Gutierrez: Next Steps Will Tell Raiders' Tale


Gutierrez: Next Steps Will Tell Raiders' Tale


ALAMEDA Gridlock never looked so good to Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski.

The Raiders punter and placekicker, teammates since coming into the NFLtogether in 2000, car-pooled to the Coliseum on Sunday. A familiarfeeling overcame them, not unlike the buckets of rain pouring down fromthe heavens, like some long-lost cousin emerging from the wilderness.

There was traffic, Lechler said with a wide-eyed grin. That was pretty cool.

So Lechler leaned over to the his fellow specialist, the guy he freelycalls SeaBass and said, Man, this kind of feels like the old days.But it was good. The place was packed. They were loud and that made iteven better for us.

And with a roaring sellout crowd sent home with a 23-20 overtime defeatof Kansas City and visions of 2002 dancing in their collective heads,the Raiders, 5-4 for the first time since that Super Bowl season, entertheir bye week.

Yes, the Raiders have turned a corner. No doubt theyve learned how towin again. But how they handle not only the relative success of theirfirst nine games, including a three-game winning streak for the firsttime since you guessed it 2002, and also the bye week, will tellthe tale of this rebuilding team.

They have lost their last seven games the week immediately followingtheir bye. And this is Oaklands latest bye since 2004, when it alsoplayed nine games before the break. Byes were instituted into the NFLschedule in 1990.

There is a fine line between rest and rust, and by the time the Raidersresume their schedule at Pittsburgh on Nov. 21, we will know on whichside of the stripe they reside.

If you dont handle (the bye week) right, it can be bad, offereddefensive tackle Richard Seymour. You can gain a lot from it, and youcan lose a lot. But I think if we handle this thing the right way theway things have been going with the attention to detail and the waysguys have bought into what were trying to do, I think its going to bea really good thing for us.

Beside keeping their heads on right, the break gives the Raiders anopportunity to heal and regain the services of such injured key playersas shutdown cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle), run-stuffing defensivetackle John Henderson (foot), rising star tight end Zach Miller (foot),sure-handed receivers Louis Murphy (chest) and Chaz Schilens (knee) andfolk hero quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (shoulder).

Oakland has won three consecutive games without some of its best players. How good could it be at full strength?

Yeah, its very exciting, said coach Tom Cable. But until theyreout there going full time, we cant really get too high yet. Its niceto know thats just around the corner.

All of which begs dual questions with the Raiders rolling (again, arelative term in these parts) and 3-0 in the AFC West for the firsttime since 1990, could the bye halt any momentum, and do any of theveterans worry about such a hiccup effect?

No, I dont, Seymour said. If you can play, you can play. If youre a baller, youre a baller.

Besides, with the Steelers playing Monday at Cincinnati and home nextweek against New England, the Raiders have two opportunities to checkthem out and scout them on national television before facing them.

So its a great opportunity for us to physically get well, Seymour said, and to explode when we see them next time.

Sounds like a plan. So long as the Raiders continue buying what Cable is selling.

I guess you can say (its a) feeling of brotherhood, like a bigbrother, I got your back, you got my back, said cornerback ChrisJohnson. For the last three weeks weve been playing like abrotherhood, and you can see it on the field. If one person misses agap, you got your brother right there beside you. Everybodys got eachothers back around here now.

Sounds like those not-so-long-ago old days Lechler was talking about, right?

Its good to see it turn full circle, he said.

And the reason? Lechler said it was Cable, who followed Lane Kiffin,who came after Art Shell, who replaced Norv Turner, who succeeded BillCallahan, who was Jon Grudens replacement. All since Lechlers rookieseason of 2000.

Everybody trusts him, Lechler said of Cable. Not that we didnttrust the other coaches, but we can believe everything he says.

Honesty, and we believe him.

Gridlock and trust. Two commodities in short supply here the past eightyears. The bye also afford the Raiders a chance to restock both.

Injury report: Murray rebounds well after return to Raiders practice

Injury report: Murray rebounds well after return to Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Latavius Murray will spend this practice week testing himself to see if he can play after a debilitating bout of turf toe sidelined him the last two games.

He returned to action on a limited basis for Wednesday’s practice, and needed to respond and rebound well to continue his quest back to the playing field.

Early returns have been positive.

"I think he got a handful of plays out there (on Wednesday)," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said before Thursday’s practice. "I think he’s looking to get better each and every day and hopefully it’s good enough by the time the next game arrives."

Murray practiced a second straight day on Thursday, strengthening his case to play against the Jaguars. That’s extremely likely, barring a setback.

That would certainly strengthen a Raiders running game that has slumped the past few weeks.

“Latavius has his own skill set,” Musgrave said. “Had some explosive runs for us last year. We’ll look forward to getting him back at some point. Hopefully it’s this week.”

Right tackle Menelik Watson practiced for a second straight day and seems in line to re-claim his starting spot against Jacksonville.

Special teams player Brynden Trawick and offensive lineman Vadal Alexander remain out.

It’s possible that Perry Riley will start at middle linebacker over rookie Cory James on Sunday.

Check back for complete participation reports for the Raiders and Jaguars.

Norton: Raiders 'have the right people,' scheme; execution lacking

Norton: Raiders 'have the right people,' scheme; execution lacking

ALAMEDA – Ken Norton Jr.’s defense hasn’t been good all season. It’s only been a hindrance twice in six weeks, allowing the Raiders to brush it under the rug while compiling a 4-2 record.

The Raiders were exposed in Sunday’s 26-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, leaving many to wonder whether this defense has fatal flaws.

The team’s defensive coordinator believes these problems can be fixed without a radical reconstruction.

Norton trusts his scheme. He believes in his personnel. He has faith there are better times ahead.

“It depends on what you believe in,” Norton said before Thursday’s practice. “If you believe in the players, you believe in the coaches and believe in yourself…

“Obviously you’d like the stats to be better. But we are 4-2, in a good place record-wise. The stats need to be better. We need to continue to understand who we are, what we are and get better at what we’re doing.”

“We have the right people. It’s just a matter of getting it done on game day.”

Coaches have cited eye violations (a.k.a misreads) as communication issues reasons why the Raiders give up chunk yards. Their 6.9 yards per play allowed is the league’s worst.

Edge rusher and team captain Khalil Mack said opponents are challenged the Raiders defensive discipline. Misdirection, bootlegs, wacky formations and the like have given the Raiders fits, and will continue to do so until they repair what’s broken.

“It’s all about discipline,” Norton said. “It’s all about angles. It’s all about leverage and tackling and the fundamentals of the game and getting down to the nitty gritty of playing smart and sharp. It’s the ultimate team game. …Everybody’s connected to a successful play. That play has to be successful consistently over a period of 70 plays. Everybody’s watching every single play, so you need consistency and have guys playing together. It will pick up.”

Communication is the latest buzz word attached to defensive miscues. Norton said it’s been corrected, just not consistently enough.

“It’s been fixed, but it will come up some times, at the worst times,” Norton said. “We are continually practicing. There are 16 games, and you need to be obsessed with improvement, and we are. Guys care a lot. They show up early and stay late. The communication, the playmaking, the coaching, all of it will continue to improve.

“Everybody wants to talk about communication but it’s guys consistently playing well over a duration of a game. You have to be sharp.”

The Raiders have used different coverage schemes at times this season and made two lineup changes – it’s also possible Perry Riley starts at middle linebacker this week – to no avail.

“You see things going wrong with missed tackles or balls going over our head, the little things and details need to get taken care of,” Norton said. “There aren’t a lot of differences between us and the good defenses, but they make a lot of plays they’re supposed to make.

“We have the right people. It’s just a matter of getting it done on game day.”