AFC West: Jack Crawford

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Bittersweet, or simply the nature of the business?

I asked Raiders coach Dennis Allen this in the wake of Oakland cutting a member of the first draft class in the Allen/Reggie McKenzie Era: defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi. The move was made to to make room for linebacker Martez Wilson.

“Really,” Allen said, “it's the nature of the business. This is a production business and we're going to continue to try to do everything we can to upgrade our roster to help our football team. We felt like being able to take a look at Martez was a good chance for us to upgrade the roster.”

No doubt Bilukidi was a project when the Raiders used a 2012 sixth-round draft pick on the Georgia State product, the fifth player ever taken by McKenzie and Allen.

And while Bilukidi appeared in 13 games as a rookie and five more this season, getting a sack of Jacksonville's Chad Henne in the Raiders' home opener, it was not enough.

“No,” Allen said, when asked if he had, indeed, seen enough to warrant keeping Bilukidi and his sack.

In fact, small sample size and health issues be damned, you could say the same about that entire first draft class, which was already stretched thin due to trades under the previous regime that left the Raiders without a pick until the end of the third round.
  • Offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom, who was taken with a compensatory pick at No. 95 overall and played in nine games while starting the season finale, was placed on Injured Reserve before the season began with a Lis Franc injury to his right foot.
  • Linebacker Miles Burris, who started 15 of the 16 games in which he played, is on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform List after offseason knee surgery, though Allen said he hopes Burris will begin practicing next week.
  • Defensive end Jack Crawford has already played in more games this season than last -- five to four -- and has six tackles after having three last season.
  • Receiver Juron Criner has yet to be active for a game this season, Bilukidi was cut and linebacker Nathan Stupar is a special teams contributor for the San Francisco 49ers. He was was cut by the Raiders before last year's season opener.

In fact, two undrafted rookie free agents from 2012 start for Oakland now: receiver Rod Streater and left guard Lucas Nix.

“I think part of the draft process is picking up some players, and if you have numbers and volumes of players, your percentages of hitting on those guys are pretty good,” Allen said.

“I think we'll see some good things, not only out of the 2012 guys, but some of these guys we drafted this past season. I think that as we keep moving down the road, I think those guys will help us.”

Just not right away.
Random thoughts on the Oakland Raiders' 28-20 loss at New Orleans on Friday night:

The key for the Raiders this summer is to make progress. Some progress appeared to be made in the preseason opener last week against Dallas. Oakland showed it had some issues, but there were some promising things shown.

There was not a lot of promise shown in the Big Easy.

The Saints toyed with the Raiders. Oakland’s first unit was completely outclassed. The Raiders were manhandled at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball as New Orleans led 17-0 in the first quarter.

While it’s just the preseason, that type of first-unit failure is concerning, especially for a team that has so many question marks. This team has to get it together quickly. But can it?

Oakland was troubled in essentially every phase at New Orleans. Perhaps the biggest issues were a lack of a pass rush and a lack of pass protection. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees shredded Oakland and Raiders starting quarterback Matt Flynn was sacked five times

The offensive line also didn’t open much running room. Tailback Darren McFadden was stuffed as he had 17 yards on five carries. The offense is featuring Alex Barron at left tackle and Andre Gurode at a guard spot. They both didn’t play last year. It is difficult to expect much from these guys if they are going to be starting in the regular season. It is concerning that Tony Bergstrom -- the first pick of the Reggie McKenzie era last year -- can’t get significant playing time on a line in flux.

Backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor showed his problems with consistency. He had his moments last week, but he wasn’t very good at New Orleans. Undrafted rookie quarterback Matt McGloin was so-so as he threw a pick. Fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson didn’t even throw a pass. It will be interesting to see if Wilson can dig himself out of a hole.

Both veteran Chris Kluwe and youngster Marquette King punted well. If King continues to punt well and he practices well, he could take the job. Consistency is his key and he has been responding.

The Raiders didn’t come out of the loss overly healthy. Cornerback Tracy Porter (expected to be the No. 3 cornerback) suffered a groin injury and tight end David Ausberry (who is in the starting mix) suffered a shoulder injury. Coach Dennis Allen said both injuries could be significant.

Among the bright spots for Oakland were rookie receiver Brice Butler, defensive lineman Jack Crawford and defensive back Brandian Ross. They all look like they could be contributors.
A look at some highlights of our AFC West chat, which was held earlier Thursday:


Ben from Boston: I've heard a lot of positive buzz about Julius Thomas and David Bruton. What do you think the odds are that those guys see serious playing time this year?

Bill Williamson: They both have a shot. They will be given the chance to show what they can do. I think Bruton will play a lot. Health is the key for Thomas.

Kansas City

Bob A from Denver: Do you think teams will be overlooking KC early in the season due to last year's record? I think that would be a big mistake

BW: I think Denver respects that coaching staff and the roster. The league knows the Chiefs have ability.


Steve from NY: Any reason to expect Raiders defensive linemen Christo Bilukidi or Jack Crawford to stand out in Year 2?

BW: These are exactly the type of players Oakland wants to see develop in a building year like this. They both have some promise. I kind of like Bilukidi. Don't be surprised if he develops quickly.

San Diego

Rick from San Diego: Will Johnnie Troutman be able to help SD out on o-line this year? Any great UFA's we should know about on the Chargers that could make the team too?

BW: If he can stay healthy, he has a chance to get into the rotation. He has a chance to be a good player.

Links: Chiefs' hottest ticket in 2013?

July, 9, 2013
Denver Broncos

Matt Russell, the Denver Broncos' director of player personnel, was arrested for DUI Saturday night after allegedly hitting two cars -- one of them a Breckenridge police car, the Denver Post reports. Russell and the Broncos both released statements, posted on the team's website. There's an NFL precedent already for the sort of punishment Russell expects to get from the team and the league.

The Broncos have increased their offer to left tackle Ryan Clady, upping the proposal to a five-year, $50 million deal, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post.

Derek Wolfe's work ethic, which Champ Bailey called "very impressive," is how the second-year defensive lineman believes he has earned the trust of his teammates so early in his career.

Kansas City Chiefs

Which game, as of mid-July, is the hottest ticket on the Chiefs' 2013 schedule? We'll say ... it isn't against a division rival.

The Chiefs' official team website continues its Rookie Recap series, featuring sixth-round pick, fullback Braden Wilson.

Oakland Raiders

Raiders punter Chris Kluwe appears on NFL Network's "Total Access" to discuss his liberal viewpoints, how well he works with PR directors and his new book, "Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies."

"You can’t go out there and make mistakes cause it’s your job on the line. It’s not like college when you’re on scholarship," said Raiders defensive end Jack Crawford, who understands the volatility of job security in the NFL.

The Raiders' At-A-Glance series concludes with the team's Dec. 8 game against the host New York Jets. kicks off its preseason power rankings with the Raiders falling in at lowly No. 32.

San Diego Chargers

"(Philip) Rivers, despite coming off two down seasons, might be the least of (Mike) McCoy's concerns as the new coach retools San Diego's offense with coordinator Ken Whisenhunt," writes USA Today's Lindsay H. Jones, who breaks down the Chargers' offseason.

The Chargers and KFMB-TV (CBS 8 ) have agreed to a new multi-year deal for the network to carry Chargers preseason television broadcasts.
Our AFC West positional rankings series continues with a look at a young group of defensive linemen:

1. Corey Liuget, San Diego: This player has a chance to be a superstar.

2. Lamarr Houston, Oakland: A lot will be expected of this talented player on a line in transition.

3. Derek Wolfe, Denver: The Broncos are expecting huge things from this second-year player.

4. Kendall Reyes, San Diego: The same thing goes for Reyes in San Diego. He has great potential.

5. Terrance Knighton, Denver: Jack Del Rio is reunited with this run stuffer. Terrific free-agent addition.

6. Dontari Poe, Kansas City: I wouldn’t be shocked if this player makes a huge jump in Year 2.

7. Sylvester Williams, Denver: The first-round pick has huge potential. He is a good fit for this defense.

8. Tyson Jackson, Kansas City: Former No. 3 overall pick will never be great, but he has value.

9. Mike DeVito, Kansas City: The Chiefs are thrilled about his free-agent pickup. He can play.

10. Vance Walker, Oakland: Free-agent addition was a good rotational player in Atlanta. Gets chance for a bigger role.

11. Pat Sims, Oakland: This could be a very good addition if he can stay healthy.

12. Kevin Vickerson, Denver: Nothing fancy, but Vickerson is a solid part of a good defense.

13. Robert Ayers, Denver: The Broncos need this former first-round pick to contribute with Elvis Dumervil gone.

14. Cam Thomas, San Diego: The Chargers expect a lot from this promising player.

15. Christo Bilukidi, Oakland: I have a feeling he is going to develop quickly.

16. Andre Carter, Oakland: Greatest value may be as a leader, which this young team needs.

17. Jason Hunter, Oakland: Try-hard player could get a lot of playing time.

18. Jack Crawford, Oakland: Second-year player will have a chance to show his value.
The Oakland Raiders have done a nice job by filling their starting linebacking crew in free agency. Now they must work on their defensive line, among other areas.

Oakland, which has six holes in the defensive starting lineup, has three openings on the defensive line for players to join holdover Lamarr Houston. Matt Shaughnessy, a former mid-round pick, signed a one-year deal with Arizona.

Shaughnessy had potential and played well for Oakland, but he did not play well last season and was replaced by journeyman Andre Carter late in the season. Still, the Raiders have holes on the defensive line. Richard Seymour is a free agent and Tommy Kelly expects to be cut.

Second-year players Christo Bilukidi and Jack Crawford might get a chance. Oakland might draft Flordia’s Sharriff Floyd with the No. 3 pick. The Raiders signed Cincinnati’s Pat Sims at defensive tackle, but Sims has started just one game in the past two years.

Thus, defensive line is a priority for Oakland.

In other AFC West notes:

The Chargers re-signed running back Ronnie Brown and signed Danny Woodhead on Friday. Both are different types of backs who will back up Ryan Mathews. I can still see the Chargers bringing in a running back (probably a bigger one) in free agency or in the draft.

Arizona signed former San Diego starting cornerback Antoine Cason to a one-year deal. The Chargers didn’t have much interest in bringing him back.

San Diego pass-rusher Antwan Barnes left his visit with the Jets without a deal.
For the second straight year, as the new brass tries to rebuild, the Oakland Raiders will likely undergo major change this offseason.

A place where serious change could occur is on the defensive line as the team tries to get younger and cheaper all the while trying to get better. A couple of years ago, the Raiders had one of the most physical, fiercest defensive lines in the NFL. But in 2012, the unit got old, and it its overall production waned.

Thus, change is in store.

Defensive tackle Richard Seymour is a free agent and very likely will not return. Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly’s production fell as well in 2012, and he is a top candidate to be cut, because Oakland is currently over the salary cap for 2013. Kelly, 32, reportedly has a salary cap number of more than 11 million in 2013. He has two years remaining on his contract. The Raiders reportedly could save more than $7 million if they cut Kelly.

So, at this point, it would be surprised if he is kept.

The change on the line doesn’t just affect the inside players. Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy is a free agent. He was once considered a potential standout, but his play slipped in 2012 and he lost playing time to fellow free-agent Andre Carter, who was signed during the season.

Desmond Bryant is also a free agent. At times, he was one of Oakland’s best defensive linemen last season. Bryant could get interest on the open market.

Thus, Oakland might have to find a way to replenish a lot of positions on the line. Its anchor is Lamarr Houston, who, at times, looks like an upper-echelon lineman. Houston is versatile and can play across the line.

The Raiders will give 2012 draft choices Christo Bilukidi (defensive tackle) and Jack Crawford (defensive end) a chance to develop in 2013. They showed nice promise as rookies.

There is a strong chance Oakland will use the No. 3 overall pick on a defensive lineman. The top candidates are ends Damontre Moore (Texas A&M), Barkevious Mingo (LSU) and Bjoern Werner (Florida State), and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (Utah).

Change is a theme in Oakland again, and it might start on the defensive line.

Observation deck: Raiders-Lions

August, 25, 2012

A look at the Raiders’ 31-20 home victory Saturday night:

Oakland's first preseason win came courtesy of some late-game offensive explosions.

Terrelle Pryor can run and he’s exciting. There’s no doubt. He lit up the stadium with a 59-yard run and a 17-yard touchdown jaunt, totaling 90 yards rushing on five carries. But most importantly, he made some nice passes and hit rookie Juron Criner for two touchdowns (39 and 76 yards) in the fourth quarter. Pryor finished 3 of 5 passing for 137 yards. If he can throw the ball consistently, he could have a future. Saturday was a promising day for Pryor, who has struggled this summer.

As for Criner, it was a nice show for the home fans after impressing his teammates in camp all summer.

Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer’s uneven preseason continued. He had his moments, but he also threw two interceptions. Palmer has thrown four interceptions in the preseason; he threw 16 picks in 10 games last season. Again, that is Palmer’s biggest area of concern.

Palmer did engineer a long scoring drive in the first half -- a promising sign.

Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski suffered a groin injury and left the game after trying to make a tackle on a 79-yard kick return. It is not known how long Janikowski -- the best kicking weapon in the NFL -- will be out. His replacement, rookie Eddy Carmona, drilled a 56-yard field goal, and perhaps he’d kick if Janikowski’s injury lingers into the regular season. Still, Oakland needs Janikowski to have a quick recovery.

Oakland’s special teams need some work. They are usually stellar, but have been a little sloppy this preseason. The Raiders have had key injuries on special teams and I don’t think it is an issue yet.

Oakland’s defense played solidly again. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford went down with a hand injury in the second quarter; he had been pretty successful before getting hurt. His backup, Shaun Hill, took over and had some success.

Undrafted rookie receiver Rod Streater had five catches, giving him 18 for the preseason. He started Saturday because of injuries, which is a major accomplishment for an undrafted rookie. It looks like he will get a chance to contribute when the regular season starts.

The Raiders had some early penalty problems after being pretty clean in the first two games. They had four pre-snap penalties and were penalized a total of nine times for 59 yards. Cutting down on penalties has to be a priority for Oakland, which set NFL records for penalties and penalty yardage in 2011.

Oakland reserve running back Taiwan Jones had a nice game with 50 yards on 10 carries. He will be a key factor behind starter Darren McFadden.

Fellow Raiders back Mike Goodson had 18 yards on seven carries. But he didn’t fumble after fumbling twice last week.

Oakland allowed just one sack all game.

Young defensive linemen Jamie Cumbie, Jack Crawford and Christo Bilukidi all looked good and all have promise.
The Oakland Raiders have gotten in the draft-pick-signing game.

The team announced it has signed three of its six 2012 draft picks. The Raiders signed fifth-round pick, defensive lineman Jack Crawford, and sixth-round picks, defensive lineman Christo Bilukidi and linebacker Nathan Stupar.

Third-round guard Tony Bergstrom, fourth-round linebacker Miles Burris and fifth-round receiver Juron Criner remain unsigned.

There are six unsigned rookies in the AFC West. The Chargers have signed their entire class.