AFC West: Marcel reece
The two-time Pro Bowl fullback wanted general manager Reggie McKenzie to make “Raider-ass moves” with his signings, fearless moves, though Reece, who has been in Oakland since 2008, was also leery
“I’m not expecting them to come in and set the tone on how to be a Raider; they don’t know how to be a Raider,” Reece said that evening. “I’m looking forward to setting that tone and whoever comes in that locker room is going to work like us.”
Together, the eight tote a combined six Super Bowl rings and 10 Pro Bowl appearances. Yeah, they know how to win.
The likes of Reece, Darren McFadden, Tyvon Branch and Jon Condo, meanwhile, know what it means to represent the Raiders, but they have never experienced a winning season in Oakland.
“In years past, the leadership was not the best,” Condo said. “Guys that are coming in…the young guys are looking at them and the vets are showing them, this is how you practice. This is how you study. This is how you prepare your bodies for the 16-game season. The way people go about their business, you see true professionalism on and off the field, doing the right things.
“Not to rag on what’s been here in the past, but it just seems like there was just a cycle with how veterans would act and young guys would look at that and think, ‘That’s what it takes to be a pro.’ And it wasn’t really the right way to be a pro.
“Now, you bring in the right guys and they are teaching the young guys how to be a pro and they’re going to carry it on three, four, five, six seven, eight, 10 years … to the draft classes.”
According to Tuck, there has been no push back from the older Raiders players.
“It’s not like we’re coming in here acting like we know everything; we don’t,” Tuck said. “We’re still learning ourselves. It’s never going to be a situation where, ‘Oh, y’all doing this wrong.’ We’re trying to work together
“At the end of the day, it has to be the Raider way … all the guys that they brought in know the history of the Raiders. … You found yourself fascinated by the silver and black and all the great players that played here and Al Davis and all the characters in Raider history.
“Now, it’s just a work in progress.”
Jones-Drew grew up in the East Bay a Raiders fan. So his coming home carried extra meaning, even if it meant playing for a team that has not been to the playoffs or won more than eight games in a season since 2002.
“The Raider way has always been winning,” he said. “But I think every franchise goes through some tough times. The guys they brought in had that Raider mentality already … doing whatever it takes to win. It was a great mix of guys, the correct mix of guys.”
And it’s not just the longer-tenured Raiders or youngsters who are paying attention to the new silver and black Jedi in town.
“We won one year in Jacksonville, so if Tuck comes in and says something, I’m going to listen … regardless if it’s against what I want to do or not,” Jones-Drew said. “They know what it takes to get to that next level, so you’ve got to be selfess and listen. And I think we’ve got a lot of guys that are doing that and it’s awesome.”
But will it translate into more than moral victories?
Consider: After recovering from a wrist injury in his final season at Ohio State that had him wondering if he'd ever play football again, Chekwa dislocated a shoulder in his first padded NFL practice ... hitting a pad. Then he was flip-flopped from cornerback to safety and back again before being cut at the end of his second training camp and then being stashed on the Raiders' practice squad.
Last year, he appeared in a career-high 15 games, mostly on special teams, as he bulked up. Now, he is one of just nine Al Davis draft picks remaining on the Raiders' 90-man training camp roster, along with free safety Charles Woodson, kicker Sebastian Janikowski, offensive lineman Kevin Boothe, running back Darren McFadden, strong safety Tyvon Branch, center Stefen Wisniewski, cornerback Taiwan Jones and receiver Denarius Moore (long-snapper Jon Condo and fullback Marcel Reece were both free agents).
But perhaps most impressive, Chekwa is in line to start at cornerback, in place of the injured DJ Hayden as the No. 12 overall pick of the 2013 draft recovers from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot.
"I'm very comfortable," Chekwa said following practice Thursday. "It was a difficult road but that's what builds character in the individual. When you're out there and you're having a difficult time out there, that's what helps you dig deep and be able to finish plays. It's all part of my road to doing what I want to do out here, so I'm comfortable."
And he's been raising eyebrows along the way as a pleasant surprise.
"He did some things in the spring that we were impressed with," coach Dennis Allen said. "Since I've gotten here, he's continued to get better and better every day.
"He's very, very valuable to us on special teams, so if he continues to improve, I think Chimdi's a guy that can help us this year."
Thursday, Chekwa nearly picked off Matt Schaub on a pass to receiver James Jones. Instead, he batted the ball away. With every rep, you can see Chekwa's body language growing with confidence.
He's at peace with his station in life -- the 25-year-old was married this past summer -- and with the way his skill set fits into Allen's vision for the Raiders secondary.
"We play some zone where you can see [the ball] and break," Chekwa said. "We play some man where you can get up there and press. I like to mix it up. That's what I did in college.
"To be honest, I think I can do it all. But I think one of my strengths is breaking on the ball, attacking the receiver, attacking the ball."
Yes, he has been taking advantage of the in-house tutoring afforded by the bump-and-run master himself, Willie Brown. And taking the lessons onto the field as well.
"If I didn't get better today, then I didn't accomplish anything," Chekwa said.
"I want to be here, so I'm going to do everything I can to stay here."
- Has Matt Schaub regained his mojo? It looked like that was the case, at least during the end-of-practice red zone drills. Schaub showed off his arm with two absolute lasers on in-routes for touchdowns on consecutive passes. The first score came to receiver Andre Holmes, who was slanting in from the right side and beat cornerback Carlos Rogers. The second pass was a beauty down the middle that hit tight end David Ausberry in stride in the end zone, just in front of cornerback Tarell Brown.
- As impressive as Schaub's throws were, so too was running back Kory Sheets, who is trying to stick after winning Grey Cup MVP honors in the CFL last year. Sheets, behind Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden and Latavius Murray, broke off a pair of long runs in the fully-padded 11-on-11 drills. “This is my last shot,” Sheets said. “As a 29-year-old unproven running back in the NFL, you don't get too many chances to mess up. So whenever you do get the ball ... the opportunity to make a play, you've got to go out there and make it.” Coach Dennis Allen said he liked Sheets' “run skills,” though there was room for improvement in his pass-protection game.
- Before practice began in earnest, there was a walk-through, of sorts, for the kick return team. And there was undrafted rookie George Atkinson III leading the way, along with Taiwan Jones, McFadden and Jeremy Stewart. But when the team went back to the drill later in the day, Atkinson was replaced by veteran Maurice Jones-Drew. And if you're wondering about McFadden's purported ball security issues as a kick returner, one kick did bounce off his chest with a thud and roll out of bounds.
- Two days of pads and no unbelievable hits from rookie linebacker Khalil Mack. That's probably a good thing. Allen wants to save his guys for the real thing, and that makes sense. Besides, Mack had a golden opportunity to absolutely blow up running back Jeremy Stewart 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage and merely wrapped him up. Good move. I will say this, though, Mack, who has been compared to Von Miller and now Clay Matthews, is all over the field.
- Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece's physical transformation is very noticeable. He told me he played last season at 250 pounds and was up to 255 during the offseason workuts. Reece said he's now at 238 pounds. “Everything is going to be better,” he said. “That's why we started this process.” It should mean he will be more involved in the Raiders' passing game.
- The Raiders receiving corps were shorthanded. Greg Little (hamstring) did not finish practice, Rod Streater, who suffered a concussion Sunday, sat out and is “day-by-day,” Allen said, while Juron Criner (hamstring) was also a spectator. Safety Shelton Johnson and linebacker Kaluka Maiava both missed practice with hamstring issues. Linebacker Marshall McFadden (hip) and tight end Jake Murphy (head) also sat out.
No doubt it was Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece saying the weekend before free agency began that he wanted general manager Reggie McKenzie to make “Raider-ass moves” in signing players. As in, bold moves.
“I do feel he did that,” Reece said Tuesday, the first day of voluntary offseason workouts for the Raiders.
“We weren’t looking for any saviors to come here and get in this locker room. We were looking for help. We were looking for help to bring this tradition, the winning attitude and a championship pedigree back to this organization and to the locker room and I think we did that.”
Consider: Defensive end Justin Tuck, offensive lineman Kevin Boothe, linebacker LaMarr Woodley, defensive lineman C.J. Wilson and receiver James Jones are toting a combined seven Super Bowl rings to Oakland from their time with the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers.
Surely that has to rub off on the Raiders, no? That’s the plan.
“Like I said, it’s a certain stature and pedigree that you have, only by winning a championship,” Reece said. “Things that even leaders like myself don’t have yet. I haven’t been able to experience the playoffs or a championship, and when guys like Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, when you bring guys like that in here, especially on the defensive side of the ball, it really helps. It brings a different aspect of leadership into a locker room and into a team.”
Reece served as a recruiter for the Raiders and said left tackle Donald Penn told him Tuesday he was “tired of me texting him two or three times a day” before he eventually signed.
“Obviously, we lost out on a few guys that we wanted to keep,” Reece said, likely referring to left tackle Jared Veldheer, defensive end Lamarr Houston and running back Rashad Jennings. “But I think other than that, we were fairly successful.”
As was the turnout for the first day of workouts, even if there was no official tally.
“Very close to 100 percent,” Reece said. “A couple of guys that aren’t here, I know why they’re not here and when they’re going to show up. There’s always things that come up, it’s life. It is 100 percent in my eyes. It means a lot to me, especially the veteran guys.”
And Reece’s thoughts on Pryor being traded a day earlier to the Seattle Seahawks?
“Nothing surprises me at this point in time in my career,” Reece said. “I’ve seen a lot happen in my seven years here in the organization. Nothing surprises me. As a team, we just wish him the best and thank him for what he did here and wish him the best.”
Still, the Raiders are doing research on Jackson while playing a wait-and-see game as no visit has been scheduled yet. Jackson is, however, scheduled to visit the Washington Redskins on Tuesday.
Free safety Charles Woodson, who is entering his 17th season, on Friday told ESPN radio affiliate 95.7 The Game that he hoped general manager Reggie McKenzie brought Jackson to Oakland, after necessary background checks.
“But when you talk about bringing in a guy as talented as he is, and you have that opportunity, I think you take a shot at it,” Woodson said. “And I think where we are as a team, we need all the playmakers we can have, and adding that guy would definitely help take us to the next level.”
Jackson, who played at nearby Cal, is coming off a career-best season in which he caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. He would be the deep threat the Raiders want and need. Plus, the Raiders still have ample salary cap space.
But with Jackson being reportedly linked to gang activity in his native Los Angeles and, in the wake of the Aaron Hernandez situation in New England, the NFL in general and teams in particular are especially sensitive to players’ off-the-field relationships.
Raiders fullback Marcel Reece joined Woodson in pushing Jackson, the two-time Pro Bowler took to Twitter to defend Jackson.
Unbelievable to try and pin a negative rap on someone just because you may not like them...don't believe the negativity! @DeseanJackson10— Marcel Reece (@CelReece45) March 29, 2014
Ok...I just couldn't allow my boy @DeseanJackson10 get trashed without saying anything. Back in hiding I go for the rest of the day!— Marcel Reece (@CelReece45) March 29, 2014
Tv is speculating I'm speaking from experience known @DeseanJackson10 a long time and he's always been the same— Marcel Reece (@CelReece45) March 29, 2014
The 5-feet-10, 178-pound Jackson, who is only 27, has been the subject of a social media push by Raiders fans using the hashtag #DJaxToOakland.
Raiders special teams coach Bobby April also has a history with Jackson, having coached in Philadelphia when Jackson was weaned off being the Eagles’ punt returner.
Even if the Raiderettes were Barker’s Beauties and Oakland’s 17 scheduled unrestricted free agents were mixed and matched as the prizes in a showcase showdown, McKenzie has yet to show his hand as he sits with close to $65 million in salary-cap space. Even as Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece implored his general manager to eschew “safe moves” in favor of “smart, calculated, fearless, Raider-ass moves” when free agency begins today at 1 p.m. PT.
Thus far, the Raiders’ two biggest free agents, left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end Lamarr Houston, have been linked to the Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears, respectively. Oakland, meanwhile, has been reportedly kicking the tires on St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Rodger Saffold and Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, while many see the Raiders as being interested in picking up cornerback Darrelle Revis if and when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut him.
McKenzie, meanwhile, maintained his position: “What I want to do is make this team better. And that’s what we’re going to set out to do this Tuesday and really, not waiting until Tuesday but, just with our own team, just trying to get things done. We want to upgrade this football team and we intend to do that.”
Speaking at the Commitment to Excellence Dinner, which honored Reece on Saturday night, McKenzie pointed to the re-signing of offensive lineman Khalif Barnes and re-upping special-teams ace Taiwan Jones as steps in that direction.
“That’s why it’s important to keep those good players,” McKenzie said. “Khalif, the worker he is, Taiwan is here to support Marcel, and, of course, Marcel. Those are the type of guys, they know the whole Raider [way], the direction we want to go. So we want the guys to be positive for everybody in that locker room.”
True, but which guys, exactly? McKenzie’s patient approach the past two seasons was exacerbated by the Raiders needing to shed salary. Now? These are unchartered waters for the third-year GM, what with so much cap space.
But keep this in mind: He said two years ago that, even with so much cap space, that did not mean he would be shopping at Macy’s. And in January he said, “Just because I have $5 in my pocket, that doesn’t mean I have to spend all of it ... on junk.”
Reggie McKenzie, come on down ...
Indeed, in past years, the fact that two guys no longer with the team would account for more than $8.8 million in dead money would cause much handwringing. But the financial footprints left by Michael Huff ($6,208,750) and McKenzie acquisition Matt Flynn ($2,625,000) are palatable with Oakland boasting more than $61.7 million in cap space, per overthecap.com.
McKenzie need not go through any couch cushions to find spare change to re-sign those of his 18 unrestricted free agents he deems worthy, or make runs at front-line free agents on the market. But it is interesting to see which players currently under contract boast the largest cap numbers for 2014.
Tyvon Branch ($7.157 million) -- the strong safety appeared in all of two games a year ago, breaking his lower right leg in the first quarter of the Raiders' home opener. He attempted a late-season comeback but could not get right and was placed on injured reserve before appearing in another game.
Mike Brisiel ($5.310 million) -- a potential cut? The right guard was a warrior in 2013, albeit a wounded one. Tony Bergstrom, McKenzie's first-ever draft pick, beating out Brisiel would not necessarily be a bad thing for the future of the franchise.
Kevin Burnett ($4.142 million) -- Veteran presence in the linebacker corps, a potential place to save money ... if the Raiders needed to save money.
Marcel Reece ($3.980 milion) -- The face of the franchise's future, an absolute bargain for a two-time Pro Bowl fullback.
Nick Roach ($3.771 million) -- Played every defensive snap in his first year as a Raider, team defensive MVP, made fans forget about Rolando What's His Name.
Sebastian Janikowski ($3.060 million) -- Highest-paid kicker in the game has a lot to prove after struggling with nine missed field goals in his first season with new contract.
-financial figures from overthecap.com
Doesn't sound like it, so long as Sam has the skill set to play in the NFL.
"The Oakland Raiders have long championed diversity and opportunity," Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie said in a team-issued release Monday afternoon. "The organization will evaluate Michael Sam based purely on his ability as a football player."
Indeed, as an organization under the late Al Davis, the Raiders hired a Latino head coach in Tom Flores, who became the first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl as he won two, the first African-American head coach in modern NFL history in Art Shell, who was the league’s coach of the year in 1990, and the highest-ranking female executive in former CEO Amy Trask.
Sam, who was the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year with 11 ½ sacks and 19 tackles for a loss, would seem to fill a need for the Raiders, who are in search of an edge rusher. Plus, defensive ends Lamarr Houston, Jason Hunter and Vance Walker are all free agents.
Still, Oakland already has a project in Jack Crawford and the 6-feet-2, 260-pound Sam might be a bit undersized for the Raiders’ needs in their 4-3 defensive alignment. If he is still around in the later rounds of the draft, perhaps the Raiders take a shot.
Raiders players have been silent on their Twitter feeds regarding Sam’s announcement but Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece took part in a public service announcement last summer regarding gay athletes.
The theme was "If you can play, you can play," and Reece joined other Bay Area sports personalities such as San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, Oakland Athletics center fielder Coco Crisp, San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito, Golden State Warriors guard/forward Klay Thompson, San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton and San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski in the inclusivity-promoting PSA.
“That's who we want,” Sanders said on the NFL Network's broadcast of the Pro Bowl Draft's Day 1 Tuesday evening. “We love him because he's not getting the ball. All we want him to do is block, for that man over there.”
Sanders pointed to team co-captain Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Reece, who is making his second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance, garnered a more positive scouting report, of sorts, from Jerry Rice.
“Marcel Reece, I feel like he can do everything,” Rice said. “He can come out of the backfield, he can catch the ball, he can run the ball, he can do all those things. But then when it comes down to really blocking guys, I feel like Mike Tolbert, he's the guy.”
Indeed, Reece is the more versatile offensive threat, with 549 yards from scrimmage this season, including four touchdowns as the only Raiders player with a score by ground as well as by air.
Tolbert, meanwhile, rushed for 361 yards and five TDs on 101 attempts and led the Panthers with seven scores.
The Indianapolis Colts' staff, with coach Chuck Pagano, will coach Team Sanders while the Carolina Panthers and coach Ron Rivera will head up Team Rice.
Tracy Porter and Lamarr Houston are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. The Oakland Raiders would be wise to re-sign both as the cornerback and defensive end were named to our all-AFC West first-team defense in a vote by the four ESPN.com NFL Nation reporters who cover the division.
That the Raiders were the lone team in the division to not qualify for the playoffs should speak volumes for Porter, who also slid into the slot on nickel defense and whose 67 tackles ranked third among AFC corners, and Houston, whose 69 tackles led the division’s defensive ends.
Still, Houston, who had a team-high six sacks after moving to the right side after playing the first three years of his career on the left, raised many eyebrows following the Raiders’ 34-14 season-ending loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday when he said he did not expect to return to Oakland.
“I believe that Dennis Allen and the Raiders might be looking to move on and have me go to another team and find something more what they want for their system and their scheme,” Houston said. “Who knows? It’s a rough business, and nothing’s guaranteed, and everything changes from day to day.”
Later that night, though, Houston took to Twitter to blame the Fourth Estate for taking him out of context.
“I would love to b back in Oakland if they will take me,” Houston tweeted. “best fans in the league…u listen to the media u a fool.”
“I did see that quote, and that’s not the case,” Allen said of his purported desire to move on from Houston. “Obviously, I sat down with Lamarr today and had a nice discussion with him. We’d love to have him back. We think he fits our system and what we’re trying to do and we think he’s a guy that we can build with.”
There has been no such drama with Porter, who had two interceptions, including a pick-six of the New York Giants’ Eli Manning, becoming the only player in league history to return an interception for a touchdown against both Manning brothers.
Porter said during the regular season he was not necessarily thinking about next year ... yet.
“I’m not saying I don’t want to come back,” Porter said in mid-December, “I would. Otherwise I wouldn’t have come here from the start.”
A case could be made that two other Raiders players should have been named all-AFC West in fullback Marcel Reece and punter Marquette King.
Despite being underutilized in Oakland’s offense, Reece was named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl. He also started at tailback at the New York Jets when Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden were injured. He rushed for a career-high 123 yards, including a career-long 63-yard touchdown run. On the year, he averaged 4.6 yards per rush and scored two TDs while also catching 32 passes for 331 yards and two scores.
So how was Reece snubbed? The voting system asked us to vote for three receivers and no fullbacks -- and with the season turned in by Jamaal Charles, there you have it. I’m sure Reece will be fine, though, lounging in the Honolulu sun for the NFL’s reimagined all-star game.
King, meanwhile, led the NFL in gross average (48.9 yards) in his first year replacing Shane Lechler and had an AFC West-long punt of 66 yards this season.
Then there was middle linebacker Nick Roach, who led the NFL’s MLBs in sacks (5.5) and forced fumbles (4).
An instant replay review followed courtesy of an Oakland challenge and instead of being within 26-20 with 4:38 to play, holding all three of their timeouts with the two minute warning also in hand, the Raiders lost the challenge and faced a third-and-2 from the 39-yard line.
Even if it appeared as though Streater caught the ball with his back to the end zone, took at least three steps with possession, crossed the goal line still in possession and then spun (a football move?) to hit the ground before the ball popped free.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen took a diplomatic approach.
“I know what the rule is,” Allen said. “It looked to me like after he completed the catch, the ball got pulled out in the end zone.”
Allen compared it to a two-point conversion in Super Bowl XLIV, when the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees hit Lance Moore on a play initially ruled incomplete, only to be overturned after a Saints challenge to give them a 24-17 lead over the Indianapolis Colts. Allen was a Saints assistant at the time.
“The rule is that you have to maintain possession all the way through to the ground,” Allen said of Streater's play. “I thought he maintained possession all the way through the ground and then the ball was pulled out after he had gone to the ground.”
For what it's worth, Streater said “the ground caused the ball to come out,” not Chargers safety Darrell Stuckey.
Still, the Raiders ran a mind-numbing 12 more plays (what hurry-up offense?) after the Streater non-catch to get to the Chargers' 6-yard line ... and could not get into the end zone.
The Raiders turned the ball over on downs after an awkward fourth-and-5 pass from Matt McGloin went through normally sure-handed fullback Marcel Reece's hands in the end zone with 54 seconds to play.
Had Streater, who was limited to one catch for 2 yards, scored, he was sure the Raiders defense would have held the Chargers and given Oakland one last shot.
“You've got to go with what the ref says, I guess, you know?” Streater said.
"I'd like to see," Olson said before catching himself, "we'd all love to see him stay healthy through these last two games and be very productive. You stay out of the 'what if's' and 'down the road's,' but I know he's expressed that he'd like to be with the Oakland Raiders.
If it sounds like Olson thinks unrestricted-free-agent-to-be McFadden needs to show up to even be considered to be re-signed, you're right. That is, unless the Raiders have already decided to move on from the teasingly talented McFadden, who played like a league MVP candidate at the start of the 2011 season but has missed 19 of 39 games since.
And yes, the oft-injured McFadden himself characterizes this as a "lost season" for him.
"I feel that way, but at the same time there's nothing I can do about that," he said this week. "That time is gone. I can only move forward and deal with the things I have in front of me."
He did practice in a full capacity Friday after being limited Wednesday and Thursday. They were his first practices since he went down with an ankle injury on Thanksgiving Day at the Dallas Cowboys. And he had missed the previous three games with a hamstring issue before getting injured at Dallas.
In his place -- McFadden initially strained the hamstring on Nov. 3 against Washington and missed the following week -- Rashad Jennings has been a steady runner for the Raiders, even as he's missed one game with a concussion.
Jennings, who has 679 rushing yards on the season, is averaging 4.6 yards per carry; McFadden, with 365 yards, is averaging 3.5 yards per carry, just above last season's career-worst 3.3 mark.
"Rashad's done a great job," McFadden said. "He's been a physical runner all year. He's been out there picking up great blocks and making great plays. He's done a great job. I'm really proud of the job he's done out there."
Then, if McFadden is a full go, and fullback Marcel Reece is not forgotten in the game plan, how will McFadden be utilized against the San Diego Chargers this weekend?
"If he's healthy, then I think the big thing for us would be to roll him," Olson said. "Obviously, Rashad has earned the right to play and has done some very good things for us. Darren has looked healthy this week, but we'll get a chance to gauge him early on in the game Sunday and see how he feels early on.
"We'll get a chance to roll those guys and we'll continue to, again, try to find ways, like we have throughout the season with Marcel."
And while Reece was playing tailback out of necessity and making his first start there this season because of injuries to Rashad Jennings, Darren McFadden and Jeremy Stewart, it raises the question: Is Reece a special player in the NFL, or simply a very good one on a bad team?
Then there’s this: Whatever the answer to the above, why has it taken the Raiders so long to figure it out and make him a feature of this offense?
“If we lose,” Reece said, “it’s irrelevant. We worked too hard to have the outcome be like this. We need ‘W’s.’ This game is about winning. It’s about production. Stats don’t matter. The numbers don’t matter unless you win, and we didn’t do it.”
But it was not for a lack of Reece.
The “matchup nightmare” who was a wide receiver in college, also had a big game starting at tailback in place of the injured McFadden last season, albeit in blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints, going for 103 yards on the ground and catching four passes for 90 yards.
Yet, Marcel Reece had been as silent as Marcel Marceau in the offense this season despite the front office thinking enough of him to sign him to a three-year contract extension in September. In the Raiders’ previous four games, Reece had a total of 20 touches. Sunday, he had 21 (19 carries and two receptions on five targets).
“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” said rookie quarterback Matt McGloin. “He does what we ask of him. He busts his tail day in and day out. He catches the ball well, runs the ball well, blocks well. He’s an all-around guy, a great guy and a great player and we’re lucky to have him [as] part of this organization.”
Especially when his deceptive speed was on display in outrunning the Jets’ secondary on a power run up the gut.
“It was a routine run,” Reece claimed. “The O-line stepped up and did a great job and made my job easy.”
The touchdown, the longest run against the Jets’ top-ranked rush defense this season, got the Raiders to within 20-10 on the second play of the second half. Things were looking up.
Oakland’s defense, though, could not hold up, and the offense and special teams – Sebastian Janikowski missed another field-goal try, this one from 52 yards, and the Jets took advantage of the short field to score a touchdown three plays later, and the Jets blocked a Marquette King punt for a TD – had just enough misfires to keep the game out of reach.
Reece could not put his finger on when the game flipped, though.
“If I could put a finger on it, he said, “I would have changed it.”
That task, invariably, falls to coach Dennis Allen.
“The big run was a huge run and a huge play in the football game,” Allen said. “I thought, overall, he did a nice job of running the football. I’ll have to go back and look and see exactly how well he played. But I thought, overall, he did a nice job.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but then again, as Reece said, it doesn’t matter much without a victory, right?
As such, the Raiders will be without all three running backs from that loss to the Cowboys as Jennings, Darren McFadden (ankle) and Jeremy Stewart (ankle/knee) are all inactive.
Fullback Marcel Reece is expected to move over to tailback and Taiwan Jones, who converted from running back to cornerback this season, should spell Reece.
Following are the Raiders' inactives: SS Tyvon Branch, RG Mike Brisiel, RB Darren McFadden, WR Denarius Moore, RB Jeremy Stewart, RB Rashad Jennings, OL Lamar Mady.
Reece had just been asked how the Raiders, with a trip to face the New York Jets on the horizon, could not let their 12-game losing streak in games played in the Eastern time zone get in their collective heads, let alone become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“That stat doesn’t mean anything,” Reece insisted. “I wouldn’t have known about it if you hadn’t told me. We’re not thinking about things like that.”
Even if, as Reece pointed out, there has been so much roster turnover since Bruce Gradkowski led that epic comeback at the Pittsburgh Steelers four years ago today that it means little to the current players.
Consider: Of the 53 players on the current roster, only four played in that game (strong safety Tyvon Branch, place-kicker Sebastian Janikowski, running back Darren McFadden and long-snapper Jon Condo) while a fifth (offensive lineman Khalif Barnes) was inactive.
Reece himself was still on the Raiders’ practice squad at the time and would not make his NFL debut for another three weeks.
“There have been so many changes since then,” Reece said. “In ’08 and ’09 it was like a revolving door.”
True, but seven of the 12 Eastern time zone losses have come in the past two seasons and the streak is the longest current one in the NFL, as well as a Raiders record.
And second-year coach Dennis Allen has the worst road winning percentage since the start of the 2012 season at .143 (2-12), with the Cleveland Browns creeping behind at .154 (2-11).
Then there’s this -- Oakland has not won in the Jets’ house since Oct. 6, 1996, when Joe Aska rushed for 136 yards, Jeff Hostetler threw three touchdown passes and Rickey Dudley caught a pair of TDs in a 34-13 victory.
Current Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin was not yet seven years old that day. He was a redshirt sophomore at Penn State when the Raiders last won in the Eastern time zone, some 140 miles away in Pittsburgh.
So how does the rookie think the Raiders combat their recent history of East Coast duress?
“We win Sunday, that’s how you do that,” McGloin said with a smile. “But no, it’s not a statistic we’re proud of. Any time you’re traveling across the country to play, it’ll be difficult. But for me, it’s exciting to go back East and play in the cold. The weather is going to be a nice change for me.
“That stat is something we’re aware of, and we’re keeping that in the back of our minds.”
Leave it to an undrafted rookie, then, to harken some George Santayana, who left this Earth before the Raiders were even born. You know the refrain about those who cannot remember the past being condemned to repeat it.