ALAMEDA -- If it's Cincinnati Week for the Raiders, it's also Hue Jackson Week.Which means an obvious storyline will be to get players' takes on what it means to face off against the former Raiders head coach-turned-Bengals assistant special teamsassistant defensive backs coach."Obviously, we have a lot of respect for Hue so Im sure well give him a hug after the game, not before probably, stay out of his way," Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour said with a smile Monday. "But hes a guy that we have a ton of respect for. He was a heck of a play-caller for sure. And he loved his players. Thats something that well take from it. Whether a guys here this year, thats just the business of the NFL."I had to learn that as a rookie coming in. You see so many transactions. I dont want to say you become numb to it, but you learn to deal with it."Jackson, the last head coach hired by the late Al Davis, had the Raiders sitting at 7-4 last season before a late swoon saw them finish 8-8 and one game out of the playoffs. He was let go by incoming general manager Reggie McKenzie after an epic end-of-season media conference in which he said he was "pissed" at his players and talked about taking a stronger role in the organization.Carson Palmer was acquired by Jackson, with the blessing of owner Mark Davis, in a massive deal that Jackson called "the greatest trade in football" at the time."You can try to guess or assume how something is going to feel or see or something is going to be," Palmer said. "But to see him over there, Im not sure if hes on the field or up in the box, but it will be good to see him once again."Hue and I have talked a number of times since everything went down last year. Im looking forward to seeing him."Seymour was asked if he could see Jackson getting another head coaching gig in the NFL."Absolutely, I think he has those qualities," Seymour said. "Like I said, I mean, we were one game away from the playoffs last year, so I mean, I think he did some really good things and maybe some things he, it wasnt all perfect, either. He was a guy I knew went to bat for us as players so I think at the end of the day you respect that."
It looks as though Marques Tuiasosopo is heading back to the Pac-12, again. The former Rose Bowl MVP and Washington quarterback has reportedly been added to the coaching staff at Cal under new head coach Justin Wilcox.
The news was first reported by Bruin Sports Online and later followed up by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, via Twitter.
Tuiasosopo is no stranger to coaching in the Pac-12. After spending 12 seasons in the NFL, Tuiasosopo returned to his alma mater to take on a role as assistant strength coach for the Washington Huskies in 2009.
After two years in that role, he joined the UCLA coaching staff as a graduate assistant in 2011 and took on a role as tight ends coach in 2012 under Jim Mora. The following year, in 2013, Tuiasosopo returned to Washington to be the quarterback coach to work for Steve Sarkisian.
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Raiders general manager built a foundation of talent heading into the 2016 offseason, but needed more to get his team over the hump. Draft picks were essential, and expected. He had significant salary cap space, where he could find some immediate impact players on the open market.
McKenzie signed six unrestricted free agents, a few of them at a hefty price. Most veteran imports worked out well, though some thrived more than others.
It was a solid group that, in addition to the 2017 draft class and some key undrafted pickups, helped McKenzie win the Pro Football Writers of America’s executive of the year award.
He singled out two members of the 2016 free-agent class that helped set the tone for a 12-4 regular season and the team’s first playoff berth since 2002.
Left guard Kelechi Osemele was the first. The former Baltimore Raven signed a record contract for interior linemen but was worth the price, adding attitude to the offensive line during an All-Pro season.
“I think Kelechi solidified our offensive line, from the standpoint of what we wanted from our run game, from a physicality standpoint, what we had always talked about from Day 1,” McKenzie said Thursday in a conference call. “He added to that and he put some teeth into the whole offensive mentality. I felt like that was an impact. I was happy to see him get his first Pro Bowl. That was good to see.”
McKenzie also highlighted free safety Reggie Nelson’s efforts. He signed late in the offseason for relatively cheap, but was voted a team captain after his first preseason as a Raider and helped the secondary function with confidence. That was required after losing the eminent Charles Woodson to retirement.
Nelson also had five interceptions and two fumble recoveries, including three takeaways that secured victory.
I thought Reggie [Nelson] made some plays and was a true leader back there. When we lost Charles Woodson, from the leadership standpoint, communication standpoint, I felt Reggie came in and did a solid job to help ease that transition. You can never replace a Charles Woodson, but he was able to help ease that transition, especially when we had a young rookie back there (in Karl Joseph).”
Let’s take a look at the Raiders unrestricted free agent class and how they fared:
LG Kelechi Osemele
Contract: 5 years, $58.5 million ($25.4 million guaranteed)
Impact:Osemele ranks among the league’s elite left guards, and brought a nastiness to the Raiders offensive line. He helped immensely in the run game, and didn’t allow a quarterback sack all season. He was a Pro Bowler and a first-team All Pro, the results McKenzie hoped for after offering Osemele a massive contract.
LB Bruce Irvin
Contract: 4 years, $37 million ($14.5 million guaranteed)
Impact: Irvin started slow but rounded into a dominant player and an excellent compliment to star edge rusher Khalil Mack. Irvin had seven sacks and an NFL-high six forced fumbles, showing enough versatility to play well in coverage and against the run.
CB Sean Smith
Contract: 4 years, $38 million ($15 million guaranteed)
Impact: Smith was benched in his first game, and struggled against Julio Jones in his second, but played better after than and largely well the rest of the year. His quarterback rating against was 114.0 and he allowed too many big plays. More is expected from a No. 1 cornerback. Smith had shoulder surgery after the season and vowed to be better in 2017.
FS Reggie Nelson
Contract: 2 years, $8.5 million ($4 million guaranteed)
Impact:Nelson wasn’t perfect in his first year as a Raider, but made some big plays during a Pro Bowl year. He had seven takeaways, including five interceptions, and some big hits in the clutch. He was a solid leader in the back who should be better with a year’s experience in a new system to his credit.
S Bryden Trawick
Contract: 1 year, $675,000
Impact: Trawick was brought in to be a solid special teams player, and he thrived in that role. He was strong in kick and punt coverage, with a team-high 14 special teams tackles. He showed some defensive prowess late when forced into action, and the safety made some nice plays over the last two games.
LB Daren Bates
Contract: 1 year, $850,000
Impact: Bates is a special teams player first and, along with Trawick, helped anchor the coverage units. He had seven special teams tackles over the year.