Asomugha: 'A great advisor, a great coach'


Asomugha: 'A great advisor, a great coach'

Nnamdi Asomugha is known as one of the NFL's great cornerbacks. The former Raider and current Eagle owes much of that status to Al Davis, who recognized the raw talent of the former Cal safety. Our colleagues with Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia caught up with him Saturday, shorting after he learned of Al Davis' passing.

What did he mean to you as a player?
"It was a shock to hear this morning. Obviously I was saddened by it. I was just walking around in the morning, getting ready to go out to walk-through and then one of the players saw it on the news and told me. I tried to reach out to some guys to see how everything going. It was tough."

When you think about game-changing people, a lot of people think of the name Al Davis in terms of being an innovator and a name that's larger than life and football. I would think you see it the same way.
"Yeah, absolutely. His name will be the first that you hear. He's done so much for the game, obviously, and giving so many people opportunities -- before him, those opportunities weren't there. Obviously I'm one of those people. He took a chance on me when not too many other people were doing that. He was, throughout my career, just a great advisor and a great coach for me, and a great owner. So it's tough."

Do you think he was misunderstood in a lot of ways? A lot of people saw him in a negative light.
"Well, I never saw him in that negative light so I don't know what they understood. I think from the outside you can always think whatever you want until you meet a guy and you know a guy. I've had nothing but the most respect for him and I've said it my entire career, so it's nothing new to anyone. He was, like I said, a great advisor to me, my entire time that I've known him.

Following surgery, Raiders activate former second-round pick off PUP list


Following surgery, Raiders activate former second-round pick off PUP list

Raiders defensive lineman Jihad Ward injured his foot during the team's offseason program and hasn't seen the field since. Last year's second-round pick had it surgically repaired, and missed training camp rehabiltating. 

He's finally ready to go. He passed a physical on Monday and was removed from the physically unable to perform list. The team had a walk-through on Monday. Ward should be active for Tuesday afternoon's practice, the first back at their Alameda practice facility. 

The Illinois product had 30 tackles in 13 starts last season, playing significant snaps with Mario Edwards Jr. out due to a hip injury. He'll have to compete for a spot in the rotation, even after working with the first unit during the offseason program. Rookie third-round pick Eddie Vanderdoes has played well in his absence and could be a three-down player inside. 

Ward was a raw, yet athletic talent capable of playing several techniques across the line. The teams sees great potential, though Ward must continue to develop as a player. 

In addition, the Raiders activated tight end Cooper Helfet off the non-football injury list.

Khalil Mack ready for regular season, but Raiders defense is not


Khalil Mack ready for regular season, but Raiders defense is not

OAKLAND – The Los Angeles Rams assigned two blockers to Khalil Mack, a common practice against the reigning defensive player of the year. Sometimes it works. This time it didn’t.

The Raiders edge rusher split the double team, found his target and pounced. Jared Goff stood zero chance. There was no evading this one. Mack brought last year’s No. 1 overall pick down with authority, claiming a sack that ultimately won’t count in his 2017 total.

The sacks highlighted a dominant performance that also included three quarterback pressures, four total tackles and two for a loss. All that in three series.

Mack’s clearly ready for the regular season. As a whole, the Raiders defense is not.

Saturday’s 24-21 loss to the Rams at Oakland Coliseum proved that point. A below average offense had no trouble scoring on a starting unit that looks a bit lost.

“I thought our defense was poor, in particular early when we started the game,” head coach Jack Del Rio said in a postgame press conference. “We’re going to have to get a whole lot better there.”

It has to happen quickly, with the regular season bearing down and the Raiders still trying to correct the same old thing. Making proper reads and improved communication has been an emphasis this offseason as coaches work to get this defense playing better together. It’s still preseason and there’s time to teach and coach and fix problems, but the defense isn't quite right.

“I think we’ll go a long way when we clean some of those things up,” Del Rio said. “The things that we’ve talked about for too long in terms of communication errors, eye violations and things like that that just keep you from ever being really good on defense. Those just have to get cleaned up.”

Issues are present in the front seven but more obvious in the back, where explosive pass plays continue to plague the starting unit. The Raiders allowed two plays over 20 yards on the first series and six plays of 10 or more yards in three series on Saturday, when the full starting unit was active. The Rams scored 14 points – Mack’s sack squashed the lone non-scoring drive – in those three series.

Del Rio was bothered by misreads and “eye violations,” in coverage, which make things easier for an opposing offense.

“When you see them, it’s not a good thing,” Del Rio said. “Yeah, I mean it’s really simple. You don’t have your eyes where they belong and you’re playing man? You’re playing man or even in zone. If you’re not seeing what you need to see, it makes it hard.”

Fixing these problems could improve execution and make life harder on opponents. It needs to happen this summer or the Raiders will have to win a lot of shootouts.

“Obviously, I identify what the problem is,” Del Rio said. “Getting it fixed is the challenge.”