McKenzie still not over Raiders playoff loss, striving 'to hold up the trophy'

McKenzie still not over Raiders playoff loss, striving 'to hold up the trophy'

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie acknowledged being named the NFL’s executive of the year was a big deal. It’s the highest individual honor bestowed on a personnel man.

Not in McKenzie’s eyes. His name’s on the plaque, but the general manger considers it a team honor. It takes a village to raise a roster, something McKenzie knows after working through the ranks.

“The acknowledgement, to me, is for the organization, from the top down,” McKenzie said. “From the patience and the vision together with me and (owner Mark Davis) on through the work, the daily work of the coaches and players and to play on Sunday. That’s what the acknowledgement is really all about.

“You see the entire organization working together to win. That’s what I see. It’s an accomplishment from the standpoint that we’re winning now. That’s what I feel good about. That’s why this award is special. It’s a team award, but it’s special to me that this thing is resulting into wins.”

The Raiders went 12-4 in 2016 and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season. That postseason experience was not positive. The Raiders got waxed in Houston, completing a brutal two-loss stretch where an AFC West title was lost and the season formally ended.

The downward spiral started in Week 16, after quarterback Derek Carr broke his fibula. Backup Matt McGloin played poorly and then hurt his shoulder the next game, which forced the Raiders to start rookie Connor Cook against Houston.

A loss seemed likely – Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn was also sidelined – but that didn’t make it easier for McKenzie to handle.

“Well, I’m still getting over it, (likely) until I win my next game,” McKenzie said. “It’s tough anytime you lose your last game. It’s going to eat at you and that’s one thing about being a player, being associated in this, it’s the drive for the next game. What can I do to help us win that next game? And that’s the hope we have now, is the opportunity to play again, you know? Albeit, in ’17, but that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to set the course for this ’17 season. So, it’s going to eat at you until then.”

It’s that drive that pushed McKenzie during difficult times, when talent piled up but didn’t translate to wins. Seeing the fruits of that labor is incredibly gratifying for McKenzie and staff. This award is part of that – to the victor go the spoils – though the end goal remains out of reach and will until the Raiders win a Super Bowl.

“Nobody likes losing, so I get that. If you really believe in what you’re doing and you’re supported, the hope is to start to win games, and to get to the playoffs is a step,” McKenzie said. “We feel good about that, but we’re only scratching the surface. We still want to hold up the trophy. That’s what we’re going to continue to strive to do. That’s our next step. We need to win playoff games.”

Jon Gruden: Kolton Miller 'gaining strength' in injury-riddled rookie year


Jon Gruden: Kolton Miller 'gaining strength' in injury-riddled rookie year

Kolton Miller’s mired in a rough patch.

It’s not due to lack of talent or ability, size or natural strength. Plain and simple: the Raiders first-round left tackle is banged up pretty good. He has a knee injury that can’t get right and a troublesome elbow that also requires a brace.

That makes life hard. The UCLA product is tough and not a complainer, battling through injuries despite knowing full well he’s better when healthy.

[RELATED: Miller has room to grow]

Miller’s also the Raiders’ best option at left tackle even when feeling suboptimal, so he grinds through the week to perform the best he can every Sunday.

“My goal is to have a good game even when I’m not feeling my best,” Miller said last week, before Sunday’s loss to the L.A. Chargers. “Most of the time you’re not going to be 100 percent healthy. You have to work your way through it.”

Miller is grinding through the season, while compiling stats he’d rather not see on his ledger.

Miller allowed a sack, two quarterback hits and five other pressures in Sunday’s 20-6 loss to the L.A. Chargers, continuing a poor run of pressures allowed that unsurprisingly coincides with his knee issues.

He has allowed 39 total pressures this season, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus, including 10 sacks allowed and four quarterback hits. The sack total is the NFL’s highest by three. He gave up six sacks when he knee was at is worst, during games at the Chargers and against the Seahawks in London.

Miller was awesome to start the season, way back when he was healthy. That's why most evaluators believe he'll be a standout pro. Injuries, however, have sapped effectiveness. 

Miller allowed five total pressures in 117 pass-block snaps over the season’s first three games, per PFF, before suffering a serious MCL sprain in his right knee. That’s his anchor leg, and losing strength there makes Miller susceptible to bull rushes.

The Raiders keep pushing Miller out there – losing veteran tackle Donald Penn to IR was a real blow -- believing he can emerge from this storm a stronger player.

“I think what you’re dealing with (in) Miller is one of the most mentally tough kids that you will find,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “I think he’s gaining strength from playing. I think he’s really learning a lot about this business the hard way. Not only losing, not only playing hurt, playing from behind a lot, but learning how to play well against great rushers when you’re not at your best."

“That’s really the definition of a lot of these great pro football players. A lot of these guys don’t feel good after Week 2 or 3. For that young man to go out there and give us all that he’s given us under these circumstances is really exciting.”

Raiders' Eddie Vanderdoes done for the year, staying on PUP list

Raiders' Eddie Vanderdoes done for the year, staying on PUP list

ALAMEDA -- Raiders defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes hasn’t played a lick this season while rehabbing from offseason surgery to repair his ACL, but he had an opportunity to join the active roster Monday.

The Raiders declined to do so, and Vanderdoes remained on the reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP) list. He has been there since the start of training camp. The Raiders started a 21-day practice window in Week 8, but Vanderdoes didn’t make the progress required to join the 53-man roster.

The Silver and Black is playing it safe with someone they consider a solid scheme fit, and who may be able to help them in 2019. This season, by contrast, is already down the drain, and there is no sense in rushing him back.

“We had a chance to look at him for a couple weeks and although he has made progress he has had a couple injuries to the knee in his background,” Raiders coach Gruden said, referring to two torn knee ligaments during Vanderdoes' time at UCLA. “We want to make sure that we give him the proper time to get ready. We are going to be very precautionary with him. I believe his season will end unfortunately, but it’s the right thing to do for him and his future.”

The 24-year-old was expected back this season, but suffered a setback in training camp that slowed his recovery timetable. He didn’t have enough padded practices to be thrust into games, so the Raiders stepped off the gas and ended his season.

Vanderdoes tore his ACL in the 2017 regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers, awful timing for a young prospect known as a stout run defender. 

[RELATED: Raiders' receiver corps razor thin with Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant injuries]

[RATTO: Raiders owner Mark Davis is just poking the rubble by taking the blame now]