EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Jaguars matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m. (CBS), at the O.co Coliseum.
Matchup No. 3: Rolando McClain vs. Maurice Jones-Drew
Raiders RB Darren McFadden vs. Jaguars LB Russell AllenTale of the tape
McFadden (20): 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, fifth season, Arkansas
Allen (50): 6-foot-3, 238 pounds, fourth season, San Diego StateALAMEDA -- Entering the Raiders' sixth game, Darren McFadden insists he's this close to having that breakout game behind the new zone-blocking scheme.And what better team to have it against than one in Jacksonville that ranks 30th against the run and gives up an average of 4.7 yards per carry?"I feel like were getting there," McFadden said.At Atlanta, McFadden carried the ball 27 times for 70 yards."We still have some things that we need to clean up," he said. "It wasnt a good average but overall I felt like we ran the ball pretty good. (Mike) Goodson came in and I felt like he had some great runs, helped our average out a lot. But I feel like our running game is getting to where it needs to be."And whenever McFadden breaks through the line of scrimmage he is likely to meet Russell Allen, the outside linebacker who leads the Jaguars with 47 tackles.Allen, an undrafted rookie from San Diego State, has picked up the Jaguars' tackling slack with middle linebacker Daryl Smith still out since suffering a groin injury early in training camp.Allen also took over at weakside linebacker for Clint Session, who is on the PUP list with concussion symptoms."The first word I think of is development," Jaguars assistant head coachdefensive coordinator Mel Tucker said of Allen to the Florida Times-Union."Hes a player thats come in and has progressed and developed every year. He has tremendous work ethic, attention to detail."
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.”