Erik Harris

How Raiders' NFL free-agency signings could impact returning players

How Raiders' NFL free-agency signings could impact returning players

The Raiders signed several free agents we can immediately insert into the starting lineup. Put Nick Kwiatkoski at middle linebacker and Cory Littleton at weakside linebacker right now. Go ahead. Use permanent ink.

Those guys shouldn’t leave the field. Unless something goes really wrong, they won’t have to compete for spots. Last year’s starting linebackers no longer on the roster.

There are others, however, who will battle incumbents for playing time, starting spots or for prominent a role in a rotation. The Raiders upgraded their roster several times in free agency, and definitely increased the level of competition on the roster. That will happen again after the 2020 NFL Draft, where the Raiders have two first-round picks and five selections in the first 91.

Before that happens, let’s take a look at how some of the new free-agent additions will impact longer-term Raiders heading into the 2020 seasons.

DT Maliek Collins

The former Dallas Cowboy isn’t here to take Maurice Hurst’s job. It’s entirely possible, even likely, they play together in obvious passing situations as the team’s most athletic interior rushers.

Who pairs with Johnathan Hankins on rushing downs and in the base package is a bit up in the air, and Collins could take that job if he earns it. He played 763 defensive snaps last year, including 271 against the run. The Raiders typically have four defensive tackles on the roster and P.J. Hall makes that group right now, but Jon Gruden threw a shot across his bow in a meeting with reporters at the NFL combine. He’ll have to step up to fend off challenges from Daniel Ross, whom Rod Marinelli worked with in Dallas, and anyone else who comes via the draft.

Collins is a solid player, especially rushing the passer and fending off double teams, as this ESPN graphic shows:

Collins is going to play a lot, meaning others may play less with a new guy in the group.

Carl Nassib

The Raiders reportedly are paying the edge rusher handsomely, securing his services with a three-year, $25 million contract with $17 million guaranteed. That sum suggests a starting spot, but that shouldn’t be assumed.

Maxx Crosby will anchor one end on all three downs, and the Raiders expect to get better production from 2019 No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell on the other side. The Clemson product was solid against the run and knows he must be better rushing the passer. He vowed to come back a brand-new play in Year 2, and his work ethic and drive could bring about a production jump.

Nassib could fit in as a situational pass rusher on third down, possibly taking snaps from Ferrell in those situations. He can be a standup rusher as well, possibly playing some strongside linebacker if required considering he has some coverage experience. Time will tell on that.

Nassib’s a significant upgrade over Benson Mayowa in run defense, so he could play more often if he earns additional responsibility. Nassib is capable of playing all three downs, giving the Raiders an option should Ferrell’s second season not go as planned.

Jeff Heath

The Raiders have an experienced, solid option to start at free safety. That’s a role Erik Harris played in 2019, and he certainly won’t hand over that job without a fight. It could turn into a full-scale position battle if another safety isn’t added in the draft, as those two could fight for the right to pair with Johnathan Abram in the middle of the secondary.

It looks like a fair fight and could be a close one this summer.

The Raiders could use an extra body at safety, considering Abram, Harris, Heath and Dallin Leavitt are the primary options there. At this point, the position group doesn’t seem set.

Nelson Agholor

The Raiders will upgrade their receiver corps in the NFL draft. They just have to. If a top option is added, that won’t impact Tyrell Williams’ gig. He should start in 2020 and play a ton if he’s healthy.

Agholor could step in if the rookie(s) underwhelm in the preseason, but Zay Jones is the incumbent most impacted. Jones never gained Derek Carr’s trust in 2019, and Agholor’s addition could push him to the No. 5 receiver spot or off the roster completely if he doesn’t perform well in the preseason.

[RELATED: Raiders bet big, 49ers surprise among NFL draft bold predictions]

Marcus Mariota

The veteran quarterback isn’t on this list because he’s in a real competition to take Derek Carr’s gig. Derek Carr is the starting quarterback. Marcus Mariota is the backup. The position group is deeper, but Carr is the guy familiar with this offense. The Raiders are surrounding him with talent that will allow Carr to thrive in the team’s first season playing in Las Vegas.

Mariota should push Carr and help him in the meeting room and on the practice field and could get more quality out of him.

NOTE: Eli Apple isn’t mentioned because he’s currently set to take a starting spot from Daryl Worley, now an unrestricted free agent not expected to return. It’s also believed the Raiders will address the cornerback spot in the draft and create competition there. We’ll address Apple’s role closer after the draft.

Raiders left shocked by ugly collapse vs. Jaguars in Oakland finale

Raiders left shocked by ugly collapse vs. Jaguars in Oakland finale

OAKLAND -- The kegs were tapped early Sunday morning in the Oakland Coliseum parking lot. A party that was equal parts rave and costume party with a hint of funeral got fired up as Raider fans prepared to send their beloved Silver and Black off to Vegas with a win over the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars and a rager fitting of those who ramble to the hallowed, rotting Coliseum grounds on fall Sundays. 

Drinks were flowing, carnitas were consumed and the Raiders jumped out to a 16-3 halftime lead. Tyrell Williams scored on a 40-yard touchdown to open the game. The party powder keg was preparing to be lit and they would have had to drag every fan out of the stadium. The lights would only go out once every beer had been consumed and every tale of SIlver and Black glory had been told and told again. 

Then, it all came crashing down. 

These are, after all, the Raiders. Not the Patriots. There was to be no happy ending. They delivered one in Charles Woodson's final game in 2015. And again on Christmas Eve last year in what could have been the final Oakland game. 

The third time was not a charm. 

The Jaguars scored 17 unanswered second-half points, aided by a blown call on a Derek Carr slide, a Williams drop and a missed Daniel Carlson field goal that set them up for their 75-yard game-winning drive. 

Final score: Jaguars 20, Raiders 16

"Yeah, I'm still emotional, like angry about it," Carr said after the loss. "There were a few plays we left out there, but there's nothing I can say right now that's going to make anybody feel better." 

The atmosphere turned from rave to riot on a dime. 

When officials ruled Carr slid out of bounds and not inbounds, giving the Jaguars life and time to get the ball back, cries of, "F--k you, ref" rained down before the Jags plunged a dagger into the heart of Oakland. 

"It sucks," Maxx Crosby said, unable to process the loss. "We lost. We had the game in our hands. We didn't finish. We didn't do enough to win. Yeah, it hurts." 

Those who had shown up to celebrate the team, the memories and bid adieu to the Silver and Black let their frustrations out when the Jaguars took the lead with 31 seconds remaining. Bottles were thrown. Concourse nachos, retail value $11, were fired into the end zone in disgust. The fake cheese sauce serving as a perfect representation of the effort the Raiders' secondary gave on the Jaguars' game-winning drive. 

When Carr's Hail Mary attempt clanged off the head of wide receiver Keelan Doss and onto the turf, the anger reached a boiling point

Linebacker Marquel Lee and Carr were booed as they went into the Black Hole. Bottles still raining down from the stands. 

Jon Gruden, long a lover of the "nuts" in the Black Hole, gave a cursory glance, and it was exit stage left. 

There were no words for the loss. No words to console those losing the football team they love so much. No words to explain away a meltdown that fit perfectly with an Oakland farewell that included the Coliseum crowd jeering a BART announcement about a broken elevator. 

Most fans in attendance might never see their Raiders live again. Their lasting memory will be a collapse against a team that had lost six straight games and had two first downs midway through the third quarter. 

"The energy just felt like we were going to come away with that win," safety Erik Harris said. "And all of a sudden it was like the tables were turned. At what point did it happen, I couldn’t even tell you. I’m still sitting here like, ‘How did we lose that game?’"

Search for answers but there are none to be found. The Raiders plain and simple choked. 

The emotions of the moment weren't too big for them. Most of the players haven't been Raiders long enough to have a connection with Oakland or the fans. But no matter if they have been Raiders for a day or six years, they will forever be apart of the Coliseum finale meltdown. Sure to hold an unwanted place in Raiders franchise lore. 

[RELATED: Gruden apologizes for losing Oakland finale

The parking lot of Oakland Coliseum was expected to be raging long after the Raiders left the field victorious Sunday. Everyone had planned for it, 

Instead, fans, both shocked and disgusted, gave parting boos, middle fingers and other unpleasantries, turned their backs, packed up their stuff and hightailed it home. 

Last one out, turn off the lights.

Raiders' Erik Harris explains why 'dream came true' in win vs. Chargers

Raiders' Erik Harris explains why 'dream came true' in win vs. Chargers

ALAMEDA -- Raiders safety Erik Harris intercepted Philip Rivers on Thursday night and immediately took off down the right sideline. He stiff-armed a Chargers offensive lineman and outran everyone else on his way to the end zone.

He looked into the raucous Oakland Coliseum crowd while crossing the field, searching for his family. Harris found his wife and four children and pointed right to them.

This one, Harris said without speaking, is for you.

The Harris family didn’t make it to many games last year, Erik’s first season making significant defensive contribution. His youngest son Ellis was too young to travel from their Louisiana home, but the family has made it to four thus far this season.

Thursday night was a good one to attend. Harris had two interceptions, with a third negated by penalty, including the pick-six in a 27-24 victory over the Chargers.

“Last time I had a pick-six when they were in the crowd, [his twins Isaiah and Elijah] were 2 or 3 years old [– his daughter Esme is a bit younger --] but this time the older ones knew what was going on,” Harris said. “I ran over to them and started pointing to them. They told me after they saw me doing that, which made it an emotional, heartfelt moment.”

The whole night was something out of a script. Harris persevered through difficult childhood circumstances while embarking upon an incredible football journey from a NCAA Division II college to the CFL and then the NFL, with side jobs as UPS and a potato chip factory in between, was featured on the “Thursday Night Football” pregame show.

Then Harris balls out. Then the Raiders win, and Harris gets invited up to the NFL Network set, an honor bestowed on the game’s most impactful player. He was able to bring his wife Theresa and their four kids on stage at the end to share this big moment with his family.

“I was telling my wife this morning that Thursday didn’t even feel real,” Harris said. “They shared my story, then I played well and then everybody was able to join me on the set. It was almost like it was staged. It felt like that honestly. It was pretty cool.”

[RELATED: Swearinger ready to help Raiders' secondary, win title]

Harris has had big NFL moments before, but this was something altogether different. He was able to share his backstory with a massive audience and then show on the field what can happen when you won’t quit.

“That was one of best things to come out of the whole night,” Harris said. “My goal was always to make the NFL, but on Thursday night my real dream came true. It provided a platform for my story, my testimony to be heard around the country and the world, really, and inspire people to never give up.”