Raiders

Instant Analysis: Late TD burns Raiders in preseason loss to Rams

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USATSI

Instant Analysis: Late TD burns Raiders in preseason loss to Rams

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND – The Raiders sat nine offensive starters in last week’s exhibition opener. That front line assembled for the first time in game Saturday against the Rams and quickly found midseason form.

Quarterback Derek Carr was largely on point in a 21-17 victory to Los Angeles at Oakland Coliseum. Amari Cooper showed great hops. Michael Crabtree juked a cornerback out of his shoes and scored a touchdown. Jared Cook proved a difficult cover in the middle of the field. And Marshawn was predictably Marshawn, running like a battering ram on speed skates.

The defense, by contrast, needs some serious work.

Except for Khalil Mack. That’s dude’s all right. He had a sack, three quarterback pressures, four tackles, with two for a loss, in three series.

The rest of his unit was off kilter against L.A. Communication still needs work on the back end. Questions remain at inside linebacker and cornerback.

Coaches have three weeks to iron things out, and get that unit running right. Here are a few takeaways from Saturday’s exhibition.

Marshawn meets hometown crowd: Oakland native Marshawn Lynch played in his hometown for the first time in silver and black. He didn’t play much, removing his pads after just one series.

His cameo was quick and productive, with two carries for 10 yards. His trademark burst and balance was on display, as it was throughout camp. Lynch won’t need much work this preseason, but should get the lion’s share of carries when games count.

He looks as agile as ever, without the rust expected following a year away from football.

Smith suits up:Raiders cornerback Sean Smith played in sub packages with the starting unit, playing outside in the nickel. He had a relatively solid game despite mounting legal issues. He was charged with felony assault and battery on Thursday, when he turned himself in to Pasadena police and was released after posting an $80,000 bond.

Smith had two tackles and a nice pass defensed covering Sammy Watkins on a deep route.

Jenkins enters the fray: The Raiders are still searching for someone to pair with Cory James on the inside. Marquel Lee has worked with the first unit since training camp began in the base defense. He struggled some early, and gave way to veteran Jelani Jenkins in the second series.
That job remains open. Lee is a favorite, though Jenkins will challenge and prospect of signing someone off the street remains.

Backup quarterbacks still battling

EJ Manuel entered Saturday’s game with a clear lead on the backup quarterback position battle. The veteran received most every second-unit rep in camp, started last week’s game at Arizona and was first off the bench on Saturday.

He wasn’t great against the Rams, completing 3-of-9 passes for 16 yards.

That may have cracked the door for second-year pro Connor Cook. The Michigan State alum has struggled some in practice, but showed well working with the third unit on Saturday. He was with 7-of-10 passing for 70 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown strike to Johnny Holton.

Aaron Hernandez lawyer: Brain showed 'most severe case' of CTE for 27-year-old

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AP

Aaron Hernandez lawyer: Brain showed 'most severe case' of CTE for 27-year-old

BOSTON — Tests conducted on the brain of former football star Aaron Hernandez showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and his attorney said Thursday that the player’s daughter is suing the NFL and the New England Patriots for leading Hernandez to believe the sport was safe.

In a news conference at his offices, Hernandez’s attorney Jose Baez said the testing showed one of the most severe cases ever diagnosed.

“We’re told it was the most severe case they had ever seen for someone of Aaron’s age,” Baez said.

Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University, concluded that the New England Patriots tight end had stage 3 of 4 of the disease, and also had early brain atrophy and large perforations in a central membrane.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston on Thursday claims that the team and league deprived Avielle Hernandez of the companionship of her father. It is separate from a $1 billion settlement in which the league agreed to pay families of players who suffered brain damage because of repeated head trauma while playing football.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy declined comment, saying the league had not seen the lawsuit.

Baez said Hernandez had been playing football because the NFL led him to believe it was safe.

“Those representations turned out to be false,” Baez said.

CTE can be caused by repeated head trauma and leads to symptoms like violent mood swings, depression and other cognitive difficulties. Hernandez killed himself in April in the jail cell where he was serving a life-without-parole sentence for a 2013 murder. His death came just hours before the Patriots visited the White House to celebrate their latest Super Bowl victory.

CTE can only be diagnosed in an autopsy. A recent study found evidence of the disease in 110 of 111 former NFL players whose brains were examined.

CTE has been linked with repeated concussions and involves brain damage particularly in the frontal region that controls many functions including judgment, emotion, impulse control, social behavior and memory.

“When hindsight is 20-20, you look back and there are things you might have noticed but you didn’t know,” Baez said.

A week before his suicide, Hernandez was acquitted in the 2012 drive-by shootings of two men in Boston. Prosecutors had argued that Hernandez gunned the two men down after one accidentally spilled a drink on him in a nightclub, and then got a tattoo of a handgun and the words “God Forgives” to commemorate the crime.

Baez said he deeply regretted not raising the issue of Hernandez having CTE during his murder trials. He said they did not blame CTE for the murders because Hernandez’s defense was actual innocence.

A star for the University of Florida when it won the 2008 title, Hernandez dropped to the fourth round of the NFL draft because of trouble in college that included a failed drug test and a bar fight. His name had also come up in an investigation into a shooting.

In three seasons with the Patriots, Hernandez joined Rob Gronkowski to form one of the most potent tight end duos in NFL history. In 2011, his second season, Hernandez caught 79 passes for 910 yards and seven touchdowns to help the team reach the Super Bowl, and he was rewarded with a $40 million contract.

But the Patriots released him in 2013, shortly after he was arrested in the killing of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee. Hernandez was convicted and sentenced to life in prison; the conviction was voided because he died before his appeals were exhausted, though that decision is itself being appealed.

No rust at all for Carr coming off broken leg: 'He doesn't make mistakes'

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USATSI

No rust at all for Carr coming off broken leg: 'He doesn't make mistakes'

ALAMEDA –Derek Carr has been shockingly efficient early this season, even by his own standards. The Raiders quarterback has 492 yards, five touchdowns, no picks and a 126.5 passer rating over two games.

Not half bad for the $25 million man.

He nearly threw a perfect game against the New York Jets. Carr completed a career high 82 percent of his passes in Week 2, going 23-for-28 for 230 yards and three touchdowns. Accounting for receiver drops and throwaways (one each), Carr only misfired on three passes. All darn day.

The Raiders scored six touchdowns in 10 drives and punted only three times. It’s the type of game this Raiders offense is capable of, with maybe the league’s best offensive line and a stable of skill players.

Nothing, however, happens without the triggerman. Carr expectedly deflected praise for recent performance.

“The O-line, and the wide outs, running backs did great,” Carr said. “With the way we’re able to pick up blitzes, we’re able to hit go-routes for touchdowns, we’re able to push the ball on deep. (Michael) Crabtree going across the middle on a deep route a couple times. You know, without them doing their job, I can’t do it by myself. Everyone gives the quarterback credit and all those things because you always touch the ball, but I give all those guys the credit.”

Carr has been accurate and decisive working with offensive coordinator Todd Downing, operating with great comfort at the line of scrimmage, before the snap.

“I think he’s done a nice job,” Downing said. “And we’re not trying to make it a scenario where every play he’s walking up to the line of scrimmage and has to evaluate something. We want to him to be able to go play fast. It’s probably not as frequent as it may seem, but when he does have those opportunities, he’s really done a nice job of helping us out. As I told him, if he sees something that makes me look like a better play caller, have at it.”

The offense is in great sync at this early point, which has been noticed by the opposition. Carr has long commanded respect, but it’s certainly heightened after an MVP-caliber year in 2016.

"He's about timing," Washington cornerback Josh Norman said, via ESPN. "...He's precise at what he does. It's cool to see. He doesn't have any turnovers, and he doesn't make mistakes. So it's more for us as defensive backs to make plays on the ball because he's so methodical and timing-based on how he does things. He's a good quarterback. He really is. We've got our work cut out for us."