Raiders

Raiders 2019 schedule analysis: Brutal road stretch could define season

rodgerscarrap.jpg
AP

Raiders 2019 schedule analysis: Brutal road stretch could define season

Early portions of the Raiders’ last season Oakland won’t actually be played in Oakland. The season’s first half is dominated by a brutal road stretch that runs from Weeks 3-8, with a home game against the Bears given to London followed by a bye.

The season’s first half features five road games (counting the London affair) in seven contest, four playoff teams, Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau and a tough Vikings team in Minneapolis.

That’s just brutal. There’s no way around it.

A midseason run of three straight home games leads to another stretch of four road games over their final six, making it tough to overcome a brutal start to the season. The Raiders are still in rebuild mode even after an expensive offseason full of signings and the Antonio Brown trade, but this schedule sure makes it tough to improve results this season.

Biggest must-watch game

This one takes place across the Atlantic, most likely because the Raiders didn’t want it in Oakland. The sight of Khalil Mack sacking Derek Carr at Oakland Coliseum might’ve been too much for the home team to take after a controversial 2018 trade that sent Mack to Chicago for a significant draft capital not yet used.

Mack made eyes on Twitter at news of that Bears-Raiders date, coming on Oct. 6 at London’s Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium. He’ll circle it on the calendar for sure, and be ready for Jon Gruden and a Raiders team looking to get a win over an old friend they didn’t want to pay.

You won’t have to wake up super early for this one, as is required for some London games. It kicks off at 10 a.m. PT, so fans can see an important clash the Raiders want to win but shipped abroad just in case they don’t.

It will also mark the team’s fifth international home game in six years, and surely the last for some time. The Raiders won’t be giving home games away when they’re scheduled to move to Las Vegas in 2020.

Where the schedule makers hosed them

The early five-game stretch on the road might be the toughest – undoubtedly the longest – in my 12 seasons covering the NFL. All of their trips are at least two time zones away, including one in the United Kingdom. The competition’s are fierce, putting a premium on as many games as they can steal in two games to start the year. One problem there: The Kansas City Chiefs come to town in Week 2, meaning there’s a real chance the Raiders start the 2019 season in a big hole.

Where the schedule makers helped them

This one’s tough to find. The Raiders have a three-game home series just after midseason, with two against beatable teams. The L.A. Chargers sandwich games against Cincinnati and Detroit, but the good times don’t last the team finishes with four of six on the road.

What the prime-time schedule tells us

That Raiders stunk last season. Teams that struggle the year before generally don’t get a lot of high-profile time slots, so it’s no shock the Raiders play two night games all season and one is a Thursday night affair everybody gets. Even the Monday Night Football game comes as the second half of a double header, meaning most of the East Coast will be in bed when that game kicks off.

Bye week significance

Teams always get a bye after playing in England. This year is no exception. The Raiders will hope to lick wounds after playing Kansas City, then road games at Minnesota and Indianapolis before playing Chicago in London. They must come out of the bye healthy and ready to feast on a rare weak portion of the schedule.

Revenge narratives

We could single out Vontaze Burfict playing Cincinnati or Brandon Marshall going up against Denver twice next year, but there’s a great chance Jon Gruden holds up the 2019 slate and encourages players to stick it to schedule makers who put them in a bad spot.

[RELATED: Game-by-game predictions]

Raiders vs. NFL schedule makers is certainly sexier.

The Raiders didn’t have a 2019 stadium lined up until well past the NFL’s preference. Commissioner Roger Goodell wanted an answer for where the Raiders would play in early February to give schedule makers time to set 2019 up, but an Oakland Coliseum agreement came far later and wasn’t formally approved until the owners meetings. Conspiracy theorists will have fun with that one to be sure, as the team’s last season in Oakland will be defined by how Gruden’s Raiders handle a brutal 2018 slate.

Daryl Worley has eyes wide open heading into important Raiders season

worleyusa.jpg
USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES

Daryl Worley has eyes wide open heading into important Raiders season

Daryl Worley’s shoulder popped out of socket on a cold December day in Cincinnati, a painful predicament that to be remedied right away. Getting it back in was imperative, but the Raiders cornerback wasn’t doing so just to feel better on the bench.

He wanted to get back in the fray. That impulse was strong despite a season already down the drain and a zero financial security in the 2019.

“You have a drive as competitor that has been there since you were a kid,” Worley said on this week’s Raiders Insider Podcast. “Even though the season may not have been going as we would’ve hoped, I feel like it gets to a point where you grind for six months with guys who have become your brothers. You want to take care of yourself, but you also want to be out there with them.”

It’s that drive that drew head coach Jon Gruden to him last spring. He did some homework on a guy way too talented to be unemployed, someone mired in a rough patch.

“I can still see Worley on the sideline trying to knock his shoulder back into place and keep playing,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s a tough guy. He has also had some adversity in his career, but I got a lot of respect for the way a man can get up off the ground and dust himself off given another opportunity.”

The Raiders provided a soft landing after a rough go in his native Philadelphia. The Eagles traded Carolina for him last offseason, but a run-in with the law while reportedly intoxicated and resisting arrest put him on the street.

Gruden scooped him up knowing a suspension was on its way, with unwavering support in public and private. Worley was quickly inserted into the lineup upon return, where he started nine games until that shoulder issue sidelined him in Cincinnati.

It required surgery heading into restricted free agency, a less-than-ideal scenario that could prompt the Raiders to offer a lower contract tender and prevent other teams from bidding for his services. The Raiders essentially locked him down with a second-round tender offer worth $3.095 million, meaning a team that signed him to an offer sheet the Raiders refused to match would’ve had to cough up a second-round pick. That’s really something, considering Worley was a third-round pick and the Raiders could’ve saved some coin by offering an original round tender that still would’ve been a preventive measure.

Worley appreciates the extra million bucks, but the respect factor might’ve meant more.

“When you’re getting a nudge like that, it’s both business and personal,” Worley said. “It shows the comfort they have in me, and a certain level of respect.

“I’m thankful and appreciative of everything they’ve done for me. I try to pay it back every day, with the type of professional I am and the type of player they expect.”

This is an important year to find top form, which is possible after recovering fully from shoulder surgery. While Worley feels a certain loyalty towards Gruden, he isn’t blind to the fact the Raiders drafted cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen and Isaiah Johnson in the first four rounds. Gareon Conley’s a long-term solution on one side, with plenty of present and future competition at his current spot.

The Raiders were nice about the RFA tender but didn’t extend a long-term deal, so he’ll enter 2019 with unrestricted free agency’s possible riches (and career transition) on the immediate horizon.

“As a human, you know the future is coming,” Worley said. “You think about it, but I just always feel that taking care of each day, everything else will handle itself.”

Worley likes playing in Silver and Black, across from Conley. They have become friends since Worley signed up, and lived together during this offseason program. Worley has high hoped for them as a shutdown pairing knowing he must do his part, and believes he’s entering his prime right now at age 24. Matching that level with Conley’s steady, top-end talent, could create a real impact.

“I feel that that’s something we expect of ourselves and something we expect,” Worley said. “It’s a situation where we’re in our second year in the system and we shouldn’t just make some plays. We should also be the thing that sparks the defense and our team and changes games.”

Raiders sign first-round draft pick Johnathan Abram to four-year contract

abramusa.jpg
USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES

Raiders sign first-round draft pick Johnathan Abram to four-year contract

The Raiders are getting some business done before summer vacation truly starts. The Silver and Black signed a third member of their NFL draft class late Tuesday afternoon when No. 27 overall pick Johnathan Abram inked his rookie contract.

No. 4 selection Clelin Ferrell and No. 40 pick Trayvon Mullen signed earlier in the day.

No. 24 overall pick Josh Jacobs is the only Raiders draftee that remains unsigned, and it’s certainly possible his deal gets done before rookies formally leave on summer vacation later this week. They stayed an extra week after the offseason program’s end to work with the strength staff and player engagement department on off-the-field education common to all first-year NFL players.

Abram was slotted to receive a contract worth $11.45 million over four years that includes $6.380 million in a signing bonus. There’s also a fifth-year team option available that is standard for all first-round picks.

[RELATED: AB setting new standard for all Raiders during offseason program]

The Raiders selected Abram with the first-round pick the Dallas Cowboys gave up for Amari Cooper. Abram impressed during the offseason program and joined the first unit during the final week of OTAs. He was there again in minicamp, and a solid training camp could lock him into a starting safety spot right away.