Raiders

Yeah, but: Knapp hiring has many points, counter-points

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Yeah, but: Knapp hiring has many points, counter-points

The Raiders reboot is in full effect.It's no secret that I have endorsed -- heartily -- new Raiders coach Dennis Allen keeping offensive coordinator Al Saunders in that same role because, well, it made sense. Probably too much sense.The offense was a bright spot for Oakland last season and Saunders provided the high-powered gameplans, even as Hue Jackson called the plays. Still, a little continuity on that side of the ball, a full offseason program with quarterback Carson Palmer, and a (cross your fingers, Raider Nation) healthy Darren McFadden with Saunders overseeing it all seemed like the right call.
And yetAllen has chosen to go in a different direction. Really, a radically different direction. His choice of Greg Knapp as offensive coordinator harkens some of the darkest memories of recent Raiders time. And the offense will undergo another facelift, along with the defense and special teams units.And while it has created a firestorm on the internet by furious Raiders fans, there seems to be an inherent point-counterpoint to Knapp's return. A whole slew of "Yeah, buts" slinking around the streets of Silver and Blackdom.This is not to criticize the hire as a bad fit; it's just that there was seemingly a better fit already on staff in Saunders, who is still under contract. All of which is explains, while I don't necessarily agree with the choice of replacing Saunders with Knapp, I understand it. Besides, why tell an incoming head coach he can pick and choose his entire staff if it's not really true? A guy has to feel comfortable with his assistants and trust them, no?As such, five such "Yeah, buts" to chew onKnapp already had his shot as the O.C. here and it failed miserably then, right?Yeah, but you try and be an effective offensive coordinator in the middle of the maelstrom of negativity that existed between Al Davis and Lane Kiffin. You want to talk dysfunction? Thar she blows. Or have you also forgotten the carousel of quarterbacks with which Knapp had to deal in 2007 -- Josh McCown? Daunte Culpepper? Andrew Walter? And yes, JaMarcus Russell as a rookie. I'll give you this much, though, things got so bad a year later Knapp had his playcalling duties stripped and given to Tom Cable. True, numbers don't lie. But again, imagine trying to work in that environment. I remember thinking Knapp would be the runaway choice to be the interim coach in the wake of Kiffin's firing, only to hear rumblings that Knapp wanted nothing to do with it and wanted out. Enter the Cable guy, to be followed by HueJax City.Knapp had Darren McFadden as a rookie, and wasted his skill set then, no?Yeah, but remember, Knapp was the O.C. when Run DMC ran over Kansas City for 164 yards on 21 carries and scored a touchdown in his second-ever NFL game. Knapp's West Coast Offense might actually benefit the hybrid McFadden's skill setso long as he can stay healthy (an annual big if). The emphasis then was on developing Russell and by the time Cable took over the offense, McFadden was being used almost exclusively between the tackles in Cable's zone-blocking scheme. What a waste, as he is best in space. No doubt McFadden blossomed in his third pro season, under Jackson. The key was Jackson actually asking McFadden what kind of plays he liked to run and then implemented them. Knapp needs to take a cue from Hue on that point.What about re-training Carson Palmer? He's not a true West Coast Offense quarterback.Yeah, but well, you got me there. CP3 is anything but a Captain Checkdown-type of QB in the mold of Jason Campbell. Still, a dink here and a dunk there might benefit Palmer, who prefers the quick strike downfield. His deft touch on long throws should be able to translate to the flat, right? And even if Palmer is an old dog (in QB years), he is willing to learn a new trick or two, so long as it translates to success. And with a new offensive coordinator coming in, he was going to have to learn a new "language" anyway. At least this go-round, Palmer has an entire offseason to digest a new system and get on the same page with a receiving corps that did not exactly welcome him with open arms last fall.Wait, Allen said the offense would be up-tempo, like the New Orleans Saints' offense. Knapp's offenses over the years have been anything but explosive, more like churning the butter.Yeah, but he hasn't had this many weapons at his disposal, either. Again, it all depends upon health, but look what he did last year in Houston, getting third-string rookie T.J. Yates to not only survive but thrive in the playoff race and win a playoff game. Yes, I know Knapp did not run the Texans' offense, that he was merely the QB coach. But he did do a helluva job with Yates as a teacher, of sorts. And sure, Knapp might get too run-heavy at times, but his Atlanta teams led the league in rushing in 2004, 2005 and 2006. And when he had more all-around talent across the Bay, his 49ers teams ranked fourth, eighth and fifth in total offense in 2001, 2002 and 2003, respectively. Talent makes coaches look smart. Lack of talent? Look up the rankings of the 2007 and 2008 Raiders offenses and the 2009 Seattle Seahawks. You get the picture.I'm sure Knapp is a nice guy, but this feels like a retread hire and I thought the Raiders were in full reboot mode looking to the future.Yeah, but The coaching fraternity is thisclose to be a good old boy network, meaning just about every coach out there is a retread. They live a vagabond existence. At least Knapp understands the dark belly of working for the Raiders. And with a regime change, things are decidedly different. The Raiders have entered a new era while paying respect to the past and, obviously, Knapp wants to be here. Most likely he feels a sense of unfinished business in Oakland, much as did Saunders. What it all comes down to is this -- Allen has made his choice of Knapp and there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing but come up with points why he should not be here, and counterpoints as to why he should. And vice-versa. And try not to drive yourself mad, literally or figuratively.

Snap count: Raiders' Melifonwu experiment at cornerback backfires

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USATSI

Snap count: Raiders' Melifonwu experiment at cornerback backfires

The Raiders are razor thin at cornerback, without many bodies or talent they can trust. They were down to three healthy career cornerbacks heading into Sunday’s game against New England, with TJ Carrie, Sean Smith and Dexter McDonald available.

Head coach Jack Del Rio added a new name to the mix. He started second-round safety Obi Melifonwu at cornerback against the high-flying Patriots, an experiment that didn’t work out well.

Melifonwu played 26 snaps at cornerback, where he had been working some in practice since becoming eligible to return off injured reserve. He spent the early season on IR after having arthroscopic knee surgery.

Melifonwu was put in a tough spot, and struggled as a result. He allowed two receptions for 69 yards on four targets, including a 64-yard touchdown to Brandin Cooks where he had his eyes in the backfield when the Patriots speedster blew right by.

This position switch came in Melifonwu’s second NFL game, with just seven defensive snaps under his belt. 

Head coach Jack Del Rio admitted it was a move made out of desperation.

“Yeah, a little bit,” Del Rio said after Sunday’s 33-8 loss to New England at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. “We need more production (at cornerback). We're willing to try just about anything and we talked about being lean there and needing more production from that spot.

“(Melifonwu’s) a talented kid and it was probably asking a little too much, but we are going to roll those guys, we rolled our guys in the secondary tonight, and we're going to do that. We have got to do that until somebody starts playing well enough to stay in there full-time.”

The Raiders are in a bind at cornerback with Gareon Conley on injured reserve and David Amerson out three straight games with a foot injury. Demetrius McCray and Antonio Hamilton are also on season-ending injured reserve.

Carrie was a mainstay on Sunday, playing all 60 defensive snaps. Smith took over early, when the Melifonwu experiment wasn’t working out. He played 43 snaps, allowing three catches for 34 yards on five targets. McDonald played just eight snaps.

The Raiders are hoping someone can improve and settle into a full-time spot. The secondary has been thin for some time, but the personnel department has declined to sign anyone new off the street for depth.

That means Del Rio’s staff is still searching for answers at that position from a small pool.

“We're not playing really well on the back end and we have to find a way,” Del Rio said. “And we're going to make it competitive and let guys challenge for it and challenge for time and the guys that play the best are going to play the most.”

OFFENSE
Quarterback – Derek Carr 74
Running back – DeAndre Washington 24, Marshawn Lynch 21, Jamize Olawale 14, Jalen Richard 11,
Wide receiver – Amari Cooper 67, Seth Roberts 59, Michael Crabtree 58, Cordarelle Patterson 25, Johnny Holton 13
Tight end – Jared Cook 54, Clive Walford 14, Lee Smith 10
Offensive line – Kelechi Osemele 74, Rodney Hudson 74, Donald Penn 74, Gabe Jackson 74, Vadal Alexander 74

DEFENSE
Defensive line –
Khalil Mack 53, Mario Edwards 44, Justin Ellis 38, Eddie Vanderdoes 34, Denico Autry 31, Treyvon Hester 24, James Cowser 14
Linebacker – NaVorro Bowman 51, Bruce Irvin 46, Cory James 44, Nicholas Morrow 15, Marquel Lee 9
Cornerback – TJ Carrie 60, Sean Smith 43, Obi Melifonwu 26, Dexter McDonald 8
Safety – Reggie Nelson 60, Karl Joseph 51, Shalom Luani 9

SPECIAL TEAMS
Nicholas Morrow 18, James Cowser 18, Marquel Lee 15, Erik Harris 15, Xavier Woodson-Luster 15, Keith McGill 15, Jamize Olawale 15, Cordarrelle Patterson 13, Dexter McDonald 12, DeAndre Washington 11, Jalen Richard 9, Shalom Luani 9, Lee Smith 7, Khalil Mack 7, Mario Edwards 7, Eddie Vanderdoes 7, Denico Autry 7, Treyvon Hester 7, Jon Feliciano 7, Johnny Holton 6, TJ Carrie 6, Jon Condo 4, Marquette King 4, Karl Joseph 2, Cory James 2, Obi Melifonwu 2, Giorgio Tavecchio 2

DID NOT PLAY
QB EJ Manuel, OT David Sharpe

INACTIVE
QB Connor Cook, OT Jylan Ware, DL Jihad Ward, CB David Amerson, LB Shilique Calhoun, RT Marshall Newhouse, DT Darius Latham

Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley having surgery

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USATSI

Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley having surgery

Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley will have surgery to repair his injured shin on Monday, a week after he was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

This year’s No. 24 overall pick announced that news in an Instagram post, accompanied by a picture of his young son.

Surgery was always a likely outcome after heading to IR, though the team never formally stated that would occur.

The Raiders believe Conley will return completely healthy for the 2018 campaign, and have high hopes for him as a lock down cover man.

They could certainly use him this season. He was expected to contribute heavily as a rookie, but a shin injury suffered in a June minicamp prevented that from happening. He missed training camp and the entire preseason slate, but eventually made his NFL debut in Week 2. He suffered a setback in a Week 3 game at Washington, and was shut down indefinitely on Oct. 6.

Conley was re-evaluated early last week, and the Raiders didn’t see enough progress to keep him on the 2017 roster.

The Raiders are lacking at cornerback with Conley down and David Amerson dealing with a foot injury.

Head coach Jack Del Rio will speak to the media Monday afternoon, and provide an update on Conley’s procedure.