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.
Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack has just added another accolade to his already impressive career. Today, Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus and his son Matt Butkus presented Mack with the Butkus Award, via the Raiders’ official website.
Mack was a finalist last season for the award and finished second for college football’s Butkus Award in 2013 while he was at the University of Buffalo.
This year’s Butkus Award winner in college is just across the bay, for San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster won.
In regards to Mack, the selection committee had high praise for the 2016 defensive player of the year. “Mack was the most disruptive defender in football in 2016.” They even compared him to a “first-ballot Hall of Famer” and called him “unblockable” as he was the “deciding factor in many Raider victories last season.”
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Mack is only entering his fourth season and seems to have won every single defensive award an NFL player could dream of.
Currently, the only thing missing from Mack’s resume is a Super Bowl ring. If he keeps improving at the rate he has since he entered the league, it won’t be long until he is the deciding factor in an Oakland Super Bowl win.
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The real grind of the NFL season began Tuesday with the arrival of mandatory minicamp, as Oakland Raiders coaches got their first chance to truly assess their players.
Here is a look at the three Raiders with the most to prove at 2017 minicamp.
No. 3, Clive Walford
Raiders tight end Clive Walford has been a disappointment since his ATV crash last year.
Walford had a rookie season filled with promise, but plateaued in year two amassing only 30 more receiving yards while notching the same number of touchdowns (3) than the year prior.
It is not known whether or not Walford’s woes were related to his injury, but given his age he should still have the ability to develop into an elite red-zone weapon for Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
This is a pivotal minicamp for Walford to demonstrate that he has improved in areas of need. Should he fail to impress, he could fall from the No. 1 TE in Oakland, all the way down to No. 3 behind new Raiders tight end Jared Cook and Lee Smith.
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No. 2, Marquel Lee
Raiders rookie linebacker Marquel Lee is expected to be given the task of filling Oakland’s biggest positional need this season. Lee will be expected to compete for the starting inside linebacker position that was previously occupied by former Raiders linebacker Perry Riley Jr.
Despite the Raiders publicly proclaiming LB as a weakness, they waited until the fifth round to address the void.
Lee is expected to battle Raiders linebacker Cory James for the starting position, but James lacks the prototypical size to be a starting inside linebacker.
Therefore, Lee is logically the best choice to play the position.
However, inside linebacker is the quarterback of the defense and requires strong knowledge and instincts, usually tough for a rookie player to acquire. With that being said, Lee must take full advantage of the offseason activities to prepare himself to take over the role.
If he doesn’t prove he is capable, then Raiders coach Jack Del Rio will never feel comfortable turning the defense over to Lee.
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No. 1, Sean Smith
Raiders cornerback Sean Smith might have been the most criticized Oakland player last season.
He signed a monster four-year $38 million deal last offseason, yet seemed to get burned deep at least once a week in 2016.
The Raiders understood that the corner position was a major weakness and drafted Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley. If Conley transitions nicely and can play on the outside, then Smith could easily be expendable if his worth isn’t shown.
Oakland already has reliable nickel corner TJ Carrie and outside cornerback David Amerson.
Therefore, Smith will need to show the staff that he is worth the millions of dollars that they paid him last year. If he doesn’t, he could easily be cut in the near future.
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Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was in attendance during Game 5 of the 2017 NBA Finals and was able to see the Golden State Warriors dethrone Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James for the second time.
The video isn’t too exciting, for Lynch is just strolling onto the field, but he did it with intimidation. Not too many linebackers are going to want to see Lynch behind this elite Raiders’ offensive line.
In addition, the Oakland receiving core showcased some sweet footwork on the sidelines today at practice.
Despite the Oakland Raiders expected relocation to Las Vegas in 2020, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr still believes he has a purpose for the city of Oakland.
When asked about what the Golden State Warriors and the Oakland Raiders mean to the city of Oakland at today’s press conference, Carr mentioned that “[God] placed us here on this team to impact [Oakland].”
With the Warriors winning two titles in the past three seasons, Carr has easily been able to see the joy that has been put on every Oakland fan’s face and the power a sports team possesses.
With that in mind, it seems Carr fully believes that he will make a similar impact to the city of Oakland, as Golden State, before the team leaves for Las Vegas by winning a Super Bowl.
Most great teams, like the New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, and Green Bay Packers, all have great tight ends. Hopefully, Cook can be that for the Raiders.
In regards to Melifonwu, he is given the task of trying to turn around the weak Oakland defense from 2016. He won’t be tied to one position as he has enough versatility to play safety, nickel, and linebacker.
Furthermore, he is imperative to helping the Raiders get past the Patriots as he will most likely get the task of guarding Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
If Oakland wants to be AFC champions, they will need Cook and Melifonwu to transition nicely and make a significant impact.
Oakland Raiders punter Marquette King had one of the most interesting takes this offseason on Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
During the NFL Top 100 Players of 2017 show, put on by the NFL Network, King was one of the players who talked about the No. 36 ranked Hill.
However, it wasn’t the normal interview that we are accustomed to seeing in these videos. King decided to take a friendly shot at the explosive receiver by saying “it’s always like the ugly people are the best players.”
As everyone knows, the Oakland Raiders won their relocation vote 31-1 on March 27 to move the team to Las Vegas in 2020.
However, the team belongs in Oakland. The deal to move to Las Vegas has many question marks including taking over $1 billion in debt, alienating their fan base that made the organization special, hurting the Vegas citizens by using $1 billion in funds that could go elsewhere, and Vegas is one recession or bad football team away from having major issues selling out.
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In opposition to the move, Oakland Raider diehards, Forever Oakland and We Stand With Oakland, have organized a legal team to fight the movement involving star-studded legal lineup of Jim Quinn and Eric Hotchstad.
Quinn has represented and won with major companies including CBS, ESPN, Exxon Mobile, and Marvel. He has also represented players in all the major American sports leagues including the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS and NHL. In his case against the NFL, he won NFL players the right to free agency.
The other representative, Hotchstad, has represented CBS, eBay, GE, MasterCard and Stubhub and was recognized on the “Under 40 Hot List” in 2016 by Benchmark Litigation.
Without a doubt, the Raider Nation has mobilized to raise money to bring in an elite legal team that rarely loses and has consistently taken on big corporations.
Today, the group had a press conference (can be watched below) announcing that they are in the exploratory phase. They will be looking at what argument they can build and what plans of action they will take against the NFL.
It is unknown what course of actions they are going to take now, but it is obvious the Raider fans in Oakland will put up a fight. Even though it is a longshot to get anything accomplished, Oakland has fought long odds before and won.
For those in Raider Nation who are interesting in helping the cause and keeping the Raiders in their rightful city of Oakland, you can donate by clicking this link.