Raiders starting quarterback Carson Palmer has kept a low profile since the season ended. He spoke publicly Wednesday for the first time since the man who engineered a controversial trade for him, coach Hue Jackson, got fired in January. Continue Reading
ESPN reported earlier this month that the Raiders were $11 million over the projected salary cap for 2012. Now comes a report from ProFootballTalk.com that the Raiders are more than $25 million over the expected figure. Continue Reading
Greg Knapp is back for a second go-round with the Raiders as their offensive coordinator. He made it clear in an interview with CSNBayArea’s Matt Maiocco that he is excited about the prospect of working with many of the key players from last year’s offense. Continue Reading
Teams have had a week to use the franchise tag on one of their own players. As of now, none has opted to go that route. The Raiders have until Monday to decide whether to use the tag on running back Michael Bush, safety Tyvon Branch or one of their other free-agents-to-be. Continue Reading
Note: Meant to post this yesterday before signing off for a week but was derailed by a Southwest Airlines WiFi that was slower then the early days of dial-up . . .
The vibe I’m getting is that the Raiders have zero intention of franchising leading rusher Michael Bush, given their commitment to a normal salary structure and the presence of strong safety Tyvon Branch also as an unrestricted free agent. Coach Dennis Allen has talked up Darren McFadden, which means he’s the feature back, and there’s no way the Raiders commit more than $7 million to a complementary back.
And that’s probably what Bush is. He did an admirable job taking over when McFadden’s mid-foot sprain derailed his season, with one of the best games any Raiders’ running back (Marcus, Bo, Napoleon Kaufman, you name it) has ever had again the San Diego Chargers. While it’s conceivable Bush numbers tailed off toward the end of the season because the Raiders became more predictable or the line wasn’t blocking as well, the fact is it happened.
So maybe it’s possible other teams see this during the free agency period and Bush comes back at a reasonable price if there is no big bounty to be had. Usually, however, one of 31 teams will ante up.
If so, keep the name Robert Turbin in mind. He was the subject of my Monday story in Bay Area News Group papers and is a Bay Area product who has flown under the radar after helping two institutions without much of a reputation for football success into winners. He did it at Fremont’s Irvington High School, a perennial also-ran which won a league title and in consecutive years advanced to the North Coast Section finals and semifinals.
Turbin did it at Utah State, which went 7-6 in his junior year _ the first winning season for the school since 1993. After missing the previous season with a torn ACL, Turbin was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year after rushing for 1,517 yards and 19 touchdowns. Check him out on YouTube and you’ll find him leveling some tacklers and breaking into the open field and finishing some long runs as well. He can catch out of the backfield or downfield. He can block, and at 5-foot-10, 220 pounds has been called the best built back in the draft outside of Alabama’s Trent Richardson.
His high school coach, Bob Spain, called coaching Turbin a “once in a lifetime” experience and said, “he’s what happens when genetics meets work ethic.”
Despite his breakaway runs, which indicates he is faster on game day than in a track setup, Turbin’s 40-yard dash time was a concern. It’s not any longer, as he ran a respectable 4.5 flat at the combine. Whether that puts Turbin out of reach for the Raiders remains to be seen. They’ll pick No. 97 at the earliest after supplemental picks are awarded at the NFL owner’s meetings next month.
If Bush moves on, it seems awfully risky to leave their running game in the hands of McFadden and Taiwan Jones, given their recent injury history. As Allen noted, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has gotten a lot of yards out of a lot of different runners with different styles.
Turbin is confident _ “A lot of people compare me to Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson” _ without being cocky. He’s engaging and earnest, a player Spain said never took a day off and lifted the play of everyone around him. He was such a devastating defensive player in high school he was the MVAL defensive player of the year as a junior and Spain advised him to take a scholarship offer to Boise State to be a safety. That means he’d probably be a beast on special teams, a role Turbin said he would love.
The NFL is full of mid-round running backs who flourish in the right system. Keep in mind Bush was a fourth-round pick because of a severely broken ankle at Louisville.
Turbin could end up being that kind of story for somebody.
Waiting for my flight out of Indianapolis, and after four days of working at the NFL scouting combine, it’s clear a lot of people are intrigued to see how the Raiders operate in the post-Al Davis era.
Jerry McDonald is covering the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis this week. He just attended the news conference of new Raiders coach Dennis Allen. Here is the transcript, as provided by Jerry:
Q: Raiders talking to a lot of linebackers and and D-ends at senior bowl, wimbley has contract issues, where are you with that?
Allen: I think obviously, defensively that is going to be a priority for us. I think I was really pleased with what the Raiders were able to do last year offensively. I know from having to defend against them, they were a real challenge to defend. Defensively, if you look at the defensive rankings, not too different than what the situation I came into last year with Denver. So it’s obviously a high priority for us and we’ve got to get better in that area.
Q: Where do things stand with Wimbley, Huff, players that may or may not have contract issues . . .
Allen: Right now, with all those guys, we’re looking at all our options and what we have to do from a financial standpoint to make sure we put ourselves in the best position to get the best players out there and be on our final 53-man roster. So between Reggie and myself, we’re working through all those scenarios right now.
Q: Expect more changes besides Stanford Routt?
Allen: Well, there will obviously be changes, I don’t know what those changes will be yet. Those are all the scenarios that we’re going through right now.
Q: Where are things with Bush, franchise tag candidate?
Allen: Again, we’re going to look at all those options. I won’t get into the specifics of exactly what we’re going to do and exactly what our plan is going to be, but I will tell you this, but we will look at all of our existing free agents, we’re going to look at all of our existing players that are under contract that have high numbers and we’re going to evaluate what we need to do to give the organization a chance to be successful.
Q: Excited about going up against Broncos twice a year?
Allen: I think I’m excited about going up against everybody next year. I wouldn’t single them out any differently. I obviously have a lot of respect for what they’ve done over there. I think John Elway, Brian Zanders, John Fox do a tremendous job and I know they’ll have the team ready to play whenever we go up against them and we’ll do our best to have our team ready to play going up against them.
Q: Mentioned at press conference think too much is made of 4-3, 3-4 system, have you identified a primary base defense or something working through?
Allen: Those are really all the things we’re still working through. We’ll see, after we go through free agency, after we go through the draft, which grouping gives us the best chance to be successful. I would expect that we’ll be very multiple in that regard.
Q: What can you tell us about Jason Tarver, your choice for D-coordinator?
Allen: I think Jason Tarver is an extremely bright young coach. He was a part of the San Francisco 49ers defenses, and I thought they were extremely well coached, extremely talented, when I interviewed Jason, there was no doubt in my mind that this is a guy who had answers for everything. I’m extremely excited about working with him, and I think, with him and the defensive staff as well as myself being involved in the defense, I’m excited about our opportunities.
Q: How hands on will you be with the defense?
Allen: I’ll be involved. I’ll be involved in both aspects of the team. Offense, defense, special teams, all of it. But I would say, especially this first year, I’ll probably spend a little bit more time with the defense.
Q: Thoughts on development of Rolando McClain?
Allen: He was a guy that was picked real high in the draft, and I still see a lot of talent in Rolando McClain. I got a chance to speak with him the other day. I think he’s excited about coming in, and being involved with the new regime. We’re going to give him every opportunity to prove that he’s the type of player that he’s capable of being. I think if he’s willing to come in and work and do the things we ask him to do, he’ll reach that potential.
Q: Greg Knapp’s offenses featured a lot of bootlegs, zone blocking, can Carson Palmer fit with Knapp’s scheme?
Allen: I think absolutely he can fit. And I also think that part of what we do as coaches is we have a system that we’re going to run, but we’re going to try and put our players in the best position for them to be successful. We’re not going to force-feed something if it doesn’t fit what a guy does really well, we’re not going to force-feed that. But I do think when you look at Carson Palmer, that he does have the same type of athleticism. He’s as athletic as Matt Schaub, who they had in Houston, to really be really be able to run that same package.
Q: Did you want to speak about Ed Donatell about a spot on your staff?
Allen: There are a lot of people that I considered, that I had on my list, and Ed would have been one of those guys that I had on my list, but I think once I had an opportunity to really sit down and talk to Jason, there was no question in my mind that he was the guy.
Q: When did you start getting into the draft?
Allen: Well, I spent the first couple of weeks trying to put together a coaching staff, so it was just really recently that we’ve really kind of gotten involved in the draft. We had the free agents that we had to evaluate as a coaching staff, and we’re kind of in the introductory process of getting ready for the draft.
Q: Is it less of a priority because you have so few picks?
Allen: No, I don’t think so. I told the coaching staff the other day, the most important thing that we can be doing right now is picking players, and making sure we got the right guys on our team, and so the offensive scheme, the defensive scheme, that’s going to take care of itself, but we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right guys to be a part of this football team, so there’s nothing more important to us right now than making sure we get the right guys.
Q: How is McFadden’s foot, any chance he wouldn’t be back next year?
Allen: Not as far as I’m concerned. I think he’s an extremely dynamic player. Again, from playing the Oakland Raiders twice last year, they were much more challenging to defend when Darren McFadden was in the backfield, and having that kind of two-headed monster between him and Bush, that was a real challenge. Darren is a vital part of what we’re going to try and get done next year.
Q: Is his foot better?
Allen: Yes, his foot is better. He was back in town, working out last week, and we got a good evaluation on him. Darren will be ready to go whenever we get ready to kick off the season, that’s for sure.
Q: McFadden chronic foot problems, anything organization has looked at, practice fields, etc.?
Allen: We’re looking at everything within the organization, how we can improve in every aspect of the organization, and obviously practice fields is one of the things that we’re looking at. Is there something we can do to improve that, and is their a correlation between the foot injuries and the practice fields. If we can deduce there is a correlation between the two we’ll do everything we can to get them right.
Q: Matt Shaughnessy, Jacoby Ford, they’re good to go?
Allen: Absolutely, they’ll be ready to roll.
Q: Routt gone, any chance Huff is a corner?
Allen: Again, that question is to be determined after we find out exactly who we have on the team to find out what are options are. The one thing do I do know about Michael Huff is he’s an extremely good athlete and he has skills athletically of a corner, and so that obviously would be an option for us, but again, we won’t make any decisions along those lines until we know exactly what we got.
Q: How would you describe first couple of months on the job? Anything unexpected, surprises?
Allen: Fast. Fast. Well, I think one of the things that you find out as a head football coach is that it’s difficult to put together a good staff, because there’s a lot of guys that you might want to try to get that you can’t get out of other contracts and different roadblocks and hurdles that you got to jump over, but I think we weathered that storm and the one thing that I wanted to make sure that we did, was I didn’t want to rush into anything or hurry into anything, and I think having that patience allowed us to put together a good staff.
Q: Performance of offensive line last year part of the reason Steve Wisniewski was retained, for continiuity?
Allen: Yeah, I think keeping some of that continuity within the offensive line. I think there was an element there that we wanted some people that did have some knowledge of the Raiders organization and the way that things have been done in the past, and I think he’s obviously, I wouldn’t say he’s a bright young coach, but I’d say he’s a bright and up and coming coach and I was really impressed with him when I met him for the very first time.
Q: Raiders of past reputation for putting emphasis on speed. What’s your feeling on where 40 time fits into player evaluation?
Allen: It only fits after we find out whether this guy on tape when we look at him, if we feel like he’s a good football player. That’s where 40 times come into effect. If you got two guys that when you look at the tape, these guys are about the same football playing wise, well let’s take the faster guy. But we’re not going to take guys just because they run real fast. Because that doesn’t co-relate to being a good football player.
Q: How much of the team do you think you’ve actually spoken to, guys under contract?
Allen: I’ve probably spoken to about 75 percent of the team, and I think everybody is really excited about getting in and getting started and being a part of the offseason program and being a part of what we’re going to try and do and how we’re going to be a little bit different.
Q: Seymour part of long-term plan?
Allen: We’ve spoken with Richard, and he’s excited about the opportunity, and Richard is obviously part of our plans and we feel real good about Richard.
Q: Penalties such a big issue, how clear that up?
Allen: I think the first and foremost thing is guys have to be held accountable for their actions. That’s always what I believed in, and I think now with the organizational structure I feel about our ability to hold our guys accountable to do the right things, for the right reasons and doing it that way all the time. And we’ll preach that message and preach that message, and we’ll hold guys accountable to doing it the right way.
Q: How have you and Reggie worked together putting things together?
Allen: First and foremost, I think our relationship has been outstanding. We’ve discussed every situation that comes up, we’ve always discussed it. I’ve come to him with questions about coaching staff, he’s come to me with questions about personnel issues, and I think that’s the way you run a top quality organization, when your head coach and your general manager can see eye to eye, and can have conversations, and we might not always agree, but at the end of the day we’ve got to make sure we can come to the best decision for the Raiders and that’s what I’m excited about working with Reggie, because he’s a top quality human being and I think he’s an excellent talent evaluator.
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Raiders coach Dennis Allen is scheduled to be at the podium at 1:15 (ET). In the meantime, I got a chance to ask Broncos executive John Elway about Allen and Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson about Reggie McKenzie.