Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

February 29, 2008
A few words on TK

I spoke with someone close to Tommy Kelly that said he was “humbled” by his new contract, not believing he was worth it.

That Kelly received the richest deal for a defensive tackle in league history (seven years, $50.5 million, $18.125 guaranteed) has GMs around the league baffled. And it has agents for other defensive tackles grinning at how much money their clients could earn.

But Kelly, I’m told, is determined not to be one of those players that gets paid and becomes lazy.

He doesn’t want that to be his legacy. If he passes that mindset on to Terdell Sands, the Raiders will be fine in the middle next season.

--Jason Jones

February 29, 2008
Friday's free agency review

Addition: Safety Gibril Wilson
Comment: Might we see solid tackling from a Raider safety consistently for the first time since Rod Woodson?

This signing was more important than landing a receiver. The Raiders still need help at receiver, but Wilson should solidify the secondary by being the hitter the team hoped it found in Donovin Darius and B.J. Ward last summer.

Considering he signed for six years, $39 million with $16 million guaranteed, Wilson won’t be the latest safety unable to unseat Stuart Schweigert.

But I must ask is my man sporting a leather Member’s Only jacket? Just kidding, folks. But it does look like one.

022908wilson300.jpg

Subtraction: OT Barry Sims
Comment: Sims fought of challenges from younger, players that were high draft picks, but always seemed to end up as the starting left tackle. But his recurring false starts were problematic. Logic would dictate the Raiders would be hot in pursuit of a new left tackle. But the zone-blocking scheme doesn’t emphasize spending a lot of money on the line. The Raiders could turn to second-year pro Mario Henderson or Mark Wilson, a practice squad player activated late last season. Sims The Raiders met with Kwame Harris and the former 49er could be an option if he signs with the Raiders.

Subtraction: WR Jerry Porter
Comment: It was time for Porter to move on. He was a Raider for the best of times and the worst of times. And there was no way the Raiders would pay him the $30 million ($10 million guaranteed) that he got from Jacksonville.

Subtraction: QB Josh McCown
Comment: He wanted a chance to start and he’ll get that in Miami. That leaves Andrew Walter as JaMarcus Russell’s backup.

--Jason Jones

February 29, 2008
Farewell message

This is the statement from Barry Sims' reps that was posted on Raiders.com

“Barry Sims. has been a proud member of The Oakland Raiders for the past nine seasons, during which time he played in 136 games, starting 119, the vast majority of which were at left tackle. In this salary cap era, it is often necessary for veteran players and clubs to part ways but Barry leaves the Raiders with sincere thanks to Al Davis and fondness for all of the players and coaches with whom he had the privilege of working.”

--Jason Jones

February 29, 2008
Safety valve

The NFL Network is reporting the Raiders have signed S Gibril Wilson to a six-year deal worth $39 million, $16 million guaranteed.

That means Michael Huff will probably move to free safety.

No word on talks with OT Kwame Harris. But with other teams interested, Harris' decision could come next week.

--Jason Jones

February 29, 2008
So long, Josh

NFL.com is reporting Josh McCown has signed with the Miami Dolphins.

As much as McCown liked working with JaMarcus Russell, he wanted a chance to be a starter.

So add a third quarterback to the Raiders’ needs this offseason. The team didn’t re-sign DE Chris Clemons and could lose him, too.

He looked like the perfect complement to Derrick Burgess as a pass rusher. The Raiders could gamble on a vet (Mike Rucker, Jevon Kearse) to play opposite Burgess.

--Jason Jones

February 29, 2008
Shuffling tackles

By now all of you probably know Kwame Harris is visiting the Raiders today.

It was presumed the Raiders would look at Harris to play right tackle. But the Bay Area News Group is reporting the Raiders told Barry Sims today that he’d be released.

That means the Raiders could be looking for two new tackles to protect JaMarcus Russell if the Raiders decide Paul McQuistan isn't the answer on the right side.

Harris, the 49ers’ version of Robert Gallery since being a first-round pick in 2003 is drawing interest from other teams so a deal with the Raiders might not be completed until later this weekend.

That Sims would be released is no shock. He’s 33 and has a big salary.

*Giants safety Gibril Wilson is reportedly visiting with the Raiders today.

*Jerry Porter landed another big payday from Jacksonville. It’s reported to be a six-year deal worth $30 million, $10 million guaranteed.

The Raiders needed another receiver, even if Porter returned. Donte’ Stallworth is available. But it appears the offensive line and safety are bigger priorities.

--Jason Jones

February 29, 2008
Question time

Question: Why don't you answer questions anymore?
Jarrod, Bakersfield

Answer: I had laptop issues in Indianapolis. So I couldn’t access questions for a while. But I’m back and able to answer questions the best I can.

Question: Do you think that the signing of Tommy Kelly means that the Raiders will not draft Dorsey or Ellis in the first round?
Johnny, Santa Clarita

Answer: That’s what I assume. In the last two seasons, the Raiders have signed two defensive tackles to deals totaling $67.5 million between Kelly and Terdell Sands. That doesn’t include the $4 million in salary owed to Gerard Warren.

For that much money the Raiders should be able to pass on Ellis and Dorsey. My assumption the Raiders would take a defensive tackle was based on Kelly returning as a defensive end.

If Jake Long is available, he should be the pick. If Long is gone, the Raiders would be wise to trade down and land someone like Cal’s DeSean Jackson or Texas’ Limas Sweed to help at receiver. If Chris Long falls to No. 4, he’d be an easy pick.

Question: Hey Jason - did you receive any calls from Kiffin about your blog from the combine?

http://www.mercextra.com/blogs/buzz/2008/02/27/kiffin-denies-dancing-avoids-tap-dance-with-al/

Just curious,
Dan, San Diego

Answer: Kiffin didn’t call me. I assume that was because I never wrote he was dancing. I was hanging with the writer from Atlanta at Ike and Jonesy’s that night and he might have caught Kiffin with a drink while doing a two-step.

I didn’t see it.


Question: Can you do many of us a favor and ask Davis or anyone else in high standing at the Raiders if they realize how they're making fans feel right now? We don't know if we're losing yet another coach (another restart!), players don't want to sign with the Raiders, and it overall makes our team seem like its being run in chaos. I know we have a dictator but Super Bowls are won by teams, not a single individual.

Thanks for your time and I plan to be a faithful reader of your blog.

Sil, San Jose

Answer: I could, but there’s only one person’s opinion that matters when it comes to the Raiders, and that’s Al Davis.

He has to be persuaded to see things differently.

The Raiders will probably land one of their big free agent targets (S Gibril Wilson is my guess) but will have to overpay to do that. No one is taking less money for a chance to play for a team that changes coaches seemingly every year. The Raiders aren't the Patriots.

I believe Davis knows how fans feel because I know it pains him greatly to see his team sit at the bottom of the standings every year. He’s just going to try to fix it how he sees fit.

Question: Hey Jason, great job covering the combine. In reference to one of your comments posted (last week) what specifically don't players like about Kiffin's offense? it seems to me that at least the offensive linemen and running backs should love it. The O line was allowed to stick to a running attack (finally) this year and didn't have to hold their pass blocks forever in an outdated system like 2006. And as for the running backs, Fargas in all likelihood is a very rich man right now because of this system. Is it a QB and receiver problem? Play calling?
Steve, Totowa, N.J.

Answer: The problem players had were some felt the offense was far too conservative. When Kiffin was hired, he promised an explosive offense. But the passing game was still bad. Kiffin’s penchant for criticizing players (the receivers, specifically) in the media didn’t go over well.

But I get the sense a lot of players still like Kiffin. They jut don’t want to see JaMarcus Russell throwing to tight ends and running backs for an entire game.


Question: You and Jerry McDonald are the only guys I trust for a straight story on my Raiders. Regarding Kiffin, it would be difficult for me to go about business as usual, Ryan, others, while your head coach is in a state of flux to say the least. Does it strike you as odd?

Why is the locker room split? What is wrong with the offense?

Is Kiffin over his head? From my point I thought he brought many positives this year which will outweigh the negatives but over time. Your take?

Dave, Chicago

Answer: Yes, this is an odd situation. But coaches on the staff are calm because they know who is in charge: Davis.

The locker room is splitting again in part because players on defense believe Kiffin blamed the defense for the Raiders’ 4-12 record as the season progressed without ever putting enough blame on the offense.

Kiffin said at the end of the season he thought the Raiders needed to run the ball well and stop the run to win.

The Raiders finished sixth in rushing, 31st against the run. It’s easy to see how defenders could be taken aback.

Kiffin did some good things. But flirtations with college jobs helped bring Davis’ wrath upon Kiffin. Things appear calm at the moment. If Kiffin makes it to the draft, I think he’ll be the coach in 2008.

Assuming Kiffin returns, he'll need to improve communication with the players. That's another area some players grumbled about.

--Jason Jones

February 28, 2008
Early free agency musings

*According to Foxsports.com, WR Jerry Porter is set to join the Jacksonville Jaguars. I figured Porter would jump to a playoff team that needed a receiver. Such a move makes sense.

*Fox Sports is also reporting DE Tyler Brayton will visit Carolina. Don’t shed tears all at once, Raider fans, over possibly losing Brayton, who provided us all with this highlight in 2006.

*Chicago free agent WR Bernard Berrian is set to visit the Vikings according to several reports. If the Raiders can’t land him, they could look at Arizona free agent WR Bryant Johnson. If they simply want speed, there’s New Orleans’ Devery Henderson. The Vikings are said to be interested in Bengals DE Justin Smith, too.

*The Raiders are still interested in re-signing Josh McCown, but he might visit a few teams first.

*Would the Raiders really sign OT Kwame Harris? If so, why?!?! Many Niner fans believe he is their version of Robert Gallery. My guess is he’s a good athlete and might allow the team to play Paul McQuistan at guard.

--Jason Jones

February 28, 2008
If Al likes you, prepare to get paid

I was at the gym working out when Dan Nied of the Vallejo Times-Herald told me of the report of how much Tommy Kelly will be paid.

I didn’t believe him when he said the $50 million range.

But that’s what it took to keep Kelly off the open market.

Raiders owner Al Davis isn’t cheap. He will pay (some say overpay) for players he likes.

So Kelly is guaranteed $18.125 million after four seasons in which he showed plenty promise, but hadn’t emerged as an elite player.

Then again, Davis gave DT Terdell Sands a four-year, $17 million deal with $4 million guaranteed and he’d shown considerably less than Kelly.

The reason for that was to make sure Sands didn’t end up with the Kansas City Chiefs. Sands then had a less than memorable 2007 season.

And Davis isn’t done spending.

When the clock strikes 9:01 p.m., free agency will be underway. The Raiders are still in the market for a receiver and safety.

The Chronicle’s Nancy Gay reports the Raiders will be ready to throw some money Gibril Wilson’s way.

Wilson is the safety from the New York Giants and a San Jose native.

Davis loves his Super Bowl players and Wilson was a big part of the Giants’ successful Super Bowl season.

If Davis is willing to pay Wilson well, one has to wonder what Derrick Burgess is thinking.

After expecting a new deal last year that didn’t get done, the two-time Pro Bowler was plagued by injuries and his first single-digit sack season (eight) in three seasons with the Raiders.

But the Raiders might re-sign defensive end Chris Clemons first and force Burgess to regain his Pro Bowl form before offering him a new deal.

The team is also interested in re-signing quarterback Josh McCown to backup JaMarcus Russell.

WR Andre Davis was retained by Houston, so the Raiders will have plenty of competition for Bernard Berrian.

The team could look for second-tier wideouts, like Arizona's Bryant Johnson.

--Jason Jones

February 28, 2008
Kelly gets paid

I was taken aback last week when a Raiders coach told me Tommy Kelly was going to receive “Richard Seymour money.”

Bu he we was right. According to ESPN Kelly signed seven-year contract worth $50.5 million to stay with the Raiders.

Of that sum, $18.125 million is guaranteed.

If the Raiders play Kelly at defensive tackle, his deal would be the richest ever for a defensive tackle. But don’t be surprised to see Albert Haynseworth surpass that total this spring.

Kelly was playing better than any other Raider on the defensive line before he tore his ACL and missed half the season.

--Jason Jones

February 28, 2008
Kwame?

Kwame Harris?

My colleague Matt Barrows hears the Raiders would be interested in the 49ers underperforming tackle .

Is the Raiders O-line that bad that they’d want him? I can already see the inbox filling with questions of why anyone would want Robert Gallery and Harris would be on the same team.

The last successful Kwame that comes to mind was the rapper with the blonde streak in his flattop and the polka dot outfits.

This is all speculation until 9 p.m. PST when free agency officially starts.

For today’s paper, Matt and I took a stab at free agency with our own top-10 and targets for our respective teams.

I did consider listing Randy Moss as a Raiders target, but realized I needed to be serious.

Barack Obama and John McCain will be running mates before Moss would come back to Oakland.

--Jason Jones

February 27, 2008
Looking ahead

It’s about that time.

Friday, free agency will be upon us.

The Raiders need to be active. Receiver, safety and the offensive and defensive lines would be good places to start.

Most teams start by taking care of their own free agents. The Raiders have done that with running back Justin Fargas.

The team also put the exclusive franchise tag on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, guaranteeing him almost $10 in 2008 and his return to the Raiders.

There are three other unrestricted free agents the Raiders are interested in bringing back, though deals might not get done before Friday.

DL Tommy Kelly – He was the Raiders’ best defensive lineman before tearing his ACL in Tennessee. Kelly is a player the Raiders have groomed, but might have to overpay to keep in a market that won’t be filled with versatile defensive linemen.

DE Chris Clemons – Tallied eight sacks and was a valuable special teams player. Clemons is a good fit for the defense and the coaching staff likes his attitude.

QB Josh McCown – If he’ still willing to return as JaMarcus Russell’s tutor, there’s a good chance there’s a job for him in Oakland.

--Jason Jones

February 25, 2008
Last call from Naptown

INDIANAPOLIS – My body clock hasn’t adjusted to the time change, and I’ll pay for it tomorrow in California when I’m too tired to stay up and watch Monday Night Raw.

The Combine will continue through Tuesday, but the media portion is done, except for televised coverage.

But here are some final thoughts from the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine.

*The Lane Kiffin vs. Al Davis situation needs to be completely resolved. Multiple team executives remarked of how Kiffin has no role in free agency. Kiffin is involved interviewing and scouting players for the draft. Regardless, this is no way to run a team. More than one person I spoke with said they’d be shocked if Kiffin were Raiders coach in April or the NFL Draft.

*The Raiders were the butt of jokes by many around that wonder why the team appears so dysfunctional. Raider employees insist things are nearly as bad as reported by news outlets and that other teams have their share of drama. The difference is those teams don’t make their business public through anonymous sources. In fact, one person with knowledge of the situation said things have been pretty calm lately.

That's subject to change depending on how Davis feels.

The truth, as in most cases, is probably somewhere in the middle. Kiffin might be immature in the eyes of some, but if Davis is willing to play this game, he’s not much better.

*Darren McFadden may have his issues, but he’s no Lawrence Phillips. Don’t expect him to last long in the draft. If he falls to No. 4, the Raiders could pick up extra picks after having already traded a third and fifth round choice in this year’s draft in 2007. Seeing McFadden in Oakland is the dream of some, but between Justin Fargas and Michael Bush, the team likes its tailbacks.

*Adding more picks makes sense for the Raiders. If the team is wise it could land two to three starters on the first day of the draft. Someone like Glenn Dorsey or Sedrick Ellis would start instantly. Ellis is better suited to play nose guard more than Dorsey.

*At least one coach believes Warren Sapp can still play at a high level and feels he retired out of frustration with his situation with the Raiders.

*There are several safeties and cornerbacks that claim they love to tackle. The Raiders need to draft one of them, especially at safety.

*Folks are still puzzled by the Raiders making Nnamdi Asomugha their exclusive franchise player.

So if a team desperate to make a splash was willing to give the Raiders two first-round picks for Asomugha, the Raiders can’t even consider the deal.

--Jason Jones


February 24, 2008
The real deal

INDIANAPOLIS -- If you've been watching the Combine on the NFL Network, you should know times for the 40-yard dash really are unofficial.

Darren McFadden was shown on TV to have run a 4.27. His official time was 4.33.

Go ahead, call him slow.

Here are some of the numbers released by the NFL today.


BENCH PRESS (225 lbs.), DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

GHOLSTON, VERNON OHIO ST DE 37
LAWS, TREVOR NOTRE DAME DE 35
RUBIN, AHTYBA IOWA ST NT 35
ELLIS, SEDRICK SOUTHERN CAL NT 34
HAYDEN, NICHOLAS WISCONSIN DT 34
OKAM, FRANK TEXAS DT 32
HARVEY, DERRICK FLORIDA DE 31
JACKSON, LAWRENCE SOUTHERN CAL DE 31
MOORE, MARCHONDRAY MARYLAND DT 31

Comment: Gholston’s ability to hold up against the run has been questioned. His performance helps his already high stock.

40-YARD DASH, RUNNING BACKS

JOHNSON, CHRIS EAST CAROLINA 4.24
MCFADDEN, DARREN ARKANSAS 4.33
ALRIDGE, ANTHONY HOUSTON 4.36
CHARLES, JAMAAL TEXAS 4.38
SIMPSON, CHAD MORGAN STATE 4.42
MENDENHALL, RASHARD ILLINOIS 4.45
FORTE, MATTHEW TULANE 4.46
JONES, FELIX ARKANSAS 4.47
PARMELE, JALEN TOLEDO 4.47
STEWART, JONATHAN OREGON 4.48

Comment: McFadden, Mendenhall, Jones and Stewart showed why they all should be selected in the first round.


40-YARD DASH, QUARTERBACKS
JOHNSON, JOSHUA SAN DIEGO 4.55
O'CONNELL, KEVIN SAN DIEGO ST 4.61
MORRIS, BERNARD MARSHALL 4.68
TAFRALIS, ADAM SAN JOSE ST 4.78
FLYNN, MATTHEW LOUISIANA ST 4.79
BOOTY, JOHN DAVID SOUTHERN CAL 4.82
BROHM, BRIAN LOUISVILLE 4.83
WRIGHT, KYLE MIAMI-FL 4.85

Comment: Johnson is an intriguing prospect. He dominated lower-tier competition and is a great athlete.


40-YARD DASH, WIDE RECEIVERS
JACKSON, DESEAN CAL 4.35
CALDWELL, ANDRE FLORIDA 4.37
FRANKLIN, WILLIAM MISSOURI 4.37
JACKSON, DEXTER APPALACHIAN ST 4.37
ROYAL, WILLIAM VIRGINIA TECH 4.39
THOMAS, DEVIN MICHIGAN ST 4.4
SHIELDS, ARMAN RICHMOND 4.44
BREAZELL, BRANDON UCLA 4.47
SIMPSON, JEROME COASTAL CAROLINA 4.47
BENNETT, EARL VANDERBILT 4.48
GARCON, PIERRE MT UNION 4.48

Comment: DeSean promised he'd open eyes with his time. Could be first receiver chosen.

VERTICAL LEAP, QUARTERBACKS
JOHNSON, JOSHUA SAN DIEGO 33.5
TAFRALIS, ADAM SAN JOSE ST 32
O'CONNELL, KEVIN SAN DIEGO ST 31
BROHM, BRIAN LOUISVILLE 30
FLACCO, JOSEPH DELAWARE 28.5
BRINK, DAVID WASHINGTON ST 28
FLYNN, MATTHEW LOUISIANA ST 28
MORELLI, ANTHONY PENN ST 26.5
SMITH, PAUL TULSA 26.5

Comment: Tafralis is proving to be a good athlete.
VERTICAL LEAP, RECEIVERS
BURTON, KEENAN KENTUCKY 38.5
SHIELDS, ARMAN RICHMOND 37.5
SIMPSON, JEROME COASTAL CAROLINA 37.5
BRADFORD, MARK STANFORD 36.5
GARCON, PIERRE MT UNION 36.5
ROYAL, WILLIAM VIRGINIA TECH 36
SMITH, TAJIDDIN SYRACUSE 35
SWEED, LIMAS TEXAS 35
FRANKLIN, WILLIAM MISSOURI 34.5
MONK, MARCUS ARKANSAS 34.5

Comment: Bradford shows the hops that helped him haul in the game-winning touchdown in Stanford's upset of USC.

BENCH PRESS, RECEIVERS

ROYAL, WILLIAM VIRGINIA TECH 24
SAM, LORNE UTEP 23
GARCON, PIERRE MT UNION 20
REYNAUD, DARIUS WEST VIRGINIA 20
SMITH, MARCUS NEW MEXICO 20
WEST, JOE UTEP 20
BRADFORD, MARK STANFORD 19
SHIELDS, ARMAN RICHMOND 19
HARDY, JAMES INDIANA 18
GRICE-MULLEN, RYAN HAWAII 17

Comment: Impressive output by Hardy (6-6) as players with long arms sometimes struggle on the bench.

BENCH PRESS, RUNNING BACKS
STEWART, CARL AUBURN 30
FELTON, JEROME FURMAN 30
STEWART, JONATHAN OREGON 28
FORSETT, JUSTIN CAL 26
HILLIS, PEYTON ARKANSAS 26
MENDENHALL, RASHARD ILLINOIS 26
SCHMITT, OWEN WEST VIRGINIA 26
BOYD, CORY SOUTH CAROLINA 25
BROWN, THOMAS GEORGIA 25
GREEN-ELLIS, BENJARVUS MISSISSIPPI 24

Comment: Stewart, Felton and Schmitt are fullbacks.

40-YARD DASH, OFFENSIVE

ZUTTAH, JEREMY RUTGERS OT 4.99
THOMAS, DONALD CONNECTICUT OG 5.00
POLLAK, MIKE ARIZONA ST OC 5.02
BROWN, DUANE VIRGINIA TECH 5.08
BENEDICT, HEATH NEWBERRY OT 5.09
COUSINS, ONIEL UTEP OT 5.11
ALBERT, BRANDEN VIRGINIA OG 5.17
WILLIAMS, CHRISTOPHER VANDERBILT OT 5.17
GIACOMINI, BRENO LOUISVILLE OT 5.2
CHERILUS, GOSDER BOSTON COL OT 5.21

Comment: Congrats, Zuttah! You were the fastest of the big guys.


40-YARD DASH, TIGHT ENDS
KELLER, DUSTIN PURDUE 4.55
TAMME, JACOB KENTUCKY 4.58
STEVENS, CRAIG CAL 4.59
DAVIS, KELLEN MICHIGAN ST 4.6
COTTAM, BRAD TENNESSEE 4.63
BARNIDGE, GARY LOUISVILLE 4.65
BENNETT, MARTELLUS TEXAS A&M 4.68
FINLEY, JERMICHAEL TEXAS 4.82

Comment: Keller and Stevens were also among the strongest tight ends.

--Jason Jones

February 24, 2008
Almost done

INDIANAPOLIS – As for the 2008 NFL Combine, I’m out.

I’ll check later tonight with allthe official top times and marks.

--Jason Jones

February 24, 2008
Much ado about everything

INDIANAPOLIS – For a team that won only four games in 2007, the Oakland Raiders are a hot topic at the NFL Combine.

Lane Kiffin understandably wants no part of the media.

There is talk he won’t be the Raiders coach by time the NFL Draft rolls around in April.

Here’s what I’ve gathered from my encounters at Nicky Blaine’s, Ike and Jonsey’s (nice name) in which Kiffin declined comment and in speaking with several people this weekend.

*Kiffin is involved with scouting and personnel meetings regarding the draft.

*The rumblings I heard from players being unhappy with Kiffin’s offense are true. The locker room Kiffin worked so hard to “fix” is split again.

*The turmoil talk has a lot of rookies telling their agents NOT to let them end up in Oakland.

*There’s a feeling among some that Kiffin was immature in his dealings with the team via his flirtations with Arkansas and other college jobs and he needs to grow up. Others believe the drama around the Raiders is the kind of stuff that happens with a lot of clubs. Along those lines, Kiffin and owner Al Davis clash because they have similar personalities.

*Kiffin has not been ostracized by the entire staff. He does have friends that work in Alameda.

*As of now things are fine, but with Davis in charge, that could change any moment.

--Jason Jones

February 24, 2008
Your coach of the Oakland Raiders

INDIANAPOLIS – We have a Lane Kiffin sighting.

He was out on the town after a day of scouting and interviewing players at the NFL Combine.

Depending on who is talking, Kiffin is either the embattled head coach or simply going about his business as head coach of the Oakland Raiders with no problems at all.

Naturally Kiffin didn’t want to discuss what’s gone on the last two months. But he was in good spirits, having a good time at a couple of downtown Indianapolis night spots and spending time with his father, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

There will be more to come on Kiffin later.

Other tidbits from the day in Indy:

A rival defensive line coach for a job well done with the Raiders’ maligned offensive line congratulated raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable.

That coach was Detroit’s Joe Cullen.

Cullen, in case you forgot, was arrested the night before the Raiders played Detroit in an exhibition game Aug. 24, 2006 when he was spotted in his SUV at a fast-food drive-thru window naked at the wheel.

This led to Detroit Jon Kitna’s Halloween costume for 2007.

kitna.jpg

*There’s been a lot of talk of character issues when it comes to Arkansas running back Darren McFadden.

He made mention of possible paternity issues when addressing the media and may have two kids on the way according to a team executive.

One woudl be due in July, the other would be due in August.

Guess that beats him getting into fights at nightclubs.

It’s almost 4 a.m. local time. Check back in a few hours. And if you’re up when this is posted this instead of out having a good time or sleep, you might be at the Combine, too.

Or need to do what this beat writer needs to do: GET SOME SLEEP!!!!

If you are awake, here's my story on the 40-yard dash.

I also wrote about about Chris Long and Sedrick Ellis.

Goodnight (morning) now.

--Jason Jones

February 24, 2008
Your coach of the Oakland Raiders

INDIANAPOLIS – We have a Lane Kiffin sighting.

He was out on the town after a day of scouting and interviewing players at the NFL Combine.

Depending on who is talking, Kiffin is either the embattled head coach or simply going about his business as head coach of the Oakland Raiders with no problems at all.

Naturally Kiffin didn’t want to discuss what’s gone on the last two months. But he was in good spirits, having a good time at a couple of downtown Indianapolis night spots and spending time with his father, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

There will be more to come on Kiffin later.

Other tidbits from the day in Indy:

A rival defensive line coach for a job well done with the Raiders’ maligned offensive line congratulated raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable.

That coach was Detroit’s Joe Cullen.

Cullen, in case you forgot, was arrested the night before the Raiders played Detroit in an exhibition game Aug. 24, 2006 when he was spotted in his SUV at a fast-food drive-thru window naked at the wheel.

This led to Detroit Jon Kitna’s Halloween costume for 2007.

kitna.jpg

*There’s been a lot of talk of character issues when it comes to Arkansas running back Darren McFadden.

He made mention of possible paternity issues when addressing the media and he apparently has two kids on the way.

One is due in July, the other in August.

Guess that beats him getting into fights at nightclubs.

It’s almost 4 a.m. local time. Check back in a few hours. And if you’re up when I post this instead of out having a good time or sleep, you might be at the Combine, too.

--Jason Jones

February 23, 2008
Long and Ellis would fit

INDIANAPOLIS – No Glenn Dorsey today. So thoughts from the LSU defensive tackle and former teammate of JaMarcus Russell will have to wait until tomorrow.

But two defensive linemen that could end up Raiders did speak today.

Chris Long, better known as Howie’s kid to Raider fans, addressed the media with the composure expected from a player that had a father in the spotlight as a player and television analyst his entire life.

Sedrick Ellis also spoke. The USC defensive tackle is the most likely of the top defensive players to be available when the Raiders pick fourth in the first round.

Here’s Long on what it would mean to play for the Raiders:

“It would mean the same as playing anywhere else, honestly. It would be an opportunity to play in the NFL. Obviously there's so much more to it there. I'm not afraid of any situation or any burden with the name. I've been dealing with this stuff my whole life. But obviously it will be taken to a new level in a place like that. It's pressure, but I tend to welcome any pressure with open arms.”

Long’s first memory of Al Davis was being a child hiding in his mother’s car while visiting Howie in training camp because families were prohibited from visiting:

“It was so long ago. I was young. I just got down in the car. I was a little kid. I was young enough to hide on the floor of a car, which means I was pretty young.”

On where he’d fit in a pro defense:

“Interestingly enough, people talk about what a transition it would be for me to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. But, let's not forget that I never played in a 4-3 in college either. I was a base defensive end in a 3-4. Either position would be a fresh start for me and an opportunity to learn and an opportunity for me to progress as a player.”

That he played end in a 3-4 means Long has plenty experience playing against the run. And the Raiders need help in that area.

Ellis would also help against the run. He’s strong with broad shoulders. At 6-foot, he’s able to play with good leverage. He played for the Raiders’ coaching staff at the Senior Bowl, so they know his talents well.

Ellis on where he fits on the defensive line:

“I can do either – the nose tackle, the 1 technique, or the 2 technique. I played both in college so I’m used to doing that kind of thing. Whatever a team needs me to play I’ll play.”

More on Ellis playing nose tackle:

“I’m pretty comfortable with that. Coach Carroll has implemented a 3-4 scheme in the last two years into our defense, which was mainly a 4-3. I’ve been playing a lot of ‘zero’ technique, playing the two-gap system, and I was actually pretty good at it. I didn’t know how I would fare at it but it turned out I was very good at it so I’m very comfortable.”

On his height being an advantage:

“A lot of people like taller tackles but I think my height is just great. You get these big 6-5 linemen and I can get up underneath them and uproot them out of what they’re trying to do. Great feet work, great hands and the leverage I think works to my advantage a lot.”

On does he need to add weight to play in the middle:

“I think I can do it at 309. At 309 I’m moving fast and very few of those guys who can keep up with me. I have no problem playing double teams, as you guys have seen in the Senior Bowl and often in my career at SC when I took on double teams. I never had a problem with it before so I don’t see why it should be a problem.”

Ellis would be a great addition at a spot the Raiders have ignored in the draft too long.

--Jason Jones

February 23, 2008
Still missing

INDIANAPOLIS – There are still no Lane Kiffin sightings.

But I have an idea.

I’m going to ask Jason Dillard if I can have one of his shirts and I’ll put Kiffin’s face on it.

How long will Kiffin keep be inconspicuous?

--Jason Jones

February 23, 2008
Combine stats

Straight from nflmedia.com, here are the strongest offensive linemen and tight ends. They proved it by benching 225 pounds several times.

Cal's Craig Stevens earns a "Go Bears" from me.

TOP BENCH PRESS RESULTS -- OFFENSIVE LINE AND TIGHT ENDS
Player School Group Reps

Offensive linemen
LONG, JAKE MICHIGAN 37
ZUTTAH, JEREMY RUTGERS 35
BARTON, KIRK OHIO ST 34
GIBSON, MICHAEL CAL-BERKELEY 31
NICKS, CARL NEBRASKA 31
KEITH, BRANDON NORTHERN IOWA 31
GRECO, JOHN TOLEDO 30
MCGLYNN, MICHAEL PITTSBURGH 30
MURPHY, SHAWN UTAH ST 29
MCDUFFIE, CHRISTOPHER CLEMSON 29
POLLAK, MIKE ARIZONA ST 29

Tight ends
STEVENS, CRAIG CAL-BERKELEY 27
KELLER, DUSTIN PURDUE 26
COTTAM, BRAD TENNESSEE 24
DAVIS, FREDERICK SOUTHERN CAL 24
FINE, DEREK KANSAS 24
KAPANUI, KOLOMONA WEST TEXAS A&M 23
BARNIDGE, GARY LOUISVILLE 22
DAVIS, KELLEN MICHIGAN ST 22
BISHOP, ADAM NEVADA-RENO 21

*So Jake Long is big, strong and disciplined. Would he fit in with the Raiders? Carl Nicks, a favorite of Bee 49ers beat writer Matt Barrows, apparently has some strength.

*The Raiders don't need a tight end early in the draft, but they could be in the market for another blocker at the position.

--Jason Jones

February 23, 2008
American hustle

INDIANAPOLIS – Players aren’t the only people trying to improve their financial situation at the NFL Combine.

There are numerous autograph hounds. Some use their children to fetch the signatures.

Disgusting. Let the kids play Xbox and chase the players yourself, dad. There are several folks peddling new health supplements.

But props go out to Jason Dillard for taking his hustle to a new level.

The Sacramento resident and Oakland native is a new sports agent and represents four athletes for Signature Sports Representatives.

But CB Roy Lewis from Washington, CB Damon Jenkins from Fresno State, Mil’Von James of UNLV and RB/PR Clinton Smith from Fresno State weren’t invited to the Combine.

So Dillard is in town with T-shirts and handouts to let everyone know his clients are “missing” from Combine.


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Forgive the bad pics from my camera phone. Even with the grainy shots, you can’t knock Dillard’s ingenuity.

The T-shirts were the talk of the morning before Dillard ran out of them. He didn’t anticipate the buzz he’d create.

He is truly representing his clients at the combine.

--Jason Jones

February 23, 2008
Day 3 from the Combine

INDIANAPOLIS – It’s another morning on the grind.

Here’s the story on Rob Ryan from today’s paper. Lane Kiffin arrived some time yesterday, but he hasn’t spoken to any media as of this posting.

Chris Long should be made available today. Speaking to Howie’s kid will be a treat.

But there’s a host of defensive lineman that should interest the Bay Area football fans.

--Jason Jones

February 22, 2008
Paging Lane Kiffin

INDIANAPOLIS – Since Lane Kiffin is still MIA (several Raider employees say he’s here, but no one has seen him) there’s still more with Rob Ryan to share along with other Combine tidbits.

*Ryan said, “It pissed me off” to see he was fired on television but said he was never told he was fired.

*Ryan would like to see Derrick Burgess bulk up a little at defensive end. Burgess’ run defense was underrated in his first two seasons in Oakland, but his production against the run fell off a bit in 2007.

*He said Gerard Warren was playing at a Pro Bowl level before his hamstring injury.

*Then there’s always the complex topic that is Michael Huff. His play looked solid, but others think he’s a bust, pretty harsh after two seasons. No decision has been made to move Huff to free safety yet.

Here’s Ryan on Huff:

“That position is tough. One of the toughest spots in our defense is strong safety. You have to be able to cover the best tight ends in football. We ask him to sit in the run against the off tackle. Those two things alone are tough enough. Then we ask him to be able to play high in sub safety. I think Michael’s done a good job at a very tough job. We wish he could make more plays, sure but you cover Gates and Gonzalez on a consistent basis. And remember before we got him they were catching 11 balls by halftime. Now they’re catching three a game. So he’s done a good job, no question and I’m sure he’ll be even better.”

Other Raider-related items and other Combine tidbits:

*The team is still trying to re-sign defensive linemen Tommy Kelly and Chris Clemons. Kelly could end up with a big payday because he’ll be on the open market and will garner interest.

*JaMarcus Russell is due back in Alameda in early March to get started on his workouts for 2008.

*NFL owners will almost certainly void the final two years of the CBA. That means 2009 would be the last year with a salary cap before an uncapped 2010 season.

Expect a labor standoff before the 2010 season if a new deal isn’t reached. The players won’t play with a cap again if they go into 2010 without one.

*Atlanta cornerback DeAngelo Hall is available for the right price in a trade and that had the media room buzzing.

--Jason Jones

February 22, 2008
Small players, big impact?

INDIANAPOLIS – The players available for interviews today are receivers, running backs and quarterbacks and they’ve been entering the room at a dizzying pace.

There were a lot of receivers early in the day. A few that could end up in the Bay Area caught my attention.

Oddly enough, none were over 6-feet tall. These three are all 5-9.

Dexter Jackson
A star in Appalachian State’s upset of Michigan; he could be someone’s Wes Welker. He played in a spread offense and is good in the open field and has speed.

Lavelle Hawkins
The Cal wideout has enough buzz that he could creep into the end of the first round after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl. He could be available early in the second round for the Raiders. He said his quickness distinguishes him from his more known teammate, DeSean Jackson.

DeSean Jackson
He weighed only 169, but said he’s healthy and will workout this weekend. A good workout would mean he wouldn’t last past the middle of the first round.

Of the running backs I saw, Darren McFadden definitely looks the part of a star running back. He’s 6-2, which is tall for a tailback, but Adrian Peterson is tall, too.

I had no idea Michigan’s Mike Hart was so small. It’s easy to see why teams might be concerned with his durability.

The NFL is kicking us media folks out the room shortly so I’ll check back with more tidbits on the day later.

--Jason Jones

February 22, 2008
Working out kinks

INDIANAPOLIS – I happened upon an interesting sight walking through the mall to grab some food about an hour ago.

Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan face down with an elbow in his back.

He wasn’t being accosted. Ryan was getting a massage. Later on he’ll interview prospects here at the NFL Combine.

But I did manage to chat with him about the offseason that has had him fired, taking a job with the Jets and feuding with Lane Kiffin.

Ryan said all is well with him and he was never told he was fired, though he saw that he was on television while having dinner with his family.

He's happy to be returning and several players are happy to have Ryan back.

There will be more in tomorrow’s paper on my conversation with him.

But this sums up Ryan’s take on the happenings in Alameda:

“There’s only one boss at the Raiders. And we all know who that is.”

--Jason Jones

February 22, 2008
On the clock

INDIANAPOLIS – Raiders are already 0-1 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Oakland lost this morning’s coin flip as the Falcons called tails and will pick third in April’s NFL Draft.

“We talked about tails for a while,” joked Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

The Raiders, who host the Falcons this season, will pick fourth. Raiders scout Jon Kingdon was in the room for the Raiders.

Dropping to fourth likely eliminates the Raiders from having the opportunity to draft LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey.

It’s unlikely the Falcons, who’ve already cut Rod Coleman this month, would let the chance to snag a potential cornerstone of their defensive line pass them by.

That means a certain Arkansas tailback could be available at No. 4.


The J. Jones Mock Draft looks like this right now:

1. Miami: Chris Long, DE, Virginia
2. St. Louis: Jake Long, T, Michigan
3. Atlanta: Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
4. Raiders: Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas

If St. Louis passes on Jake Long and he’s available at four, the Raiders should take him.

McFadden would be the best player available at four, unless the Raiders decide to take Sedrick Ellis to fill the need at defensive tackle, even if most pundits (and what do they know, right?) think that’s too high to pick Ellis.

But the Falcons could draft Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan with the Michael Vick experience over.

Then again, the Raiders could try to save some money and trade down.

But it’s only February and all this guessing can be migraine inducing.

--Jason Jones

February 21, 2008
Heads or tails

INDIANAPOLIS – The coin toss between the Raiders and Falcons will take place tomorrow morning.

It will decide if the Raiders select third or fourth.

The flip could be the difference between a gamebreaker (Darren McFadden) or an offensive lineman (Jake Long).

There’s also a chance LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey would be available at No. 3. The Raiders haven’t selected a defensive tackle in the first round since 1997 (Darrell Russell).

If you saw the Raiders’ run defense, it makes sense this would be the year to end that trend.

--Jason Jones

February 21, 2008
Video games

INDIANAPOLIS – There was a lot of talk about Spygate today at the NFL Combine.

Members of the NFL’s Competition Committee stepped to the podium this morning to talk about things like timeouts being called right before a late field goal.

Instead they were hit with questions about the New England Patriots and their taping of opposing teams’ defensive signals and alleged taping of the St. Louis Rams walkthrough before they played in the Super Bowl in 2002.

Spygate (by the way, who gave it that name?) won’t go away as Congress appears interested in looking into the situation.

The Competition Committee said the Patriots’ punishment, which included losing this year’s first-round pick, was harsh enough.

“We don’t anticipate the Patriots’ situation repeating itself because of the clear message that the commissioner sent to the organization and to the head coach,” said Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher, who is on the committee.
Here’s what Colts president Bill Polian said of the meeting Commissioner Roger Goodell on the situation:

The briefing was thorough.
It was detailed. The process at arriving at the discipline was explained to us.

That process was fair, detailed, efficient, and what was on the tapes was explained
to us and what was in the notes was explained to us. The reason that that
information was done away with was explained to us. From my perspective, that was
a thorough, fair, efficient process with lots of integrity.

Everyone involved believes it’s time to move on. And if the government wants to get involved, it has nothing to do with the Competition Committee.

*Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas was peppered with questions about his ability to be a standout pro at last year’s combine because the last highly-touted tackle from the Big Ten, the Raiders’ Robert Gallery, didn’t fare well.

Thomas played in the Pro Bowl this month. So I guess he made sure he wouldn’t be linked to Tony Mandarich.

No one had any questions about Gallery for Michigan’s Jake Long. Instead, he was asked about his ability to do well because of Thomas’ success.

“ He's a great player and represented his school in the Big Ten very well,” Long said of Thomas. “He had a great rookie season. I'm going to have to follow in his footsteps and represent for the Big Ten. He showed me and all the other rookies that you can come in and make a huge impact, have a great season. That's encouraging to me and to other players I'm sure.”

--Jason Jones

February 21, 2008
Vote for Chilo

I have a new player I will campaign for the Raiders to draft.

Bring Chilo Rachal to Oakland.

chilo.jpg

The last time I saw Rachal up close, he was playing basketball for Dominguez High and winning a state title at Arco Arena in 2004.

And in an era where every athlete claims he’s leaving school to help his family, Rachal is truly doing that.

His mother, Veronica Pickett, has cancer and doesn’t have health insurance. His father, Charles Rachal, is also beset with health problems.

Rachal left USC after his junior season to take care of his mother. He’s a personable player that played guard at USC, but feels he could also play tackle in the NFL.

He knows Lane Kiffin and has experience in a pro scheme.

And having seen him on the court a little bit (he came in the game late and showed some handles), I know he’d fit with the Raiders.

One of the things the Raiders need up front is athleticism. He cites Larry Allen as his favorite player and said he wants to be a “glass-eater” with his nasty play.

And from a personal standpoint, the Compton native and this Long Beach native should have some fun discussing life in Southern California.

--Jason Jones


February 21, 2008
He won't last Long in the draft

INDIANAPOLIS -- Michigan tackle Jake Long just wrapped up his media time.

He's the consensus top offensive lineman available.

Long would be a logical pick for the Raiders. They need to upgrade the offensive line and Long can play the left or right side. But being a southpaw, he likes playing left tackle.

Long said he only allowed two sacks and had two penalties at Michigan. If he brought that to the Raiders, he’d instantly be the team’s best offensive lineman.

If the Raiders don't select Long, he'll probably end up in Kansas City.

--Jason Jones

February 21, 2008
Paging Lane, Rob, anyone

INDIANAPOLIS – Tracking down Lane Kiffin or anyone from the Raiders will be quite the chore.

No one from the organization is scheduled to speak this weekend. That means I’ll be hanging out in the hallways trying to catch someone.

Word is Kiffin isn't even here yet.

Two reps from the 49ers – GM Scot McCloughan and coach Mike Nolan – will speak later today.

--Jason Jones

February 21, 2008
Exclusive company

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Raiders not only franchised Nnamdi Asomugha today. They put the “exclusive” franchise tag on the cornerback.

Here’s what that means:

Clubs can designate an exclusive franchise player by offering the average of the top five salaries at the player's position as of the end of the restricted free agent signing period, or a 20 percent increase over his 2007 salary, or the average of the top five salaries at his position as of the end of last season -- whichever of the three is greater. The offering club retains exclusive negotiating rights.

According to the NFL Network, that means Asomugha will make $9.8 million in 2008.

Asomugha can’t even talk to other teams. The team has until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal.

Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney was the only exclusive franchise player last year.

--Jason Jones

February 20, 2008
It's time for the Combine

INDIANAPOLIS – It’s nice and cold in these parts. I’ve settled in at my hotel, grabbed a delicious salad at Vito’s and enjoyed the Lakers beating the Suns again.

I’ve seen billboards advertising the NFL Combine, so it truly is a big deal locally that the NFL is in town, even if there are no games.

The NFL Combine’s media portion gets underway later today (it’s 2 a.m., local time) and assuming Lane Kiffin is available, there are a lot of questions to ask him.

1. Has the team held out on naming Nnamdi Asomugha it’s franchise player because a deal is close to being done? The Raiders have until 4 p.m. EST to do what we all expect them to do?
2. What’s up with Dominic Rhodes? Will the team renegotiate his contract or cut him.
3. When will the Raiders cut LaMont Jordan?

There’s plenty to go over with Kiffin this weekend. I’m sure he’ll feign ignorance to any reports of his inevitable departure as head coach. But I’d love it if Kiffin were open and honest about the situation as he’s been so many times this season.

And believe it or not, Kiffin does have a sense of humor, as I’m sure some of you have seen a couple of minutes into this clip:

Poor Andrew Walter. He went from quarterback of the future to butt of Kiffin’s jokes.

But Kiffin has nothing on this guy, who made me laugh in Oakland (and I even found a clip with no profanity).

*I haven’t seen much new on Fabian Washington’s arrest, except the detail that he was released on $2,000 bail.

I guess that’s something else to ask Kiffin about, even though I know he can say very little about it.

But who knows, Kiffin could go standup comic and make me laugh about something.

And no I don’t mean Washington’s situation.

*By the way, I’m having trouble accessing the questions portion of the blog, so send your questions while I’m out here to jejones@sacbee.com until I figure out what’s going on with my laptop.

I’ll be back in a few hours.

--Jason Jones

February 20, 2008
Raider arrested

I spent last night laughing at Katt Williams in Oakland.

According to this report, Raiders cornerback Fabian Washington spent part of last night in handcuffs.

mug3.jpg

This report has Washington partially explaining his side.

This is the first public legal mater to come up under Lane Kiffin involving a player of note. After practice squad defensive end Bryant McNeal was discovered to have some problems with the law last summer (writing bad checks and such) he was cut.

Obviously, I don’t know the facts of the case. I haven’t called the Raiders yet, who probably just found out, too. And I have a plane to catch for the NFL Combine. Any updates from me will come after I arrive in Indy.

But I do know Commissioner Roger Goodell frowns on players being arrested and has no problem levying suspensions when players are convicted.

Fabian lost his starting job to Stanford Routt last season. And it won’t be easy to win the job back if he has sit out a game or two.

--Jason Jones

February 19, 2008
Fun with (franchise) numbers

Jared Allen, you’re it. Same goes for your, Stacy Andrews.

Allen, the Chiefs monster of a defensive end would have been a logical target for the Raidrers in free agency. I never mentioned him much, because I figured Kansas City would put the franchise tag on Allen.

Andrews is an offensive lineman and probably not even the best in his family (his brother Shane plays for the Eagles and is one of the league’s best). But the Bengals liked him enough to franchise him and not risk what they believe will be a dominant blocker.

I leave for the NFL Combine on Wednesday. If the Raiders haven’t franchised Nnamdi Asomugha by then, they definitely will by Thursday, 1 p.m PST, the deadline to do so.

Here’s what the designation will mean for Asomugha (courtesy of the NFL):

There are two types of franchise players, "exclusive" and "non-exclusive."
Clubs can designate an exclusive franchise player by offering the average of the top five salaries at the player's position as of the end of the restricted free agent signing period, or a 20 percent increase over his 2007 salary, or the average of the top five salaries at his position as of the end of last season -- whichever of the three is greater. The offering club retains exclusive negotiating rights and other clubs cannot negotiate with exclusive franchise players.

A non-exclusive franchise player is offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at his position in the 2007 season, or a 20 percent salary increase, whichever is greater. The offering club does not hold exclusive negotiating rights, and the player can negotiate with other clubs. The original club may match any offer to retain the player, or receive two first-round draft choices as compensation if it elects not to match. The signing period for non-exclusive franchise players is from Feb. 29 through July 15. Clubs have until July 15 to sign franchise players to a multi-year contract or extension; after this date the player may only sign a one-year tender for the next season.

There’s also the “transition player” designation that seems to be rarely used:

Clubs may designate a transition player by offering a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of 2007 at the player's position, or a 20 percent salary increase, whichever is greater. A transition player designation gives the club a first-refusal right to match an offer sheet within seven days given to the player by another club. If the offering club does not match the offer sheet, it receives no compensation. Transition players can be signed from Feb. 29 to July 22.

If you’re wondering where the salary figures come from, here they are:

Quarterbacks
Carson Palmer $13,480,000
Brett Favre $11,800,000
Eli Manning $10,046,666
Matt Hasselbeck $9,200,000
Marc Bulger $9,123,000
Franchise: $10.730 million
Transition: $9.500 million
Comment: No Tom Brady or Petyon Manning? Wow. And I bet you thought Eli was second to Peyton in everything before the Super Bowl.

Defensive ends
Julius Peppers $12,437,500
Jason Taylor $9,519,625
Justin Smith $8,644,000
Jevon Kearse $7,063,890
Michael Strahan $6,728,285
Franchise: $8.879 million
Transition: $7.679 million
Comment: At least Taylor was named to the Pro Bowl. If Peppers regains the form that earned him that salary, watch out in 2008.

Running backs
LaDainian Tomlinson $7,066,666
Edgerrin James $7,000,000
Fred Taylor $6,600,000
Warrick Dunn $6,278,336
Deuce McAllister $5,745,000
Franchise: $6.538 million
Transition: $5.699 million
Comment: One position where the best player his also the highest paid.

Defensive tackles
Dewayne Robertson $7,391,369
Warren Sapp $6,297,000
Cornelius Griffin $6,166,333
Albert Haynesworth $6,041,669
Roderick Coleman $5,917,500
Franchise: $6.363 million
Transition: $5.654 million
Comment: Haynesworth might be the only player that was worthy of his salary last season.

Wide receivers
Terrell Owens $9,666,666
Marvin Harrison $8,400,000
Torry Holt $7,604,714
Chad Johnson $7,165,370
Roy Williams $6,403,334
Franchise: $7.848 million
Transition: $6.872 million
Comment: Randy Moss took a paycut to go to New England, or he would have been at the top of this list.

Linebackers
Ray Lewis $9,428,571
Zach Thomas $7,987,000
Keith Brooking $7,692,226
Keith Bullock $7,608,668
Nick Barnett $7,608,571
Franchise: $8.065 million
Transition: $7.335 million
Comment: The Raiders would be wise to lock up Kirk Morrison soon and put him in this list.

Tight ends
Todd Heap $4,900,000
Alge Crumpler $4,708,333
Tony Gonzalez $4,531,370
Jeremy Shockey $4,371,667
Odai Shiancoe $4,100,000
Franchise: $4.522 million
Transition: $3.733 million
Comment: I'm sure you're also wondering who is Odai Shiancoe? He plays for the Vikings and had career highs of 27 catches for 323 yards in 2007. He had a 79-yard catch against the Raiders, his career long.

Cornerbacks
Nate Clements $12,266,666
Chris McAlister $9,407,082
Patrick Surtain $9,280,000
Quentin Jammer $8,583,330
Asante Samuel $7,790,000
Franchise: $9.465 million
Transition: $7.659 million
Comment: Nnamdi can thank the 49ers for assuring he'll make nearly $10 million next season.

Offensive linemen
Walter Jones $8,600,000
Willie Anderson $7,600,000
Orlando Pace $7,075,000
Flozell Adams $7,000,000
Al Johnson $7,000,000
Franchise: $7.455 million
Transition: $6.895 million
Comment: Adams will be a free agent and there's a certain team in Oakland that might want a new left tackle.

Safeties
Adam Archuleta $5,095,000
Michael Huff $4,800,000
Michael Lewis $4,095,000
Terrence Holt $4,000,000
Adrian Wilson $3,989,499
Franchise: $4.396 million
Transition: $3.893 million
Comment: Huff gets money like he's 50 Cent. The Raiders ought to use him like he's one of the highest paid at his position.

Kickers/punters
Rian Lindell $3,260,000
Jason Elam $3,030,000
Josh Scobee $2,100,000
Nate Kaeding $2,100,000
Jason Hanson $2,080,000
Franchise: $2.514 million
Transition: $2.245 million
Comment: Shane Lechler remain one of the best bargains in the NFL.

--Jason Jones

February 14, 2008
More draft fodder

This is the time of the year my inbox starts to fill up with various rankings of players leading up to the Draft.

Matt Barrows gave you one list of rankings . So as promised, here are rankings from Mike Mayock of the NFL Network.

He has two surprises that go against conventional thinking. He ranks Rashard Mendenhall ahead of Darren McFadden at running back.

(And yes, I still believe the Raiders do not need to spend their first-round pick on a running back).

Mayock also has Sedrick Ellis ahead of Glenn Dorsey.

(A position the Raiders could use some help at).

There are two offensive tackles in Mayock's top-10 (Jake Long, Ryan Claddy).

The positions I’m most interested in (because I assume the Raiders would be) are offensive tackle, defensive tackle, defensive end, wide receiver and safety.

By time I leave next week’s NFL Combine, a lot of these rankings are subject to change.

Before I give you Mayock’s rankings, here are his takes on what he probably figured would be two controversial rankings.

Mayock on Illinois’ Rashard Mendenhall vs. Arkansas’ Darren McFadden:

“Mendenhall translates better to the NFL game. He’s 225 pounds and has great feet and tremendous burst and acceleration for a player of his size. My biggest concern with McFadden is that although he also has great burst and acceleration, I don’t think he has the lower body strength that you’re looking for in a first-round NFL back.”

Mayock on USC’s Sedrick Ellis vs. LSU’s Glenn Dorsey:

“They are both great football players and it’s a very difficult evaluation between the two as to who is better because they are both top-10 picks. What I like about Ellis is that he played nose tackle in a 3-4 defense at USC and that will appeal to 3-4 NFL teams. In addition, he will also appeal to the 4-3 teams because he has the quickness to play the “three technique.” Dorsey is a great football player and I give him credit for playing through injuries the past few years. However his durability is a concern.”
Now on to his rankings:

MIKE MAYOCK’S TOP 20 (as of February 12, 2008)

1. Matt Ryan - QB, Boston College
2. Sedrick Ellis – DT, USC
3. Chris Long - DE, Virginia
4. Glenn Dorsey – DT, LSU
5. Vernon Gholston – DE, Ohio State
6. Jake Long – OL, Michigan
7. Ryan Clady – OL, Boise State
8. Keith Rivers – LB, USC
9. Phillip Merling – DE, Clemson
10. Leodis McKelvin – CB, Troy
11. Brandon Flowers – CB, Virginia Tech
12. Rashard Mendenhall – RB, Illinois
13. Jeff Otah – OL, Pittsburgh
14. Derrick Harvey – DE, Florida
15. Kentwan Balmer – DT, North Carolina
16. Aqib Talib – CB, Kansas
17. Chris Williams – OL, Vanderbilt
18. Mario Manningham – WR, Michigan
19. Limas Sweed – WR, Texas
20. Branden Albert – OL, Virginia


MIKE MAYOCK’S TOP 5 RANKINGS BY POSITION (as of February 12, 2008)**

Quarterback
1. Matt Ryan - Boston College
2. Chad Henne - Michigan
3. Brian Brohm - Louisville
4. Joe Flacco - Delaware
5. Andre Woodson - Kentucky

Running Back
1. Rashard Mendenhall - Illinois
2. Darren McFadden - Arkansas
3. Jonathan Stewart - Oregon
4. Felix Jones - Arkansas
5. Chris Johnson - East Carolina

Fullback
1. Jacob Hester - LSU
2. Peyton Hillis - Arkansas
3. Owen Schmitt - West Virginia

Wide Receiver
1. Mario Manningham - Michigan
2. Limas Sweed - Texas.
3. DeSean Jackson - California
4. Malcolm Kelly - Oklahoma
5. Early Doucet - LSU

Tight End
1. Fred Davis - USC
2. John Carlson - Notre Dame
3. Dustin Keller - Purdue
4. Jermichael Finley - Texas
5. Brad Cottam - Tennessee

Offensive Tackle
1. Jake Long - Michigan
2. Ryan Clady - Boise State
3. Jeff Otah - Pittsburgh
4. Chris Williams - Vanderbilt
5. Gosder Cherilus - Boston College

Interior Offensive Line
1. Branden Albert - Virginia
2. Chilo Rachal - USC
3. Roy Schuening - Oregon St.
4. Mike Pollak - Arizona State
5. Mackenzy Bernadeau - Bentley College

Defensive End
1. Chris Long - Virginia
2. Vernon Gholston - Ohio State
3. Phillip Merling - Clemson
4. Derrick Harvey - Florida
5. Lawrence Jackson - USC

Defensive Tackle
1. Sedrick Ellis - USC
2. Glenn Dorsey - LSU
3. Kentwan Balmer - North Carolina
4. Trevor Laws - Notre Dame
5. Letroy Guion - Florida State

Inside Linebacker
1. Dan Connor - Penn State
2. Curtis Lofton - Oklahoma
3. Spencer Larsen - Arizona
4. Beau Bell - UNLV
5. Jo-Lonn Dunbar - Boston College

Outside Linebacker
1. Keith Rivers - USC
2. Erin Henderson - Maryland
3. Xavier Adibi - Virginia Tech
4. Tavares Gooden – Miami (FL)
5. Ali Highsmith - LSU

Cornerback
1. Leodis McKelvin - Troy
2. Brandon Flowers - Virginia Tech
3. Aqib Talib - Kansas
4. Mike Jenkins - South Florida
5. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - Tennessee State

Safety
1. DaJuan Morgan - N.C. State
2. Kenny Phillips - Miami (FL)
3. Thomas DeCoud - California
4. D.J. Wolfe - Oklahoma
5. Tyrell Johnson - Arkansas State

--Jason Jones

February 13, 2008
DMC will have to run elsewhere

OK, no more Darren McFadden emails.

As I assumed all along, the Raiders resigned Justin Fargas today.

It’s a three-year contract worth $12 million that increases to $14 million with incentives. Of that money, $6 million is guaranteed.

And from what I understand, Fargas will earn $6 million in the first year of the deal. So it’s only a matter of time before LaMont Jordan gets his wish and is released.

Jordan is dues $4.7 million in base salary. That was probably too much even if he were still the starter. And it’s way too much for a backup.

Dominic Rhodes is owed $3 million in salary. Way too much for a backup.

Retaining one of the backs with Fargas would tie a lot of money up at the position. And after taking a cut in his bonus money last year to stick around, I can’t see Jordan doing that again.

Rhodes could be back, but he would need an increased role to justify his salary as a backup.

My guess is the Raiders backfield would be Justin Fargas, Michael Bush. Drafting McFadden would be foolish financially, especially when the Raiders need a lot of help at receiver and on both lines.

As I prepare to attend the NFL Combine next week I’ll be posting more about the draft and players that might help the Raiders.

I still believe the Raiders need to consider four players that figure to be available if they don’t trade their pick, which be third or fourth pending a coin toss next week.

DT Glenn Dorsey
DT Sedrick Ellis
OT Jake Long
DE Chris Long

I’ll write more on that later after I sort through Mike Mayock’s rankings heading into the combine.

In case you don’t know, he doesn’t even rate McFadden the top running back in the draft. He likes Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois.

Then again, the Raiders aren’t in the market for a running back now (credit the Raiders for the picture).

fargas_signs-2.JPG

--Jason Jones

February 13, 2008
Running back re-ups

The Raiders re-signed Justin Fargas today. That means their leading rusher will be back in 2008. More on this later.

--Jason Jones

February 13, 2008
If there's no Chad

The Cincinnati Bengals claim there will be no Chad Johnson trade.

But it appears the Washington Redskins are interested in making a move for Johnson, which would prove to be disappointing for me and my desire to see the colorful receiver added to the Raiders if that were to happen.

As free agency looms closer to reality (Feb. 29) it’s obvious the Raiders need a veteran receiver, probably two.

I’d like one that would make me laugh, as I assume Johnson would.

Since Johnson as a Raider is a long shot, here are some more realistic options.

*Bernard Berrian
Good thing is he’s fast and the Raiders need a deep threat. He had a career-best 951 receiving yards in 2007 and figures to be the top receiver on the market assuming the Patriots put the franchise tag on Randy Moss. If the Raiders are serious about putting players around JaMarcus Russell, they need to pursue Berrian. In addition to his speed, Berrian has decent size (6-1, 185).

*Ernest Wilford
His numbers aren’t overly impressive, but I don’t think any Jacksonville receiver can boast big stats since the days of Mark Brunell, Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith. What Wilford brings is great size (6-4, 218) which the Raiders need. And signing Wilford wouldn’t break the bank. Lane Kiffin likes big receivers.

*Bryant Johnson
He’s another big receiver (6-3, 213) that cold help out. He’s been the third receiver in Arizona, but that’s no slight when you’re behind Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. If Berrian is unavailable, this Johnson would be solid alternative.

*Keary Colbert
His best season was his rookie year in 2004. Do I think the Raiders should sign him? No. But don’t underestimate Kiffin bringing him in. After all, Colbert did play for USC.

The key with these players is they are all under 30. The Raiders need not waste their time on older players like recently released Marty Booker. Adding Berrian and Wilford to Ronald Curry and Johnnie Lee Higgins would be a solid foundation.

****
By the way, the powers that be are looking for ways to make the blog cater to what the fans want. I vote for me to only write about the Lakers and my observations on the WWE.

But since that can't happen, feel free to pass along any suggestions to any message boards or fan sites I should be keeping up on that could be linked to the blog.

Also, I'm looking for a name for this page other than "Raiders Blog and Q&A" so hit me with those ideas, too.

I don't have any prizes to offer other than my thanks at this time.

All the ideas for names I have would probably sound like an old WWF interview segment, which would probably work here.

How about the Jones Zone? Yep, that was corny. But with a nice silver and black logo ... it might work.

--Jason Jones

February 10, 2008
Fassel fallout

If Al Davis still has a wandering eye (when it comes to head coaches) the Washington Redskins hiring Jim Zorn could eventually impact the Oakland Raiders.

That’s because Jim Fassel is still available.

It was assumed the former New York Giants coach would be the new Redskins coach. But he’s not, meaning there’s another coach on the market that Davis likes.

It appears Lane Kiffin isn’t going anywhere and there is no guarantee Fassel would want to work for Davis again (he was quarterbacks coach in 1995).

The Raiders have gone out of their way to prove Kiffin hasn’t been stripped of any authority (did you notice he interviewed the new strength and conditioning coach?) so I’m expecting to see Kiffin with the Raiders this year.

But when it comes to the Raiders I’ve learned to expect the unexpected.

--Jason Jones

February 8, 2008
The Raiders need Chad (and so do I)

First off, thanks to Jerred in Portland and Chris in Rocklin for helping me cover the other teams Chad Johnson has lobbied to play for.

I missed Carolina, Atlanta, Chicago and Seattle.

If Chad is going to force his way out of Cincy, he needs to land in Oakland.

He wouldn't be too far from Berkeley, where he wouldn't even be considered eccentric.

And those cities wouldn't appreciate Chad the way I know Raider fans would.

That leads to my first question.

Question: Why would you want Chad? He has turned into another Randy Moss. He is an ego-maniac, forget the team, it's all about him. The Raiders had one of those.....it didn't work out. Thanks.
Jimmy, Phoenix

Answer: Jimmy, my desire to start some form of the Bring Chad to Oakland Committee (BCOC) is purely selfish. I simply think it would be fun to cover Chad.

The Raiders could use some personality in the locker room and I know Chad wouldn’t let me down.

I’d love to see what kind of antics Chad would come up with after scoring a touchdown.

I’d have fun asking if he’d sent Pepto Bismol to Champ Bailey.

I know Chad gets penalties for celebrations. But if he can put up points for the Raiders, who have lacked an explosive offense for a long time, I’d have no problem watching SeaBass kickoff 15-yards deeper because Chad jumped in the Black Hole and danced.

But it’s unfair to compare him to Moss. No one ever accused Chad of quitting.

From what I gather, he feels like he was blamed for the Bengals problems (as if he played defense).

Adding Johnson would also give JaMarcus Russell an elite receiver. So when the BCOC crew gets started, please holler at me.

He’d have to convince John Madsen to give up No. 85. But Chad in any number, as long as the jersey is silver and black, is fine with me, even if he hasn't been on his best behavior lately.

Question: Don't you think Al Davis should take a page out of Robert Kraft's playbook? Aren't you only as good as the people you hire to run your business?
Mike, Westborough, Mass.

Answer: Before Raider fans mock Mike, it should be noted this question was sent before the Super Bowl.

Nevertheless, Davis would be wise to do as Kraft has done by hiring a good coach and putting good personnel people in place to run the Patriots.

The New England Patriots and New York Giants both reached the Super Bowl leaning largely on players drafted by the franchise.

Until the Raiders consistently find contributors in the latter rounds of the draft and not depend on free agents to save the team, they will be mired in mediocrity.


Question: Just a brief statement. Ray Guy was not a punter, he was a football player. He was pissed for a long time that the Raiders wouldn't let him play safety like he did in college, but his value as a field position weapon was too great. He could tackle as good as anybody on the team and never avoided contact, in fact, he went looking for it. I remember him more than once being penalized for late hits. The fact that he is not in the HOF reduces those that are simply because the best football players are not enshrined.
Patrick, Hollister

Answer: Well said. You don’t have to convince me, Patrick. I don’t have a Hall of Fame vote.

Question: Things have been maddingly quiet lately and I'm sick of this. Why can't the Raiders just come out and say that Kiffin is the coach and that is it? I mean the hiring of Lofton and the clarification about the interest in Saunders (per PFT) eases my mind a bit - not nearly as much as a statement from the Raiders would. Why the hell don't they speak up? Thanks
Jerred, Portland

Answer: That’s just not how the Raiders do business. It’s not as if reporters haven’t asked to speak to Kiffin on this (I have).

From the Raiders’ perspective, saying anything is to admit any of the reports were true.

Question: WHEN IS NNAMDI GETTING SIGNED???????? He is the best defensive player we have right now. He is probably the best or second best corner in the NFL. Especially playing man coverage. Which is the true test of a corners talents. Please find out for me, PLEASE!!!!!!
Chris, Sacramento

Answer: I’ve been following this since last training camp. There have been talks between Nnamdi’s agent and the Raiders about a long-term contract. If no deal is reached, the Raiders would likely place the franchise tag on Asomugha, guaranteeing him a one-year salary of more than $9 million ($9.465 million according to reports).

Expect Asomugha to be tagged by the end of the month to keep him off the free agent market if no deal is reached. Considering Nate Clements received a deal with about $22 million in guarantees, Asomugha figures to get somewhere in the range of $22-25 million guaranteed.

And yes, I will ask a fellow Cal Golden Bear to break me off a few C-notes for all the good publicity I’ve given him.

(Just kidding bosses. I did take ethics in grad school).

--Jason Jones

February 6, 2008
Lofton is official

The Raiders announced James Lofton has been hired as the new wide receivers coach.

--Jason Jones

February 6, 2008
Lechler is special

Covering the Raiders affords me the opportunity to watch a Raider that is arguably the best at his position.

That player would be Shane Lechler.

I forgave him for saying he would burn anything with "Cal" on it before the Bears knocked around Texas A&M in the 2006 Holiday Bowl because he's always great to deal with.

Lechler will play in the Pro Bowl this weekend. He had a great season that was aided by special teams coordinator Brian Schneider’s coaching.

Lechler’s 41.1 net average led the NFL with players like Jarrod Cooper, Isaiah Ekejiuba, Ricky Brown, Hiram Eugene and Jon Condo making a lot of tackles to help Lechler’s stats.

The next the Raiders need to take is elevating the rest of special teams to the standard Lechler has established.

It is unlikely Sebastian Janikowski will ever do anything to justify being a first-round pick. As seems to be the case with Jano every season, Janikowski was pretty good, except for a stretch early in the season.

But anything short of making every kick will draw the ire of fans.

The Raiders need to figure out how to be more productive in the return game. Fans should have Dec. 28, 2003 etched into their memories when it comes to return futility.

The day is best remembered as Bill Callahan’s last game as coach. But it’s also when Doug Gabriel (kickoff) and Phillip Buchanon (punt) both had return for scores.

The Raiders haven’t had a return for a score since.

This is another area where I think Lane Kiffin erred in not playing a rookie.

I had no problem with Kiffin opting for Chris Carr on kickoffs, but to not allow Johnnie Lee Higgins more opportunities was a mistake.

I know he fumbled, but he was a rookie and mistakes come with that. Higgins ball security needs improvement, which will come with more returns, not sitting behind Tim Dwight.

With their coverage teams solid and kicker and punter set, becoming consistent in returning punts and kickoffs is the last step for the Raider to establish themselves among the best special teams units in the NFL.

****
Chad, Chad, Chad

I would love for Chad Johnson to end up with the Raiders.

So far in his comical campaign to get out of Cincinnati, Johnson has mentioned the Raiders, Redskins, Dolphins and Patriots (am I missing anyone?) as places he’d like to play in 2008 without every saying "trade me."

I know most of you caught Ocho Cinco campaigning to join the Raiders with Kirk Morrison last week.

Johnson would add personality and give the Raiders a legitimate No. 1 receiver for JaMarcus Russell.

The Bengals insist there will be no Johnson trade. But I’m officially joining the bring Chad to Oakland Committee.

Not that I know of such a group, but I’m sure one will pop up soon.

--Jason Jones

February 4, 2008
Promising tight ends can do more

Giants rookie tight end Kevin Boss made one of the biggest catches of yesterday’s Super Bowl.

It was a 45-yard reception that set up a touchdown for the eventual Super Bowl Champions.

But the Raiders might have the best tight end from the 2007 NFL Draft. But the Raiders need to do more with Zach Miller to prove that.

He caught eight passes in the season finale to finish the season with 44 catches, a Raiders rookie record.

Miller was the team’s second-round pick and easily its most impressive rookie. It doesn’t look as if Miller will be another Doug Jolley or Teyo Johnson in Raiders lore.

I thought Miller would catch at least50 passes, but he spent too much time pass blocking because the offensive line needed help.

As he showed in the season finale, Miller is an accomplished route runner and can be effective controlling the middle of the field. Miller is also a decent run blocker.

If the offensive line can pass protect better, Miller shouldn’t have games with only one catch. He had four of those games as a rookie.

Miller’s backup, John Madsen is another solid player that could have been used better. As a former receiver, Madsen’s skills can be problematic for a defense when he and Miller are on the field together.

Madsen caught just eight passes after finishing with 11 receptions as a rookie. Only one of Madsen’s catches went beyond 20 yards.

For an offense that struggled in the passing game, Madsen could have stretched the middle of the field or caused problems by lining up as a receiver and using his size.

The Raiders other tight end was Tony Stewart, who played primarily on special teams. Fred Wakefield spent the season on injured reserve after he tore his ACL in training camp.

The Raiders might look to add another blocking tight end, but this is a position with good young players. Disrupting Miller and Madsen’s development would be a mistake.

It would also be a mistake to ignore them too much in the passing game in 2008.

--Jason Jones

February 3, 2008
Super Bowl thoughts

Randy Moss is still without the Super Bowl he’s been chasing.

My pregame MVP pick gave the Patriots the lead, but it didn’t matter in the end.

It’ll be interesting to see how the media treats Moss.

Reading some of the coverage, it seemed as if some were giving him a pass for not caring in Oakland because of the dysfunction that has personified the franchise lately.

And for those that like to nitpick. Moss wasn’t the only one on television shown leaving the field before the final kneel down.

*That’s two quarterbacks from the 2004 NFL Draft to win Super Bowls. Robert Gallery, the second pick that year, hasn’t even sniffed a Pro Bowl or been the best lineman on his team yet.

*Former Raider Kevin Boothe has now gone being at the bottom of the football world to the top. Boothe was cut by because he wasn’t deemed a good enough athlete to play guard for Oakland.

He was one of my favorite Raiders to talk to in 2006. He was a backup for the Giants, but a backup champion beats starting for a loser, if winning is your ultimate goal.

*Props to another former Raider, Dave Tollefson. He joined the Giants from the Raiders practice squad and the defensive end played a part of one of the best defensive lines I’ve seen in a while.

*The real lesson: Cheaters don’t prosper.

--Jason Jones

February 3, 2008
Since I'm not into Tom Petty ...

First half observations

*My MVP pick has been thrown to three times and has one catch. C’mon Tom Brady, get Moss the ball so I can look smart.

*Hey Raider fans, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t Mike Shanahan attacking the man in the Doritos commercial. I’m positive that was an actor in a rat suit.

*The Giants’ defense is showing why I believe the Raiders need to blitz more and invest in the defensive line.

--Jason Jones

February 3, 2008
Before I get started...

Don't forget my boss is blogging from the Super Bowl today.

I'm at home, ready to have some fun with this game.

My predictions:

Pats win.

Randy Moss will be the MVP (it's too easy to pick the QB).

I don't think it will be a blowout, but Moss will be the difference.

But I've been wrong before. I think I picked the Patriots to be play the Eagles in this game before the season.

So that means the Giants will probably win by 21 and Michael Strahan will be the MVP.

--Jason Jones

February 2, 2008
Guy gets no love

I just got back from Berkeley (the women's team topped U$C in overtime) and read about the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2008 on my cell phone on the way to the El Cerrito Del Norte BART Station to my car.

Congrats to those that got in. Redskins corner Darrell Green began his career when I was in the first grade and finished up after I was done with grad school. Art Monk was one of the best of his era, as was tackle Gary Zimmerman.

I'm a bit too young to remember Fred Dean and wasn't even born to see Emmitt Thomas and didn't see a lot of Andre Tippett.

But I know Raider fans are miffed as to why the best punter in NFL history, Ray Guy, still isn't in the HOF.

Being the best at one's position should be enough, but he's a punter. It's one of those contradictions among us in the media.

Many media members are quick to chide a punter for missing a tackle, but never give those that play the position the respect they deserve for the impact they can have on the game.

That's right. Us media folks can be hypocrites.

The biggest surprises were Cris Carter and Randall McDaniel. Warren Sapp once told me McDaniel was the toughest guard he'd ever played against from their days in the old NFC Central, then in practice as teammates.

Carter's play from 1993-00 should have been enough to get him in.

And why Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas gets no love is baffling.

I'll check in during the game tomorrow (I hear some of you actually look at blogs during games) and try to be as insightful as I can be watching at home.

--Jason Jones

February 1, 2008
No Lofton News

I checked with the Raider today and there's nothing new on the team hiring James Lofton as receivers coach.

The team is negotiating with him and a deal could be finalized in the next couple of days.

--Jason Jones

February 1, 2008
LBs provide stability

All you have to do is look at the linebackers on the Raiders roster.

I should have been done with position reviews a week or so ago, but I put them off because Raiders headquarters became the center of tabloid-like situations.

I like the Raiders linebackers. Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard figure to be a few Pro Bowls in the near future. Robert Thomas is talented and versatile.

The trio is athletic enough that reports Lane Kiffin wanted to switch to a Cover 2 scheme made sense because having three linebackers that can run is a most in that system.

Some would lament the linebackers and their work against the run because with the exception of Howard on the weakside, the other two lack the bulk of other backers, and led to them being pushed around.

There were times they weren't in the best of positions. Even with four linebacker sets, the Raiders couldn't slow most running games. But with better play up front, the linebackers will have no excuse not to rack up tackles.

Morrison is as smart as they come. Howard is a freakish athlete (remember him playing cornerback covering Braylon Edwards?). Thomas can do it all.

Depth is the biggest concern. The Raiders had Ricky Brown, Isaiah Ekejiuba, Sam Williams and Jon Alston in reserve, but all three are key special teams players with none of them in the mold of the starters

Ekejiuba is going to be a free agent and should be a top priority.

One thing the coaching staff could do to get more from the linebackers in the passing game is blitz. Morrison and Howard combined for 10 interceptions, but the linebacking unit only produced two sacks.

I know this goes against the philosophy of the Raiders (Al Davis) but the athleticism of the backers is wasted when they don't do more.

And I have a hard time Rob Ryan, who came from the aggressive Bill Belichick and was raised by the man that won a Super Bowl with the '85 Bears using the 46 defense, is against blitzing.

Since Ryan is going to be back, I'd like to see him to use some of the blitzes that were there to help against the run in the passing game, too.

But overall, there's not much to complain about with this group.

--Jason Jones

February 1, 2008
Some official news

The Raiders hired Brad Roll as their new strength and conditioning coach. He replaces Jeff Fish, who took the same job in Atlanta.

Fish was the coach that threw passes to Nnamdi Asomugha to help improve his ball skills.

I don't know if Roll throws a good pass yet.

And for those you wondering, yes the Pau Gasol trade has me smiling like you'll never see me do for my blog mug.

--Jason Jones



About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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