ALAMEDA -- You could make a compelling argument that Rolando McClain has been the most pleasant surprise on the Raiders' defense throughout the preseason."We've got him in some positions where we allow him to make plays," said coach Dennis Allen, "and he's really excited about that aspect."Sure, he's shot the wrong gap on occasion and he's still had trouble shedding the occasional block, but the middle linebacker has had more positive plays than negative through three exhibition games. Even with the specter of a potential NFL-mandated suspension still looming.So how have the Raiders not allowed the potential of losing the quarterback of their defense become a distraction?"We can't sit around here and say, 'Well, what if, what if, what if,'" Allen said. "We've got plans in place, and if and when that situation arises, then we'll act on it. But I'm not going to spend my whole time trying to figure out what we're going to do with it."The NFL has said it is still reviewing the situation, even as McClain has already been convicted of third-degree assault, menacing, discharging a handgun in city limits and reckless endangerment. His 180-day sentence is under appeal.Still, Oakland has given McClain, who is due to make a base salary of 970,000 this season but 4.005 million next year, a clean slate. And if a suspension does come from Commissioner Roger Goodell's office, the Raiders will treat McClain's absence like an injury."Very similar," Allen said. "Again, it's a next-man-up philosophy. Because we're going to play the games and it doesn't matter -- injuries, suspension, whatever -- we're going to play the games. We're going to have to find guys that can get out there and play."McClain, who is again not speaking to the media, has 10 tackles this preseason, including six solo. And has apparently become more of a team leader."I have been pleased," Allen said. "Hey, listen, he's still got work to do. He still needs to get better at certain things. We're constantly coaching, but that's part of what our job is. All of us have to get better. We're working on different things and he's been coming to work every day with the right attitude, trying to get better. And that's all we can ask out of anybody."
STANFORD – Todd Downing has long been responsible for intently analyzing college quarterbacks entering the NFL Draft. He certainly did so during two seasons as Raiders quarterbacks coach, adding input to personnel department evaluations on young signal callers.
This offseason, he’s using a wide-angle lens. Downing is the Raiders offensive coordinator now, promoted to the position after Bill Musgrave was allowed to leave on an expired contract.
Coaches enter the draft evaluation process relatively late – they have a season to coach, after all – but Downing prides himself on working hard in evaluating talent. Working with general manager Reggie McKenzie’s staff, coaches feel like their voice is being heard.
That’s important to a coordinator especially, who must make a scheme work with talent around him.
“Reggie and his staff have always done a tremendous job of listening to our vision for the offense or the defense,” Downing said Thursday at Stanford’s pro day. “It’s been a joy to work with those guys over the past three years.
“(Head coach Jack Del Rio) really expects us to be accountable for our position group. Now that I’m the coordinator, there’s more of a broad scope when looking at offensive talent in the draft. When you work that hard (evaluating players), I think the scouts know that your opinion is well grounded, and that validates it a little bit.”
Downing is always on the lookout for weapons, especially while making tweaks to the Raiders offense. The Silver and Black found a few, adding tight end Jared Cook, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, offensive lineman Marshal Newhouse and quarterback EJ Manuel.
Quarterback Derek Carr helped him get some. The full-time East Bay resident has been active recruiting free agents, trying to improve an already strong Raiders offense.
“You guys know how passionate he is about this game, and about this team and backing up this franchise,” Downing said. “(His involvement in recruiting) didn’t surprise any of us. He’s pretty hands on when it comes to football. He lives in the area, so he hopped in when we needed it and it paid off.”
Cook and Patterson especially could add dimensions to a well-rounded Raiders attack. Cook has made some big plays in the past, and should be a reliable receiving tight end the Raiders have lacked in recent seasons.
“He has a skill set that will be fun to play with (schematically),” Downing said. “We’re excited to see what he can do, and I know Derek is excited to add him. He has a history of making plays in this league, and that’s something we’re excited to have.”
Patterson’s primarily known as a kick returner – he’s a two-time All Pro on special teams – but the Raiders hope he’ll be active on offense.
“With guys like that, you just find a way to get them the rock and let them do the rest of the work,” Downing said. “They make me look good. I can call a simple play and he takes it the distance and it looks like I designed something special.”
A week after signing a deal with the Vikings, former Raiders running back Latavius Murray has undergone ankle surgery.
The Vikings made the announcement Wednesday afternoon.
Minnesota issued the following statement regarding the surgery:
"Vikings RB Latavius Murray had successful ankle surgery today. The surgery was performed by Dr. Bob Anderson in Charlotte, North Carolina. We were aware of the required surgery prior to signing Latavius on March 16. Latavius is expected to fully recover and be available for training camp."
Murray's deal with the Vikings is reported worth $15 million over three years, but can reportedly be voied after the first year.
Drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Murray became the Raiders' primary running back midway through the 2015 season. In his three years in Oakland, Murray carried the ball 543 times for 2,278 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2015.