2015 Looking Much Much Better

Firstly, we are looking a whole lot better this year. Secondly, with a nice bit of cap space this offseason we can get really good in 2016 (more to come shortly). I’m talking about top 5, superbowl contenders. This team has REAL potential.

Derek Carr looks awesome, the WR’s have real talent, the TE’s have good potential, our RB’s show flashes and the O-line has made big strides.

On the other side of the ball, the D looks very stout. I like Mario Edwards Jr at DE, Aldon Smith on the other side, Dan Williams is a beast and Jelly if he’s fit is decent. I also saw some impressive play from Stacy McGee the other day, while Autry is improving and I like the potential of Shelby Harris. Back in the LB’s, as long as we don’t overplay Jar Jar were fine, I love the new additions and I’m really impressed with how Norton has got them developing. Finally our much maligned secondary has shown improvements, dramatic ones at that. David Amerson needed the fresh start, and now looks every bit the high-round draft pick, while our own heavily critiqued DJ Hayden has also shown signs of improving. Safety in a injury-hit revolving door at the moment, but with Nate Allen coming back soon, Charles Woodson rocking the field and TJ Carrie looking great anywhere in the backfield (bar returning punts) we look pretty set. I also like Neiko Thorpe.

Pondering an alternative

With Derek Carr out nursing a finger injury, Christian Ponder and Matt McGloin have been sharing first team reps at Oakland Raider’s OTAs and the one clear take-away that I could gather was that former first round draft pick Christian Ponder looked really good.

Ponder has always has a nice rhythm to his passing, his down fall in his early nfl career with the Minnesota Vikings being his tendency to fluster under pressure, but maybe (and its a big maybe) the change of scenery, lack of pressure and time to develop will allow him to iron out this very important flaw. Christian Ponder has always had good feet and a nice west-coast short-passing game but he has often suffered from a lack of zip on his longer balls and somewhat panicked-style. At OTA’s however he has looked smooth and very impressive.

Yes the pressure is not there, at OTA’s, but maybe (just maybe) this young man just needed some time to mature. As long as we mainly want to run the ball, just playing west-coast offence at QB, Christian Ponder should/could be fine. Yes, I’d much rather see Derek Carr developing, but if he’s carrying an injury lets not push it, no need to risk Carr long term future, instead lets give the keys of the juggernaut to Christian Ponder and see where he can take us.

Raider’s Tame Lions

So there we have it, we still do actually know how to win, it wasn’t easy though and not everybody excelled. Very simply the 27-26 victory over the Detroit Lions came about thanks to a 2Q Darren McFadden run, a 3Q Jake Murphy catch (from Derek Carr) and then a sweet 19-yard pass from tough-as-nails third stringer Matt McGloin to the increasingly impressive Brice Butler.

Onto Brice Butler, this kid was the key positive take-away from the Lions game, in fact much of camp to date, as has been young CB T.J.Carrie (who by the way put up an excellent punt return today). Butler has great hands, is really really fast and simply looks like he should be starting alongside Rod Streater and James Jones.

Recent displays from our receivers have, however, given me less reasons to be impressed with Andre Holmes and Greg Little recently, and really want to see Juron Criner push them. My WR’s to make the 53 at present are James Jones, Rod Streater, Brice Butler, Darius Moore (as he offers something different) and then whoever impresses most out of Holmes/Criner/Little going forward (who drops the least at this rate!!).

I actually thought Matt Schaub looked good in this game, his passing is crisp (something we haven’t seen here for a long time – I don’t miss Terrelle Pryors one little bit) and he remained calm despite some slightly lackluster line play. The performance of the starting OL definitely worried me, although the Lions at times were blitzing on mass, bringing 7 players straight up on Shaub at times….despite this he looked good.

Other big plus, TE Mychal Rivera – what great moves he showed on that pass from Schaub, I see them putting up great numbers together this year….there is one for the fantasy sleeper picks for 2014, Mychal Rivera, getable for $1 in auction drafts or often on the waivers after the draft (as long as no Raiders fans are in your auction).

Roll on Oakland, we beat a team many sages have challenging for the superbowl this year.

Talk of Carr Starting Overdone

Reports of Derek Carr potentially starting over Matt Schaub http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap2000000356437/article/derek-carr-to-push-matt-schaub-for-raiders-starting-job are more than a little overdone at this point, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong I like this kid, I really do (great arm and terrific athletic potential as a QB), but he needs time to learn.

Schaub still has the tools to be a successful nfl-QB, he’s just had a couple of off seasons, give Matt Schaub a chance behind a decent OL (like our’s will be this season) and you’ll see the old Schaub.

Derek Carr will be a much better QB in a year, or two, if he is given proper time to adjust. I seriously think in 2016 h could be one of the nfl’s top-10 QB’s if we give him time. who knows he may still become that anyway, but I think he’ll be a whole lot better if given time to adjust.

Nice QB Situation

The Oakland Raiders, after many years of trying, finally go into a season with a nice QB situation. OK, wipe your mind clean. Loose your preconceptions and let me explain: the Oakland Raiders have the former pro-bowler, in his early 30’s, starting; a young, best-arm-in-the-draft, rookie to learn from the number-one; and a determined battler back-up, who will do whatever is necessary to help the team. Wow, that’s a nice combination, I don’t think we’ve ever had that before.

I don’t love Matt McGloin, but you have to like his fire and determination, and I can’t argue with him as this year’s number-2, the long-term number-3.

Derek Carr has everythign I want in a starting QB, post-2015/16, a huge arm, strength, a great work ethic and speed (his 4.6 second 40 time shocked me). In the past I’d have wanted Carr to start right away, but I’ve learned my lessons, and he’s not quite ready for that now. A year or two learning will make him a much better player.

Then you’ve got the pick-6 machine Matt Schaub ready to come back and show the nfl they were wrong to write him off. Matt Schaub is a good QB, man he might even be a great QB, I certainly think he”s the best we’ve had since Gannon. Remember last year when we were beating his team pretty convincingly, it wasn’t until Schaub came on there was any danger of us really losing, then he sarted pinging the ball around I was worried. Schaub, with a decent OL (which we now have), will be good….I think potentially very very good.

Seconds Out, Round 4

So there we have it, on paper the Oakland Raiders already have one of the best drafts in living memory, so what/who is next? We have two fourth round picks and three seventh rounders, and I’d say we definitely need to pick up a free safety and a DE in those five picks, I’d also be keen for us to acquire another DT, possibly a NT, then maybe an OT, or a CB or a WR, depending upon who’s there when we draft. As a wildcard I also wouldn’t mind us getting another QB in the seventh if any real gems are available late.

Players we should go for:-

* Ahmad Dixon – FS, Baylor – this kid has got a bit of the Charles Woodson swagger about him, and would be an ideal candidate to sit and learn for a season from CW24. Dixon helped Justin Gilbert immensely this past year. He hits like an aggressive Ram that hasn’t had its morning coffee and has woken in a bad mood, this kid looks like an awesome typical Raiders DB to me.

* Dion Bailey – FS, USC – another big big hitter, this kid just wraps people up and has great balls skills. Again we could bring this kid through slowly, as he learns from the best CW.

* Keith McGill – CB, Utah – 4.5 40 time, this 6’2″ coverage CB is a blanket for receivers, looks like he could easily convert to FS also if the need requires. How this kid slipped out of the first three rounds I will never be able to comprehend – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6qv3hVhKzA

* Cameron Fleming – OT, Stanford – looks like a ready to roll RT option, with him in the mix we could slide Watson over to LT, where his superior foot speed would actually probably work better. Cameron is big and powerful, possessing excellent technique for such a young kid  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4MfBjCRCM8

* DeQuan Jones – DT, Penn State – at 6’3″ and 320 lbs, with great gap-discipline, Jones is a force against the run. His excellent power and impressive snap anticipation show Jones to be a natural for the DT/NT role and would help solidify the position for years. If we don’t go for someone like Jones, Anthony Johnson or Brent Urban (and seeing as we avoided drafting Louis Nix III yesterday) then, to me, it strongly suggests forgotten man Torell Troup (the 330 lb unit the Bills drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft) is fit and ready to go….in which case we’re good at DT anyway

* Aaron Lynch – DE, USF – explosive QB-killer, looks like a leader on the field which I particularly like. He’s big (6’5″), explosive, like an albatross in terms of wing-span and emotional on the field, if anything I’d say he looks a little to lean, but that’s nothing LaMarr Woodley and Justin Tuck can’t teach him to improve upon in the weight room. Another good DE option , although this time more of a run-stuffer in Ed Stinson from Alabama.

….thought I’d slip this last one in – and sorry to all my fellow Raiders who are sick to the back teeth of Terrelle Pryor talk – but an even more promising quasi-QB option is Logan Thomas. Along with Derek Carr, Logan Thomas has in my opinion the best arm in this year’s draft class. Unlike Carr, however (and more like Pryor), 6’6″Logan Thomas lacks accuracy (actually Derek Carr needs work here too, hence sitting and learning under Matt Schaub would suit Carr and Thomas). Check out his highlights, they’re impressive, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfooRmEF8AE maybe we draft this kid as a TE?

2nd Round Draft Options

The 2nd round of the nfl draft is shortly upon us and I’d usually be none too excited, as most of the real obvious talent has gone by this point, this year however some real top-tier talent is still available – I’ve seen around ten players that in previous years would definitely fit comfortably in the 1st round.

As we’re selecting at number 4 tonight, we only really need to outline a top-4 of prospects, and here are mine:-

(1) Louis Nix – the Notre Dame NT/DT is a great run-stopper, who also has the ability to get internal pressure on the QB. Although his weight variance has occasionally been a problem to the quality of his play, with proper conditioning he would massively improve the quality of the interior of our line for years to come. Indeed I think I prefer him to one of my favourite targets last year (Star).

(2) Derek Carr – the fear on Thursday was that we’d draft the Fresno State star with our first round pick, but now he’s fallen to at least the second round he has some value. I think his brother’s pains have given him a more level-head, and he does have a fantastic deep ball, my only real concern is his ‘head’ under pressure, as he looses his calm fairly easily. A year or too learning under Matt Schaub, however, could be absolutely what this kid needs to not replicate his brother’s mistakes.

(3) Xavier Su’a-Filo – I was really surprised what Su’a-Filo didn’t get drafted in the first round, as this kid looks like being a really quick pass blocker, who can play at guard or tackle. In our team he could slip straight into the guard competition and upgrade our already heavily improved OL-mix even more.

(4) Kony Ealy – quite a few very good DE’s are still available going into the second round, but (in my opinion) Kony Ealy is marginally ahead of my next two favourites, Stephon Tuitt and Demarcus Lawrence. You never can have enough quality DL-men and with many of our FA-signings being a little long-in-the-tooth some additional youth here wouldn’t go amiss, plus a good rotation on the DL can serve to keep everyone fresh and firing. Ealy looked like a sure-fire first round talent to me coming into this draft, excellent at getting after the QB, with good speed and strength, and able to switch inside and play DT also. Reminds me of Tuck a bit too, no bad thing.

(a wild-card non-necesary 5) Marqise Lee – my final pick here is USC’s WR Lee. If we were genuinely interested in D.Jackson back in free agency, here’s a younger (possibly even better) version of him. Last year this kid would have been a sure-fire top-10 pick, but a relatively poor year at USC coupled with a number of minor injuries damaged his rep. Used lightly, at least until he’s built up his frame, this kid could be really explosive to Shaub and solidify the receiving corps for years to come.

…. on further analysis you know this second round is almost as interesting as most year’s first rounds are.