In middle of sloppy season, Raiders still in playoff hunt


In middle of sloppy season, Raiders still in playoff hunt

ALAMEDA – Jalen Richard fumbled three times Sunday and quarterback Derek Carr threw two passes right to New York Giants. The Raiders never lost possession.

Johnny Holton coughed it up and didn’t recover, and Marquette King had to eat a punt attempt inside his own 10. Defense bailed the Raiders out both times, and the Silver and Black beat the NFC’s worst by one score.

This ugly game produced a positive result. For a Raiders team in full-on survival mode, that’s all that matters.

“Trust me, I don’t care how we win. I just want to win,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “I’ve said that since my rookie year when we were 0-10, when I was begging for wins. Obviously, you want to go out and throw for 400 every game and win by 40, rush for 200 yards and all those things. At the end of the day, this game is so hard. It’s not easy.

“We have good players and all those things, but you see just how hard it is to win these games. It takes almost every NFL game, within one score if not two. It’s always going to be close. It’s going to come down to the wire. So anytime you can win, doesn’t matter how you do it, you just want to win.”

If the Raiders do enough of that, they’ll win the shockingly competitive AFC West. The Raiders, Chiefs and Chargers are tied atop the division at 6-6, with games against each other left on the schedule.

The Silver and Black play Kansas City Sunday morning at Arrowhead Stadium and the Chargers in the regular season finale. If the Raiders beat both of their rivals, they’ll win the division even if they drop a game to Dallas or Philadelphia.

“We’re in a situation that all of our goals are still right in front of us,” Carr said. “It’s just right in front of us, it’s there. Everything we want to do is right there. We realize that. We have a good group of guys that’s growing.”

Imagine that. A team that lost four straight and were 4-6 after getting worked by New England is right in the thick of things. They control their own destiny, and have done so by winning ugly.

Let’s be frank. A Raiders game hasn’t gone according to plan since Week 2.

The New York Jets got thoroughly stomped 45-20 at Oakland Coliseum and Marshawn got hyphy on the sideline. Those were simpler times, with the 2-0 Raiders playing to lofty expectations.

The Raiders have been wading through the swamp ever since. They haven’t won game by two scores after that. They’ve lost six games by an average of 13.6 points

They weren’t dominant last year, but most every game was tight. Why? The Raiders found a formula that worked. The Raiders were efficient offensively, generated turnovers by the ton, controlled the kicking game and most always came through in the clutch.

These aren’t the 2016 Raiders, as much as fans wish they were. They have to win games a new, slightly messier way.

“It’s different than last year. Every year is a new year,” Carr said. “We’re learning now, how to prepare, how to recover, how to compete. We’re learning how to win games. As long as we can get hot, right around now, this is the time to do it.”

The Raiders are 6-5 in December or after in the Jack Del Rio era, but simply must get hot to save the season.

“We’re feeling good,” middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. “We want to continue stacking these wins. I understand that we have a shot. …Playing good football in December is really what you need.”

Raiders confirm Greg Papa out as team's radio voice after two decades


Raiders confirm Greg Papa out as team's radio voice after two decades

The Raiders made it official Thursday. Legendary broadcaster Greg Papa, who also serves as an analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, no longer will be the radio voice of the team.

[RAY RATTO: Raiders' exit feels much more imminent after reported broadcaster swap]

Raiders owner Mark Davis made the following statement Thursday: 

The Raiders organization would like to thank Greg Papa for his two decades of service to the Silver and Black.. He wasn’t just given the job.. He earned it.. With intense preparation Greg was always ready for the call.. Just as my generation remembers Bill King and “Holy Toledo”.. The Raider Nation will remember Greg Papa and “Touchdown Raiders”.. We wish Greg and his family the best in whatever the future brings..
-Mark Davis-

Brent Musburger reportedly will replace Papa in the booth. That hasn't been made official, however. 

Five new Raiders with something to prove in 2018 season


Five new Raiders with something to prove in 2018 season

The Raiders are taking some time off during the dead period of the NFL offseason. Even early bird Jon Gruden is slapping the snooze button these days, spending some quality time with family before training camp cranks up later this month.

Coaches and players are still finding time for work, sometimes while they’re on vacation. The Raiders want to hit the ground running this preseason, with many motivated to show well in silver and black. That’s especially true for a large class of new Raiders, many of whom hope to silence detractors.

Here are five newcomers with plenty to prove in 2018:

5. CB Rashaan Melvin

Lists like this are normally reserved for guys coming off injuries or down years. Melvin doesn’t fit that mold. The 28-year old had his best year in 2017, often shutting down top receivers as Indy’s top cornerback. He allowed a paltry 60.3 passer rating when targeted, with three picks, 10 passes defensed and just two touchdowns allowed.

Those stats didn’t produce a robust free-agent market. Melvin ended up signing a one-year, $5.5 million deal with Oakland, and is now working to show he’s not a one-year wonder and can stay healthy for 16 games. An ovation-worthy encore would surely earn a long-term, bigger-money deal.

Melvin made his motivation clear on Twitter a few weeks back.

4. WR Jordy Nelson

Nelson had a down year in 2017. It started well, with six touchdowns in the first four games he played. Then all-world Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down, and things hit the skids. He averaged just 9.1 yards per reception, and didn’t score after that early flurry.

That led some to say Nelson lost a step at age 32 he would not recover. The Packers asked him to take a massive pay cut, and ended up releasing him in March. The Raiders swooped in quickly with a two-year deal and plenty of guaranteed money.

Nelson has been praised for his attention to detail and position-group leadership, and will fit into the starting lineup with Amari Cooper and Martavis Bryant. He had four straight 1,000-yard seasons prior to last year. His worth won’t be defined by a monster statistical year. Reliability, leadership and red-zone performance will show if Nelson’s still got it.

3. RB Doug Martin

The veteran rusher has had an uneven career. Excellent production has come in spurts, with dominance in 2012 and 2015. The last 1,400-plus yard season was followed by two seasons of 2.9 yards per carry, which led Tampa Bay to cut his this winter.

He met Gruden for lunch at a Florida golf course, and the exchange convinced Gruden the 29-year old was ready to work and prove he had plenty left in the tank. His work was praised during the offseason program, though practice in pads and preseason play will offer stronger evidence of 2018 effectiveness. Showing well in camp could lead to an increased role behind starter Marshawn Lynch. Gruden likes using multiple backs in his offense, and could make steady contributions in the run game.

2. MLB Derrick Johnson

The longtime Kansas City Chief was let go by the team that drafted him in 2005, but it was not the end of his NFL journey. Some thought he’d call it a career at age 35, especially after suffering an Achilles’ tendon tear in Dec. 2016, but he found a new home in Oakland and a strong bond with Gruden. The Raiders need stability in the middle, and Johnson will provide on-field leadership. There’s no doubt about that.

Johnson must prove capable of being a three-down linebacker effective against the run and pass. Marquel Lee is available should the Raiders require a platoon, but Johnson doesn’t want that. The Raiders need his expertise inside at all times.

1. Head coach Jon Gruden

Gruden isn’t a newcomer, but it’s been nearly two decades since he roamed the silver and black sidelines. He hasn’t coached since 2008, but returned to the Raiders in January after nine years in the broadcast booth.

Gruden has said several times he has something to prove to his critics. That might be a self-motivational tool. There aren’t many in the East Bay, where the fan base as rallied behind him and players have loved the intensity and passion he brings to practice and meetings.

Some assume his old school tendencies and his “bringing it back to 1998” comment this offseason implies he is resistant to change or offensive innovation. That’s not the case, not by a long shot. We’ll see lots modern offense Gruden studied as an ESPN broadcaster and in his downtime at his Tampa offices, with new wrinkles unveiled as game plans dictate.

Gruden has made a solid impression in his return to coaching but, as it always is in his line of work, effectiveness will be determined by wins and losses. He won’t be graded off one-year alone, especially without solid roster depth, but Gruden wants to start fast and re-establish Raiders winning ways.