AFC West: Oakland Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. – Starting Oakland Raiders defensive end LaMarr Woodley is not practicing Wednesday.

Woodley was hurt Sunday in a loss to Arizona. On Monday, interim Oakland coach Tony Sparano wouldn’t disclose the ailment. By NFL rules, the Raiders must identify Woodley’s injury after practice Wednesday.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers watched practice. He has sat out several practices this season.

Three players who missed Sunday’s game did return to practice. Defensive end Justin Tuck (knee), fullback Marcel Reece (quad), right tackle Khalif Barnes (quad) and receiver Vincent Brown (hamstring) are all practicing Wednesday. Barnes and Brown missed the past two games. Even with Barnes back, Menelik Watson could still start. The second-year player performed well in Barnes’ absence.

Meanwhile, Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine, in a conference call with Bay Area media, said the Raiders have taken Sparano’s personality since he took over earlier this month.

“I think a lot of Tony and just kind of his approach to football and the mentality,” said Pettine, who worked with Sparano when both were on the New York Jets staff. “It’s clear to see in the games that he’s been in charge that it’s definitely his stamp.”

Raiders face another rookie QB

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22

ESPN Raiders reporter Bill Williamson compares the road of Derek Carr to Browns rookie Johnny Manziel.

The Film Don’t Lie: Raiders

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
A weekly look at what the Oakland Raiders must fix:

The Raiders are headed to Cleveland next Sunday a broken team. At 0-6, they are the NFL’s only winless squad look incapable of winning a game. The Raiders are getting outplayed and outproduced, and Oakland is contributing to its losing cause, as well.

Among its many mistakes against Arizona was undisciplined play. Oakland was called for eight penalties for 74 yards. Half of those penalties resulted in first downs for Arizona, and Oakland was called for penalties on two of the Cardinals' three touchdown drives.

The problem for Oakland is the penalties are increasing as the season goes on. The Raiders were traditionally one of the most penalized teams, if not the most penalized team, in the league. Under Dennis Allen, who took over in 2012 and was fired after Week 4 this season, the Raiders had cleaned it up.

But they have been penalized a total of 19 times in the past two games under interim coach Tony Sparano. Oakland was penalized just 15 times in the first three games. It was penalized nine times in Allen’s last game.

Sparano often preaches that Oakland has to stop beating Oakland. Lots of those penalties are just mental lapses. Sparano is working hard to stop it in all phases. There have been dividends paid in some areas, but getting his team to play smart, controlled football at the line of scrimmage has to be a focus of Sparano and his staff.

This team has enough problems. Hurting itself with penalties is only multiplying the issues.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Random thoughts after the Oakland Raiders' 24-13 home loss to Arizona that dropped the Raiders to 0-6:
  • The Raiders’ biggest problem (and there’s many) is their third-down defense. It has been dreadful. The Raiders entered their loss to Arizona allowing a league-high 51.4 percent conversion rate on third down. Arizona converted on third down 9 of 15 times, including twice on third-and-8 on a game-sealing drive in the fourth quarter. The Raiders are at a loss over the issues.

    “Killing us. It's killing us,” Oakland safety Charles Woodson said. “We're for the most part able to play good football on the early downs but for whatever reason, man, third downs, I don't know if there's a lack of focus or what it is on third downs but it is definitely our Achilles heel right now.”

    Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano said getting better in the area will, once again, be a primary focus of practice this week as the Raiders prepare to play at Cleveland next Sunday. The issue has an affect on the entire team. The Raiders held the ball for just 23:03 on Sunday. They entered the game with a league-low time of possession average of 25:04.
  • Sparano said backup quarterback Matt Schaub will remain the holder. He took over for punter Marquette King against Arizona. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed a 53-yard field goal last week. Sunday, with Schaub, Janikowski had field goals of 29 and 53 yards.
  • The Raiders’ run game floundered again Sunday after having its first success of the season against San Diego last week. The Raiders had 56 yards on the ground in 19 carries in the loss to Arizona. After gaining 80 yards against the Chargers -- his best game in over a calendar year -- Oakland starter Darren McFadden had 48 yards on 14 carries on Sunday. Maurice Jones-Drew, the Week 1 starter, has been unable to do much. He had 6 yards on three carries.
  • Tight end Mychal Rivera again was not a focal point in the offense. He had one catch on his only target. He had 38 catches as a rookie last season. He has 13 catches in six games.
  • Kenbrell Thompkins, in his second game since being claimed off waivers from New England, played some for Oakland. He was targeted once but didn’t have a catch.
  • The Raiders used the Wildcat once and McFadden gained 12 yards. They have used it for four plays this season. The Dolphins used the Wildcat as a focal point when Sparano was their head coach.
  • The Raiders had three three-and-out series Sunday and have 23 such drives in six games.
  • Recent defensive additions, linebackers Ray-Ray Armstrong and Jamar Chaney, both played some on defense Sunday. Armstrong was primarily a special-teamer before being cut by St. Louis.
  • Chimdi Chekwa seemed to fall behind Neiko Thorpe on the cornerback rotation. When D.J. Hayden is activated (perhaps this week), Chekwa could be in danger of being inactivated.
  • Benson Mayowa, claimed off waivers from Seattle in September, played some at defensive end Sunday and was active. I’d expect to see more of him moving forward.
  • Free-agent addition LaMarr Woodley continued to be a non-factor. The defensive end was credited with one tackle.
  • Receiver Brice Butler had a big catch for the second straight game -- a 55-yard reception that set up Oakland’s only touchdown. Butler had a 47-yard touchdown catch last week. Butler will likely continue to get more opportunities.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Injured Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett had a truth-hurts message to Oakland Raiders fans when he scribbled "0-6, worst team in football" on a sideline board at the end of another defeat suffered by the home team.

While Dockett doesn't get sportsmanship points, his crude memo is difficult to combat. The Raiders very much look like the NFL's worst club.

The Raiders made numerous critical miscues in the second half of a game that they took themselves out of, a 24-13 home defeat to Arizona on Sunday. Oakland is the NFL's last winless team -- thanks to Jacksonville's victory over Cleveland -- and has lost 12 straight dating back to last November.

Frankly, victory doesn't appear to be lurking around any corner. After playing at Cleveland next Sunday, the Raiders face Seattle, Denver, San Diego and Kansas City, all playoff teams from 2013.

"This is as bad as you're going to get through the first part of the season," veteran Raiders safety Charles Woodson said. "We haven't won a game. How much worse can it get than that, than not winning a game?"

Sunday's game was the second under interim coach Tony Sparano since the firing of coach Dennis Allen. Yes, the Raiders have given effort and they have shown some spark under Sparano, but the bottom line remains the same --- when it's time to make a play, the Raiders have come up short.

Allen called it failing "at the moment of truth." Sparano's flash phrase is "Oakland beating Oakland." Both doses of coach-speak were applicable Sunday.

Though the Raiders pulled within 14-13 in the third quarter, they never truly looked like they were in position to win. The reason? They kept making mistakes. There was a cascade of blunders in the second half on both sides of the ball.

The third quarter ended with three straight incompletions by rookie quarterback Derek Carr after Oakland had a first down at the 50-yard line and trailing 21-13.

On Arizona's first possession of the fourth quarter, which started at its own 13, the Raiders let them off the hook with 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on linebacker Sio Moore on third down, and then a third-and-9 conversion a few plays later.

On Oakland's next possession, it could only muster five offensive plays. The Cardinals then iced the game on a field goal drive that lasted 6:53 and gave them a 24-13 lead. The Cardinals converted on third-and-8 twice in that series.

Arizona was 9-for-15 on third-down conversions. Oakland came into the game allowing a league-high 51.4 conversion percentage on third down. It was the worst in the NFL. Oakland has a lot of problems, but getting off the field on defense is the biggest. The Raiders held the ball for just 23:03.

"We just have to find a way to win, find a way defensively to get off the field, find a way offensively to keep moving the ball on third down," Oakland cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "When it's crunch time we have to be the ones that make that play and not the other team."
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Oakland Raiders' 24-13 loss to Arizona:

Young injury may be bad: Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano said the result of the knee injury suffered by safety Usama Young “probably won’t be great.” He was carted to the locker room in the third quarter. Brandian Ross took over and will start if Young is out for an extended period. Young was starting because of a season-ending Week 3 foot injury suffered by Tyvon Branch.

Sparano likes effort, but ...: Sparano said competition and effort weren’t the problem Sunday. He likes the way his team has shown itself in the two games since he took over for the fired Dennis Allen. However, Sparano knows it isn’t enough. He said the Raiders have to find a way to win.

Third-down defense is killer: Sparano and the players know they have to find a way to get better on third down. Arizona converted on third down 9 out of 15 times. Oakland came into the game allowing opponents to convert on third down 51.4 percent of the time.

Carr stays positive: Oakland rookie quarterback Derek Carr was his usual self after the game. “Good things are coming,” the unwavering Carr said.

Rapid Reaction: Oakland Raiders

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19

OAKLAND, Calif. -- A few thoughts on the Oakland Raiders' 24-13 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals:

What it means: The Raiders' losing ways continue. They are now 0-6 and the only winless team in the NFL. Oakland has lost 12 straight games dating back to November. The Raiders were spunky enough, but they made so many mistakes on both sides of the ball that they were simply incapable of winning. We are two games into the Tony Sparano interim era after Dennis Allen was fired, and the Raiders still look like a team that cannot come up with a winning performance.

Stock watch: Third-down defense is still pointing way down. The Raiders entered the game allowing a first down on 51.4 percent of the time, the worst in the NFL. It was a point of emphasis all week in practice. But the Raiders were awful again Sunday on third down, and the issue remains colossal. They gave up several big plays, including a 33-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Arizona converted a third down nine of 15 times Sunday.

Defense takes another hit: Starting safety Usama Young left the game in the third quarter on a cart. He was ruled out of the game with a knee injury, which could be a bad sign for his availability moving forward. Young replaced Tyvon Branch, who was lost for the season with a broken foot in Week 3. Brandian Ross, who was cut and re-signed in September, could now be the starter.

Game ball: Safety Charles Woodson. He turned 38 this month, yet the future Hall of Famer is still playing at a high level. He made a touchdown-saving tackle from the grass and had an interception that set up a field goal. The Oakland defense is struggling, but it's not the fault of its venerable leader.

What's next: The Raiders head to Cleveland for their first road game in a month in Week 8. The Browns handed Jacksonville its first win of the season Sunday. Could a Raiders win be on the horizon? They have a lot to clean up if that is to happen.

Last week, the Oakland Raiders showed some rare life against the San Diego Chargers, and the Arizona Cardinals continued to be the surprise leader of the NFC West.

Sunday, the 0-5 Raiders will try to do what they couldn’t last week against San Diego -- pull off a home upset against a top team -- while 4-1 Arizona and former Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer will try to stay in first place.

Oakland Raiders reporter Bill Williamson and Arizona Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss discuss the matchup:

Williamson: Josh, are the Cardinals for real?

Weinfuss: It’s only been six games, but I think it’s too early to tell and that’s because of the injuries. Sure, they’ve beaten San Diego, the New York Giants and San Francisco, but the Chargers were in the opener and that’s always a crapshoot. The Giants were still finding their footing in their new offense. And the 49ers were reeling after a loss. Arizona needs to start the tough stretch of its schedule and win before I can say for certain this team is for real. It’s tough to see how good this team is because of all the injuries. Palmer will be the key component to making Arizona a legitimate playoff contender this season and he still is a game or two away from finding his groove. Plus, the defense is still figuring itself out after losing linebacker Matt Shaughnessy for eight weeks and defensive end Calais Campbell for a few. Once Palmer plays a few games, it’ll be easier to decide if Arizona will be a real threat this season.

Bill, do you think the Raiders will be competitive under interim coach Tony Sparano?

Williamson: They certainly looked to be last week. They looked like a different team, on offense at least. They rolled up 396 yards and Carr threw for four touchdowns. We should learn a lot about this team in this game. If the Raiders continue to play improved and with the same fire, it could be interesting to watch this team develop the rest of the season. I will say this: Sparano is very much invested. He is all-in and is trying to take advantage of this opportunity.

Josh, how good has Palmer been as a Cardinal?

Weinfuss: Palmer has been very good, almost a savior of sorts because of the carousel of quarterbacks that had stops in Arizona. He brought a name, talent and an extensive résumé, but none of that mattered on the field. What really helped Palmer, in my opinion, was being coached by Bruce Arians. Arians’ scheme is perfect for Palmer because Palmer is a tall, strong-armed slinger -- exactly what Arians loves. Now, Palmer hasn’t been perfect, but he’s better this season than he was last year, which is a product of him being more comfortable with the offense. Last season, Palmer was a bit of a loose cannon, throwing 22 interceptions on plays that, when you look back at them, had you scratching your head. This year, though, he’s making smart decisions and keeping his passes -– sometimes with the grace of luck -- out of the other teams’ hands.

Bill, do the Raiders miss Palmer?

Williamson: They did last year. Matt Flynn, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin were not the answer. Neither was Matt Schaub this year. But the best thing for Oakland was to take Derek Carr and give him the ball. If Oakland has a chance to be competitive in the near future, it will be because of Carr's progress. Oakland might have won more games up until this point in the past 21 games with Palmer, but he was just a short-term answer. Carr can be the future.

How stout is the Cardinals’ run defense?

Weinfuss: It’s hard to argue with the stats. The Cardinals are ranked third in the NFL in stopping the run, picking up where they left off last year when they finished No. 1 against the run. It’s impressive and surprising considering how many key elements Arizona lost on the defensive front seven. From last year’s season finale, only one player in the front seven is healthy (nose tackle Dan Williams). Whomever Arizona signs has been able to step into a new role quickly, which is most likely a design of the scheme.

Bill, do you think the Raiders have figured out their run-game troubles?

Williamson: It’s sort of like the Sparano question -- we will see. But I will say this: Both Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew ran with authority and a purpose neither had shown this season against San Diego. Sparano loves the run and will stay true to it. Sunday, McFadden and Jones-Drew will get plenty of chances to repeat their performances and show that the Raiders’ average of 62 yards per game in the first quarter of the season (which was last in the NFL) was a fluke.

ALAMEDA, Calif. – Derek Carr is no longer on the injury report. The Oakland Raiders rookie quarterback practiced fully Thursday.

It was the first time he wasn’t limited in practice since hurting his ankle and knee Sept. 28 against Miami. He departed that game in the third quarter. Despite being limited last week. Carr had his best NFL game, throwing four touchdown passes in a 31-28 loss to San Diego on Sunday.

Linebacker Sio Moore (ankle) and safety Usama Young (foot) also practiced fully Wednesday.

Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano said cornerback D.J. Hayden did not suffer any setbacks and continued to practice well Thursday. He practiced for the first time this season Wednesday. He suffered a foot injury in June.

Hayden, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2013 draft, is on the physically unable to perform list. He will need to shake the rust. I’d think his best bet of being activated is for the Oct. 26 game at Cleveland.

Even though defensive end Justin Tuck missed the past two days of practice with a knee injury he suffered Sunday, Sparano wouldn’t rule out Tuck against the Cardinals.

Sunday’s home game is sold out and will be shown on television locally. It is the third sellout in three games in Oakland this season. The game against Miami in London was a home game as well.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- There wasn’t any difference in the Oakland Raiders' injury status at practice Thursday during the window that is is open to the media. Thus, Friday will be a pivotal day for defensive end Justin Tuck and fullback Marcel Reece.

They both sat out their second straight day of practice. Tuck has a knee injury he suffered against San Diego. He did finish the game. Reece has a lingering quad injury that he played through last week. Tuck and Reece will likely have to practice in order to play Sunday. C.J. Wilson would likely start for Tuck, while Jamize Olawale would takes Reece’s repetitions.

Receiver Vincent Brown (hamstring) and right tackle Khalif Barnes (quad) also missed Thursday's practice. Both players missed the San Diego game. Barring an unexpected return of Barnes, Menelik Watson will likely start at right tackle Sunday against Arizona. He played well against San Diego in his first start of the season.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Barring an unexpected setback, cornerback D.J. Hayden should make his practice debut Wednesday.

Hayden has been on the physically unable to perform list all season after breaking his foot in June. Hayden can be activated to the 53-man roster any time in the next three weeks. If he is not, the team will have to shelve him for the season.

The No. 12 pick of the 2013 draft should be activated fairly soon. He has been doing extensive side work in recent days and has looked good. Still, he must shake off the rust and get back in playing shape.

The biggest issue for Hayden has been staying on the field long enough to contribute in the NFL. He played eight games last season after finishing the year on the injured reserve with a groin injury.

He will likely be the team’s nickel cornerback. If he can stay healthy, Hayden can start working on shedding the bust whispers that are hovering over him due to injury issues.

Raiders' goal is to stay in Oakland

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15

Raiders reporter Bill Williamson says amid chatter the team could move to LA or San Antonio, Mark Davis’ goal is to stay in Oakland.
Two of the three rookie quarterbacks to start in Week 6 had fine days in defeats while the other had a horrendous day in a loss.

While he did throw an interception near the goal line to end an scoring threat in the final moments, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had his best game of the season. Carr had a 64.0 Total WBR, which ranked No. 17 in the league.

Jacksonville rookie Blake Bortles, taken No. 3 overall, was 16th with 66.2 Total QBR. On the flip side, Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater was last in the NFL in Week 5 at with a 2.5 Total QBR.

Carr, taken No. 36 overall, threw four touchdown passes in the game. His late interception and his poor performance when blitzed kept his Total QBR (based on a quarterback’s total contribution to his team) from the elite status. A 50 score is considered average.

For the season, Carr’s Total QBR is a respectable 52.3, which is 24th in the NFL.

The Film Don’t Lie: Raiders

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
A weekly look at what the Oakland Raiders must fix:

The Raiders are having big problems on defense as they prepare to host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

The Raiders can’t stop the pass or the run. But their biggest issue to immediately fix is on third down. The Raiders just can't get off the field. So, they are not giving themselves a chance to improve either against the run or the pass.

Oakland (0-5) entered Sunday’s loss to San Diego allowing a whopping 50 percent conversion rate on third down. It got worse against the efficient Chargers. San Diego went 8-for-14 on third-down conversions. On one drive, the Chargers converted on third down four times, including on the drive-finishing touchdown.

It won’t get easier against the Cardinals. They converted on third down 7 of 17 times in a win over Washington. The Cardinals are converting on third down a solid 40 percent of the time.

How does a defense go about getting better on third down? It’s kind of like stopping the run. It comes down to desire and pride. But it also comes down to endurance. When a defense stays on the field, problems snowball. The Chargers had the ball more than 38 minutes. The Raiders were worn down.

Unless they decide to get better on third down, that type of issue could persist against Arizona.
David Carr was famous for consistently being sacked while quarterbacking the Houston Texans.

Carr, the No. 1 overall pick of the expansion Texans in 2002, was always under constant pressure while under center. His offensive line didn't do him any favors. David's younger brother Derek Carr isn't experiencing any of those issues in his rookie season with the Oakland Raiders.

Through five games with Oakland, Carr has been sacked just three times. He consistently is getting good protection. Carr was not sacked in Sunday's 31-28 loss to San Diego in which he threw four touchdown passes.

Carr noted the difference between his brother's experience and his while carefully pointing out that he wasn't blasting the 2002 Texans, only praising his own teammates.

"Oh my goodness, I can't enough good things about them," Carr said. "I watched a certain rookie quarterback with the same last name about 12 years ago, and I'm glad that it's a little different now, because those guys play their tail off. These guys, they do a great job, they really do. They really care about keeping me clean and I appreciate that, I really do appreciate it."



Thursday, 10/23
Sunday, 10/26