Wheeler had seen the Manning Show before


Wheeler had seen the Manning Show before


DENVER -- Philip Wheeler was having flashbacks. And not good ones.For the first three years of his NFL career in Indianapolis, Wheeler went up against Peyton Manning on a daily basis in practice. Sunday, it counted. For real. And Manning made Wheeler and the Raiders pay dearly in a 37-6 Broncos victory that really should not have been that close.So after sitting out last year recovering from his third neck surgery and having questions about his arm strength this year, is that the same Manning Wheeler saw for all those years?"Yeah, it is," Wheeler said, slowly shaking his head. "Not a lot of deep, nine-route balls. Not a lot of deep, over-the-top balls. A lot of quick, short throws. A lot of checking at the line from run to pass when he sees an eight-man front. A lot of that."And a lot of yardage. Manning threw for 338 yards on 30 of 38 passing for three touchdowns and a passer rating of 130.0. He did not throw an interception -- though Pat Lee dropped one that hit him in the gut -- and he was not sacked. In fact, Manning was not touched. The Raiders were not credited with a quarterback hit.Give Manning that kind of time, and he'll pick you apart."I certainly have things that I'm working on," Manning said, "things that I want to do. I have a lot on my plate. I try not to add too much to my burden. I understand what comes with playing the position. I am well aware of that but, like I said, I still have things that I am working on, being in a new system, coming off an injury, and that's kind of part of the process."Give him the slightest advantage, and he'll exploit it.In the first half, Manning ran the no-huddlefast-break offense and the Broncos scored their first first-quarter touchdown of the season. In the second half, Manning went into full-audible mode at the line of scrimmage."Peyton Manning's one of the best at making corrections and making changes after the half, after he sees what's going on," said Wheeler, who had nine tackles and a pass defensed."He's one of the best at that and he showed it."Over and over again against a Raiders defense that was as gassed as it was flummoxed.

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice


Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were out at Raiders practice Wednesday for the stretching period. Both edge rushers left one-at-a-time during the individual period, which open to the press, headed into the main building and did not return.

There was no reaction, certainly no surprise, from the coaching staff or players on the field. Irvin and new defensive coordinator John Pagano were seen joking around on the field before practice began in earnest. 

Both guys were given a day off, one scheduled earlier in the day. A Raiders official called it a day off/rest-type day that was not injury related. The Silver and Black typically practice in pads or shells on Wednesday, but were in jerseys and sweats in the interest of recovery.

Wednesday marked the first practice Irvin has missed since training camp. Mack hasn’t missed one in months.

Mack and Irvin’s downtime comes a day after beloved defensive coordinator Ken Norton’s firing.

Mack and Irvin especially were among those loyal to Norton. Mack and Norton developed a bond after the coach was named defensive coordinator in 2015. Norton and Irvin go way back to their days together in Seattle. Irvin credits Norton for helping him get on the right path and stay there.

Neither player was happy Norton got the axe. Irvin made his displeasure clear, tweeting “BULLS***” shortly after news of Norton’s demise broke. Mack told ESPN “I like to keep my thoughts private.”

It isn’t immediately clear if the non-injury related day off was related to Norton’s dismissal. Head coach Jack Del Rio won’t speak to the media again until Friday. New defensive coordinator John Pagano is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon.

Del Rio addressed the media before Wednesday’s practice, and was asked how he’ll handle players unhappy with the in-season shake-up.

“I don’t try and 'handle' them,” Del Rio said. “I think the biggest thing is to understand the relationship, respect that, give him a little space and then at the end of the day, we’re going to get on with our work. But, I’m human. It wasn’t easy for me either.”

Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing


Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio put out a statement Tuesday explaining why he fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

He went into greater detail Wednesday afternoon, his first time facing the media since a change was made

Specifics will be discussed further down this story. We don’t, however, want to bury the lede.

Del Rio’s main message wasn’t about Norton. It applied to all in Silver and Black. This season has not met lofty expectations. That is unacceptable.

“I know one thing,” Del Rio said. “Nobody should feel comfortable, because what I’ve been watching is not good enough.”

Del Rio didn’t absolve himself from blame. Norton got fired, but everyone has played a part in this disappointing 4-6 record.

“It’s always shared,” Del Rio said. “A change was made, obviously. We all share in it, all of us, starting with me. It’s coaches and players. It’s a team game, and we’re all in it together. And nobody is coming to help us.”

The Raiders must look inward to start a prolonged winning streak they’ve shown little evidence they can create.

The seat will be warm under players and coaches alike, even if only one change was made. Expect further shakeup on the coaching staff after the season, if vast improvements don’t come down the stretch, possibly with several position coaches being shown the door. More than a few higher profile players could be cut or allowed to leave, especially on defense.

While Del Rio has taken more heat the past month than at any other time in his Raiders tenure, expect him to be around a longer term. He was given a contract extension in February, and has significant capitol built after changing the culture in Oakland and re-teaching this team how to win. One bad year, even if this season continues heading downhill, shouldn’t erase that.

Del Rio was looking to shake things up, and Norton was the obvious move. Experienced play caller John Pagano was on staff – he was Chargers defensive coordinator from 2012-2016 – and firing the popular Pagano’s style could create some new waves and looks that any offensive Norton would make an impact in the locker room and prove this story’s opening quote, that no one should feel comfortable.

Del Rio hopes firing Norton will be a shock to the defense’s system.

“I really felt like I needed to shake things up,” Del Rio said. “We couldn’t continue doing what we’ve been doing to this point. So I made the call. The whole idea is to change what we’re doing and make sure…what I’m looking for at the end of the day is for us to play fast on defense. We weren’t playing fast enough. We weren’t playing confident enough.”