Raiders

Raiders searching for 'little glimmers' in otherwise lost season

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AP

Raiders searching for 'little glimmers' in otherwise lost season

OAKLAND -- The Raiders weren’t given a chance to beat the Kansas City Chiefs. They were two-touchdown underdogs heading into Sunday’s game; that’s code for the whole world expecting a blowout.

Smart money apparently was on the Raiders. The Silver and Black kept it close until the end, before conceding 40-33 on Sunday at the Coliseum.

Players don’t care about covering the spread. They want to win, especially when nobody expects it.

Football’s a results-based business, and the “L” matters most.

Here in Oakland, however, it’s not the only thing. Can’t be during a total rebuild.

These games have to mean something, even with this season swimming with the fishes.

Mining positives during this season has been tough, like squeezing water from a rock. On Sunday, however, the Raiders put a firm grip on a saturated sponge.

That's a good sign for coach Jon Gruden, proof that his players are still working and fighting for him and this staff. They are taking pride in progress, even when it isn't producing wins.

Losing three fumbles was a death sentence against Kansas City, but silver linings were easily found in an ultimately disappointing result.

Derek Carr showed some scheme mastery in an efficient performance where he showed restraint and a willingness to chuck it deep. The run game was gaining chunk yards when holding onto the ball. The offense was 9 for 12 on third down and 4 for 4 in the red zone, areas where they’ve been terrible all season.

The defense got some solid stops and made some good plays in coverage. They just didn’t make enough against the Chiefs.

Make no mistake. The Raiders weren’t good. They were better.

After a season’s worth of terrible, that’s something.

“You’ve got to find those little glimmers, though couple of plays or drives where we look like the elite offense we’re going to be,” running back Jalen Richard said. “The same thing happens on defense. We look at those moments and think, ‘We can do this.’ Once you put it on film, you can do it again. We have to find things we can build on here.”

The Raiders don’t want to be doing this. They’d prefer to be relevant and alive in the playoff hunt, something officially eliminated with Sunday’s loss.

Sunday’s effort was a far cry from results around midseason, when the Raiders lost five straight by at least 14 points.

“It's disappointing but definitely something we can build on,” safety Karl Joseph said. “We played hard, we didn't give up, we kept fighting the whole time. We just have to be better off this and get ready to play them again (in the season finale)."

[RELATED: Chiefs remain 'distraction-free' without Kareem Hunt]

The Raiders hope to show progress before then. That doesn’t mean momentum will travel between seasons, especially with so much roster turnover expected this spring.

While it is incremental and at times only seen through a magnifying glass, progress has been made these past few weeks, from the Arizona win to the Baltimore loss through Sunday’s result.

The Raiders aren’t talented enough to beat playoff contenders outside a perfect storm. They are playing freer, without the burden of all that’s gone wrong this year, and the results are better as a result.

“When we have fun, we play better,” Carr said. “When we’re all uptight, worried about what Coach is going to say, getting cussed out or yelled at — nobody is going to play well doing that. It’s been an emphasis in practice.

“I’m glad you said that because it’s translating to the games. Obviously it’s no moral victory, but we should play like that no matter what the score is, what our record is. You want it to always look the same. Hopefully, we can continue to grow that and instill that in our young guys.”

Why uncertain playing future shouldn't impact Raiders free agency

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USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES

Why uncertain playing future shouldn't impact Raiders free agency

The Raiders are a team in transition.

They’re scheduled to leave for Las Vegas in 2020, when a state-of-the-art stadium should be ready for Raiders football.

There’s some uncertainty where the Raiders will play before then. They’ll definitely host the Denver Broncos at Oakland Coliseum on Monday night, but it’s anybody’s guess what’ll happen after that.

That’s because the Raiders (and the entire NFL) are being sued for antitrust violations and breach of contract. The Raiders pulled a $7.5 million lease offer to play at Oakland Coliseum after the lawsuit was levied on Dec 11.

Now they’re searching for a place to play, and must pick one by February at the latest. It could still be Oakland Coliseum, though Monday’s game is being treated like it could be the last game ever there. AT&T Park seems attractive, and Levi’s Stadium could also keep the Raiders in this market. They’re looking outside it as well, and their options have been discussed extensively over the last week.

This story isn’t another one about that. It’s about how all this moving about could impact the Raiders as a free-agent destination. Athletes like stability, after all.

That shouldn’t prevent quality veterans from signing on the line. There may be some other reasons – players don’t love rebuilding projects, and will Jon Gruden have the same attraction, to name two – but all that moving isn’t that big a deal. Here’s why:

The checks still cash

Veteran free agents care about money as much as anything. That isn’t a slight. Everyone does, in most every line of work. If the Raiders are offering the most, or can combine an equal offer with a better role, a player’s gonna wear silver and black.

The Raiders should have roughly $81 million in salary cap space heading into the offseason. Some of that will get earmarked for draft picks, but there’s tremendous flexibility to sign players Jon Gruden wants. That includes big-ticket items the Raiders can afford. Players will take a quality offer all the way to the bank.

The practice plan hasn’t changed

While it seems likely the Raiders play somewhere in the Bay Area next year – it’s hard to imagine homebody Jon Gruden putting his team on a plane every week – the team plans to practice at their recently renovated Alameda training facility. Players would rent/big homes around the East Bay, where they would spent the vast majority of time no matter where they play. The Vegas timeline has been fixed, so there will be no surprises for players about where they’ll live. It’s only about where they’ll play, and that doesn’t matter much as long as the competition’s high and the field’s the same size.

Money’s about to go farther

The Raiders have a year left in California, where the state’s highest earners get hit with a 13-percent tax. That’s a big cut to be sure. There’s no state tax in Nevada, meaning money signed this offseason will go much farther in 2020 and beyond, where the Raiders will be featured in the Silver State. That could be an attraction to those signing long term contracts, and worth more than playing in a new venue.

New guys won’t know the difference

Players who have already spent time in silver and black attest to the passion found while playing at Oakland Coliseum, an old building with some annoyances locals consider quirky charms. Someone choosing the Raiders may appreciate Levi’s Stadium comforts, or AT&T’s location right in San Francisco.

Pro Bowl: Raiders shut out as Jared Cook and Rodney Hudson snubbed

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AP

Pro Bowl: Raiders shut out as Jared Cook and Rodney Hudson snubbed

Jared Cook has been excellent this season. The Raiders tight end has set career highs in all major statistical categories, and ranks near the NFL’s best in catches, yards and touchdowns at his position.

The Raiders have campaigned for Cook to make his first Pro Bowl roster, with coach Jon Gruden as his biggest champion.

“If he doesn’t make the Pro Bowl,” Gruden said, “there should be an investigation.”

It’s apparently time to assign a special prosecutor. Cook was left off the original Pro Bowl roster, which was announced on Tuesday evening. Center Rodney Hudson might’ve been even more deserving – he hasn’t allowed a sack all season -- but he didn't make it, either.

Cook and Hudson would qualify as snubs on a good team, but it’s hard to fault voting fans, coaches and players for failing to recognize players on a really bad team.

Cook, Hudson and left guard Kelechi Osemele were named alternates for the annual all-star game, which will be played on Jan. 27, 2019 in Orlando, Fla.

[RELATED: Raiders' possible Coliseum finale brings anything but Christmas cheer]

Both Hudson and Osemele were named to the original Pro Bowl roster the past two seasons. This wasn’t Osemele’s year, considering he has already missed five games due to injury.

Cook has never made it, and was honest about his desire to be named an all star.

Travis Kelce and Eric Ebron were named as AFC tight ends. Maurkice Pouncey and brother Mike Pouncey were named as the AFC’s centers.

It’s entirely possible that all three Raiders alternates will end up playing in the game. Players drop out of the game regularly once the season ends, and Super Bowl participants are not eligible to play since it is scheduled a week after the Pro Bowl.