Raiders

Jon Gruden believes playing better in cold will help Raiders evolution

Jon Gruden believes playing better in cold will help Raiders evolution

The Raiders surged to 6-4 with a three-game winning streak just after midseason but had a tough time sustaining that success. They lost control of their playoff destiny in an ensuing four-game slide, finishing the season with five losses in their last six games.

There were plenty of reasons why the Raiders ran out of gas. They always were better than the sum of their parts, clearly talent deficient in certain areas when compared to better competition. They also suffered a series of setbacks, from Antonio Brown's meltdown to Vontaze Burfict’s suspension to a series of injury setbacks the Raiders weren’t deep enough to survive in the midst of roster reconstruction.

Head coach Jon Gruden threw another issue into the mix that cropped up during the Raiders’ poor finish.

“I think the cold weather is one thing,” Gruden said at his season-ending press conference. “We got to prove we can exorcise that demon. We got to play better in the bad weather.

“I remember when I went to Tampa Bay, they hadn’t won a game in the history of the franchise in temperatures that were below 40 degrees and every single game we played that’s all we heard. And we are going to continue to hear it, hear it and hear it until we prove as a West Coast team we can go out on a cold day and win.”

The Raiders have lost seven straight games kicked off at below 40 degrees, including three late in the 2019 season. They have lost 11 straight under 50, a brutal stretch that does have to be remedied if the Silver and Black wants to orchestrate a successful run into and through the postseason. Had the Raiders been in the AFC playoffs this year, two of the four conference playoff games had been waged below 50 degrees.

“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things -- talent, better coaching, experience, toughness,” Gruden said. “I don’t know. Travel plans, pregame meals, something. We’ve got to play better. We got to get wins on the road and we got to look forward to playing when it’s hot, when it’s cold, when it’s nasty, when it’s awful. You got to learn to love the misery and maybe we got to leave on a Wednesday next year and get acclimated to it. I’m not making excuses, but that’s one theme is pretty obvious and noticeable. We got to play better in lousy weather and we got to play better period in all three phases.”

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Gruden also mentioned this point a day after the season finale, where they lost to Denver in the cold.

While fans typically blame Derek Carr for this issue due to his 2-11 record playing at less than 50 degrees, this is a team-wide problem.

“I know that the cold weather doesn’t affect Derek Carr," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "We practice in cold weather, he practices without sleeves, he throws the ball very well. He makes appropriate checks when in practice.

“I know the quarterbacks, generally, they’re always evaluated on wins and losses. No matter what kind of weather it is, they’re always going to be judged on records. We don’t read too much into it.”

Raiders inform NFL draft prospect of parking-ticket history at combine

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USATSI

Raiders inform NFL draft prospect of parking-ticket history at combine

NFL Scouting Combine interviews can be harsh, inappropriate and even downright weird. Ross Blacklock's interview with the Las Vegas Raiders this week in Indianapolis was revelatory. 

The TCU defensive tackle told reporters Thursday that the Raiders informed him he had 37 parking tickets he didn't know about during his time in Fort Worth. 

Blacklock offered a compelling reason for his lack of knowledge on the subject: He claimed the TCU athletic department handled each ticket on his behalf.

"I don't know how they get that," Blacklock shrugged. 

Thirty-seven of anything is a stunning number, let alone when you're counting parking citations. It clearly took the Mike Mayock-led Raiders brain trust aback enough to prompt them to bring it up in an interview, one of 45 they're allowed to conduct during the week in Indianapolis. Those interviews are limited to 18 minutes, so you wonder what question(s) didn't make the cut if Blacklock's ticket history did.

[RELATED: Hurts' talent entices, but should Raiders take chance on QB?] 

Those citations made the Raiders scratch their heads, as you might find yourself doing, too. Alas, it's difficult to envision Blacklock's previous fines dampening teams' enthusiasm for the 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive lineman. NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah ranked Blacklock No. 19 in his Top 50 and The Ringer's Danny Kelly slotted Blacklock at No. 38. The prospect didn't crack the first round of NBC Sports Bay Area's latest mock draft, but Blacklock likely won't have to wait longer than a day to hear his name called at the NFL draft in Vegas this April. 

Blacklock has talent, but the Raiders simply have bigger needs than along the interior of their defensive line to draft the former Horned Frog with one of two first-round picks. If the Silver and Black passes on the D-lineman, it won't be because of the parking tickets. 

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders should target these six players on Day 2

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders should target these six players on Day 2

All the talk surrounding the Raiders' 2020 NFL Draft plan revolves around their two first-round picks.

With picks No. 12 and No. 19, how will the Raiders build on the success of last year's draft class? Will they trade up for a quarterback? Take the best receiver available and whatever linebacker is left? Do what is necessary to put Isaiah Simmons in silver and black?

The questions are endless. But the Raiders' draft class truly will come together on Day 2 of the draft, when they have three third-round picks. That's enough ammo to move up into Round 2 or select three players who can contribute immediately to the up-and-coming Raiders. Yes, they could take a flier on Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm or try and develop the enticing talent that is Jalen Hurts, but they have many needs outside of quarterback. 

With the Raiders getting a good look at the best the draft has to offer this week at the NFL Scouting Combine, let's look at six Day 2 prospects for the Raiders to target.

Marlon Davidson, DE, Auburn

Davidson is fast rising so he likely will be gone by the time the Raiders go on the clock in Round 3.

The 6-foot-3, 303-pound defensive end has an impressive array of skills that most NFL teams would love to have on their roster. He has heavy hands and a quick first step. He played outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme on The Plains but might be better suited for an interior role at the next level.

He's a high upside guy who has the ability to help the Raiders in one of their biggest areas of need.


K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State

The Raiders need more than one wide receiver. While they likely will land one of CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs, the Silver and Black need more weapons for whoever the quarterback is.

This is a deep and talented wide receiver class, so the Raiders could go a number of ways.

I'll highlight Hill because he's a great route-runner with solid hands. He had a down senior season but was an explosive weapon for Dwayne Haskins two years ago.

He'd be a great addition as Gruden looks to build a more dynamic offense.


Troy Dye, LB. Oregon

We all know the Raiders need linebacker help. Whether they trade up to draft Simmons, take Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray or avoid going linebacker in Round 1, they need to build depth at the position. 

Dye was a four-year starter at Oregon, whose leadership helped keep the program from nosediving. 

He's an athletic, rangy linebacker with the explosiveness to be an impact NFL starter. He needs to work on his play processing and taking better angles in space.

Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State

The Spartan defensive end has an extremely high floor. He's a very competitive guy with a high motor who would thrive under Gruden.

Willekes has a variety of pass-rush moves and is a stout run defender. 

He racked up 47.5 tackles for loss and 22 sacks during his career at Michigan State and would be a solid addition to the Raiders' defensive end rotation. 


James Proche, WR, SMU

Proche is a name that you don't hear a lot in this loaded class, but he could be the steal of the draft.

At 5-foot-10, the SMU slot receiver has big hands for his size (9 5/8). Those hands were golden during his time at SMU as Proche basically caught anything thrown in his zip code. He has no problem snagging balls at high velocity with one a hand or in the air or off balance.

He's not the fastest or strongest receiver, but he's a guy who could be a valuable weapon in a four-wide set.

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Davon Hamilton, DT, Ohio State

Hamilton is 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds. The Raiders are in need of a big body who can disrupt offenses up the middle.

He's an outstanding run defender and found success against constant double teams while at Ohio State.

His pass-rush skill needs some polishing, but you can't teach size or power. Hamilton has both and the quickness to boot.