Raiders' Focus: Breaking Down the Beat Up Dolphins

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Raiders' Focus: Breaking Down the Beat Up Dolphins

Nov. 22, 2010RAIDERS PAGE RAIDERS VIDEOMIAMI PAGERich Libero
Comcast SportsNet

After a physically nasty showdown in Pittsburgh, the Raiders will face another ex-1970s rival on Sunday when they host the banged-up Miami Dolphins.

A Raiders-Dolphins matchup used to represent a showdown between perennial powerhouses. These days, it marks a matchup of two teams trying to re-join the NFL Contenders Club. The conclusion of the game will yield some answers as to which organization is indeed closer to playoff reality in 2010.

The Dolphins enjoyed a Pyrrhic victory over the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 14. The win lifted them to 5-4 and put them in residence with other AFC Wild Card hopefuls. But in the process of winning 29-17, they lost two quarterbacks, a starting center, their prized left tackle and a safety. The losses were too great to overcome in time for their Thursday home game against the Chicago Bears -- a nationally televised 16-0 loss. Additionally, the Dolphins lost backup center Corey Proctor to a torn ACL early in that game.

Offensive coordinator Dan Henning called only seven running plays against the Bears. The offense sputtered with untimely penalties, sacks and turnovers that conspired to waste excellent field position. All in all, the Dolphins performed like the 1-15 team from 2007.

Heres what the Raiders can expect on Sunday:

Coaching: The Dolphins are a potential disaster waiting to happen. A loss could send their season into a complete finger-pointing tailspin. Coach Tony Sparano draws the bulk of the criticism, but Henning is also deservedly under fire from both fans and the media. Hennings conservative playcalling is often mixed with puzzling, momentum-killing play selection. Miami ranks in the bottom five of the league in deep passing attempts over 21 yards. Expect lots of check-downs and wide receiver screens. Receiver Devon Bess is an excellent third down target with good yards-after-catch ability. Fullback Lousaka Polite is all but unstoppable on third- and fourth- and-short situations.

ESPN analyst and former NFL offensive lineman Mark Schlereth hammered Henning after the loss to the Bears: "That's an awful job by that coaching staff regardless," Schlereth said. "Their best 11 guys are when they get into their Wildcat formation, no disrespect to Tyler Thigpen. They got into the Wildcat exactly zero times on Thursday night, they did not run the ball at all on Thursday night. ... I've heard excuses coming out of Miami, I've heard people talking about, 'You know, We have a beat-up offensive line.' All the more reason that you run the football. Let me tell you something, pass protection in this league is 10 times harder than run blocking: assignment-wise, picking up blitz, all those different things.

Bill Parcells stepped down from his role as head of football operations in September. The general manager and the entire coaching staff could be feeling the heat if they fail to conclude the season in strong fashion. Injuries will be used as an excuse, but the bottom line is that this team is not a playoff contender -- on paper or the field -- at this stage. Another season of housecleaning could be in the offing, but with its fairly soft end-of-season schedule the team should realistically finish around 8-8.

In terms of injuries, starting center Joe Berger is expected to be back in the lineup while the Dolphins have worked out a couple of left tackle candidates with the idea of shutting down Jake Long and his recently dislocated shoulder. Diva receiver Brandon Marshall tweaked his hamstring and might not be 100 percent for Sunday.

Miami Offense: Thigpen is a bit of a gambler with a solid arm and great scrambling ability. Raiders fans will remember him as an emergency starter for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams provide a formidable 1-2 punch out of the backfield, but the Dolphins have not run the ball effectively this season. The front office spent much of the offseason mysteriously tinkering with an offensive line that rolled up over 2,200 rushing yards last season. The once-strongest unit on the team is now officially eligible for national disaster relief. The Wildcat is also a shambles, averaging less than two yards per carry heading into the Tennessee game. The trendy formation resides in mothballs these days, although Henning did whip it out for three plays against the Titans after Chad Henne hurt his knee.

With Thigpens legs and Miamis experience running the Cat, fans and media expected all kinds of gadgetry against the Bears, but Henning kept things pretty vanilla. It will be interesting to see if that changes this week in Oakland.

Miami Defense: The defense has performed fairly well this season despite constant flux along the line and secondary. Sean Smith started at cornerback as a rookie, but lost his job in training camp to former first-rounder Jason Allen before winning it back. Allen was released before the Titans game and replaced by former Packer Al Harris. Cameron Wake continues to excel as the Dolphins' best pass rusher with 9.5 sacks. And nose tackle Paul Soliai is having a breakthrough season in his third year. Karlos Dansby, the teams best linebacker, did not practice Monday and may be nicked up.

Can the Raiders win? The real question should be: How BIG will the Raiders' margin of victory be? It wont matter how many days the Dolphins have to prepare. They have too many injuries to too many key players. The offensive coordinator has had an awful year, special teams punt protection and kick return coverage has been awful and the Dolphins are, at 5-5, a ticking time bomb. Throw in the overall length of the trip and the Raiders should be the lock of locks this week.
Rich Libero is the vice president of digital content for Comcast Sports Group and the author of the book This Could Be The Year: My 30 Years as a Miami Dolphins fan.

Carr discusses contract negotiations with Raiders: 'These things take time'

Carr discusses contract negotiations with Raiders: 'These things take time'

Raiders general Reggie McKenzie plans to extend quarterback Derek Carr’s contract this offseason. That isn’t a new thing, something that has been in the works for some time. He re-affirmed that fact last week, citing his team’s commitment to work out a long-term deal likely the biggest in franchise history.

Carr was reportedly frustrated with the pace of contract talks after the NFL draft – they’re supposed to heat up this spring and summer – but said he believes a deal will get worked out before training camp begins.

That’s his deadline for an offseason deal, the point where he wants focus honed on football.

“I have an agent who is in charge of that and I am confident that he and Mr. (Reggie) McKenzie will work it out,” Carr, a Fresno State alum, told the Fresno Bee. “I am only focused on becoming a better football player and helping my teammates become better players.

“I have complete faith it will get done before training camp. These things take time. The Raiders know I want to be here; this is my family, and I know they want me to be their quarterback.”

The sides have discussed parameters of a long-term deal, with greater specifics to be ironed out in the future. Carr has long said he wants to be a Raider his entire career. The Raiders want him as the public face of their franchise. A new deal is expected by all parties, a sentiment that has never wavered on either side.

Carr is scheduled to make a $977,519 in base salary in 2017, the final year of his rookie contract.

Raiders offseason program intensifies as OTA sessions begin

Raiders offseason program intensifies as OTA sessions begin

The Raiders offseason program is five weeks old. Players have lifted weights. They’ve improved cardiovascular shape. They’ve done drills in position groups and discussed schematics. They’ve added rookies to a group now 90 strong.

On Monday, they can finally put on helmets. They still can’t wear pads or have full contact, but the Raiders can play 11-on-11. Receivers will be covered. Quarterback Derek Carr will throw into traffic. Generally speaking, the competition cranks up a bit.

The NFL collective bargaining agreement has strict mandates regarding offseason activity, and a period formally called “Phase III” allows for more realistic on-field football work.

The Raiders will conduct 10 OTA sessions over the next three weeks. The media can watch three of them. Tuesday is the first, with another in each of the next two weeks. These sessions are technically voluntary, though the Raiders generally hover around perfect attendance. Head coach Jack Del Rio prefers his team be unified in the offseason. Players know it and show up.

There is a mandatory minicamp from June 13-15 which wraps the offseason program and starts a quiet period that extends until training camp begins in late July.

These OTAs offer an opportunity for new players to learn the system, for adjustments to be made and for chemistry to be built heading into a 2017 season where expectations are high.