SEATTLE -- You think Eddy Carmona is fazed at all by the unlikelihood of him beating out Sebastian Janikowski as the Raiders' placekicker?Carmona himself acknowledges he should not be here. But not because of any real, or imagined, lack of talent in his kicking foot. Rather, his entire involvement with the national obsession of football came by accident.Having come to Charleston, Ark., from Monterrey, Mexico with his parents at 12 years old, Carmona did not speak any English. Neither did his parents.So when they all heard and saw that "football" signups were going down, the Carmona family quickly signed up young Eddy. One problem, though."My parents thought it was soccer," Carmona said with a laugh this week. "I went out there and I was on the field and I was like, this is not a soccer field. The other players were like, 'No, it's football.'"The language barrier had struck and Carmona quickly quit. He knew nothing about futbol Americano, after all. His game was futbol.But later, he said, his eighth-grade English tutor took Carmona and his sister outside to practice the language. The lesson of the day happened to involve a football. They got to kicking the pigskin around and Carmona was pretty good at it.As luck would have it, his junior high had a team."By that time, the football coach was coming out to practice and they watched me kick and asked, 'Do you want to be our kicker?'" Carmona recalled."I said, 'Sure, talk to my parents, though.'" They said, 'As long as he don't get hit.'"Carmona laughed again."That's how it started," he said. "When I went into the games, they just told me, 'Just kick the ball hard and straight.' I didn't know what to do. Kickoffs? Just kick it hard. Extra point and field goals? Just kick it through the uprights."He turned into a two-time all-state kicker for Arkansas and played collegiately at Central Arkansas and Harding. Carmona successfully converted 171 of 181 point-after attempts (94.5 percent) and 48 of 67 field-goal attempts (71.6 percent) in college, numbers that pale in comparison to the career NFL figures of 99.2 percent and 79.6 percent put up Janikowski in PATs and FGAs, respectively.Still, Carmona did drill a 62-yard field goal at Harding, just under the NFL record-tying 63-yarder Janikowski booted last year at Denver,And Carmona's 56-yarder to end the first half of the Detroit exhibition was pretty, nicer even than his Janikowski-esque second-half kickoff that flew out of the back of the end zone. And definitely better than the four that bounded off the left upright in Napa during training camp.Realistically, though, what does Carmona hope to accomplish as the Raiders close out their exhibition season Thursday night in Seattle, and with Janikowski already on the roster?"Just do my thing, that's about it," Carmona said. "First of all, I'm blessed to be here and learn from someone who's one of the best kickers ever. Just show them what I can do and whatever happens, I mean, happens."
SARASOTA, Fla. – The Raiders defense gave up 344 yards Sunday while beating the Jacksonville Jaguars.
That sum’s a season low, still way too many for Malcolm Smith. The Raiders weakside linebacker has higher standards, even after one of two solid defensive efforts in seven games.
“That’s still a lot of yards,” Smith said. “We’re not where we want to be.”
Just because Sunday was better doesn’t mean it’s good enough. The Raiders defense ranks last in yards allowed and 22nd in scoring defense at 25.6 points per game.
There’s a main reason why the Raiders aren’t dead last in both categories. Takeaways.
The Raiders have plundered the opposition this season 13 times in seven games. Special teams got one Sunday on a muffed punt, but the defense has been incredibly active stealing possession.
Reggie Nelson has a nose for the ball, with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Sean Smith and David Amerson have two picks each and Bruce Irvin leads the league with four forced fumbles.
Turnovers make all those yards allowed easy to stomach, and has kept the Raiders in several close games. The force big mistakes and don’t make many, proven with a plus-eight turnover ratio ranked No. 3 overall.
“It’s given us a chance to win some games, where you could just look at other statistics and say we wouldn’t have a chance.” Smith said. “That’s what the game is about, and us finding ways to compete. Hopefully we stay after it that way.”
The Raiders have stayed after it in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on just 50 percent of opponent trips inside their 20-yard line.
While big plays have brought wins and positivity to the defense, the season’s first half has been difficult for Raiders expecting more.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Smith said. “You come into the year with all these aspirations and things you want to do. When it doesn’t go your way you have to stay after it, keep putting the work in and know it’s not going to be wasted. Hopefully we’re making strides and those improvements will show on Sundays.”
The Raiders believe the defense is close to being good, and has done a solid job masking issues with takeaways and timely production.
“Our team has done a great job of competing to win games,” Smith said. “If we keep doing that, everything will be fine.”
SARASOTA, Fla. – The Raiders were certainly happy they beat the Jacksonville Jaguars into submission. They jumped out to a strong halftime lead, played smart complimentary football and, at 33-16, ended up with a large margin of victory.
All, however, was not right with the world.
Derek Carr lamented settling for too many field goals. Latavius Murray wanted more efficiency from his runs. Defensive players saw progress in several deficient areas, still seeking greater cohesion and consistency.
Sunday’s big victory over lowly Jacksonville was not a sign they've arrived. It was proof these Raiders remain a work in progress.
Records normally suffer with much to correct. These Raiders are 5-2, and feel better football’s ahead.
“That’s what is great about this team is that we haven’t played our best yet,” Murray said. “That’s a good feeling moving forward, knowing there are things you can get better at and you’re still 5-2.”
Winning while fixing things; that’s a coach’s dream. It’s also easier when players know it, that egos don’t expand and confidence doesn’t become arrogance.
“I like that part. I like the fact that we recognize it,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I’m certainly going to point it out. There are things that we have to do better. I think it’s healthy.
“You should enjoy the wins. You should feel good about the success. Take pride in it. We worked hard for it, but to have a healthy respect for what’s coming and the need to play better and the need to continue to grow as a football team as we go throughout the year. That’s a mature way to look at it, and I’m very pleased about that with a younger team.”
The Raiders are a confident bunch and have survived several games on guts, guile and turnovers -- a recipe for success with inconsistent production.
The Raiders defense believes it made strides in the Jaguars win, though there’s significant work remaining to be a decent defense. With the offense rolling, that’s all the Raiders need to be a top team. Defenders aren’t striving for decent. They want more, and believe that realizing potential could put them in position for a playoff push.
“This team has so much talent, with good coaches and good players,” cornerback David Amerson said. “The sky’s the limit. Once we all start clicking, we can go out there and beat teams 30-0. Once we get to that point, that’s when we can look towards the playoffs and things like that. We have just as much talent as any team in the league.”