Oakland Raiders coach Tony Sparano would not commit to whether cornerback D.J. Hayden will be activated off the physically unable to perform list by Saturday, which would enable him to play Sunday at the Cleveland Browns.

However, Sparano did say Friday that Hayden is "good to go," and the Raiders are expected to make two roster moves by Saturday. Defensive end LaMarr Woodley (biceps) and safety Usama Young (knee) are expected to be put on injured reserve list so the Raiders can make two additions.

The Raiders will likely make at least one practice-squad promotion. If healthy, it makes sense that Hayden is part of the transactions.

The Raiders have 12 days to either activate Hayden or put him on injured reserve. The activation of Hayden, who broke his foot in June and returned to practice nine days ago, appears inevitable.

Meanwhile, defensive end Justin Tuck didn't practice because of a knee injury Friday and is questionable to play Sunday. He didn't play in Week 7, but he practiced the past two days. Sparano said tight end Davis Auberry (foot), receiver Vincent Brown (hamstring) and cornerback Keith McGill (groin) will not play against the Browns. None of those decisions are surprises.

Sparano wouldn't say whether Menelik Watson or Khalif Barnes starts at right tackle. Barnes is back practicing after missing two games with a quad injury. Still, Watson, a second-round draft pick last year, has played well in Barnes' absence. It would be a surprise if Watson didn't start.

Also, as part of changes under Sparano, the Raiders will not hold a walk-through practice Saturday. All of the team's Saturday work will be in meetings.

The team flew to Cleveland on Friday

Fantasy: Darren McFadden

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24


Christopher Harris analyzes Darren McFadden for Week 8.
ALAMEDA, Calif. – It certainly seems like Maurice Jones-Drew is out of the Oakland Raiders’ plan at running back.

Jones-Drew, the Week 1 starter, who missed two games with a hand injury, hasn’t gotten much work. He had three carries for 6 yards last week against Arizona, and he has clearly fallen way behind Darren McFadden in the pecking order. He has 48 yards on 18 carries this season.

Still, Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano, a run-game specialist, says he hopes to get Jones-Drew more involved.

“We need to get Maurice more snaps,” Sparano said. “I think the plan is to try to get him involved a little bit more if we can do that now. One of the things we have to do is in order to get people more snaps, we have to play more snaps. In the ballgame the other day, really the ball was snapped 49 times and one of them was a kneel-down at the end of the half. So the ball was snapped 49 times, you’re not getting an awful lot of plays out there and that hurts you a little bit. But we need to get him involved more and try to do that, and that takes a little bit off of Darren in some of those situations. It keeps both of those guys fresher. We need to be able to do that.”

The team has not gotten Latavius Murray involved, even though it has hoped to. He has 7 yards on four carries this season. Overall, Oakland, which has had one good ground game this season, hopes to get the running game established Sunday at Cleveland. The Browns have the worst run defense in the NFL.

“You certainly would hope so,” Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson said when asked if Oakland looks at this game as a chance to get productive in the run game. “Obviously, you look at those things every time you go in a game as you study your opponents and are looking for an edge or an advantage. That’s one that we look at.”
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- There will be a sense of urgency in this game for Oakland. The Raiders are feeling the pressure of being 0-6. They hate it and know they will be referred to as the NFL’s only winless team until they change it.

The hovering stench of possibly going 0-16 will get worse with each passing loss. Oakland has a tough remaining schedule. After facing the Browns, the Raiders play Seattle, Denver, San Diego and Kansas City. This thing could spiral out of control. Defensive lineman Antonio Smith said the Raiders must win or they will be flirting with “dangerous territory."

With the Browns losing at previously winless Jacksonville this past Sunday, the Raiders know this is their chance. But the truth is, the Raiders have to play better. This is both an offense and a defense that has played well in very short bursts. The Raiders' offense will have to press Cleveland. Can it, though?

Oakland has been in the red zone for just 23 plays and has 23 three-and-outs this season, which is worst in the NFL. The Raiders must be better on offense if they want to have a chance to win this game. I just don’t see Oakland finishing the job again this week in a game it should, at least, compete in.

My Prediction: Browns 24, Raiders 17

Field Yates recommends a start and a sit for Week 8.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Is it possible for a 38-year-old NFL player to actually get better?

"With Charles [Woodson], it is," Oakland Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck said. "He's getting better. There's not too many players that I can think of who get better at 38, but Charles has stayed young."

Even the greatest NFL stars often begin to deteriorate around 35. However, Woodson, who turned 38 earlier this month, is still playing at a high level. One of Oakland's few bright lights in a 0-6 start, Woodson has been making plays all season, including a touchdown-saving tackle and an interception last week against the Arizona Cardinals.

"I really think he's getting better in the past few years," Tuck said. "It's something else. He is so physically gifted and then he uses his brain to figure things out so well, too. It's just a special combination."

Woodson returned to Oakland -- which drafted him in 1998 -- in 2013 after seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers. The Raiders were hoping they were bringing back a former star who could be an inspirational leader at the end of his career. Woodson has been so much more.

He is getting better at the safety position, which he converted to from cornerback in 2012. Tuck said Woodson never stops working at his craft. They sit near each other on flights and Tuck said Woodson is always studying the game.

"He's gotten better at the safety position," Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. "He's gotten better with his breaks, his angles, what we call 'eyes before feet,' because the further you are away from the ball, you find the angle with your eyes before your feet take you there. He's gotten better and better on that. The tipped pick last week was an example of that. He was a little deeper like he was supposed to be, maybe last year he was tighter, and now he gets the ball. He's gotten better ... It's amazing that he can get that much better."
The Cleveland Browns face their second winless team in a row Sunday at 4:15 p.m. ET at FirstEnergy Stadium. Last Sunday in Jacksonville, the Browns took the Jaguars from the winless column, as the Jags completely outplayed the Browns.

Now the Oakland Raiders come to Cleveland. Oakland rookie Derek Carr is the starting quarterback and the long-term answer, while Brian Hoyer is trying to right his ship so he can keep staving off the more-celebrated rookie, Johnny Manziel.

The Browns won’t want to lose two in a row to winless teams. The Raiders will want to win a stinking game. Browns reporter Pat McManamon and Raiders reporter Bill Williamson take a look at Sunday’s game.

McManamon: Everyone asks me about Manziel, so I'll ask you about your rookie quarterback. What's your assessment of Carr, and can he be the long-term answer Oakland has long sought?

Williamson: I think, yes, Carr can be the long-term answer. I think the Raiders think so as well. He may not ever become elite, but he could be a guy who goes to more than a few Pro Bowls and who gives his team a chance to win for the long haul. The Raiders aren’t 0-6 because of Carr. He shows great poise and, when the Raiders get more talent around him and when he gets more experience, he could be dangerous. Finally, the Raiders look like they have a quarterback they can build around.

Are the Browns worried about Hoyer’s poor game against Jacksonville? Do you think it’s a sign of things to come?

McManamon: It could be, but not because of that one game but because of the past three. Hoyer started very well, with more than 60 percent on completions in three games (two close losses and one win). Since, he has been below 60 in one game, below 50 in the next and his completion percentage for the season is just below 56, that’s not trending well. Whether this is one of those mini-slumps that affect a guy during a season or a sign that defenses have figured out how to defend him will play out over the next two or three weeks. The Browns say they are not worried about Hoyer, but the concern will grow if he continues on the same path against Oakland and Tampa Bay.

The Browns and Raiders have been neck-and-neck in the past decade for clumsiness and ineptitude. Is there a reason to believe the Raiders are finally getting it right, or will the fire drill continue?

Williamson: Other than the hope for the quarterback, no, there isn’t any reason to think this team is turning the corner anytime soon. They are 0-6 and have holes everywhere. Add in the fact that they are the NFL’s oldest team and there are big long-term problems, the Raiders will start over again in the offseason. With luck, maybe they will be three years away. But they were supposed to be three years away when Reggie McKenzie took over a general manager in 2012. Little if any overall progress has been made.

Do you think the Browns have figured it out or do you think the playoffs are still a long way off?

McManamon: They’re figuring it out, but until they actually do it the playoffs are a distant dream. Mike Pettine’s moves make sense. The Browns run the ball well, and they have some talented people to build around. But the nagging quarterback question popped its head out of the gopher hole last week, and the defense is giving up 155.5 yards per game rushing. GM Ray Farmer does not try to prove he’s the smartest guy in the room; he merely makes logical decisions. On that hope and on the hope that Jimmy Haslam will probably give Pettine time, there is hope.

Williamson: What is the vibe around the Browns after that loss? They have to be a little tight about the prospect of losing back-to-back games to winless teams.

McManamon: The mood was pretty somber early in the week. A team desperate to prove it has grown past these gaffes laid a gigantic egg in Jacksonville. If the Browns truly had turned the corner to respectability, they’d have handled business. That they didn’t, raises concerns. But teams have lulls in seasons. The Browns' job now is to prove that game was just “one of those days” and show they can rebound. They do have two very real chances to get that done the next two weeks. If the Browns do take care of things against the Raiders and Bucs, they’d be 5-3 at the midway point and very happy about what they’d done to that point.

Jacksonville won their first game last week, naturally over the Browns. Do the Raiders believe they can match the magic in a road game?

Williamson: There is hope. Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano mentioned the Jacksonville win Monday. There is a lot of hope in the locker room. I will say this: The Raiders are professional. They work hard and they try. The team has not quit. They will go to Cleveland with the intention of winning. But can the Raiders finish? They have competed in the two games since Sparano took over for the fired Dennis Allen. But they haven’t played well enough to win. If the Browns stumble around the field, though, Oakland could perhaps take advantage.

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Now that LaMarr Woodley is out for the long term and will likely go on the injured reserve with a torn biceps injury, the Oakland Raiders are looking to young players to fill his role.

C.J. Wilson will plug into the starting role and Benson Mayowa will continue to get more snaps.

Like Woodley, Wilson and Mayowa are in their first season with the Raiders. Woodley, of course, was a big-ticket signing. He signed a two-year, $12 million deal with $4.35 million in guaranteed money. Yet, Woodley, who was cut by Pittsburgh Steelers, failed to make an impact with the Raiders. He had five tackles this season.

Wilson, a bargain free-agent pickup from Green Bay, has been good in a rotational role and has a team-high two sacks.

“I’ve come in here and tried to help and get better when I can,” Wilson said. “With [Woodley] out, we need to do a lot of things and I’m just looking to get that chance.”

Mayowa, a waiver claim from Seattle, is getting his first defensive snaps of his career. He played the most snaps of the season last week because of Woodley’s injury and the coaches liked what they saw.

“He went in there and I didn’t think the game was too big for him at all,” Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano said. “He did some good things against the run, which is, when you think about him, he’s a little bit lighter player. More of a pass rush type player, but he went in and competed really hard in the run game as well. I thought he did some really good things.”
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders have gotten a lot of contributions from their rookie class. One player who is starting to pay dividends is fourth-round pick Justin Ellis.

The defensive tackle's playing time has increased and he is making a contribution. Ellis is expected to get more playing time as the season goes on. The 6-foot-2, 334-pound Louisiana Tech product has a chance to be a stalwart in the middle.

"He's done a good job of not getting moved off the football consistently," Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano said. "He's affected the passer on several situations by pushing the pocket, kind of being able to do that with some power and some speed-to-power inside like that. He's been, really, an active player and his snap count has been going up a little bit. He's earned that."

In other Raiders' notes:

Sparano said second-year right tackle Menelik Watson has been getting some work at left tackle in practice just to give some options if the situation arises. It's also to give Donald Penn a breather. Watson has been in the starting lineup the past two weeks with Khalif Barnes out.

Barnes is now back and Watson is expected to start at right tackle Sunday at Cleveland. Watson's work at left tackle gives Oakland flexibility now and in the future on the line.

Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said cornerback D.J. Hayden continues to make strides, but he wouldn't tip the team's hand on whether Hayden will be activated this week. I believe there is a good chance Hayden will be taken off the PUP list in time to play at Cleveland.

The Raiders got a head start on third-down defense Wednesday. In the past, they worked on it on Thursday. The Raiders have the worst ranked third-down defense in the NFL.

Sparano said Thursday's practice was better than Wednesday's when he wasn't happy with the execution.

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders signed LaMarr Woodley to be a defensive difference-maker. However, it appears the former Pittsburgh Steelers star's season will end prematurely for the winless Raiders.

Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano said Thursday that the biceps injury Woodley suffered against Arizona is "long term" and indicated that Woodley is headed for the injured reserve.

Oakland signed Woodley, 29, to a two-year, $12 million deal over the offseason after he was cut by the Steelers. Woodley has been unproductive as a Raider, with just five tackles in six games.

Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said the Raiders will miss Woodley's physical presence, but he is looking forward to seeing the younger players get an opportunity. 

"It's next man up," Wilson said. "Woodley was a big part of this team, this defense, but we have to step up."

The Raiders will use C.J. Wilson and Benson Mayowa in Woodley's place.

Meanwhile, Sparano said reserve tight end David Ausberry may miss some time with a foot injury, but the team is hopeful the injury isn't long-term.

(Read full post)


The NFL Live crew make their picks for Oakland at Cleveland.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- It appears Menelik Watson will start his third straight game at right tackle.

Khalif Barnes is back practicing after missing two games with a quad injury. Still, Watson, a second-round draft pick last year, has played well in Barnes’ absence. Watson lost his starting job late in the preseason. If he continues to play well, he will likely stay in the lineup

Meanwhile, starting cornerback Carlos Rogers returned to practice Thursday. He sat out Wednesday, as he has in the past, with a sore knee. Barring a setback he should be ready to play Sunday.

The Raiders still haven’t made any roster moves. Safety Usama Young is headed to injured reserve with a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee. Defensive end LaMarr Woodley is out at least several weeks with a torn biceps and tight end David Ausberry has a foot injury that may be serious. The Raiders are expected to put at least one player on the injured reserve list this week.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Ron Wolf took a major step toward entrance in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this week. And one of his protégés couldn’t be happier.

“I’m very excited about this news; he very much deserves it,” Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “There is no question; Ron is a Hall of Famer.”

Wolf, along with Bill Polian, was named as a finalist as a contributor, which is a new category this year. Wolf was a lifer personnel man who spent two 12-year stints with the Raiders as a right-hand man to Al Davis. Wolf is best known for his run as the general manager of the Green Bay Packers.

Wolf hired McKenzie in 1994 as a personnel assistant and the two worked several years together. Wolf was one of the people who helped advise Oakland owner Mark Davis when he hired McKenzie to become the Raiders’ general manager in 2012.

McKenzie said he talks to Wolf often, gleaning ideas and advice from his mentor.

‘The thing about him was he was so decisive,” McKenzie said. “Right, wrong or indifferent, he was strong and stood by his moves and his plan. Ron was the man ... the Hall of Fame is where he belongs.”

ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando delivers stats to help you make a pick for Oakland at Cleveland.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Brice Butler played 11 snaps Sunday and he has seven catches this season.

Yet, he has gotten the attention of the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, who face Butler and the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

"Brice Butler jumps off the tape. I know he doesn't get a ton of touches, but when he does, he's a major threat," Cleveland coach Mike Pettine said Wednesday.

It's a good thing for Pettine he has taken noticed. I wouldn't be surprised if we see more of Butler. While he hasn't played much, Butler has taken advantage of his time. In Week 6, he had a 47-yard touchdown catch. In Week 7, he had a 55-yard catch to setup Oakland's only touchdown. Oakland needs young receivers to emerge and Butler is not hurting his cause.

"I feel good about what I've done when I've played," Butler said. "I just have to keep doing that."

Butler said he isn't one to lobby for playing time. He only hopes his play speaks for itself. Butler had nine catches as a rookie last season. He said he is excited to work with Oakland rookie quarterback Derek Carr.

"I think we're going to have a bright future together," Butler said. "We have a good relationship and I enjoy catching passes from him."

If Butler can keep up his production, Oakland fans will enjoy it as well.