Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

April 30, 2008
Rhodes on being one and done

A transcript from former Raiders RB Dominic Rhodes' appearance on "Movin' The Chains" on SIRIUS NFL Radio with Tim Ryan and Pat Kirwan landed in my inbox.

Here are some nuggets from it:

On being released Monday by the Raiders following the team's selection of RB Darren McFadden in last weekend's NFL Draft:

Dominic Rhodes: "When I restructured my deal it was all in [unintelligible] if they drafted Darren McFadden I was like, 'Listen, I'll restructure but it's got to be to where if y'all draft him I can leave, you know. Y'all let me go.' That's kind of how it went. They kept their word and they let me get a chance to go somewhere else and get my opportunity. I know they like Mike Bush. They just re-signed Justin [Fargas] and I didn't want to have to deal with what I dealt with last year because I know I can play and I know somebody can use someone like me.

Ryan: "Elaborate on that a little bit. Reading between the lines it sounds like at the end of the day that decision to go to the Raiders wasn't a good one. Talk about the year out in Oakland."

Rhodes: "The year out in Oakland was a tough one for me, man, especially coming from, like I said, the Colts which is a great organization. They put together their team in a way with not a bunch of guys that are supposed to be like Hollywood types. They go and get guys like myself who they know can play football and they put them on the field and they win with them, you know? Out in Oakland it was tough, man. I got put into a bad situation. The first thing was my fault by getting the four game suspension but then when I got back, they knew that I was going to have that four game suspension, and when I got back they kind of held it against me, didn't give me my shot to get on the field and do the things that they said they were going to do. That right there kind of let me know what was going on and then I don't see the reason why the Raiders needed to draft a running back, you know what I'm saying? We had like a stable full of running backs that are capable, that ran for a hundred yards, every one of them and we went and drafted a guy that - he's a great runner, don't get me wrong - but I don't understand the logic behind it."

On Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell:

Rhodes: "Right now JaMarcus is working really hard. I've been up here working out with the team and everything and he's here every day. He's working hard. He's getting better every day. I think that he'll have, if they coach him up right which [offensive coordinator] Greg Knapp is capable of doing because he's a great coach, I think that JaMarcus will have a big year."

On head coach Lane Kiffin:

Pat Kirwan: "Does Lane Kiffin have a chance there?"

Rhodes: "You know what, man? I don't know, man. I don't know. It's going to be hard, man. He's put in all these different bad situations to where he don't have a chance, you know? I mean, when you know you need to stop the run and you don't get somebody to stop the run. He just doesn't really have a chance because somebody else is in control all the time."

More on the situation in Oakland:

Rhodes: "Everybody had their own little party going, you know what I'm saying? It wasn't like a big party for everybody. Everybody wanted to do this or that, you know what I'm saying? It was never anybody saying, 'Ok, we're all going to do this together.' It was a whole bunch of just fires everywhere and then, as you see, this off-season kind of blazed out of control. I don't really think that Lane Kiffin wanted to take a running back in the first round, let's just put it like that. He has to deal with it now but I don't think that's what he wanted to do."

*************
This can't exactly be the best public relations day for the Raiders.

It began with Warren Sapp criticizing Al Davis' ability to assemble talent by saying the team has 3-4 personnel on defense but runs a 4-3.

Now Rhodes says Kiffin is put in "bad situations" as Raiders coach and that he doesn't have a chance because someone else is in control.

Again, that's pointing the finger at Davis. And that's only fair. If he gets credit for all the success, he deserves blame for many questionable personnel decisions and the 19-61 record over the last five seasons.

I can't wait to hear what LaMont Jordan will have to say if/when he is released.

If what Rhodes says is accurate (I always found him to be honest and up front) Kiffin's locker room is ripe for one of those Raider player insurrections.

Davis isn't big on chemistry in the locker room, but Rhodes' comments indicate that needs to become a bigger priority.

"Hollywood types?" How can anyone on a team that's been a last-place team be "Hollywood?" As Kiffin would say, he needs more Kirk Morrisons, Nnamdi Asomughas and Justin Fargas -- good, young and level-headed players.

Rhodes' situation last season was confusing. The offense was bad and one of the main free agents brought in to fix it couldn't get on the field and at one point was reduced to returning kicks.

Good luck in finding a good situation, Dominic.

And I'm sure LaMont Jordan can't wait for June 1 so he can find his good situation.

That is, assuming, the Raiders let him ago by then to soften the hit on the salary cap.

After all, many of us thought Stuart Schweigert would be gone by now, too.

--Jason Jones

April 29, 2008
Wrong scheme

Warren Sapp also told Mike Silver that Al Davis has “a team with 3-4 personnel, but they’re running a 4-3 system.”

Might that be the problem with the run defense?

Rob Ryan did come to the Raiders from New England, which runs a 3-4. But could Derrick Burgess play as a stand-up rush end?

Is that what Sam Williams would be best at?

Oddly enough, Sapp was miscast in the 3-4 when he arrived in Oakland. He was criticized by media for not making enough plays even though the DE spot he played doesn't lend itself to big sack numbers.

Ryan didn't sound like he was switching to a 3-4 and I wonder how he feels about such a critique.

--Jason Jones

April 29, 2008
Another reason to dump LaMont

My boy Mike Silver over at Yahoo landed this nugget from Warren Sapp, who endorsed the drafting of Darren McFadden.

“After three games last season, LaMont Jordan led the NFL in rushing. But LaMont is like the worst offseason running back I’ve ever been around; he was out of shape and couldn’t keep it going," Sapp said.

Ouch.

Jordan said keeping his weight down was a key to his lingering back problems.

Teammates love Justin Fargas because he puts his body on the line every week. That inspires them.

If Sapp says that about Jordan, you can bet there are plenty of other Raiders that feel the same way about him.

Again I ask, why is the team holding on to Jordan? This could get ugly if other players start talking about Jordan.

And if Jordan's offseason program is bad, shouldn't the team want him as far away from Darren McFadden as possible?

Well I've gotta pick up Grand Theft Auto IV. That's right folks, I've got priorities until the Lakers play again.

--Jason Jones

April 29, 2008
My bad

The list with the seven rookie free agents was never posted. It ended up sitting on the computer screen in the midst of the news of Dominic Rhodes being released.

Here are the players:

SS Darrick Brown, McNeese State
CB Derrick Brown, Southern Utah
OLB Malik Jackson, Louisville
ILB Shane Simmons, Western Washington
C Adam Spieker, Missouri
RB Louis Rankin, Washington
TE Chris Wagner, South Dakota State

--Jason Jones

April 28, 2008
Why is LaMont still around?

I give up.

I don’t know what LaMont Jordan has to do be released.

Is he the new Marques Tuiasasopo?

Dominic Rhodes was released, in part for salary cap reasons. He was one of the many running backs on the roster.

But Jordan is due to make about $3 million more than Rhodes’ $1.75 million base salary. Sure the salary cap is tricky, but there has to be an end to this union. June 1 is the likely the date Jordan has circled on his calendar (the hit against the cap is lessened for the Raiders then).

Jordan asked to be released last fall. But among the reasons to keep him was to prevent him from signing with Denver or Kansas City.

(Who cares where you’re third running back that never plays signs? It’s not like he would have returned to knock the Raiders out of the playoff hunt).

I have no reason to believe Jordan will be a cancer in the locker room. But having a player that doesn’t want to be on the team and you clearly have no need for is confusing.

Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush sounds like a nice trio. It's unlikely a team will take on Jordan's salary in a trade, so let him go and not drag this on any longer.

Jordan is a big WWE fan. He might need to go Stone Cold Steve Austin on his bosses to get out of Oakland.

Instead of Stone Cold vs. Mr. McMahon, it’s Jordan vs. Al Davis.

Enough fun with the WWE.

The Raiders also signed Darrick Brown, a strong safety from McNeese State.

That makes seven rookie free agent additions.

--Jason Jones

April 28, 2008
Rhodes gone?

A source close to the Raiders said the team will release running back Dominic Rhodes.

ESPN's John Clayton is reporting the same thing.

--Jason Jones

April 28, 2008
Observations from the Draft

Just in case you forgot, here are the Raider draft picks:

Round, No, name, position, nchool
1 (4) Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas

4 (100) Tyvon Branch, DB, Connecticut

4 (125) Arman Shields, WR, Richmond

6 (169) Trevor Scott, DE, Buffalo

7 (226) Chaz Schilens, WR, San Diego State

I’m not going to give the Raiders a grade for their picks, simply because like most writers, I detest deciding how they’ll impact the team before they even play a down of NFL football.

It’s obvious Al Davis is tired of watching his Raiders not score points and not scare defenses.

But here are my observations from the weekend:

*Justin Fargas will be good for McFadden. Fargas isn’t the kind of person that will refuse to help the rookie because he’s worried about losing carries. Lane Kiffin mentioned using both in the game at the same time.

*Branch will also have a good mentor in Jarrod Cooper. Branch is going to play a lot on special teams and Cooper is one of the NFL’s best. Cooper will have no problem knocking someone silly to block for him on kickoffs. And Branch’s speed and tackling should help kick coverage that was already pretty good.

*Shields and Schilens fit the mold of the kind of receivers Kiffin had at USC, bigger players. I wonder if this means Johnnie Lee Higgins might be reduced to being the team’s punt returner. Shields’ knee injury, which no one can seem to describe accurately, is 100 percent.

***UPDATE****

Shields injured his PCL in 2007. It had been reported to be an ACL. I won't get into all the medical lingo, I think we all know those are knee ligaments.

*The extra speed will give tight end Zach Miller a lot more opportunities in the passing game.

*I hope the team gives Scott a chance to develop. Players with his size and speed are rare and he figures to get better since he’s only played defense for two years. If Kalimba Edwards struggles, Scott could contribute immediately as a pass rusher.

*I noticed Fabian Washington’s background on his myspace page had already been changed to give the page a Baltimore Ravens look.

****

The Raiders minicamp for rookies and first-year players will be May 9-11. No word on the date for the mandatory.
****
Since I don’t want to grade the draft, here’s a sampling of what others said:

Mel Kiper, ESPN: B-
Comment: He likes the Branch selection, calls Shields a “developmental receiver.”

Paul Zimmerman, SI.com:

"Oakland Raiders: Mainly because I called this one right in my mock draft, and I needed wins real bad. Al Davis has a mob of runners, but none of them like McFadden. He runs a 4.33, and in the old days, the typical Raider running back, Mark Van Eeghen, Marv Hubbard, that bunch, couldn't cover 20 yards in that time. So everyone's keeping fingers crossed that the bright lights of Oakland don't ensnare the young man. Ghosts of Teddy Hendricks and John Matuszak are everywhere. I also like Oakland's third-round choice, fourth rounder Bryan Shields, the tall wideout who broke the bank at the combine workouts."

Comment: Obviously a typo on Shields’ first name. I assume Branch is the third-rounder he’s talking about.

John Czarnecki, Foxsports.com: B
"The only thing I didn't like was the trade of former first-round pick Fabian Washington for a fourth-rounder, though he had fallen out of favor in Oakland."

Comment: Also likes the Branch pick.

Jason Cole, Yahoo Sports: A-

"Branch and Shields are desperate attempts to fill needs, but should make the team."

Comment: I really disagree on Branch. The Raiders need depth at safety and a kick returner. As for Shields, he shouldn’t be forced to play early, so I don’t think that was desperate.

--Jason Jones

April 27, 2008
It's over

ALAMEDA -- The 2008 NFL Draft is officially over. The last part of this day is waiting for Lane Kiffin to speak and give the Raiders' take on why they had a great draft (I'm still waiting for a team to say everyone they wanted was always gone and they settled a lot).

Turns out Kiffin is busy chasing free agents, so he won't be down here. We did speak with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.

More on that later.

****

I'm assigned to grade today's haul, and admittedly I don't know enough about any of these guys to really "grade" them. Every pick fits the Raiders' style. They're all fast.

Even the slowest player, DE Trevor Scott, ran a sub-4.6 40-yard dash.

I'll let you know what the coaches said about these players in a bit.

--Jason Jones

April 27, 2008
In the seventh round...

ALAMEDA – The Raiders used their seventh-round pick on receiver Chaz Schilens from San Diego State.

Schilens (6-4, 208) was timed as fast as 4.34 in the 40-yard dash and showed a knack for making runs after the catch, as you’ll see below:

He average 15.6 yards a catch for his career.

--Jason Jones


--Jason Jones

April 27, 2008
Is it too early to talk contract?

ALAMEDA – Darren McFadden just finished up is introductory news conference.

But I was also able to chat with his agent, Ian Greengross, for a few minutes.

After the saga that was JaMarcus Russell’s contract negotiations, it’s necessary to at least have an introduction before the sides go into contract mode and stop talking to the media.

Greengross said he’s never had a player in late, unless Amobi Okoye missing a meeting while the paperwork was completed with the Houston Texans last year constitutes a holdout.

“That’s a time where you have two-a-days,” Greengross said of training camp. “And go through all the specific stuff that need to learn for your position. At the same time, we’ll try to work something out with the Raiders that’s fair. Fortunately for me and my history, all my guys have made it in on time. So I hope to keep that going. But it’s a two-way street and hopefully we’ll work it together so that he doesn’t.”

Missing part of camp would be as tough on McFadden because he's a running back.

But with so many backs on the roster and Lane Kiffin's sometime unpredictable running back rotation, the sooner he's in, the better.

--Jason Jones

April 27, 2008
Scott in the sixth round

ALAMEDA -- The latest selection is Trevor Scott, a defensive end from Buffalo.

Scott, (6-5, 256) has only played defense for two years after converting from tight end and was timed in 4.54 in the 40. He had 19 sacks in two seasons on defense.

So yes, he is a good athlete (surprising).

--Jason Jones

April 27, 2008
For more on Shields

ALAMEDA -- Here's a pretty good story on his draft journey.

Right now, we're waiting for a conference call with Tyvon Branch, the Raiders' first fourth-round pick.

--Jason Jones

April 27, 2008
Off an ACL injury ...

ALAMEDA -- To the Oakland Raiders is their second pick of the fourth round, is wide receiver Arman Shields.

Shields tore his ACL last season for Richmond in the team's second game. But Shields (6-0, 194) is said to have sub-4.4 speed in the 40, so he makes sense for Al Davis.

Here's how he did at the NFL Combine, per the Richmond Athletics site:

Shields ranked as a top performer in each of the seven physical drills run during the Combine. He toasted the field in both the 20-yard and 60-yard shuttles, posting the only sub-four-second time in the 20-yard (3.96) and the only sub 11-second time in the 60-yard (10.87).

His time in the 3-cone drill was second (6.67) as was his mark in the broad jump (10'8"). Shields was tied for second in the vertical jump (37'5"), posted the fourth-best mark in the bench press with 19 reps, while running the 40-yard dash in sixth-fastest time of 4.44.

--Jason Jones

April 27, 2008
Bye, bye Fabian

ALAMEDA -- Cornerback Fabian Washington was traded to Baltimore for a fourth-round pick (125th) overall.

It's been quite the plunge for Washington. This time a year ago, he was supposed to be an anchor of the secondary. But it only took two games for him to lose his starting job in 2007.

He was arrested this offseason for domestic battery, but not charged. He entered a 26-week intervention program as part of a deferred prosecution agreement. He also has a pending paternity case with the girlfriend involved in the domestic case.

The Raiders traded up in 2005 to draft Washington. Three years later, he's only worth a fourth-round pick.

Wow.

Those are the kind of draft mistakes that keep the Raiders from escaping the bottom of the NFL.

--Jason Jones

April 27, 2008
More on Branch

ALAMEDA -- Here's what NFL.com said about Branch:

Pick Analysis: Branch is strong, fast and has started for four years. His measurables have been exceptional. Branch's strong workout numbers compare to only five other players at his position and four have played in the Pro Bowl, while the fifth is a quality contributor in the NFL.

And if you're worried about character issues, here's more on Branch from NFL.com's profile of him:

In May, 2005, Branch was one of five Connecticut football players arrested after an incident in which the window of a motor vehicle was shot out. The driver's-side window of a vehicle driven by a 55-year-old woman was shot out by a pellet gun as two vehicles passed each other in a parking lot, and the suspects fled the scene in a white sport utility vehicle, the police said. A few minutes later, the police located the suspects and the vehicle. They were all charged with possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle and released after posting $750 bond.

--Jason Jones

April 27, 2008
Surprise! A fast guy

ALAMEDA -- The newest Raider is former Connecticut cornerback Tyvon Branch.

He's a shade under 6-feet, about 200 pounds and ran a 4.31 40-yard dash. He might be a safety.

He averaged 28.9 on kickoff returns so that might be where he contributes first.

The Raiders traded up in the fourth round from the 105th pick to the 100th pick with Dallas to land Branch.

I thought the Raiders could use depth in the secondary at safety so that's where I expect Branch to fit in because we all know the Raiders don't need another corner.

It appears they gave up the first of their two seventh-round picks to get Branch.

Branch is noted as a good tackler.

Stuart Schweigert is known to be unhappy and will make more than $2 million this season. This could be a move that leads to his exit.

--Jason Jones

April 27, 2008
Day 2 check-in

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders aren't on the clock yet.

But Darren McFadden will be at team headquarters today. He'll speak to us media folks and probably get ready for a three-day minicamp that is set to begin May 9.

I'll check in later once theRaiders make a pick, if I'm not in the middle of eating some breakfast (yes, us media folk love some free food).

--Jason Jones

April 26, 2008
A vote for Kelly, Sands

ALAMEDA -- I know I said I was done, but this does need to be mentioned.

The Raiders didn't select Glenn Dorsey because they'd already made Tommy Kelly the highest paid defensive tackle in league history.

That's a year after giving Terdell Sands a four-year deal worth $17 million.

Kiffin's campaign for a defensive lineman might have been a smokescreen, but the Raiders better get stellar play from Kelly and Sands to justify adding another running back.

Dorsey will be in their division. And if he becomes a star, he'll remind them twice a year how good he is.

But if McFadden has an Adrian Peterson-like impact, will any of you care?

--Jason Jones

April 26, 2008
See you tomorrow

ALAMEDA -- Day 1 of the draft is over.

The Raiders didn’t trade back into the second round, so they have Darren McFadden to show a day’s work.

Can’t complain too much about the pick. Lane Kiffin said McFadden was their man all along.

He’s definitely a fit in the system. But with the amount of money that will be committed to him (I’m guessing the guaranteed amount will be in the $25 million range) you have to assume that if he signs before Week 2 of the season, he will play a lot.

Here’s what that could mean for the other running backs.

Justin Fargas: He’ll still get his work in as the battering ram of the group. He’ll beat up defenders who will then have to chase down McFadden.

Dominic Rhodes: Might be returning kickoffs next season.

Michael Bush: Short-yardage work.

LaMont Jordan: Waiting for the Raiders to free him.

The Raiders don’t pick until the fourth round tomorrow, barring a trade. They also have a sixth and two seventh rounders.

They dealt this year's third rounder to get Mario Henderson last year. The fifth-round pick was dealt to land DT Gerard Warren from Denver.

Defenisve end and receiver could be areas that are addressed.

But I'm about to go to the Titans web site and order a Jason Jones jersey.

--Jason Jones

April 26, 2008
Character concerns

ALAMEDA – The issue of Darren McFadden’s character came up a lot.

There were two nightclub incidents in addition to questions about paternity suits.

Here’s what Lane Kiffin said about that:

“Here's the first thing on Darren. I can't find a person who will tell
me that when walks in the building until the time that he leaves they've ever had any type of issue, whether that's been weight room issue or the way that he practices or his relationships with coaches. This is a guy who really loves football and is passionate about football and is passionate in the way he prepares for it. The way that he works out for it and the way he goes about it on game day as well. That was the first thing to look at. Then you look at the off-field issues and there are some things there. They've been based on other people's actions that have brought him into them. What was very important to me the first time I sat down with him, I wanted to know was he going to make excuses for them or was he going to be accountable for them. And he says, 'Those are situations that I should have made a better decision. I've learned from them now and I am going to make better decisions now.' As opposed to, 'This is why I did it because I had to protect my brother’ or whatever the situation is. He realizes that and we had another conversation this morning about that myself and Darren again just to make sure. 'Darren, if you're there when we go, I need this, this and this. And you need to understand this is how you need to be.' He's right on the same page and he understands it as well.”

Here’s McFadden on character:

“You know, they did a lot of research on me. They talked to everyone, and asked questions about the type of guy Darren McFadden is. And the people they talked to, everyone than knows me, told them Darren McFadden's a great guy. That off the field I made mistakes and it was nothing they had to be concerned with.”

McFadden on what people don’t know about him:

“The things they don't say about Darren McFadden is the things I've done around the community. I've been doing community events since I was in high school, going to help out, Special Olympics in high school, being able to do things like that. Then two Christmas breaks ago, we were on Christmas break, there was a plane crash at the airport in Arkansas and I went and visited the kids at the airport, I mean in the hospital. Those are a lot of things people don't talk about.”

From what I heard about McFadden, he’s a good kid (and I use that term relatively because I’m only eight years older than him).

And I know there have been a lot of comparisons to Reggie Bush, but he’s not Bush.

He won’t have a problem running downhill and won’t bounce everything outside like Bush does in New Orleans.

He’s a good fit in the offense because of that.

--Jason Jones

April 26, 2008
My favorite player has been selected

ALAMEDA -- Defensive end Jason Jones was picked by Tennessee in the second round. I predict a Hall of Fame career for him.

Jason Jones

April 26, 2008
Not catching on

ALAMEDA -- For the first time since 1990, no receivers were selected in the first round.

--Jason Jones

April 26, 2008
The King of (Little) Rock

ALAMEDA -- Here are some tidbits from the Darren McFadden conference call:

Thoughts on how Lane Kiffin uses running backs:

“I like the way he uses his running backs. When he was at USC he moved his running backs around a lot. I just love the way he does that, I feel it’s something I can bring to Oakland, being a versatile player, that I can move around and give them a different style.”

Surprised the Raiders took you even though they have a lot of backs?

“Yeah, it surprised me, but I feel like after talking with the coaching staff, that they were missing the big-play ability and that was something I could help with.”

Favorite team growing up:

“Growing up I was a Broncos fan because I liked watching Terrell Davis and John Elway play, Ed McCaffrey, Shannon Sharpe, I loved to watch those guys play.”

McFadden will now play in the offense that made Davis a star.

No receivers have been taken in the first round. Don't be surprised if the Raiders make a move to get into the second round to land one since there will be some quality players available.

--Jason Jones

April 26, 2008
The trade talk

ALAMEDA -- The NFL Network reported earlier today the Raiders inquired about moving up to No. 2 in the draft.

Lane Kiffin said the team thought about moving up in case a team tried to move up to take Darren McFadden.

That didn't happen. Now the Raiders will wait to see if they can make a move to get another pick today if a player they like is available.

--Jason Jones

April 26, 2008
Speed kills

ALAMEDA -- Lane Kiffin said Darren McFadden was the guy he knew the team had to select early on.

Why? Speed.

Kiffin said Justin Fargas used to have explosive speed before injuries slowed him and that McFadden is faster than Dominic Rhodes and Michael Bush.

McFadden can catch the ball out of the backfield and line up at receiver, something the other backs can't do, Kiffin said.

The Raiders passed on Glenn Dorsey because with all the money paid to Tommy Kelly, that would be a lot of money to pay Dorsey and then move him to nose tackle.

We're waiting for the Raiders to get McFadden on a conference call from New York.

Stay tuned.

--Jason Jones

April 26, 2008
The pick is...

ALAMEDA -- Darren McFadden.

Run DMC is on his way.

--Jason Jones

April 26, 2008
On the clock

I'm in the dining area where the Raiders have about seven minutes before they have to make their selection.

The top-2 players in this draft are there for their choosing, DT Glenn Dorsey and RB Darren McFadden.

I'd lean more to Dorsey, but what do I really know?

--Jason Jones

April 26, 2008
The latest rumors...

The NFL Network reports the Raiders tried to move up to the second spot in the first round.

For what? I can only assume Chris Long or Glenn Dorsey because they don't need to move up to select Darren McFadden.

As I stated yesterday, my talks with folks lead me to believe McFadden will be the pick. ESPN reports St. Louis has already decided to go with Long at No. 2.

But if Dorsey is there at No. 4, the Raiders will have the top-2 players in the draft according to most scouts to choose from.

--Jason Jones

April 25, 2008
The latest I've heard

Darren McFadden is (or should be) the pick for the Raiders.

Lane Kiffin repeatedly called McFadden "dynamic" and that's what he said his offense lacked last year, a dynamic player.

Of course no one knows for sure, but one scout said the team would be "dumb" to pass on McFadden, rated either the first or second player on almost every team's draft board (the other being Glenn Dorsey).

Of course, as the draft approaches, the rumors and guessing grows. Some Raiders staffers love Chris Long and believe he would start right away and help against the run, as Kiffin indicated.

But isn't the fourth pick a bit high for a run-stopping defensive end that might not have as much upside as Vernon Gholston?

And don't overlook this scenario: the Raiders trading down and drafting USC linebacker Keith Rivers, which would give the Raiders the best linebacking trio around. It's a position the Raiders could use some help at some point.

Instead of using an extra linebacker, throwing Rivers in the mix wouldn't be a bad idea to help against the run.

Who knows what will happen? But the more I hear, I'll pass it along.

--Jason Jones

April 24, 2008
More from Raiders media availability

Besides time with Lane Kiffin, the Raiders introduced two of their offseason additions, tackle Kwame Harris and cornerback DeAngelo Hall to the local media.

First was Harris, who proved once again Stanford athletes are good interviews almost every time.

There were some major selling points that led him to sign with the Raiders. One, offensive line coach Tom Cable. Another was knowing he would be playing left tackle along with wanting to play with Justin Fargas.

I’m sure many of you have made your Kwame Harris/Robert Gallery tandem jokes. And with their struggles to start their careers as first-round picks, that’s expected. And don’t think they haven’t spoken yet.

“Yeah. certainly. I talked to Gallery several times before I even signed with the Raiders,” Harris said.. “He was somebody I felt we were in similar positions also for a little bit of time. he had a phenomenal year last year too., getting to just talk to him and listen to what he had to say not just about Cable but the system, the fan market and you guys also ... it really helped me come to a decision that this is a good fit for me. This is someplace I can be successful.”

That’s right, he Harris was also sold on the soft Raiders media.

In some ways, hearing Harris talk was a lot like talking to Gallery or Jake Grove. Harris said he had three line coaches in five years. And it sounds as if a lot of his problems were due to over-thinking on the field, which happens when you’re more worried about which foot to step with than staying in front of your opponent.

“Very strict in a sense,” is how Harris described previous coaching styles with the 49ers. “Here I think one of the great things about Coach Cable is that yes, you have a set of fundamentals, techniques and principle you have to work inside of. But also you need to go out and block the guy. Don't let the guy get to the quarterback. That is the main goal. It's not to keep your keep your hips square and stay in position. It's to keep that guy away from JaMarcus.”

Harris sums up pretty well his thinking when the Raiders told him they viewed him as a left tackle:

“When they approached me about playing left tackle, I said OK ... what do you see on film or what makes you think that. Why? I questioned why. We talked through it and (Cable) showed me some things on film, some fundamental things and after seeing that and speaking to him abut it I felt like I had probably been playing out of position for most of my time in the league.”

Harris’ time in San Francisco ended with him being a reserve right tackle.

Harris is a good athlete, which should be a plus as he learns the zone-blocking scheme. And if he needs proof Cable can help turn his career around, he can look to his right when he lines up.

Gallery will co-sign for Cable any day.

****
Then there’s Hall.

One thing he doesn’t lack for is confidence. And here are snippets of his first press conference in the Bay Area. He’s wearing No. 23 (Chris Carr’s old number) since Nnamdi Asomugha wears No. 21.

On any reservations about coming to Oakland’s reported unstable coaching situation after leaving Atlanta and the mess with Bobby Petrino:


“ Not really because I had a chance to talk to Lane. I know him and I know his dad real well. Had a chance to talk to some of the players here and they never gave me the feel as though there was something bad going on. You can ask anybody last year who was a part of our organization, I think everybody knew what was going on. Even from the other coaches. Even the media knew what was going on. Here it’s a lot of speculation, he said, she said. But behind closed doors I don’t see a problem at all.”

On the importance of Nnamdi Asomugha:

“Real important. I don’t want to get into contract talks but real important. That was part of the formula that brought me out here was being able to team up with him for a long time to come.”

On are they the best cornerback tandem in the league:

“Hands down. Champ and Dre will attest to that too. I talk to them all the time so they’ll definitely tell you me and Nnamdi, we’ve got them beat.”

Ever spoken to Nnamdi:

“I have. I talked to him on the phone several times. My old DB coach at Virginia Tech, Lorenzo Ward, was actually out here the year that the Raiders were number one in pass defense so I had a chance to talk to him several times.”

On playing Atlanta and Carolina (and nemesis WR Steve Smith) back-to-back weeks:

“Oh man. Probably Atlanta. Me and Steve obviously have a little tumultuous relationship but I love the guy to death. Me and him were at the Combine together during the advisory committee with the commissioner. We talked, had lunch together. I don’t have a problem with Steve. On the field me and him get a little riled up but that’s just the game. That’s part of the game, part of the emotions. It’s probably what makes great players great. But Atlanta’s definitely one that I’m going to have circled. I trained a lot of those young guys, the receiving corps. So I can’t wait to get on the field with those guys and see if they’ve got a little better.”

On meeting with Al Davis before reaching a contract agreement with the Raiders:

“ It was good. Very interesting. The first time I flew out here, I did the physical and did a couple things here. My agents were here with me. Really didn’t get a whole lot done. Then I think a couple days later they flew me back out and I just sat down and talked with him for about five or six hours, just in the room locked upstairs conversating about everything from football, where I grew up at. The guy’s just a sponge. He knows everything. He was shouting out high school stats and guys who graduated from my high school in 1980 when I wasn’t even born yet. It was just amazing.”


On his tackling ability:

“I do see myself as an all-around corner. By saying that, I’m not a safety though. I’m not a linebacker. I’m not going to be a guy that gets you 150 tackles a year. I’m not a linebacker in that sense but I am a guy, if you need a tackle on the edge, I am capable of coming up to make that tackle. I do feel like I can do that. But just being around a lot of the guys I don’t know how that’s a problem, stopping the run. We’re going to definitely get that fixed. We’ll be able to put a couple more down in the box. Definitely put Gibril (Wilson) down there, take Mike Huff and throw him back where he needs to be in the free, let him roam around a little bit.”


Does he want to return punts?

“Want and I guess have to is two different things. I don’t know if I’m going to have to but I always want to. Even in Atlanta I wanted to but they didn’t want me to get hurt or this and that so they kind of kept me away from the action. I’m definitely looking forward to doing what they need me to do, whatever they allow me to do.”

Living down South, did he follow Russell in college?

“Didn’t follow him a whole lot in college. Started to watch him a lot when he was coming out for the draft. I love watching guys come out for the draft, watching guys rise to the occasion. I got a chance to follow him there. Didn’t really get to follow him last season when he got to play here but just looking at him, man, he has all the intangibles. The way he throws the ball. I can’t wait to get out on the field and try to break on a route, to try to compare his ball speed versus Mike’s ball speed. Mike was a guy who no matter if you were breaking on that ball he still found a way to squeeze it in. I think JaMarcus has that same kind of arm strength, to just be able to throw balls into tight places.”

Does he talk to Michael Vick at all?

“I haven’t talked to him in a while. I can contact him if I need to or if I want to. I haven’t talked to him in a while.”

It’s interesting to note Hall thinks (as do a lot of people) that Huff would be best suited at free safety.

Here’s what Kiffin said about that in regards to drafting a safety now that he has Huff and Gibril Wilson together:

“Well, we're excited about that both those guys can play both spots. Physically, they can play both spots. Michael has already played the one that you would think physically he can't. So, that helps us there, where that hasn't been the situation here in the past. They haven't had, since Michael's been here in the two years, Stuart wasn't going to go down and Michael wasn't going to go back for Stuart down. It wasn't going to work. Now you have a chance to do that with a guy who can play both. But we're also looking at safeties in the draft. If a guy's there, the guy's got to be a great special teams player for us to take him.”

****

And for a brief health report:

WR Javon Walker should be fine for minicamps.

S Jarrod Cooper is nearly 100 percent.

DT Tommy Kelly should be ready for training camp.

DE Derrick Burgess (per his usual routine) is not working out with the team. Remember much was made about him skipping voluntary workouts last year over not being happy with his contract. He, of course, did not hold out of training camp, even though he missed time following hernia surgery.

***

And with the fourth pick in the ESPN SportsCenter mock draft, I selected DE Chris Long.

That would be good fortune for the Raiders if he were available.

--Jason Jones

April 24, 2008
Trading places

For all you conspiracy theorists out there, you’ll be glad to know Lane Kiffin wore a red (eerily close to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers colors) shirt at today’s press conference.

That’s right, he’s clearly letting the world know he’ll join Jon Gruden and his father, Monte Kiffin, in Tampa by the end of the year.

But onto more serious matters, like the 2008 NFL Draft.

Kiffin discussed the very real possibility of the Raiders trading down because they only have five picks in the draft, none in the second or third rounds.

When a trade might happen isn’t certain.

“Something can happen any minute here. If that happens it’s more that we’re looking at it and saying there’s not someone there we just feel great about. Or the other way is if our guy is not there at that point we’ll go ahead and deal with that on Saturday, but we’ve got to wait until we’re on the clock to make sure our guy’s not there.”

He added a late first and a late second wouldn't be enough to make a deal. So a team in the middle of the first round that might really want Darren McFadden could be a partner (Chicago?)

There will be more on that in tomorrow’s paper, since I still have to write a story. But here are some noteworthy things from Kiffin.

*He reiterated defensive line is where the biggest need is. He believes Chris Long’s strength would be a boost against the run. He said Vernon Gholston might be a better fit in a 3-4, but he can definitely play defensive end in the 4-3.

*For those that don’t know, Al Davis has the final say on draft picks.

“He's the owner. At the end, if there's a disagreement on something, it's going to be expressed why and the reason why I feel we should go a certain way. He owns the team, just like 31 other teams, in the end, that's who's going to have the final say.”

*Kiffin talked about the need for a "dynamic" player a lot last season. That's the word he used to describe McFadden more than once.

*On drafting offensive linemen in the zone-blocking scheme:

“I think if you saw our board on offensive linemen you'd be shocked because it wouldn't go anywhere near any of the mock drafts or any of the people that you see where you go. We'd have people at the top of our offensive line board that you'd think are fourth or fifth round picks. It's a different way to evaluate people. Some people can really play in this system really well.”

*On JaMarcus Russell:

“He came back 10, 11 days before we even started. So he was with our coaches and with our strength staff before everybody else got back here five weeks ago and he hasn't missed a thing since. Most the guys are really here 3-4 hours a day. He's here about 5 1/2, 6 hours a day. He's here first thing in the morning, he has position meetings in the morning, he goes in and lifts and he goes in and runs. He comes in and changes and goes back out and throws with the guys. By far he's in the best shape since I've seen him, even if you go back to his pro day at college. So I know he's real excited about the upcoming season as well.”

*Kiffin said the decision of whether to draft a defensive end or tackle also depends on what the team can expect from Terdell Sands. After emerging as run stuffer in 2006 and signing a four-year, $17 million deal, he tailed off noticeably in 2007.

“Last offseason he went through a lot of tough things. Lost a number of very close people in his family, and as you look back, that affected him, and I know he’d be the first to tell you, he didn’t go through the offseason the way he should have, and he let that affect his football instead of dealing with it otherwise, and did not have a productive offseason, and ended up having to play catch up the whole time. Training camp isn’t the time here to catch up and to get in shape. Training camp, come in shape, and we’ll improve you and get you better. Instead, he came in to get in shape in training camp and never caught up.”

Kiffin said Sands has been present a lot this offseason after not being around much at all last year.

*Michael Bush is looking good at running back and just needs an opportunity.

And finally, Kiffin on the running back the fans love to hate, LaMont Jordan, when asked if he expected him to be on the team this season.

“I don’t know that. LaMont does have a very high contract, and a big number coming into this. So we have to look at what happens in the draft, look at what else is going on and make a decision.”

Kwame Harris and DeAngelo Hall also spoke today and I’ll have more on them later. But I need to get to writing a story before my editor thinks I’m busy on Myspace, Facebook, or just watching YouTube highlights of Kobe Bryant.

--Jason Jones

April 23, 2008
Mocking around this week

I’ve on the phone regularly the last two days talking up the NFL Draft and what the Raiders might do with the fourth overall selection.

And I’ve remained consistent. I think the Raiders will take a defensive lineman.

I’ll be appearing on SportsCenter tomorrow for another mock draft. I’ve selected DE Vernon Gholston or DE Chris Long in all the radio drafts I’ve been a part of.

DT Glenn Dorsey hasn’t been available in any mock draft I’ve been a part of. I only see Darren McFadden as an option if the Dorsey and Long are gone, the team doesn’t like DT Sedrick Ellis to take him fourth and the team changes its way of thinking and isn’t wowed by Gholston’s impressive athleticism.

Also, they’d have to all of a sudden not like Michael Bush, believe Justin Fargas will get hurt, think Dominic Rhodes might get suspended again and be resigned to the fact that LaMont Jordan will still be on the team.

In short, a lot would have to happen for another running back to worth drafting.

****
The Kansas City Chiefs officially traded Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen, making them the favorite to be at the bottom of the AFC West again.

Allen was the brightest star for the Chiefs and he routinely terrorized the Raiders. His presence changed pass protection and forced the Raiders to usually run plays away from him.

The Chiefs will be even younger on defense and still need to rebuild their offensive line to protect Brodie Croyle or possibly Boston College QB Matt Ryan.

****
Lane Kiffin will have his pre-draft press conference tomorrow at noon. It will be his first time addressing the local media in a group setting since Dec. 31.

All of my draft stories were due a while ago, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of talk about with Kiffin.

--Jason Jones

April 22, 2008
If the Raiders want D-line help, it will be there

Barring a trade, the Raiders will have their pick of one of the three elite defensive linemen in this year’s NFL Draft.

The Miami Dolphins have agreed to a contract with Michigan tackle Jake Long, making him the first overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

(Side note: will the TV folks make us watch 10 minutes of Long highlights and put the Dolphins on the clock on Saturday?)

Of more importance to the Raiders, Long’s signing means DE Chris Long, DE Vernon Gholston or DT Glenn Dorsey will be available at No. 4.

I’d also throw DT Sedrick Ellis in the mix, but he can probably be had in a trade a few picks down, but still in the top-10.

But all of this could be moot if the Raiders decide they really want RB Darren McFadden.

--Jason Jones

April 21, 2008
Draft podcast
April 21, 2008
More questions as draft day looms

The question I’m asked most who will the Raiders draft. If I had a definitive answer, I’d be in Las Vegas right now with my paycheck with my money on that player.

Most mock drafts have the Raiders selecting RB Darren McFadden. One interesting mock draft, done by former Raiders personnel employee, Mike Lombardi, has the team selecting DE Vernon Gholston, the player I’ve touted for the last month or so.

Truth is there’s no way of knowing what might happen. Every year there’s a player that is picked surprisingly high, another that drops for no real reason.

I believe the pick will either be Gholston or McFadden because chances are DE Chris Long or DT Glenn Dorsey won’t be available at No. 4. I wouldn’t rule out DT Sedrick Ellis, either.

Here’s what some are saying about the Raiders’ draft options:

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King:

“4. Oakland. DT Glenn Dorsey, LSU. This guy is Warren Sapp Jr. If Dorsey's still on the board, I see the Saints trying hard to trade into this spot to get him. It might work. If he's not, my guess is Chris Long, who actually doesn't mind the gargantuan shadow his father will cast if Chris goes to the Raiders. One thing about the Raiders, though: They don't call the place the Black Hole for nothing. They're also the Black Hole for draft nuggets. I don't feel confident predicting anything they'd do, except I don't think they'll pick Darren McFadden, because they think Michael Bush will come back strong from his 2006 broken leg and be an every-down back, potentially this year.”

Pat Kirwan, NFL.com

(He has the Raiders taking Gholston)
“The Raiders may take Darren McFadden but Gholston has rare athletic ability. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan likes to play hybrid 4-3/3-4 defenses and Gholston is a key to that package.”

Todd McShay, ESPN:

“4. Oakland Raiders -- Chris Long, DE, Virginia
Record: 4-12 | Needs: DE/DT, OT/G, SLB, WR, RB
Scenario 1: The Raiders' dream scenario -- the son of Hall of Famer and former Raider Howie Long slipping to the fourth pick -- is definitely likely.
Scenario 2: If Chris Long is gone, then RB Darren McFadden becomes the pick. Owner Al Davis is in love with McFadden's speed and envisions a young, explosive backfield that features McFadden and last year's No. 1 overall pick, QB JaMarcus Russell.
Scenario 3: If Long and McFadden are off the board, the Raiders would look to bolster the defensive front with the top available prospect from the group of Dorsey, Gholston and DT Sedrick Ellis.”


But I’ll take a stab at some other questions that I have a better chance of answering.

Question: With the fact that a lot of publications have labeled Robert Gallery as a bust even though he had (in my opinion) a good year under (offensive line) coach Tom Cable last year, do you think that this will be a breakout All-Pro year for Gallery in his second year in coach Cable's system

Al, Oakland

Answer: The coaching staff has made it clear Gallery is a guard and not a tackle, so in that sense, he is a bust because guards aren’t drafted second overall.

For Gallery to make a big leap to the elite level there are some things he must do. He has to cut down on his penalties and dominate consistently against the league’s better defensive tackles. Gallery needs to get better in pass protection and he also needs to emerge as a leader on the team and become the team’s best offensive lineman, without question. Some feel the Raiders simply hid Gallery’s shortcomings by playing him at guard.

Do I see that this year? Can’t say I do. Not for a lack of effort, but I just wonder if that can ever happen for Gallery with the Raiders. With all the coaching changes he’s been through and position changes, a fresh start elsewhere might be best for him.

But this will be the first time in his career that he will go into the season at the same position he finished at the previous year, so I do expect improvement. I’m just not ready to book his ticket to Hawaii.

Question: Do you think the Raiders drafting McFadden will help take the pressure and attention away from JaMarcus Russell, and actually help him "settle" in? This is why I feel it would be an intelligent draft choice. Your opinion?

Bryan, Keller, TX

Answer: McFadden would definitely do that. But I also think the combination of Justin Fargas, Dominic Rhodes and Michael Bush will do a good job of that, too. I believed the Raiders needed an elite receiver to take pressure of Russell since he already has a very good tight end in Zach Miller. If Javon Walker stays healthy, Russell has that receiver.

McFadden would give the Raiders a lot of flexibility. I just don’t think he’s the most pressing need.

Question: Jason,
I enjoy reading your blog about the team, however, I must tell you that Jerry McDonald's blog has you beat ten-fold. I do not mean to insult you, he just always gives his readers something to ponder over, and more importantly, he gives Raider fans who are starved for information, little tidbits that keep us occupied while we wait for the draft, training camp, and the season to start. He is not a Raider fan, yet he covers the team with a passion!

As a fan of the team, it would be great to get more regularity from you...

Chris, La Jolla

Answer: Ouch, Chris. Tenfold? I’m going unplug my laptop right now.

Seriously, I only try to blog when there’s something worthwhile. I don’t want to post things just to say I posted something.

But I’m always open to suggestions as to what readers want. I wouldn’t think the Vegas odds on the Raiders winning the Super Bowl or old media transcripts would be something fans want. I try to offer a different perspective without simply repeating what others have said.

I agree, Jerry does a great job. Also, Jerry’s job is specifically to blog. I have other duties outside of blogging (not that anyone cares about my workload). But as this business continues to change, blogging is becoming a bigger part of what beat writers’ job descriptions.

So if it’s the minutia you want, that’s what I’ll try to provide, even if I’m only 1/10 the blogger Jerry Mac is. If there are any other blogs readers like that I can model myself after, feel free to pass the links along.

After all, I don’t know everything. I just pretend to for a living.

--Jason Jones

April 17, 2008
Chatting with Knapp

I filled up the gas tank (ouch) and headed up to Sacramento to visit the campus of Sacramento State.

There I took a tour of the soon-to-be-opened Eli and Edythe Broad Fieldhouse.

(Side note: Once we get those folks out the trees I hope to be visiting the sprawling new athletic facility at Cal in a few years. I know I just upset my friends that are into nature, but I want my new facility.)

Of greater importance to Raider fans is offensive coordinator Greg Knapp was present.

Knapp is a former Sac State quarterback, coach and contributor to the new facility. The school’ll also honor him this evening along with seven others (including former Raider and Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboy John Gesek) with Distinguished Service Awards.

But of course, you all want to know what’s going on with the Raiders. So here’s a coach that works closely with JaMarcus Russell

I’ve said all along there was no way Russell weighed 300 pounds (roughly the size of Tommy Kelly) or that he spent the offseason back in Mobile, Ala., hanging at the Waffle House.

I had on good word Russell was at least 30 pounds less than his rumored weight. But if you don’t believe me, here’s Knapp on Russell:

“He’s done a great job. He came back to camp in shape and nothing near the reported 300-pound range. He’s well away from that. But what he’s done is he’s shown a dedication to the team. He’s in meetings for an hour and 45 minutes three days a week in the classroom with myself and the quarterbacks coach, John DeFilippo. And then he goes and works with his teammates on conditioning and strength. And then after that he spends an hour a day doing footwork drills with our quarterbacks coach on the field and throwing to our receivers and tight ends and running backs. So he’s really taken the bull by the horns.”

*****

*Jarrod Cooper is officially back with the team after signing yesterday. If you want to know what he’s been up to, visit www.helpcode597.com.

*The Raiders have also added two more defensive backs this week. The first was CB Duane Starks, who is on his third trip with the Raiders. He was cut at some point in each of the previous two years.

He was a final cut out of training camp in 2006, but never moved any of his stuff out of the locker room. He was back on the team a couple of days later.

Starks made the team last year, but was let go to make room for Dominic Rhodes following his four-game suspension.

The Raiders also signed cornerback Michael Waddell, formerly of the Tennessee Titans. A fourth-round draft pick of Tennessee in 2004, Waddell missed all of last season with a knee injury.

*Lastly, I'd like to give shout out to my buddies at http://mvn.com/nfl-raiders. Thanks for showing this hack some love.

--Jason Jones

April 15, 2008
The sked is out

First off, that I'm expected to "evaluate" or "analyze" the schedule is proof that some of us need lives. My thoughts on Randy Moss' return to Oakland...what if he doesn't play? I have no idea who will be good, bad or dysfunctional this season.

1. Thankfully, I won't be in Buffalo in November. Have fun out there with the Niners, Barrows.

2. Of course the Monday Night opener is followed by a road game. At least it's not on the East coast. They'll be in Kansas City.

3. Two prime-time games after a 4-12 season. Not bad.

4. Three division games in the first four weeks. That could go a long way to determining if the Raiders can make the playoffs.

5. Tampa Bay in December. Nevermind the Gruden angle or Lane Kiffin's offense against his dad's defense. It's Tampa in December. There's nothing wrong with that (except getting back to Cali in time for the final press conference of the season).

I've already thought way too much about this.

Week 1
Monday, September 8
7:15 p.m. Denver Broncos ESPN

Week 2
Sunday, September 14
10:00 a.m. @ Kansas City Chiefs CBS

Week 3
Sunday, September 21
10:00 a.m. @ Buffalo Bills CBS

Week 4
Sunday, September 28
1:05 p.m. San Diego Chargers CBS

Week 5
Sunday, October 5 BYE WEEK

Week 6
Sunday, October 12 10:00 a.m.
@ New Orleans Saints CBS

Week 7
Sunday, October 19 1:15 p.m.
New York Jets CBS

Week 8
Sunday, October 26 10:00 a.m.
@ Baltimore Ravens CBS

Week 9
Sunday, November 2 1:15 p.m.
Atlanta Falcons FOX

Week 10
Sunday, November 9 1:05 p.m.
Carolina Panthers FOX

Week 11
Sunday, November 16 10:00 a.m.
@ Miami Dolphins CBS

Week 12
Sunday November 23 1:05 p.m.
@ Denver Broncos CBS

Week 13
Sunday November 30 1:15 p.m.
Kansas City Chiefs CBS

Week 14
Thursday, December 4 5:15 p.m.
@ San Diego Chargers NFL Network

Week 15
Sunday, December 14 1:15 p.m.
New England Patriots CBS

Week 16
Sunday, December 21 1:05 p.m.
Houston Texans CBS

Week 17
Sunday, December 28 10:00 a.m.
@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers CBS

--Jason Jones


April 14, 2008
Nnamdi's headed to New England

No. He's not going to play for the Patriots. But I bet some of you clicked on the link just to make sure the Raiders' franchise cornerback wasn't bolting.

Nnamdi Asomugha is an exclusive franchise player, so he can't negotiate with other teams.

I was able to catch up Asomugha this afternoon as he prepares to take six Oakland students on a tour of colleges and cultural exhibits in the Boston and Rhode Island (or as Raiders fans might say, stinkin’ New England) area.

I’ve received several emails asking a lot about Asomugha’s feelings about being franchised and watching the Raiders then sign another cornerback, DeAngelo Hall, to a seven-year deal worth up to $70 million.

Here’s the short of it:

No he’s not mad.

He hasn’t spoken to Hall.

He’s working out in Los Angeles and will be ready for the season.

“I’m just letting (agent) Steve (Baker) handle it,” Asomugha said of contract negotiations.

Asomugha is a favorite of just about everyone at team headquarters in Alameda so expect the team to try to lock him up long term.

So don’t worry, there will be more of this in 2008:

Asomugha’s stayed busy by taking classes at the Harvard Business School through the NFL and preparing for the college tour with students from the East Oakland Youth Development Center.

There’s a lot of work Asomugha does with EOYDC that he doesn’t publicize. I’ve written about some of the excursions he’s taken students on the previous two offeseasons because (believe it or not) I like writing stories about athletes doing good things.

The group leaves Oakland late Tuesday and will spend five days back east.

Visit http://www.eoydc.org/ for more on the center and look for pictures from the tour to be posted.

I’ll be writing more about Nnamdi’s work off the field later this week for the newspaper.

That’s right, another positive Raider story.

--Jason Jones

April 10, 2008
Longing for Long

So the defensive player the Raiders REALLY like (if draft rumors are be believed) was in town yesterday.

Virginia DE Chris Long (better known as the son of Howie) took in a baseball game with LB Kirk Morrison and defensive line coach Keith Millard.

Defensive staff members love Long, but that doesn't mean much until April 26.

RB Darren McFadden remains intriguing and DT Glenn Dorsey would instantly start next to Tommy Kelly.

But the franchise loves Chris. And how could it not want the son of one of its greats?

But a lot has to happen for that to become reality:

1. Miami, reportedly in talks with Michigan OT Jake Long and Ohio State DE Vernon Gholston about a contract and being the first overall selection, would have to pass on C. Long.
2. The Rams would then have to go with whoever the Dolphins don’t select or Dorsey.
3. The Falcons need Dorsey or Sedrick Ellis more than they need another DE. But don’t rule out Long going third, especially if Dorsey is gone and the Falcons decide to pass on QB Matt Ryan.
4. Or a team that wants McFadden would have to trade ahead of the Raiders, assuming the Dolphins take Long or Gholston.

That said, I would be shocked if the Raiders get their wish and C. Long is waiting for them at No. 4.

****
Chris Carr officially became a Tennessee Titan over the weekend and couldn’t be happier.

"I was so happy to get out of Oakland and I am hungry to win after all those losing years out there,'' Carr told The Tennessean. "I want to be on a winning team in Tennessee and I want to do whatever I can to help this team win.''

He’ll compete to see time in the secondary and as a kick and punt returner for the Titans.

Carr, a restricted free agent, became expendable with the addition of S Gibril Wilson and CB DeAngelo Hall. Hall can return punts as can WR Johnnie Lee Higgins.

--Jason Jones

April 9, 2008
Gholston coming?

The ever-popular site profootballtalk.com reports a league source indicates there are “strong indications” the Raiders will select Vernon Gholston with the fourth pick in this month's draft.

I've assumed Gholston would be the pick for more than a month for a few reasons:

1. DE Chris Long and DT Glenn Dorsey are likely to be gone by time the Raiders select.

2. The Raiders need a DE really bad.

3. RB Darren McFadden is enticing, but doesn't make as much sense as Gholston.

4. Gholston had very impressive workouts and the Raiders are always fond of players that are great athletes.

That being said, the Raiders will probably draft McFadden. It is the time of year when it's best not to trust much of what's said about the draft.

--Jason Jones

April 8, 2008
Help from the farm?

It’s already the second week of April, which means the NFL Draft is fast approaching.

While we all know the big names, a team’s draft is truly built in the middle rounds and depth provided by finding gems in the form of undrafted rookies.

TE Jon Madsen, former KR/CB Chris Carr are a couple of unsigned players the Raiders have benefited from. Later-round picks like FB Oren O’Neal and DE Jay Richardson were major contributors last year.

The Raiders have shown a liking for former Stanford linebackers the last couple of seasons.

Before an injury, Timi Wusu looked to be in position to claim a roster spot as an undrafted rookie in 2006. The Raiders were happy with the addition of Jon Alston last year, too.

A late-round draft pick/free agent option the Raiders could look at is Stanford LB Landon Johnson.

Raider fans should love this statement from Johnson:

“I think playing the run is my strong suit,” Johnson said. “I’m from Texas so I’m used to playing the run.”

Johnson (6-1, 230) had the misfortune of attending Stanford at a time in which the team went through three head coaches. He was also dogged by injuries.

But he’s a good athlete and I looking forward to showing an NFL team what he can do when not asked to play multiple spots in multiple schemes.

“The fact that we had so many coaching staffs I learned a lot of different things,” Johnson said.

He’ll workout with the 49ers later this month. Johnson hasn’t heard from the Raiders, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be in camp with them.

After all, don’t the Raiders need at least one Stanford linebacker a year?

Now it’s time for some reader questions:

Question: I love your articles and the way you cover the Raiders. You are the one guy that never seems to over react to something. You find the answer the best you can and give it. Thanks. BUT, you lost much respect from me with the whole Kobe M.V.Crap thing. This guy is a joke and the league treats him like a god. He walks EVERY time he gets the ball. The W's got hosed on that foul at the end of the game. The refs are a joke and the Lakers need them to win.

Victor, Oakley

Answer: Maybe the league treats him like a god because he is a basketball god? And the last time I checked the refs never made a shot for the Lakers. But thanks for the kind words. I hope I can salvage a little respect.

Question: When will the actual schedule be released? I heard it was supposed to be on April 3rd, 1pm PST on NFL Network, but it is not listed now. Inquiring minds want to know.

Brian, San Lorenzo

Answer: I don’t know, but if you check out profootballtalk.com, there’s a post speculating the release date could be April 11 or April 17th.

I don’t know why the league drags this out. I’d like to plan my social activities on the road, so the sooner I know the better.

Oops, I mean the hours I’ll spend in the hotel going over stats for the next game.

Question: Are the Raiders gonna resign Barry Sims to play left tackle because Kwame Harris isn’t the answer, or would they draft Jake Long if he is available or Clady from Boise St. since he is in zone blocking scheme in college. What are your thoughts on WrestleMania’s pretty weak matches.

Adam, Brockport, Pa.

Answer: I don’t see a scenario in which Barry Sims would be re-signed. And though Harris isn’t viewed as the answer by most pundits, he’ll get every chance to be the answer. A dark horse at left tackle could be Mark Wilson, a former Cal standout and Redskins draft pick that spent most of last season on the practice squad. Mario Henderson and Cornell Green will battle for time at right tackle, based on what Lane Kiffin said last at the NFL Owners Meetings. I’m not sure if the team would give Paul McQuistan a look at left tackle. They believe he can also play guard.

As for WrestleMania, I didn’t shell out nearly $60 to watch it and the only match I really wanted to see was Ric Flair’s last match. I figured they’d make Edge put over the Undertaker, but was pleasantly surprised Orton didn’t have to drop the belt. The company needs to give heels longer runs as champions.

Question:I have a suggestion to your blog.
Why don't you include in this blog, videos of your interviews with players, coaches, trainers, etc. Everything related to Raider Football, it will be very nice, I haven't seen anybody do that yet.

Question regarding DMC. What type of RB he is? Just a straight gap RB where his speed is the main thing, cut RB? Compare him to AP, who is more explosive? Who will you have in the bottom of the ninth with a tie score?

Jose, Mexico City, Mexico

Answer: There are actually NFL rules that prevent the posting of video.

As for McFadden vs. Adrian Peterson, I think AP is more of a power back compared to DMC. McFadden is a bigger threat in the passing game and might have better “straight-line” speed.

If I have to choose, I say Peterson just because I’ve seen what he can do in the pros already.

Question: You wrote: "Newberry is a favorite of Lane Kiffin and offensive line coach Tom Cable"

Newberry is known to have wanted to remain a Raider. If the coach, line coach and player all were high on each other, what possible reason could there be for his not returning? He played very well on a phenomenally improved line last year. I know Davis calls the shots, but there's no reason he wouldn't agree to bring him back if Cable really wanted him. Is it possible Cable's being polite publically about Newberry, but didn't necessarily want the aging, injury prone C back?

Bladewalker, Madsion, Wi.

Answer: I don’t think it was a Cable just being polite. I know he really likes Jeremy. But this is a business and Newberry was toughing it out on knees that had been through a lot. And in John Wade, the Raiders found a veteran without a recent history of injuries.

I think the Wade signing says more about the status of Jake Grove. He was injured a lot of last season and hasn’t lived up to the expectations of a player that was billed as the best in his draft class at his position.

In Newberry and now Wade, the Raiders have sought out bigger centers to push Grove. Though the zone-blocking scheme is supposed to benefit smaller linemen, the Raiders clearly want size at center along with agility.

Question: Although I am elated at the MNF opener announcement, I thought it a very curious choice, don't you? Denver hasn't been to the playoffs the past two years and Oakland is the proud owner of the worst NFL record over the past five years. I am sure there are a lot of teams a little miffed. And yes, I agree about the 2006 opener. I spent a LOT of money getting awesome seats to treat my brother and nephews only to watch an absolute disaster. Your prediction of a second week cross country flight will absolutely come true.

Jay, Folsom

Answer: I figured the Raiders might debut on MNF this season because the NFL needs a West coast game to have a doubleheader. But my guess would have been the Raiders hosting New England in Randy Moss’ return to Oakland. Perhaps that game figured to be lopsided and the league opted for a game that would be more competitive on paper.


Question: What up Jason. Keep up the good work bro, I'm on here daily trying to get my Raider fix. The question I have for you is this: With Kiffin's recent comments on us not needing help in the RB dept., do you feel like that may be him positioning to get McFadden? It's unlike the Raiders, or any team for that matter to "show their hand" so to speak.

Isaiah, Tucson, Az

Answer: I don’t believe anything a coach, GM or anyone associated with a team says about the draft.

By saying the team doesn’t need a running back Kiffin could be putting the word out that a team wanting to trade up for McFadden needs to call, but I’m sure that’s already been done.

Question: Last year, Coach had several opportunities to break in our young talents, particularly J Russ and M Bush. Can you explain to me why he left them on the shelf as he did? And do you agree with me that this was a bad move on Kiffin's part? What will he do this year if we get someone like DMac? I think our team would be better off had we played these guys, and this was definitely Kiffin's biggest rookie mistake. Other than that, and some conservative play calling, I do like the young coach.

JT, San Mateo

Answer: I’ll start with Bush. The Raiders weren’t willing to release LaMont Jordan to make room for Bush on the roster. I thought part of the reasoning (not wanting to see Jordan end up with Denver or Kansas City) was ridiculous. The Raiders weren’t a playoff team, so why worry about those teams when the Raiders should have been preparing its young players for 2008.

I understood bringing Russell along slowly except for the whole not letting Russell play in the cold business. As one player mentioned: “What are you gonna do when you have to play in Denver in December?”

I assume these are things Kiffin will learn from. As for McFadden, that wouldn’t be a problem.

First, he wouldn’t be coming off an injury, like Bush was. Secondly, I’ve never heard of a team holding a running back out because he wasn’t ready to play. That just doesn’t happen.

--Jason Jones

April 4, 2008
DMC on his way for a visit

Lane Kiffin told reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings in Florida this week that Darren McFadden was a “phenomenal” player but the Raiders were happy with their running backs.

Nevertheless, the Raiders will get another up-close look at McFadden soon.

The Arkansas running back and consensus top back (well, except for the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock) is scheduled to be in Alameda on Monday to meet with team officials.

The team interviewed McFadden at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

Kiffin said the Raiders’ biggest need was on the defensive line, but two of the players the franchise is fond of – Virginia DE Chris Long and LSU DT Glenn Dorsey – aren’t likely to be available with the fourth overall pick.

McFadden could be the most explosive back the Raiders have had since Bo Jackson.

Justin Fargas is the workhorse that punishes defenders. Dominic Rhodes is a good change-of-pace back. Michael Bush is another runner that could be a grinder between the tackles.

McFadden has the ability to trouble defenses with his speed that made him one of the most feared weapons in the Southeastern Conference in recent years.

Raiders’ owner Al Davis has been disappointed in the Raiders’ offense recent years and is said to be fond of the Arkansas star.

And for those you that can’t get enough, here’s more Run DMC:

Oops, wrong DMC:

--Jason Jones

April 3, 2008
Practice opponents

For those of you that plan your summer vacations around Raider football, the Raiders’ preseason opponents have been announced.

The Raiders open the preseason hosting the 49ers followed by a nationally-televised game at Tennessee on Aug. 16 on Fox.

The Raiders host Arizona the following week and play at Seattle on Aug. 29. The Raiders closed out the preseason in Seattle the previous two years.

Dates and times for the 49er and Arizona games will be announced at a later date. The Raiders have played home exhibition games on Friday nights in recent years.

It will be the second time in three years the Raiders will be on national TV in the preseason.

The Raiders played in the Hall of Fame game and were on ESPN at Minnesota in 2006 in Randy Moss’ first game in Minnesota after being traded to Oakland in 2005.

The Raiders already have two games that will be seen nationally coming off a 4-12 season.

Oakland will be the second game of the Monday Night doubleheader to open the season when it hosts Denver.

--Jason Jones

April 1, 2008
Kiffin speaks

This from Lane Kiffin (from an Associated Press story) from the NFL Owners Meetings in Florida:

On working for Al Davis:

"It's very unique. He's an owner who is very hands-on, prides himself on his knowledge of football. It's not the easiest job. I know people have left because of that. Al is very demanding. At the same time, he is someone who has done a lot of things in this league — coach, (AFL) commissioner, owner — and has a lot of knowledge."

On defensive coordinator Rob Ryan:

"At the end of the season, Rob and I had a meeting and Rob felt it was in his best interest to go somewhere else. I met with the owner and expressed that with Al, we talked about a lot of things and a lot of different scenarios that could come up, and Al decided to stay with Rob. Rob has one year left on his contract. ... I've always had a strong and very good relationship with Rob."

There's also this from ESPN:

On Darren McFadden: "[McFadden] is a phenomenal player .... But we really don't have a big need at running back."

Kiffin said the team's biggest need is on the defensive line. He added trading down in the draft is a possibility.

He added that JaMarcus Russell wouldn't be as effective if he weighed 260 because of his frame, according to the report.

--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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