Gutierrez: Would Morrison or Tatupu fit Raiders' bill?


Gutierrez: Would Morrison or Tatupu fit Raiders' bill?

Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.comDeep in the bowels of Jacksonville's EverBank Field last Dec. 12, Jaguars middle linebacker Kirk Morrison was engaged in light conversation with a Bay Area reporter.Morrison, after all, grew up in Oakland and spent the first five years of his NFL career with the Raiders before being dealt to Jacksonville in a draft weekend trade. So some catching up was in order.
Until Morrison spied a familiar figure down the hall. It was Raiders owner Al Davis being escorted out of the building and Morrison broke into a sprint, as if he was chasing down Darren McFadden from behind. Morrison, who had wracked up a game-high seven tackles against the Raiders that day, had to pay his respects to Davis.More than eight months later, could Morrison, who is an unemployed free agent, again be chasing Davis, or vice-versa? Or is former Seattle All-Pro middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu a better fit? Both entered the NFL in 2005.With second-year pro Travis Goethel likely lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in Monday's practice, the Raiders are in the market for a linebacker to back up Rolando McClain in the middle, as well as see time on the weak side.RELATED: Raiders LB Goethel tears knee, out for season
Asked if he had interest in Morrison on Tuesday, Raiders coach Hue Jackson would not address the former Raiders captain specifically."Every name that's out there at this particular point in time," Jackson said. "If a guy can help the Raiders win, win the AFC West and continue towards our goals, then we're going to look at him. I don't think we'll shy away from anybody if they can help us."Up next came the name of Tatupu, who has already visited Napa this summer but is increasingly being linked to New England."(You) never know," Jackson said. "Like I said, there's a bunch of names and we'll sift through and make sure that we find the best player that can help us attain our goals."The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Morrison, 29, is coming off a career-low 89-tackle season after leading the Raiders in tackles the previous four years. He has five sacks and seven interceptions in his career.The 6-foot, 250-pound Tatupu, who turns 29 on Nov. 15, had 88 tackles in 2010 for the Seahawks, his lowest total in a non-injury season. He is coming off arthroscopic surgery to both knees in January. The three-time Pro Bowler has 8.5 sacks in his career with 10 interceptions and two touchdowns.But would either Morrison or Tatupu be able to handle being a back up at this stage of their career? And would either work for potentially lower salaries? At last report, the Raiders were 5.1 million under the salary cap, but that was before they used a third-round pick in Monday's supplemental draft to select former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor.RELATED: Why Terrelle Pryor makes sense for the
Goethel, a sixth-round draft pick for the Raiders out of Arizona State in 2010, was poised to claim the weak-side linebacker starting gig as a rookie before a lower back injury and surgery halted his progress. He missed eight games as a result.In camp, Goethel was expected to challenge Quentin Groves for the spot and was the lone second-team middle linebacker before injuring himself this week in a non-contact play and getting prepped for potential season-ending surgery."Freak things," Jackson said. "As a coach, it's watch a guy work so hard to prepare himself and then, all of a sudden, something like this happens just out of the blue. It's just unfortunate."We truly believe in (Goethel)," Jackson added. "He's one of our young, gifted, talented players. But we cannot, for some reason, find a way to keep this young man healthy and going."Then might the Raiders find a way to bring back Morrison, or entice Tatupu?

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.”