Gutierrez: Can Raiders' speed translate into wins?


Gutierrez: Can Raiders' speed translate into wins?

Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.comALAMEDA -- Al Saunders has been around some of the more explosive offensives in the history of professional football.He was a ball boy for the deep-throwing Al Davis-coached Raiders in 1963.RELATED: Boss, Murphy, Mitchell out for Raiders' opener
He had a front row seat for Air Coryell in San Diego in the early 1980s.He was one of the architects of the St. Louis Rams' Greatest Show on Turf at the turn of the century.And yet, when it comes to this current batch of Raiders...

"We didn't have this kind of speed in St. Louis," Saunders said. "We had some great football players that played fast. But pure speed? This is a special group."The Raiders' first-year offensive coordinator is not known for hyperbole. Saunders is a respected straight shooter. So if he says the likes of Raiders speedsters Darren McFadden, Taiwan Jones, Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey could outrun the Super Bowl champion Rams of Marshall Faulk, Az-Zahir Hakim, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, well then, you should listen.But really, what does it all mean? Because at the end of the day, the game is football. Not a sprint heat. It's about scoring points, not braggadocio over 40-times, right?RELATED: Jackson won't reveal Raiders' punt return
Well, the Raiders have put a premium on speed for decades. Cliff Branch, anyone? The aptly-named James Jett?Oakland has drafted the fastest player at the past three Combines in cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke (4.28 in the 40) this April, Ford (4.28) in 2010 and Heyward-Bey (4.30) in 2009.A San Francisco Chronicle survey showed the Raiders boasting eight players on their roster who have run at least a 4.36 40-time, with McFadden (4.33), cornerback Stanford Routt (4.27), running back Taiwan Jones (4.33), safety Tyvon Branch (4.31) and suspended rookie quarterback Terrelle Pryor (4.36) joining Al Davis' Need-for-Speed party.Heyward-Bey said the Raiders could have two 4x100 relay teams, but insisted he run the second-leg, rather than an anchor."I think that's the fastest guy, (the one who) runs the second leg," he said. "I'm a track guy, you know."As such, Heyward-Bey was quick to say he was the fastest on the team. So, too, did McFadden. Safety Michael Huff, meanwhile, said Jones was "probably the fastest man" he'd ever seen. While Ford took the high road."I'd probably say we were all the fastest," he said. But when he heard of the smack talk being run around the locker room, Ford stood up for himself.Of course, the only way to settle it would be in a straight Donovan Bailey vs. Michael Johnson-syle sprint, right?"For giggles," Heyward-Bey said of any race, "it would have to be in the offseason. You don't want nobody to get hurt, pull a hammy or anything like that. So, we'll probably never know."(But) tell Jacoby I said I'm the fastest."Heyward-Bey was barely smiling.Maybe he knew that while speed may equal scoring, it did not necessarily translate into championships. Maybe not.But consider: not one of the teams with the current top four scoring seasons in NFL history -- the 2007 New England Patriots (589 points), the 1998 Minnesota Vikings (556), the 1983 Washington Redskins (541) or the 2000 Rams (540) -- won the Super Bowl in that specific season.And yet, the Raiders were making like Maverick and Goose in one of the most seminal moments of "Top Gun" in that they feel the need, the need for speed."It's like we can have a track meet on the field with the guys we have out there," McFadden said. "(But) it's not just about having speed. Guys have to be able to go out there and make plays. One thing we have to do is focus on making plays."So then just how easy is it harness pure speed and apply it to real-world football skills?"I went to school with Tommie Smith, Lee Evans and John Carlos and Ronnie Ray Smith," Saunders said with a nostalgic grin, reminiscing on his days at San Jose State. "They came out in the spring and they just came back from the '68 Olympics and there were some gold medals in there but they didn't turn out to be football players. Speed and playing the game are two different things. People can run fast in a straight line, but when you have to change directions and there's another 200-pound defender over there trying to re-route you, you have to have the other skill of catching the ball. It is really different."I had a great privilege of coaching a guy for a lot of years, Charlie Joiner, who's in the Hall of Fame. Charlie wasn't a real fast guy, but he played the game as fast as anybody around, like Freddie Biletnikoff did here. The really great ones that can transfer that speed into playing explosion, a guy like Lynn Swann, those guys are special. It takes a while to do that."Just then, Heyward-Bey and Ford walked up behind the reporters interviewing Saunders and listened in like attentive yet playful students."You can teach guys to run faster," Saunders said. "Usain Bolt's working right now to run 100th of a second faster, so there's some techniques and things you can do to make guys play faster. But that innate speed factor, it really gives you an advantage because of the open field. When you get the ball in the open field you can run fast. And the faster you run, the better chance you have of getting into the end zone before somebody else catches you."Or making like Heyward-Bey and Ford and getting to the locker room before a coach's soliloquy on speed is finished. Talk about speed.

Report: Former Raiders RB arrested for domestic violence


Report: Former Raiders RB arrested for domestic violence

Trent Richardson is reportedly in some trouble.

Richardson was arrested on Thursday night for domestic violence, according to TMZ Sports.

The former running back was taken into custody on a third degree charge, the report states, with bail being set for $1,000.

The arrest was made in Hoover, Alabama.

The Browns selected Richardson with the third overall pick in the 2012 draft.

He was traded to the Colts in 2013 and played for Indianapolis in 2014.

He signed with the Raiders in 2015 and appeared in three exhibition games, but did not make the team.

The 26-year old was cut by the Ravens last August.

Downing: Carr will have increased influence on Raiders game plan

Downing: Carr will have increased influence on Raiders game plan

Derek Carr and Todd Downing are tight. A strong friendship was forged between the Raiders’ franchise quarterback and his position coach these past two seasons, one that should help the Raiders now that Downing will call plays.

The Raiders new offensive coordinator will use his young signal caller as a resource formulating a game plan. Carr has a bright offensive mind – he called his own plays in high school and in college at times – and Downing plans to use it to put his quarterback in positions to succeed.

Carr’s influence in preparation will expand over previous seasons under coordinator Bill Musgrave.

“Where I see him needing a little bit more command is just being able to share his thoughts of game plans,” Downing said Wednesday in a conference call. “Being a student of the game, as he already is, but vocalize what he likes and doesn’t like. I think my relationship with him is something that’s going to give him the opportunity to voice his opinions. I look forward to him really taking charge of expressing his thoughts on the offense.”

Carr has always had freedom to adjust at the line of scrimmage, but that could increase with Downing in charge. Derek Carr’s brother Davis Carr told 95.7 The Game as much a few weeks ago, a topic Downing addressed on Wednesday.

“There’s been a lot made about his command at the line of scrimmage,” Downing said. “There’s certainly going to be opportunities for Derek to do that. That’s not something I feel we’ll even have to get into until we’re much further into this offseason and into training camp.”

Downing had opportunities to interview with other teams this offseason, but head coach Jack Del Rio wanted to pair Downing and Carr together. The young duo have similar personalities and a strong working relationship based on a love of the game.

“My relationship with Derek starts there,” Downing said in Wednesday interview on 95.7-FM. “We both love coming to work each day and respect the heck out of each other. When you have that kind of relationship with any coach, you’re taking a step in the right direction. Derek’s the leader of our franchise. In my opinion, he’s the best young quarterback in football. We’re fortunate to have him. Why wouldn’t I be in a good mood every time I am around him?”

Carr made great progress working with Downing the past two years, and was an MVP candidate in 2016. Downing sees continued room for growth and refinement as next season approaches.

“I think Derek made big strides in 2016, just in terms of his command of the offense, being the field general, being able to get through progressions more efficiently,” Downing said. “His footwork took big strides. I certainly want him to remain focused on all of those attributes. You don’t want to feel like you’ve arrived in a certain area of your game and then have it go backwards when the next season starts. Certainly, I want him focused on all of those.”