Raiders-Chargers: Matchups to watch

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Raiders-Chargers: Matchups to watch

ALAMEDA -- With tales of locker room discord, curious personnel decisions and a short work week enveloping Silver and Blackdom, the banged-up Raiders (a mind numbing 17 players appeared on the injury report this week, with 11 not practicing) face a potentially season-defining game tonight.On prime time. At a heated division rival. With questions abounding.
Win, and the Raiders take the lead in the AFC West. Lose, and the Raiders drop their third straight game in the division.

A look, then, at some key on-field matchups to watch Thursday night in San Diego:Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer (3) vs. Chargers free safety Eric Weddle (32)TALE OF THE TAPEPalmer: 6-5, 235, USC, ninth seasonWeddle: 5-11, 200, Utah, fifth seasonThe book on Palmer, who will be making his second career start for Oakland, throughout his career has been that while he can often put up gaudy stat lines, he has not won big. His numbers against the Chargers are a microcosm of that claim.In three career starts against San Diego, Palmer has completed 74 of 103 pass attempts (71.8 percent) for 1,023 yards with nine touchdowns and only one interception for a 128.4 passer rating. His career-high 440-yard passing day came against the Chargers on Nov. 12, 2006.Yet his career record against San Diego? Just 1-2."I mean, every year's a new year," Palmer said this week. "Whether it's a new coordinator, new players, free agent pickups, drafted players, whatever it may be, new scheme, so every year's a new year and you have to treat it like it's a new team, a different team, because it is. This is a different team than it was last year. The San Diego Chargers are a different team than they were last. So you have to study, you got to understand what they're trying to do, what they're trying to take away and what they're going to give up and just get ready to play."
RELATED: Raiders midseason report: Defense
Palmer has thrown six interception in six quarters of play with the Raiders. Surely, that has to have Weddle licking his chops, right? After all, Weddle is tied for the NFL lead with five interceptions.Especially if the Raiders' offensive gameplan has them getting into a shootout with the Chargers.Other matchups worth watching:
Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt (26) vs. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) -- Was Rivers simply engaging in some gamesmanship this week when he compares Routt to former Raiders All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha?Or was Rivers simply giving credit where credit is due?Besides, Rivers was that rare QB who dared venture to Asomugha's side of the field when he faced the Raiders. So why shouldn't he attack Routt, who has indeed been afforded some of the same respect given Asomugha in terms of gameplans shying away from his side?
RELATED: Raiders midseason report: Offense
Rivers is 8-2 in his career against the Raiders, with both of this losses coming last year. Still, he averaged 377 passing yards in those two defeats. And he has an 87.8 passer rating against Oakland in his career with 12 TDs and seven INTs.Routt, meanwhile, is allowing a relatively minuscule 4.6 yards per catch, according to STATS LLC. Asomugha? He's giving up 9.3 yards per catch.
RELATED: Raiders midseason report: Special teams
Raiders running back Michael Bush (29) vs. Chargers inside linebacker Takeo Spikes (51) -- Darren McFadden will miss his second straight game (really, his third since he initially sprained his right foot in the Raiders' first series against Kansas City on Oct. 23) so the bulk of the running duties will again fall on the sturdy shoulders of Bush.And he'll see a somewhat familiar face between the tackles in Spikes, who spent the previous three years across the Bay with the 49ers.The 6-2, 242-pound Spikes is leading the Chargers with 67 tackles.The 6-1, 245-pound Bush has run for 199 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games against the Chargers, 195 yards in his past two games overall and had his first career TD catch last week.Something has to give, right?

Raiders sign rookie OT Sharpe, LB Lee, all four seventh-round draft picks

Raiders sign rookie OT Sharpe, LB Lee, all four seventh-round draft picks

The Raiders signed several members of their 2017 draft class, the team announced on Friday. Later round picks put pen to paper following the first week of OTAs, which began on Monday.

Fourth-round offensive tackle David Sharpe and fifth-round linebacker Marquel Lee highlight this group of signings, as both players inked four-year rookie contracts.

All four seventh-round picks also signed their first professional contract. That group includes running back Elijah Hood, safety Shalom Luani, offensive lineman Jylan Ware and defensive tackle Treyvon Hester.

These deals aren’t hard to work out. The NFL and the league’s players union agreed on a rookie wage scale in the last collective bargaining agreement that slots salaries by draft order, which leaves little negotiating room within the set payment structure.

The team’s top picks remain unsigned, though they’ll get done in time. First round cornerback Gareon Conley, second-round safety Obi Melifonwu and third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes remain unsigned.

Here’s a list of estimated contract values over a four-year rookie deal for each signed draft pick, per spotrac.com:

OT David Sharpe (No. 129 overall): $2,986,415 total; $586,415 signing bonus
LB Marquel Lee (No. 168 overall): $2,653,693 total; $253,693 signing bonus
S Shalom Luani (No. 221 overall): $2,494,414 total; $94,414 signing bonus
OT Jylan Ware (No. 231 overall): $2,484,295 total; $84,295 signing bonus
RB Elijah Hood (No. 242 overall): $2,469,750 total; $69,750 signing bonus
DT Treyvon Hester (No. 244 overall): $2,468,601 total; $69,750 signing bonus

Marquel Lee gets to play for his father's favorite team: 'He started bawling'

Marquel Lee gets to play for his father's favorite team: 'He started bawling'

ALAMEDA -- Marquel Lee’s NFL draft weekend wasn’t always fun, a byproduct of high hopes unrealized. The former Wake Forest linebacker slid into Saturday and waited well into the fifth round before his phone lifted spirits.

A 510 area code brought Lee out of an emotional rut, one so deep he started wondering whether he’d get drafted at all.

“When I got the call from the Raiders, everything changed,” Lee said in the latest episode of NBC Sports California’s Raiders Insider Podcast. “I was so excited to play for this organization.”

Marquel Lee wasn’t the only one. His father jumped over the moon.

“He might’ve been more excited than I was,” Marquel Lee said. “He started bawling. I’ve never seen my dad cry like that.”

Corey Lee’s tears don’t come easy. He’s a no-nonsense military man who served 11 years in the Navy before entering the private sector. He was a strict but fair father and football coach who instilled the discipline and work ethic required for his son to realize great potential.

Corey Lee is also a lifelong Raiders fan. Seeing his son get drafted by his favorite team created a perfect emotional storm.

“I’m as die-hard as they get,” Corey Lee said. “When they called his name in the fifth round, it was such a great, powerful moment. There was some relief, because he worked so hard and sacrificed to reach this point. When families were on vacation, we were in summer camps and working out hard.

“Everything we did was to prepare him for the next level. I was so proud to see him achieve a goal he had.”

Corey Lee didn’t break down completely when Marquel Lee officially became the Raiders’ fifth-round selection. This proud papa let emotion overcome for a beat, and then darted for his bedroom. He returned to the party with a brand new Raiders hat and a No. 89 Amari Cooper shirt from his vast Raiders collection.

Marquel Lee threw on dad’s gear to honor his new team and the golden opportunity to play for a linebacker-starved Raiders team.

That wasn’t Marquel Lee’s first time in silver and black. He rocked a full Raiders uniform at age 2, complete with a helmet, football pants and a Tim Brown jersey.

He donned one again when rookies reported to the Raiders offseason program earlier this month. The full-circle moment wasn’t lost on Marquel, a man proud of his past and excited about an NFL future.

“There’s a picture of me in a Raiders jersey, pants and a helmet on my second birthday,” he said. “I look at it now and think, ‘Wow. It really happened.’ I’m wearing a Raiders uniform for real. My dream is becoming a reality.”

Corey Lee grew up a Raiders fan in Southern California, going to games with his family at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Pardon Marquel for not following in those footsteps. He grew up on the East Coast when Donovan McNabb was a superstar and gravitated toward the Eagles. Ray Lewis performed in Lee’s Maryland backyard and became an athletic role model.

Marquel watched tons of NFL football with his dad, complete games where father and son would talk about strategy and scheme. Marquel would watch game tape with his father at an early age and when Corey Lee deployed with the Navy, his mother Katanya – she, too, understood football -- made sure that practice continued.

Marquel Lee was armed with natural athletic gifts and cultivated knowledge of the game, allowing him play quarterback and middle linebacker as a junior at Westlake High in Waldorf, Md. His dad was a guiding light as youth instructor, a JV head coach and a varsity linebackers coach, but took steps to separate family and football.

“As a father, I never would allow him to call me dad on a practice field or anywhere,” Corey Lee said. “I was always ‘Coach’ during the season, whether we were at home or at practice, because I wanted to keep him in that mindset.”

Football was a primary focus back then, when the family often traded summer vacations for skills camps. Despite buzz around Marquel’s talents, Corey was against his son doing interviews with recruiting websites or ranking services. Father wanted his son’s head on straight, and it has remained that way. 

Top schools were slow to come around, but gravitated after Marquel fully recovered from a torn patella and stood out early in his senior year. He chose Wake Forest, a commitment his father wanted upheld even with late interest from other programs.

His growth continued as a collegian, and took a real spike during the 2016 season. Wake Forest’s defensive captains graduated, leaving him to assume a leadership role and put team over stats. Lee considered his junior season at Wake Forest subpar, and vowed to do better.

“I was pressing a lot, trying to rush my time and trying to get to the NFL,” Lee said. “I was on a road where I thought I wanted to leave (school) early. I was so hard on myself, especially if I didn’t produce. That’s why I said it was subpar. I don’t think I played like a team player that year.

“(The next season) I made a decision to finish what I started and be the leader I always knew I could be. I wanted to help my team get to a bowl game. I hadn’t played in one. That was a major part of me coming back in 2016. … I grew up a lot. I feel like I gained respect as a team leader, and really understood what it took to own that responsibility.”

Lee might have major responsibilities as an NFL rookie. The Raiders don’t have quality options at middle linebacker, and Lee will be allowed to compete for a starting spot. It’ll take an excellent spring and summer to earn it and give the Raiders confidence to hand an important starting spot to a rookie. The Silver and Black could add a veteran to that position group, though they have high hopes for their fifth-round pick.

“We definitely think he has the potential to start,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said in an interview with 95.7-The Game. “He’s a long ways away from that. We haven’t even begun to get the pads on, so a lot will be determined in training camp and the preseason. So far, he has looked very good.”

Lee considers himself well prepared for the challenges ahead, and believes he can compete at the professional level.

“I’ve been getting ready for this a long time,” Marquel Lee said. “My dad has been telling me that this experience will be different. It’s not like college anymore. It’s a job, and I have to be mentally prepared for everything I’m about to do. I’m here and I’m learning and I’m trying to do my best.”