By Steve Corkran
Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 at 4:43 pm in Oakland Raiders.
My, how things have changed in such a short period of time for the Raiders. The latest move came today, when the Raiders waived second-year offensive tackle Joseph Barksdale, one of Oakland’s two third-round picks in the 2011 NFL draft, and signed veteran defensive end Andre Carter.
It’s just the latest in a growing series of moves by first-year general manager Reggie McKenzie in his reshaping of the Raiders 53-man roster.
Since he arrived, McKenzie has jettisoned six players selected by the Raiders under late managing general partner Al Davis between 2005-11. Here’s a look at those players:
Player Position Year drafted/round Transaction
DeMarcus Van Dyke Cornerback 2011/3rd Waived
Joseph Barksdale Offensive tackle 2011/3rd Waived
Chimdi Chekwa Cornerback 2011/4th Waived
Bruce Campbell Offensive tackle 2010/4th Traded
Louis Murphy Wide receiver 2009/4th Traded
Stanford Routt Cornerback 2005/2nd Waived
Of the aforementioned six, only Routt and Murphy produced in games on a consistent basis. McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen wasted little time in parting ways with the four others.
It remains to be seen whether this amounts to change for change’s sake or whether McKenzie and Allen are improving the roster.
Allen is convinced that these are moves that make the Raiders more competitive.
“Eventually there’s a point in time where you move on from everybody,” Allen said. “It’s never an easy decision. There’s always a lot of thought that goes in. There’s only 53 spots that we have on the active roster, and we’ve got to try and do whatever we can to fill those spots with the best 53 guys that we think give us the best chance to win on Sundays.”
Barksdale and Campbell didn’t get much of an opportunity to show what they can do in games. Chekwa remains on the practice squad, but he keeps getting passed over for other cornerbacks. Van Dyke played sparingly last season before he was waived and then signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
– Allen said wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was at the team facility today, undergoing tests to see how he is recovering from the concussion he suffered Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
By the way, Steelers safety Ryan Mundy was fined $21,000 by the league for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Heyward-Bey early in the fourth quarter.
Heyward-Bey did not practice. However, he participated in team meetings and is on his way to a full recovery. It’s unlikely that he will play Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
– Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp admitted during offseason workouts that tight end was a position of concern entering training camp. Not anymore.
Through three games, Brandon Myers, David Ausberry and Richard Gordon have combined for 19 receptions for 263 and one touchdown. Kevin Boss, Myers and Ausberry had only six receptions for 62 yards and no touchdowns through three games last season.
“That’s been a position that was a little bit of a question mark coming into the season,” Allen said. “So the fact that we’ve gotten some production out of those guys, and all of them have had production in their own way and they’ve brought different aspects to our offense, that’s been a positive.”
Myers has caught all 15 passes thrown his way the first three games. Others might be surprised at how well he has played. Yet, Myers said in recent years that he was confident he could play at a high level if given the chance.
That chance came and went last season, when the Raiders signed Kevin Boss one day after incumbent starter Zach Miller signed with the Seattle Seahawks.
“You never know what’s going to happen, especially with a new organization and new coaches and things like that,” Myers said. “For them to do that, it was on us to step up in the games and make plays. So far, we’ve done that.”
Quarterback Carson Palmer raves about Myers, saying he is faster than people think and has the best hands on the team.
“He’s got unbelievable hands,” Palmer said. “He’s kind of a sleeper. … He makes diving catches, one-handed catches. You don’t ever see him drop anything.”
Palmer said Myers also understands how to set up routes, find the soft spot in zone coverage and get in position to make plays.
“Just, really, a solid, all-around player,” Palmer said. “And he can block too, which a lot of times you get a guy that’s really good at one thing and struggles at the other. Brandon’s really balanced in the passing and running game.”
– Outside linebacker Aaron Curry is on the physically unable to perform list for at least three more weeks with sore knees. On Wednesday, Curry worked off to the side, while his teammates practiced.
“He was out here running around again today,” Allen said. “We still got some time with him. He’s looking better and whenever we get to that point in time where we got to make a decision, then we’ll be ready to make the decision.”
Curry declined an interview request today, saying he isn’t allowed to talk about his injury.
If so, seems rather curious that he Tweeted the other day how treatment he is receiving from someone in Danville is having a positive effect.
– People are quick to criticize Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning for not being the same player he was with the Indianapolis Colts and before the four neck surgeries.
For our money, we’ll listen to Broncos coach John Fox and Allen.
Fox: “The people that look at the tape and study it would think it’s semi-comical,” Fox said of people questioning Manning’s arm strength.
Allen: “I’m not falling into that trap,” Allen said. “He’s Peyton Manning. He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback. There’s no way that we’re going to, in any way, say that he’s not the same quarterback that he’s been. I’ve watched the tape. He’s still an outstanding quarterback. He’s operating that offense, and I don’t really see much of a dropoff of where he’s been before. He’s still an outstanding quarterback.”
And Manning’s assessment?
“I have our coaches’ analysis that kind of is between us, the players and the coaches, and we have things that we’re working on, and things that we’re trying to correct and things we’re trying to improve on,” Manning said. “So, I’m not really into giving an after-three-game analysis, or sharing that publicly anyway.”
Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain grew up watching Manning. He said he didn’t realize the full scope of Manning’s mastery of the offense until he played against him.
“He’s just amazing,” McClain said. “As a kid, I watched always Peyton Manning and the Colts, but I never played him. Then you get in the NFL and you’re like, ‘Does he really make this many checks?’ He does. It’s crazy. I was amazed. He’s an amazing player.
“They had a rough start to the season but, at the end of the day, he’s still Peyton Manning. He still has all the ability in the world. We have a good game plan. We have to go out there and execute and do some things he hasn’t seen and make it kind of hard for him. You just have to execute and play your best.”
– The New England Patriots used the No. 6 pick in the 2001 NFL draft on defensive lineman Richard Seymour. One pick later, the 49ers selected defensive end Andre Carter.
Now, both players are on the Raiders. Seymour said the addition of Carter gives the Raiders more juice in their defensive line rotation.
“Definitely some leadership, for sure,” Seymour said. :He’ll be instrumental. He’s a proven guy in this league. Obviously, it will take some times to get his legs under him, but he’s a guy that’s shown he can rush the passer and that will be essential for us.”
Carter worked out twice for the Raiders before signing today. He recorded 10 sacks for the Patriots last season despite missing the final two regular-season games with a quadriceps injury.
He said he is ready to roll right now, though it’s unclear whether he will be in shape to play as soon as this Sunday.
“If I wasn’t ready, then I wouldn’t be here,” Carter said. “Obviously they signed me, and I was glad to be a part of this great organization, and we’ll just take it day by day.”
Carter said he also worked out for the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams, with the Patriots in the mix, too. Ultimately, he decided to return to his Bay Area roots.
“I had a lot of friends who said, ‘You crossed over to the dark side,’ ” Carter said. “Everything comes full circle. Where I’m at in my career, why not be back in the Bay Area where it all started for me? A lot of good memories from the time I played at Oak Grove High School to being a Cal Bear to being a 49er. Being the last draft class of Bill Walsh is something I hold dear and just continue to play this game.”
Defensive lineman Desmond Bryant said he is fortunate to have learned from the likes of Greg Ellis, Gerard Warren, Seymour and Tommy Kelly. Now, he’s looking forward to gleaning some pointers from Carter, too.
“As a defensive lineman, we always like to have more guys that can get the job done,” Bryant said. “When you have those guys in there, you’re not going to have to play as much, so that will help you not get tired as much and help you be more effective for the entire game. So, yeah, anytime you can add to a rotation, especially pass-rush situations, the better off you are as a defense and team.”
Carter recorded 76 sacks his first 11 seasons. He also played for the Patriots and Washington Redskins. The Raiders recorded only three sacks in their first three games.
– Raiders free safety Michael Huff picked a fine time to convert to cornerback. He faced Ben Roethlisberger in his first game, last Sunday. This Sunday, he gets to face Manning.
“Got thrown in the fire, kind of learned a lot last week,” Huff said. “Had my growing pains on a few plays, obviously should have played better, got to hold up better on the outside. But luckily we got the W and that week’s over, so I can learn from that film and get better this week.”
Huff started at cornerback at Texas quite a bit his freshman and sophomore seasons. By the tail end of his collegiate career, he played mostly safety.
Allen said he expects Huff to make strides this week, building off the things he did against the Steelers. Huff said he already noticed that he played too far off the receiver at times.
“It’s been so long since I was out there,” Huff said, “and on game time, I looked back and I lined up sometimes 10, 12 yards off, when I really wasn’t probably paying attention to it. But this week, I’ll be more focused on my depth on certain things so definitely this week will be better.”
Former Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha texted Huff afterward and offered a stern critique, Huff said.
“He has high expectations for me, so he didn’t cut me any slack,” Huff said.