Raiders dominate both lines of scrimmage


Raiders dominate both lines of scrimmage

OAKLAND -- It's a simple game, really.

Dominate the line of scrimmage and, more often than not, you win the game.

The Raiders on Sunday won the battles in the trenches on both sides of the ball -- left no prisoners, really -- and there was no surprise, then, that Oakland ended its six-game losing streak with a 15-0 defeat of Kansas City in the Raiders' home finale, their first shutout victory in almost a decade.

Indeed, it is a symbiotic relationship.

"Yeah, I felt like up front that we did a nice job," said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. "I thought we were able to run the ball effectively. We were able to control time of possession, which I think was critical in our defense being able to play as well as they did.

"I think we had 40 minutes time of possession in the game, so that was outstanding, as far as keeping our defense fresh."

[INSTANT REPLAY: Raiders 15, Chiefs 0]

Consider: on offense, Oakland rushed for a season-high 203 yards, on 45 carries, and for the first time this season, the Raiders had more rushing yards than passing yards, even as quarterback Carson Palmer was not sacked for the third time this season.

"Just for guys to go out there, still laying it on the line and showing people that we haven't laid down," said Darren McFadden, who rushed for 110 yards, "we're still going to go out there and fight every down."

The Raiders held a 40:06-19:54 time of possession advantage.

"Our defense outplayed them," Palmer said. "It's good to get a win against a team that's also struggling."

Defensively, the Raiders limited the AFC's leading rusher, Jamaal Charles, to 10 yards on nine carries. Charles came into the game with 1,220 rushing yards and averaging 5.1 yards per carry but in two games against the Raiders, he had a mere 14 yards on 14 carries…total.

"Not too many holes today," offered Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel.

"It's easy to say, hard to do," said Raiders defensive end Andre Carter. "But we were on point."

The Chiefs entered with the No. 5 rushing attack in the NFL, but the 10 yards they gained on the ground equaled a Raiders single-game franchise low, set on Dec. 10, 2000, against the New York Jets.

Plus, the Raiders had a season-high four sacks of Brady Quinn, with one each from linebacker Philip Wheeler, defensive tackles Tommy Kelly and Desmond Bryant and Carter.

The Chiefs did not get a first down until the 5:30 mark of the third quarter.

And the Black Hole even got into the action when, with 2:36 to play in the third, and the Chiefs at the Raiders' 4-yard line, Quinn was called for a delay of game penalty.

"He couldn't hear me, obviously," Quinn said of his center. "It's loud down there."

Kansas City was 1 for 12 on third down, 0 for 3 on fourth down.

"We smelled blood," said linebacker Philip Wheeler.

Indeed, the last time the Raiders shut anyone out came on Dec. 28, 2002…against the Chiefs.

"It definitely felt great," said strong safety Tyvon Branch. "It's our last home game, we had to make a statement and tell our fans we're still playing hard. We're still playing with that same passion."

It showed up down in the trenches.

"To get that goose egg on the board," said defensive end Lamarr Houston, "it's the best feeling in the world."

Lynch outcome should determine whether Raiders draft a running back

Lynch outcome should determine whether Raiders draft a running back

It’s officially NFL draft week. Marshawn Lynch still isn’t a Raider.

A contract impasse remained as of Sunday morning, a few days before general manager Reggie McKenzie’s desire for a by-Thursday resolution.

Deadlines, even soft ones, prompt deals. But Marshawn is unique, adding a level of uncertainty to procedings. 

The Raiders would prefer Lynch agree to terms on a new contract so they can acquire his rights from Seattle -- that’s the easier part – and know where they stand heading into the NFL Draft.

McKenzie left several doors cracked during a Friday pre-draft presser, saying Lynch’s presence wouldn’t stop him from drafting a rusher, not having the Oakland native wouldn’t guarantee it, and that there’s always a chance Lynch could come later no matter what happens during amateur selection.

Those things could be true. Or, you know, not. McKenzie prefers mystery this time of year.

Bottom line: The Raiders need a bigger back to pair with smaller, yet elusive runners DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard.

The Raiders want Lynch to fill the void. Ditto for Raider Nation, especially the Oakland state. A few free-agent options remain, including LaGarrette Blount. Or the Raiders could draft a back, something the Raiders have done well in later rounds.

They got Latavius Murray in the sixth round four years back, and he provided quality before changing uniforms this offseason. They got Washington in the fifth last time and pulled Richard from undrafted free agency. They could mine talent again this year. Waiting seems more likely if Lynch is around. 

Quality abounds in this draft class, with several worthy of early selections and talent easily found late. Let’s inspect McKenzie’s draft options at running back, should he need one:

Good fits: It’s hard to see the Raiders looking at a rusher in the first round, considering the draft’s depth at the position and major defensive needs. A first-round talent might be considered in the second. If controversial former Oklahoma rusher Joe Mixon is available following a free fall due to off-field issues described in detail here, a running back might come early.

Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara could be another Day 2 option, an explosive talent who analysts say has wiggle and power to create coveted yards after contact. He could be a three-down back thanks to quality as a receiver.

Odds are, however, the Raiders will look deeper into the draft. Wyoming’s Brian Hill was an excellent college producer who runs strong and might fit well into the Raiders rotation. Round projections vary, but he should be available on Day 3.

Pittsburgh’s James Conner offers great power at 233 pounds. He could run through tacklers and wear down defenses for the Raiders’ shift backs. He's also well known for drive and work ethic. He is projected as a fifth or sixth round pick.

Brigham Young’s Jamaal Williams might offer value and power rushing later in the draft. Clemson’s Wayne Gallman has tackle-breaking ability, but analysts say he isn’t a strong pass protector.


Healthy Edwards, NFL Draft could help Raiders improve interior pass rush

Healthy Edwards, NFL Draft could help Raiders improve interior pass rush

The Raiders had an NFL-worst 25 sacks last season, and that’s with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin in their employ. That duo had 18 sacks (and 11 forced fumbles) between them. That left only seven for everyone else. Stacy McGee and Denico Autry had 2.5 each, and McGee isn’t here anymore.

Mario Edwards Jr. was certainly missed last season, when he missed 14 games with a preseason hip injury. The versatile defensive lineman is a solid edge run defender and internal pass rusher in the sub package.

If he’s healthy, Edwards Jr. could pose a real threat rushing the passer next to Irvin or Mack.

“Having Mario healthy will make us a better defense, and that’s not just as a pass rusher,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said in March. “He’s a solid run player. We’ve just got to have him healthy.

“But we’ll continue to add there, too.”

McKenzie subtracted one Tuesday, releasing Dan Williams to free salary cap space. He hasn’t yet added a defensive tackle in free agency, but could certainly do so in next week’s NFL draft.

There’s some quality interior pass rushers in this class. Let’s take a look at some options the Raiders could select and when:

Good fits: The Raiders select 24th overall in this draft, far lower than years past. Some quality defensive tackles might be a proper fit there, especially with depth at positions of need.

They could use some versatility, players like Edwards Jr. who can play multiple techniques. Michigan State’s Malik McDowell is an strong, athletic freak who analysts believe needs to improve his effort and technique. McDowell could develop into a top talent and be viewed as a steal at No. 24, or not realize full potential.

Michigan’s Chris Wormley is a versatile player in the Edwards Jr. mold, a player who seems to fit Raiders needs. Analysts says inconsistency is troubling but has the leadership quality and character the Raiders love. He can be a base end and move inside when required. He also has the size at 6-foot-5, 298 pounds and could develop well at the NFL level while making an immediate impact.

Florida’s Caleb Brantley is also an intriguing prospect adept at reaching the offensive backfield. Analysts say he’s a powerful player with quickness and an ability to work through blocks despite being slightly undersized. Brantley is potential to be a quality NFL pass rusher, and is confident in his ability. He didn’t play a high snap count at Florida, but the Raiders might use him in sub packages as a rookie and fill an important role right away. He’s viewed as a second round pick, and the Silver and Black might cross fingers he’s available at No. 56.

Auburn’s Montravius Adams could help if the Raiders are looking for more of a run stuffer. Clemson’s Carlos Watkins could also play multiple spots and could be available later in the middle rounds. Old Dominion’s Rashaad Coward also fits that mold and would be available in later rounds, though he hasn’t had much pass-rush production.