Handicapping Raiders' Pro Bowl chances

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Handicapping Raiders' Pro Bowl chances

The Raiders should want nothing to do with the the Pro Bowl.Yes, it would be nice to be selected for the NFL's annual all-star game. No doubt a free trip to Hawaii in the dead of winter would be a welcome reward at the conclusion of a grinding season.But if you're "playing" at Aloha Stadium on Jan. 29, 2012, that means that neither you nor your team is in the Super Bowl the following Sunday. And that, is the true end game for every player in the NFL.Still, it wouldn't be football without some pigskin prognostications. So, as we enter to the fourth quarter of the 2011 regular season, a look at some Raiders who should garner consideration for the Pro Bowl as fan voting for the exhibition game runs through Dec. 19, with players and coaches voting that week and the initial Pro Bowl teams announced Dec. 27RELATED: Handicapping 49ers' Pro Bowl chances
NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTS--Punter Shane Lechler: The best punter in the history of the game -- just look at the stats -- will be making his TKth trip to the game. And really, the 12th-year veteran might not deserve it anymore than this season, or have you already forgotten that 80-yard bomb he unleashed against Chicago? He is leading the fan voteby a wide margin.
--Placekicker Sebastian Janikowski: Finally, mercifully, the man known as SeaBass and first-round draft pick from 2000 will get his overdue recognition. At least, he should. He's made 22 of 24 field goals and he tied the NFL record with his 63-yarder in the season opener. Janikowski, who also converted a franchise-record six field goals against Chicago despite a gimpy left hamstring, might actually be the Raiders' team MVP. He too is leading the fan voteby a wide margin.
--Strong safety Tyvon Branch: Quietly, at least on a national level, he's put together the finest season of his four-year career. Still, what he lacks in national appeal -- he was only third in fan voting, behind Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu and Buffalo's George Wilson -- he more than makes up for in gritty play against both the run and the pass. That he has only one interception belies his importance. "He is the epitome of a Pro Bowl player in my mind," said Raiders defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan. "Anybody that knows football, sees the impact he has on a game."SERIOUS CONSIDERATION--Defensive tackle Richard Seymour: He not only has name recognition, but stats, as in six sacks. The TK-time Pro Bowler is second in fan voting behind Baltimore's Haloti Ngata and is highly respected among his peers, even if he gets kicked out of the occasional game for throwing a punch.
--Fullback Marcel Reece: A matchup nightmare with his myriad skill set, Reece is no mere lead blocking back. Opposing teams have to actually gameplan for the converted receiver who is third in fan voting, behind San Diego's Jacob Hester and Baltimore's Vonta Leach. Reece missing four games due to injury, though, might work against him.
--Left tackle Jared Veldheer: Just because he's not in the top 5 in the fan vote does not mean he's not deserving. Take a look at the job he did at Minnesota in shutting out Jared Allen. Then throw in the relatively low number of sacks he's surrendered and penalties for which he's been called all season in protecting the QB's blind side. Yes, the second-year lineman He deserves serious consideration.ALSO IN THE MIX--Free Safety Michael Huff: Fresh off being named second-team All-Pro last season, Huff suddenly has name recognition with fans, ranking fifth in the vote behind Baltimore's Ed Reed, San Diego's Eric Weddle, Pittsburgh's Ryan Clark and Indianapolis' Antoine Bethea. It would take a lot of withdrawals and one of those guys going to the Super Bowl to get Huff to Hawaii, though.
--Strongside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley: He's not in the top 5 for outside linebackers but he does have seven seven sacks and there are two Ravens and a Steeler in the top 5.
--Special teamer Rock Cartwright: A highlight of the Raiders season was Cartwright taking the direct snap and rumbling downfield on a game-turning fake punt at Houston. He is third in fan voting, behind the Ravens' Brendon Ayanbadejo and Pittsburgh's Arnaz Battle.
--Long snapper Jon Condo: Hey, Lechler and Janikowski can't do their jobs without Condo, right? Well, he already went to the Pro Bowl two years ago, so that might be held against him.
--Left guard Stefen Wisniewski: That a rookie is fifth in the fan vote speaks to his popularity. His ability to transition from guard to center and back again should only help his candidacy with Li'l Wiz's peers and opposing coaches.
--Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly: A Pro Bowl alternate a year ago, Kelly's play has maintained, if not improved, as evidenced by his 5 12 sacks with four games to play. He'd need some serious help from the coaches and players, though, as he is not in the top 5 of the fan vote.BEFORE YOU ASK --Running back Darren McFadden: He was the most explosive back in the NFL and its leading ground gainer through five weeks and seemed primed for the Pro Bowl. But he has not played since Oct. 23, and while was was still shockingly second in the fan vote to Arian Foster, he has become an object of scorn, of sorts, for frustrated Raiders fans of late.
--Cornerback Stanford Routt: He's acquitted himself quite well, thank you very much, as the Raiders' top cornerback in the wake of Nnamdi Asomugha's departure. But even with a Top 5 "burn rate," he's not in the top 5 of the fan vote.
--Kick returner Jacoby Ford: A threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball, unfortunately for the Raiders, and his Pro Bowl chances, he has not touched the ball since Nov. 10, when he went out with a sprained left foot.

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.

They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.

Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.

“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”

While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.

The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.

“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.

"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.

Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.

Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.

“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”

Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.

“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”