Seth Roberts

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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USATSI

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.

Raiders WR Seth Roberts may be clutch, but there's one flaw he wants to fix

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USATSI

Raiders WR Seth Roberts may be clutch, but there's one flaw he wants to fix

NASHVILLE – Seth Roberts must really love Tennessee. Or country music. Or the Nissan Stadium turf. Or having a dozen-plus family members in the crowd.

There must be a reason why the Raiders slot receiver owns the Titans.

“It’s the matchups their defense has given us,” Roberts said. “When they provide certain looks, I’m able to capitalize.”

Oh. Well, that isn’t quite as fun. Roberts doesn’t care, as long as it’s effective.

Roberts has had two excellent games in Nashville, with a combined eight receptions for 140 yards and three touchdowns. His scores decided both games. He had a game-winner late in 2015, and the decider last season.

Clutch moments might be due to more than attractive matchups in Tennessee. He creates those against everybody.

Roberts has made four game-winning catches in two seasons with the club. While everyone remembers Michael Crabtree’s two-point conversion and Jack Del Rio’s gamble, Roberts caught the touchdown pass to set that up. Amari Cooper was a supernova against Tampa Bay, but Roberts’ 41-yard overtimes catch and run beat the Buccaneers.

Consider it a good omen if Roberts scores in Sunday’s regular-season opener. Odds are the Raiders will win another clash with the Titans. The Silver and Black are 9-0 when Roberts scored a touchdown.

That stat is Roberts’ favorite. That’s why he’s driven to perform in big moments. He feels a certain devotion to the Raiders and his teammates. He wants to come through for them.

“Deep down, I want it. I want to own the moment,” Roberts said. “I want to show up for the guys around me. They’ve always had my back. I have to have their theirs.”

Roberts remains thankful for the opportunity to shine. It wasn’t expected of an unheralded kid from Moultrie, Ga. who spent time at Pearl Rivers Community College and West Alabama before going undrafted. He spent camp with the Raiders and then got cut. He re-signed with the practice squad, impressed there, and became the team’s slot receiver. The rest you’ve seen on Sundays.

Roberts turned those efforts into a three-year, $12 million contract extension with $6.45 million guaranteed. The deal came together quickly, after summer contact between Roberts’ reps and the Raiders proved desire to extend was mutual. It was a proud moment for a player without pedigree, who toiled and grinded and never gave up.

“I’ve always had to work for things my whole life,” Roberts said. “Nothing was ever given to me. It feels even better to work and earn something like this.”

Roberts wants to repay the Raiders with clutch moments and steady play. Roberts’ clutch moments have come in droves. Consistency hasn’t been his calling card. He played through a double hernia last year and never missed a practice and had a newborn in season, but refused to use that as an excuse.

He spent the offseason getting healthy, while working on one major flaw in his game.

“The drops. That’s the main thing,” Roberts said. “It’s about concentration on what you’re doing and, at the same time, not thinking about it too much. You can’t have that. You can’t be thinking, “Am I going to drop the ball?’ You can’t worry about that. I think I went through that some last year. But, honestly, I’m over it. I’m confident in everything I do now.”

Fans will like hearing that, especially after Roberts dropped 10 passes last year and six the year before. It’s a new issue for Roberts, one he believes is corrected.

“Pluck and tuck. It sounds so easy,” Roberts said. “I never used to drop the ball, so it was a strange experience going through that. That’s not me.”