Gutierrez: Five players the Raiders might be targeting


Gutierrez: Five players the Raiders might be targeting

Paul Gutierrez

The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft passed without a word from the Oakland Raiders. Here are five players Oakland could look at in the second and third rounds Friday:1) UNR quarterback Colin Kaepernick
The Raiders seem smitten with the athletic signal caller who operated out of the "Pistol" offense in Reno. His build is reminiscent of Marc Wilson; his release that of Bernie Kosar. With Jason Campbell the starter and Kyle Boller signed to be the backup, Kaepernick would have time to develop.2) Penn State offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski
He has the bloodline (uncle Steve is a Raider great and the team's new assistant O-line coach), the nasty temperament to match and would fill a need. But does Li'l Wiz excel at left guard or center. And in a zone-blocking scheme or power-running scheme? Raiders fans would still love to find out.
3) Florida State offensive lineman Rodney Hudson
Many draftniks see the Raiders intrigued by this mobile center-guard specimen as well. Especially if he's as much a grinder in the trenches as advertised.4) Miami cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke
With Nnamdi Asomugha still a huge question mark, and last year's draftees at corner, Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware, unproven, the Raiders need to lock at fortifying the secondary as well. Why not do it with the fastest player at the Combine?5) Utah State cornerback Curtis Marsh
A physical, pressing corner who seems to fit the Raiders' brand of man-to-man defense. He has also long been linked to to Oakland, though he might be had in the later rounds.

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.”