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.

Raiders OTA observations: Conley, rookies must earn their stripes

Raiders OTA observations: Conley, rookies must earn their stripes

ALAMEDA – Rookies have been immersed in the Raiders system most of this month, but still have a lot to learn before training camp begins this summer.

There’s significant work ahead this spring during OTAs and mid-June’s mandatory minicamp, and young players will do so from the second and third teams. Even the highly touted ones.

First-round draft pick Gareon Conley played slot cornerback with the second unit and outside cornerback on the third during Tuesday’s OTA open to the media. It’s a position the slick, speedy cover man will vacate posthaste, but the Raiders prefer rookies earn their stripes.

“All of our young guys are going to earn their way,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We have a good football team. We’re going to let them earn their way. We’ll let them compete. We’re early in the competition, so we’ll just go through the offseason and continue to get (Conley) involved and get him reps. These guys will ascend and take their positions as they earn it. We’re really happy with the way he’s started.”

The Raiders didn’t feature a single rookie on their first units Tuesday. Second-round safety Obi Melifonwu, fourth-round offensive tackle David Sharpe and middle linebacker Marquel Lee were featured on the second unit.

Here are some other observations from Tuesday’s OTA sessions.

-- Del Rio said Marshall Newhouse had the inside track to be the team’s starting right tackle. The versatile veteran worked there with the first team, joining a front five otherwise intact from a season ago.

-- Second-year pro Connor Cook, who switched from No. 8 to No. 18 this offseason, ran the second offensive unit. E.J. Manuel worked with the third team.

-- Inside linebacker Ben Heeney worked on a side field with a trainer during Tuesday’s practice, as he continues to rehab from surgery to repair an ankle broken early last season. Jelani Jenkins also did side work after practicing on Monday.

Cory James and Tyrell Adams worked with the first unit at inside linebacker.

-- Veteran running back Marshawn Lynch was limited to individual drills for a second straight day as the Raiders ease him back into football activity.

-- Offensive lineman Austin Howard is working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, and only practice during individual drills.

-- Cornerback Sean Smith had offseason surgery, but was a full participant in Tuesday’s session.

-- Third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes remains away from the Raiders complex due to an NFL rule preventing players from schools still in session to work with their teams. He won’t re-join the squad until training camp. Undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow is in a similar spot, but will return next week.

-- Edge rusher Shilique Calhoun played last season at 250 pounds, but looks decidedly bigger now. He told the team website he’s up to 270 pounds.


Cooper seeks counsel from former All-Pro Lions WR, Raiders guest

Cooper seeks counsel from former All-Pro Lions WR, Raiders guest

ALAMEDA -- Todd Downing and Calvin Johnson go way back. The Raiders offensive coordinator got to know the retired Detroit receiver during four seasons coaching Lions quarterbacks, a relationship benefitted current Silver and Black receivers this week.

Johnson is in Alameda as a special guest and advisor for the first week of Raiders OTAs, offering tips and tricks learned during an excellent career.

“(Downing) thought it’d be a great idea for our wide receivers to just pick his brain and have him be around and give us a point here or there,” Del Rio said. “Talk about some of the things that he did so well in his career and how we might be able to have some of our guys learn from that. It’s great to have him out here.”

Amari Cooper gravitated towards Johnson, and has spent significant time picking his brain

“I’ve just been asking him a whole bunch of questions,” Cooper said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “How does he run certain routes? What was his regimen like? And how he was so productive? He’s a really cool guy. He’s been giving me some really great feedback, so he’s nice to have around.”

Johnson’s a unique talent, a difficult cover at 6-foot-5, 236 pounds. Cooper operates in a smaller frame and has different receiving strengths, but still found wisdom in working with Megatron.

“He just gave me some really good tips on like how I can run some of my routes,” Cooper said. “…he’s a different receiver than I am, obviously. But I really admire the way he high-points the ball and that’s something that I try to do as well.”

Cooper does most everything well, and has had a productive start to his NFL career. He’s just the third receiver in NFL history to exceed 70 receptions and 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons – Odell Beckham and Marques Colston are the others – and made the Pro Bowl after both campaigns.

He continues to tinker with his approach and offseason workouts, trying to finish seasons stronger and become an even more dynamic player. Cooper has no problem learning from others, especially the greats.

“I seek advice all the time,” Cooper said. “My rookie year, when I was fortunate enough to go to the Pro Bowl, I asked Adrian Peterson like when did he start working out, how did he go about his offseason. And I tried to pattern after him a little bit.”

Cooper is smarter and working better thanks to information absorbed from others, which he hopes will help him become a deadly weapon.

“I know he’s just scratching the surface of what he wants to accomplish in this league,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Very prideful. Amari has always been very serious about the game and works hard at everything, really. His conditioning level and understanding what he needs to be able to do to play at a high level. Again, talking and having a guy like Calvin here as we’re getting started in these OTAs, to be able to share some of the insight of what he experienced playing that position is very valuable for us.”