Browns-Raiders: Matchups to watch


Browns-Raiders: Matchups to watch

ALAMEDA -- Emotions are sure to run high for the Raiders against Cleveland in their first home game since the passing of owner Al Davis on Saturday.So Oakland will have more than the Browns to worry about at the Coliseum. The Raiders will have to guard against an emotional letdown, of sorts. But to a man, the Raiders insist that won't be the case, not when they are already aware of such danger."That's what most people are expecting us to do -- come out here against the Browns...flat and lay an egg," said defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. "I don't expect us to do that. We looked good in practice. We're just trying to build."It's going to be emotional because they're going to do the tribute for the old man. I already know what he wants out of this team. He wants championships and we can't be talking about trying to go win our division and slip up against Cleveland at home. You have to win your home games, break even on the road. This is a big game because we lost our last home game."A look, then, at some key on-field matchups to watch Sunday afternoon:Raiders outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (96) vs. Browns running back Peyton Hillis (40)
TALE OF THE TAPEWimbley: 6-4, 255, Florida State, sixth seasonHillis: 6-2, 250, Arkansas, fourth seasonWimbley was a revelation in his first season with the Raiders, leading the team with nine sacks last year. This season, he has only one sack in five games.Concerned? Not Wimbley. Neither are the Raiders. Not when he's still getting pressures. And not when he's sure to be amped up playing against his former team, an organization that traded him to the Raiders on March 14, 2010 for a third-round draft pick. That pick turned out to be quarterback Colt McCoy."Oh, yeah, I've been watching him," Wimbley said. "He's doing pretty good. But it's no different than any other quarterback that I'm going after. The main goal is to affect him, get him on the ground and get sacks."This will be a fun game. I know a lot of the players over there. Im looking forward to going out, playing as hard as I can and winning the game."Wimbley, the No. 13 overall pick of the 2006 draft, had 11 sacks as a rookie outside linebacker in Cleveland's 3-4 scheme but after four seasons with the Browns, a voicemail from the Raiders, and not his initial NFL team, while he was on a long driving trip from Florida to Ohio let him know he had been traded."I practiced and competed with a lot of those guys for years, so I know a little bit about them," Wimbley said. "They know about me, as well. So, it will be fun to go out there and see them again, play against them and play them here in Oakland."Wimbley's salaries have skyrocketed in Oakland. He was initially supposed to make 685,000 in the final year of his initial contract and the Raiders tried to utilize the "buyback" option to keep him in the fold. But the bump to 3.5 million was in violation of the NFL's "30 percent rule." So the Raiders used the franchise tag on him, worth 11.3 million. But when Oakland needed salary cap relief, he restructured his deal and is now guaranteed a reported 29 million.He is, no doubt, a much more financially secure player than he was the last time his old Browns teammates saw him."There are a lot of new faces over there but there's still a whole bunch of familiar faces," Wimbley said. "So, I'm sure guys will be chatting it up a little bit when we get out there on the field Sunday."But the pleasantries will stop with the opening kickoff. Playing on the strong side, Wimbley will be sure to get a healthy dose of Hillis running behind the tight end. Wimbley, who also plays end in the Raiders nickel defense, could see significant time there if Matt Shaughnessy's shoulder keeps him out a third straight game and the newly-acquired Aaron Curry finds time at strong-side linebacker in run situations.Enter Hillis.Interestingly enough, Hillis was Oakland tailback Darren McFadden's blocking back at Arkansas, but has carved out his own identify in Cleveland after rushing for 1,177 yards last season and averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He's averaging a career-low 3.6 yards per carry thus far."Peyton Hillis is as good as there is in the league," said Raiders coach Hue Jackson. "The guy, he's a beast. He'll run you over, there's no question about that."If you get in his way you better get ready to get bruised up. Everybody needs to go get their massages and all the other foo-foo stuff we need to do before we play this guy because you're going to have to bring your 'A' game to get this guy down, I promise you that."Plus a more effective and highly-motivated Wimbley against the run.Other matchups worth watching: Raiders tight end Kevin Boss (87) vs. Browns outside linebacker Scott Fujita (99) -- After catching a combined six passes in his first two games as a member of the Raiders, Boss was shut out and was not even targeted once against Houston. Turns out his blocking skills were more needed against the Texans' fearsome pass rush.The Browns offer no such rush, though it's under-rated."It will be different," assured Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell, "and he will be more involved in other games."So that should free up Boss to release and find seams down the middle of the field."They give you a lot to prepare for, no doubt about it," Fujita said. "Even today's practice, it was kind of mentally exhausting, working through the gymnastics of everything, play in, play out, personnel changes, big shifts, bringing in a big offensive lineman in a tight end position, doing some unbalanced (things)really stretching the perimeters with these running backs. So you have your work cut out for you."Especially if the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Boss gets going and Fujita, who is 6-5, 250 pounds, is charged with covering him.Raiders special teams coach John Fassel vs. Browns returner Josh Cribbs (16) -- With eight career kickoff returns for touchdowns and two punt returns for scores, Cribbs has long been one of the most dangerous return men in the game.So how does "Bones" Fassel gameplan for a guy averaging 28.4 yards on kick returns and 12.8 yards on punt returns this season? Does he simply have Sebastian Janikowski kick the ball out of the end zone?"That's what he's known for," said Cribbs, who has two returns of at least 40 yards this season. "So to combat that we will take deeper drops.I'm going to be standing back there like I was the first game against Cincinnati. I will have my foot on the edge of the end zone ready to bring them out.We're going to make it happen when they give us an opportunity."And on punts, should Shane Lechler out-kick the coverage with a 6-1, 215-pound burner sitting in wait?"Oh I love it, we love that," said Cribbs, who has three punt returns of at least 20 yards this season. "We love for them to out-kick their coverage because that gives them the disadvantage. He might think that it's a good thing for them to give them the opportunity to pin us back, but I believe we have a great return unit and the guys really get after it."The special teams ball, so to speak, is in Fassel's court.

Notes: 'Carr to Crabtree was special' in Raiders win

Notes: 'Carr to Crabtree was special' in Raiders win

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree was a non-factor in last week’s loss to Kansas City, an aberration of the highest order this season.

It proved to be just a one-game lull.

Crabtree was an offensive catalyst yet again Sunday in a 33-16 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He had eight receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown, including a long bomb that changed the game.

Quarterback Derek Carr went big on 3rd-and-5 late in the second quarter, sending a perfectly-arched ball down the right sideline that Crabtree caught over his shoulder at full gallop for a 56-yard gain that set up the Raiders’ second touchdown in five minutes.

Crabtree got it, again on third down, using a quick slant just beyond the goal line.

He refused to speak with the media again, but those around him were again wowed by his impact on the game, especially when Jaguars corner shadowed and largely shut Amari Cooper down.

“Michael Crabtree made some incredible plays today for us,” Del Rio said. “…Throughout the game he came up big for us and I thought he play really, really well for us. Obviously our quarterback is a good player. He did a good job for us hooking up with different receivers, but today Carr to Crabtree was special.”

King shows speed: Raiders punter Marquette King doesn’t have to run much. Players at his position usually don’t, except as a last resort when chasing a return.

King ran forward this time, prompted by a uncharacteristically poor Jon Condo snap. He didn’t have room to punt so he took off running, converting a 4th-and-24 with a 27-yard run down the sideline. It was a move that showed great athleticism, one he

“I just picked the ball up and started running,” King said. “After I passed the orange sticks, I got a little light-headed and realized ‘I’m really running the ball right now.’ It’s been since high school that I ran from the punting formation. I came in as a wide receiver for Fort Valley State and was really good at punting so they stuck with me.”

King ran out without getting hit – a plus in the coaches minds – and extended a drive that ended with a game-icing touchdown from Latavius Murray.

Too many field goals: Sebastian Janikowski had four field goals on Sunday night, which isn’t always a positive sign for the Raiders offense. They let too many touchdown-scoring chances escape, which bothered offensive players despite the fact they scored 33 points.

“When we’re in the red zone, we want points,” Murray said. “That’s most important, but we need touchdowns over field goals. We have a lot of work to do and we’ll keep striving to get seven points over three.”

Winning turnover battle: The Raiders forced three turnovers against Jacksonville and didn’t give up any.

David Amerson had an interception. So did Reggie Nelson. Andre Holmes recovered a punt muffed by Rashad Greene. That’s a recipe for success, something that’s become common for this Raiders team.

They’ve forced three turnovers without coughing it up three times this season. They’ve ended up with a plus turnover ratio six times in seven games.

Notes: Raiders LB Bruce Irvin recorded his fourth forced fumble of the season against Jacksonville, which are the most by a Raiders since Nick Roach equaled that total in 2013. …DE Khalil Mack had his second sack in as many games, and now leads the team with three. … Nelson nabbed his second interception this year and has 32 since 2007, a total that leads all active safeties. …RB Latavius Murray has five touchdowns in seven games, the highest total in that span since 2005. … The Raiders are 4-0 on the road, a mark that hasn’t been matched since 2000.

Del Rio gets a game ball in triumphant return to Jacksonville

Del Rio gets a game ball in triumphant return to Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jack Del Rio spent nearly nine full seasons as Jacksonville Jaguars head coach. He had three winning seasons and two playoff appearances in that time, before he was fired during the 2011 season.

He hadn’t been back to Jacksonville in a professional capacity since, but returned Sunday with a new team ready to face his old one.

The Raiders head coach publicly downplayed the impact of this return, and did so again Saturday in a speech to the team. He wanted players to locked on the game, not storylines surrounding the head coach.

“Jack said to focus on being a great teammate and having each other’s back,” Raiders cornerback David Amerson said. “With him coaching here before, we definitely wanted to have his back. We wanted to get him this ‘W,’ it was big for him and our team.”

As much as Del Rio wanted to turn attention away from his return, coming back to Jacksonville was a big deal.

His family united at EverBank Field on Sunday, a place where they had so many memories as the children grew up. He has friends in town and within the organization. He brought the Jaguars back to relevance, and it has fallen on hard times since he left.

The Jaguars are 18-57 since Del Rio left, mark set after the Raiders’ 33-16 victory on Sunday afternoon.

His players understood the moment and honored it once victory was secure. Quarterback Derek Carr gave Del Rio a game ball after his triumphant return to old stomping grounds.

Jacksonville’s a place Del Rio will remember always fondly.

“(There were) a lot of great memories here,” Del Rio said. “It was a great place to spend nine years raising the family and being blessed with the opportunity to lead the Jaguar franchise. I was very appreciative of that time. I met a lot of good folks here; a lot of good memories, a lot of good friends. It is good to come back here and get a good effort in this stadium.”

That’s as reflective as Del Rio would openly get during this process, which comes as no shock to the players who work with him every day.

“Coach is cool, calm and conservative,” edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “The motto is the same each week, even here (in Jacksonville). We want to come out and dominate. That was the whole focus for him. He didn’t worry about coming back. Everybody knew he had history here, but we were concentrated only on getting that win.”