Reece gets it going in passing game

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Reece gets it going in passing game

ALAMEDA -- Whispers that Marcel Reece had been underutilized through two games grew to shouts heading into the Raiders' third game.After all, the versatile fullback had just four total catches in losses to San Diego and Miami, but totaled 51 yards. Surely, Reece and his 12.8-yards-per-catch average had to be used more, right?In the Raiders' 34-31 defeat of Pittsburgh on Sunday, Reece caught a career-high four passes from Carson Palmer. And while Reece only averaged 6.8 yards per catch, he was that chess piece for which the Steelers had to account.INSTANT REPLAY: Raiders 34, Steelers 31
Yes, Reece looked comfortable after not having a single touch in the preseason."Like I always say, you take preseason with a grain of salt," Reece said Monday. "Im always going to be comfortable with the ball in my hands. Thats the easy part of the game. Carson is comfortable throwing me the ball. Whatever happens, whatever is in the game plan, lets do it."Reece is, after all, a converted wide receiver so he's just as comfortable catching a ball in the flat out of the backfield as he is lining up wide.All of which makes him a matchup nightmare. Even more when Palmer is running the no-huddle offense."Another piece of our game," he said. "Another thing we bring with our versatility."Carson is always great. Thats what Carson does. He has a high football IQ. He loved taking control of things. Thats his mojo."And of course, a day after the Raiders finally looked comfortable in a game running the zone-blocking scheme -- at least on Darren McFadden' 64-yard touchdown run -- I had to ask Reece about the ZBS, and how different it truly is from what they had been utilizing."Man, weve been running zone blocking since Ive been here," said Reece, who joined the Raiders' practice squad in 2008. "Its nothing new to us. Were a very versatile running attack, offensive attack as a whole. Zone scheme is the first scheme I learned. Its been the meat and potatoes of our offense since Ive been here. Its nothing new to us."Like I said, we just need to get our legs underneath us and start running the ball. Thats it."Well, that and start using Reece more in the passing game.

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

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.”

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

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.”