Raiders

Raiders Daniel Carlson wants to build on Raiders success, not replicate it

carlsonus.jpg
USATSI

Raiders Daniel Carlson wants to build on Raiders success, not replicate it

The Minnesota Vikings took the first kicker in last year’s NFL draft, but that didn’t stop them from cutting Daniel Carlson at the first sign of trouble. The Auburn alum was off the roster following a rough go against Green Bay, suddenly on the street despite great power, accuracy and pedigree.

That transaction raised Rich Bisaccia’s eyebrow. The Raiders special teams coach considered a top talent, someone who could solve his in-season kicker issues with Giorgio Tavecchio cut in camp and Eddy Piñeiro and Mike Nugent on injured reserve. Bisaccia had an in with Carlson after helping recruit him to Auburn. That, the Raiders thought, would separate them from the competition when bringing him in for a workout.

Carlson still said no.

This wasn’t about the Raiders. He declined offers from everybody, as a matter of fact, choosing to work out kinks away from massive crowds and quick-to-judge head coaches with nothing invested in him.

“My agent and I obviously talked about it a good bit,” Carlson said. “We just felt like at that time I could take a break, work on some things that I wanted to work on. Once you get into the season, you’re just getting ready for Sunday. You’re getting ready for Sunday, so it was nice to be able to step back, be able to work on a couple little things and then be able to… I knew an opportunity would come. Obviously, I didn’t know where from, but I just wanted to make sure when that came I was ready and would be ready for the rest of the season.”

He made some tweaks and was eventually able to double back to the Raiders when he was ready. Patience proved a virtue for player and team.

Carlson was awesome after joining the Raiders, with a franchise-record 94.1-percent conversion rate. He hit 16 of 17 field goals in silver and black, including a game-winner as time expired on one of their four wins.

Carlson wants to match that effort in 2019 and for years to come as the Raiders kicker. He won’t compete for a gig this season but is still pushing for improvement and consistency through near-constant self-evaluation even now, when sailing on the calm.

“I think he’s working on getting a master’s in himself,” Bisaccia said. “I think he knows faster than anybody else what’s good about what he does and when it’s not the hit that he’s expecting to make. I think he can self-correct quickly and just our professional opinions we thought he was really a good player coming out. He was certainly a draft-able kicker and then when he became available we couldn’t get him for the first workout, he wanted to go work on a few things on his own and when he was ready for a workout we got him in. He did a tremendous job and now he’s ours.”

Carlson doesn’t subscribe to the ain’t-broke-down-fix-it model. He wants to build on last season’s success over simply replicating it. That more than anything else remains his drive heading toward the 2019 season.

“I wouldn’t say you ever maintain,” Carlson said. “I think you’re always getting worse or better. I think yes, I learned some things that worked last year and I want to keep those things going. But at the same time, I always want to improve. I’ve been working really hard this offseason. Obviously, I took a little break after the season ended and kind of got back to it. I want to continue to build off of what I had last year and the things that were going well. Still continuing to improve every day. I think for the most part I’ve been able to do that.”

Carlson’s able to get nit-picky these days, even looking at attempts that earned three points. He grades each one, and despite the pass-fail nature of his profession, he doesn’t view it as a zero-sum game. He also understands every kick won’t be perfect but needs even the subpar efforts to fly straight and true.

[RELATED: Simms ranked as Chris Simms' No. 18 overall QB]

Carlson is always working on an ironclad mental approach and consistent form that can be more challenging for someone standing 6-foot-5.

“Being taller you have to be very, very exact,” Carlson said. “Continuing to be able to do that nine out of 10 times, but now hopefully I’m going to be able to do it 99 out of 100 times. Just trying to get better each and every day.”

Raiders' Jon Gruden ranked as 15th-best veteran head coach by NFL.com

grudenrankingap.jpg
AP

Raiders' Jon Gruden ranked as 15th-best veteran head coach by NFL.com

Just win, baby.

Twice in his career, Jon Gruden has been given that directive as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. He was considerably more successful the first time around.

Gruden never finished below .500 in his first go-around with the Raiders, but in making his return to the franchise last year, he led Oakland to a 4-12 record -- tied for the worst record in the AFC.

Right after Gruden signed a 10-year, $100 million contract to move out of the Monday Night Football booth and back to the sidelines, many questioned whether his time away from coaching would put him behind the eight-ball. Given how the Raiders performed last season, it didn't exactly silence that noise.

And yet, at least one analyst believes Gruden is still an above-average coach. NFL.com's Elliot Harrison ranked the 32 NFL head coaches Monday, and Gruden came in at No. 15.

Here's what Harrison had to say about Chucky:

"As [Gruden] shipped out star players and cut ties with front office execs he didn't want in Oakland last year, the Raiders managed just four wins. That's why '19 should be the tell on what kind of coach he is going forward. New GM Mike Mayock helped Gruden begin to rebuild the roster after stockpiling picks, providing an infusion of talent that should at least make this team more competitive. Given the strength of the division-rival Chargers and Chiefs, simply leading Oakland to the playoffs should be a ringing endorsement for the coach."

[RELATED: Raiders given 20th best outlook in future power rankings]

Indeed, if they make the playoffs this coming season, that's an undeniable success for Gruden and the Raiders in their final season in Oakland -- one that would be worthy of Gruden ascending on next year's coaching rankings. But, as Harrison suggests, it's not going to be easy.

Future NFL power rankings: Raiders given 20th best short-term outlook

grudenusa.jpg
USATSI

Future NFL power rankings: Raiders given 20th best short-term outlook

How bright is the future for the Raiders?

Well, according to the good folks over at ESPN, it could be a little brighter.

On Tuesday, ESPN published its "Future NFL Power Rankings," which ranks the outlook of all 32 teams over the next three years.

And the Raiders came in at ...

*drumroll*

No. 20.

Hey, for a team that went 4-12 a season ago, it could be worse. 

The Colts, Patriots, Eagles, Chiefs and Seahawks made up the top five.

ESPN ranked each team based on its roster (minus the quarterback), head coach, front office, quarterback and draft to determine their outlook for the next three campaigns.

The Raiders checked in at

  • Roster (minus QB): 20
  • Front office: 15
  • Head coach: 17
  • Draft: 17
  • Quarterback: 25

Well, not a rosy outlook for Derek Carr.

Field Yates, Louis Riddick and Kevin Seifert all believe the Raiders' outlook will be determined by whether or not the Carr-Gruden connection is a fruitful one. In Year 1 of Gruden's second reign with the Raiders, Carr had a rough year. With a lack of offensive weapons and a line that had issues with the zone blocking tendencies, Carr only threw for 4,049 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Carr has shown he has the ability to be a top-tier quarterback, and with the weapons, the Raiders collected in the offseason, 2019 could be a different story.

[RELATED: How Raiders' defense stacks up against rest of AFC West]

Riddick lauded the Raiders' draft picks and offseason moves. Oakland added Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Trent Brown, Josh Jacobs, Ryan Grant and Hunter Renfrow on offense. Lamarcus Joyner, Clelin Ferrell, Johnathan Abram and Trayvon Mullen came in to help a defense that was awful last season.

Things are looking up for the Silver and Black. If Carr can rediscover his MVP-level form, good times could be on the horizon.