Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack

Though it might be accurate to say Khalil Mack did not have a game-changing debut in the Oakland Raiders' exhibition opener Friday night at Minnesota, it might also be a tad unfair.

Mack, the No. 5 overall pick in this year's NFL draft, did have two tackles, one for a loss, while playing into the second quarter against the Vikings. It’s just that not much was actually, well, anticipated out of the starting strongside linebacker by his coaches.

“I think you saw a guy that is a rookie that was playing in his first game,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said in a conference call with reporters on Saturday. “A couple of times we activated him on rushes and he was able to cause some disruption. But then there were some times where, a little bit in the run game and a little bit in the pass game, he is just a little bit late in reacting to his responsibility.

“I don’t want them doing a whole lot of thinking; I want them just really basically reacting to what they see and go play football.”

Mack said after the game it felt like “kind of a relief” to be playing in a game, exhibition or not.

“Get out there and get back to playing football,” he said, “but at the same time, still (have) some sense of wanting to get better.”

Mack has been compared to Von Miller by Allen and to Clay Matthews by Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.

Against the Vikings, Mack looked like a guy making his NFL debut and showing the occasional flash.

“I mean, you could say I settled in,” Mack said. “I got better today. (I) learned a lot of things.”
Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen spoke to reporters on a conference call Saturday afternoon in the wake of Friday night's exhibition opener at the Minnesota Vikings, a 10-6 loss.

After watching the game tape, Allen broached several topics. A sampling:

On the Raiders' 13 penalties:: "A couple of those are this year's points of emphasis with the NFL and with the officials with defensive holding or illegal contact down the field. That's an area that we have to get cleaned up. Illegal hands to the face is another area that they're emphasizing. We had basically two of those. Brian Leonhardt was called for a facemask. That was one of those where you have two guys battling and his hand kind of slips off and grabs a guy's facemask. That's something that I don't know that in the past that you would have seen some of these things called, but with the rules and points of emphasis, we're going to see those things."

On what Latavius Murray brings that is different than Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden: "Latavius is a big, powerful back that really also has exceptional speed. When he gets out into the open, he has an opportunity to take the ball the distance. I thought he ran the ball hard in the game ... I thought he did a pretty good job, for the most part, of making the right reads and putting the ball where it needs to go in the run game."

On the play of the new starting cornerbacks, who seemingly played off the ball and paid for it early:: "I think overall it was positive. Obviously, when the first drive -- the thing you look at is a couple of those throws to Cordarrelle Patterson, there's some tight-window throws and contested catches and that's what you want to see because I feel like if you continue to contest those plays, you're going to get your fair share of them."

On which younger players jumped out to him on film: "I thought Shelby Harris did some good things in the game. I thought he got a little tired late, but I thought kind of in the middle of the game, I thought he did some really good things. He was able to get some pressure on the quarterback, had a sack-fumble. I thought TJ Carrie played well in the defensive backfield. I thought [Ricky] Lumpkin did some good things in there as a defensive lineman -- great technique. Some of the guys down that are battling for spots on that 53-man roster, I thought I saw some good things out of them."

On the play of new quarterback Matt Schaub: "I was pleased with what I saw out of Matt Schaub. I mean, two of the third-down throws, you know, he tries the back-shoulder throw down the middle to Mychal Rivera and that's a catch that he's made consistently in training camp. The corner route on a third down was an outstanding throw in a tight window against Cover 2 and Mychal again wasn't able to come up with that play. We had a miscommunication on the first third down of the game where he was trying to get the ball to Andre Holmes, and those are some of the things that show up in the first preseason game that we get a chance to look at it, we get a chance to correct, coach it up, and hopefully we'll be able to improve on that. I was not displeased with Matt Schaub's performance. We obviously need to play better and we need to be more consistent. But again, I thought there were some things that we can build on."

On whether rookie quarterback Derek Carr would get any reps with the first-team offense this preseason: "Yeah, it's not really part of the plan right now. We'll obviously evaluate everything as we move along, but the plan is to work Matt Schaub as the starting quarterback and I think he's done a good job in doing that."

On the play of top draft pick Khalil Mack, who had two tackles, one for a loss: "I think you saw a guy that is a rookie that was playing in his first game. A couple of times we activated him on rushes and he was able to cause some disruption. But then there were some times where, a little bit in the run game and a little bit in the pass game, he is just a little bit late in reacting to his responsibility. I think that's a guy that is playing in his first NFL game ... I don't want them doing a whole lot of thinking. I want them just really basically reacting to what they see and go play football."





Also, rookie defensive tackle Justin Ellis suffered a concussion in the game, taking a knee to the head, and is going through the NFL's concussion protocol. ... Oakland practices at 3 p.m. PT Sunday in Napa. ... The Raiders break camp Monday morning before traveling to Southern California for two practices with the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday and Wednesday. ... Oakland plays host to the Detroit Lions in both teams' second exhibition game Friday night.

W2W4: Oakland Raiders

August, 8, 2014
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The Oakland Raiders (0-0) and Minnesota Vikings (0-0) open their respective preseasons Friday night at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

1. First-team reps: The obvious question for a preseason opener revolves around playing time for starters, because no coach in his right mind wants to subject a front-line player to unnecessary risk. Yet, he also has to find a balance to get his guys some serious run in a game situation. A series or two? “All these things can change based on how the game goes, but we’ll put the first team out there for a few plays and see how things go,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “I really want to get the ones some work, but I really want to have an opportunity in this first preseason game to see a lot of these young players go out and play … you’re trying to use this as an evaluation process."

2. Khalil Mack: The No. 5 overall draft pick has already shown a preternatural ability to fly to the ball in camp, but while the Raiders have been in pads most of the time, they are not tackling to the ground. This will be the first time we see how he responds and if the hype is real. Granted, it's an exhibition game, but it will be his first live hitting since college. “I can’t tell you what kind of player I am, or what kind of player I’m going to be,” Mack said. “But I can show you.” He will also show the Vikings, if only for a few plays.

3. The running backs: Neither Maurice Jones-Drew nor Darren McFadden will be exposed to many hits, so expect a healthy dose of Latavius Murray, Jeremy Stewart and CFL Grey Cup MVP Kory Sheets, which might lead some to believe a roster spot could be won in a crowded backfield. Perhaps, but probably not. Stewart and Sheets will probably lead the team in rushing in the preseason and it’s possible neither will make the initial 53-man roster. Think Louis Rankin. “I want both of them to play in the game,” Allen said of Jones-Drew and McFadden. “I want both of them to get a couple of touches in the game.We’ll see how many that is … there are a lot of new players that we have and we need to see them go out and perform. They need to work together because there is a lot to be said about getting out on the field and having a good feel for what the other 10 guys around you are doing.”
NAPA, Calif. -- The guy most stung emotionally by the Oakland Raiders releasing veteran linebacker Kevin Burnett last week, besides Burnett himself? His younger brother, Raiders third-year linebacker Kaelin Burnett.

Burnett
Burnett
Of course it would rub the younger Burnett the wrong way. But he also knows there's a business aspect to professional football and it's nothing personal. Besides, Kaelin's own roster spot is anything but guaranteed.

"I've just got to look at it as Kevin wasn't here when I first got here so I've just got to stay focused," the younger Burnett said following practice Thursday. "We had a dream to play together on the same team and we accomplished that last year. Good things don't last forever, so I've just got to step up my game."

The 6-feet-4, 240-pound Burnett, signed by Oakland as an undrafted free agent out of Nevada in 2012, has been getting second-team reps in camp at strongside linebacker, behind first-round draft pick Khalil Mack, as well as seeing time at weakside linebacker in a nickel defense.

It's a far cry from where Burnett cut his NFL teeth -- special teams. In fact, his 10 special teams tackles (six solo) were second on the team last year.

And it was his hit on Dallas Cowboys kick returner Terrance Williams on Thanksgiving last year that knocked the ball loose on the game's opening kickoff, Greg Jenkins scooping it up and returning it for a 23-yard touchdown.

"The coaches are looking at me to get the little things right," Burnett said, "to have zero defects. So I have to pay attention to the details, concentrate and focus."

But of course, Burnett has bigger goals, ones that are contingent upon "the little things" when it comes to this team.

"I'm going to give 5-2 a run for his money at the SAM (linebacker)," he said of Mack, referencing the No. 5 overall draft pick's uniform number. "Straight up."

Raiders Camp Report: Day 6

July, 31, 2014
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NAPA, Calif. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming of of Oakland Raiders training camp:
  • Charles Woodson has always been a fan favorite of Raider Nation and he endeared himself further on Thursday. First, he celebrated mightily an interception of Matt Schaub along the left sideline by running into the stands to revel in the pick with the fans. It was a high-arcing floater that was easily Schaub's worst throw of camp, granted, in real time he would have been sacked by Khalil Mack so he threw up a duck instead. One play later, Woodson picked off Schaub again, stepping in front of a bullet to the left flat, and, yes, taking it to the house for a , wait for it, pick-six. "I know how this whole thing is going to work," bristled Raiders coach Dennis Allen. "Anytime Schaub throws an interception, everybody's going to want to try to hit the panic button and act like the sky is falling ... I'll let you guys push the panic button. I'm not going to. He's still doing a great job." So there.
  • It was the third straight practice in pads -- the Raiders were off Tuesday -- and it was also the chippiest and hardest-hitting practice of camp thus far. No, there have not been any fights ... yet, but we finally got a glimpse of rookie linebacker Khalil Mack's power. Tight end Mychal Rivera had the task of blocking Mack on a handoff to Darren McFadden, but Mack popped Rivera so hard he ran into McFadden in the backfield.
  • Austin Howard returned to practice a day after leaving early with a tight back and showed no ill effects. In fact, the 6-foot-7, 330-pounder looked the part of an absolute beast as a pulling right guard. In one drill, he swallowed up Mack and cleared space for Maurice Jones-Drew to pick up a sizeable gain.
  • A day after LaMarr Woodley gave right tackle Menelik Watson the business, fellow defensive end Justin Tuck was putting on an exhibition against left tackle Donald Penn. Yes, you could say the defense won the day, because besides Woodson's two picks of Schaub, safety Brandian Ross also had an interception of rookie Derek Carr. And rookie Jonathan Dowling had an interception in individual drills. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver was more than pleased following practice.
  • Linebacker Kaelin Burnett called his hard hit on running back George Atkinson III a "get-back shot" for a blow the rookie delivered to Burnett a few days earlier on what was supposed to be a slower walkthrough kickoff return drill. "I said, ‘I'm going to get him back,'" Burnett said with a smile. "Nah, we're all just out here competing to make us all better."
  • Receiver Juron Criner (hamstring), linebackers Kaluka Maiava (hamstring) and Marshall McFadden (hip) and safety Usama Young (quad) worked on the side with a trainer before practice. Receiver Greg Little (hamstring) did not participate, nor did defensive lineman Antonio Smith, who underwent sports hernia surgery this offseason and tweaked his groin on Wednesday. Defensive lineman C.J. Wilson (hamstring) came off the non-football injury list and practiced for the first time.
  • The Raiders practice again Friday at 3 p.m. PT

Raiders Camp Report: Day 4

July, 28, 2014
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NAPA, Calif . -- A daily review of the hot topics coming of of Oakland Raiders training camp:
  • 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.
NAPA, Calif. – The big news the day before the Oakland Raiders' first training camp practice revolved around cornerback D.J. Hayden's pending trip to the physically unable to perform list.

But there was other injury news announced by coach Dennis Allen at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa at a lunch attended by five media outlets and the team’s website.

Burnett
Burnett
Allen said the Raiders will cut linebacker Kevin Burnett, as the nine-year veteran was not cleared for participation by the Raiders’ medical staff. Burnett, who was dealing with an ankle issue in the second organized team activities session in early June, started 16 games at weakside linebacker last season and had 129 tackles with 2 sacks and an interception.

The Raiders drafted Khalil Mack with the No. 5 overall pick and the rookie is slotted to start on the strong side, with Sio Moore moving toWill linebacker to battle Miles Burris for the starting job. Nick Roach, who played every defensive snap last season, returns at middle linebacker.

“Where we’re at at the linebacker position, with some young talented players, Miles Burris and Sio Moore, Kaluka Maiava being a main guy, I think we feel good with that position,” Allen said, “and we’re going to move on from Kevin Burnett.”

Burnett had a salary cap value for 2014 of nearly $4.14 million and was due to make $3.5 million.

Also, Allen said tight end Nick Kasa (hip flexor) and guard Lucas Nix (knee) would join Hayden (foot) on the PUP list, with safety Usama Young (quad) and rookie cornerback Keith McGill (ankle) potential adds. Young and McGill were injured Thursday during the team’s conditioning tests.

Defensive end C.J. Wilson (hamstring) and defensive tackle Stacy McGee (broken thumb) will be placed on the non-football injury list after being hurt away from the Raiders’ facility.

Defensive lineman Antonio Smith, meanwhile, is “good to go” after not practicing at all in the offseason programs while recovering from an undisclosed procedure following a weight-room mishap.

“You’d love to be able to start with everybody healthy and everybody on the field, but obviously, injuries are part of this game and it’s something we’ve got to be able to deal with and something that we’ve got to be able to overcome,” Allen said. “We’ll take it day by day and try to attack the rehab as fast as possible and see when we can get those guys back out there.”

The Raiders’ first training camp practice is Friday at 3 p.m. PT, with the first padded practice on Sunday.
NAPA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders began arriving at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa here Wednesday for training camp and while there were familiar faces -- 17th-year defensive back Charles Woodson, punter Marquette King, top draft picks Khalil Mack and Derek Carr -- to be seen during the media access period, one notable figure was not.

Second-year cornerback D.J. Hayden, who missed all but the first session of organized team activities workouts this offseason with what coach Dennis Allen called an ankle injury, has become the Raiders' most intriguing figure as Oakland is in meetings and physicals all day Thursday before hitting the field for its first practice on Friday.

Speculation has started to swirl that Hayden, whose rookie season was awash in injury, is not fully healed and could begin training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. The Raiders have made no comment and, presumably, will not until after physicals on Thursday.

Still, the condition of Hayden, who was the Raiders' top draft pick in 2013 despite a near fatal heart injury the previous fall, was one of three big questions facing Oakland entering this week.

I asked Woodson, who began his career at cornerback, how big a setback it would be for Hayden if he missed a significant portion of camp after a sports hernia ended his rookie season with just eight games.

"It would be a big setback," Woodson said. "The way you get better is being out there in the field. There's only so much film you can watch, only so many [mental reps] you can have that's going to take you [to improvement]."

Besides, Woodson said, the more time Hayden misses, the more opportunity another player has to take his spot.

"I don't even know what his injury is, but hopefully it's nothing that will keep him out or put him on PUP," Woodson added. "But it has the potential to be a big setback."

Camp preview: Oakland Raiders

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
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NFL Nation's Paul Gutierrez examines the three biggest issues facing the Oakland Raiders heading into training camp.

Matt Schaub: Dennis Allen told anyone who would listen this offseason that Schaub, a two-time Pro Bowler who once passed for 4,770 yards but is coming off a nightmarish final season in Houston, is a top-10 quarterback. And even if a project by ESPN.com found that NFL insiders ranked Schaub 25th in the 32-team NFL, that will not dissuade Allen. Far from it. Schaub is his guy. Still, the question of Schaub's confidence after he threw 14 interceptions (with four pick-sixes in four straight games) and lost his job with the Texans will continue to hound Schaub and the Raiders until he proves it is not an issue. To his credit, Schaub, who looked impressive in the offseason non-padded practices open to the media, insists it's in the past. Besides, a change of scenery might do wonders for him. It's not like the Raiders are putting everything on the 10-year veteran; a running attack spearheaded by Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew should get the play-action passing game going … unless Schaub is shot. Which brings us to the intriguing figure that is Derek Carr, Oakland's second-round draft pick who was elevated to second string in minicamp. But Allen appears ready to ride or die with Schaub, for better or worse.

Khalil Mack: You could say that Mack, whom many saw as the most versatile defensive player in the draft, simply fell into the Raiders' lap at No. 5 overall. And that would be just fine with Oakland. Because in remaking the defense, Allen has compared Mack to Denver Broncos All-Pro linebacker Von Miller, whom Allen coached as a rookie. If Mack, who has stepped in at strongside linebacker, shows a smidgen of Miller's pass rushing acumen -- 35 sacks in 40 career games -- the Raiders have a cornerstone. Mack's blend of size, speed and athleticism were evident in the offseason workouts as he appeared to be a physical marvel with quick feet and balance. Alas, the game will change in camp when the pads come on. No, he's not nervous; Mack is looking forward to knocking heads with the pros. Or did you miss his declaration that he is most looking forward to sacking the Broncos' Peyton Manning? Mack has impressed the staff and teammates alike by constantly being in veterans' ears, picking the brain of players such as Justin Tuck. Mack is a sponge. Yes, similar praise was heaped upon Rolando McClain when the middle linebacker was drafted in 2010. This just feels different.

D.J. Hayden: The Raiders were impressed enough with Hayden to make him their top pick last year, even though he was still recovering from the practice injury to his heart at the University of Houston that nearly killed him. After an up-and-down rookie season that ended with a trip to injured reserve, Hayden again hit a speed bump. This time, he missed the second and third organized team activities (OTAs) sessions as well as minicamp due to a sprained ankle. Allen has said that the only player he expects to be a question mark health-wise entering camp is offensive lineman Lucas Nix. But with so many hopes tied into Hayden -- he was penciled in to start at right cornerback -- his injury history has to have Oakland worried. Even if he is a full go at the start of camp, he missed valuable reps in the offseason. Sure, Hayden got mental reps, but they are not nearly as important or effective, especially for a player who many in the organization see as a bonus draft pick since he appeared in only eight games (two starts) last season.
The Oakland Raiders' offseason roster is at its limit of 90 players.

After a few fits and starts to begin free agency, the Raiders rebuilt their offensive and defensive lines and addressed the secondary and offensive backfield while adding veterans with championship pedigrees.

In the draft, Oakland scooped up the best player available in linebacker Khalil Mack, who has been nothing short of impressive in the offseason workouts, while picking up the franchise's quarterback of the future in Derek Carr (who has been elevated to second string) and a potential starter at left guard in Gabe Jackson.

[+] EnlargeReggie McKenzie
Bob Stanton/USA TODAY SportsRaiders GM Reggie McKenzie still has $10 million in salary-cap space to use for roster upgrades.
All draft picks are signed, so there will be no training camp holdout drama.

But if you think the Raiders are done tinkering with the 90-man roster, think again. General manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen have said all along they expect to make moves that, in their estimation, make the Raiders a better football team.

Plus, they have money to play with when entertaining such ideas. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Raiders still have more than $10.7 million in salary-cap space. But again, to paraphrase McKenzie's refrain, just because he has money in his pocket does not mean he's going to spend it … on junk.

Sure, $10 million may sound like a lot, and the Raiders are far from a perfect unit -- Allen himself equated his roster situation to a kid sitting on Santa's lap and not getting everything he asked for -- but Oakland's cap surplus pales in comparison to the likes of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have more than $27 million in cap space. Yet it's enough to make the New Orleans Saints and their relatively meager $1.9 million in cap space squint with jealousy.

Still, are there any free agents still out there who would put the Raiders -- coming off consecutive 4-12 seasons and with the NFL's toughest strength of schedule in 2014 -- over the top?

Meh.

Yes, the Raiders could still use a true No. 1 receiver. They could also use some veteran help at tight end. And sure, with D.J. Hayden's injury, another tried and tested cornerback would seemingly fit the bill, which is why the Raiders non-pursuit of Brandon Flowers was a head-scratcher of sorts. Instead, Flowers went from one division rival (the Kansas City Chiefs) to another (the San Diego Chargers).

McKenzie has already made an assortment of minor roster moves this offseason, and with more than $10 million still at his disposal, what he decides to do with it will tell you all you need to know about how he feels about the current roster.

Should McKenzie stand pat, or are there players out there he should target? Would it be more prudent to possibly use that salary-cap space on camp cuts?
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Khalil Mack falling into the Oakland Raiders' lap at No. 5 overall in last month's NFL draft perhaps affected no one already on the team more than Sio Moore.

As a rookie taken in the third round a year earlier, Moore was somewhat of a revelation. He started 11 games and played in 15. (The lone game he missed came after he suffered a concussion in a car accident.) He led the Raiders' first-year players with 55 tackles (33 solo), 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

But Mack joining the team has forced Moore to switch positions, at least for the time being, as Mack has settled in at strongside linebacker and Moore has flipped over to the weak side in Oakland's base 4-3 defense.

And really, that's just fine with Moore.

[+] EnlargeSio Moore
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports"I just try to use my versatility and continue to show our coaches and my teammates that I can do anything on the field," said Sio Moore.
"I did this in college," he said of his time at UConn this week, at the onset of organized training activities (OTAs).

"I started out as a Will and then moved to Sam, where the Sam was an outside linebacker and a down free safety. Moving from Sam to Will here again, it's nothing that's abnormal. I just try to use my versatility and continue to show our coaches and my teammates that I can do anything on the field and I want to continue to work at it, no matter the position."

Of course, being on the weak side will mean Moore's pass-coverage skills will be under more scrutiny, right?

"Based on what the call is," coach Dennis Allen said. "All of our linebackers are going to have to be able play the run. All of our linebackers are going to have to be able to play the pass. All of our linebackers are going to have to rush the passer.

"We'll find ways to get guys that can do those things. We'll find ways to get them on the field."

Besides, while the Raiders' base defense is a 4-3, the personnel may actually suggest a 3-4 is a better fit and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has promised to show even more multiple looks this season.

"We believe in versatility," Allen added. "When you get into games, the more things guys can do, the better you are going to be able to adjust, change the game plan, make the defense work based on what the offense is doing to you. There will be times where you need more linebackers on the field based on what the offense is doing. Sometimes, you may not need as many.

"Yes, (Moore) has the skill set for that (Will) position and we'll continue to work with him throughout the rest of these OTAs and training camp. Again, we're going to put the best three guys on the field. Whoever those best three guys are, we're going to put them on the field and we're going to go play."

If those best three are indeed Moore, Mack and middle linebacker Nick Roach, the odd man out would be last year's starting weakside linebacker, Kevin Burnett, who is working through an ankle injury.

But Moore has developed a kinship with Roach, one that goes beyond the field.

"Nick has been one of those guys for me that's been a big brother and like a father figure-type role," Moore said. "I've never had a father and to hear a lot of wisdom and guidance that he provides as a friend, and as somebody who I really look [at] as family and a brother, it means a lot to you."

It means almost as much as, if not more than, Moore's on-field objective. Remember, this is the guy who famously said the Raiders drafted the best linebacker in college within an hour of Oakland tabbing him in 2013.

"Right now, my goal is not to be just a linebacker," he said, "it's to be the best linebacker there is. The more that I can do, the more that I can learn, and the faster that I can learn it and the faster that I can produce and be a part of something, then we have a situation."

A positive one, at that.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The way Khalil Mack sees it, attending the NFLPA’s three-day Rookie Premiere event last week in Los Angeles was part of his growing process, even if it cost him valuable OTA time with the Oakland Raiders.

“I missed two days, and that’s in the back of my head, but I’m doing everything it takes mentally to be ready,” Mack told ESPN.com following Monday’s OTA practice.

“But it was great to get to meet so many guys and get an understanding of what the NFLPA is all about. It was three days of workshops, pictures, interviews, giving us an insight into what life as a professional is going to be like and doing what it can to help us.”

Mack, the No. 5 overall pick, was one of at least 42 rookies selected for the symposium, the lone Raiders player.

And while he got back to practice Monday, he has already made an impression on his new teammates. Even if the Raiders are still nearly two months away from putting on the pads and hitting.

“I’ve watched him a couple of times come off the edge,” said free safety Charles Woodson, “and he’s a guy that can bend at the waist, he can get low. He can get under tackles as he’s going around the edge. He’s quick enough to where he can get a guy in space coming off the edge. He can make movements in or out and go either way, and he seems to be put together pretty well, so we know he has some strength.

“It will be great to see him in action when it really goes down. We all have high hopes for him, because he’s only going to make us better as a team. I look forward to playing alongside him.”

In the Raiders’ 4-3 base defense, Mack has been working at strongside linebacker while last year’s starter at the SAM, Sio Moore, has slid over to the weak side.

Moore, the Raiders’ third-round draft pick last season, has also been impressed with Mack’s appearance, granted, in such a small sample size.

“He’s a good athlete and he’s a good kid,” said Moore, who is nearly nine months older than Mack. “He’s a smart dude and we’re all in here working together and the more people that you can get on board, the more things we can do.

“The biggest part is really about learning and really honing in our craft and understanding the playbook and he’s doing a good job, as well as everybody, so we just have to keep it up.”

And yes, Mack is standing by his claim to the NFL Network that it is Peyton Manning who he is most looking forward to sacking this fall.

“No doubt,” Mack said. “That’s a goal of mine, to sack greatness.”

Raiders Twitter mailbag

May, 31, 2014
May 31
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OAKLAND -- Let's get a post-OTAs No. 1 session Twitter mailbag up and running ...

Howie Long may have spent only one of his 13 Hall of Fame seasons in Oakland -- the other 12 years were when the Raiders called Los Angeles home -- but he still keeps tabs on the East Bay goings-on by his old team, and likes what he’s seen thus far this offseason.

I caught up with Long on the phone Wednesday for my upcoming book, “100 Things Raiders Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die,” and I also got the eight-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman’s take on current issues surrounding Oakland.

His eldest son, Chris, was the No. 2 overall pick of the 2008 NFL draft and is a standout defensive end with the St. Louis Rams, while his middle son, Kyle, was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie right guard last season with the Chicago Bears. His youngest, Howie Jr., works in football operations for the Oakland Raiders.

So, yeah, Long feels a certain kinship with Raiders owner Mark Davis.

“I’m really happy for Mark,” said Long, who is a longtime NFL host on Fox. “Having sons that are following a famous dad, I understand some of the pressures that we are under and he is under. He’s smart enough to understand the history [of the franchise], but he’s also smart enough to know what he doesn’t know. He wants to put the team in the best position to succeed. We had dug ourselves a big hole.”

Yes, Long said “we” and was referring to the salary-cap hell faced by his former teammate, general manager Reggie McKenzie, as well as a dearth of draft picks. Long said the Raiders had to take “four steps back just to get even” over the past few years.

And with Oakland going out and signing a cast of veterans who may have already seen their best days but still seemingly have something left in the tank, Long sees a certain similarity to the Raiders’ halcyon days when they found the likes of Ted Hendricks, John Matuszak, Jim Plunkett and Lyle Alzado.

“At a good price,” Long said of the current Raiders’ relatively cheap signings of Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith and James Jones.

“But you build through the draft. Would they have liked to have gotten that big receiver? Sure. But I don’t think they could have scripted it any better. To get [Khalil] Mack and then the quarterback [Derek Carr] in the second round? Wow, that kid throws a good ball.”

And after saying the Raiders’ offensive line and quarterback situations were “all over the place” last season, Long added, “now, it’s stable.

“I really like the direction we’re heading. We’ve got to get a stadium, though. That’s paramount. That’s paramount to success. Playing half your games on a baseball field? That was fine in 1981, when a number of teams were doing it.”

Long laughed. Oakland is the lone team in the 32-team NFL to share a stadium with a Major League Baseball team. In Long’s rookie season of 1981, 15 of the NFL’s then-28 teams shared a stadium with an MLB franchise.

Long, whose 84 sacks rank second in franchise history to Greg Townsend’s 107.5, even as the sack did not become an official statistic until Long’s second season, also had a challenge for current Raiders players.

“You want to be rich? You want to be famous? Win in that uniform,” he said. “That brand is as good as it gets.

“I’m a Raider for life, and I don’t apologize for it. That may be hard for some people to understand. But that’s how it is.”

 

Raiders offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
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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?

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