Reece looking for wins as feature back, not numbers

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Reece looking for wins as feature back, not numbers

ALAMEDA -- Marcel Reece isn't putting much value behind the numbers he's had in the two games since taking over as the Oakland Raiders' starting running back.He might be the only one.Oakland's primary fullback the past two seasons, Reece has amassed nearly 300 yards in total offense while providing some much-needed stability to a backfield that has been plagued by injuries this year. Last week against New Orleans, he fell 10 receiving yards shy of joining Hall of Famer Marcus Allen as the only players in franchise history to have 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in one game.Just don't expect him to make a big deal about it."None of that matters unless you get a W," Reece said Friday. "I don't care if it's number of touches. I don't care if it's number of yards or lack thereof. If you're not winning, it doesn't matter."With the Raiders (3-7) mired in a three-game losing streak, Reece shrugs off his achievements as little more than stats on paper.Yes, he's got a higher yards-per-carry average than Darren McFadden. And his 151 rushing yards over the past two weeks are more than backups Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones have combined for the entire season.But for a player who has never been on a team that won more than eight games since entering the NFL as an undrafted wide receiver out of Washington in 2008, the numbers are meaningless without the corresponding success in the standings."When it really comes down to it, you're just trying to make plays the way you're supposed to make plays," Reece said. "It's about being able to contribute to trying to help your team win and being productive at it."Reece toiled in relative obscurity for the first two months of the season despite being one of the Raiders' most productive players in 2011.That all changed when McFadden and Goodson got hurt during Oakland's Nov. 4 game against Tampa Bay. While Jones, a fourth-round pick last year, seemed like a logical replacement, he's had problems hanging onto the ball so the Raiders turned to Reece.Thus far the results have been impressive."I knew he was a weapon (but) I didn't know exactly how he was going to fit or how he was going to run," Oakland coach Dennis Allen said. "He's done an outstanding job. As long as he continues to do the things he's doing we'll continue to give him opportunities."Including this week in Cincinnati.McFadden and Goodson are both out while Jones is questionable. All three have ankle injuries, and while McFadden has made slow progress, it hasn't been enough to get back on the practice field.That means a third straight start at tailback for Reece, though fellow fullback Owen Schmitt isn't sure his teammate should even have a position title next to his name."He's just an athlete in a big-man's body," Schmitt said. "Yeah his title is fullback, but really he's a guy that can do it all. He can, when needed, do anything you ask. A guy like that is so valuable on the team."Quarterback Carson Palmer has started relying more heavily on Reece, too, as the Raiders' wide receiving corps battles its own injury issues.After catching 18 passes for 177 yards in Oakland's first seven games, Reece has 19 receptions for 241 yards over the past three.At some point over the next two weeks, Reece is also likely to double his career output in both rushing and receiving. If he does, don't expect much talk about it."It's just whatever," Reece said. "You just go out there and do your job to the best of your abilities. You fight for the guy that's to the left and to the right of you and behind you. No one man, no one group, is bigger than this team."Notes: DT Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring) accompanied the team on the flight to Cincinnati but will sit out his third straight game. ... SS Tyvon Branch practiced without limitations and is expected to start after missing last week's game against New Orleans with a neck injury.

McKenzie: Raiders will take 'different approach' drafting No. 24 overall

McKenzie: Raiders will take 'different approach' drafting No. 24 overall

Khalil Mack said atop Reggie McKenzie’s draft board back in 2014. While it probably felt like forever, the Raiders general manager only had to weather four picks before selecting the star edge rusher at No. 5.

McKenzie loved Amari Cooper in 2015, believing his athleticism and demeanor would pair well with quarterback Derek Carr. Cooper only had to survive three selections before McKenzie made him a Raider.

McKenzie shouldn’t hold his breath this year. The Raiders have the 24th pick. He’d pass out.

The Raiders now experience the downside of success, with lower selections than normal throughout the NFL Draft. They earned top 10 draft picks every year from 2004-15, when the Silver and Black became relevant again. McKenzie selected safety Karl Joseph No. 14 overall last year in his original draft slot, but a 12-4 record and a playoff birth pushed them way down in the draft order.

Thursday’s No. 24 pick will be the lowest since 2003, when the Raiders selected Nnamdi Asomugha 31st following a Super Bowl year.

That obviously turned out well. The Raiders need this deep-round pick to follow suit.

McKenzie likes several players in this draft, but there's no telling if they'll be available. NFL teams have a general idea who will make it down the draft board, but an unexpected move could turn the round upside down.

“The one thing that’s been more difficult, you have no idea who’s coming down at 24,” McKenzie said. “When you’re picking No. 4 or No. 5, you can have a clue, a few players that you can pick from. The draft is a funny thing. Players that you don’t think may be at the 24, could be there sitting right in front of your face.”

McKenzie certainly hopes a highly rated prospect falls in his lap, especially if the best available player fills a position of need. Or the cluster would be empty.

The Raiders must be ready for anything, with a draft cluster of players worthy of that particular pick.

“We’re going to study it continuously until that day,” McKenzie said. “Then you never know how trades go. It’s a different thing. But when you’re down that low in comparison to where we have been the last few years, it’s a different approach.”

Draft trades are always a possibility, especially as the round unfolds. The Raiders are in an interesting spot, a slot above the quarterback-hungry Houston Texans. Teams might want to leapfrog them to secure a coveted passer, giving the Raiders leverage in last-second trade talks to move down.

Reggie McKenzie hasn’t moved up in the first three rounds during his Raiders tenure, but this year might be an exception considering his roster is strong save a few important positions. He won’t leap all the way up the draft board, but a small move up is possible.

“I will not hesitate if I have to move up a little bit to get an impact player that we feel is on our board,” McKenzie said. “If we have to move up a little bit, I will not hesitate.”

Will Raiders GM McKenzie break mold and draft inside linebacker early?

Will Raiders GM McKenzie break mold and draft inside linebacker early?

It’s not like the Raiders haven’t been looking for linebacker help. They just haven’t found any entering this week’s NFL draft.

They brought Zach Brown in for a visit, but he didn’t like the team’s offer and left without a contract. They have interest in bringing last year’s starting middle linebacker Perry Riley back, but their valuations don’t match right now and the veteran remains on the open market. They let two-year starter Malcolm Smith join the 49ers in free agency. 

Right now, the position group is a skeleton crew with brittle bones. Free-agent signing Jelani Jenkins is the only interior linebacker with double digit starts, and could man the weak side, or end up a roving backing.

There isn’t much experience or talent or depth there right now, meaning the Raiders might draft an inside linebacker early for the first time in general manager Reggie McKenzie’s tenure.

Sio Moore was a third round pick in 2013, but was a strongside linebacker and edge rusher before switching spots in deference to Khalil Mack. Outside that, McKenzie took Miles Burris (fourth round) in 2012, and choose Ben Heeney and Neiron Ball (fifth round) in 2015. Those picks haven’t worked out well.

Neither have free-agent stopgaps Curtis Lofton or Nick Roach -- a quality player who fell victim to concussion issues – or waiver claim Ray-Ray Armstrong.

It’s been an unexpected black hole considering McKenzie, head coach Jack Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. all played on the inside.

“We want good linebacker play,” McKenzie said. “Both Jack and I know what a good linebacker is supposed to look like. We’re going to get us a couple, I hope, at some point before we play in September. Whether they’re in this draft or post draft or trade, somebody gets released, we’re going to do everything we can to upgrade our team; every position, including linebacker.”

While there are post-draft avenues to acquire inside linebackers, it might be time to go big at that spot.

There are attractive options likely available at No. 24 overall, where the Raiders can find the immediate impact starter they so desperately need. Let’s take a look at some who could be available when the Raiders pick.

Good fits: Raiders fans may shudder at the thought of selecting an Alabama interior linebacker with question marks. That’s expected after the Rolando McClain experience. Ruben Foster (6 feet, 229 pounds) is a top tier talent who could be slipping in this draft. He had a drug sample come back diluted at the NFL scouting combine, where he was sent home for arguing with a hospital employee. He has had shoulder troubles, though re-checks reportedly went well.

Foster is also an excellent player, the type of athletic thumper the Raiders are looking for. It’s still hard to see him sliding all the way to No. 24.

Florida’s Jarrad Davis (6-1, 238), however, seems like a near-perfect fit. He can cover and tackle, with a killer instinct necessary at that spot. He’s also praised as a high-character player and person focused on football. Analysts say he has good vision, closing speed and has physical gifts to help his continued development shoring areas of weakness. Davis has been well hyped recently, and there’s some thought he too could go higher than No. 24.

Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham should be available there, and could ready right away. Analysts says he’s a playmaker with good instincts, technique and play diagnosis. He’s a quality tackler with a nose for the football. He’s durable and fast enough to handle tight ends and running backs in man coverage. Detractors say he isn’t good getting off blocks and struggles with leverage at times, but Cunningham could be a productive three-down NFL linebacker soon.

LSU’s Duke Riley is a quick linebacker who can chase ball carriers down, and finished with a solid senior season. He might be a strong Day 3 pickup should the Raiders target other positions early in this draft.

Note: Temple's Haason Reddick wasn't mentioned here because he isn't expected to be available at No. 24.