Raiders

Not limited by back, Derek Carr puts finger on why Raiders' offense struggled

Not limited by back, Derek Carr puts finger on why Raiders' offense struggled

OAKLAND – Derek Carr’s return from a back injury was not triumphant. The Raiders lost. Again.

Carr had some good news to report after Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He said transverse process fractures didn’t hinder his ability to play quarterback against the Chargers. Every throw was available.

He didn’t connect on many downfield. His two long completions to Amari Cooper were negated by penalty. Michael Crabtree’s 23-yard touchdown reception, the passing game’s only explosive pass play, was a catch and run.

The Raiders weren’t able to work the ball downfield. Carr didn’t let loose much.

Short stuff wasn’t necessary to protect the passer.

“It had nothing to do with my back,” Carr said. “They play really soft zone coverage. That’s what (Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley) does. He tries to create pressure and hide some things. Usually, when they play soft, you have to take those.”

Carr’s pedestrian stat line didn’t wow. He completed 21-of 30 passes for 171 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions and a 67.5 passer rating. Carr averaged 5.3 yards per pass play, a low sum more common in his early years. Dink and dunk was the strategy Sunday. Carr threw just five passes 10 yards or more in the air, and completed three for 50 yards and an interception. The other 25 were short-range throws, with five behind the line of scrimmage. The passing game had just one big play all day, and couldn't sustain success often enough to generate enough points. 

Carr said the full playbook was available to him against the Chargers.

“We go out there as an offense and we’re going to run what’s called to the best of our abilities,” Carr said. “There was no talk of trying to get the ball out of my hands or to not take hits or anything like that.”

Carr said the Raiders scheme under Todd Downing is “great.” The game plans are sound. Fans have grown frustrated with the coaching staff, coordinators especially, with the Raiders performing well below expectation.

The Raiders rank 30th in total offense and 16th in points per game even after scoring 70 in the season’s first two weeks.

Carr hasn’t put a team on his shoulders during a four-game losing streak where the Raiders are averaging 13.1 points per game.

He’ll naturally take all the blame in these moments. That’s what good leaders do.

He took responsibility for two key picks. The first came from miscommunication, while the second was tipped a bit and killed an 11-play drive already in the red zone.

The problems Carr, believes, are small.

“Details. That's a frustrating thing,” Carr said. “I'm not going to lie to you. I'm really frustrated. We work too hard for that kind of stuff to happen. That's an easy catch, that's an easy play, if I do the right thing, if our players do the right thing. What I'm trying to say, is that it should be an easy play. And it was a turnover. That should never happen. We gave them two gifts.

“It's myself and the whole offense included. We need to lock into every little detail, that's the problem. There's nothing else. Our guys work their tail off. When I get there, guys are there and they're working. We're working hard, but we have to lock in on the details."

Raiders' Erik Harris explains why 'dream came true' in win vs. Chargers

Raiders' Erik Harris explains why 'dream came true' in win vs. Chargers

ALAMEDA -- Raiders safety Erik Harris intercepted Philip Rivers on Thursday night and immediately took off down the right sideline. He stiff-armed a Chargers offensive lineman and outran everyone else on his way to the end zone.

He looked into the raucous Oakland Coliseum crowd while crossing the field, searching for his family. Harris found his wife and four children and pointed right to them.

This one, Harris said without speaking, is for you.

The Harris family didn’t make it to many games last year, Erik’s first season making significant defensive contribution. His youngest son Ellis was too young to travel from their Louisiana home, but the family has made it to four thus far this season.

Thursday night was a good one to attend. Harris had two interceptions, with a third negated by penalty, including the pick-six in a 27-24 victory over the Chargers.

“Last time I had a pick-six when they were in the crowd, [his twins Isaiah and Elijah] were 2 or 3 years old [– his daughter Esme is a bit younger --] but this time the older ones knew what was going on,” Harris said. “I ran over to them and started pointing to them. They told me after they saw me doing that, which made it an emotional, heartfelt moment.”

The whole night was something out of a script. Harris persevered through difficult childhood circumstances while embarking upon an incredible football journey from a NCAA Division II college to the CFL and then the NFL, with side jobs as UPS and a potato chip factory in between, was featured on the “Thursday Night Football” pregame show.

Then Harris balls out. Then the Raiders win, and Harris gets invited up to the NFL Network set, an honor bestowed on the game’s most impactful player. He was able to bring his wife Theresa and their four kids on stage at the end to share this big moment with his family.

“I was telling my wife this morning that Thursday didn’t even feel real,” Harris said. “They shared my story, then I played well and then everybody was able to join me on the set. It was almost like it was staged. It felt like that honestly. It was pretty cool.”

[RELATED: Swearinger ready to help Raiders' secondary, win title]

Harris has had big NFL moments before, but this was something altogether different. He was able to share his backstory with a massive audience and then show on the field what can happen when you won’t quit.

“That was one of best things to come out of the whole night,” Harris said. “My goal was always to make the NFL, but on Thursday night my real dream came true. It provided a platform for my story, my testimony to be heard around the country and the world, really, and inspire people to never give up.”

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders in rare position to think playoffs, top-10 pick

ceedeeus.jpg
USATSI

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders in rare position to think playoffs, top-10 pick

We're passed the halfway point of the NFL season, and the Raiders are in a unique position.

Yes, it's OK to start thinking about Jon Gruden leading the Silver and Black back to the playoffs. This Raiders team has been tough, gritty and resilient, fighting through a host of injuries, a five-game road trip against playoff-caliber competition, Vontaze Burfict's season-long suspension and Antonio Brown's meltdown to sit at 5-4, just on the outside of the playoff picture with a very favorable upcoming schedule.

But thanks to the much-criticized Khalil Mack trade -- which is looking better by the day (hi, Josh Jacobs) -- the Raiders also must start scouting college football's best players. The Bears, one year after going 12-4 and winning the NFC North, have been borderline abysmal as quarterback Mitchell Trubisky continues to show zero signs that he's a franchise quarterback.

With seven games left, the Bears sit at 4-5 and currently would have the No. 14 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. But because the Bears were brilliant last year, led by Mack and that vaunted defense, they were given a first-place schedule, so Trubisky and the Bears will finish the season with the Rams, Giants, Lions, Cowboys, Packers, Chiefs and Vikings.

Ouch.

The way the Bears are playing, at least four of those games are losses, and there's no telling which Chicago team will show up against the Giants or possibly the Jeff Driskel-led Lions on Thanksgiving. Even a positive view likely sees the Bears' finish at 6-10 or 5-11, and that could be enough to see them fall (or rise depending on the hat you're wearing) into the top 10 of the NFL draft.

A playoff berth and a top-10 pick in the same season? That's some kind of witchcraft only Gruden could have cooked up in his wildest nightmares.

The Raiders are just a half-game back of the Chiefs for first place in the AFC West, with a Dec. 1 meeting at Arrowhead Stadium still to come. They're just outside of the wild-card picture because of a tiebreaker loss to the Steelers based on conference record.

Still, the playoffs are a real possibility for the Silver and Black. While Gruden patches up the secondary after injuries to safety Karl Joseph and slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, general manager Mike Mayock is hard at work scouting what could be a top-10 pick from the Bears.

The 2020 NFL Draft class might not be as loaded as some in years past, but it does have just what the Raiders will be looking for: wide receivers, pass rushers and defensive backs.

So, let's pretend the Raiders hit the lottery and go to the playoffs for the second time since 2002, and the Bears plummet to finish 5-11. Here are six prospects the playoff-bound Raiders will be looking at with that top-10 pick.

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Speed. Speed. More speed.

One of Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's favorite targets, Ruggs is a burner who's projected to be the fastest player in this year's draft class. He's the perfect fit for the modern NFL. He's improved as a route runner during his time in Tuscaloosa, and would be great for a Raiders team that's thin at receiver after the AB debacle.

His teammate, Jerry Jeudy, is the top receiver in the class and likely will go in the top five, but Ruggs is no consolation prize.


CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

Did I mention the Raiders have a need at receiver?

Lamb isn't as fast as Ruggs, but the 6-foot-2, 191-pound receiver has been dominant as Jalen Hurts' No. 1 target this season. He's a polished route-runner who has a knack for getting open and is almost impossible to tackle. Just ask Texas, which Lamb torched, pulling down 10 balls for 171 yards and three scores.

Lamb is a little taller than Ruggs, but either would be a great weapon to give Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.


Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson

Have you heard Gruden kind of likes guys from Clemson?

After the Silver and Black drafted three guys from Dabo Swinney's culture factory last season, don't be surprised if they go back to Death Valley should Simmons be on the board.

That's a big if, but the converted safety is just what the Raiders are looking for in a linebacker. He has the athleticism to cover tight ends but also can run sideline to sideline to track down backs. He has the versatility to play some safety if called upon to do so.

I'd expect he'll hear his name called somewhere in the No. 6-to-No. 8 range, but if he falls a bit, this would be a huge get for Mayock and Gruden.


Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

At 6-5, 318 pounds, Brown has the size that NFL teams covet in a disruptive defensive tackle. He's still raw, but he has the tools to be a dominant game wrecker.

The Raiders were interested in Quinnen Williams in last year's draft, but he went off the board at No. 3. Will they go back to the D-line well here?


Grant Delpit, S, LSU

The Raiders drafted Johnathan Abram in the first round last April, but he only made it one game before going down with a shoulder injury. Karl Joseph was having a productive season at the other safety spot before going on injured reserve after his game-sealing interception against the Chargers.

Joseph will be a free agent this offseason and would love to return to the Raiders. But if it doesn't work out, Delpit is the type of player Gruden would love to put alongside Abram in the defensive backfield.

The LSU star can line up just about anywhere and make plays. He's a versatile ballhawk who would give the Raiders one of the best safety combinations in the league.

As seen in the win over Alabama, Delpit has to improve his tackling, but it's not a big enough knock to warrant passing on him.


Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State

So, you need a pass rush? Clelin Ferrell has come on of late, and Maxx Crosby has been a pleasant surprise, but the Raiders still lack the ability to consistently get after the pass rusher. They'd love to land Ohio State's Chase Young, but he'll be off the board by the No. 2 pick.

Gross-Matos is a lengthy defensive end with a massive wingspan and a big motor. He's relentless on every play, and we know Gruden loves that. He's only 21, so he has a ton of room to grow both physically and as a defensive end.

The Nittany Lion star could go inside the top 10 or fall to the late first round, so the Raiders could have a few cracks at him.

[RELATED: Where Raiders sit in NFL power rankings after Week 10]

Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

If you can't immediately fix the pass rush, you can address the coverage. The Raiders did that by drafting Trayvon Mullen in the second round in April, and the rookie has been solid since earning the starting job after Gareon Conley was traded.

Adding Fulton would give the Raiders two young, athletic cover corners on whom to build their defense. Heading to Las Vegas with the #NoFlyZone.