Raiders

Raiders' Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock at East-West Shrine Bowl practice

Raiders' Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock at East-West Shrine Bowl practice

There's little doubt the Raiders' braintrust of coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock didn't watch LSU's win over Clemson on Monday night in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. The Silver and Black had an outstanding 2019 NFL Draft class, led by four players from the title game.

Gruden and Mayock could follow that same blueprint and go after some talented Tigers who suited up in this year's national championship, especially with two first-round picks. But the later round matter too, as the Raiders learned this past April. 

As they move to Las Vegas, the Raiders need another impressive haul from the draft. Some steals in Day 2 and 3 will only speed up their timeline back to greatness. With the 2019 season in the rearview mirror, Gruden and Mayock already have their eyes on the 2020 draft. 

The two were seen Tuesday morning in St. Petersburg, Florida watching practice for the 2020 East-West Shrine Bowl. While the Shrine Bowl mostly features unheralded prospects who will be selected later in the draft, many future NFL stars have been featured in the game. 

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and receiver Emmanuel Sanders are one win away from leading the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, and both previously played in the college All-Star Game. Other alums include Washington cornerback Josh Norman, Green Bay Packers defensive end Za'Darius Smith and former Seattle Seahawks star safety Kam Chancellor. 

The Raiders found solid contributors late in the draft last year with defensive end Maxx Crosby (fourth round), tight end Foster Moreau (fourth round) and receiver Hunter Renfrow (fifth round). Can the Raiders do the same this year? They'll have plenty of chances. 

[RELATED: NFL mock draft: 49ers, Raiders picks after LSU's title win]

After selecting twice in the first round, the Raiders will again be on the clock three times in the third round, once in the fourth and once in the seventh.

The East-West Shrine Bowl will be played Saturday, Jan. 18 at Tropicana Field. Perhaps Gruden and Mayock can find more late-round talent that will push the Raiders to the playoffs in the near future.

Raiders' Derek Carr 'progressed at rapid rate' in 2019, Mike Mayock says

Raiders' Derek Carr 'progressed at rapid rate' in 2019, Mike Mayock says

As the Raiders pack up their stuff in Oakland and prepare to embrace the bright lights of Las Vegas, they have a number of questions to answer.

How will they address the gaping holes at wide receiver? What about linebacker? And, of course, is Derek Carr the right guy for the job?

With a lack of offensive talent on the outside last season, Carr was serviceable. He led game-winning drives against the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Chargers. The Raiders were 6-4 and flying high. Then the team, Carr included, laid four straight duds to fall out of the playoff picture. Carr remains an average NFL quarterback. He can win games when everything around him is perfect, but he was unable to will the Raiders to wins down the stretch that would have stopped the skid and kept playoff hopes alive. 

It was Year 2 for Carr in head coach Jon Gruden's system and questions about their long-term viability together constantly linger. General manager Mike Mayock, though, was pleased with Carr's play during the 7-9 season.

"As far as Derek is concerned, look, it, Jon demands a lot from his quarterbacks," Mayock told Raiders.com. "People don't understand how much, just from a verbiage standpoint all the way to control, pre-snap at the line of scrimmage, you know, his percentage of completions, his ability to command the huddle, his ability to command the pre-snap process at the line of scrimmage, his accuracy. He's got arm talent.

"You look at his development between him and Darren Waller, you know, Darren Waller had 90 catches for over 1,000 yards. Darren Waller is a Pro-Bowl tight end by any definition. And then the chemistry he developed with Hunter Renfrow. I think we've got a good offensive line and what we have to do is a better job of supporting him with some more wide receiver talent, the ability to catch the football, uh, the ability to spread the ball around a little bit. You know, Derek handled everything Jon threw at him mentally. I thought he progressed at a rapid rate in year two in Jon's system."

That certainly sounds like the Raiders will be bringing Carr back. 

There will be a number of quarterbacks on the free-agent market for Gruden to bring it to provide competition for Carr should he desire.

The Raiders also have two first-round draft picks and could use one to select a high-end prospect like Oregon's Justin Herbert, Utah State's Jordan Love or Washington's Jacob Eason if one of them appeals to Gruden. 

[RELATED: Raiders should stick to draft blueprint, raid Clemson-LSU]

With more talent on the outside and a defense capable of getting off the field at a more regular clip, perhaps Carr will play at a higher level in Las Vegas.

If not, his time with the Raiders could be over shortly.

Jon Gruden believes playing better in cold will help Raiders evolution

Jon Gruden believes playing better in cold will help Raiders evolution

The Raiders surged to 6-4 with a three-game winning streak just after midseason but had a tough time sustaining that success. They lost control of their playoff destiny in an ensuing four-game slide, finishing the season with five losses in their last six games.

There were plenty of reasons why the Raiders ran out of gas. They always were better than the sum of their parts, clearly talent deficient in certain areas when compared to better competition. They also suffered a series of setbacks, from Antonio Brown's meltdown to Vontaze Burfict’s suspension to a series of injury setbacks the Raiders weren’t deep enough to survive in the midst of roster reconstruction.

Head coach Jon Gruden threw another issue into the mix that cropped up during the Raiders’ poor finish.

“I think the cold weather is one thing,” Gruden said at his season-ending press conference. “We got to prove we can exorcise that demon. We got to play better in the bad weather.

“I remember when I went to Tampa Bay, they hadn’t won a game in the history of the franchise in temperatures that were below 40 degrees and every single game we played that’s all we heard. And we are going to continue to hear it, hear it and hear it until we prove as a West Coast team we can go out on a cold day and win.”

The Raiders have lost seven straight games kicked off at below 40 degrees, including three late in the 2019 season. They have lost 11 straight under 50, a brutal stretch that does have to be remedied if the Silver and Black wants to orchestrate a successful run into and through the postseason. Had the Raiders been in the AFC playoffs this year, two of the four conference playoff games had been waged below 50 degrees.

“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things -- talent, better coaching, experience, toughness,” Gruden said. “I don’t know. Travel plans, pregame meals, something. We’ve got to play better. We got to get wins on the road and we got to look forward to playing when it’s hot, when it’s cold, when it’s nasty, when it’s awful. You got to learn to love the misery and maybe we got to leave on a Wednesday next year and get acclimated to it. I’m not making excuses, but that’s one theme is pretty obvious and noticeable. We got to play better in lousy weather and we got to play better period in all three phases.”

[RELATED: Raiders should keep draft blueprint, raid Clemson-LSU]

Gruden also mentioned this point a day after the season finale, where they lost to Denver in the cold.

While fans typically blame Derek Carr for this issue due to his 2-11 record playing at less than 50 degrees, this is a team-wide problem.

“I know that the cold weather doesn’t affect Derek Carr," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "We practice in cold weather, he practices without sleeves, he throws the ball very well. He makes appropriate checks when in practice.

“I know the quarterbacks, generally, they’re always evaluated on wins and losses. No matter what kind of weather it is, they’re always going to be judged on records. We don’t read too much into it.”