Raiders ride special teams to 24-17 win over Browns

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Raiders ride special teams to 24-17 win over Browns

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OAKLAND -- A day that began with a tribute and celebration to late owner Al Davis ended with questions about the Oakland Raiders' future following a serious injury to starting quarterback Jason Campbell.The Raiders overcame Campbell's broken collarbone by getting a 101-yard kickoff return from Jacoby Ford and Kevin Boss' 35-yard touchdown catch from punter Shane Lechler on a fake field goal in a 24-17 victory Sunday over the Cleveland Browns in the first home game since Davis' death."This football team will be fine," coach Hue Jackson said. "This team is a little bit more resilient than everyone thinks they are."They showed that Sunday after Campbell was knocked out late in the first half when he landed hard on his shoulder after being hit at the end of a scramble by Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita.Kyle Boller entered in relief and struggled at times but the Raiders (4-2) got enough big plays on special teams to hold off the Browns (2-3) and win consecutive games for the first time this season."We honored one of the greatest Raiders ever in Coach Davis," Jackson said. "I know he's looking down saying 'Just win, baby.' That's what we did. That's what we do here. We win. I don't care what it looks like. I don't care if it's pretty it's ugly or whatever."It was an emotional day at the Coliseum with many old-time Raiders coming back to honor Davis, the man who had been the face of the franchise for nearly a half-century before dying Oct. 8 of an undisclosed illness at age 82.Coaches and team officials all wore black shirts with a simple two-letter message supplanted on the Raiders shield: "AL." The most poignant moment came during a halftime ceremony with dozens of former players standing in a circle around the Raiders emblem at midfield. Super Bowl-winning coach John Madden then lit a caldron on the plaza level in the corner of the stadium with the public address announcer saying the fire will "burn forever" for fans to remember Davis.On a day full of tributes, the one Davis would have appreciated most is the one on the scoreboard."We all knew the task at hand and we just made sure we made the most of it," cornerback Stanford Routt said.Boller completed a 27-yard swing pass to Ford that set up Sebastian Janikowski's 48-yard field goal that made it 17-7 late in the third quarter.Oakland then took over again at the Cleveland 25 after a botched handoff between McCoy and Montario Hardesty. That's when Jackson and special teams coach John Fassel once again successfully went to their book of tricks. On fourth down from the 35, Lechler - the holder - threw to a wide-open Boss in the flat and Boss raced to the end zone for the score that made it 24-7."It's just taking advantage of what the defense is doing," Boss said. "It's a pretty simple pass and a pretty simple catch. I think all the credit goes to Coach Fassel for being able to recognize it's something we should take advantage of. And to Coach Jackson for having the guts to call the play."Oakland's win last week in Houston was aided by a 35-yard run on a fake punt by Rock Cartwright as Jackson has followed his credo to "live on the edge."That lead proved to be enough for the Raiders, who harassed Colt McCoy and held Cleveland's running game to 65 yards. McCoy completed just 21 of 45 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns, including a 12-yarder to Mohamed Massaquoi that cut it to 24-17 with 1:06 remaining after Jackson bypassed a chip-shot field goal to go for it unsuccessfully on fourth-and-1 from the 5.The Browns recovered the onside kick, but were unable to generate a first down and Oakland won it."We fought till the end," McCoy said. "Eventually, we thought, we're going to catch a break. In the huddle, after we got the onside kick, we thought we had a chance. We had a minute, that's a long time. We got it on the 50. We just didn't capitalize."Darren McFadden rushed for 91 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown for the Raiders.After a pregame video tribute and moment of silence for Davis, the Raiders started fast. They forced a three-and-out to start the game with safety Matt Giordano sacking McCoy with a blitz on third down. Oakland them methodically moved 88 yards in 15 plays, converting four third-down opportunities and scoring on McFadden's 4-yard run.The Raiders were moving again when Campbell slid headfirst on a scramble and lost the ball. That led to Cleveland's first score on McCoy's 1-yard TD pass to Alex Smith.Oakland answered with Ford's 101-yard kickoff return - his fourth TD return in less than two years as a pro."Typically, if you have one special teams score, that's enough to get you nailed," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "And we had two."Notes: Browns RB Peyton Hillis was limited in the second half by an injured left hamstring and will have an MRI on Monday. ... Fujita left with a concussion. ... Raiders C Samson Satele sprained his knee but told Jackson he likely will play next week.

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...