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Raiders making best out of less-than-ideal situation

By Steve Corkran
Thursday, December 12th, 2013 at 5:46 pm in Oakland Raiders.

It’s that unmistakable time of year again, when harsh reality sets in, playoff hopes dim and suddenly things suspected for weeks, if not months, are confirmed by players and coaches.
You see it in owner Mark Davis telling colleague Tim Kawamami that his team is nearing the end of a two-year deconstruction phase and about to embark upon a reconstruction phase. It comes in the form of safety Charles Woodson’s candid critiques of his team’s play. And so on.
The message is clear: There’s only so much the Raiders can do right now, given their lack of salary-cap room, which resulted in general manager Reggie McKenzie filling out his roster with a slew of players that commanded base salaries for $1 million or less in most cases.
Next season, McKenzie will be flush with cap room — some estimates place it in the $70 million range — and able to arm his coaches with a much-needed infusion of talent.
Perhaps on cue, coach Dennis Allen, offensive coordinator Greg Olson and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, along with players, are sending out not-so-subtle messages that a lack of depth and talent played a huge role in the Raiders losing nine of their first 13 games and that more time and patience are needed.
“You have this collective group, and it was built here and it was built here through every means that we had to get here for this year, and we all understood that when we took this,” Tarver said in talking about the growing pains of his troops. “I knew when I walked in this building, I grew up sitting in the Black Hole, and that’s what I wanted to do. I wasn’t walking into any building, I was happy at the place I was.
“This was a challenge. This was a chance to try everything you’ve learned and see how you can get these guys, which you knew was going to be a different group because you knew what the situation of the organization was.”
Last week, Olson offered this about why the Raiders offense lacked continuity.
“When you look before the season started and what are the Raiders, where are the Raiders going to be? Certainly our goal is to score more points,” Olson said. “Has that happened? Have we scored more? No we have not done that. I believe that part of it is lack of continuity, part of it is lack of depth.
“When you look back at the beginning of the season, and where we’re at, everyone has injuries. Those teams that may not be as talented, when they have injuries during the season, it takes a bigger toll in my opinion. That’s been a big part of it is the constant turnover and the constant changes in the lineup.”
None of the coaches is making excuses. They’re simply pointing out things that manifested themselves as the season progressed, regardless how staunchly they refused to accept the possibility of such earlier.
On Thursday, Allen pointed out what the Raiders offense was reduced to for the Jets game, when opening-game starters Terrelle Pryor, Darren McFadden and Denarius Moore weren’t in the lineup, along with key backup Rashad Jennings.
“Every one of our skill players in the Jet game were undrafted free agents,” Allen said. “It speaks to what those coaches have been able to do with those players. It speaks to those players and their determination and their work ethic and how they go about doing their job.
“Also it’s one of those things where that’s something we have to continue to always develop our roster and try to add pieces here and there that we think can help us.”
Strong safety Tyvon Branch chimed in, saying that the Raiders, indeed are closer to being a team capable of competing for a Super Bowl title.
“I’m sure we’re going to do some things in the offseason, bring some new guys in,” Branch said. “That’s the way the NFL works. New guys come in all the time. So, with all the money we got freed up, they’re going to go out and chase some big-time names. Hopefully, we can bring some guys in and help us turn this thing around.”
How does Branch know that the Raiders are closer this season than they were last season? The proof comes in the Raiders being in all but three games this season.
“We’re making strides in the right direction,” Branch said. “It’s not like the Raiders of old, you know what I’m saying?”
When asked to clarify, Branch added:
“We’re actually in these games. Years past, it was like we just lost. We’re actually in these games and we have a chance to win in the fourth quarter. Once we learn to execute down the stretch, it’s going to turn everything around.”
In fairness, they are dead on in their responses as to why the Raiders defense is “worn down” at times, as Allen said after the past two games, or as to why a defense that looks top notch at times other times breaks down, or about the struggles of an offense that has not scored more than 28 points in any game.

– Olson said Matt McGloin audibled out of a bad play call, based on the way the Jets defense lined up, and changed to a run on the play in which Marcel Reece bolted up the middle for a 63-yard touchdown.
“The timing of getting the ball out, getting through his progressions, he’s shown improvement in that area and just the overall understanding the protections, getting us out of bad plays and into good plays,” Olson said. “Marcel’s touchdown run was a check on his part at the line of scrimmage, understanding what the front was that they were giving us and we needed to get out of the initial play that we had given him and he got us into the touchdown run. He’s just getting more comfortable overall with the scheme and how we want him to operate it.”

– By Allen’s estimation, the Raiders eight different lineups with their offensive line the first 13 games. In other words, things don’t quite look the way Allen, Olson and offensive line coach Tony Sparano envisioned back in April.
“Yyet, we’re still fourth in the league in rushing,” Allen said. “Tony Sparano has done a great job with that offensive line. Ole has done a nice job of doing some things that those guys can do well and putting them in a position to have success.”
The Raiders lost potential starter Tony Bergstrom to injury before the season started. Jared Veldheer suffered a torn triceps during training camp that required surgery, and he missed the first 11 games. Projected right offensive tackle Menelik Watson suffered a knee injury during an exhibition game and never regained full strength. Center Stefen Wisniewski, left guard Lucas Nix and right guard Mike Brisiel also missed time with injuries, as well as backup Andre Gurode.

– Allen said defensive tackle Vance Walker is “very questionable” for the Chiefs game as a result of the concussion Walker suffered against the Jets. Walker missed practice Wednesday and Thursday because he experienced concussion-related symptoms.

– The Raiders signed wide receiver Jared Green and linebacker Eric Harper on Wednesday to their practice squad. It’s worth noting that they also worked out running back Jonathan Grimes, cornerback Travis Howard and receiver Dwight Jones.
None of the three was signed. However, it points out that the Raiders are concerned about depth at those positions for the remainder of the season and shows that the team always is on the lookout for players that might provide an upgrade, even if it’s down the road.

– Bears coach Marc Trestman made good on his stated intent to give back the starting job to Jay Cutler once Cutler returned from a sprained ankle.
That seemed like a given when the injury happened. However, backup Josh McCown played so well during Cutler’s absence that some wondered whether going back to Cutler was such a wise move.
This is interesting to Raiders fans if only for how it ties in to the Raiders quarterback situation this season. Pryor started eight of the first nine games this season — Matt Flynn started one game while Pryor recovered from a concussion — before he was sidelined by a right knee injury.
Once Pryor recovered well enough to play again, McGloin remained the starter. The big difference here is that coach Allen never promised Pryor the job once he returned from injury.
Also, there’s the matter of Cutler being one of the league’s most experienced quarterbacks and getting paid far more than McCown.

– Here’s Olson’s explanation for inserting Pryor into the Jets game after McGloin guided the Raiders offense the first two drives, then resumed control once Pryor engineered one series.
“We thought we could come back to it,” Olson said. “Again, there were plans, we talked at halftime and talked with Terrelle, ‘Hey, just stay ready at all times,’ but we got into a pretty good flow and rhythm in the second half so at that time we didn’t feel the need to get back to it.
“That’s going to be a part of us, especially in a situation like that where you’re missing three tailbacks. For the outside people, they looked at it as we pulled Matt McGloin and were trying to provide a spark and that wasn’t the case whatsoever.
“From the very start, in the first team meeting that we had on Wednesday, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’ We could be up 14-0 after the first two series of the game, we could be two three-and-outs, but on the third series of the game, we’re going with the Terelle Pryor package, so here’s the plays we’re going to run in it. Obviously we practiced the plays in advance and that was the plan going in.”

– Branch, TE Nick Kasa, LB Sio Moore and WR Denarius Moore were limited in practice today. It’s likely that all will be available for the Chiefs game.

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  • 1960AutumnWind

    But all of that was the results of poor coaching and an airian conspiracy. LOL

  • IAmAlwaysWrong

    Nix @ LG = Reggie @ GM

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    What are you talking about Al We DON’T have enough skill players!
    We knew that when the year started so the results at the end of the year are not too much of a suprise.

  • R8erEduc8er

    Wth does his 2nd sentence mean??

  • 1960AutumnWind

    What does this sentence mean?

  • R8erEduc8er

    Just ignore.

  • Charlie

    Always wrong.

    Perhaps you prefer this?

    “A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia.” ~David McCullough
    Go Raider (nation).

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    What does it mean? It means that this was the job he wanted, that he wanted to be with the Raiders. Al would have like Tarver.

  • Goldie7

    Absolutely, but our coaches need to get a better scheme and coach these guys into improving their play; Belicheat does it.

  • 1960AutumnWind

    It means Tarver was a chemistry major not a communications major?

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    LoL

  • R8erEduc8er

    I got that from the 1st sentence but the 2nd – I wasn’t walking into any building, I was happy at the place I was? I guess.

  • 1960AutumnWind

    A historian promoting history how quaint. Charlie can we explore a few of Reggies historical moves in context like gambling on a QB in the 4th that will likely not even be on the roster next year when you have dire need of a pass rusher?

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    The Jets aren’t going anywhere. They’re stumbling backwards into position because of their division.
    And their quarterback makes OUR two QB’s look like Snake.

  • SR Raider

    I sat with Jason and his dad a couple of times. Section 104 baby!

  • aig-raiders

    If Manziel/Derek Carr/Bridgewater finished 2014 season with 3k+ yds 20+ tds and 10+ ints, would you Drafting Franchise QB guys consider that to be an exceptional season for a rookie?

  • R8erEduc8er

    Gambling on a qb in the 4th? Every pick is a gamble.

  • plunkhead

    Nix is healthy and ready to go every week. Too bad he cant play a little better

  • 1960AutumnWind

    Here is a question I wish someone would ask RM: In light of what happened with Flynn and Wilson, are there areas you are going to change or adapt in scouting for QBs in the future?

  • Charlie

    What SnB is strying to say is that NO TEAM IN THE NFL has gone longer than the Raiders without using a first round pick on a lineman. (2004-Gallery).
    As a result our lines both offensively and defensivley get exposed as the game goes on. Good teams expose our line weaknessess early in the game weaker teams expose it later.
    Result. Usually a loss.
    You are not building a solid core of ANY position group using UDFA’s and low round picks for as often as we have on our lines.

  • dplunk

    “Of course” it would be..Is this a trick question?

  • 1960AutumnWind

    True but you had falling DEs to him in the 4th and you needed help at pass rusher. RMs prescription in the end: Hunter + Bass in the 7th who was cut, and Robinson UDFA and other castaways being given tryouts.

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    “Here’s Olson’s explanation for inserting Pryor into the Jets game after McGloin guided the Raiders offense the first two drives, then resumed control once Pryor engineered one series.
    “We thought we could come back to it,” Olson said.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    That was dumb, Olsen.
    McGloin was 3 for 4 and starting to get into a rhythm when you yanked him just because it was pre-planned. After you put him back in he didn’t get back into it until the second half.

  • my opinion

    olsen says here, even if we went up 14 to zero, tp gets the third series. u serious? mgloin takes the team down 2for2 on touchdowns,were still taking him out. is it just me or is that just dumb. same as giants gm were running it down thier throats,tp is struggling, but we run pa pass on 1st down. then a penalty, thats the differwnce in gms.

  • ENGLANDRAIDER

    That right? Interesting. So many times coaches come here and say they always wanted to be in the Nation but I guess Tarver is telling it true.

  • aig-raiders

    No it is not a trick question. McG is on pace for 3800 yds 24 tds 12 ints (plus minus a few here and there). Yet, they all say he is best a back up QB. I am just astonished by the irony of it all. Just proves that the fans fall for hype even more than the GMS.

  • 1960AutumnWind

    Give this to Olsen. He said they had the same plan in the second half and did not go through with it because McGloin was getting into a rythmn. #Adjustments

  • R8erEduc8er

    RM: “I missed on Flynn. He did great in GB when I was there so I wanted to see if we can re-do the “magic” here. It didn’t happen. Wilson was once a 1st round prospect. He had an off year after turmoil in Arkansas. But he has a good college resume prior to that in the toughest division in college football imo. We’ll see if he can make the leap to the pros….but he was worth a shot in the 4th. What you think about McG? I scouted him and brought him in also, ya know.”

  • IAmAlwaysWrong

    Charlie: the Raiders have drafted 3 first round QB’s in the last 40 years (Marc Wilson 1980, Todd Marinovich 1991 & JaMarcus Russell 2007). i’d say we’re elfin DUE !!

  • aig-raiders

    Nobody has been a bigger TP fan than me from the day he was drafted. However, Sunday was very evident in how far and painful it is when TP is back there as a QB. Yes he did produce 3 points but the passes were like pulling root canals. We even wasted a timeout trying to get things right.

  • dplunk

    on pace?? ha ha ..ok

  • aig-raiders

    957 yds 6 tds 3 ints through 4 games….yeah on pace for a 16 game full season stat.

  • Goldie7

    We needed a coach with NFL coaching experience, not a rookie coach; yes absolutely DA has a great defensive mind but he has never been an NFL HC before ReggieMac hired him.
    Honestly, I love DA but he may be better as a DC not HC. On the other hand, I am also hoping that he studies how Belicheat and Sean Payton became great coaches.

  • R8erEduc8er

    He didn’t like any of the pass rushers…simple as that. Bass and Robinson were good prospects so he does have an eye for it imo.

  • 1960AutumnWind

    So my takeaway from that would be: sometimes you take chances and they do not work out. Everything I did was reasonable. And I personally scouted and brought in a camp arm??? Wow

  • aig-raiders

    RRS, who have the Raiders drafted at the QB position that has been successful for us? I can’t remember one other than Stabler.

  • R8erEduc8er

    ….who is now the starting QB. Yes, wow!

  • 1960AutumnWind

    The math is correct. I am not sure why someone is mocking it. We need to see more but so far very promising. All this draft talk is so premature right now but without the playoffs that is where we are.

  • IAmAlwaysWrong

    me neither, lol

  • Charlie

    Wind
    If you noticed Reggie’s last draft (his ONLY REAL DRAFT) he hit every position group. Every one. You want to criticize his FOURTH round pick when he also finds Streater and Matt and Roach and Burris and Jennings and Burnett and Woodson etc?
    Is the glass always half empty with you?
    He has to scramble and try to get Flynn with NO money because Palmer wants out because we can not afford him given the cap mismanagement for nine years prior to Reggie?
    The basis of which is a decade of horrible drafts specifically involving JR?
    Everything Reggie has done has been dramatically impacted by abysmal circumstances. Fact.

  • Goldie7

    Heck, look at Josh McClown, he was awful when he played for our Raiders but he is playing decent for the Bears.

  • 1960AutumnWind

    So RM scouts camp arms? Look I give RM credit for allowing the coaching staff to run with MM after they saw something in him. That mean he had to demote Wilson (take a chance of losing him on PS) and cut Flynn to get here. That really take guts (and I mean that seriously) but to say that he scouted him and brought him in as if he was going to be competing for the starting job is a bit far fetched to me.

  • dplunk

    Ha ha..OK, so if a RB gains 200 yrds in game 1 Do we put that much emphasis on the fact that that RB could possibly gain 3,200 yds that season?

  • marks hair

    of course pulling MM was dumb.. they can deny it all they want, but they didn’t make the same mistake in the second half.. so what does that tell you?
    they planned to do it in the second half, but realized it would be a mistake..

  • IAmAlwaysWrong

    i’m pretty sure Jim Fassel, Dennis Green, Brian Billick, Raheem Morris, Marty Mornhinweg or Mike Singletary would have accepted the position!

  • 1960AutumnWind

    I think Olsen in some way acknowledges this by in turn not doing this in 2nd half when they said they had same plan.

  • aig-raiders

    uh, you’re talking about 1 game vs 4 games which is 25% of the season. Someone is having a really tough time with math.

  • 1960AutumnWind

    Not the same guy. A lot of maturing has gone on.

  • 1960AutumnWind

    Just stop that Halloween is over.

  • R8erEduc8er

    He brings undrafted free agents in for workouts. He lobbies to get who he wants to come to said workouts. That’s the job of the GM. You think he just drew names from a hat and these guys weren’t scouted?