Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Getting to know the Raiders
By Rich Cimini
The Oakland Raiders are the 2013 New York Jets, which is to say they've hitched their season to a rookie quarterback. His name is Derek Carr, who, like Geno Smith, was drafted in the second round.
Unlike Smith last year, Carr won the job with a strong preseason, outplaying veteran import Matt Schaub, who has been dealing with an elbow issue. It makes for an interesting juxtaposition. The Raiders are the oldest team in the league, yet they're being led by a relative babe.
They face the Jets at 1 p.m. Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The Raiders have lost 14 consecutive games in the Eastern time zone, dating to 2009. A closer look at the Raiders:
Record: 2-2 in the preseason.
Head coach: Dennis Allen (8-24)
Offensive coordinator: Greg Olson
Defensive coordinator: Jason Tarver
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, OFFENSE
Austin Howard, right guard: The Jets meet up with an old friend. Howard started 32 straight games for the Jets at right tackle, leaving in free agency for a five-year, $30 million contract. The Jets tried to re-sign Howard, whom they developed from a bottom-of-the-roster player, but the money got too rich for their blood. Soon after signing him, the Raiders indicated he'd play right guard. At 6-foot-7, 330 pounds, Howard is a massive right guard. It's actually not a bad spot for him because the interior spot masks his deficiencies as a pass protector.
Maurice Jones-Drew, running back: He's listed on the depth chart as the No. 1 back, ahead of longtime starter Darren McFadden, the third-down back in the preseason. The Raiders signed a handful of past-their-prime free agents, and MJD was one of them. He has accumulated a lot of mileage on those 29-year-old legs, but he looked frisky in the preseason -- well, on one run anyway. He scored on a 40-yard run against the Green Bay Packers. MJD has enjoyed success against the Jets, rushing for 270 yards and three touchdowns in three games. You can see him on the big screen. He has a cameo in the new movie, "When the Game Stands Tall," the story of his high-school alma mater, De La Salle.
Derek Carr, quarterback: The Jets did a lot of homework on Carr before the draft, dispatching quarterbacks coach David Lee to Fresno State to scout his pro day. They came away impressed, but they weren't looking for an early-round quarterback. He won the starting job by completing 67 percent of his passes in the preseason, becoming the eighth opening-day starter for the Raiders in the last 10 years. Carr has all the tools, but the knock on him is that he can be rattled. In his final year at Fresno State, he completed only 29 percent of his throws under duress, the worst among the top quarterback prospects.
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, DEFENSE
Justin Tuck, defensive end: This is a homecoming game -- sort of. The former New York Giants star will play in his old stadium, but his old team will be getting ready to board a flight to Detroit for the Monday night game. Tuck won two Super Bowl rings with the Giants, ensuring his place in franchise lore. He stunned everyone by bolting as a free agent, signing a two-year, $11 million contract. He's their starting right end in their 4-3 base, but he can move inside in the nickel. At 31, he doesn't have the same burst as a pass rusher as he once did, but his body will be fresh for this game. And, of course, he will be motivated on his old turf.
Khalil Mack, linebacker: He was the fifth overall pick in the draft, a former small-school star at Buffalo who blew away scouts with his size, speed and production. Mack got off to a slow start in the preseason, but he perked up in the third game, recording two tackles-for-loss and an interception against the Green Bay Packers. His lone sack came against the Detriot Lions' backups. Mack plays strong-side linebacker in the base, and he'll come off the edge in the nickel. With Mack, Tuck and former Pittsburgh Steeler LaMarr Woodley rushing up front, the Raiders won't have to blitz as much as last year.
Charles Woodson, safety: He's back for his 17th season. Incredible, right? Woodson turns 38 in October. He's so old that he played in the famous "Tuck" game in 2001, forcing the infamous Tom Brady fumble in the New England snow. Obviously, Woodson can't cover like he used to, but he could be dangerous for Geno Smith because of his mind and instincts. Smith won't be able to fool Woodson, who knows every trick in the book. Heck, he wrote the book. He's Mr. Raider, the heart and soul of the team.