Here is the buzz around the Raiders this week with three stories, four downs and one for the road.
THE ROAD AHEAD:
The last seven Raiders coaches have failed to stay employed beyond two seasons. Dennis Allen is finishing up his second season. The Raiders are 4-10.
It doesn’t take a virtuoso to figure out the math on why it’s a local and national story. Since 2000, an average of 6.8 head coaching changes are made in the NFL each season. It’s the nature of the putting on the head set.
Allen himself addressed the story this week on 95.7 The Game.
“When those things are out there everyone is aware of it,” Allen said. “We get paid to get this team ready to win football games and that’s all we can concern ourselves with. There’s no time to worry about things you don’t control.”
“Really, he deserves that shot to come back. It’s not fair to criticize him now,” Woodson said. “These last couple of years they’ve been making changes around here to put themselves in a position to move forward, and next year they’re going to be able to do a lot of things as far as bringing guys in to make the Oakland Raiders a formidable team.”
Raiders owner Mark Davis used the term “deconstruction” in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News last week in talking about the rebuild of the team the last two seasons with General Manager Reggie McKenzie putting the team in a position under the salary cap to be aggressive this off-season. This year the Raiders had $55 million in dead money, which means Oakland was only able to spend about 60 percent of their cap space this season on players currently suiting up for the team. First and second round picks
Former Raiders head coach Tom Flores knows what it’s like being under fire and said Allen and the staff deserves more time to turn the team around.
“First of all the coach is always on the hot seat, you know that as a coach,” Flores said. “But you can’t change coaches every two years, every time you do that you take a step back.”
“I think he’s a great coach, I think he knows his players well and he keeps us focused,” Veldheer said. “Now we as players need to be consistent. All the guys are behind him. I like where his vision is going.”
Despite the team’s record, Veldheer’s validation is the overwhelming consensus in the Raiders locker room. Not only there, but I have spoken with people from other organizations all season who tell me the team is more focused, well organized and difficult to prepare for than in the recent past. Reverence from your opponent is the ultimate respect.
When the Raiders are dealt a full deck only then will we be able to flip the cards to reveal if this is the right staff to lead the Silver and Black into the future.
PASSING GAME IS FLYING:
Much has been made of the Raiders lack of high first round picks or big names at the skill positions this season but over the last three weeks the passing game has taken flight:
Last three games
Points per game
3rd down conversions
Sacks taken per game
Over the last three games:
Despite top receiver
KEY RAIDERS WANT TO STICK AROUND LONG TERM:
The NFL game is one of constant evaluation of your players both for now, next week, next year and beyond. When General Manager Reggie McKenzie was hired, part of his responsibility was to clean up a bad salary cap situation. He has done that well as the Raiders reportedly will have the most money in the NFL to work with under the cap this off-season.
The next step in the process for the Raiders is identifying the players on the current roster who can be building blocks for the future.
I spoke with the two players who in my estimation should be the top priorities to get a deal done with as soon as possible, left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end
“I believe I’m going to be a Raider for life,” Houston said. “I think we’re going to get that done. I want to honor Al Davis when I play this game of football because he gave me a great opportunity by drafting me in the second round. I think everything will work out in the end.”
Houston was asked to drop 20 pounds this past off-season and move from his left base defensive end position where he was more of a run-stopper, to the right defensive end position where he became the Raiders best pass rusher. Because he is not built like a typical edge rusher, Houston’s best position ultimately is back at left end where he can move inside on passing downs where he can push the pocket, while providing run support and a secondary pass rush outside.
The Raiders second round pick in 2010, who turns the NFL prime age of 27 in June, has tied his career high with five sacks this season and should set a career high in overall tackles. His 35 run stops lead all 4-3 defensive ends for the season, 57 total pressures tie him for seventh and he has played the fifth most snaps among all 4-3 defensive ends this season.
Put it all together and the Raiders have a building block on defense.
In the 2013 NFL draft, the first two positions picked and three of the first four selections were offensive tackles. Left tackle is a premium position in the league. If you don’t have one, the risk for injuring your quarterback goes up. Check out how teams are doing with back up signal callers this season.
Twenty-six-year-old Jared Veldheer tore his triceps in camp this year but showed his toughness and work ethic by returning Week 13 vs the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
Veldheer told me this week on my radio show that while nothing is eminent, the Raiders and his representatives are talking about a new deal and he wants to stay around.
“The sides are still in talks, I definitely want to be a Raider for life,” Veldheer said. “I love being a Raider, love wearing that shield and being part of what it means being a Raider and playing for the black and silver on Sundays.”
Raiders’ offensive line coach Tony Sporano is one of the most respected line coaches in the NFL. If you combine him with Veldheer, 2013 second round pick tackle Menelik Watson and 24-year-old third year center
FOUR DOWNS: THE KEYS TO VICTORY FOR A WIN OVER THE CHARGERS:
1. Slow down Rivers. When the Chargers win, quarterback Phillip Rivers completes 74.5% of his passes with 16 touchdowns, one interception and a 123.2 quarterback rating. When the Chargers lose Rivers completes 66% of his passes with 12 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 91.5 rating. In the Raiders 27-17 Week 5 win, Oakland intercepted Rivers three times.
2. Get back to the run. I realize I wrote about how good the Raiders passing game has been the last few weeks, but the Raiders need to punish the Chargers on the ground. Since his Week 9 breakout performance,
3. Points off turnovers. The Raiders gave the Chiefs four touchdowns off turnovers last week. For the season the Raiders are -43 in points off turnovers. Last time the two teams met the Chargers turned the ball over five times, the Raiders none.
4. 3rd down: On the money down, the Chargers lead the NFL with a 48.3% conversion rate and over their last three games the number jumps to 55%. The Raiders defense gives up first downs 41.1% of the time which is 25th. Over the last three weeks, the Raiders convert third downs 45.2% of the time, good for sixth in the NFL over that span. The Raiders must get into makeable third downs on offense and watch running back Danny Woodhead with passes out of the backfield to convert third downs on defense.
ONE FOR THE ROAD: