoy winning,” Olawale said. “Whatever I have to do to make that happen, I’m all for it. That’s my goal every week. Sometimes I’m focused on blocking or catching passes or running the ball.”

Gruden, McKenzie set to sell Suh on the Silver and Black


Gruden, McKenzie set to sell Suh on the Silver and Black

Ndamukong Suh’s coming to Alameda. Jon Gruden, Paul Guenther and Reggie McKenzie will have a chance to make a pitch, explaining exactly why the superstar defensive tackle belongs in the Silver and Black.

McKenzie (and owner Mark Davis) would’ve relished this opportunity last time Suh was a free agent. The Raiders had plenty of cap space in 2015 but oh, so many needs coming off a 3-13 campaign, and weren’t prepared for his market value to go nuclear. McKenzie steered clear of the mushroom cloud, and Suh’s deal set a new market for defensive players.

He made $60 million over three years in Miami, but didn’t see his contract’s second half after lackluster team results and hints of inconsistent effort. The Dolphins are reportedly angling for a culture change, and didn’t think Suh would help the transition.

That put him back on the open market, with more guaranteed dollars dancing in his head. Suh’s on a free-agent tour rare in the modern NFL, where dollars are committed quick once free agency opens. Suh’s slow playing this one, thus far hopping from New Orleans to Tennessee to L.A. to see the Rams on a private jet. His charter will land in Oakland Wednesday, according to a Tuesday report from ESPN, to see what the Raiders have to offer.

There’s little doubt what Suh can bring. He might be the best interior defensive lineman east of L.A.’s Aaron Donald -- yes, there are a few other top talents -- and would be a perfect fit for Guenther’s scheme. That system needs a Geno Atkins type. He made the Guenther’s Bengals go in recent seasons, and Suh’s certainly as good or better when going strong.

The real question’s what the Raiders can offer that others can’t. The Titans and Rams have more salary-cap space, as it stands right now. The Raiders are the only non-playoff team in his bunch, with the other three seemingly on the rise.

The Raiders could champion playing with Khalil Mack. The Rams have Donald, the Titans have Jurell Casey and the Saints have Cam Jordan. Suh has made reference to the final three in interviews with Yahoo! Sports.

Gruden, however, is certainly a selling point. Several signed free agents cited the A-list head coach as an attraction to joining the Raiders. A healthy, impactful Derek Carr and Suh’s addition to the defense could make the Raiders a real contender right away, something that will obviously get brought up in Wednesday’s visit.

Suh’s an Oregon kid, and the Raiders are the closest team to home. That might help.

He could make a pros and cons list about market, state tax issues, chances of winning, coach and locker room culture, but the almighty dollar can’t be ignored.

Can the Raiders put together an attractive financial package, one that would make them truly appealing? That’s the (multi-)million dollar question?

The Raiders don’t have tons of salary-cap space. In fact they're up against the threshold, though cutting veterans without guaranteed money easily creates space. The Raiders could keep Suh’s 2018 cap number lower through a signing bonus and fat roster bonuses in future years.

Make no mistake: the cap is not an impenetrable road block. The Raiders might have to get away from contract structuring practices that McKenzie’s people used to reach excellent salary-cap standing. That’s especially true considering the monster deal given to Carr last year and the mega-extension Mack will get soon.

We say all that with one caveat. Suh’s exact team-selection criteria aren’t clear. There’s no telling if this Alameda trip could help create a robust market, or if he’s taking the Raiders seriously. Making the trip means something, however, and will at least give Gruden and Co. a chance to woo Suh, lock him down and radically change expectations for the 2018 season.

Raiders remain on a receiver hunt as their top target signs elsewhere


Raiders remain on a receiver hunt as their top target signs elsewhere

The Raiders missed out on signing Ryan Grant. The former Washington receiver visited the team’s Alameda training complex, but left without a contract and ultimately chose to sign a one-year, $5 million deal with Indianapolis.

They lost that one, but are undeterred in their quest to upgrade the receiver corps.

They already signed Jordy Nelson and let Michael Crabtree walk, hoping for steady production and quality locker room leadership in the exchange.

Cordarrelle Patterson was traded to New England on Sunday, creating a spot in the position group.

The Raiders tried to fill it with Grant. No go, no matter.

They hosted veteran Eric Decker on Tuesday, according to multiple reports. They also declared interest in Allen Hurns, a player the Jaguars released Tuesday morning.

Hurns listed the Raiders among interested teams – he said there were 10 in total – in an interview with KFNZ radio in Charlotte, N.C.

Hurns has a 1,000-yard season to his credit – his biggest year came with now-Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson as Jacksonville's O.C. -- and two relative down years since. Injuries have also played a part in that.

Decker had a stellar four-year run with Denver and the New York Jets, but was less effective during two seasons in Tennessee. The 31-year old has experience in the slot, and could be a productive No. 3 option in Jon Gruden’s offense.

Gruden doesn't mind working with veteran receivers, something clear from his past and willingness to add Nelson as a major contributor. 

Even if the Raiders don't land a veteran receiver, they could also look for a receiver in the NFL draft.

Amari Cooper will remain the No. 1 option. Seth Roberts has $4.45 million guaranteed in 2018. Johnny Holton, Isaac Whitney and Keon Hatcher are also on the roster.