EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Buccaneers matchups to watch Sunday, 1:05 p.m. (Fox), at O.co Coliseum.
Matchup No. 3: Carson Palmer vs. Ronde Barber
Raiders CB Michael Huff vs. Buccaneers WR Vincent JacksonTale of the tape
Huff (24): 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, seventh season, Texas
Jackson (83): 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, eighth season, Northern ColoradoALAMEDA -- Michael Huff, whose transition from free safety to cornerback is looking more and more like the right move for the Raiders with every series, has more than an inkling what to expect Sunday against Tampa Bay -- a heavy dose of first-year Tampa Bay receiver Vincent Jackson."If I was their offensive coordinator Im sure theyll see a safety outside and theyll put (Jackson) out there every snap probably," Huff said with a knowing grin on Friday. "They'll just try to test me and throw (at me) so obviously they see me out there, theyre going to put their best receiver outside."Jackson has long been a pain for the Raiders, having spent the first seven years of his career in San Diego before signing with the Buccaneers this offseason as a free agent."Vincent's been great," said Buccaneers rookie coach Greg Schiano. "Not only on-the-field results, but he gives us veteran leadership in the receivers room. Because other than Vincent, we're a very young crew."Consider: Jackson has a touchdown catch in four of his past five games against Oakland and his 21.6-yards per catch average is the most in the NFL by any player with at least 20 receptions. And since 2008, Jackson's average of 18.5 yards per catch is tops in the league among players with at least 100 catches in that time.So yeah, the Buccaneers might want to test a guy still feeling the effects of jumping from the frying pan (free safety) into the fire (cornerback) in Week 3. Because, as Huff said, even if he's played against him before, it was deeper in the secondary, and not playing him face up."Vincent Jackson is just a different animal," Huff said. "Even when hes covered, like I said, they just throw it up to him and he finds a way to make plays. Hes been doing it his whole career and hes still doing it at Tampa Bay. He finds a way to make plays so even when hes covered, like I said, be ready, because the balls probably still coming."Hes big and he plays the ball in the airthe more times they test me, the more times I have chances to make plays so thats how I look at it. The more balls I get, the more chances for interceptions so I always welcome the challenge."
The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.
They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.
Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.
“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”
While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.
The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.
“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.
"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”
Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.
Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.
Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.
“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”
Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.
“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”