Seth Roberts

Which Raiders might not survive 2018 offseason?

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AP/USATSI

Which Raiders might not survive 2018 offseason?

UPDATE: The Raiders released cornerback David Amerson, the team announced, a few hours after this story was published. Information was inserted below to reflect that fact.

The Super Bowl ended the 2017 season Sunday night. The 2018 offseason officially began Monday morning.

These next few months will be interesting for Raiders fans, with new head coach Jon Gruden adding unpredictability to this stretch. He has massive influence in all roster decisions, maybe the final say, even with general manager Reggie McKenzie in the building. McKenzie will handle the draft – his scouting department as been working on this class of aspiring pros for months – but Gruden and coaching staff will get involved.

Fresh faces will be added in free agency, with roster turnover aimed at finding players who fit new Raiders schemes. Don’t forget that Khalil Mack will get a king’s ransom, an act that factors into everything that happens this offseason. All that will come in time.

We might see some housecleaning first. NFL teams can start shedding players right away, Monday afternoon if they’re so inclined. Most of those transactions often come later, as we head through the spring. One came Monday afternoon, when cornerback David Amerson was released. 

The transaction saved $6 million in salary-cap space, and didn't include a dime of dead money. The Raiders have several others who can go without penalty, a benefit of their preferred contract structure, offering up-front roster bonuses on pacts that become pay-as-you-go deals later in life.

That gives Gruden roster flexibility this offseason. They have $13.7 million in cap space, per overthecap.com, but are able to clear significant room with a few swift cuts.

Let’s take a look as some possible cap-saving roster cuts, with a quick comment on each:

-- Michael Crabtree ($7.7 million cap number): Fans have already debated this prospect this offseason. Crabtree has been clutch, and effective during his three-year Raiders tenure. He’s also 30, and seemed at odds with his team late last year. That was primarily with the coaching staff, but it wasn’t a good sign he seemed lethargic in some games. The new staff won’t love that. Could they keep Crabtree, or add $7 million to a deal for a younger, productive pass catcher entering his prime?

-- Marshawn Lynch ($6 million cap number): Here’s another debated topic. Will Lynch retire, get cut or stick around at age 31? Much of that will depend on an offseason meeting with Gruden, and what the veteran wants to do after that. He was the Raiders’ best skill player in 2016’s second half.

-- Sean Smith ($8.5 million cap number): This one seems like a slam-dunk. Smith really improved down the stretch with proper use, but he’s fighting with felony counts of assault and battery and doesn’t fit every scheme.

-- Bruce Irvin ($8.25 million cap number): Good edge rushers are hard to find. Irvin counts among those, especially if he’s focused on going forward. That’s not bad freight for someone with 15 sacks and 10 forced fumbles over the past two season.

-- Kelechi Osemele ($10.5 million cap number): One of the NFL’s best interior linemen. He’s going nowhere.

-- Rodney Hudson ($8.4 million cap number): See above. Raiders love Rodney.

-- Jared Cook ($5.3 million cap number): Was frustrated by how last year turned out, but also lead the Raiders in receiving yards and could’ve had a few more. Gruden could draw up some interesting plays for the receiving tight end.

-- Cordarrelle Patterson ($3.25 million cap number): Kickoff returners have been mitigated some these days, but that’s pretty cheap for special-teams explosiveness and an effective gadget player.

-- Seth Roberts ($4.45 million cap number): Roberts is the only player on this list who would come with a cap hit. It’s $2 million, a reasonable shot if the Raiders find an upgrade in the slot. They could well look for one, maybe in the draft.

Raiders likely will turn to unusual trio at wideout against Giants

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USATSI

Raiders likely will turn to unusual trio at wideout against Giants

ALAMEDA – Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts man the Raiders’ three-receiver sets. That personnel group was required in the huddle late in the second quarter against Denver, and it looked a little different.

Roberts had Johnny Holton on one sideline, Cordarrelle Patterson on the other. This was not a change of pace. It was not a fire drill.

Crabtree got ejected in a brawl with Aqib Talib and the Broncos. Then Amari Cooper was concussed in a violent collision with Broncos safety Darian Stewart.

The Raiders were up just a touchdown ahead at that point, and this unusual trio had to help secure a must-win game. Hand wringing was absent. Anxiety did not cloud the huddle. These guys were as loose as can be.

“We were talking, laughing and having fun,” Roberts said. “We were in the huddle and one of us said, ‘Who would’ve thought it’d be us three out here, going to win a game?’ We had fun. We stayed after it. What impressed me most was that every guy came out with focus and knew their assignment, so we were fine.”

Fine doesn’t describe their performance. Roberts, Patterson and Holton were pretty gosh darn good, combining for seven catches and 151 yards in a 21-14 win.

Expect the same group Sunday against the New York Giants. Crabtree is suspended one game for the aforementioned brawl. It’s virtually certain Cooper sits out with concussion-like symptoms, an ankle injury or both.

Offensive coordinator Todd Downing will certainly call plays designed to highlight Holton’s straight-line speed or Patterson’s elusiveness in space.

Giants head coach Ben McAdoo expects the Raiders focus on the run game. That would be the case anyway, especially after winning with 37 carries against Denver.

“I think we’re going to go Wing-T. We’re going to run the triple option,” quarterback Derek Carr joked. “Hopefully that doesn’t get out.”

Carr’s statement was dripping with sarcasm. His actual point: The Raiders won’t reinvent themselves due to personnel changes.

The Raiders will need reserves assuming big roles, and Carr will make sure the timing’s right for those big moments.

“I do need to spend extra time with them because the guys that get all the reps usually with me, are ‘Coop’ and ‘Crab,’” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Seth gets a lot of reps with me, C.P. on certain things, Johnny on certain things. But now we have to make sure we get them all of those reps that sometimes they wouldn’t get with me.”

Carr won’t have all new receivers in the pattern. Roberts will be vital in the slot, where later-down reliability is key.

Tight end Jared Cook’s speed and versatility should make him a major factor in the passing game. He ‘s tied for first with 42 catches and leads the Raiders with 537 receiving yards.

Cook could be a real asset in this one. The Giants have struggled mightily covering tight ends this season, allowing five catches and 70 yards per game to that position. They’ve also given up 10 touchdowns to tight ends in 11 games.

Cook can also play every receiver position if asked, though he generally operates on the inside.

“We’ve played him at receiver. We’ve played him at tight end. We’ve played him at different spots in the wing and things like that,” Carr said. “It’s fantastic because you need to have weapons. Especially when things like this happen. I know that on the team we’re playing, they’ve lost a lot of weapons. It’s hard just trying to go about your business and things like that.

“When you have a lot of weapons, it’s nice that when injuries or suspension or anything like that happens, we can still play football and move forward.”

Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the Patriots

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Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the Patriots

MEXICO CITY – Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City:

1. So you’re saying there’s a chance?

The Raiders aren’t stacking wins as they’d like. Nobody in the AFC West is, either. The Chiefs lost another one, meaning the AFC West crown remains within reach. They’re two games back in the division and one back in the wild card race.

That, above all else, will keep the Raiders motivated after a disastrous loss to New England.

“We're professionals and to me, so long as you have hope, you keep your hope, you keep hope alive,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “So, we'll continue to scratch and claw and fight for everything we can.”

The Raiders can harken Lloyd Christmas from “Dumb and Dumber.” So you’re saying there’s a chance?

The Raiders will only stay in it if they start a prolonged winning streak. There’s a chance do that on an upcoming two-game home stand. They play Denver and the New York Giants, respectively, in Oakland over the next fortnight. Those teams have five wins between them.

Wins can’t be assumed with the Raiders. With their inconsistency and mistake-prone play, they can lose to anyone.

Fight remains in this group. They’ll continue to push, especially with a 9-7 record being a legitimate playoff contender. They haven’t played worthy of such consideration, but remain hopeful a switch gets flipped.

“We are who we are, we're not going to turn on each other, we're not going to turn on anything about what we do,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Obviously, we know that our culture and everything that we do works, because we have seen it work.”

2. Receiver corps becoming a weak spot

The Raiders have a talented group of receivers lacking consistency and production. That was the case on Sunday, when pass catchers hindered offensive flow and scoring opportunities.

Seth Roberts was the biggest offender. He had a drop, a false start and lost a fumble near the goal line with the Patriots up 14-0 late in the first half. Roberts had 12 yards in his pocket but held the ball one-handed, away from his body fighting for more. Marquis Flowers knocked it free and Patrick Chung recovered.

That was the turning point, a true 10-point swing. The Raiders lost a chance to reach the end zone, and allowed New England to get a field goal as the half expired.

“That was a major turn of events,” Del Rio said.

The slot receiver wasn’t the only receiver who stalled the Raiders offense. That group had five drops, according to Pro Football Focus, including two from Michael Crabtree. Johnny Holton wasn’t credited with a drop, but he had a perfectly thrown deep ball clang off his helmet and shoulder pads.

It’s a bad night in a bad year for the Raiders receivers, who haven’t been producing.

3. Lopsided score keeps Marshawn from going Beast Mode

Running back Marshawn Lynch was the only player who had a good Sunday. The bruising back ran roughshod over New England’s front seven, right from the start. He totaled 67 yards on 11 carries, and seemed primed for a big day and a higher-than-usual carry volume.

He and the Raiders run blocking was consistent, allowing him to reach the second level on several occasions.

The lopsided score, however, meant the Raiders had to abandon the ground game.

“I thought we ran the ball well early,” Del Rio said. “I would like to have ended up with 30-plus rush attempts in the ball game, but you got to stay within reasonable amount of the score in order to stick with the run.”

The Raiders were down two touchdowns in a flash, and were three scores behind at the half. That forced Derek Carr to chuck it towards an unreliable receiver corps. That method proved inefficient and never created the big moments.

Lynch has run well since returning from a one-game suspension. He has 25 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games. If there’s a positive to take from Sunday’s beat down, Lynch’s efficiency might be it.