AFC West: Maurice Jones-Drew

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- As heated protests boiled over in Missouri after the controversial shooting of an black teenager, Oakland Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew made a statement in Green Bay, Wisconsin, last Friday night.

Jones-Drew
At the end of a 40-yard touchdown run during the Raiders’ 31-21 loss at Green Bay, the longtime NFL star put his head down and put his hands up and stood silently. Jones-Drew is using a screenshot of the pose as his Twitter avatar. The stance has become a symbol for in the protests of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, earlier this month.

Speaking about the pose to reporters this week, Jones-Drew said he felt like he needed to stand up and make his feelings known.

“My goal is always to create awareness,” Jones-Drew said.

The Ferguson incident hit close to home for Jones-Drew. He was in Florida during the Trayvon Martin shooting and when a teenager was shot at a Jacksonville gas station because he was playing loud music.

“I know what it’s like to get pulled over when you’ve done nothing wrong,” Jones-Drew said. “I’ve been through those things. When you’re raising three young boys, you have to think about those things. When they get older and they go out at night, am I going to have to be the one to get that phone call? Those are things you worry about. That’s what I worry about as a father and what my mother worried about when I was growing up.”

Jones-Drew said he is unsure if he will continue to mark his touchdowns with the "hands up" pose.
NAPA, Calif. -- Marcel Reece was about to be presented with the Oakland Raiders “Commitment to Excellence Award” in March and NFL free agency was about to begin.

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.”

[+] EnlargeJustin Tuck
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsJustin Tuck is one of a handful of new Raiders who has been to and won a Super Bowl.
Paging the likes of Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, James Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, Kevin Boothe and Donald Penn, while summoning the acquired-in-a-trade Matt Schaub .

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?

Raiders offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Oakland Raiders' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
AP Photo/Michael ConroThe Raiders were happy to land versatile linebacker Khalil Mack in the first round.
Best move: Letting the NFL draft come to them. By sitting tight in the first round, the Raiders saw playmaking linebacker Khalil Mack fall into their laps at No. 5 overall. By sitting tight in the second round, the Raiders saw their quarterback of the future fall into their laps at No. 36 overall. General manager Reggie McKenzie gets high marks for not overthinking things and staying true to his gut and drafting for need as well as snagging the best player available a year after trading down and taking injured cornerback D.J. Hayden.

Riskiest move: Call it semantics or claim that someone -- either McKenzie or the player’s mom -- was not telling the whole truth as to whether the Raiders presented a respectable offer, but the Raiders allowing left tackle Jared Veldheer to leave and reunite with quarterback Carson Palmer in Arizona was not a good way to begin free agency. In Veldheer, the Raiders had a known commodity. In his wake Oakland had to rebuild the offensive line. Replacing Veldheer was seemingly an unnecessary distraction, and though Donald Penn seems a suitable replacement, left tackle will be a need again soon enough.

Most surprising move: Getting an established, respected and accomplished veteran like two-time Super Bowl-winning defensive end Justin Tuck to buy in early and sign with a rebuilding team in the Raiders. The signing of Tuck, who put pen to paper a day after Austin Howard was signed, gave legitimacy to Oakland’s efforts in free agency and opened the doors for the likes of other vets LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, James Jones and Maurice Jones-Drew to also choose Oakland as their destination ... without Oakland overpaying. They are all on the back ends of their careers, but they should have enough left in the tank.

About face? Early in his tenure, McKenzie spoke of signing “high character” players with little to no baggage. So it was a surprise when he spent the third day of the draft taking players with questionable pasts, be it legal spats or getting kicked out of school or off a team. It reached a crescendo with this week’s signing of oft-troubled receiver Greg Little. But McKenzie believes he has built a strong enough locker room to withstand a wild card or two. Besides, if a guy can contribute and has convinced McKenzie he has changed, he deserves another shot, right?
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- So what, exactly, is the Oakland Raiders' reputation across the NFL, according to three of the teams’ more respected free-agent veteran signees?

“Man, the impression was they had a lot of talented players but they couldn’t finish,” receiver James Jones said Tuesday, the first day of the Raiders’ voluntary offseason workout program. Jones spent the first seven years of his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers.

Tuck
Jones
Jones
“Obviously, the record speaks for itself. I wasn’t part of the team back then but as we talked today, 4-12 is not good enough. When we played the Raiders in the past, we’re kind of putting that ‘win’ on the board already. Now, everybody’s got to look at their self in the mirror and we’ve got to understand that we really don’t get no respect, and you’re not going to get no respect when you’re 4-12, so we’ve got to go out there and take it this year. And I believe we’ve got the right guys to do it.”

The Raiders have been among the more busy teams since the new league year began on March 11, having signed 12 free agents and acquiring a new quarterback in Matt Schaub in a trade with the Houston Texans.

Granted, most of the new guys are on the backside of their careers, but to a man they believe they still have a lot in the tank, while acknowledging they have a lot to prove.

“You hear, 'This is a great team, in 2009,'" offered running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who had been with the Jacksonville Jaguars since 2006. "Whatever."

There are more chips on these guys’ shoulders, though, than questions ... or whatevers.

"Being a fan of the Raiders," added Jones-Drew, who grew up in the East Bay and still lives in Oakland, "I was always envious of Darren (McFadden) because he got to wear that (silver and black) jersey and he played well, when healthy.

"We brought the right guys in."

Meaning drama-free vets with championship pedigrees, so to speak. And a knack for knowing how to win, as defensive end Justin Tuck's two Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants attest.

And yes, Tuck thought the same as Jones when it came to the Raiders, who have not had a winning season since 2002 and are coming off consecutive 4-12 seasons.

"I would say 'talented,' but hadn’t played together as far as knowing how to win," Tuck said of the recent Raiders. "Beating themselves a little bit. Just like the game up (in New Jersey) last year. They had an opportunity to win, but they couldn’t close it out. That’s the M.O., I guess."

That’s what the veterans were brought to Oakland to do -- reverse the course and teach the team how to win.

“That’s our mentality,” said Tuck, who envisions the Raiders making like last season’s Kansas City Chiefs, who were 11-5 a year after going 2-14.

“A lot of people always say you go to Oakland for your career to die. I’m not looking at it like that. I’m looking at it like this is an opportunity to revive a storied franchise in a city with a great fan base behind this football team. The energy and excitement around this football team should be good. I’m excited about it.”

The biggest question regarding the Oakland Raiders signing free-agent running back Maurice Jones-Drew to a three-year contract on Friday is this: How exactly do they plan to use him in their retooled offense? As the bellcow? In tandem? As insurance?

Jones-Drew said he was told by the Raiders he was coming in to compete.

"We have different running abilities," he said in a conference call Friday. "But the competition is what's going to make us better. We'll push each other."

He joins a crowded if somewhat unsettled backfield.

Since being the No. 4 overall draft pick in 2008, Darren McFadden has been the Raiders' starter ... when healthy. And Oakland re-signed him to an incentive-laden deal to do just that in 2014, even though he has missed 19 of the Raiders' previous 41 games and has never played more than 13 games in a season.

The Raiders are also high on Latavius Murray, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury after being drafted in the sixth round. Plus, they signed Canadian Football League Grey Cup MVP Kory Sheets, and the Raiders still have Jeremy Stewart on the roster.

Or, as Murray tweeted:

Jones-Drew, a diminutive three-time Pro Bowler who has a lot of mileage on his powerful legs, has had health issues himself of late. It just so happens that in the past two seasons, those injuries occurred in Oakland.

In 2012, after holding out in the preseason, the 5-foot-8, 205-pound Jones-Drew broke his left foot on the Jaguars' second play from scrimmage against the Raiders in Week 7 and did not play another down all season. He underwent what he termed "major" surgery that offseason.

Last season, Jones-Drew sprained his left ankle on a touchdown-saving flying tackle by Charles Woodson in the first quarter of the Week 2 game.

"It was a hell of a tackle," Jones-Drew said, "there's nothing I can say."

Jones-Drew, 29, missed the rest of that game but played the rest of the season, rushing for 803 yards while averaging a career-low 3.4 yards per carry. His previous low was his 4.2 in 2008.

"I feel like I have a ton left in the tank," he said, and maybe splitting time with McFadden would keep both off the injury report. Or perhaps it limits their efficiency and productivity in smaller-than-usual roles.

Whatever the case may be, Jones-Drew grew up in the East Bay a fan of the Raiders, prepped at high school powerhouse De La Salle and has lived in the Bay Area every offseason since Jacksonville selected him in the second round of the 2006 draft out of UCLA. Playing home games in front of his grandmother now, he said, would be a bonus.

Jones-Drew said the other teams that reached out to him wanted him to join them in a mentor role, or as a backup.

"But the Raiders," he said, "gave me an opportunity to compete.

"It just feels like home."
Three-time Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew is scheduled to make a free-agent visit with the Oakland Raiders on Friday, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported.

Jones-Drew
Some might see it as a curious development, in that the Raiders’ current biggest needs are on the interior of the defensive line and at cornerback.

But the bowling ball-like Jones-Drew, who grew up near Oakland and went to high school at powerhouse De La Salle, would also bring explosiveness to the running game ... so long as he stays healthy.

He missed 10 games in 2012 and one last season, after a flying tackle by the Raiders’ Charles Woodson, and is coming off a career-low 3.4 yards per carry average with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He rushed for 803 yards and five touchdowns in 2013.

Still, the Raiders do have questions at running back as they re-signed the oft-injured -- but just as tantalizing and teasing -- Darren McFadden, who has averaged 3.3 yards per carry the past two seasons. They are hoping for big things from Latavius Murray, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury after being a sixth-round draft pick. Oakland also signed Kory Sheets, the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup MVP.

Jones-Drew, 29, was a first-team All-Pro in 2011 after leading the league with 1,606 yards rushing. He played for current Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson when Olson was the Jaguars’ assistant head coach/QB coach in 2012.

Broncos free agency primer: RB

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
7:00
AM ET
With the countdown to free agency in its final hours, it's time to conclude the week-long look at the Denver Broncos' top needs in the open market.

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsThe Broncos will lean on second-year player Montee Ball to be the lead running back in 2014.
The Broncos are expected to be aggressive and active once the signings formally begin Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, and have already taken a long look at Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward, as well as linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (he signed with the Indianapolis Colts). Their executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway has repeatedly made clear he believes free agency is the time to shop for need and the draft is the time to secure potential long-term Broncos who were the best picks on the board when their picks arrived.

Plenty of folks around the league say they expect the Broncos to buzz in early for some specific targets and then back off to finish out with shorter-term deals weeks later after the initial waves of signings have passed. It was a profile they used last season when they moved quickly to sign Louis Vasquez, Wes Welker, Terrance Knighton and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and then waited to add players like Shaun Phillips, Stewart Bradley, Quentin Jammer and Steve Vallos.

Today: Running back

Why it's an issue: It's took Knowshon Moreno five seasons, two knee surgeries, a pile of ups and downs to go with a teetering roster spot when the Broncos opened 2013 training camp, but in the '13 season Moreno was everything the team hoped he would be all along.

He led the team in rushing, with 1,038 yards, scored 13 touchdowns overall, caught 60 passes and was the go-to guy at the position when it came to pass protection. Moreno was also the poster-child for perseverance and hard work in the team's running backs room.

He's also not expected back. Moreno is an unrestricted free agent and there is at least some feeling inside the Broncos' complex, they got every ounce of what Moreno had to give this past season. And that Montee Ball, selected in the second round of the 2013 draft, is ready to move to the front of the line.

Ball closed out last season with 120 carries for 559 yards while steadily improving his work as a receiver and as a pass protector when working out of the backfield in the team's three-wide receiver set. The Broncos want him to be the guy, and Ball has done the work to show them he wants to be the guy, too.

However, the Broncos need some depth, especially if they can't kickstart Ronnie Hillman. Hillman went from being handed the starting job last offseason to what the team considered pouting his way down the stretch when he was often a game-day inactive.

Hillman is the potential big-play guy at the position and still has a pile of un-tapped potential, but he has to show something in the offseason work as the Broncos' patience will wear thin if they don't see an uptick in both performance and preparation.

The Broncos had undrafted rookie C.J. Anderson on the roster last season, as well. And Anderson is a bigger back, but is seen as a rotation/situational player at the moment.

The best out there: Teams are not really looking -- ever -- to break the bank on older running backs in free agency, so there is at least a scenario where Moreno returns to the Broncos on a short-term -- one- or two-year deal -- if he doesn't find anything in the open market to his liking.

Overall, however, the Texans' Ben Tate, the Colts' Donald Brown, the Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew, the Raiders' Darren McFadden, the Raiders' Rashad Jennings, the Patriots' LeGarrette Blount, the Giants' Andre Brown, the Steelers Jonathan Dwyer, the Vikings' Toby Gerhart, the Steelers' Felix Jones and the Buccaneers' Brian Leonard lead what is a class full of question marks and plenty of injury history.

The 25-year-old Tate is the youngest of that group with the least wear and tear, but he also wants No. 1 back money and has already dubbed himself "elite" as the market was set to open. Jones-Drew is a former No. 1 coming off two injury-marred seasons, while Jones had just 48 carries for the Steelers last season and did not show the big-play speed he had when the Cowboys made him a first-round selection.

The rest of the backs in the groups, especially Blount, have flashed at times, but the Broncos aren't looking for a potential No. 1, but rather a back who can support their homegrown No. 1. The draft also factors in with the coming rookie class with some depth in the middle rounds for those willing to live with some growing pains that come with a younger player.

Bottom line: Free agency has not been kind to this high-impact position. As a result, the Broncos, with Ball set to be the lead guy, will take a look for a player who can take some carries from time to time and function in the team's offense, but they have bigger needs with bigger dollars to spend elsewhere on the depth chart.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has only been sacked a league-low five times. This is happening despite All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady being on injured reserve, a center who never started an NFL game at the position until this season, and playing out of a wide-open, three-wide receiver look most of the time.

It is all a combination of how the offensive line has played, including Manny Ramirez at center as well as Clady’s replacement, Chris Clark. But it is also because the Broncos keep opposing defenses off balance with both Adam Gase's play-calling and Manning’s ability to draw defensive players offside and keep them from settling in up front.

“You’ll see the defense not set on the field,’’ said Jaguars coach Gus Bradley.

Already this season opposing defenses have been flagged twice for offside, five times for neutral zone infractions and three times for encroachment.

Manning has also gotten rid of the ball quickly so far, on his way to 20 touchdowns and a 75.8 percent completion rate. In fact, according to ESPN’s Stats and Information, Manning is the fastest quarterback in the league this season. He is averaging 2.8 seconds before releasing a pass -- Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Chargers’ Philip Rivers, are both average 2.9 seconds. The Bengals’ Andy Dalton is next at three seconds.

“Peyton knows what he wants to do with the ball,’’ said Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey. “Those kind of guys are hard to get to because they already know where they’re going before the snap.’’
  • Cornerback Chris Harris was held out of Wednesday’s practice per the league’s concussion protocol. The policy reads if a player passes a cognitive test on Monday he can usually return to a full practice on Friday if he remains symptom free. Harris, who has started in place of Bailey thus far this season, wore his helmet during Wednesday’s practice, but while his teammates were in full gear for the practice – as is customary for Wednesday practice for the Broncos – Harris did not have any pads on. However, following practice Harris said he was not experiencing any symptoms. “It was just a hard hit,’’ Harris said. “ … But they take concussions really seriously as soon as they tell me, as soon as they get me cleared, I’ll be ready to go.’’ Harris said he remains confident he will play Sunday against the Jaguars. And with Bailey having practiced fully Wednesday for the first time since he suffered a left foot injury on Aug. 17, the Broncos could have their secondary at full strength for the first time this season.
  • The Jaguars struggles on offense have limited running back Maurice Jones-Drew’s impact thus far. Jones-Drew, who won the league’s rushing title in 2011, has rushed for just 208 yards this season on 2.8 yards per carry. But Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, who signed with the team in free agency after four seasons with the Jaguars, said Jones-Drew should still be on the Broncos' minds this week. “He can do everything as a back,’’ Knighton said. “He can block, he can run, he can catch out of the backfield, a smaller back, hides behind his blockers … a lot of people like to compare him to [the Saints’ Darren] Sproles, but [Jones-Drew] is a totally different back … more of a power back. If you try to peek and find him, he’ll find that gap and expose you.’’ The Jaguars have trailed in games for virtually the entire time they’ve been on the field this season, so Jones-Drew has had just two games with more than 15 carries – 19 in the loss to Seattle and 17 in the loss Sunday to St. Louis. His 70 yards rushing against the Rams were a season best. “He’s a tough guy to tackle,’’ said Broncos safety Rahim Moore. “He’s stout, he’s strong.’’
  • In case you may have missed it, the Broncos are a substantial favorite in Sunday’s game. And it would be hard to miss it given how much attention it's gotten already this week. At one point Wednesday, Broncos coach John Fox showed his weariness with it as well when he offered; “I think Gus Bradley has done a terrific job. I know they’re going to get sick and tired of hearing the same things I’m getting sick and tired of hearing.’’ Fox has also broken out a little piece of Broncos’ history to make his point to players this week as well. Fox was the Giants’ defensive coordinator when the 13-0 Broncos played in Giants Stadium in 1998. The Giants won the game, 20-16. “In ’98 we had a 15-0 (sic) Broncos team that was a 15-point favorite coming into Giants Stadium,’’ Fox said. “They left with a loss … [The Jaguars] have beaten us, I think, four out of the last five times we’ve played, the last three in a row. So, there’s nobody here taking anybody lightly.’’
  • Manning on point spreads: “It’s completely irrelevant to me.’’

Charles Woodson super for Raiders

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
11:16
PM ET
OAKLAND -- Maurice Jones-Drew was four yards away from tying the game.

Jacksonville’s diminutive running back had a clear path to the end zone down the left sideline when, seemingly out of nowhere, Charles Woodson literally flew into the picture and wrestled Jones-Drew down, hooking him around the helmet and shoulders.

Not only did the tackle prevent a touchdown -- the Jacksonville Jaguars had to settle for a field goal to creep within 7-3 -- Woodson’s reckless abandon stoppage knocked Jones-Drew out of the game with an ankle injury.

“Sometimes you have to leave your feet,” Woodson said with a grin. “He was trying to stretch the play outside and it looked like he was slowing down and wasn’t going to be able to get the corner and I just wanted to get to him."

“It was like flying over a building in a single bound."

No, the Oakland Raiders were not like Superman in their 19-9 defeat of Jacksonville, but neither did the Jaguars have any kryptonite for Woodson, who made the play despite having to come off the field three snaps earlier after getting banged up.

The Raiders’ 36-year-old future Hall of Famer was all over the field Sunday, leading Oakland with six tackles. He was playing with the energy of a man several years younger, and setting an example for an impressionable secondary.

“Any time you see a guy like Charles Woodson play as long as he has in the league and play with the level he’s played, for him to make an effort play like that really gives the whole team, and the defense in particular, a lot of momentum,” said Raiders coach Dennis Allen.

“I thought it was a great play. We were able to hold them to a field goal. We were able to keep the game, for most of the game, we were able to keep it as a two-score game, which I thought was critical.”

To wit, a 7-3 lead rather than a 7-7 tie in the second quarter was huge for Oakland.

It’s a small sample size, no doubt, but Woodson, who dealt with a humbling free-agent experience this offseason, seems re-energized by his return to the franchise that drafted him fourth overall in 1998.

He had the Canton-worthy talent with the Raiders, but became evolved into a Hall of Famer with Green Bay.

Sunday, Woodson was introduced last to the home crowd during pregame introductions and he was given a raucous welcome. He repaid the crowd with the defensive play of the game.

“God’s gift to me was to be able to play football, and I can play football,” he said. “I’m at the age where as long as my body feels good, I can go out there and play football. I don’t think it’s really about showing anybody anything, it’s just going out there and trying to help the team win in any way I can.”

Like greasing up some old bones to leap over a pile of humanity to save a touchdown.
Terrelle Pryor, Maurice Jones-DrewAP Photo Terrelle Pryor and Maurice Jones-Drew are key players to watch in the Raiders-Jaguars game.

Oakland showed a flash of life in a 21-17 loss at Indianapolis last week and Jacksonville struggled mightily in a 28-2 home loss to Kansas City. Many see the Raiders and Jaguars as the two most downtrodden teams in the NFL, but somebody has to win, right? It’s not like they can play to a scoreless tie, unless … in any event, these two hook up Sunday in Oakland.

Paul Gutierrez: So, the Jaguars are the 32nd-ranked team in ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings, and the Raiders are 31st. Not exactly a clash of the titans, but there were several silver (and black?) linings in Oakland’s 21-17 loss in Indianapolis last week. Primarily, the play of newly anointed starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor. To a man, the Raiders said there is no such thing as a moral victory. Yet there was a feeling of promise in the Raiders’ postgame locker room not felt in a while. What was the feeling like in the Jags’ locker room after they not only lost their starting quarterback, but lost the game to Kansas City in such dispiriting fashion, and does it already feel like another long season is in store in Jacksonville?

Michael DiRocco: Disappointment, but not just at losing. The offense played poorly in all phases, which was somewhat surprising because it had shown signs during the preseason of being competent. Most troubling was the play of the offensive line, especially the interior, where center Brad Meester and guards Uche Nwaneri and Will Rackley really struggled. Six sacks and not crossing midfield until the fourth quarter was embarrassing. But the Jaguars were missing starting receiver Justin Blackmon (suspension) and starting tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf), so that mitigates things somewhat. While the team believes it can certainly play significantly better than that, the veterans are realistic and understand that this is one of the youngest teams in the NFL and the new regime has begun a rebuild that will take three years. You've got to feel for Matt Flynn. Goes to Seattle and gets beat out by Russell Wilson. Then ends up in Oakland and gets beat out by Pryor, who played well in the season opener. He made a lot of plays with his feet but certainly has a way to go as a passer. Is he the long-term answer for the Raiders at quarterback or will we see Flynn at some point this season?

Gutierrez: Yeah, the humanistic side has to feel for Flynn’s predicament. Then the snarky side comes out and thinks he and his millions -- remember, he signed a two-year, $11.5 million contract extension with $6.5 million guaranteed after the Raiders traded for him this spring -- will be just fine, thank you very much. But your point is taken. Especially since Flynn was second-year general manager Reggie McKenzie’s handpicked choice to be this rebuilding franchise’s, ahem, franchise quarterback. And really, the case can be made that Flynn is a better prototypical NFL quarterback than Pryor. But that’s with a solid offensive line and a strong running game and trusted receivers. The Raiders, really, are still looking for those things. So until that trifecta comes in for Oakland, the playmaking Pryor is the Raiders’ best hope for winning games. Even if he was not the new regime’s choice and it inherited Al Davis’ last draft pick. At this point, it seems Flynn is destined to be a career backup, albeit a well-compensated backup. And speaking of clipboard holders, what’s taking the Jags so long to ink Jacksonville’s favorite son, Tim Tebow (you knew there’d be a Tebow question somewhere, right?), especially with ticket sales needed and Chad Henne being no Blaine Gabbert, and vice-versa? Or is it too soon?

DiRocco: The Tebow ship has sailed for the Jaguars. General manager Dave Caldwell said earlier this year that the Jaguars were not going to sign Tebow -- who at the time was still under contract with the New York Jets -- "even if he's released." He's sticking to that. As for the ticket sales argument, there's no way to quantify whether sales would increase and by how much if he was signed. Plus, the Jags are actually doing pretty well in the ticket department. The team hasn't had a blackout since 2009 and averaged at least 62,331 fans at every home game over the past three seasons. The No. 1 task for the new regime is to find out whether Gabbert can be a franchise quarterback and the player around which to build the team over the next decade. The only way to determine that is for him to play the entire season. Barring a rash of injuries to free-agent quarterbacks, I just don't see a scenario in which Tebow returns to his hometown. Sebastian Janikowski, who went to nearby Florida State, is one of the more colorful players in the NFL. There are a lot of colorful stories floating around about him both in the locker room and off the field. What's your favorite -- at least among the verified ones you can tell?

Gutierrez: Wow, you caught me off guard. This is, after all, a family website, no? I kid. Kinda. But yeah, the evolution of the wild child formerly known as Jano (he hates that name, by the way) has been a unique experience. He is now a doting father to twin girls. No word, though, on how strong their kicking legs are yet. Off the field, he’s become a proficient golfer. When he arrived in Oakland as a first-round draft pick way back in 2000, he had never touched a club before in his life. Then Shane Lechler, his long-time running, er, kicking mate, introduced him to the links. Now? He’s a regular in the Lake Tahoe Pro-Am. Then there was the time he had to punt for an injured Lechler against Kansas City in the rain. It was as ugly a punt as it was effective -- the Chiefs player fumbled the ball away and the Raiders recovered. It went down in Oakland and the crowd loved it. Speaking of guys known by one name or simple initials, how much does MJD have left in the tank for the Jags? Can a return “home” this weekend rejuvenate him?

DiRocco: That is a good question, because there is some uncertainty regarding whether MJD can again reach the level at which he played in 2011, when he led the NFL in rushing. He did miss 10 games last season with a foot injury. Nobody expects him to rush for 1,600 yards but he does need to be a 1,000-yard rusher for this offense to be effective and help take a load off Gabbert/Henne. Another thing to consider is that Jones-Drew is in the final year of his contract. He'll need prove that at 28 he's still one of the league's better backs in order to have a chance to sign the kind of deal he wants -- whether it's in Jacksonville or elsewhere. Speaking of running backs coming off an injury, hasn't that been the biggest knock on Darren McFadden? What kind of odds would you give on him playing all 16 games?

Gutierrez: Ouch. The biggest knock on Run DMC has been his inability to stay healthy throughout his career. He has never played in more than 13 games in any of his first five seasons and he has missed 23 games in his career. He insists he’s not injury-prone, though, and that each injury is a freak occurrence. Maybe, but based on his track record, it’s not a question of if McFadden gets hurt but when, and how the Raiders are equipped to deal with his absence. Harsh? Maybe, but also true. And based on that history, odds are low that he'll play all 16 games this season. Then again, he is in a contract year. And after being neutralized last week by the Colts to the tune of 48 yards on 17 carries, what better time for him to get going than against the Jags? In two career games against Jacksonville, McFadden has carried the ball 35 times for 176 yards.
Weekend mail call:

Tom Giovino from Port Charlotte, Fla., wants to know if the Oakland Raiders could sign Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew in 2014 as a free agent.

Bill Williamson: It’s an interesting thought. Jones-Drew is from Oakland and has a history with Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who was previously in Jacksonville. Plus, current Oakland starting running back Darren McFadden will also be a free agent. If McFadden doesn’t bounce back from a poor 2012 season and/or injuries continue to haunt him, Oakland could be looking for a replacement. But there are some obstacles. The Raiders will have plenty of salary-cap room, but they aren’t going to spend wildly just to do it. Jones-Drew will be 29 next year and has had some off-field questions, so I don’t think it would be a slam dunk. But it is certainly worth keeping an eye on.




Kevin Locke from Oceanside, Calif., wants to know if I think the Chargers are headed in the right direction.

BW: In the long term, yes. I like the direction the new brass is taking. The plan is good -- but I’m not sure how good the Chargers will be in 2012. They still have some holes. But I do expect the new staff to get quarterback Philip Rivers on track. Overall, the defense is solid. Perhaps the team can surprise.




Jarrett Burns from Wichita, Kan., wants to know if I think the Chiefs can win 10 games and make the playoffs.

BW: Going from 2-14 to 10-6 is not easy. But the Chiefs have a strong roster and improved greatly on the coaching staff and at quarterback. It wouldn’t be shocking if this team made that type of drastic improvement. Still, simply counting on a team to improve by eight wins is not always wise.


Moving on: Oakland Raiders

October, 22, 2012
10/22/12
11:00
AM ET
Here are some areas the Oakland Raiders need to focus on after a 26-23 overtime win over visiting Jacksonville on Sunday:

Recap: The Raiders came back from a 20-6 deficit in the second half to win in overtime. They didn’t play one of their better games against a one-win team that was playing without running back Maurice Jones-Drew and quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Still, Oakland hung in there and finished the win.

Biggest area to fix: Overall sloppiness. The Raiders just weren’t sharp for most of the game, especially on offense. It is still a work in progress. But at least the Raiders know they can successfully work through the kinks.

Biggest area to build on: Finishing. Winning is everything and winning a game like this is impressive. It will give Oakland confidence moving forward. Last week the Raiders were much more impressive in a loss at Atlanta. But it doesn’t matter. Wins are what counts, not style points.

What to watch for: The Raiders are looking for their second straight win Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium when they face the 1-5 Chiefs.

Raiders win without their best

October, 21, 2012
10/21/12
9:25
PM ET
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Don’t get the Oakland Raiders wrong.

They are thrilled to get their first win since Week 3 and they are tickled to be 2-4 and a game out of first place in the AFC West. However, Oakland knows it needs to improve if it is going to make any noise this season.

The Raiders were sloppy at times and they fell behind Jacksonville 20-6 in the second half. The Jaguars were playing without quarterback Blaine Gabbert and running back Maurice Jones-Drew for much of the game. Gabbert’s backup, Chad Henne, was awful.

Still, the Raiders needed overtime to beat the Jaguars, 26-23.

When asked if he was pleased with the way his team played. Oakland coach Dennis Allen said, “absolutely not.”

Oakland was much better in a 23-20 loss at Atlanta last week.

“It’s funny, we played well last week and lost,” Oakland defensive back Michael Huff said. “This week, we didn’t play so well and we won.”

Several other Oakland players echoed that sentiment.

Still, a win is a win and Oakland shouldn’t feel bad about it. With Kansas City and Tampa Bay looming, the Raiders have a legitimate chance to be 4-4 at the halfway mark.

Here are some other thoughts from the game:
  • Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer was under constant pressure, but he stood strong in the pocket and took it. He’s a tough guy and he hung tough.
  • Oakland running back Darren McFadden had his moments, but still has yet to breakout. He had 53 yards on 19 carries.
  • Impressive game by Oakland defensive linemen Lamarr Houston, Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly. They came alive Sunday when it mattered. I also liked what I saw from linebackers Philip Wheeler and Miles Burris. Nice players.
  • The Raiders went for the win and an NFL record when Sebastian Janikowski tried a 64-yarder at the end of regulation. It was very short.
  • The Raiders aren’t perfect, but the Jaguars are awful. Their stupid penalties and poor coaching decisions gave the game away.
  • Rookie wide receiver Rod Streater has been pretty quiet in the regular season, but he made a huge catch in the fourth quarter. He will be a good one.
  • Oakland needs to reinforce discipline. It had nine penalties Sunday and has been called on 21 in the past two games after playing very clean in the first quarter of the season.

OAKLAND -- A look at an ugly one in overtime:

What it means: The Raiders came back from a 14-point deficit to win in overtime to improve to 2-4. This game wasn’t pretty and the Raiders had their problems, but they came back and beat Jacksonville. Credit to Oakland for not folding when it was down by two touchdowns. The Raiders trail first-place Denver and San Diego, both 3-3, by one game in the division and they play two struggling teams, Kansas City and Tampa Bay, in the next two weeks. Maybe this win will spark Oakland.

Jaguars short-handed: The Raiders were quite fortunate. Jacksonville played without quarterback Blaine Gabbert and running back Maurice Jones-Drew for much of the game. Jacksonville could muster very little offense in the second half. Gabbert’s replacement, Chad Henne, was, in a word, awful.

Questionable coaching: Both Oakland coach Dennis Allen and Jacksonville coach Mike Mularkey made several questionable calls. Allen burned his timeouts early in the second half. Mularkey went for it on fourth down late in the second quarter when he should have punted; Oakland turned it into three points. Also, with less than seven minutes to go in the game, Mularkey called three straight passing plays even though Henne was struggling mightily. All three passes were incomplete. He needs to burns the clock by running. The Jaguars made several crucial penalties in the fourth quarter. Mularkey inexplicably called timeout in the final seconds when the Raiders were trying to run out the clock and go to overtime.

What’s next: Oakland goes to Kansas City next Sunday to face the 1-5 Chiefs.

Short-handed Jags spanking Raiders

October, 21, 2012
10/21/12
5:38
PM ET
OAKLAND -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are without their best player and their quarterback -- and they are thumping the Oakland Raiders.

The Jaguars are beating Oakland 17-3 with less than six minutes to go in the second quarter. They are playing without running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) and quarterback Gabbert (shoulder). Both players were hurt Sunday and they are both questionable to return.

Chad Henne has replaced Gabbert.

The Jaguars have capitalized on two Oakland turnovers in its own territory. Jacksonville just recovered an onsides kick after a 50-yard field goal and have possesion.

SPONSORED HEADLINES