Raiders QB Derek Carr vs. Broncos (Photo via Getty Images)
Ryan Lipton, the host of the JR Report podcast, breaks down the recent Oakland Raiders loss to the Washington Redskins and looks forward to the Week 4 AFC West matchup in Mile High against the Denver Broncos.
The Raiders should have and had every right to protest, however, it definitely took time away from focusing on the game and could have been mentally draining.
As such, the team played without a spark for the entire night.
Oakland usually plays with a certain edge, especially with running back Marshawn Lynch on the roster, making this game an anomaly as there will not be this much off the field emotion surrounding a game for a long time.
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The defense played admirably
Yes, the defense gave up 27 points on Sunday night, but it could have been much worse.
If one said the Raiders were going to be outgained by 344 yards, have three turnovers and wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper would have just two receptions combined, one would think the team would have lost by over 30 points.
Instead, the defense held Washington to just 3.4 yards per carry in a game in which the unit was on the field for over 38 minutes and was constantly in a poor position. So giving up 27 points is not bad.
The performance wasn’t great, but it showed that the defense is continuing to improve and is miles better than the defense from 2016, who would have given up at least 40 points if they were in a similar situation as Sunday night.
Cornerback Sean Smith still looked horrible covering tight end Vernon Davis. Once safety Obi Melifonwu returns from injury, Smith’s snaps will be very much limited as Melifonwu will be able to guard the tight ends and therefore improve the pass defense.
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It was just an off night for Derek Carr
The game did confirm one thing that we should have already known, Oakland can’t win if quarterback Derek Carr has an off night.
Fortunately, Carr’s off nights come few and far between.
Also, bad nights happen to everyone. Even the unbeatable New England Patriots and QB Tom Brady stunk it up in front of a national stage on opening night against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Carr still needs to improve on the national stage as the terrible performance against the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football from 2016 might be fresh in everyone’s mind. But until Carr and Co. put up another stinker, there is no reason to worry.
Remember, one time is an outlier. If it continues and becomes a trend, like a loss on Sunday to the Broncos, then it is time to get out the panic button. Maybe not press it, but at least have it around.
The Oakland Coliseum was behind Lynch completely, roaring in agreement with the 31-year-old running back. He appeared as happy as a teenager that hears his favorite song on the radio and wants to just smile and dance.
What else could Lynch be happy about?
The Raiders are now 2-0 and look as dominant as ever after recording convincing wins over the Tennessee Titans and the Jets.
Lynch, hasn’t been a bystander but a catalyst to the aforementioned success. He’s had 121 yards on the ground on 30 attempts with one touchdown.
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He hasn’t been all-worldly but the Oakland native is averaging over 4 yards per carry and his energy has seemed infectious to the team. A major reason why the diehard fans were making the stadium so loud on Sunday.
Lynch has strong ties to the Bay Area as he attended Oakland Technical High School and proceeded to wear the Blue and Gold playing in the city right next to his birthplace at the University of California, Berkeley.
After moving on from Cal, the Buffalo Bills drafted the Oakland native. He then moved on to the Seattle Seahawks after three seasons in Buffalo. After the move, he finally became the elite running back he was projected to become.
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After stepping away from the game after the 2015 season, Lynch decided he wanted to lace up his cleats one more time, but this time he wanted to do it in his hometown.
He requested a trade from Seattle and eventually got his way. The Seahawks got the Raiders’ 2018 fifth-round pick for Lynch and a sixth-round pick in 2018.
With the franchise set to move from its roots in Oakland to Las Vegas, Lynch embracing the great Oakland culture seems perfectly timed.
Will Lynch have an all-pro year?
Probably not. But that’s not the point. Lynch is exciting Oakland and the Raider Nation and is someone for kids to recognize and look up to. The Bay Area youth can see the way he takes on the persona that is Oakland in a positive and happy light.
In a time when the Golden State Warriors are leaving the East Bay, the Oakland Athletics are relocating to a different part of the city and the Raiders will soon be leaving for Vegas, saying Oakland lacks stability is a complete understatement.
Lynch is more than just football. He is a special role model and represents hope and excitement for not only the city of Oakland but the entire Bay Area.
Rob Werner is a contributing writer for The JR Report. For more news follow him on twitter @robwerner28.
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New England Patriots QB Tom Brady (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Tomorrow will be overreaction Monday in the NFL. Fans across America will have seen their team play one game (except for Miami and Tampa Bay) and will be making assumptions about the rest of the season based upon on one 60 minute sample.
As always, many of these conclusions end up being very far from the truth.
As such, here is The JR Report’s advice on what overreactions are legit after the NFL’s Week 1 action.
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Where it’s wrong to overreact
The Patriots will be the Patriots
The New England Patriots were without wide receiver Julian Edelman. Wide receiver Philip Dorsett was just traded to the team and it was WR Brandin Cooks’ first game with quarterback Tom Brady.
Moreover, all-pro safety Eric Berry had the evening of his life completely taking tight end Rob Gronkowski out of the game.
Offensively, everything went against New England. Brady will be fine and the chemistry between him and the rest of the offense will only improve as the season progresses. Remember, they still put up 27 points against an elite Kansas City Chiefs defense on an off night with many injuries.
On defense, there were also many new pieces added during the offseason that included cornerback Stephon Gillmore. There was also an unfortunate injury to stud linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
Coach Bill Belichick will turn around the defense and Brady will do the same with the offense. The rest of the NFL should not think this is the end of anything with New England.
The Patriots will be back and better than ever during Week 2’s matchup against the New Orleans Saints.
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Arizona will be OK
The Arizona Cardinals lost in ugly fashion as they gave up 20 fourth quarter points and quarterback Carson Palmer threw three inceptions. However, the Cardinals will not be a below .500 team like they were last season.
Arizona still has a good defense, a stellar running back and a pretty great duo in Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals were a little unlucky on the road against a possible playoff team in the Detroit Lions. Don’t overreact. Look for Arizona to bounce back in a major fashion against the Luck-less Indianapolis Colts in Week 2.
*** Update: With Cardinals running back David Johnson injured for what could be half the season, the future is not quite as bright. Nonetheless, Arizona will still look to be an improved team in 2017 and will stay afloat in the NFC wild card race until Johnson returns. ***
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Jared Goff is still 1-7
Yes, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff looked great today, however, it was against the Colts.
Remember, Indianapolis had what many people thought was the worst defense in the league in 2016. Even with quarterback Andrew Luck, they only won eight games. Now, they don’t have Luck so their league worst defense is now joined by a league worst offense as they have no hope without their MVP under center.
Without a doubt, Goff is an improved quarterback in 2017. But no Los Angeles fan should get ahead of themselves.
Goff will look good early, but 2016 Goff will be present shortly as their schedule becomes brutal with the Dallas Cowboys, (Jacksonville Jaguars?), Seattle Seahawks, Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings and Houston Texans all in the next 10 weeks.
With the Oakland Raiders’ 2017 preseason wrapping up, it is time to start looking forward to the 2017 NFL regular season.
As such, here are The JR Report’s win-loss projections for the 2017 Raiders.
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Week 1: at Tennessee Titans
Starting the regular season off on the road against an up and coming team in the Tennessee Titans would be tough for any team to overcome.
Running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry and even quarterback Marcus Mariota could cause many issues on the Oakland defense. With so many weapons on the Tennessee offense, the Raiders’ poor defensive communication could be exposed.
With that being said, the Oakland defense will get gashed often, but the Raiders have an MVP caliber quarterback on the other side who will lead Oakland to a nail-biter victory in Week 1 carrying over the common theme from 2016.
Until the defense learns to communicate and gets defensive backs Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu up to speed, they will look a lot like the 2016 Raiders, just with fewer victories.
Raiders 34 Titans 30
Week 2: vs. New York Jets
This game will be the first home opener in Oakland since the organization announced their move to Las Vegas.
A blow out victory against the New York Jets should do well in pleasing the fans and keeping the Oakland Coliseum hospitable with the relocation on everyone’s mind.
Raiders 27 Jets 10
Week 3: at Washington Redskins (SNF)
The Raiders are a better team than the Washington Redskins and, despite what the salaries might say in the future, Carr has a major advantage over quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Nonetheless, it is still early in the season and the Oakland defense will be vulnerable. Cousins will have a monster game and Carr’s late magic will not be enough to carry his team on the road against a possible playoff team on Sunday Night Football.
Redskins 27 Raiders 24
Week 4: at Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos just do not have the star-power at quarterback to compete with a talent like Carr.
The Raiders, like last year’s home win, will use running back Marshawn Lynch to run over the defense and open the play action passing game for Carr to complete a few game-changing strikes.
The Broncos might not admit it, but they are about to enter a rebuilding phase as they need to find their quarterback of the future. Also, placing safety TJ Ward on the trading block does suggest a possible rebuilding period.
Per source, Broncos are actually making — not receiving — calls about a trade of S T.J. Ward.
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Week 5: vs. Baltimore Ravens
Oakland has defeated the Baltimore Ravens two seasons in a row. Moreover, quarterback Joe Flacco might not even be ready or healthy for this game in Oakland.
As a result, the outcome will be no different from the last two meetings.
Raiders 20 Ravens 13
Week 6: vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Quarterback Philip Rivers is going to have a field day against the porous Raiders secondary. The Los Angeles Chargers are a much-improved team, maybe the most in the NFL, and will sneak up on Oakland a few days before they have to play the Kansas City Chiefs on national television.
Chargers 31 Raiders 27
Week 7: vs. Kansas City Chiefs (TNF)
A game under the lights at home will help Carr turn around his poor history against the Chiefs (lost five straight games to KC) since there is no team Carr and company will want to beat more than Kansas City.
The game also becomes a must-win after the previous week’s loss to the Chargers.
Lynch has a beast quake type game as the Coliseum erupts on Thursday Night Football during the team’s first victory over the Chiefs since Carr’s first NFL win.
Raiders 27 Chiefs 20
Week 8: at Buffalo Bills
As long as Tyrod Taylor is the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, they won’t stand any chance against Carr and the Raiders.
Oakland would need a major off-day to lose to Buffalo, especially as the Bills subtly begin their rebuild, which they should until Tom Brady exits the division.
Like many of Raider Nation would assume, there were many positives on offense, however, major concerns still remain on the defensive side of the football.
Here are The JR Report’s 3 takeaways from Week 3 of the Raiders’ preseason.
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Oakland quarterback Derek Carr threw for 144 yards and two touchdowns in just under a half of play against a Super Bowl contender. His first half included two magnificent pinpoint strikes to Raiders wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Amari Cooper. His incredible play was honestly sub-par for Carr as he started the game out of sync often over throwing his targets.
It seems that Carr hasn’t lost a step since his fibula injury and looks better than he was in 2016. Oakland offensive coordinator Todd Downing has decided to give Carr even greater control of the offense at the line of scrimmage and it looks like it will pay massive dividends.
The new additions of running back Marshawn Lynch and Jared Cook provide a running back with elite vision and a big tight end target for Carr. Two things he has not had his entire NFL career.
As a result, the recent additions could help Oakland’s offense ascend to the top in the league. Honestly, it isn’t too far-fetched especially with New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman out for the year and the Atlanta Falcons subject to a Super Bowl hangover.
All in all, Carr is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and has shown everyone throughout the preseason why the Raiders missed him so much during Week 17 and the Wild Card playoffs last season.
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Run defense a pleasant surprise
Going into the third preseason game, it was paramount to see how the Oakland defense could handle Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot and their high-powered offensive line.
It would be Oakland’s first big test for the young linebackers on the ground until the regular season kicks off. To Raider Nation’s surprise, the Raiders linebackers held Elliot to just 18 yards on six carries.
It is possible the story would have been different if the teams played a full game. Maybe Elliot would have worn down the Oakland defense and broken a few runs late, but the Raiders held him in check during the short opportunity.
It is still the preseason, so everything will be taken with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, the Oakland defense showed that they could and have the potential to stop the run. They just need to figure out how to communicate and fill gaps on a consistent basis.
Remember, the Raiders defense was trending in the right direction before Carr got hurt. If they keep that trend the same, then the Oakland defense will be a completely different story in 2017.
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Quarterback, tight ends continue to wreak havoc
While it was good to see the Raiders stop the run with their first team, they still struggled mightily to cover the tight end and stop Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
Prescott looked almost unstoppable at times going 11/14 for 113 yards and one touchdown. Moreover, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten had six catches for 74 yards and one score, all in less than a half of play.
Every season Oakland is letting tight ends slip down the seam for big gains. It was no different last night and will not be any different this season unless Raiders safety Obi Melifonwu has a splendid rookie season. He looked good in his limited time on Saturday, but a preseason game is much different from any live regular season action.
Also, it is hard to forget the Oakland defense made Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff look like an All-Pro, which is hard to do, for the former Cal Bear threw for 160 yards and one touchdown against the Raiders in limited time.
Hopefully, the return of Melifonwu and cornerback Gareon Conley will help suffocate tight ends and move cornerback Sean Smith into a smaller role with Conley taking more reps.
If both rookies can’t stay healthy, Oakland’s pass defense could be worrisome, especially against tight ends.
Oakland Raiders cornerback Sean Smith has the fourth highest cap hit on the Raiders’ roster in 2017, yet he is obviously not the fourth best player on the team and comes nowhere close to cracking the top 10.
Smith’s $9.5 million cap hit, per Spotrac, lands him in dangerous waters. He is due No. 1 cornerback money, but will probably be the No. 3 or No. 4 cornerback on the team this fall. Moreover, Oakland ranked just No. 24 against the pass in 2016, so being third or fourth on the depth chart is nothing to get excited about.
The Raiders will be moving on from Smith at some point. Whether it is this year or next year, we do not know.
If Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie wants to see Smith in a new uniform in 2017, here are McKenzie’s options.
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Cut Raiders CB Sean Smith
Many of Raider Nation might clamor for Smith to be cut, however, that would make zero sense for the football team.
If McKenzie chooses to cut him, he would only save the franchise $250,000 since $9.25 million would still count against the cap as dead money, via Spotrac. Therefore, there is absolutely no benefit to seeing Smith cut this season.
Oakland would also not be able to find an equally talented replacement for $250,000. In addition, Smith has performed poorly, for his price tag, but is still a decent starting cornerback in the NFL as long as the team plays around his weaknesses.
If no cap space is to be gained from his departure, it is safe to say he will be on the roster come Week 1 of the NFL regular season unless McKenzie surprises the NFL by making a trade.
Lastly, the Raiders can cut Smith in 2018 without penalty since there would be no dead money by releasing him then.
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Trade Raiders CB Sean Smith
A trade scenario is extremely unlikely since McKenzie has never been eager to make trades and no team would want to take on Smith’s contract without getting something in return.
Regardless, here is a hypothetical trade scenario that would help out two teams and send Smith out of Oakland.
First and foremost, the Raiders must find a team that is not expecting to win this season and has cap space to spare.
If Smith came in, he would immediately become a starter Day 1 and could give valuable leadership to the young pieces in San Francisco. After Smith’s one year with the Niners, the organization could release him without any penalty and would have accrued an extra sixth round selection to help build the team for the future.
In regards to Oakland, McKenzie would be extremely hesitant to part ways with a sixth round draft pick, but he would save the team $5.25 million, via Spotrac.
With Carr and Jackson’s recent contracts and Mack’s future contract, $5.25 million could go a long way in helping keep the Raiders’ young core together. In essence, the $5.25 million could be more valuable than having one sixth round pick in 2018.
Maybe, that $5.25 million will help bring Raiders tackle Donald Penn to training camp.
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What McKenzie should do
Personally, parting ways with any assets is not the smartest move for the Raiders.
Oakland should keep Smith on the 53 man roster and cut him the following season. Then, they can have his services for 2017, not lose any draft picks and move on from him in 2018 when they can do so without hurting the team’s cap space.
Ryan Lipton is the founder of The JR Report. For more news and JR Report updates follow him on twitter @rytime98.
Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack, wide receiver Amari Cooper and safety Obi Melifonwu are not participating in Thursday’s practice, per NBC Bay Area’s Scott Bair.
Oakland’s No. 1 NFL draft selection in cornerback Gareon Conley is also still not participating in practices, per the Las Vegas Review Journal’s Michael Gelhken, and all of the players above are unlikely to suit up against the Arizona Cardinals Saturday.
Conley and Melifonwu’s continued absence is much more concerning than Mack and Cooper’s given that each is established players and already familiar with the system and their roles.