Del Rio calls out Raiders' lack of confidence, didn't show any himself

Del Rio calls out Raiders' lack of confidence, didn't show any himself

Jack Del Rio thinks that the Oakland Raiders’ fortnight-long freefall is in considerable part a matter of diminishing confidence.
But that’s probably giving the fellows all the best of it. In getting handled by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, 30-17, the Raiders demonstrated that if their 2-3 record is a matter of confidence, they didn’t have much to begin with, and that it isn’t just the players giving off that vibe.
That they were worked by the stuttering Baltimores from start to finish is clear. Gaining only 245 yards in a mere 54 plays is a hint. Having only one offensive player – Michael Crabtree – stand out speaks a medley or two. Having its secondary reinflate Joe Flacco’s sense of self-worth from the game’s first scrimmage play is not surprising given the preseason analyses that pinpointed that as a clear weakness.
But even Riverboat Jack, the man who lent this team an additional air of panache by defying the precepts of doctrinaire football, emitted a sense that even in a moment where gambling was defensible, he didn’t believe that the reward outweighed the risk.
In other words, he punted the ball away with 8:58 to play, down 10 and facing a fourth-and-three from the Baltimore 44 – very not Riverboaty McRiverboatface by anyone’s standard.
The crowd, already conditioned to be in foul humor by early mistakes that gave the Ravens a 14-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game, booed lustily as they saw their guy muck the few cards he had.
Not that it would have made a lot of difference given the way Baltimore’s offensive shoved the Raiders in any desired direction. As Del Rio said in his autopsy report, “Is that the difference today? I don’t think so.”
And he’s right. But then, he had always cast himself as the guy willing to die a gloriously frantic death, so his character as defined by the customers (and maybe by the players as well) demanded that he have backup quarterback E.J. Manuel try to convert that fourth down.
“It’s not easy (to call for the punt),” he said. “Hindsight is always 20/20 on things like that. You’re thinking you’re going to pin them inside the 10 and we didn’t (a touchback). You’re thinking the defense will give us a stop and get us the ball back, and we didn’t (the Ravens eat up 6:26 of the remaining 8:50 with a 13-play/10-run drive that resulted in a safety-first field goal). We get the ball back after having to call timeouts on the plus side of the field. It didn’t go anything like what it needed to.” 
That’s sort of when you expect him to double down, but he seemed to have lost some belief as the game went on as well. Not having Carr seems to do that to this team.
But this is not Manuel’s fault, either, for he is who he is. He had only one reliable weapon, Crabtree, and while Marshawn Lynch had his moments, Baltimore committed stoutly to the run in an effort to make the Raiders win by air power. It didn’t come close.
The defense had far fewer moments – Sean Smith beaten on the game’s first play by a Mike Wallace fly pattern was instructive, and the only time the defense impressed was when Baltimore coach John Harbaugh chosen to protect rather than fortify a two-touchdown lead in the second half.
In other words, this may be about confidence as Del Rio claims, but it may also be about overconfidence in what the Raiders are, and conversely, are not. Their offense is not “high-powered,” and their defense was eminently blockable for the second time in three weeks.
Moreover, they have stopped creating turnovers – two in the last three games, which explains in part why they are averaging 51 plays per game, last in the league. But they are also 29th in total yards, 30th in first downs, 29th in third down conversions and only the win over the New York Jets away from averaging less than two touchdowns per game.
They are not, in short, as advertised, which is why Del Rio answered a question about Carr’s availability next week, either for the Chargers or Chiefs games, by saying, “Yeah, I have that feel.”
After all, Carr’s healing gifts aside, the Raiders are already spending their margin for error too early. Whether that is confidence or underexamined shortfalls, the time for soul-searching is already nearing its end. They either do, or they do not. And time, she’s a’wastin’.

Jon Gruden disappointed by Khalil Mack's absence, Raiders not distracted

Jon Gruden disappointed by Khalil Mack's absence, Raiders not distracted

The Raiders spent three calendar weeks training in wine country. Khalil Mack wasn’t there a single second.

The Raiders edge rusher is withholding services waiting for a massive, long-term contract extension. He doesn’t have one. Not yet, anyway.

That’ why he wasn’t in Napa when veterans reported July 26 and wasn’t there Thursday when camp formally closed.

Mack’s hold out has captured nationally on sports talk on several mediums – they just love the drama – but Gruden insists Mack’s absence been a distraction. But…

“It has obviously, for me, been disappointing,” Gruden said Wednesday. “You want to have your best player here. This guy is really a great guy, too. I’m disappointed we don’t have him here.

“We’re going to try to get him here as soon as we can. In the time being, you got to move on. You’ve got to get up and go to work. That’s one thing I’m very proud of what we’ve done here.”

The Raiders hope Mack reports soon, and nothing has changed regarding their desire to sign him to a long-term contract extension they know won’t be cheap.

And, no, they don’t currently have plans to trade Mack.

Mack’s an elite edge rusher, excellent against the run, remains in impeccable and never, ever gets in trouble. He’s the type of player teams want to pay, especially those ready to enter a new market.

The Raiders understand that and want Mack with the team posthaste.

"Mack's the best player coming off the edge in football. That's our opinion,” Gruden said in an interview with SiriusXM NFL radio. "We're determined to find a way to get him in here, get him a contract, and get on with life.

“This is a negotiation. Joel Segal is Khalil’s agent. They’ve got their plan. General manager Reggie McKenzie and the people negotiating on our end have a plan. I’m coaching the team. At this time, he’s not here, and we have to focus on what we can control, and that’s just working.”

Mack is currently under contract, set to make $13,846 million on a fifth-year team option of his rookie contract applicable only to first-round picks.

Derek Carr has shown mastery of Jon Gruden’s scheme in short time

Derek Carr has shown mastery of Jon Gruden’s scheme in short time

Jon Gruden heaps responsibility on his quarterback. That’s true of most NFL schemes, but the Raiders head coach challenges his signal callers know all the terminology and concepts and adjustments and variables built into most every play.

He tests them constantly, changing defensive looks in practice, forcing quarterbacks to recall details on call in front of team meetings. It’s hard to handle by design.

Few can handle it well. Rich Gannon was one. Derek Carr is another.

The Raiders current franchise quarterback’s comprehension rate and recall under pressure has been welcome, but his insatiable desire for more might impress Gruden most.

“I think he’s one of the best, in terms of processing information,” Gruden said. “I think he craves new things. He wants more… ‘What do we have today? What are we doing today? What’s new? What do we got?’ He has a photographic memory. It comes so easy to him. He’s got the offense mastered more than I do.”

That last part’s hyperbole, but his exaggeration’s meant to make a point. Carr is pushing hard to get Gruden’s scheme down cold and apply its rules like his coach would.

Carr’s mastery is evident in practice, where he seems in complete control of the first unit. That has combined with his arm strength, quick release and accuracy that gives many confidence Carr will thrive this regular season and beyond working with Gruden. It might not have come quite so easy.

“There’s a lot of hard work for sure, a lot of hours spent trying to master it,” Carr said. “You think like he thinks, which has been fun and interesting for me to learn.

“In order to do that, the time you have to put in is a lot. It’s a lot. And both of us worked really hard on getting on the same page. I think we’re always going to continue to grow together and think about things differently and then figure it out. The main thing is when we hit the field, that’s us, that’s what he and I are putting on the field, the product at the same time. We didn’t want it to look like we’ve only been together for a short period of time. We wanted it to look like these guys have been around each other, it seems, like forever.”

Carr and Gruden have come a long way in a relatively short time. Learning a system like this takes time and includes several stages, starting with root concepts and terminology. The quarterback said the early days were spent cramming for a test, memorizing a ton early on. Gruden is constantly teaching new things, but continues to review and repeat to help quarterbacks learn.

“He does a great job, his teaching, progression for quarterbacks, the system, every single day he’ll hit on the new things but he’ll always remind you of what we did the past couple days,” Carr said. “So, you’re hitting it about seven to eight times before you really move on, to where it really becomes repetition and you become used to it.

“It has been a lot of work to get to the point to where it’s not just, ‘yeah, I memorized something on a paper.’ Well, I have to memorized every detail of it, and then know it inside and out and still know the defense inside and out and how do we beat it, how do we get to certain things? Initially, it was just, ‘what can I remember?’ As you continue to reference it and go back over it, it just becomes who we are.”