Five post-bye week issues facing the Raiders


Five post-bye week issues facing the Raiders

The Raiders return to work today from their bye week and accompanying mandatory four consecutive off days with not only a 12 noon PT practice at their Alameda facility, but also with several storylines permeating Silver and Blackdom.That they meekly entered the bye in the wake of a 28-0 embarrassment courtesy of Kansas City only sets the tone. A look, then, at five issues the Raiders have to address this week before the Denver Broncos arrive for Sunday's game at the Coliseum, with a certain Halloween holiday spin to illustrate vastly different scenarios
1) So, about that whole Camp Carson thing, how'd it go?
The Trick: The young receivers were just foolin' about when they said last week they were all sticking around to work with new quarterback Carson Palmer to get their timing down with him after his baptism by fire against the Chiefs. Sure, they stuck around, but very little could get accomplished because coaches could not be present and, let's be honest, the youngsters were not all that focused what with the allure of four off-days beckoning.OrThe Treat: The pass catchers kept to their word and Palmer absorbed their tendencies, and the playbook, like a sponge as they all got on the same page and proved to each other just how serious they are in taking this season to the next level. At the height of his powers, Palmer was a Top 5 QB in the league, and his ability to absorb information remains one of his strengths. They may not be clicking on all cylinders yet, but it will be fun to watch some of the misfires at the very least.2) How's Darren McFadden's sprained right foot?
The Trick: Run DMC being spotted at the facility last week on crutches and with his right foot in a walking boot was only a harbinger of things to come for a running back who has missed at least three games due to injury in each of his first three seasons. Sure, rest, relaxation and rehab could not have hurt the "mid-foot" sprain, suffered in the Raiders' first offensive series against the Chiefs, but it might not have helped, either.Or

The Treat: Rest, relaxation and rehab offered over the bye were just what the doctor ordered for Limp, er, Run DMC. Yeah, he misses a few games every year, but the bye was timed perfectly this season so that he would not have to miss a game. Besides, he was willing to come back into the Kansas City game, even if his right foot was taped to ridiculous levels, and he was walking around the postgame locker room barefoot and with barely a limp. The crutches and walking boot? Merely precautions.3) How did rookie coach Hue Jackson deal with his bout of "Hue-bris" over the break?
The Trick: The line between cocky and confident is a blurry one for Jackson, and for good reason. Live by the trick play, die by the trick play. So what if he misread and mismanaged the whole QB situation heading into the Chiefs game. Jackson is Alexander Haig in silver and black and he's going to do what he believes is best for the Raiders, come Hell or high water. Winning means never having to explain yourself, or somesuch.OrThe Treat: Jackson had been running on fumes since the death of Al Davis, essentially running the football player personnel department as a rookie head coach. So the bye allowed him to take a deep breath as well as get his feet under him. The Chiefs served him a huge slice of humble pie and while it may have tasted a tad bitter -- as it should -- Jackson is the wiser for it and shouldn't be so quick to get cute. Then again, he does love him some trick plays. Especially when they work.4) Speaking of Hue-bris, could he have another deal in the works?
The Trick: To his credit, Jackson has said he will do anything to improve the Raiders. But at the risk of upsetting the already fragile chemistry? Rumors abound that Jackson is again reaching to his Cincinnati past by working out former Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who is nowhere near the head case of either Terrell Owens or Chad Ochocinco. But Houshmandzadeh's output has declined steadily and there's a reason he's been out of work thus far this season, right? Plus, the Raiders already have six receivers; Jackson wouldn't add a seventh, would he? So then, who's expendable -- Chaz Schilens? Derek Hagan? Louis Murphy?OrThe Treat: From 2004 through 2009, Houshmandzadeh averaged 87 catches, 996 receiving yards and seven TD's and went for 112 catches for 1,143 yards and 12 scores in 2007 with Palmer throwing him the ball. Reuniting with Jackson, who was his position coach from '04-06, not only gives Houshmandzadeh a fresh start but also affords Palmer a familiar target and safety blanket to help ease his transition. Plus, with placekicker Dave Rayner cut and Sebastian Janikowski healthy, the Raiders have an open spot on the 53-man roster so no wideouts have to be cut. Yet.5) Is Marcel Reece finally healthy?
The Trick: In a word, almost. But almost isn't good enough for what the hybrid talent brings to the fullback position. He has not played since spraining his right ankle in the New York Jets game in Week 3 and, curiously enough, McFadden has not had a 100-yard rushing game since. Reece, a converted college receiver, is a matchup nightmare as a hybrid lead blocker and while converted rookie tight end Richard Gordon and practice squad alum Manase Tonga have done admirable jobs in Reece's absence, the offense has been limited. A not-quite-healthy Reece doesn't help matters.OrThe Treat: Reece has been champing at the bit to get back in the game for at least three weeks. Or did you not notice he was getting in extensive pregame work with Palmer prior to the Chiefs contest? Barring a setback over the bye, Reece should be good to go this weekend against the Broncos and the Raiders offense should be humming right along again. So long as the chemistry is not upset with the addition of another former Bengal. And Jackson is not digging himself too much and too busy playing mind games with the media and Denver. And McFadden's foot is just fine, thank you very much. And Palmer and the receivers are on point. Yes, the Raiders' issues are all intertwined.

Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain


Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Raiders are remarkably healthy heading into Sunday night’s game against the Washington football club.

The entire 53-man roster practiced fully on Friday, before heading to the nation’s capital.

That includes veteran cornerback Sean Smith, who missed the previous game with a neck injury. A shoulder ailment cropped up during the week, which prompted the Raiders to label him questionable heading into Week 3. Smith’s the only Raider on the injury report, and even he’s in decent shape.

“I mean we put it on there because there’s still a little bit of a question,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “You don’t have probable’s anymore. Given the choices, I just left him that way.”

That means the Raiders are going to have some healthy scratches a week after Smith was the only injured player sitting out.

Washington has some impact players on the mend. That included tight end Jordan Reed, who is questionable with a rib/sternum injury. He stands 6-foot-2, 246 pounds and is the type of receiving tight end that gives the Raiders fits. He has 1,638 yards 17 touchdowns the last two seasons, using good hands and a large frame to create mismatches in the secondary.

It’ll be key for the Raiders to defend him well if he’s active, with Nicholas Morrow as a primary coverage option.

“We’re prepared to face him,” Del Rio said. “We think he’s a good player. We’ll approach it that way and adjust if he doesn’t go.”

Washington also lists starting inside linebacker Mason Foster and running back Rob Kelley as questionable.

Raiders Injury Report
CB Sean Smith (neck/shoulder)

Washington Injury Report

TE Jordan Reed (rib/sternum), LB Mason Foster (shoulder), RB Rob Kelley (rib), S Monate Nicholson (shoulder), CB Josh Norman (shoulder)

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Raiders safety Karl Joseph notched his first career forced fumble in Week 2’s blowout victory over the New York Jets. It came on his first sack, where he bent around a tackle into the pocket and devoured his pray.

Joseph recovered the ball, and the Raiders quickly scored a touchdown. The second-year pro enjoyed that moment, but left the game with regrets.

"I should have definitely had more sacks than I did,” Joseph said. “I feel like I should have had three.”

Joseph had quarterback Josh McCown in the crosshairs three times, and feels like he should’ve finished each one. The game plan provided opportunity. Joseph blitzed six times – fellow safety Reggie Nelson attacked thrice – and pressured the quarterback four times.

It was a relatively new responsibility, considering he blitzed nine times all last year. Joseph will be first to say he was a different player then. He was less explosive, more tentative and a smidge less confident, lingering effects from an ACL tear during his final college season. Joseph was cleared to play as a rookie but wasn’t all the way back, doubly hampered by missing an offseason program where rookies grow quick.

"I wasn’t completely myself,” Joseph said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California. “I feel a lot more like myself this year. I obviously feel better physically, and the year of experience in the system has definitely helped. So has adjusting to the NFL life. That’s been an easier transition for me.”

Joseph is playing more like his highlight reel from West Virginia, where he proved a heavy hitter and a solid cover man worthy of last year’s No. 14 overall draft pick. The Jets game isn’t the only evidence of that.

Joseph had an excellent training camp, flashing an aggressive style and solid timing making plays in practice. That translated to the regular-season opener at Tennessee, when he saved a touchdown on consecutive plays. The first came on an open-field tackle. The second was a leaping pass breakup in the end zone, proof positive that Joseph was ready to make a big impact.

"He’s really good close to the line of scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. "He’s a really good tackler in the open field. He also plays well on the back end. I think his development is right on time right now.”

The Raiders recognize that, and are using him like a queen on the chessboard. He can move back or forward, as an attacker or the last line of defense. He’s a rover at times, with an ability to create havoc at all levels of the defense.

Joseph is an excellent fit for the defensive scheme, bring a tone-setting physicality to the secondary. He is learning, as part of his development, that the nuclear option isn’t always best. There are times when it is, and Joseph enters those scenarios without fear.

"You can’t play worried about getting hurt. That’s not the way I play,” Joseph said. “It’s about being smart. I had to adjust my game coming into the NFL. Every hit can’t be a big hit. Sometimes you have to be smart and just wrap people up, but you can’t ever play scared.”

He isn’t afraid to take risks or attack when asked, and is already making a major impact on this year’s defense. That isn’t a surprise. It’s expected of first-round picks.

"That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s supposed to make plays,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a guy we selected because we thought he’d be a guy that could come in and impact on our defense. In the first two games of this year he’s played well. There are still things, like I tell you all the time, that have cleaning up to do, work to do, things to improve on, but he’s off to a good start and obviously it follows up from a good offseason. Healthy, a lot of good work and confidence that he’s gaining as we go.”