Gutierrez: Raiders' First-Half Recap


Gutierrez: Raiders' First-Half Recap

Nov. 12, 2010

Paul Gutierrez
CSN California

Its been a rough ride, I know. But guess what? Its over. Raiders coach Tom Cable, to fans at the preseason Raider NationCelebration in downtown Oakland on Aug. 27.

Label him a soothsayer. A prophet. A visionary. A fool? Because really,who, besides the Raiders coach, honestly thought this team, after anightmarish past seven seasons, would find itself and put thingstogether so succinctly? Improvement was expected, sure. But in thisdominant a fashion, as the Raiders enter their bye weekend?

Indeed, in going 5-4 and holding a winning record this late in a seasonfor the first time since 2002, the Raiders resemble a totally differentoutfit than the one that started the season 1-3.

As such, beware falling streaksand a few team records:

-Riding its current three-game winning streak, Oakland has won three straight for the first time since 2002.

-The Raiders are 3-0 in the AFC West for the first time since 1990.

-In dropping 59 points on the Denver Broncos, the Raiders set a franchise record for most points scored in a game.

-In following the 59-14 blowout of the Broncos with a 33-3 beatdown ofSeattle, the Raiders won consecutive games by a combined 75 points forthe first time since 1967.

-The Raiders beat San Diego for the first time since Sept. 28, 2003,ending the Chargers 13-game winning streak in the rivalry.

-The Raiders beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Oakland for the first time since 2002

Following, then, the positive call it the Silver and Black Division and the negative the Silver and Blechhh Division in recounting theRaiders first nine games.

Silver and Black Division
MVP (Offense): So this is the player the Raiders thoughtthey were getting when they drafted Darren McFadden fourth overall inthe 2008 draft. Yes, the running back has missed two-plus games with astrained right hamstring but he is healthier than hes ever been as apro. As a result, he is running harder than ever before and the resultsare impressive. His 108.1-rushing yards per game leads the NFL and his757 total rushing yards are second in the AFC. Plus, hes caught 24passes for 242 yards. He has six touchdowns. We also saw himeffectively running the Wildcat offense last week.

MVP (Defense): Defensive tackle Richard Seymour already has 39tackles (he had 31 all of last season) and 4.5 sacks (he had 4 in2009). But beyond his improved stat line, the five-time Pro Bowler andthree-time All-Pro may be more valuable for the unity-building sense ofindividual responsibility hes fostered on the defensive line.

Biggest Surprise (Offense): He had the look and feel of aproject when he was taken in the third round out of Division IIHillsdale College. But there was Jared Veldheer, starting at center asa rookie in the opener in a hostile environment in Tennessee. And therehe is now, claiming the left tackle position from Mario Henderson.Veldheer still gets called for too many false start penalties, but hehas shown flashes of dominance protecting the QBs blind side.

Biggest Surprise (Defense): Tommy Kelly dropped 50 pounds andthe heftier tag of underachiever this offseason and has taken to theteachings of fellow defensive tackle Seymour. Kellys five sacks aretied for the team lead and are already a single-season high for theseventh-year pro. He has also become adept as a run-stopper, asevidenced by 22 of his 33 tackles being of the solo variety.
The folk hero returns: He would never admit it publically, butBruce Gradkowski was miffed he was never allowed to compete for thestarting QB position. Plus, offseason injuries made it a non-issue.Until Jason Campbell struggled early and Gradkowski came off the benchto chants of BRUUUUUUUUUUCE! to lead the Raiders to a comebackvictory over St. Louis in the home opener.

Campbell wins the crowd: He may never win a popularity contestwith Gradkowski, but Jason Campbell won fans respect by pulling aGradkowski. That is, he came off the bench to relieve an injuredGradkowski and lead the comeback victory over San Diego. Campbell hassince won Cables trust and three games in a row. Since hitting bottomat San Francisco, Campbell has a passer rating of 104.3 in completing57.5 of his passes for 743 yards, five touchdowns and oneinterception. Its led to Cable reversing field on earlierproclamations that Gradkowski would resume the starting gig whenhealthy. A gentle nudge from upstairs, perhaps?

Asomughas Arizona clinic: Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomughasshut-down of Arizona All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald was one for thebooks. Fitzgerald, who was targeted seven times, caught just one passthrown his way while Asomugha was on him; the eight-yard TD receptioncame in zone coverage.

Millers big day: Not much went right for the Raiders in their31-24 loss to Houston, a game they trailed 31-14 in the fourth quarter.But tight end Zach Miller served notice to the Texans and the rest ofthe NFL with a career-high 11 catches for 122 yards.

Best special teams play I: The Raiders got the jump on San Diegoby blocking the Chargers first two punts. Rock Cartwrights blockknocked the ball through the back of the end zone for a safety andBrandon Myers block was picked up by Hiram Eugene and returned fiveyards for a touchdown.

Right place, right time: With the Chargers in field-goal rangefor a potential game-winning field goal, a blitzing Michael Huff sackedPhilip Rivers and knocked the ball loose to an alert Tyvon Branch. Hescooped the ball up and returned the fumble 64 yards for thegame-clinching touchdown. Branch was sprung free by a crushing block byChris Johnson on Randy McMichael.
Mitchell making his mark:Rumored to be on the chopping block on the eve of the 53-man rosterbeing announced, second-year safety Mike Mitchell has played like asecond-round draft pick. A knee injury to Thomas Howard opened the doorfor Mitchell to play a hybrid linebacker and Mitchells coverage of SanDiegos Antonio Gates and the 49ers Vernon Davis was lauded.

Defending the run: The Raiders front seven are playing with apurpose against the run of late, giving up an average of just 95 yardsper game on the ground. They limited the Chiefs, the No. 1-rankedrushing team in the league, to 104 yards.

Quick start: Thanks to a mind-numbing opening drive deftly ledby Jason Campbell, a pick-six interception by Chris Johnson and afumble recovered by Lamarr Houston at the Denver 21-yard line, theRaiders led 21-0 before the Broncos had run three offensive plays. TheRaiders eventually ran out to a 38-0 lead before calling off the dogs.They entered the fourth quarter leading, 59-14, the eventual finalscore.

DHB has breakthrough: The much-maligned Darrius Heyward-Bey maynever live up to his billing as a No. 7 overall draft pick but he hasalready had a more productive sophomore season than he did as a rookie.In the Raiders 33-3 blowout of Seattle, the receiver caught fivepasses for 105 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown, and added a30-yard run on a reverse. Still, he has been shut out in three games.

Reece emerges: Fullback Marcel Reece, who has spent most of hisfirst two seasons on practice squads, has emerged as a hybrid threatwith punishing blocks and soft hands. Perhaps no play illustrated thisbetter than his 30-yard TD reception against the Seahawks as he split apair of defenders on a slant pass on 4th and 1.

Best special teams play II: Shut out by Kansas City at halftime,10-0, rookie Jacoby Ford jumpstarted the Raiders and electrified thesold-out Coliseum by returning the opening kickoff of the second half94 yards for a touchdown.

The big man gets his: Khalif Barnes fashions himself more thanan offensive tackle but no mere novelty. No wonder he playfully rippedCampbell for the wobbly pass he picked out of the air for a two-yardtouchdown reception on a tackle-eligible play against the Chiefs.

Ford drives it home: Not only did Ford spark the Raiderssecond-half renaissance against the Chiefs, he led the comeback withsix receptions for 148 yards, all after halftime. The big catches the29-yard pick-up that set up Sebastian Janikowskis OT-forcing fieldgoal as Ford ripped the ball away from Brandon Flowers on what seemed asure interception; a 47-yard bomb on the Raiders first play of OT inwhich Ford showed his world-class speed to set up Janikowskisgame-winner.

Silver and Blechhh Division

Biggest Disappointment (Offense): Can you be a disappointment ifyou havent even stepped foot on a field yet? When youre as highlyregarded as wide receiver Chaz Schilens, whose talents and injurieshave teased the Raiders and their fans for the past two yearsyes. Lastyear it was a foot injury that limited him to eight games. This season,a knee injury has kept him inactive through nine.

Biggest Disappointment (Defense): Disappointment is probablytoo harsh a term to describe Rolando McClain, what with his stepping inat middle linebacker from Day 1 and wracking up 42 tackles. But he hasonly a sack to his name and the rookie is still over-pursuing the runtoo often, has trouble shedding blocks and is not blowing up plays likeyoud expect a No. 8 overall pick to do. Still, he is an important cogto the revitalized defense.

A bad omen?: Return man Yamon Figurs fumbled the seasonsopening kickoff at Tennessee after bringing it out from five yards deepin the end zone. And while the Raiders did not lose possession it wasrecovered by Ricky Brown the gaffe cost Figurs. He was waived threedays later.

Rough start: Acquired in a draft weekend trade with Washingtonand anointed the next Jim Plunkett by Al Davis himself, quarterbackJason Campbell looked skittish and unsure of himself behind anespecially porous offensive line early on. So much so that he wasbenched after just six quarters. With Campbell at the helm, the Raidershad been outscored by a combined 45-16 by Tennessee and St. Louis.Shades of JaMarcus Russell? Not really. But the cascading boos suresounded JaMarcus-esque.

SeaBass shanks it: It was a historically bad day in the desertfor Sebastian Janikowski, who missed as many field goals in one game ashe did all of last season. The third miss against Arizona, though, wasthe most painful. Having already pulled two misses wide right from 58yards and 41 yards the left-footed Janikowski overcompensated andshanked the potential game-winning 32-yarder wide left as time expired.The Raiders fell to the Cardinals, 24-23.

Red-zone issues: Janikowskis issues revealed an epicover-reliance on the highest-paid placekicker in the game (a guaranteed9 million over four years). In their first three games, the Raiderswere a woeful three for 13 in red-zone efficiency. The most gallingexample? Oakland having a first-and-goal at the one at Arizona andsettling for a field goal.
Stop, stop, BOOM!: Thats how defensive tackle Tommy Kellydescribed the defenses propensity for stopping the run before givingup a long run. Tennessees Chris Johnson (76-yard TD, 142 yards total),Houstons Arian Foster (74-yard TD, 131 yards total) and the 49ersFrank Gore (64 yard-sprint, 149 yards total) proved Kellys point well.

Penaltiesagain: They wouldnt be the Raiders if they werentpenalized with aplomb. Oaklands 718 penalty yards are the most in theNFL and its 70 penalties are second-most, behind the 72 of St. Louisand Baltimore. The Raiders season highs came against Kansas City lastweek, when they were flagged 15 times for 140 yards.

Worst special teams play: Arizonas LaRod Stephens-Howlingreturned the opening kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown, setting thestage for Janikowskis game-ending meltdown.
Bottoming out at Candlestick: A week after the feel-good defeatof San Diego, the Raiders reverted to their early-season ways acrossthe Bay. They should have blown the 49ers out of the water but couldmuster only a pair of Janikowski field goals despite getting insidetheir 10-yard line in each of their first two possessions. Instead, theRaiders fell, 17-9, and Campbell had a sickly passer rating of 10.7.

Raiders finalize five-year contract extension with Derek Carr

Raiders finalize five-year contract extension with Derek Carr

Derek Carr is now the NFL's highest paid player. The Raiders quarterback agreed on terms of a five-year, $125 million contract extension a source confirmed on Thursday morning, keeping the franchise's public face in silver and black through the 2022 season. 

Carr confirmed the agreement on Twitter early Thursday. 

"Now it's done!" Carr wrote. "From the jump I've wanted to be a Raider 4 life. One step closer to that! Blessed!!! Business done! Let's just play now!!!"

Carr was set to make a $977,515 base salary in 2017, the final year of his rookie contract. Carr's raise is significant, and underscores his value to the franchise. Carr's $125 million extension includes $70 million in guaranteed money and $40 million fully guaranteed at signing -- the portion not fully guaranteed is guaranteed for injury -- a source said. The deal features $25 million in the first year -- there's a $12.5 million signing bonus -- with $67.5 million over the first three years, according to ESPN's Dan Graziano.  

Carr's deal resets the quarterback market -- Matthew Stafford may do so again soon -- with an annual value above Andrew Luck's previous record extension. The Colts quarterback signed a five-year, $122.9 million extension last year, which Carr has now exceeded. 

The complete contract structure is not yet known, but a somewhat delayed payout plan is expected due to two key factors. The largest is Carr's desire to see other star Raiders receive extensions, and his deal gives the team some flexibility to keep important players in house. The Raiders will also move to Las Vegas by 2020 at the latest, where there is no state tax. California residents max out at a 13.3-percent tax rate, meaning his money will be worth more later in the deal.  

The 26-year old's ultimate goal was to maximize earnings without handcuffing the organization, and that's setting up well. His deal will help the Raiders that regard, though the team has also budgeted to extend several members of their young core. They have financial flexibility in future seasons and upfront salary cap space, though productive drafts are required to remain competitive as the cash gets gobbled by Carr and others in coming years.

The Raiders were always confident the Carr extension would get done this offseason, and the deal was finalized well before the quarterback's self-imposed training camp deadline. Carr's camp had discussed parameters of an extension months ago, but talks heated up in the last few weeks and ended up with an agreement that locks Carr down. 

The Raiders also hope to extend two more members of a star-studded 2014 draft class. Right guard Gabe Jackson is next in line, and could get a new deal this offseason and edge rusher Khalil Mack will get a massive contract at some point in the near future. Jackson's entering a contract year, but the team exercised a fifth-year option that creates more time to get a Mack deal done. Amari Cooper has some time under his rookie deal -- it could last through the 2019 season -- but the Raiders want to pair him with Carr for several seasons. 

Carr, Raiders both win with soon-to-be mega-deal done at right time

Carr, Raiders both win with soon-to-be mega-deal done at right time

If Derek Carr gets his $25 million deal from the Oakland Raiders and becomes the richest quarterback in National Football League history, the Raiders will have gotten a bargain.
Unless he gets hurt.
Or unless he turns lousy.
Or unless the NFL’s defensive coordinators decipher a way to strip him of his powers and render him McCown-tastic.
Or unless football happens in a hundred other ways, because of all the sports ever devised by wealthy man to amuse sedentary man, football taught cruelty to the landmine discus.
But the same can be said for any football player at any salary. Carr, on the other hand, is a qualified practitioner at a sport that has very few of them – maybe 10 if you’re looking at football, 119 if you’re trying to tot up all the quarterbacks who got contracts so Colin Kaepernick couldn’t.
That means he is a rare commodity, and the Raiders did the right thing by tying him up. The alternative, you see, is Kirk Cousins and the Washington Supreme Court-Mandated Native-American Heads.
Cousins was not signed when the Washingtons could have gotten him at a high but still reasonable rate, and now he is one year away from being franchised a third time at the hilarious figure of $34.47 million per year.
The lesson is clear. Nothing pays like procrastination, and by waiting to give Cousins what they knew they’d have to give him eventually for choosing him over Robert Griffin III, the Battling Snyders will pay through both nostrils, ears, eye sockets and mouth to keep him.
By signing Carr now, the Raiders have as much cost certainty as they can have at the position, and all they have to do now is (a) keep him stocked with supporting players and (b) keep him safe from opposing ones.
This isn’t easy, of course; most quarterbacks eventually end up in a fiery crash in Turn Two, and their ability to escape the mangled wreckage is the only thing keeping them from becoming part of the mangled wreckage.
So yeah, luck. Lots of luck.
On the other hand, the Raiders could have guaranteed that they would have had to overpay by a factor of 1.5 or maybe more by not signing him now, or they could have saved millions more by losing him entirely, which would have been just the gift for the discerning Las Vegas ticket holder who wanted an excuse not to buy tickets.
Essentially, Carr played the system brilliantly, and good for him since under most circumstances the system plays the players. Football players have a short enough career, and a shorter than average quality of life, so the rule of thumb should always be getting everything available and as much guaranteed as possible.
In fact, were I Derek Carr, I’d ask for ALL the money to be guaranteed just to set a standard for those who come behind me.
But if he’s happy – and let’s wait to see how much of this deal is actually guaranteed and how much is placed on a rug that will be pulled out from beneath him – and the Raiders are happy – and why wouldn’t they be? – then there’s nobody to complain, now, is there?
Now the Raiders of old would have screwed this up, and somehow Carr would have done so as well. But this team hasn’t done anything regally boneheaded since . . . well, trying to go to Los Angeles . . . or maybe hiring Dennis Allen . . . or . . . 
Oh, never mind. The point is, Carr was done at the right time, at the right number, for the right reasons, and both sides should be delighted.
And in nine or twelve or seventeen days when Matthew Stafford gets a deal that makes him a dollar more than Derek Carr . . . well, we’ll let the amateur accountants who think NFL contracts define players sort out that level of idiocy.