AFC North: Oakland Raiders

Impressionist Frank Caliendo stopped by ESPN.com’s NFL Nation TV Thursday and offered hilarious takes in different voices on the current state of the NFL, joining host Paul Gutierrez (Oakland Raiders reporter), co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Kevin Seifert (NFL national reporter).

Caliendo broke out many of his impressions, including his staple of staples, John Madden, and advised life-of-the-party rookie Johnny Manziel to keep on partying, in Madden’s voice, like Madden’s Raiders of the 1970s did as one of the league’s dominant teams of the era, both on and off the field.

Earlier in the day on ESPN Radio’s "Mike and Mike" show, Caliendo read LeBron James’ letter to the fans, his reason for returning to Cleveland, in the voice of Morgan Freeman. Caliendo shared some of it on the Spreecast as well.

Other NFL personalities Caliendo did impressions of included what is now his newest staple, Jon Gruden, while briefly taking the show into a Gruden family reunion and reminiscing on Harry Potter’s school of Hogwarts. He also did Will Ferrell doing Harry Caray.

Caliendo, who has had his own television show in the past, said he stopped counting how many voices he has in his repertoire, though it’s been reported he has at least 120 impressions, from former president George W. Bush to Mike Ditka, which he said is all about chewing gum and putting his index finger above his lip as a mustache. He wants to add a Peyton Manning impression, saying there’s some “Elvis” in the five-time NFL MVP’s voice.

And yes, Caliendo did some Charles Barkley while discussing how he comes up with ideas for impressions. Caliendo was on the show for 20 minutes.

Other topics discussed by Gutierrez, Harvey and Seifert included Ray Rice getting a reported two-game suspension, Tony Dungy’s recent assertion that he would not draft the openly gay Michael Sam because he would be too big a distraction, and a new home for the Raiders.

The show can be watched here:

 
Join us at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT today for ESPN’s NFL Nation TV’s Spreecast episode No. 12. Host Paul Gutierrez (Oakland Raiders reporter), co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and guests Eric Williams (San Diego Chargers reporter) and Mike Triplett (New Orleans Saints reporter) discuss a range of topics from the pending decision on Jimmy Graham's franchise tag grievance to Johnny Manziel's latest escapades to Randy Moss getting the coaching bug, among other issues. Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions and contribute in the chat feature in the box atop the video player.

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Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT, for NFL Nation TV’s Spreecast episode No. 11. Host Paul Gutierrez (Oakland Raiders reporter), co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and guests John Keim (Washington Redskins reporter) and Scott Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers reporters) discuss a range of topics from the team nickname under fire in the nation’s capital to the passing of a legend in Chuck Noll to Michael Vick thinking very highly of himself, among other timely issues. Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT for ESPN’s NFL Nation TV’s Spreecast episode No. 8. Host Paul Gutierrez (Oakland Raiders reporter), co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and guests Mike Reiss (New England Patriots reporter) and Ben Goessling (Minnesota Vikings reporter) discuss a range of topics from the Bills going on the market to the ongoing controversy surrounding the name of the NFL’s Washington, D.C. franchise to garage sales, yes, garage sales. Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

NFL Nation TV looks ahead

May, 27, 2014
May 27
12:00
PM ET
Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT for ESPN’s NFL Nation TV’s Spreecast episode No. 7. Host Paul Gutierrez (Oakland Raiders reporter), co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and guests Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) and Josh Weinfuss (Arizona Cardinals reporter) discuss a range of topics from alleged hypocracy in the NFL, to Michael Vick talking out of both ends of his mouth, to Beast Mode skipping the White House. Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

Join us today at 2 p.m. ET, 11 a.m. PT as ESPN’s NFL Nation TV’s third Spreecast airs live. Host Paul Gutierrez (Oakland Raiders reporter), co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and guest Terry Blount (Seattle Seahawks reporter) take on topics.

Among topics we'll discuss: Herschel Walker saying he could still play in the NFL, a 49ers fan suing the NFL for $50 million over Seattle’s ticket situation in the NFC title game, Megatron potentially finding a loophole in the NFL’s anti-celebration dunk rule and the Seahawks Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson in the news for vastly different reasons. Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

NFL Nation TV back for seconds

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
1:00
PM ET
Join us today at 2 p.m. ET, 11 a.m. PT, as ESPN’s NFL Nation TV’s second Spreecast airs live. Hosts Paul Gutierrez (Oakland Raiders reporter), Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and guest Pat McManamon (Cleveland Browns reporter) take on topics ranging from Terrelle Pryor to Johnny Manziel to Donald Trump to Vernon Davis to Chad Johnson's attempted CFL comeback. Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.
 

NFL Draft: The Top Five

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
9:00
AM ET
The first five choices in the NFL draft remain up in the air, with three quarterbacks, two linebackers, two offensive tackles and a receiver all considered a possibility for the Houston Texans, the St. Louis Rams, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Cleveland Browns or the Oakland Raiders. What will happen? Check back in May.

Until then, the five NFL Nation reporters from each of the top five teams will get together periodically to offer their thoughts on what they would do. Your comments are welcome.

Here's the first look:

1. Texans: Tania Ganguli picks Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina. Of all of them, this is the player most worthy of the top pick. His talent is transcendent and the Texans need another pass-rusher. If they aren't sold on Clowney, I'd trade this pick to someone who is.

2. Rams: Nick Wagoner picks Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. I would give strong consideration to one of the top two offensive tackles but this is a rare opportunity to get the No. 1 receiver the Rams have lacked since Torry Holt's heyday. Since the Rams also have the 13th pick, I'd look to address the offensive line. Of course, trading down would also be a possibility.

3. Jaguars: Mike DiRocco picks Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo. There's a lot of temptation to take one of the quarterbacks, but general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley don't believe any of them are ready to play right away. Despite adding players to the defense in free agency -- ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant and linebacker Dekoda Watson -- the Jaguars still need a lot of help. Mack has the versatility to rush the passer and play in coverage. Plus, the defense needs to get faster and Mack fits that bill, too.

4. Browns: Pat McManamon picks Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida. The first three picks from the ESPN.com reporters have put the Browns guy in a bind. Their preferred draft order should read Watkins, Mack, Clowney, but all three are gone. (If I'm the Browns and this happens, I might pull a Bill Belichcik, throw a hissy fit, trade out of the pick and take Craig Powell, Jr.) The three top guys on my board are gone. Which leaves Greg Robinson or a quarterback. Though none of the quarterbacks are exciting, Bortles has the size and arm strength and best potential of the three. I'm picking for the future, a selection that cements Brian Hoyer as the starter.

5. Raiders: Paul Gutierrez picks Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M. Well, this is not at all how I thought this would go. The Raiders need a playmaker, a Watkins-type for newly acquired Matt Schaub to throw the ball to in this revamped offense. But since he's gone, if I had my druthers, I'd trade down and pick up Mike Evans to become Schaub's Andre Johnson 2.0. But since we're not trading in this particular exercise, I suppose I could just gamble and use the pick on Evans, right? Thing is, those two stud tackles are still there and Matthews could be the best player in the entire draft, regardless of position. You build a team on the lines, so I'm going with Matthews at No. 5 for the Raiders to continue their "reconstruction" … for now.
Mike Mitchell, LaMarr WoodleyGetty ImagesIn safety Mike Mitchell and linebacker LaMarr Woodley the Steelers and Raiders hope to find free-agent steals.
LaMarr Woodley is now a Raider as he signed with Oakland last week following his release from the Steelers. The Steelers, meanwhile, made an uncharacteristic signing on the first day of free agency, bringing in Mike Mitchell to take over for Ryan Clark at free safety. Mitchell played for the Panthers in 2013 but spent his first four seasons with the Raiders.

ESPN.com Steelers writer Scott Brown and ESPN.com Raiders writer Paul Gutierrez take a closer look at Woodley and Mitchell and what their signings mean for their respective teams.

Paul Gutierrez: The Raiders had many needs entering the offseason, perhaps none greater than pass rush. They seemed to address that by signing Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, but I’m sure Raiders fans are wondering just how much Woodley, who turns 30 in November, has left in the tank?

Scott Brown: The Raiders should be getting a player who will be extremely motivated following his release by the Steelers -- and by how his career played out after they had made Woodley the highest-paid defensive player in franchise history. It proved to be a rather stunning fall from grace for Woodley, and ultimately the Steelers picked Jason Worilds, whom they had been widely criticized for drafting in the second round in 2010, over Woodley.

Woodley’s inability to stay on the field led to the Steelers making that choice, and if he can stay healthy he could turn out to be a real bargain for the Raiders. Woodley played well until a calf injury sidelined him in the second half of the last season and ultimately shut him down. What has the reaction been to the Woodley signing, and do you think the Raiders view it as a low-risk, high-reward proposition?

Gutierrez: The reaction has been one of relief from Raiders fans, especially since Tuck had signed earlier in the wake of the Rodger Saffold debacle. Now, I’m not saying it “saved” the Raiders’ free agent-signing season, but it did wash away some of the bad taste because the Raiders had a huge need at pass rush. In Woodley (57 career sacks) and Tuck (60.5 career sacks) they addressed it even if both guys will be on the wrong side of 30 come midseason. Still, Woodley and Tuck, bring a championship mentality (two Super Bowl appearances) to a franchise that has not had a winning record since 2002. And yeah, the money is right (“only” up to $12 million) as is the length of the deal (two years).

Still, there are questions about how his skill set plays into the Raiders’ base 4-3 defense since Woodley was the left outside linebacker in the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme. He says he’ll play with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end in a 4-3. Do you see that as a realistic possibility, or is that too much to ask of him at this stage of his career?

Brown: Woodley should be fine moving to defensive end as that is what he played in college when he tormented quarterbacks for Michigan. The move might help him regain some of his pass-rushing mojo as Woodley won’t drop into coverage nearly as often as he did with the Steelers. I like the signing for the Raiders, especially if Woodley prepares and plays as if a fire has been lit under him. Did complacency set in after he signed the six-year, $61.5 million in 2011? It sure seems that way and maybe getting released is what Woodley needed to get his career back on track.

The Steelers normally stay on the sidelines during the first wave of free agency but they made a significant signing when they lured Mike Mitchell away from Carolina with a five-year, $25 million contract. Mitchell spent his first four seasons in Oakland and I’m curious about your impressions of him. Did he simply need a change of scenery or did things click for him last season because he played on a better team?

Gutierrez: Yeah, it’s been a couple of years since I covered Mitchell on a day-to-day basis but he definitely left an impression as one of the best interviews in the Raiders locker room, win, lose or draw. The spotlight was on him from the day Al Davis used a second-round pick on a little-known player from Ohio University. Davis had visions of another undersized, hard-hitting safety from the Buckeye State in Jack Tatum but that was a tough bar to reach. Still, he had some flashes… especially in covering San Diego tight end Antonio Gates a few years back. A change of scenery, and being with a team that had a better pass rush, definitely helped him out in Carolina. Plus, he was able to freelance more with the Panthers as a free safety, rather than on the strong side. And with his outspoken manner, gritty disposition and, yes, rep as a hard hitter, he seems to fit the mold of Raiders and Steelers' DBs of yore, even if he’s not Tatum or even Donnie Shell.

Speaking of old school, Raiders fans still refer to “IT” as the Immaculate DE-ception… so when, if ever, is Frenchy Fuqua going to tell the entire story?

Brown: I just read a tremendous book on the 1970s Steelers, “Their Life’s Work,” and it sounds like he is taking that story to his grave. I’m sure Steelers’ fans would counter that the Immaculate RE-ception is history and in the books no matter how it went down. It certainly is one of the more intriguing chapters of that storied rivalry and remains so after all of these years. What are the chances that the Raiders and Steelers turn back the clock at some point and resume meeting regularly in the playoffs as they did in the 1970s?

Gutierrez: Well, that would mean the Raiders have to get BACK to the playoffs, a place they have not visited since 2002. Realistically, I can’t see it happening in the next year or two, but in the NFL, things do change quickly. Not sure the rivalry can ever get back to the days of the ’70s, though, when the Steelers and Raiders met in three straight AFC title games, which I wrote about in January.
In the same week in which one player got suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit, Steelers safety Ryan Mundy should breathe a sigh of relief that he only received a hefty fine.

The crown of Mundy's helmet nailed Darrius Heyward-Bey in the chin and twisted the Raiders wide receiver's neck, which rendered him unconscious in the end zone. Mundy somehow didn't get a penalty from the replacement officials for that frightening blow.

A helmet-to-helmet hit draws the automatic $21,000 fine. Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons received the same fine for his collision with Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. But Mundy's hit was more violent and resulted in Heyward-Bey getting carried off on a stretcher.

Mundy said after the game that he didn't intentionally try to injure Heyward-Bey.

“I didn’t go in there trying to hit him with my helmet,” Mundy said. ”Things like that happen so fast. He may have come down to the level of my helmet."

On Tuesday, the NFL suspended Broncos linebacker Joe Mays for one game and fined him $50,000. I'm not saying Mundy's hit was similar to that one. Mays' hit dislodged the helmet of Texans quarterback Matt Schaub and took off a piece of his ear. But the league is obviously stressing its message when it comes to player safety and that's why Mundy should feel lucky that only 20 percent of his weekly paycheck was taken away.
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

The Tim Tebow touchdown pass that beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime shouldn't have counted.

That's the assertion of the San Jose Mercury News, which says the Broncos should have been flagged for illegal formation. Using a pre-snap picture, the paper points out that Denver had six players -- and not the required seven -- on the line of scrimmage.

It appears that the tight end lining up next to the left tackle is not on the line. Based on that, the officials should've thrown the flag and moved the Broncos back five yards. Instead, Tebow threw an 80-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play in overtime.

Former head of officiating Mike Pereira was asked by the Mercury News whether it was an illegal formation.

"Watch on any Sunday. This is a good formation compared to many. They are not technical with this," Pereira said.

Hensley's slant: This is one of many plays that highlight how bad the officiating was for that game. There was a Ben Roethlisberger pass that was ruled incomplete that should have been a fumble because it wasn't a forward pass. But the officials said the play was whistled dead, and the Steelers went on to score. So both sides benefited from and were hurt by the officials throughout the game.

BENGALS: The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy officially called the Carson Palmer trade one of the "all-time steals in league history" after coach Hue Jackson, who helped orchestrate the deal on Oct. 18, was fired by Oakland. The Raiders were 4-2 at the time of the trade and finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs. The Bengals get the Raiders' first-round pick, which turned out to be the 17th overall. Hensley's slant: Most people thought it was a steal the day it happened. The Raiders, the only team that would be bold enough to send two high draft picks for a 31-year-old quarterback, continue to be the NFL's most unstable franchise. The next head coach will be Oakland's seventh in the past 10 seasons, following Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable and Jackson.

BROWNS: The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Tony Grossi offered up another candidate to be the Browns' next starting quarterback: Kevin Kolb. He disappointed in his first season with the Cardinals (going 2-6 as the starter) and is due a $7 million roster bonus from Arizona in March. Grossi believes Kolb would be more effective in the West Coast offense that he ran in Philadelphia, where his quarterbacks coach was Pat Shurmur. Hensley's slant: There's no doubt that Kolb is a better fit in Cleveland's system that the one in Arizona, which attacks downfield more aggressively. But I don't see the Cardinals cutting their ties with Kolb after giving him $21.5 million guaranteed six months ago. Getting Kolb seems more like wishful thinking at this point.

RAVENS: The team confirmed that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was at the Texans-Bengals wild-card playoff game to do some advance scouting. “He’s done that quite a few times over the years when we’ve had bye weeks and stuff like that,” coach John Harbaugh said, via The Baltimore Sun. “So that’s something that I think he likes to do. It gives him a feel, watching the game live, scouting the game live. It’s not so much X’s and O’s as it is a feel for the tempo and things like that. That’s something he likes to do, and he’s done that over the years.” Hensley's slant: Cameron hasn't turned the Ravens into a top-10 offense yet (they were No. 15 this season) but he's done a solid job considering the quality of defenses that Baltimore has faced. The Ravens have played 11 games against top-10 defenses this year. The only top-10 defense that the Ravens didn't play (outside of itself) was the Philadelphia Eagles. So it's status quo for Baltimore when it lines up against Houston and the league's second-ranked defense.
The Ravens might be hard-pressed to keep their heir apparent to general manager Ozzie Newsome.

Four teams -- the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders -- are reportedly interested in Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta for their general manager openings. The Colts, Rams and one other team have already received permission to interview DeCosta and plan to meet with him in the next couple of days, according to The Baltimore Sun.

DeCosta has long been considered the successor-in-waiting to Newsome, the team's only general manager, who turns 56 in March but has never publicly hinted at retirement. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has rewarded DeCosta for his loyalty -- he removed his name from the Seahawks' general manager search in 2009 -- with an increase in pay and responsibility.

"I think Eric knows how highly regarded he is in Baltimore, but when you have a guy as successful as Ozzie Newsome in the job, there's not a ton of promises that you can make," Bisciotti said in March 2010. "I think Eric is smart enough to see what happened with Phil [Savage] and George [Kokinis], and he'll probably limit himself to consideration of just a handful of jobs. His relationship with Ozzie is just as solid as any relationship I've seen in the NFL. He's so happy in his job that I think it will take a perfect job to get his serious consideration. Eric is going to make a great GM someday."

The problem for the Ravens is that the perfect job could be coming DeCosta's way. With four teams in the mix, the competition for DeCosta might result in a deal that he can't refuse.

DeCosta officially became Newsome's right-hand man in the war room in 2005, when Savage left for the Cleveland Browns' general manager job. One team official said DeCosta sets up the draft and Newsome makes the final decisions.

What makes DeCosta attractive to so many teams is his age (40), track record and a thoroughness that highlights his desire for better results.

"We even grade our lunches," DeCosta once said. "If I say it's a 6.2 lunch - all the guys know what that means: pretty good, but not great. A 7.5 is like the Pro Bowl; if I say the soup is a 7.5 today, everybody runs to get the soup."

Pryor's debut may be against Browns

August, 23, 2011
8/23/11
2:00
PM ET
After leaving Ohio State amid controversy for accepting illegal benefits, new Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor could face another Ohio team in his NFL debut. If Pryor's five-game suspension stands, his first game will be Oct. 16 against the Cleveland Browns.

Fortunately for Pryor, the game is in Oakland. Many Browns fans are Ohio State fans. Therefore, Pryor is one of the most unpopular athletes in Cleveland this year.

Pryor's camp has gone back and forth about whether to appeal the suspension. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made a controversial ruling to punish Pryor for transgressions he made at Ohio State before entering the league. If Pryor challenges, the suspension could be lifted or reduced.

But Pryor's first game will be against Cleveland if the suspension sticks. It's a little twist of irony for Pryor, who is trying to move forward with his football career.
Here are the latest happenings Monday evening in the AFC North:

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