Raiders notes: More than a gut check

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Raiders notes: More than a gut check

BALTIMORE -- The Raiders have given up a combined 97 points their last two games, having been embarrassed by the Baltimore Ravens, 55-20, on Sunday and losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 42-32, last week.Gut check time? This is more than that."At the end of the day," said defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, "you have to have some type of pride about you as a man. I ain't just going to keep letting somebody put their foot in my (behind). All you can do is look in the mirror."Kelly, it should be pointed out, has been down this road before. Many times before. His first six seasons were played in the midst of the Raiders' record seven straight with at least 11 losses. So why does what he say now carry more meaning?Maybe it doesn't. Because look who's on Oakland's schedule next."If we don't slow down New Orleans and Drew Brees," Kelly said, "this (stuff's) going to get real ugly."Yes, it can get worse.Especially if the Raiders continue to leave the middle of the field wide open. The Ravens' two tight ends, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, combined for seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdownin the first half.Said strong safety Tyvon Branch, when asked about the defense, or lack thereof: "Do I really have to talk to you about that?We made too many mental errors today.""It's like a dam right now," Kelly added. "You put your finger in one hole, and three or four more holes pop up. We've just got to get back in the lab."An oddity of the Raiders' blowout loss? They actually outgained the Ravens in total net yards, 422-419."That doesn't mean anything," said quarterback Carson Palmer. "We had too many big errors - an interception, fumbled snap and special teams breakdowns. They out-executed us in every phase of the game. At the end, I was just chucking the ball up there because their defensive backs were playing so deep."The Ravens are a good team with a great running back, and we knew this was going to be a tough challenge."For what it's worth, Palmer's 368 yards passing were his third-highest of the season -- all losses, though -- and he extended his franchise record of throwing for at least 200 yards to 15 games.Matt Leinart made his Raiders debut, replacing Palmer for the Raiders' final two series.Leinart threw an incompletion on his lone pass attempt, trying to hit Darrius Heyward-Bey, and endured a delay of game penalty. Other than that, Leinart handed the ball off five times to Jeremy Stewart.The 10 penalties the Raiders committed were the second-most of the season, as were the 105 penalty yards.Marcel Reece, the dynamic fullback-turned-tailback in the absence of Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson and an absence of trust in Taiwan Jones, was a workhorse against the Ravens with a career-high 20 touches.RELATED: Enigmatic RB Jones remains an afterthought
Reece carried the ball 13 times for a game-high 48 yards while catching a game-high seven passes for 56 yards.

McKenzie focuses Raiders' 2017 draft on defense, beefs up secondary

McKenzie focuses Raiders' 2017 draft on defense, beefs up secondary

ALAMEDA – Raiders general manger Reggie McKenzie made nine selections in this weekend’s NFL draft. That was a requirement given the state of his roster, featuring a stacked offense and a Swiss-cheese defense. It has holes.

He spent significant draft capital trying to upgrade the middle of his defense especially, adding three defensive backs, two defensive tackles and a fifth-round pick in Marquel Lee who will compete to start at middle linebacker.

He needs a few immediate impact players on the defensive group headlined by first-round cornerback Gareon Conley and second-round safety Obi Melifonwu.

“How much do I think I can get out of this group? I hope a lot,” McKenzie said Saturday after the NFL draft was complete. “They’re all going to come in and compete. We’re signing guys post-draft also. We’re going to give them all the opportunity to compete with the veterans that we already have on board. We hope that out of it all, the competition part of it, the cream rises and we have a very good 53-man roster.”

McKenzie follows a draft board thoroughly constructed through hundreds of scouting reports and cross checks, and extensive evaluation at combines and pro days. He trusts it. It has certainly treated him well before, which productive hauls in 2014 and 2015 especially.

While he lost out on some likable players taken before his slot, McKenzie believes the Raiders added quality and depth in previously lacking position groups. He stuck with size and athleticism at times over college production and, as always, beefed up both the offensive and defensive lines.

“I think the way it fell, we got a lot of players, at the end of the day, it looks like we needed,” he said. “We felt like we got a lot of good players with high talent levels from top to bottom. Some are going to be more raw than others. We’re going to have to see down the line, more so. I think talking to the board, you said, ‘Job well done.’”

McKenzie also focused on fixing a lackluster pass defense with speed. Conley can be a shutdown cornerback outside or in the slot. Melifonwu is a heavy hitter who can play both safety spots and is expected to contribute as a rookie. The secondary must improve to prevent big plays and help Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin get after the quarterback.

“You have to have speed to play the game the way it’s going now,” McKenzie said. “You have to be able to play in space. You have to be able to match up. We took all of that into consideration when we brought these players in. To the players that you mentioned, Obi and Conley, both of those guys have great range, speed, very athletic. So, they make tackles in space. That’s one of the things that we looked at. Make sure short to medium plays don’t turn into big plays. I think they will help in that scenario.”

Here’s a full list of Raiders draft picks:

Round 1 (No. 24 overall): CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State
Round 2 (No. 56 overall): S Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut
Round 3 (No. 88 overall): DT Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
Round 4 (No. 129 overall): OT David Sharpe, Florida
Round 5 (No. 168 overall): LB Marquel Lee, Wake Forest
Round 7 (No. 221 overall): S Shalom Luani, Washington State
Round 7 (No. 231 overall): OT Jylan Ware, Alabama State
Round 7 (No. 242 overall): RB Elijah Hood, North Carolina
Round 7 (No. 244 overall): DT Treyvon Hester, Toledo

 

Raiders 2017 UDFA tracker: McKenzie adds safeties, mining for more gold

Raiders 2017 UDFA tracker: McKenzie adds safeties, mining for more gold

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have had great success mining gold from undrafted free agency. Jalen Richard and Darius Latham were kings of last year’s crop, which was six strong by season’s end. with Seth Roberts and Denico Autry other examples of undrafted free agents done good in recent years.

Can Raiders scouts find more helpful pieces from those left out of the NFL draft? Time will tell on that one, but finding the right undrafted players is something the team takes seriously. Scouts revel in undrafted players who make it in the league.

“It’s very rewarding,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “If we sign him as a free agent, we may have had him on the board as draftable, but getting guys post draft, that helps you down the road. To maintain a consistent winner, you have to hit on some of those guys. You have to. The way that the contracts are these days, you have to have some of those type players to help you win football games year in and year out.”

The Raiders will search for those players into Saturday evening to fill the 90-man roster. McKenzie secured some of his top targets with four seventh-round picks, though several more have signed with the club. Here’s a list of those who have signed with the team thus far:

-- OL Jordan Simmons, USC: The hulking offensive lineman signed with the Raiders, he announced on social media. Simmons stands 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, and will turn pro after being denied a sixth year of college eligibility. The talented guard had an injury-riddled career.

-- WR Isaac Whitney, USC: Whitney is yet another undrafted Trojan to join the Raiders roster. He announced the signing on social media. He didn’t have many college stats, but is fast with the size the Raiders prefer in outside receivers.

-- WR Keon Hatcher, Arkansas: Hatcher will reportedly join the offseason receiver group in hopes of taking a roster spot. He had 44 catches for 743 yards and eight touchdowns in his final college season. (Houston Chronicle)

-- WR Ishmael Zamora, Baylor: The Bears official website reported that Zamora will sign with the Silver and Black. He had63 catches for 809 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016. He was suspended three games for abusing a dog in an incident that was caught on video. 

-- S Ahmad Thomas, Oklahoma: The Raiders need safety depth, so it was smart of Thomas to sign in Oakland. He was a three-year starter and a team captain. (Houston Chronicle)

-- S Anthony Cioffi, Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights’ official Twitter account reported a four-year starter in college will give the pros a try in Oakland.

-- DT Jordan Wade, Oklahoma: The 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive tackle will join the Raiders. (SoonerScoop.com)

-- TE Pharaoh Brown, Oregon: The Ducks didn’t have a single player drafted, but Brown will join the Silver and Black. The tight end announced a signing on Twitter. He had 33 catches for 426 yards and five touchdown.

Check back for further updates...