Remember Louis Murphy?


Remember Louis Murphy?

At first, the trade was met with a bit curiosity. Even if it made sense.

After all, Louis Murphy, it could be argued, was the Raiders' most productive and dependable wide receiver over his first three NFL seasons, a stretch that included JaMarcus Russell under center.

But 14 games into his trade to Carolina for an undisclosed conditional draft pick on July 23 -- reportedly a seventh-round selection -- both the Panthers and Raiders see it as a win-win deal. The Panthers have a speedy threat to come off their bench and the Raiders have a draft pick to continue their re-build with a slew of young pass catchers.

"Louis Murphy has done a great job for us, he really has," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters Wednesday. "He’s really helped us in terms of our deep ball threat. When Brandon LaFell went down with an injury, he stepped in and became our No. 2 receiver and he has been a good vertical threat. He's made a couple clutch catches for us the last few weeks. It’s good to have him here."

Murphy has played in all 14 games for the Panthers thus far, starting five, and has 21 catches for 274 yards (13.1 yards per catch) and a touchdown. Officially, he is listed second on the Panthers' depth chart, behind five-time Pro Bowler Steve Smith.

"He likes it," said Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, selected in the same 2009 draft as Murphy, who is from Florida.

"It’s closer to his hometown, so that’s good. They won three games in a row, right? There you go. So, I guess he’s happy."

Actually, the Panthers have won two in a row, and three of four. But the point is made.

In three seasons with the Raiders, Murphy, a fourth-round draft pick, averaged 30 catches for 457 yards and three TDs.

A freak collision with teammate Marcel Reece at Denver in 2010 resulted in a bruised lung and seemed to alter his fate in Oakland. Before the injury, Murphy had 55 receptions for 858 yards (15.6 yards per catch) and five touchdowns in 23 games. In his ensuing 18 games, Murphy caught 35 passes for 513 yards (14.7 yards per catch) and did not have a TD. Sports hernia surgery following the 2011 NFL lockout also slowed Murphy, as did an injury during offeason activities this past spring.

Perhaps a change of scenery was necessary, especially with the Raiders drafting another wideout in Juron Criner last April and finding a diamond in the rough in free agent Rod Streater.

Because who could have seen Streater becoming just the seventh undrafted rookie to catch at least 33 passes in a season since 2000?

"I talked to (Murphy) last night for about an hour," said Heyward-Bey. "I talk to him every other week, every couple of weeks.

"It was weird at first, but it’s been awhile so you just adjust. It’s just like high school; you’re friends in high school and then you go to college. You don’t see them as much. But we keep in touch."

Obviously, the Raiders would prefer to not see him making plays Sunday. Or the other guy the Raiders traded to Carolina this offseason -- offensive lineman Bruce Campbell, for running back Mike Goodson.

"We’re not going against each other personally, so it really doesn’t matter," Heyward-Bey said of Murphy. "It’s just going to be good to talk to him before the game, talk to him after the game and stuff like that."

LB Smith praises Raiders' turnover ratio, but wants much more

LB Smith praises Raiders' turnover ratio, but wants much more

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.”

Del Rio pleased with Raiders' mature attitude towards 5-2 start

Del Rio pleased with Raiders' mature attitude towards 5-2 start

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.

[BAIR: Top 5 takeaways from Raiders' 33-16 win over Jaguars]

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.”