AFC West: Oakland Raiders
"Since the Seattle Seahawks steamrolled the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII," Jaworski wrote, "I've gone over every throw from every quarterback in the NFL to properly evaluate the best 32 on my QB Big Board."
Jaworski, it should be noted, did not include rookies in his rankings since they had not yet won a starting job.
So where did the Oakland Raiders' new quarterback, Matt Schaub -- a two-time Pro Bowler who has been called a top 10 quarterback by Raiders coach Dennis Allen -- land on Jaworski's list?
Schaub, who endured a nightmarish 2013 season in losing his job with the Houston Texans, was ranked 22nd.
"I can't remember a quarterback of Schaub's caliber having the kind of meltdown he did last season in Houston," Jaworski wrote. "It was painful to watch. His mind wasn't clear, his decision-making was poor, and he made throws he simply shouldn't make at this point in his career. He's been a great first-down passer during his career, particularly on play-action, but last year he was terrible at both. We'll see if he can regain his confidence in Oakland."
Yes, Schaub was acquired to be the franchise quarterback, no ifs, ands or buts about about it. And still ... if Carr, who was elevated to second string in organized team activities, challenges Schaub, let alone replaces him, that is bad news for coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie, who would have missed on yet another quarterback decision. The irony would be in Carr shining and thus potentially saving Allen and McKenzie. Stay tuned.
RUNNING BACKS (4)
George Atkinson III
McFadden and Jones-Drew have no doubt seen better days, but the plan is to keep each healthy by spelling the other. Yet the two need reps to get going. Murray is enticing after missing his rookie season with injury, and Atkinson is a legacy in silver-and-blackdom who would make his bones returning kickoffs. CFL Grey Cup MVP Kory Sheets might be the odd man out.
Reece’s versatility has paid off with a pair of Pro Bowl appearances even if, critics point out, he is underused in the offense and not a great blocker. Good things usually happen, though, when the ball is in his hands. Olawale is surprisingly fast for a fullback.
No, the Raiders do not have that prototypical No. 1 receiver (Jones would seem to be the best fit), nor do they have a slot man (Moore?). What they have is a group of young, hungry pass-catchers with similar skill sets. Streater looks ready to take that next step and Criner showed flashes of his old motivated rookie-camp self in offseason workouts.
TIGHT ENDS (2)
To quote Jimi Hendrix: "Are you experienced?" To answer for this group: No. Much is expected of Ausberry, who missed last season with a shoulder injury, and Rivera surprised as a rookie. It would not be shocking to see the Raiders add a vet here at the end of camp.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
A rebuilt offensive line -- Wisniewski at center would be the lone returning starter -- promises to be a physical unit, even with a rookie at left guard (Jackson) and a second-year player at right tackle (Watson). In fact, a line of Penn, Jackson, Wisniewski, Howard and Watson would average 6-foot-4, 326 pounds.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
Tuck and Woodley bring experience and Super Bowl rings, even as Woodley is making the conversion from 3-4 outside linebacker to 4-3 defensive end, which he last played in college. Smith did not practice at all in the offseason while recovering from a procedure following a weight room mishap and Ellis, the Raiders' first fourth-round draft pick, is the most intriguing interior prospect.
The arrival of Mack as the No. 5 overall pick moved Moore from strongside linebacker to the weak side, and has purportedly made injured and expensive veteran Kevin Burnett expendable. Burris was seeing first-team reps at Will linebacker in the final OTA session and Maiava is hoping to bounce back from an injury-plagued season. Kaelin Burnett's play on special teams might save his roster spot.
That’s a big question mark, rather than a dark cloud, over the head of Hayden, who missed the last two OTA sessions and minicamp with an ankle injury and thus, fell behind in his development. Again. The Raiders do have big plans for last year’s top draft pick. Rogers figures to be the slot cornerback while McGill, a fourth-rounder, is a big-bodied corner and Jones’ standing as a gunner on special teams belies his improvement at corner.
Woodson played just one full game with Branch, who was lost for the season with a broken leg in Week 2, so it will be interesting to see how they co-exist. Dowling and Carrie were revelations in minicamp, with Carrie primed to make his mark as the punt returner. Ross, thrust into action because of Branch’s injury last season, will be pushed by Usama Young.
Surely Janikowski’s issues with King as his first-year holder last season are a thing of the past, right?
NFL Nation's Paul Gutierrez examines the three biggest issues facing the Oakland Raiders heading into training camp.
Matt Schaub: Dennis Allen told anyone who would listen this offseason that Schaub, a two-time Pro Bowler who once passed for 4,770 yards but is coming off a nightmarish final season in Houston, is a top-10 quarterback. And even if a project by ESPN.com found that NFL insiders ranked Schaub 25th in the 32-team NFL, that will not dissuade Allen. Far from it. Schaub is his guy. Still, the question of Schaub's confidence after he threw 14 interceptions (with four pick-sixes in four straight games) and lost his job with the Texans will continue to hound Schaub and the Raiders until he proves it is not an issue. To his credit, Schaub, who looked impressive in the offseason non-padded practices open to the media, insists it's in the past. Besides, a change of scenery might do wonders for him. It's not like the Raiders are putting everything on the 10-year veteran; a running attack spearheaded by Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew should get the play-action passing game going … unless Schaub is shot. Which brings us to the intriguing figure that is Derek Carr, Oakland's second-round draft pick who was elevated to second string in minicamp. But Allen appears ready to ride or die with Schaub, for better or worse.
Khalil Mack: You could say that Mack, whom many saw as the most versatile defensive player in the draft, simply fell into the Raiders' lap at No. 5 overall. And that would be just fine with Oakland. Because in remaking the defense, Allen has compared Mack to Denver Broncos All-Pro linebacker Von Miller, whom Allen coached as a rookie. If Mack, who has stepped in at strongside linebacker, shows a smidgen of Miller's pass rushing acumen -- 35 sacks in 40 career games -- the Raiders have a cornerstone. Mack's blend of size, speed and athleticism were evident in the offseason workouts as he appeared to be a physical marvel with quick feet and balance. Alas, the game will change in camp when the pads come on. No, he's not nervous; Mack is looking forward to knocking heads with the pros. Or did you miss his declaration that he is most looking forward to sacking the Broncos' Peyton Manning? Mack has impressed the staff and teammates alike by constantly being in veterans' ears, picking the brain of players such as Justin Tuck. Mack is a sponge. Yes, similar praise was heaped upon Rolando McClain when the middle linebacker was drafted in 2010. This just feels different.
D.J. Hayden: The Raiders were impressed enough with Hayden to make him their top pick last year, even though he was still recovering from the practice injury to his heart at the University of Houston that nearly killed him. After an up-and-down rookie season that ended with a trip to injured reserve, Hayden again hit a speed bump. This time, he missed the second and third organized team activities (OTAs) sessions as well as minicamp due to a sprained ankle. Allen has said that the only player he expects to be a question mark health-wise entering camp is offensive lineman Lucas Nix. But with so many hopes tied into Hayden -- he was penciled in to start at right cornerback -- his injury history has to have Oakland worried. Even if he is a full go at the start of camp, he missed valuable reps in the offseason. Sure, Hayden got mental reps, but they are not nearly as important or effective, especially for a player who many in the organization see as a bonus draft pick since he appeared in only eight games (two starts) last season.
Date: Jan. 22, 1984
Site: Tampa Stadium
We have a winner. The voters picked 17 Bob Trey O as the most memorable play in Oakland Raiders' franchise history, and I concur with the selection. Indeed, 17 Bob Trey O, or when Marcus Allen ran with the night in Super Bowl XVIII, is the play I consider most memorable in the long and winding history of the Raiders.
Sure, the Sea of Hands and the Holy Roller may have better monikers, but Allen reversing field on a busted play and breaking off a then-Super Bowl record 74-yard touchdown run on a play called 17 Bob Trey O tops the list.
For another, it put a dagger into the defending champs and basically clinched the Raiders’ third Lombardi trophy as it gave them a 35-9 lead on the final play of the third quarter.
Plus, it was the signature play of Allen’s MVP performance, in which he ran for a then-Super Bowl record 191 yards, on 20 carries, with two touchdowns, plus two receptions for 18 yards.
Lastly, it got Allen a plug by the leader of the free world after the game, a seeming U.S. weapon in the Cold War.
“I have already had a call from Moscow,” President Ronald Reagan told Raiders coach Tom Flores in the congratulatory phone call to the locker room. “They think Marcus Allen is a new secret weapon and they insist we dismantle him.”
From his perspective, Allen said the run was like time travel, since everyone else seemed to slow down.
“You’re in such a zone and at the height of instinct,” Allen told ESPN Radio affiliate 95.7 The Game in a Super Bowl week interview this year. “You just really get out of your own way. Don’t question it and just get out of your own way and just go. And that’s what I did. It was just one of those games -- I had several of them -- but, obviously, to have it at that particular time was the greatest thing in the world.”
Allen took the handoff from Jim Plunkett and went too wide to the left of pulling right guard Mickey Marvin, and was met by safety Ken Coffey. Allen had to immediately spin to his left, reverse field, and accelerate through a hole on the right side of the line. Then he raced to the left pylon.
“To make a run like that, in a game like that, at a time like that, it was just, it was pure magic,” Allen told the NFL Network. “It was beautiful.”
Which is why it's also the most memorable play in Raiders history.
Consider: Since 2003, the year after the Raiders last enjoyed a winning season, Oakland has employed seven coaches -- Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable, Hue Jackson, Dennis Allen -- and gone an NFL-worst 53-123 (.301) in those 11 seasons. The Detroit Lions are 55-121 over the same time frame, while the Cleveland Browns are 56-120 and can match the Raiders' record for futility by losing at least 11 games for a seventh straight season in 2014.
Of those seven coaches, only Cable lasted more than two seasons and Allen, coming off consecutive 4-12 campaigns, is headed to Year 3. Of course, a million times of course, talent on the roster has more than a little something to do with it, as well as a vision that can be followed though to fruition.
But the NFL still stands for Not For Long in coaching circles when teams underperform. That's why this is such a critical season for not only Allen, but the Raiders in general going forward, especially in these next three years.
Continuity throughout the franchise is key. Oakland had 10 new starters last season and seven of them are in contract years in 2013.
"That's not how you build a football team," Allen said in his end-of-season media conference last January. "Those are hard situations to overcome. But I thought our players and coaches did well under those circumstances. That's a situation that we want to make sure that we avoid.
"I think having continuity having commitment, both on our side and from a players perspective, is important."
And there is is. Continuity and progress in the form of victories.
This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Raiders' history. In the previous two days we featured the Sea of Hands, when Clarence Davis somehow came down with Ken Stabler’s flip in the end zone to upend the defending two-time Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins in the AFC divisional playoffs in 1974; and the Holy Roller, which gave the Raiders a "zany" victory in San Diego on the final play of regulation when Ken Stabler purposely fumbled forward while being sacked and, after Pete Banszak batted the ball even further forward, Dave Casper recovered in the end zone for a touchdown in 1978. Please vote for your choice as the Raiders’ most memorable play.
Score: Raiders 38, Washington 9
Date: Jan. 22, 1984. Site: Tampa Stadium
The Raiders, then calling Los Angeles home, were already trouncing defending champion Washington 28-9 in Super Bowl XVIII when their offense lined up for the final play of the third quarter.
What happened next has gone down in NFL lore as “Marcus Allen, running with the night,” courtesy of legendary NFL Films voice John Facenda.
“Yeah, I called it, but Marcus made it work,” Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett told me with a laugh as he recounted the play.
“It was one of our steady plays: When in doubt, call ‘Bob Trey O.’ It was always solidly blocked where you shouldn’t lose any yards on it. But their safety messed it up.”
The play was supposed to be a simple power run to the left, right guard Mickey Marvin pulling to clear space for Allen. But Allen went too far wide of Marvin and safety Ken Coffey blew it up by closing in. Allen stopped on a dime, spun to his left and reversed field. A hole had opened on the right side of the line and Allen sped through it, after Coffey lunged for the ball and Allen’s waist in the backfield.
Accelerating through the gap, Allen ran past defensive end Todd Liebenstein and linebacker Rich Milot. “After I made that turn, everything slowed down,” Allen told ESPN radio affiliate 95.7 The Game during Super Bowl Week this past winter. “I remember Neal Olkewicz just grasping [at midfield]. I could almost see the anxiety on their faces and the tension as I was running by. And then, about 20 yards from the goal line, everything came back to normal speed.”
The lone Washington player with a shot at Allen past the 50-yard line was cornerback Anthony Washington, but he was cut off by Raiders receiver Cliff Branch. Allen, who was supposedly too slow to be a game-breaking running back coming out of USC as the 1981 Heisman Trophy winner, had nothing but open field to the left pylon. After the score, which was then the longest run in Super Bowl history, Allen was joined in celebration in the end zone by nearly the entire Raiders team.
“You can’t teach that kind of running,” John Madden, the former Raiders coach-turned-broadcaster, said while describing the replay. “You don’t teach that. You don’t practice that. You don’t see that on film. That happened.”
This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Raiders history. Yesterday, we featured the Holy Roller, which gave the Raiders a “zany” victory in San Diego on the final play of regulation when Ken Stabler purposely fumbled forward while being sacked and, after Pete Banaszak batted the ball even further forward, Dave Casper recovered it in the end zone for a game-winning touchdown in 1978. Tomorrow, we’ll look at 17 Bob Trey O, Marcus Allen authoring the greatest run in Super Bowl history when he reversed field and went 74 yards to put the dagger in defending champion Washington in 1984. Please vote for your choice as the Raiders’ most memorable play.
Score: Raiders 28, Dolphins 26
Date: Dec. 21, 1974 Site: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
The Raiders finished the 1974 season with the best record in the NFL at 12-2. The visiting Miami Dolphins were the two-time defending Super Bowl champions who had also won the last three AFC titles.
In expected fashion, this divisional playoff game was a back-and-forth affair that featured six lead changes. So it was with 35 seconds to play, and the Raiders facing a first-and-goal situation from the Dolphins’ 8-yard line and trailing by five when Oakland made history.
A falling Stabler lofted a wobbly pass into the left-center of the end zone, into an aptly-named Sea of Hands, between three Dolphins in linebackers Mike Kolen and Larry Ball and defensive back Charlie Babb. “That ball looked like it was going end-over-end,” Dolphins linebacker Nick Buoniconti told NFL Films. “There was no way in hell that anybody was going to catch that thing.”
Kolen, though, thought otherwise. “I thought I had a clear interception,” he said. “I mean, it was just wide open.”
Yet in the middle of that white jersey-clad Sea of Hands was a silver and black uniform, worn by Raiders running back Clarence Davis. After Kolen got his right hand on the ball first, Davis wrestled it away. “He was coming toward the ball and had the leverage and, obviously, a better grip than I had,” Kolen said.
Davis yanked the ball toward his chest, took a facemask-first hit from Babb and rolled to the grass for the touchdown at the feet of teammate Cliff Branch, taking a shot from defensive lineman Manny Fernandez for good measure. “I mean, this guy couldn’t catch a cold,” Fernandez said. “It was probably the only pass he caught in his career. It was a lousy pass, a lucky reception [and] I’ve never forgotten it.”
Neither would the foolhardy Raiders fan who ran on the field to celebrate the play by giving Buoniconti a shot in the stomach before getting absolutely pummeled by Fernandez & Co.
Davis’ catch and George Blanda’s extra point gave the Raiders the 28-26 lead. “Clarence has a huge heart,” Stabler said. “Great runner, tough kid, wonderful person. Worst hands on the team.
“Clarence made the play because he wanted the ball more than anybody else, and it was a throw that probably should have been intercepted.”
This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in the Oakland Raiders' history. In the next two days we'll feature the Sea of Hands play in the 1974 AFC divisional playoffs that upended the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins; and 17 Bob Trey O, Marcus Allen authoring the greatest run in Super Bowl history when he reversed field and went 74 yards to put the dagger in defending champion Washington in 1984. Please vote for your choice as the Raiders' most memorable play.
Score: Raiders 21, Chargers 20
Date: Sept. 10, 1978 Site: San Diego Stadium
The Raiders were trailing the Chargers by six and sitting at San Diego's 14-yard line with 10 seconds remaining in Week 2 of the 1978 season. Oakland had already lost its season opener and an 0-2 start would have been its first such opening since 1964. That's exactly what it looked like, though, as left-handed quarterback Ken Stabler took the snap, dropped back and drifted to his right, where he was wrapped up by Chargers linebacker Woodrow Lowe at the 25-yard line.
The bouncing ball reached the 5-yard line at the same time as tight end Dave Casper, who bent over and kicked it with his left foot before kneeing it with his right leg. "I just run out there and try to pick it up and, of course, I flub that and I'm scrambling on the ground, watching it beneath me," Casper said. "And I saw a white stripe go by and I actually just kind of fell on top of it."
The white stripe was the goal line and the fumble recovery was ruled a game-tying touchdown, so with no time remaining, Errol Mann's converted point-after attempt gave the Raiders the unlikeliest of victories.
Or, as Raiders radio man Bill King called it that day, "The Oakland Raiders have scored on the most zany, unbelievable, absolutely impossible dream of a play... (John) Madden is on the field. He wants to know if it's real. They said, ‘Yes, get your big butt out of here.' He does. There's nothing real in the world anymore. This one will be relived, forever."
San Diego was anything but happy.
"In typical Raider fashion," said Chargers linebacker Jim Laslavic, "if you can't beat somebody the right way, you cheat."
The NFL changed the rule the following offseason, adding a provision that only the player who fumbled the ball could advance it after the two-minute warning. Stabler, meanwhile, came clean, so to speak, after that game. "I fumbled it on purpose," he said. "Yes, I was trying to fumble."
The knee-jerk reaction of the deal being approved by a 6-2 vote, under threat of MLB commissioner Bud Selig giving the A’s permission to move if the deal was not approved, is that 81 baseball home games is preferable to 10 NFL home games (two in the preseason, eight in the regular season). But the Raiders might now want to take their ball and go home ... wherever that might be -- Dublin, Concord, Los Angeles, Portland, San Antonio, Parts Unknown.
It was after the Raiders’ final minicamp practice a few weeks ago that Davis told four reporters he did not consider the A’s a rival for the Coliseum site, although he did want A’s owner Lew Wolff to make his long-term intentions known.
The A’s 10-year lease, despite Wolff’s long-standing desire to move the team to San Jose, would seem to answer Davis. Still, there are reportedly many outs for the A’s, which would make a decade-long commitment a mere stopgap. Again.
Per MLB.com, “The deal permits the team to leave the Coliseum so long as it gives two years’ notice and continues paying the lease for the remainder of the two-year term. The A’s do not have to make these payments, however, if they move to another stadium within Oakland.”
Plus, in the news release from the A’s, the team announced, “The contract takes into account the possibility of progress towards building a new football facility for the Oakland Raiders. If private money becomes available for such a venue, the A’s and the Coliseum Authority recognize that a variety of next steps would be considered to ensure maximum flexibility for both the A’s and Raiders.”
Davis, meanwhile, has said the Raiders have $400 million to put toward a new stadium of their own. And, again, Davis wants new digs, not a refurbished and shared Coliseum.
“In order to do a really comprehensive building development there, you have to tear the Coliseum down to start with,” Davis told the San Jose Mercury-News after that last minicamp practice. “You can’t be putting the stadium in a corner here, because of infrastructure and all that. And I keep bringing that word up, but it’s a key word in this process.
“So the stadium’s got to come down. So [the A’s staying in the Coliseum] does make a problem, there’s no two ways about it.”
While the A’s have been dealing with the Coliseum Authority, the Raiders have been working with Colony Capital to get Coliseum City up and running. And the way Davis saw it, with the A’s lease up in 2015, before Thursday’s agreement, the Coliseum could have been torn down immediately thereafter.
“And that would get us into a stadium by 2019, I believe,” Davis said. “On that site.
“So it’s a tough situation. I’ve said that if the A’s were going to buy in and the A’s say, 'Yeah, we want to build on this site as well,' I’m all for it. Let’s build two stadiums and let’s do it.
“Selfishly I would like to be the only one there, but for the good of everybody, I’m all for it. Let’s do it. But make a commitment to it if you want. But it doesn’t look like it’s going to fit. Lew’s vision and Colony Capital’s vision don’t seem to mesh. So that’s where the problem is.”
Davis did not reply to messages Thursday now that the deal is all but official.
The A’s agreement still must be approved by the Oakland City Council and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
The rest of the league, however, apparently does not appear to share Allen’s enthusiasm.
According to an ESPN Insider story by Mike Sando, Schaub ranks as the NFL’s 25th best starting quarterback, 15 spots out of the top 10. To be fair, Allen probably does not care what anyone outside of the walls at 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway think. Nor should he.
But the formula for Sando’s story went like this: He had 26 league insiders -- eight general managers, two former GMs, four pro personnel evaluators, seven coordinators, two head coaches, two position coaches and a top executive -- grade every projected starting quarterback on a scale of 1 through 5, with 1 being the best and 5 the worst.
Sando then added up all the scores, compiled an average rating for each quarterback and ranked them from 1-32, dividing the QBs into four tiers. At No. 25, with an average rating of 3.58, Schaub was at the head of Tier 4.
Wrote Sando: “Questions persist about whether Schaub can right his career after a brutal 2013 season,” Sando wrote. “He is seen as a system QB. Ten of the voters put him in the third tier, but 15 had him lower than that.”
A defensive coordinator intimated to Sando that many will be in a wait-and-see mode with Schaub, a two-time Pro Bowler.
“That will be interesting confidence-wise coming off last year,” said the defensive coordinator. “[Schaub] is accurate, but I put him in that three category because the passes were underneath, boot type and then, here and there, they took shots.”
@PGutierrezESPN Raiders made FA moves and draft picks that are viewed as favorable. What did they did not address that they should have?— Joseph B. Camacho (@jcamacho510) June 22, 2014
@PGutierrezESPN: Yes, the Raiders rebuilt their offensive and defensive lines and added depth to their offensive and defensive backfields while strengthening the linebacker corps and acquiring new quarterbacks. So what's left? Think pass-catchers and game-changers. Dennis Allen has entertained questions about his tight ends and wide receivers the most this offseason, and the way the coach put it spoke volumes -- when asked specifically about tight ends, he compared it to sitting on Santa's lap and not getting quite everything you asked for.
@PGutierrezESPN how does the coaching staff like mychal rivera? Is he the starting tight end as of now?— Ruben (@Rublpz) June 29, 2014
@PGutierrezESPN To quote Lloyd Christmas from "Dumb and Dumber," the Raiders like Rivera, "a lot." They'd like him even more were he a few inches taller than his listed 6-foot-3. He did, after all, catch 38 passes, which was third-most on the team, for 407 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie last season. But is Rivera currently the No. 1 tight end on the depth chart? Tough to say, especially since Allen claimed during organized team activities (OTAs) there was no depth chart. Still, in observing the open-to-the-media practices and reading between the lines of Allen's pressers, it would seem that David Ausberry, whose shoulder injury is now healed, was the leading tight end in the offseason workouts.
@PGutierrezESPN Do you honestly think there should have been anymore "Rocky" movies after part II ?— Yes...I'm that Nick. (@Nbell3) June 30, 2014
@PGutierrezESPN: Tough one. I liked 'em all, even if cheesy "Rocky V" nearly ended the franchise. Of course, I'd defer to the resident Rocky expert in my house, @AmyGGiants. Then again, former Raiders linebacker @TheCarlWeathers might have the best answer, right? Hey, he was Apollo Creed himself. And yes (book plug coming), I talked to him for my upcoming tome "100 Things Raiders Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die," which has a release date of Sept. 1. Thanks for asking.
@PGutierrezESPN with all the talk on Burris taking snaps from Moore (EARLY), why not move to a base 3-4 to get best front 7 on field more?— Dan Andersen (@NY_Raider) June 30, 2014
@PGutierrezESPN: I hear you. In fact, I talked a little about this very subject last week. The personnel just might dictate that type of a base defense, with either Miles Burris or Sio Moore moving inside with Nick Roach, and the other guy staying outside, with rookie Khalil Mack. Plus, there's LaMarr Woodley, a career outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense now making the switch to right defensive end in a 4-3, which he last played in college. Whether it's the base defense or not, I think we'll be seeing a lot of those types of looks.
@PGutierrezESPN: There has been no shortage of guys actually claiming to be the logo. Howie Long recently told me that his wife suggested the guy on the helmet with the granite-like chin looked just like him. I've also been told that Dick Romanski, the longtime former team equipment manager, insisted he was the model for the eyepatch-wearing pirate that Al Davis instituted when he came to the Raiders in 1963. The Los Angeles Times wrote that actor Randolph Scott was believed to be the inspiration. I'll be sure to ask Mark Davis about it.
@PGutierrezESPN IF our line play (both sides of the ball) is consistent enough do you think we can push 4 2nd in our division?— Joshua Zedwick (@jczedwick) June 30, 2014
@PGutierrezESPN: Absolutely. Even with the toughest schedule in the NFL. Probably more realistically, I can see them finishing 5-11. Still, games are won and lost in the trenches, and that is where teams are built. And the Raiders, on paper at least, upgraded both lines. I think the Denver Broncos improved themselves, but I think the San Diego Chargers may have stayed pat and the Kansas City Chiefs might have taken a step back. We'll see, but the Raiders do have reason for optimism. Unless they don't. Get it?
@PGutierrezESPN: Oh, wow. Too soon to even contemplate, methinks. Though I do know this: Reggie McKenzie does like to scan the waiver wire and strike that way, too. But again, the fact that Oakland did not publicly kick the tires on Brandon Flowers tells me they believe D.J. Hayden is going to be fine come training camp, even if he is behind after missing two OTA sessions and minicamp with that sprained ankle.
@PGutierrezESPN will Dennis Allen get fired mid season if they start real slow. Like 0-5 slow.— Raider (@R8RRaider) June 30, 2014
@PGutierrezESPN: An 0-5 start? Some have already theorized that an 0-4 beginning might warrant the Raiders leaving Allen in London -- especially if Oakland looks bad, sluggish and not competitive -- and that Tony Sparano, he of the two-year contract extension, would be fitted as the interim coach. Not a pleasant picture.
@PGutierrezESPN Streater looking like the number 1 WR? Who's pushing 2— MO Raider (@Ozarka69) June 30, 2014
@PGutierrezESPN: Rod Streater has been impressive, no doubt. But I get the feeling that the Raiders like the experience that James Jones brings from the Green Bay Packers, so that would most likely make him a No. 1-type receiver. And with Streater having a similar possession skill set like Jones does, Denarius Moore might actually be the No. 2, if we're using labels. Streater, though, is younger and bigger than Jones, who sprained a shoulder in minicamp, so I could see Streater, who caught a team-high 60 passes and was a mere 112 yards away from a 1,000-yard receiving season last year, being No. 1. Again, if we're using labels on a unit that figures to be more of a committee.
After a few fits and starts to begin free agency, the Raiders rebuilt their offensive and defensive lines and addressed the secondary and offensive backfield while adding veterans with championship pedigrees.
In the draft, Oakland scooped up the best player available in linebacker Khalil Mack, who has been nothing short of impressive in the offseason workouts, while picking up the franchise's quarterback of the future in Derek Carr (who has been elevated to second string) and a potential starter at left guard in Gabe Jackson.
But if you think the Raiders are done tinkering with the 90-man roster, think again. General manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen have said all along they expect to make moves that, in their estimation, make the Raiders a better football team.
Plus, they have money to play with when entertaining such ideas. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Raiders still have more than $10.7 million in salary-cap space. But again, to paraphrase McKenzie's refrain, just because he has money in his pocket does not mean he's going to spend it … on junk.
Sure, $10 million may sound like a lot, and the Raiders are far from a perfect unit -- Allen himself equated his roster situation to a kid sitting on Santa's lap and not getting everything he asked for -- but Oakland's cap surplus pales in comparison to the likes of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have more than $27 million in cap space. Yet it's enough to make the New Orleans Saints and their relatively meager $1.9 million in cap space squint with jealousy.
Still, are there any free agents still out there who would put the Raiders -- coming off consecutive 4-12 seasons and with the NFL's toughest strength of schedule in 2014 -- over the top?
Yes, the Raiders could still use a true No. 1 receiver. They could also use some veteran help at tight end. And sure, with D.J. Hayden's injury, another tried and tested cornerback would seemingly fit the bill, which is why the Raiders non-pursuit of Brandon Flowers was a head-scratcher of sorts. Instead, Flowers went from one division rival (the Kansas City Chiefs) to another (the San Diego Chargers).
McKenzie has already made an assortment of minor roster moves this offseason, and with more than $10 million still at his disposal, what he decides to do with it will tell you all you need to know about how he feels about the current roster.
Should McKenzie stand pat, or are there players out there he should target? Would it be more prudent to possibly use that salary-cap space on camp cuts?
It actually made me pause the DVR, hit rewind and play again so I could hear Michaels one more time. And then another.
Sure, there had been rumors that Al Davis had been enamored with quarterback Doug Williams. But in the third quarter of that Super Bowl, after Williams had essentially won the game for Washington with an epic second quarter that featured five touchdowns, Michaels told the tale.
But then, according to Michaels, the Raiders balked at Washington’s price -- a first-round draft pick, or a very good player.
Now, we’ve already heard the tales of John Elway coming so close to being a Raider, and how the Raiders should have drafted Dan Marino in that same 1983 draft after the purported draft-day trade to land Elway fell through. And while the Williams-to-the-Raiders story might not have that same intrigue as either Elway or Marino wearing Silver and Black, it is interesting nonetheless.
Especially when you consider what Williams accomplished later that strike-torn season, and when you realize who the Raiders instead used that first-round pick on in the 1983 draft.
Williams, who had been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ starting quarterback from 1978 through 1982 and had helped author three playoff appearances for them, was also a pioneer as an African American quarterback, following in the footsteps of James Harris and Joe Gilliam.
And we know that Davis looked beyond skin tone when it came to players he believed could play --Davis selected QB Eldridge Dickey in the first round of the 1968 draft -- and Williams had the big arm Davis was always in search of.
But after a contract dispute ended his time in Tampa Bay, Williams played two seasons in the USFL before resurfacing in Washington in 1986 as Jay Schroeder's backup.
Williams had not started an NFL game since Jan. 9, 1983, a playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys, so yeah, you could imagine the Raiders not wanting to give up a first-rounder for him less than a week before the 1987 season.
Still, the Raiders were relatively unsettled under center entering that season as Jim Plunkett had retired and Marc Wilson and Rusty Hilger were the returners.
But even as the Raiders got off to a 3-0 start, the wheels quickly fell off, thanks in part to the strike, which cancelled one week of games and led to three weeks of replacement player games. The Raiders finished 5-10, their worst record since going 1-13 in 1962, the year before Davis arrived in Oakland. And two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Tom Flores resigned following the season.
Would Williams have saved the season and steadied the Raiders' ship?
Meanwhile, in Washington, Williams still had to bide his time. Sure, he relieved Schroeder a few times in 1987 and even started two regular-season games, but he did not become Washington’s starter for good until there was 6:51 remaining in the third quarter of its regular-season finale against Minnesota.
Williams, a huge team favorite, led Washington on its playoff run, upsetting the Chicago Bears in the divisional round and then upending the Vikings in the NFC title game.
Then came Super Sunday, in which he threw all four of his touchdown passes in the historic second quarter and passed for a then-Super Bowl record 340 yards in Washington’s 42-10 victory over Elway’s Broncos as Williams became the first African-American starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl, a feat not matched until Russell Wilson did it with the Seattle Seahawks this past February.
The trade that never happened between Oakland and Washington seemed to work out best for Washington, at least on the surface.
But if the Raiders had given up their first-rounder in 1988, they probably would have missed out on Tim Brown, though the Raiders did do some wheeling and dealing later to acquire three first-rounders, which they used on Brown, Terry McDaniel and Scott Davis.
So, with hindsight always being 20/20, do you essentially trade Doug Williams for Tim Brown if you’re the Raiders?
Whatever your answer, remember this: the Raiders and Washington would get together for a trade in 1988, a deal that would haunt the Raiders as they sent offensive tackle Jim Lachey to Washington for… wait for it … Schroeder.
Williams would only play 15 more games over the next two seasons before retiring, while Schroeder could not fully win over the hearts and minds of the Raiders' locker room in five seasons.
So what did Dennis Allen, entering his third season as the Raiders' head coach, glean from nearly two months of being around his team as it begins its reconstruction in earnest, especially with training camp about five weeks away?
Consider: Every Raiders draft pick is signed and every Raiders player under contract was in attendance for the minicamp. No contract haggling, squabbling or unnecessary drama.
"I like the direction we're headed as a football team," Allen said. "I think we've got a group of guys that are committed to winning. I think they're committed to this organization, and I think we have a lot of guys who have a lot to prove. That's an exciting thing for a football coach. That's an exciting thing for these football players.
"So I like our direction, I like our commitment and we've just got to keep working."
An infusion of veteran talent with past success, especially on the defensive side of the ball, such as Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith -- as well as Oakland taking linebacker Khalil Mack with the No. 5 overall draft pick -- has given the team a new identity.
And on offense, the Raiders have a seasoned, new quarterback in Matt Schaub and a hot prospect in second-round draft pick Derek Carr, who has overtaken Matt McGloin as Oakland's second-string signal-caller.
Injury-wise, guard Lucas Nix (knee) is the only player Allen sees as potentially missing the start of training camp, even though cornerback D.J. Hayden (foot) participated in just one organized team activities (OTAs) session and linebacker Kevin Burnett (ankle) and Smith (undisclosed) missed them all while recovering from injuries.
Allen was asked if there was a palpable feel on the practice field that this was, indeed, a better team than he had the previous two years.
"I don't think there's any question you can feel that," Allen said. "You guys have been around here too, so I think you've seen these practices around here for a while.
"I think we've had an outstanding offseason and I think our team from the day that we started the offseason program to where we're at now, we've improved tremendously. But we've still got to go out there and do it when we get to training camp and do it when we get to the regular season."
1. Second-year cornerback D.J. Hayden, who injured his left ankle in the first session of organized team activities, never got back on the practice field and coach Dennis Allen acknowledged Hayden is behind. "I don't think there's any way you can sugarcoat that," Allen said. "I mean, he's behind ... though it's nothing that he can't overcome. But he needs to be healthy and he needs to be out here and he needs to work. We'll see where he's at when we go through training camp."
3. Big ticket offseason acquisition/right guard Austin Howard missed practice Thursday with a finger injury. "We sent him over to get an X-ray on his finger," Allen said. "Again, it's nothing that's going to be a big deal for him but more of a precautionary measure than anything else." With Howard out, Khalif Barnes took first-team reps at right guard, with Donald Penn at left tackle, rookie Gabe Jackson at left guard, Stefen Wisniewski at center and Menelik Watson at right tackle. "That was a lot of extra work for Gabe," Allen said, "so that was good for him."
4. Seventh-round draft pick T.J. Carrie has impressed the Raiders with his play at cornerback. "I've been very impressed with him, his ability to understand what we're trying to do within the scheme of the defense," Allen said. "What you look for in guys like that, you look for a guy that's going to make a play that kind of catches your attention and really, just about every day, there's been something that he's done that you say, ‘Damn, that was a pretty good play.'"
5. Top draft pick Khalil Mack also continues to impress, both coaches and teammates ... with his on-field play, though, more than with his singing voice. Veterans tried to have him sing R. Kelly and Usher songs after practice, Mack said, though without his trusty guitar, he had no background music.
6. Taiwan Jones, still making the transition to cornerback, had a pretty interception of McGloin, even if the pass itself was underthrown. Safety Jonathan Dowling, who was also a seventh-round draft pick, picked off Carr and later knocked down a McGloin pass down the right sideline. Still, there were some nice catches turned in by the likes of receiver Juron Criner across the middle and tight end Mychal Rivera over Tyvon Branch. "You never want to see things just totally one-sided, because that's not the sign of a good football team," Allen said.
7. There was a brief skirmish -- a couple of pushes -- between tackle Dan Kistler and defensive end Denico Autry. Who? It took longer to look up their names than the actual fight lasted. I kid ... kinda.
8. Allen said there is a palpable feel to how much, well, better this Raiders team is. "I don't think there's any question you can feel that," he said. "You guys have been around here, too, so I think you've seen these practices around here for a while. I think we've had an outstanding ofseason." Allen said he will spend two weeks of vacation in Florida with his family between now and the start of training camp.
9. Veteran weakside linebacker Kevin Burnett was a no-show to the first session of voluntary OTAs and has been rehabbing an injury since arriving for the second round of OTAs. Allen said he expects Burnett to compete for a starting job at training camp. Still, Sio Moore has moved from the strongside to the Will and Miles Burris began taking first-team reps on the weak side this week, with Nick Roach in the middle and rookie Mack on the strongside.
10. Raiders owner Mark Davis was an observer and said after practice that stadium talks for his team to remain in Oakland were "positive, but nothing happens after the talks." He also said he does not consider Major League Baseball's Athletics to be a rival for the Coliseum site but wishes that A's owner Lew Wolff would make his long-term intentions known.