Raiders

Allen, Knapp keep faith in offensive system

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Allen, Knapp keep faith in offensive system

ALAMEDA -- Coming into the season, the obvious question to incoming coach Dennis Allen was this: Why change the offense when it was the team's strength a year ago?

And when the offense struggled early in the year under new and returning offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, the howls only intensified, especially with running back Darren McFadden going from league MVP candidate (when healthy) to, well, a guy averaging a career low in yards per carry.

Staring at a 3-10 record with only one home home game to play, and the very real chance of finishing 3-13 after consecutive 8-8 finishes, Allen is still sold on Knapp's version of the West Coast offense and the accompanying zone-blocking scheme and, truthfully, there has been some improvement recently.

"Yeah, absolutely," Allen said when asked if he still had faith in the system. "Absolutely. There's been a lot of change, and when there is a lot of change, sometimes you don't get the results that you're looking for right away. But when you believe in something, and you stick to it and you know it's the right plan, it ends up working out."

Of course, Knapp is a believer. He was hired to incorporate it by Allen.

"I’ve been to too many places and had too much experience to know it’s a very productive scheme," Knapp said. "Like it is for anywhere you go, when coaching changes occur you want the coaches who are the teachers to teach what they know best. If you do that with the coaches, they’re going to have answers for the issues that come up in the system."

The Raiders last season had the No. 9-ranked offense overall, No. 7 rushing and No. 11 passing. This season's rankings through 13 games? No. 13 overall, No. 30 rushing and No. 7 passing.

"Early on, we couldn’t run the ball worth a lick. Then about middle of the year, we had improvement in the run game. In the passing game we’ve had inconsistency when it comes to protection and catching the ball consistently. But we’ve had some high moments too. There’s been growing pains but it’s a part of the transition, You’d much rather have a coach come in and teach what he knows best then have to try to teach a system he doesn’t know at all. That’s going to take time."

And there it is: Allen wanted Knapp to teach his system to the personnel, to have the players adapt to scheme, rather than adapt scheme to the strengths of the players. So of course there was going to be growing pains. But did anyone expect the cramps to be so painful at times?

"Every place I’ve been to it’s usually going to take at least a year’s transition time to get everything taught and the parts we’ve changed," Knapp said. "You have to remember now, we’ve changed both linemen. We talked about the center and the tackle earlier that played quite a bit. Our top two running backs went down in the same game so then we converted a fullback to running back. Then you have some young receivers who are learning how to play the game at this level as well as learning a new system.

"If you take a business structure and you make those changes it’s going to take a year’s time to process everything and learn it. Once they master it, you can add to it. Right now, it’s taking some time."

So while so many fans are screaming for regime change, so to speak, the Raiders are again preaching patience and perspective.

"It just takes some time to be more efficient," Knapp said. "We made some progress. I’m very pleased with the fact that we’re the top 10 in passing and we’ve improved in the running game the last six weeks. We’re not where we need to be in scoring points. That’s what I’d like to get better at, finishing drives and getting more big plays for touchdowns."

The Raiders are averaging 19.1 points in 2012, after scoring 22.4 points a year ago. And while that is considered a "team" stat -- you can score on special teams as well as on defense -- the point is clear.

More time together in the system should remedy things, Knapp said.

"Hopefully, more consistency and higher scoring points, because we’re not able to keep those drives long enough right now to get the points on the board, so by keeping the system in place and keeping the bulk of the players here, now we keep the drives alive and we get our point total up into the mid-20s, and that’s what we want to be," he said.

"If you’re in the mid-20s to high 20s, you’re going to be in the top 10 of the league in scoring, and that’s ultimately what has to happen because to get 11 guys on the same page you need some reps and experience together and with a year’s offseason work of that and a better offseason system, the performance level usually goes up the next season."

According to the Associated Press, though, in his three previous stops as an offensive coordinator, in San Francisco, Atlanta and Oakland, Knapp's teams' scoring went down in Year 2 by 1.1 points per game and yards gained have also went down by 4.5 yards per game.

Still, Oakland is a different animal, and he even compared it to a "start-up" in the business model in training camp. Many saw this year's Raiders team as an expansion franchise, of sorts, with so many new and moving parts.

Asked if he thought the pieces were in place for the offensive scheme to work well next year, Knapp was sure of it.

"But I think there’s still going to have to be pieces added," Knapp said. "It’s always an evolving process. I was at Houston, right, the last two years, so my first year in Houston we finished, I believe it was 6-10. That was the fifth year in the system. They had just finished, I think, 30th or 32nd in running. Then, all of a sudden, a guy named Arian Foster showed up, undrafted.

"You don’t know who’s going to add, that’s a part of this profession. The system is going to be in place but you’re going to change the pieces because of the salary cap, because of the draft and free agency, and sometimes that guy that comes in fits the system so well it takes off in itself and so there’s always going to be change. We look to help add to the system next year as well."

Why Raiders might wade back into NFL trade market with rumors swirling

Why Raiders might wade back into NFL trade market with rumors swirling

ALAMEDA – The Raiders continue making roster moves throughout the season. The latest came Tuesday, when veteran middle linebacker Derrick Johnson was formally released.

There could be more alterations on the horizons as the Raiders try to improve.

“There’s going to continue to be roster changes, certainly, on every team in the league,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “That’s just the way the league is. Players get hurt. We’ll see what the medical report is when we return from the bye and we’ll go from there.”

Injuries certainly necessitate change. That’s how defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Clinton McDonald ended up on the roster. Justin Ellis went on injured and P.J. Hall was lost a few weeks, creating vacancies filled by guys who stuck.

That’s one way rosters change. The others? Performance or preferred compensation.

We’ll explore the latter in this post.

Jay Glazer reported Sunday on the Fox pregame show that the Raiders are shopping former first-round picks Amari Cooper and Karl Joseph in trades.

Other media outlets, including one prominent site, have thrown other names out there, assuming the Raiders are willing to part with anyone after a 1-5 start. We won’t repeat unsubstantiated names, or those associated with conditionals like “could” or “might.”

Generally speaking, it will be interesting to see how involved the Raiders are moving parts before the Oct. 30 NFL trade deadline. Trading Cooper especially would show the Raiders are clearing the deck for future picks and salary-cap freedom. Cooper should demand significant salary in his second contract, which could be extended this offseason or after he plays on a fifth-year option. Cooper has been inconsistent, making it tougher to pay him top dollar.

Joseph was the No. 4 safety before hurting his hamstring a few weeks back, so getting something for someone not high on the depth chart might be worth it to brass.

Glazer reports in The Athletic that the Raiders are looking for a first-round pick for Cooper, but would have a market for the dynamic talent should the price drop some. The Alabama product is working the through the concussion protocol, meaning he wouldn’t get dealt until he is cleared.

Gruden was asked about shopping Cooper after a 27-3 loss to Seattle on Sunday, during which the receiver was concussed.

”I don't know. I haven't heard that. I'm not -- I'm not -- you know, I'm just sorry to have to deal with a lot of these reports,” Gruden said. “I just hope Amari is okay. Like I said, he's going to be a big part of our pass offense and we'll see what happens here. Hopefully he's all right.”

Glazer reports “decent compensation” is being demanded for Joseph, though a market hasn’t really developed.

There are other short-term veterans who could get moved, even in a league where deadline trades aren’t terribly common.

The Raiders are on the prowl for upgrades now or, more likely, in the future. It’s possible they could part with a player of pedigree to acquire them.

Source: Raiders fined $20,000 for violating NFL injury report rule

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AP

Source: Raiders fined $20,000 for violating NFL injury report rule

The Raiders designated left guard Kelechi Osemele as questionable the Friday before a Week 5 contest against the L.A. Chargers with a knee injury. 

The Pro Bowl lineman then didn’t make the Saturday trip to Los Angeles with his team, leaving no chance he would play that Sunday at StubHub! Center. 

The Raiders didn’t downgrade his status, however, and that's a violation of NFL rules on injury disclosure. They were fined $20,000 by the NFL for that misstep, a source confirmed Thursday. 

A questionable player’s status often is determined the day before the game or in pregame warm-ups, but Osemele’s status was clear when he didn’t get on the plane. He should’ve been downgraded to out Saturday afternoon, per NFL rules.