AFC West: Oakland Raiders

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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Injured Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett had a truth-hurts message to Oakland Raiders fans when he scribbled "0-6, worst team in football" on a sideline board at the end of another defeat suffered by the home team.

While Dockett doesn't get sportsmanship points, his crude memo is difficult to combat. The Raiders very much look like the NFL's worst club.

The Raiders made numerous critical miscues in the second half of a game that they took themselves out of, a 24-13 home defeat to Arizona on Sunday. Oakland is the NFL's last winless team -- thanks to Jacksonville's victory over Cleveland -- and has lost 12 straight dating back to last November.

Frankly, victory doesn't appear to be lurking around any corner. After playing at Cleveland next Sunday, the Raiders face Seattle, Denver, San Diego and Kansas City, all playoff teams from 2013.

"This is as bad as you're going to get through the first part of the season," veteran Raiders safety Charles Woodson said. "We haven't won a game. How much worse can it get than that, than not winning a game?"

Sunday's game was the second under interim coach Tony Sparano since the firing of coach Dennis Allen. Yes, the Raiders have given effort and they have shown some spark under Sparano, but the bottom line remains the same --- when it's time to make a play, the Raiders have come up short.

Allen called it failing "at the moment of truth." Sparano's flash phrase is "Oakland beating Oakland." Both doses of coach-speak were applicable Sunday.

Though the Raiders pulled within 14-13 in the third quarter, they never truly looked like they were in position to win. The reason? They kept making mistakes. There was a cascade of blunders in the second half on both sides of the ball.

The third quarter ended with three straight incompletions by rookie quarterback Derek Carr after Oakland had a first down at the 50-yard line and trailing 21-13.

On Arizona's first possession of the fourth quarter, which started at its own 13, the Raiders let them off the hook with 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on linebacker Sio Moore on third down, and then a third-and-9 conversion a few plays later.

On Oakland's next possession, it could only muster five offensive plays. The Cardinals then iced the game on a field goal drive that lasted 6:53 and gave them a 24-13 lead. The Cardinals converted on third-and-8 twice in that series.

Arizona was 9-for-15 on third-down conversions. Oakland came into the game allowing a league-high 51.4 conversion percentage on third down. It was the worst in the NFL. Oakland has a lot of problems, but getting off the field on defense is the biggest. The Raiders held the ball for just 23:03.

"We just have to find a way to win, find a way defensively to get off the field, find a way offensively to keep moving the ball on third down," Oakland cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "When it's crunch time we have to be the ones that make that play and not the other team."
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Oakland Raiders' 24-13 loss to Arizona:

Young injury may be bad: Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano said the result of the knee injury suffered by safety Usama Young “probably won’t be great.” He was carted to the locker room in the third quarter. Brandian Ross took over and will start if Young is out for an extended period. Young was starting because of a season-ending Week 3 foot injury suffered by Tyvon Branch.

Sparano likes effort, but ...: Sparano said competition and effort weren’t the problem Sunday. He likes the way his team has shown itself in the two games since he took over for the fired Dennis Allen. However, Sparano knows it isn’t enough. He said the Raiders have to find a way to win.

Third-down defense is killer: Sparano and the players know they have to find a way to get better on third down. Arizona converted on third down 9 out of 15 times. Oakland came into the game allowing opponents to convert on third down 51.4 percent of the time.

Carr stays positive: Oakland rookie quarterback Derek Carr was his usual self after the game. “Good things are coming,” the unwavering Carr said.

Rapid Reaction: Oakland Raiders

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
7:25
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- A few thoughts on the Oakland Raiders' 24-13 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals:

What it means: The Raiders' losing ways continue. They are now 0-6 and the only winless team in the NFL. Oakland has lost 12 straight games dating back to November. The Raiders were spunky enough, but they made so many mistakes on both sides of the ball that they were simply incapable of winning. We are two games into the Tony Sparano interim era after Dennis Allen was fired, and the Raiders still look like a team that cannot come up with a winning performance.

Stock watch: Third-down defense is still pointing way down. The Raiders entered the game allowing a first down on 51.4 percent of the time, the worst in the NFL. It was a point of emphasis all week in practice. But the Raiders were awful again Sunday on third down, and the issue remains colossal. They gave up several big plays, including a 33-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Arizona converted a third down nine of 15 times Sunday.

Defense takes another hit: Starting safety Usama Young left the game in the third quarter on a cart. He was ruled out of the game with a knee injury, which could be a bad sign for his availability moving forward. Young replaced Tyvon Branch, who was lost for the season with a broken foot in Week 3. Brandian Ross, who was cut and re-signed in September, could now be the starter.

Game ball: Safety Charles Woodson. He turned 38 this month, yet the future Hall of Famer is still playing at a high level. He made a touchdown-saving tackle from the grass and had an interception that set up a field goal. The Oakland defense is struggling, but it's not the fault of its venerable leader.

What's next: The Raiders head to Cleveland for their first road game in a month in Week 8. The Browns handed Jacksonville its first win of the season Sunday. Could a Raiders win be on the horizon? They have a lot to clean up if that is to happen.
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Last week, the Oakland Raiders showed some rare life against the San Diego Chargers, and the Arizona Cardinals continued to be the surprise leader of the NFC West.

Sunday, the 0-5 Raiders will try to do what they couldn’t last week against San Diego -- pull off a home upset against a top team -- while 4-1 Arizona and former Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer will try to stay in first place.

Oakland Raiders reporter Bill Williamson and Arizona Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss discuss the matchup:

Williamson: Josh, are the Cardinals for real?

Weinfuss: It’s only been six games, but I think it’s too early to tell and that’s because of the injuries. Sure, they’ve beaten San Diego, the New York Giants and San Francisco, but the Chargers were in the opener and that’s always a crapshoot. The Giants were still finding their footing in their new offense. And the 49ers were reeling after a loss. Arizona needs to start the tough stretch of its schedule and win before I can say for certain this team is for real. It’s tough to see how good this team is because of all the injuries. Palmer will be the key component to making Arizona a legitimate playoff contender this season and he still is a game or two away from finding his groove. Plus, the defense is still figuring itself out after losing linebacker Matt Shaughnessy for eight weeks and defensive end Calais Campbell for a few. Once Palmer plays a few games, it’ll be easier to decide if Arizona will be a real threat this season.

Bill, do you think the Raiders will be competitive under interim coach Tony Sparano?

Williamson: They certainly looked to be last week. They looked like a different team, on offense at least. They rolled up 396 yards and Carr threw for four touchdowns. We should learn a lot about this team in this game. If the Raiders continue to play improved and with the same fire, it could be interesting to watch this team develop the rest of the season. I will say this: Sparano is very much invested. He is all-in and is trying to take advantage of this opportunity.

Josh, how good has Palmer been as a Cardinal?

Weinfuss: Palmer has been very good, almost a savior of sorts because of the carousel of quarterbacks that had stops in Arizona. He brought a name, talent and an extensive résumé, but none of that mattered on the field. What really helped Palmer, in my opinion, was being coached by Bruce Arians. Arians’ scheme is perfect for Palmer because Palmer is a tall, strong-armed slinger -- exactly what Arians loves. Now, Palmer hasn’t been perfect, but he’s better this season than he was last year, which is a product of him being more comfortable with the offense. Last season, Palmer was a bit of a loose cannon, throwing 22 interceptions on plays that, when you look back at them, had you scratching your head. This year, though, he’s making smart decisions and keeping his passes -– sometimes with the grace of luck -- out of the other teams’ hands.

Bill, do the Raiders miss Palmer?

Williamson: They did last year. Matt Flynn, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin were not the answer. Neither was Matt Schaub this year. But the best thing for Oakland was to take Derek Carr and give him the ball. If Oakland has a chance to be competitive in the near future, it will be because of Carr's progress. Oakland might have won more games up until this point in the past 21 games with Palmer, but he was just a short-term answer. Carr can be the future.

How stout is the Cardinals’ run defense?

Weinfuss: It’s hard to argue with the stats. The Cardinals are ranked third in the NFL in stopping the run, picking up where they left off last year when they finished No. 1 against the run. It’s impressive and surprising considering how many key elements Arizona lost on the defensive front seven. From last year’s season finale, only one player in the front seven is healthy (nose tackle Dan Williams). Whomever Arizona signs has been able to step into a new role quickly, which is most likely a design of the scheme.

Bill, do you think the Raiders have figured out their run-game troubles?

Williamson: It’s sort of like the Sparano question -- we will see. But I will say this: Both Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew ran with authority and a purpose neither had shown this season against San Diego. Sparano loves the run and will stay true to it. Sunday, McFadden and Jones-Drew will get plenty of chances to repeat their performances and show that the Raiders’ average of 62 yards per game in the first quarter of the season (which was last in the NFL) was a fluke.

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ALAMEDA, Calif. – Derek Carr is no longer on the injury report. The Oakland Raiders rookie quarterback practiced fully Thursday.

It was the first time he wasn’t limited in practice since hurting his ankle and knee Sept. 28 against Miami. He departed that game in the third quarter. Despite being limited last week. Carr had his best NFL game, throwing four touchdown passes in a 31-28 loss to San Diego on Sunday.

Linebacker Sio Moore (ankle) and safety Usama Young (foot) also practiced fully Wednesday.

Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano said cornerback D.J. Hayden did not suffer any setbacks and continued to practice well Thursday. He practiced for the first time this season Wednesday. He suffered a foot injury in June.

Hayden, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2013 draft, is on the physically unable to perform list. He will need to shake the rust. I’d think his best bet of being activated is for the Oct. 26 game at Cleveland.

Even though defensive end Justin Tuck missed the past two days of practice with a knee injury he suffered Sunday, Sparano wouldn’t rule out Tuck against the Cardinals.

Sunday’s home game is sold out and will be shown on television locally. It is the third sellout in three games in Oakland this season. The game against Miami in London was a home game as well.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- There wasn’t any difference in the Oakland Raiders' injury status at practice Thursday during the window that is is open to the media. Thus, Friday will be a pivotal day for defensive end Justin Tuck and fullback Marcel Reece.

Reece
Tuck
They both sat out their second straight day of practice. Tuck has a knee injury he suffered against San Diego. He did finish the game. Reece has a lingering quad injury that he played through last week. Tuck and Reece will likely have to practice in order to play Sunday. C.J. Wilson would likely start for Tuck, while Jamize Olawale would takes Reece’s repetitions.

Receiver Vincent Brown (hamstring) and right tackle Khalif Barnes (quad) also missed Thursday's practice. Both players missed the San Diego game. Barring an unexpected return of Barnes, Menelik Watson will likely start at right tackle Sunday against Arizona. He played well against San Diego in his first start of the season.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Barring an unexpected setback, cornerback D.J. Hayden should make his practice debut Wednesday.

Hayden
Hayden has been on the physically unable to perform list all season after breaking his foot in June. Hayden can be activated to the 53-man roster any time in the next three weeks. If he is not, the team will have to shelve him for the season.

The No. 12 pick of the 2013 draft should be activated fairly soon. He has been doing extensive side work in recent days and has looked good. Still, he must shake off the rust and get back in playing shape.

The biggest issue for Hayden has been staying on the field long enough to contribute in the NFL. He played eight games last season after finishing the year on the injured reserve with a groin injury.

He will likely be the team’s nickel cornerback. If he can stay healthy, Hayden can start working on shedding the bust whispers that are hovering over him due to injury issues.

Raiders' goal is to stay in Oakland

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15
10:00
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Raiders reporter Bill Williamson says amid chatter the team could move to LA or San Antonio, Mark Davis’ goal is to stay in Oakland.
Two of the three rookie quarterbacks to start in Week 6 had fine days in defeats while the other had a horrendous day in a loss.

Carr
While he did throw an interception near the goal line to end an scoring threat in the final moments, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had his best game of the season. Carr had a 64.0 Total WBR, which ranked No. 17 in the league.

Jacksonville rookie Blake Bortles, taken No. 3 overall, was 16th with 66.2 Total QBR. On the flip side, Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater was last in the NFL in Week 5 at with a 2.5 Total QBR.

Carr, taken No. 36 overall, threw four touchdown passes in the game. His late interception and his poor performance when blitzed kept his Total QBR (based on a quarterback’s total contribution to his team) from the elite status. A 50 score is considered average.

For the season, Carr’s Total QBR is a respectable 52.3, which is 24th in the NFL.

The Film Don’t Lie: Raiders

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
11:00
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A weekly look at what the Oakland Raiders must fix:

The Raiders are having big problems on defense as they prepare to host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

The Raiders can’t stop the pass or the run. But their biggest issue to immediately fix is on third down. The Raiders just can't get off the field. So, they are not giving themselves a chance to improve either against the run or the pass.

Oakland (0-5) entered Sunday’s loss to San Diego allowing a whopping 50 percent conversion rate on third down. It got worse against the efficient Chargers. San Diego went 8-for-14 on third-down conversions. On one drive, the Chargers converted on third down four times, including on the drive-finishing touchdown.

It won’t get easier against the Cardinals. They converted on third down 7 of 17 times in a win over Washington. The Cardinals are converting on third down a solid 40 percent of the time.

How does a defense go about getting better on third down? It’s kind of like stopping the run. It comes down to desire and pride. But it also comes down to endurance. When a defense stays on the field, problems snowball. The Chargers had the ball more than 38 minutes. The Raiders were worn down.

Unless they decide to get better on third down, that type of issue could persist against Arizona.
David Carr was famous for consistently being sacked while quarterbacking the Houston Texans.

Carr
Carr, the No. 1 overall pick of the expansion Texans in 2002, was always under constant pressure while under center. His offensive line didn't do him any favors. David's younger brother Derek Carr isn't experiencing any of those issues in his rookie season with the Oakland Raiders.

Through five games with Oakland, Carr has been sacked just three times. He consistently is getting good protection. Carr was not sacked in Sunday's 31-28 loss to San Diego in which he threw four touchdown passes.

Carr noted the difference between his brother's experience and his while carefully pointing out that he wasn't blasting the 2002 Texans, only praising his own teammates.

"Oh my goodness, I can't enough good things about them," Carr said. "I watched a certain rookie quarterback with the same last name about 12 years ago, and I'm glad that it's a little different now, because those guys play their tail off. These guys, they do a great job, they really do. They really care about keeping me clean and I appreciate that, I really do appreciate it."
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OAKLAND -- The Oakland Raiders could have simply played the odds and tried to go to overtime.

Yet, this is Derek Carr's team. Interim coach Tony Sparano told the rookie quarterback that on his first day on the job and made the proclamation publicly last week. The Raiders showed they believed in Carr late Sunday. They gave him the chance to go win the game.

Carr
Why not?

This is a franchise that hasn't won since last November and the kid was hot. Despite being limited in practice all week by knee and ankle injuries, Carr threw four touchdown passes against a stout San Diego defense. The desperate Raiders gave him a chance for a fifth touchdown pass.

The pass didn't work, but the move said a lot about what the Raiders think of the young quarterback.

With Oakland trailing by three with a first down on the Chargers' 45-yard line, Carr threw a deep pass intended for Brice Butler. Chargers rookie cornerback Jason Verrett made a great read and intercepted it at the 5-yard line, securing a 31-28 win with 1:13 to go.

Yes, the Raiders could have played conservatively and gotten into field-goal range. But Sunday was about Sparano and offensive coordinator Greg Olson taking the leash off Carr, the second-round pick from Fresno State.

Carr came into the game averaging 5.7 yards per throw and Oakland's average yards-per-play was 4.74. In the first quarter of his rookie season, Carr mostly threw short, high-percentage passes. That changed in a hurry Sunday. On Oakland's first possession, Carr hit Andre Holmes on a bomb that went 73 yards for a touchdown. It was the first touchdown San Diego allowed on the first possession of a game this season.

When he replaced fired coach Dennis Allen, Sparano told Carr he was not a rookie anymore. He told him he'd have to lead. The Raiders gave him some leeway with the responsibility. For the most part, Carr delivered.

Yes, the way the game ended was a stinger for Oakland. But, the Raiders trusted Carr to go win the game in the final minute and the move could pay dividends.

Surely, the Raiders aren't going to be upset with Carr's demeanor after the loss. He had the necessary NFL-quarterback swagger to say, "I'd do it 100 times," Carr said.

"Just trying to find a one-on-one," he explained. "Going into it, they played quarters right there to that side, if I'm not mistaken. Again, I'll have to see the film, but it seemed like it. Brice had a double-move, so we knew he would have a one-on-one and so, I pumped it, the safety was not in the play, I wasn't worried about the safety so I was just giving Brice a chance there."

Added Sparano: "The kid is a competitive kid. He's just getting better and better and better. ...You can see it today with what he did."

Carr finished 18-for-34 for 282 yards and four TDs. Two of the touchdown passes were for 40-plus yards. The Raiders showed they can have success with Carr when giving him a chance to air it out.

Expect Oakland to lean on Carr more and more as the season progresses. That's what a team does when a quarterback shows he is up to the challenge as Carr did Sunday -- even in a close defeat.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Raiders’ 31-28 defeat to San Diego:

Carr
No moral victories: Tony Sparano said he was happy with the way his team competed in his first game as the Oakland Raiders’ interim coach. But he said the talk all week was to win, not just compete. Sparano said the Raiders have to find a way to win a close game. He said that’s when this team will start to turn the corner.

Frustrated players: Sparano’s team seemed to take the same approach. This team has lost 11 straight games dating back to November and the Raiders weren’t celebrating a close call. They want to win badly.

Carr stands by last throw: Oakland rookie quarterback Derek Carr had a terrific day, tossing four touchdown passes. But the game ended with an interception inside the 10-yard line on a long pass with the Raiders close to field-goal range. Carr said he trusted the play and his throw and he would do it 100 times over if given the chance.

Rapid Reaction: Oakland Raiders

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
7:16
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- A few thoughts on the Oakland Raiders' 31-28 loss to the San Diego Chargers:

What it means: The Raiders are 0-5 and have lost an NFL-high 11 straight games. That is the bottom line. But Oakland was competitive -- San Diego took the lead in the final two minutes -- and the Raiders showed renewed spirit under interim coach Tony Sparano in the first game after the firing of coach Dennis Allen.

Stock watch: Sparano is pointing up. The only thing the Raiders couldn’t have happen Sunday was being blown out. Had that happened, Sparano could have lost the locker room. But after a week of big change by Sparano, he showed his new players that they can compete under him. That could loom large for the rest of the season.

Raiders air it out: The biggest development of this game was that the offense came alive. The Raiders' offense was putrid for the entire first quarter of the season. It scored 51 points in the first four games, a league low. Sunday, Derek Carr threw four touchdown passes and threw downfield with success. The Raiders were averaging 5.7 yards per pass. Also, the run game shined for the first time. Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew both ran hard and the Raiders finished with 114 yards on the ground. This could be a recipe for success.

Game ball: Got to give it to Carr. Yes, he couldn’t get it done in the end, but the kid is a gamer and he is going to be really good. We may look back and say that this was the game where the lights came on for the rookie.

What’s next: The Raiders have a tough task when Arizona visits in Week 7. The Cardinals are led by former Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer.
Tony Sparano is a run-first coach, and in his first game as the interim head coach of the Oakland Raiders, he’d like to get the ground game finally going for the 0-4 team.

Jones-Drew
The running game was supposed to be the strength of this team. Yet the Raiders are averaging 62 yards a game on the ground, which is last in the NFL. With starter Maurice Jones-Drew fully recovered from a Week 1 hand injury, Sparano hopes Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden can find a rhythm.

“I’d like Maurice to take a little bit greater role, maybe get some snaps off of Darren,” Sparano said. “If we could, keep them both fresh that way, but we also have got to be running the football and doing some things that way too.”

Sparano is famous for having success with the Wildcat formation as the head coach in Miami from 2008-2011. While the fad is essentially over, the Raiders have used it for three plays this season and Sparano hinted we will see it again.

“We’ve been efficient every time we’ve lined up in it. It’s been good to us, but we’ve only run three snaps, and for different reasons, Maurice maybe not being out there at times,” Sparano said. “We could see anything right now.”

In other Raiders notes:
  • CBS analyst Rich Gannon watched practice Friday in preparation of calling the game Sunday. He is broadcasting the game Sunday. Gannon, who won the NFL MVP award in 2002 with the Raiders, ripped the team last week on his radio show. Oakland fullback Marcel Reece responded by saying he wanted Gannon to watch the team practice.
  • Linebacker Jamar Chaney’s contract with the Raiders is a prorated one-year deal. He signed with Oakland on Tuesday.
  • Sparano again declined to see whether Matt Schaub or Matt McGloin will back up Derek Carr. McGloin was the backup the past two games while Schaub was dealing with a family issue.

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