5 questions for Raiders coach Dennis Allen

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5 questions for Raiders coach Dennis Allen

PROGRAMMING ALERT: The press conference to introduce new Raiders head coach Dennis Allen will be streamed live on CSNCalifornia.com and broadcast on Comcast SportsNet California at 12 p.m.

ALAMEDA -- Dennis Allen will be introduced to Raider Nation and, well, the entire football-watching nation in a media conference at 12 p.m. today.Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie selected the 39-year-old former Denver defensive coordinator to be the 18th different head coach in franchise history, the eighth since 2002, last week in Mobile, Ala., during Senior Bowl preparations.You have questions? We have questions. Following, then, five that are sure to be asked during the 39-year-old Allen's meet-and-greet1) Who's going to be your offensive coordinator?Logic dictates Allen should retain Al Saunders, the lone holdover from Hue Jackson's staff still under contract. But not because buying out Saunders would be wasted money; because it makes too much sense to keep him. Saunders, the lone Raiders assistant signed to a two-year contract last offseason by Al Davis with the lockout looming, prepared each week's gameplan and presented it to Jackson, who would then go over it and pick and choose plays off the sheet, like some high-powered menu, during games. Even with Jackson gone, the offensive "language" would be the same and there would be no need to overhaul what was among the league's most explosive before Darren McFadden sprained his right foot on Oct. 23 and did not play again. Imagine what Saunders could cook up with an entire offseason program with big-armed QB Carson Palmer and a healthy McFadden. Offensive continuity is key for a team that, really, was one defensive play away from winning the AFC West. And the defensive-minded Allen would have one less thing to worry about with the offense in Saunders' more-than-capable hands.2) What about your defensive coordinator?Two of the three names most often associated with the position have already been scratched from consideration -- Kansas City secondary coach Emmitt Smith, who mentored Allen in Atlanta, is staying put with the Chiefs and Jack Del Rio was hired by Denver to be the Broncos' D.C. to replace Allen. That leaves Denver linebackers coach Richard Smith, who has also been a defensive coordinator in Miami and Houston. But then might Allen, a head coach for the first time in his professional life, pull a Jackson, of sorts, and serve as his own D.C.?3) What kind of defense will you run?After last year's defensive collapse, there were more than a few rumblings that had not only Michael Huff switching from free safety to cornerback, but also the defense going from a 4-3 base alignment to a 3-4. One problem, though -- the Raiders don't have a run-stuffing big body to play nose tackle in such a scheme, and the Raiders have more talent in their down linemen to play a 4-3 than they do talented linebackers to install a quality 3-4. Still, it would give middle linebacker Rolando McClain a fresh start as an inside 'backer, at which he excelled in college at Alabama. Are you ready for a linebacker corps of Aaron Curry and Kamerion Wimbley on the outside, with McClain and Travis Goethel on the inside? But remember this -- last year at Denver, in his first season as a D.C., Allen employed a 4-3 defense.4) Was the Raiders' defense as bad as it looked last season?Allen never gameplanned for Oakland's defense -- that job went to Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy -- but surly Allen had to take a look at it and crinkle his nose, no? Even as the Raiders returned 10 of 11 starters, the defense was the Raiders' Achilles' heel under Chuck Bresnahan. Consider: Oakland had franchise defensive worsts in total yards allowed (6,201), passing yards (4,262), yards-per-carry (5.1) and TD passes (31) while the 433 points allowed were third-worst in franchise history. Need more? The Raiders and Tampa Bay became just the third and fourth teams in league history to allow at least 30 TD passes and 5.0 yards per carry. And the defense played a major part in the Raiders setting single-season records in penalties (163) and penalty yardage (1,358). Yeah, Allen has his work cut out for him.5) How did you get on the Raiders' radar?Surely, McKenzie was going to pilfer his old stomping grounds to find his next head coach in Green Bay's coaching ranks. The job was Winston Moss' to lose, right? But then McKenzie also interviewed former Miami interim coach Todd Bowles and Philadelphia offensive coordinator Marty Mornhingweg. Allen seemingly came out of nowhere to score the second interview and nail the gig in Mobile. Rumblings at last week's Senior Bowl practices had New Orleans coach Sean Payton's endorsement sealing the deal. If so, what is the connection between McKenzie and Payton? In any event, McKenzie giving Allen a reported four-year deal shows how much he is investing in his "guy," as Al Davis would generally only give two-year deals. That, in and of itself, should give more than a glimpse into both men's visions for the Raiders' future.

Lynch outcome should determine whether Raiders draft a running back

Lynch outcome should determine whether Raiders draft a running back

It’s officially NFL draft week. Marshawn Lynch still isn’t a Raider.

A contract impasse remained as of Sunday morning, a few days before general manager Reggie McKenzie’s desire for a by-Thursday resolution.

Deadlines, even soft ones, prompt deals. But Marshawn is unique, adding a level of uncertainty to procedings. 

The Raiders would prefer Lynch agree to terms on a new contract so they can acquire his rights from Seattle -- that’s the easier part – and know where they stand heading into the NFL Draft.

McKenzie left several doors cracked during a Friday pre-draft presser, saying Lynch’s presence wouldn’t stop him from drafting a rusher, not having the Oakland native wouldn’t guarantee it, and that there’s always a chance Lynch could come later no matter what happens during amateur selection.

Those things could be true. Or, you know, not. McKenzie prefers mystery this time of year.

Bottom line: The Raiders need a bigger back to pair with smaller, yet elusive runners DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard.

The Raiders want Lynch to fill the void. Ditto for Raider Nation, especially the Oakland state. A few free-agent options remain, including LaGarrette Blount. Or the Raiders could draft a back, something the Raiders have done well in later rounds.

They got Latavius Murray in the sixth round four years back, and he provided quality before changing uniforms this offseason. They got Washington in the fifth last time and pulled Richard from undrafted free agency. They could mine talent again this year. Waiting seems more likely if Lynch is around. 

Quality abounds in this draft class, with several worthy of early selections and talent easily found late. Let’s inspect McKenzie’s draft options at running back, should he need one:

Good fits: It’s hard to see the Raiders looking at a rusher in the first round, considering the draft’s depth at the position and major defensive needs. A first-round talent might be considered in the second. If controversial former Oklahoma rusher Joe Mixon is available following a free fall due to off-field issues described in detail here, a running back might come early.

Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara could be another Day 2 option, an explosive talent who analysts say has wiggle and power to create coveted yards after contact. He could be a three-down back thanks to quality as a receiver.

Odds are, however, the Raiders will look deeper into the draft. Wyoming’s Brian Hill was an excellent college producer who runs strong and might fit well into the Raiders rotation. Round projections vary, but he should be available on Day 3.

Pittsburgh’s James Conner offers great power at 233 pounds. He could run through tacklers and wear down defenses for the Raiders’ shift backs. He's also well known for drive and work ethic. He is projected as a fifth or sixth round pick.

Brigham Young’s Jamaal Williams might offer value and power rushing later in the draft. Clemson’s Wayne Gallman has tackle-breaking ability, but analysts say he isn’t a strong pass protector.

 

Healthy Edwards, NFL Draft could help Raiders improve interior pass rush

Healthy Edwards, NFL Draft could help Raiders improve interior pass rush

The Raiders had an NFL-worst 25 sacks last season, and that’s with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin in their employ. That duo had 18 sacks (and 11 forced fumbles) between them. That left only seven for everyone else. Stacy McGee and Denico Autry had 2.5 each, and McGee isn’t here anymore.

Mario Edwards Jr. was certainly missed last season, when he missed 14 games with a preseason hip injury. The versatile defensive lineman is a solid edge run defender and internal pass rusher in the sub package.

If he’s healthy, Edwards Jr. could pose a real threat rushing the passer next to Irvin or Mack.

“Having Mario healthy will make us a better defense, and that’s not just as a pass rusher,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said in March. “He’s a solid run player. We’ve just got to have him healthy.

“But we’ll continue to add there, too.”

McKenzie subtracted one Tuesday, releasing Dan Williams to free salary cap space. He hasn’t yet added a defensive tackle in free agency, but could certainly do so in next week’s NFL draft.

There’s some quality interior pass rushers in this class. Let’s take a look at some options the Raiders could select and when:

Good fits: The Raiders select 24th overall in this draft, far lower than years past. Some quality defensive tackles might be a proper fit there, especially with depth at positions of need.

They could use some versatility, players like Edwards Jr. who can play multiple techniques. Michigan State’s Malik McDowell is an strong, athletic freak who analysts believe needs to improve his effort and technique. McDowell could develop into a top talent and be viewed as a steal at No. 24, or not realize full potential.

Michigan’s Chris Wormley is a versatile player in the Edwards Jr. mold, a player who seems to fit Raiders needs. Analysts says inconsistency is troubling but has the leadership quality and character the Raiders love. He can be a base end and move inside when required. He also has the size at 6-foot-5, 298 pounds and could develop well at the NFL level while making an immediate impact.

Florida’s Caleb Brantley is also an intriguing prospect adept at reaching the offensive backfield. Analysts say he’s a powerful player with quickness and an ability to work through blocks despite being slightly undersized. Brantley is potential to be a quality NFL pass rusher, and is confident in his ability. He didn’t play a high snap count at Florida, but the Raiders might use him in sub packages as a rookie and fill an important role right away. He’s viewed as a second round pick, and the Silver and Black might cross fingers he’s available at No. 56.

Auburn’s Montravius Adams could help if the Raiders are looking for more of a run stuffer. Clemson’s Carlos Watkins could also play multiple spots and could be available later in the middle rounds. Old Dominion’s Rashaad Coward also fits that mold and would be available in later rounds, though he hasn’t had much pass-rush production.