Raiders

Tyrell Williams, Raiders receivers must help get offense back on track

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Tyrell Williams, Raiders receivers must help get offense back on track

The Raiders offense has hit the skids. A unit that scored 24 points or more in six consecutive games has crossed the goal line just once since Nov. 17, a garbage-time touchdown that only mattered to those who bet the over.

The run game keeps marching along save a hiccup against the Jets, but the air attack has fallen on hard times.

Fingers will point straight at Derek Carr for recent offensive failings, but it’s never all on the quarterback. There were several times in that disastrous 40-9 loss to Kansas City where Carr was well protected, waiting for prospective targets to create separation.

Wide receivers had just eight yards through three quarters and just 34 on four catches and eight targets.

Tyrell Williams knows that isn’t good enough, even if the conditions, early turnovers and the quickly lopsided score made life harder on the passing game.

“They were trying to take me away. They were trying to take away [tight end Darren] Waller, making sure they had two guys on him,” Williams said Monday in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “I saw a couple of double teams every once in a while. Hindsight is 20/20, but in the game, we felt like we had a good game plan. We’re trying to continue to execute that game plan, but sometimes you get behind in the sticks and that takes us away from what we’re trying to do."

"We need to stay on schedule so we aren’t facing third-and-long situations, and we obviously have to avoid turnovers. Playing from behind, on the road, and in that environment is hard.”

Head coach Jon Gruden took some blame for the overall lack of receiver production against the Chiefs. The position group has struggled this season after dealing with significant personnel turnover, Williams’ difficult bout of plantar fasciitis around midseason and Hunter Renfrow’s current rib injury. The overall talent level isn’t soaring at this stage, but Gruden believes he can scheme targets open.

“Well, I’ve got to do a better job,” Gruden said. “We’ve got to do a better job getting them better looks and getting them involved in the game no question, so I put that on myself. I think we’ve got good, young receivers. We might shake it up a little bit, give some other guys some more opportunities this week, but we’ll study the Titans and see what goes.”

Keelan Doss, Marcell Ateman and recent practice squad promotion Rico Gafford are 53-man roster options who haven’t been involved much. Zay Jones has and hasn’t ever gotten in sync with Carr.

Williams scored touchdowns in his first five games as a Raider and has had a few nice moments in his return from injury, but has hit a production slump. He has three catches for 27 yards on eight targets over the last two weeks and was the intended target on two interceptions in that span, though neither pick should be blamed on him.

Williams is the team’s best deep threat and has been targeted twice on passes 20-plus yards downfield in the last two games, and five times between 10-20 yards from the line of scrimmage in that span.

Williams obviously wants to be more productive than in recent weeks, especially with the offense struggling, but he isn’t the type to yell or scream or demand the ball.

“I never want to be that type of person,” Williams said. “Of course I want to get more targets. I want to be able to stretch the field a bit more and get that deep threat out there. I think that comes with talking and communicating with coaches and being on the same page with Derek throughout the week. That should allow us to focus and hit on those opportunities.”

There’s also a danger of pressing to get out of slumps, whether it’s trying to do too much, stepping outside of one’s responsibility or Carr forcing a throw. This offense has been steadily productive before and Williams believes it can be again. One key is not overthinking it.

“You have to focus on each play as it comes and let the game come to you,” Williams said. “I’m going to go out there and play hard and leave everything I have out there, but I don’t like focusing on when targets are coming and when they’re not because that takes me out of my game. I have to just play and after the game evaluate and see what we did do and what we could’ve done better.”

[RELATED: Jacobs vows to get Raiders 'right' after loss]

There’s time to get rolling again. While losses to the Chiefs and Jets essentially snuffed their AFC West title hopes and largely erased margin for error, the Raiders can still land a playoff spot with a strong showing against the Titans and Jaguars at home and then on the road against the L.A. Chargers and Denver Broncos to close out the year.

“The season’s long and there’s still time to get back on track,” Williams said. These two home games are obviously huge. They’re against teams that are, like us, fighting for a playoff spot. The rest of the way for us, they’re all playoff games in a sense.”

Mark Davis opens up as Raiders' second Oakland era dawns, Vegas awaits

Mark Davis opens up as Raiders' second Oakland era dawns, Vegas awaits

Growing up around the franchise his father, the legendary Al Davis, controlled for a half century, Mark Davis is never far from the memories that come when sifting through history. Which has made this year, the Raiders' last in Oakland, so fraught with emotion.

But not for the obvious reason, the team leaving its ancestral home.

Oh, sure, there is regret about how the Raiders' return to Oakland unfolded, the team coming back in 1995, after 13 years in Los Angeles, hoping but failing to regain the football dominance and local devotion that defined it from the mid-1960s through 1980. Part II never reached the heights of Part I, with Super Bowl victories, and the team and community forming a bond so tight that, to many, their 1982 departure was not unlike losing a family member.

That precise feeling has landed upon Davis this year. He is operating beneath a shroud of sorrow not because the team has all but extinguished its playoff hopes or because the last game in the faded, fabled Oakland Coliseum, scheduled for Sunday afternoon, will signal the end an era.

It’s because the Raiders are family to Davis, and many of his family members have left over the past 12 months.

Josh Atkinson, son of former Raider George Atkinson, passed away last December. His service in January was the beginning. In the months since, the Raiders have lost, to name a few, former running back Clem Daniels (March), former linebacker Dan Connors (April), former assistant coach Gunther Cunningham (May), Hall of Fame semifinalist Cliff Branch (August), former linebacker Neiron Ball (September) and Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown (October).

George Atkinson III, twin brother of Josh, died Nov. 29, three days before what would have been his 27th birthday.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Davis said Friday. “To lose Cliff and Willie, so close together ... Willie was one of my mom’s best friends. And Cliff was my best friend. Those were really tough.

“It started with Josh. That was the early bookend. And now George, two weeks ago, is the other bookend. I hope. We still have another three weeks to go.”

Davis copes with the grief, he says, by compartmentalizing everything. There is an NFL team to run, meetings to attend -- such as two days in Dallas earlier this week -– and decisions to make that could affect the lives of thousands of people.

He understands there will be broken hearts, once more, when the team packs up and heads to Las Vegas. He also hopes fans will continue to support the team that in many ways gave Oakland an identity that spread around the globe.

“There’s no question about it,” Davis said. “The Raiders and Oakland grew up together. We were the stepchild of San Francisco. We were just Oakland. And I believe my dad took special pride in that and in building it up.

“The Raiders were born in Oakland, and Oakland will always be part of our DNA. There’s no doubt about that.”

The magic that made the Raiders special beyond the confines of the NFL was built in the 1960s and 1970s, behind stars such as Ken Stabler, Jack Tatum, Gene Upshaw, Lester Hayes, Jim Plunkett, Brown and Branch. They were high-profile, near-mythic figures, none more than Al Davis, the swaggering brash man at the top, taking no prisoners.

Part II in Oakland mostly was a disaster. The finances pleased no one. The team floundered through its worst of times. When Al Davis died in 2011, the Raiders had not had a winning season in eight years.

[RELATED: Derek Carr's special bond with Coliseum]

Which is why Mark Davis spent six years, beginning shortly after his father’s death, chasing Jon Gruden, whose culture change in 1998 pushed the team to three consecutive postseasons. Gruden finally relented in January 2018, lured back by a 10-year contract worth $100 million.

“We’re in a better place now,” Davis said. “We’ve got stability for the next 10 years.”

As the team goes to Vegas, the memories, good and bad, remain mostly in Oakland. Still, Davis’ fondest recall of Raiders in Oakland, Part II, is rather surprising inasmuch it did not occur in Gruden’s first term as coach or in any of the four playoff seasons over the past 24 years.

No, it came during the unremarkable two years during which Dennis Allen was the coach.

“The most memorable night, to me, was that Thursday night game against the Chiefs,” Davis said of a game played in 2014. “We were 0-10. It was pouring rain. The place was sold out and crazy. The crowd filled it up. We beat them (24-20) and got our first win of the season.

“That night was a reminder of what the Raider Nation is all about, and how they’ve supported the team and, hopefully, will continue to support the team in the future.”

That future will take place in Las Vegas, where $2 billion, 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium, with a retractable dome, reportedly is 75 percent complete and expected to be ready to open before the 2020 season. It will have grass turf on a field that can be slid into and out of the stadium, as is the case with University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals.

This, Davis insists, is the result of failed negotiations to keep the Raiders in Oakland. After numerous attempts over the past decade to strike a deal that would allow the team to remain in place, it reached a point where it became clear to Davis and his fellow NFL owners that the bargaining would not reach a satisfactory conclusion.

[RELATED: Raiders legends will struggle with Coliseum goodbye]

Vegas was waiting. The desert mecca flashed wads of cash and acres of land, and, well, Davis and his group decided to jump.

“The Oakland Raiders were established in 1960,” Davis said. “The Los Angeles Raiders were established in 1982. And the Las Vegas Raiders are being established in 2020. It’s a new era, and we’ve got a new residence.”

Davis said he’s not particularly nostalgic about Part II in Oakland. He went through all of that back in 1982. It’s about business now, and cherishing memories created by years of football but ultimately populated by people within the Raiders family.

Raiders' Tyrell Williams playing through 'significant' plantar fasciitis

Raiders' Tyrell Williams playing through 'significant' plantar fasciitis

ALAMEDA – Tyrell Williams scored four touchdowns in his first four games as a member of the Raiders, with 216 receiving yards to boot. The veteran receiver seemed to be integrating himself well into a new offense, but he was already battling a nasty bout of plantar fasciitis.

The nagging, extremely painful foot ailment struck in Week 2, but he didn’t bow out of the lineup until Week 4. Williams missed two games before coming back into the fray to help a weakened and floundering Raiders receiver corps.

Williams has had some good moments and some pretty bad ones since his return, with lower efficiency than he’s used to. While Williams won’t excuse lackluster play, Raiders coaches have come to his defense when asked about his health.

Williams’ plantar fasciitis is still bugging him. Pretty bad, as a matter of fact, despite him practicing fully on a consistent basis.

“Yeah, it’s been a real challenge,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said Friday. “We’ve had a lot of foot problems around here this year. He’s been dealing with it really since the second week of the season and he missed a few games. He came back and hasn’t really healed. He’s managed it. We try to manage him on the practice field, but give him credit, he’s playing through pain and we thank him for that.”

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It’s something Williams will continue to fight through as the Raiders head toward the end of the season. Rest is the best medicine, and he won’t be able to do that for a few more weeks.

“It’s a pretty significant injury, but he’s battling through it,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “He’s taking medication before every game trying to manage the pain, but certainly every week that’s something he’s had to deal with.”