Don't let the sour ending spoil the sweet memories of Crabtree's time in Oakland

Don't let the sour ending spoil the sweet memories of Crabtree's time in Oakland

Michael Crabtree served the Raiders well. He gave the receiver corps instant credibility back in 2015, when Amari Cooper was just a rookie and the Raiders were fresh off a 3-13 disaster.

The veteran got his own career back on track after a sour ending in San Francisco, with 922 yards and nine touchdowns that led to a contract extension.

Crabtree signed a four-year, $34 million contract extension on Dec. 9, 2015. He only played half of it. He got $17.6 million out of the deal before he was released Thursday in favor of Jordy Nelson.

This piece isn’t about that transaction. We have to mention the sad ending, where Crabtree clashed with Jack Del Rio’s coaching staff, conflicted some with Derek Carr (per The Athletic) and let frustration permeate through his position group.

He was barely used down the stretch last year due to aforementioned factors which, as much as anything, led new head coach Jon Gruden to go with Nelson over Crabtree in nearly a straight financial swap.

General manger Reggie McKenzie said Crabtree was in his 2018 plans until, of course, he found something better.

Crabtree’s time with the Raiders didn’t end well. NFL divorces rarely do. Just ask Packers favorite Jordy Nelson, kicked to the curb after a decade’s excellent service.

This isn’t a request to feel bad about his unceremonious exit. He’ll make millions somewhere else. My advice: Don’t forget the good times.

Don’t forget Crabtree’s penchant for clutch catches, especially in the 2016 season. His game-deciding two-point conversion in New Orleans was a thing of beauty. So were all three touchdowns in a road win against Baltimore. How about the “slice of blue” touchdown catch in San Diego? Or, how about the game-winning score on an untimed down last year to beat Kansas City?

There are too many third-down conversions to count, and 25 total touchdowns in three seasons in silver and black. He was Derek Carr’s security blanket, a heavily targeted option and often the No. 1 guy even with Amari Cooper on the pitch.

He was integral in the team’s first playoff push since 2002, and that shouldn’t be overlooked. Crabtree wasn’t perfect. Not even close. He didn’t like the media and rarely spoke to reporters, but that never mattered much to me. His Aqib Talib quarrels were a pockmark on his Raiders legacy, but he should be regarded as an excellent free-agent signing who gave the Raiders a lot in his time here.

Raiders-Cardinals injury report: Jordy Nelson still shelved as game nears


Raiders-Cardinals injury report: Jordy Nelson still shelved as game nears

ALAMEDA – The Raiders receiver issues didn’t get any easier on Thursday. Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson remained out of action, though that’s considered an estimation because the Silver and Black didn’t conduct a full practice.

They trimmed on-field prep due to air quality issues in the East Bay, which hovered in an unhealthy range that would impact even healthy adults.

Practice became a walk-through session at an off-site location in Alameda. The team did not conduct any activities outdoors on Thursday.

While Bryant has already been ruled out of Sunday’s game against Arizona, the Raiders are holding out hope Nelson can recover in time to play the Cardinals. Fingers, however, could be crossed in vain. It seems unlikely Nelson will play, even though head coach Jon Gruden believes he’ll be designated questionable Friday on the team’s official injury report.

The players considered limited this week were all pulled off the injury report before last week’s loss to the L.A. Chargers. All save cornerback Gareon Conley, who was new to the injury list this week.

Raiders practice report

Did not practice

WR Martavis Bryant (knee)
WR Jordy Nelson (knee)

Limited practice
CB Gareon Conley (groin)
LB Kyle Wilber (knee)
C Rodney Hudson (ankle)
LG Kelechi Osemele (knee)
CB Daryl Worley (shoulder)

Full practice
RG Gabe Jackson (pectoral)
OL Jon Feliciano (ribs)
LT Kolton Miller (knee/elbow)
WR Dwayne Harris (shoulder)
RB Doug Martin (hip)

Cardinals practice report

Did not practice
S Budda Baker (knee)
S Rudy Ford (heel)
DT Rodney Gunter (not injury related)
OL DJ Humphries (knee)
WR Chad Williams (ankle)

Limited practice
K Phil Dawson (hip)
OL Mike Iupati (back)
DT Robert Nkemdiche (calf)
LB Josh Bynes (wrist)

Full practice
DT Corey Peters (heel)
OL Jeremy Vujnovich (hamstring)
WR Larry Fitzgerald (not injury related)

Raiders rookie spotlight: CB Nick Nelson could be long-term answer in slot


Raiders rookie spotlight: CB Nick Nelson could be long-term answer in slot

ALAMEDA – There isn’t much to play for in a Raiders season that has started 1-8 with no guarantee that future wins will come.

Significant roster turnover is expected this offseason, with most veterans playing now not expected back.

The Raiders are keeping a close eye on their rookie class, and we’ll do the same. We’ll put the spotlight on one rookie each week as the season carries on and evaluate what they’ve progressed to this point and what strides must be made down the stretch.

This week we’re looking at ...

Nick Nelson

Position: Cornerback
Draft slot: No. 110 overall (Fourth round)
School: Wisconsin
Stats: 3 tackles, 4 receptions allowed for 28 yards on 7 targets over three games (61 defensive snaps)

Raw tools: Nelson is stronger than you might expect at his listed 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, with an ability to play receivers physically at the line of scrimmage. He can be a tight cover man and a solid tackler, and could be considered a fourth-round steal if he becomes the Raiders’ regular slot cornerback as expected.

Early returns: Nelson was inactive most of the season’s first half. The Raiders slow-played his recovery from surgery to repair a torn meniscus, an injury suffered during a pre-draft workout with the Detroit Lions. His draft stock took a hit, and sent him sliding down draft boards with teams uncertain about how he would rebound to knee surgery. He didn’t do anything this spring, but worked his way back to practice and earned increased snaps over the past three weeks.

Where Nelson has improved: Well, his health is the biggest area of improvement. He’s finally 100-percent healthy, in football shape and well versed in coordinator Paul Guenther’s system, and can play free on Sundays. That’s a good sign for the Raiders, who hope he can develop into a defensive staple.

Nelson got a real chance to showcase his skills in last week’s loss to the L.A. Chargers, and played well in coverage and against the run.

“He has some quickness and size and strength to play the nickel position. I think he played 25, close to 30 snaps, something like that. Leon Hall’s snaps were down at the nickel position, but for his debut I thought he played pretty good. I was excited about it.”

What’s next: Nelson should continue taking snaps away from Hall in the slot, as the Raiders figure out what they have in the Wisconsin alum. This is a great opportunity for Nelson to play to his confidence level, which is always high.

The Raiders like tough, physical corners and Nelson must prove he falls in that category to give coaches confidence to make his 2019’s presumptive starter at slot corner.

Quotable: “He probably played the most snaps of the season last week. I thought he did a good job in there. We’ll continue to get him snaps and get him some experience in the slot.” – Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther