Moral victory? What moral victory?

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Moral victory? What moral victory?

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ATLANTA -- First things first-- there is no such thing as a moral victory.Just wins and losses, and the Raiders to a man in their downcast locker room, uttered it over and over again in the wake of their heartbreaking last-second 23-20 defeat to Atlanta on Sunday.But also as true as that tried maxim is this -- the Raiders may have lost the game, but they also won some respect around the league with the way they played and, probably, gained some self-confidence amongst themselves.The Falcons were undefeated at 5-0 and 9 12-point favorites in the din of the Georgia Dome. The Raiders, coming in at 1-3 off their bye week, did not blink. Until there was literally no time left on the clock, or, one second after Matt Bryant drilled a 55-yard field goal for the victory."We competed against them but we don't take solace in the loss," said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. "At the end of the day our job is to go out there and win football games and that's what we intend to do. So there will be no moral victories, but I am proud of the guys for the way that they competed."And there it is.
The Raiders, by virtue of their earlier road meltdowns at Miami and Denver, had no business being in this game, let alone leading at the half, 13-7. But they were, and they were doing it with their most complete team effort of Allen's rookie tenure.Entering the game, the Raiders had yet to get an interception. They picked off Matt Ryan three times in the first half.Oakland also had only three sacks in four games with even less pressure on opposing passers. Against the Falcons, they sacked Ryan once, hit him numerous times and put him off balance for a good spell.Hustle plays? Yeah, there were a few, like quarterback Carson Palmer taking down Robert McClain as he returned Darren McFadden's first-quarter fumble, as well as McFadden chasing down Ray Edwards and saving a touchdown at the 2-yard line when Palmer was strip-sacked in the third.The defense responded and kept the Falcons out of the end zone, forcing a field goal. Even Rolando McClain got in on the action with a big run-stuffing tackle on third down."It gives you some reassurance that you can play with anybody," he said.In fact, McClain was an observer for most of the game, when the Raiders went into nickel and dime defenses and the unit responded. Oakland's defense seemed faster, quicker to the ball and offered more food for thought for the immediate future.On the other side of the ball, the Raiders run game showed signs of getting on track behind the zone-blocking scheme. Mike Goodson broke off a 43-yard run."We definitely can play with anybody," he said. "We see that."You want to see stats to back it up?Marinate in these: the Raiders had 22 first downs, to the Falcons' 16; the Raiders' limited the Falcons' third-down efficiency to a mere two of nine; the Raiders had 474 total yards to the Falcons' 286; the Raiders held the ball for 36:26 and the Falcons, 23:34. Even Palmer outperformed his younger, more-hyped counterpart with a passer rating of 102.2 to Ryan's 59.4.Alas"I'm not a stats guy," said defensive tackle Richard Seymour. "Stats are for losers."This hurts. I'd be lying if I said it didn't sting. We took one on the chin."True, but perhaps most reassuring for the Raiders was the way Palmer and the Raiders responded after his potentially crushing 79-yard pick-six by Asante Samuel late in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 20-13 lead.Palmer calmly guided the Raiders 80 yards down the field in two minutes, McFadden plunging in from two yards out and Sebastian Janikowski converting the extra point to tie the game at 20-all with 40 seconds to play.Seymour said Palmer showed "the heart of a champion" in that drive after the Samuel interception and score."At the end of the day," Seymour said, "I want to play with guys like that."Check that: Seymour wants to win games with guys like that. As do the rest of the Raiders, moral victories be damned. After all, there's no such thingright?

McKenzie focuses Raiders' 2017 draft on defense, beefs up secondary

McKenzie focuses Raiders' 2017 draft on defense, beefs up secondary

ALAMEDA – Raiders general manger Reggie McKenzie made nine selections in this weekend’s NFL draft. That was a requirement given the state of his roster, featuring a stacked offense and a Swiss-cheese defense. It has holes.

He spent significant draft capital trying to upgrade the middle of his defense especially, adding three defensive backs, two defensive tackles and a fifth-round pick in Marquel Lee who will compete to start at middle linebacker.

He needs a few immediate impact players on the defensive group headlined by first-round cornerback Gareon Conley and second-round safety Obi Melifonwu.

“How much do I think I can get out of this group? I hope a lot,” McKenzie said Saturday after the NFL draft was complete. “They’re all going to come in and compete. We’re signing guys post-draft also. We’re going to give them all the opportunity to compete with the veterans that we already have on board. We hope that out of it all, the competition part of it, the cream rises and we have a very good 53-man roster.”

McKenzie follows a draft board thoroughly constructed through hundreds of scouting reports and cross checks, and extensive evaluation at combines and pro days. He trusts it. It has certainly treated him well before, which productive hauls in 2014 and 2015 especially.

While he lost out on some likable players taken before his slot, McKenzie believes the Raiders added quality and depth in previously lacking position groups. He stuck with size and athleticism at times over college production and, as always, beefed up both the offensive and defensive lines.

“I think the way it fell, we got a lot of players, at the end of the day, it looks like we needed,” he said. “We felt like we got a lot of good players with high talent levels from top to bottom. Some are going to be more raw than others. We’re going to have to see down the line, more so. I think talking to the board, you said, ‘Job well done.’”

McKenzie also focused on fixing a lackluster pass defense with speed. Conley can be a shutdown cornerback outside or in the slot. Melifonwu is a heavy hitter who can play both safety spots and is expected to contribute as a rookie. The secondary must improve to prevent big plays and help Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin get after the quarterback.

“You have to have speed to play the game the way it’s going now,” McKenzie said. “You have to be able to play in space. You have to be able to match up. We took all of that into consideration when we brought these players in. To the players that you mentioned, Obi and Conley, both of those guys have great range, speed, very athletic. So, they make tackles in space. That’s one of the things that we looked at. Make sure short to medium plays don’t turn into big plays. I think they will help in that scenario.”

Here’s a full list of Raiders draft picks:

Round 1 (No. 24 overall): CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State
Round 2 (No. 56 overall): S Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut
Round 3 (No. 88 overall): DT Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
Round 4 (No. 129 overall): OT David Sharpe, Florida
Round 5 (No. 168 overall): LB Marquel Lee, Wake Forest
Round 7 (No. 221 overall): S Shalom Luani, Washington State
Round 7 (No. 231 overall): OT Jylan Ware, Alabama State
Round 7 (No. 242 overall): RB Elijah Hood, North Carolina
Round 7 (No. 244 overall): DT Treyvon Hester, Toledo

 

Raiders 2017 UDFA tracker: McKenzie adds safeties, mining for more gold

Raiders 2017 UDFA tracker: McKenzie adds safeties, mining for more gold

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have had great success mining gold from undrafted free agency. Jalen Richard and Darius Latham were kings of last year’s crop, which was six strong by season’s end. with Seth Roberts and Denico Autry other examples of undrafted free agents done good in recent years.

Can Raiders scouts find more helpful pieces from those left out of the NFL draft? Time will tell on that one, but finding the right undrafted players is something the team takes seriously. Scouts revel in undrafted players who make it in the league.

“It’s very rewarding,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “If we sign him as a free agent, we may have had him on the board as draftable, but getting guys post draft, that helps you down the road. To maintain a consistent winner, you have to hit on some of those guys. You have to. The way that the contracts are these days, you have to have some of those type players to help you win football games year in and year out.”

The Raiders will search for those players into Saturday evening to fill the 90-man roster. McKenzie secured some of his top targets with four seventh-round picks, though several more have signed with the club. Here’s a list of those who have signed with the team thus far:

-- OL Jordan Simmons, USC: The hulking offensive lineman signed with the Raiders, he announced on social media. Simmons stands 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, and will turn pro after being denied a sixth year of college eligibility. The talented guard had an injury-riddled career.

-- WR Isaac Whitney, USC: Whitney is yet another undrafted Trojan to join the Raiders roster. He announced the signing on social media. He didn’t have many college stats, but is fast with the size the Raiders prefer in outside receivers.

-- WR Keon Hatcher, Arkansas: Hatcher will reportedly join the offseason receiver group in hopes of taking a roster spot. He had 44 catches for 743 yards and eight touchdowns in his final college season. (Houston Chronicle)

-- WR Ishmael Zamora, Baylor: The Bears official website reported that Zamora will sign with the Silver and Black. He had63 catches for 809 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016. He was suspended three games for abusing a dog in an incident that was caught on video. 

-- S Ahmad Thomas, Oklahoma: The Raiders need safety depth, so it was smart of Thomas to sign in Oakland. He was a three-year starter and a team captain. (Houston Chronicle)

-- S Anthony Cioffi, Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights’ official Twitter account reported a four-year starter in college will give the pros a try in Oakland.

-- DT Jordan Wade, Oklahoma: The 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive tackle will join the Raiders. (SoonerScoop.com)

-- TE Pharaoh Brown, Oregon: The Ducks didn’t have a single player drafted, but Brown will join the Silver and Black. The tight end announced a signing on Twitter. He had 33 catches for 426 yards and five touchdown.

-- DT Paul Boyette, Texas: The Raiders continue adding volume at positions of need, including this 298-pound run stuffer. 

-- S Rickey Jefferson, LSU: Yet another safety joins the mix, according to LSU's football Twitter account. There will be a battle at that position all offseason as the Raiders try to sort out which players work best in their system. 

 

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