Raiders

Raiders report card: Grades for offense, defense in loss to Chiefs

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AP

Raiders report card: Grades for offense, defense in loss to Chiefs

OAKLAND -- It wasn’t long ago that the Raiders had lost five straight by 14 points or more, and their effort was being questioned at every turn.

They’ve shown fight the past three games, even if an overall lack of execution and a talent disparity has bit the Silver and Black twice in that span.

Sunday was the latest occurrence, when they kept it close against Kansas City but ultimately were felled 40-33 at the Coliseum.

[RELATED: What we learned in 40-33 loss to Chiefs]

There was plenty of good here, even if the end result was unwelcome. That will be reflected in this week’s report card:

Rushing Offense

The Raiders ran well, with 171 yards on 28 carries. Those numbers don’t matter. Not one bit. Not when you cough up the football three times.

The Raiders completed an unwelcome trifecta, with Doug Martin, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard all losing fumbles. The Chiefs turned each one into points. That was a deciding factor. Plain and simple.

Grade: F

Passing Offense

Derek Carr takes heat for everything. He’s either too timid or too aggressive, too eager for Jon Gruden’s praise or cavalier with his execution of the scheme.

Go ahead and find fault in Sunday’s performance, where he went 29-of-38 passing for 285 yards amd three touchdowns with no picks for a seventh consecutive game and a 123.2 passer rating.

We’ll wait. Oh, right. Crickets.

Grade: A

Rushing Defense

No Kareem Hunt? The Chiefs' run game still was a huge problem for the Raiders. Kansas City totaled 174 yards on 30 carries, and opened things up for a dynamic passing game. Justin Ellis’ return didn’t solve every problem, nor was it expected to.

The Raiders need upgrades everywhere in defending the run.

Grade: D

Pass Defense

Patrick Mahomes is amazing. Travis Kelce is a noted Raider killer. That was trouble, even though the Raiders kept Tyreek Hill largely under wraps and made Mahomes extend plays by pressuring the pocket.

This might be an instance where the performance was a bit better than the numbers suggest. Coverage was pretty good. Opposing offense was great.

Grade: C

Special Teams

Looks like the Raiders have a long-term kicker in Daniel Carlson. That can’t be said about punter Johnny Townsend. Not yet, anyway, but the Chiefs' punt return game was negated.

That’s something, even if the punts weren’t deep or terribly accurate.

Grade: C

Overall

The Raiders are showing great fight and effort during a time when they could mail in the season. That’s a credit to Gruden, Paul Guenther and the rest of this coaching staff.

They aren’t very good, but they won’t give up. That’s a good sign.

Grade: B

NFL free agency: Why Le'Veon Bell to Raiders could be perfect signing

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USATSI

NFL free agency: Why Le'Veon Bell to Raiders could be perfect signing

Finally, Le'Veon Bell will get his wish and become a free agent

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told local reporters the team will not place a franchise or transition tag on Bell this offseason. The two-time All-Pro running back sat out the entire 2018 season while in contract disputes with the team. 

"Le'Veon is still a great player," Colbert said. "We can't afford to use any other type of tags. Le'Veon will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year."

Bell appeared to be pretty happy about the decision.

Bell declined to sign a franchise tender last year, turning down $14.5 million as he held out the entire season. 

Now that he will be a free agent, Bell certainly won't remain a Steeler. Could he join the Raiders, though? 

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller thinks he could be a good fit.

Bell certainly does fit all three phases for the Raiders -- need, money and big name. Let's start with need. 

The Raiders' top two running backs from last season -- Doug Martin and Marshawn Lynch -- are both unrestricted free agents. Both are also over 30 years old, and have nowhere near Bell's talent. And the team's third-leading rusher, Jalen Richard, is a restricted free agent. 

When Bell, who just turned 27, last played in 2017, he rushed for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns. The Raiders' trio previously mentioned combined for fewer than 100 more yards rushing in 2018. Plus, Bell is a threat as a receiver as well -- he has 2,660 career receiving yards, too. 

[RELATED: Le'Veon Bell to Raiders? Oddsmakers like Jon Gruden and Co.'s chances]

Secondly, the money. Bell wants to get paid, and the Raiders have the cash to do so. They will have roughly $81 million in salary cap space this offseason, with plenty of holes to fill on the roster. 

Lastly, the star power. The Raiders could certainly use and Bell certainly has it. Year 1 of Jon Gruden's return didn't go as planned.

To turn things around and kick off their move to Vegas in 2020, Bell could be the perfect player as the new face of their franchise. 

Why Mel Kiper Jr. considers Raiders NFL draft's 'most fascinating team'

Why Mel Kiper Jr. considers Raiders NFL draft's 'most fascinating team'

The Raiders have four of the first 35 overall picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, including three in the opening round. They have Jon Gruden making picks and Mike Mayock as his right hand, two respected football guys with TV experience.

Both guys know how to put on a show. That’s why longtime ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. considers the Raiders an interesting case study.

“It’s Jon and Mike working together,” Kiper said Tuesday in a conference call. “They have the three first-round picks. They have a chance with more next year. They have an opportunity to fill a lot of holes.”

Kiper’s latest first-round mock draft has the Raiders taking Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary at No. 4 overall, Washington cornerback Byron Murphy at No. 24, and Florida State edge rusher Brian Burns at No. 27.

That’s if the Raiders play it straight and use selections earned with a bad 2018 record, along with the Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades. That’s if the Raiders focus on defensive issues that could help the 2019 product more than anything else.

They could, however, ignore convention and be bold. That’s why Kiper puts the Raiders in the mix to trade for a mercurial veteran receiver or possibly draft a height-challenged quarterback with Derek Carr’s hefty paychecks still on the payroll.

[RELATED: Joe Flacco trade to Broncos could impact Raiders in 2019 NFL Draft]

“They have decisions to make, including with the Antonio Brown situation in Pittsburgh and them needing a receiver,” Kiper said. “They have the draft picks. Do they try and make a move there? Do they take (Oklahoma quarterback) Kyler Murray? Do they move Derek Carr or stick with him?

"Jon was always raving about quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson and the like. What’s his opinion of Kyler Murray in relation to Derek Carr? You talk about a fascinating player, and that’s Kyler Murray. You talk about the most fascinating team in this draft, for obvious reasons, it’s the Oakland Raiders.”