Sporano takes over sinking Raiders ship

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

ALAMEDA — There’s no sugar-coating needed. The Oakland Raiders are a sinking ship with no relief in sight.

The 2014 season was touted as a step in the right direction for the Silver and Black. With an influx of  established veterans that have playoff and championship experience, Oakland was expected to compete for the playoffs.

Now, the team is closer to competing for the No. 1 draft pick in next year’s NFL daft rather than a team trying to get into the “tournament.”

After Sunday’s 38-14 drubbing at the hands of the Miami Dolphins that left Oakland rudderless at 0-4, Oakland made the change that everyone saw coming when the organization fired embattled head coach, Dennis Allen late Monday night via telephone by Raiders general manager, Reggie McKenzie.

Allen’s firing was first reported by Fox Sports’ NFL Insider, Jay Glazer.

In 36 games as the head coach (Oakland’s 18th overall, seventh in their last 12 seasons), Allen sported an 8-28 record.

Sure there have been questions of the lack of talent the team had, but it was Allen’s lack of progress in the win column that eventually led to his downfall. Bottom line in the NFL, you have to win games any way you can and Allen never was able to win more games than he lost.

Per NFL sources, Allen’s was already on the hot seat after Oakland’s embarrassing 30-14 home loss to the Houston Texans in Week 2. Allen was certainly set to be fired should Oakland lost to Miami in London.

“After thorough evaluation, we have determined to move in another direction,” said McKenzie during Tuesday’s press conference. “We appreciate Dennis Allen’s dedication to the organization and wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

Offensive line coach Tony Sporano will take over the team as the interim head coach.

“Tony Sparano has a strong presence in this organization,” McKenzie said in a statement. “His experience and leadership qualities will serve the team well in helping reach the goal of everyone here, which is to win football games.”

As head coach, Sporano, 52, was 29-32 from 2008-11.

In his first year in Miami, the Dolphins went 11-5 and won the AFC East title, but never had more than seven victories in any season thereafter.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Sporano lamented how much he respects Allen, but Oakland will have a different philosophy under his watch.

“Again, I respect Dennis Allen tremendously, but I’m not Dennis, Dennis is not me,” Sporano said. “Things can change with philosophies and that will be the case. We will have a different philosophy.”

Sporano will have his work cut out for him on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, Oakland ranks last in points per game (12.8), total yards per game (270), and rushing yards (61.5).

Defensively, the Raiders need to find a way to stop the opposing team’s running game. Oakland is surrendering 158.2 yards per game on the ground, which is 31st in the League. The signings of LaMarr Houston, Justin Tuck, and Antonio Smith have shown nothing to believe that Oakland can stop teams from hammering the ball down their throats.

With the bye week coming at the right time for Oakland this week, it will give the the players (who along with McKenzie should accept equal blame in the team’s poor performance) time before the schedule gets really crazy for the Raiders.

After the bye, Oakland will host San Diego and Arizona, before hitting the road against Cleveland and Seattle. San Diego, Arizona, and Seattle are a combined 8-2 on the season, while the Browns are 1-2, but have played tough despite their record.

Even with the changing of the guard at head coach, things could get worse in Oakland before they get better for the Silver and Black

 

Raiders and Dolphins get ready for London

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — At 0-3 in the United States, the Oakland Raiders look to foreign soil to gain their first win of the season when they will “host” the 1-2 Miami Dolphins Sunday at Wembley Stadium in the NFL’s International Series in London, England.

Even after the Raiders 15th consecutive loss in the Eastern time zone, a 16-9 loss to the New England Patriots at Foxborough, Oakland gave New England everything it could handle, according to head coach Dennis Allen following the loss.

“Tough loss. Tough pill to swallow,” Allen said.

“I thought our guys fought their tails off, gave ourselves an opportunity to win. I thought we tied the football game or at least got within an extra point of being able to tie the football game there at the end of the game. Disappointed about that. Still we have to be able to…at the moment of truth, there’s time where we have to be able to make some plays and we didn’t do that enough today and came up on the short end of the stick. But I thought it was a better effort by our team and we get on a long flight and head to London and get ready for the next one.”

Oakland appeared to have tied the game on Darren McFadden’s touchdown run, but the play was nullified by a questionable holding call on rookie guard Gabe Jackson. On the next play, Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr’s pass bounced off the hands of wide receiver Denarius Moore, falling into the waiting arms of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork for the game-ending interception.

“I did not [think that was a holding call on Jackson]” Allen would later say.

Carr completed 21-of-34 passing for 174 yards, with that lone interception. Oakland

“I thought Derek was solid. I thought he was solid. I didn’t think we did anything offensively spectacular, but I thought, especially early in the game, I thought we were able to control the clock a little bit,” said Allen.

Carr will be without one of his favorite targets for the foreseeable as wide receiver Rod Streater was lost for next five-to-six weeks after fracturing his foot Sunday.

With a depleted wide receiver group, Carr is going to have to rely on James Jones, the recently signed Vincent Brown, Andre Holmes, and Moore to improve a Raiders passing game that ranks 31st in passing yards (190 ypg), and dead-last in points per game (12.3 ppg).

Defensively, Oakland played strong, holding quarterback Tom Brady to 234 passing yards and one touchdown on 24-of-37 passing. Strong safety Tyvon Branch led the Raiders with seven tackles (four solo) but just like Streater, Branch fractured his foot as well. Branch was placed on injured reserved, ending his season early again. Branch missed the final 14 games in 2013 with a lis franc injury.

Wednesday, Oakland claimed former Dolphins safety, Brandian Ross off waivers. Ross is expected to see plenty of action Sunday.

Ross played in 30 games for the Raiders from 2012-13, making 14 starts. He started 13 games at safety last year for Oakland, totaling 101 tackles (59 solo) and two sacks. His career totals include 31 games played with 14 starts, 115 tackles (72 solo), two sacks, six passes defensed and one forced fumble.

Miami, is coming off a tough loss at home to the Kansas City Chiefs, 34-15 Sunday. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith threw three touchdowns, but the Dolphins defense sacked Smith five times; linebacker Jelani Jenkins and defensive tackle Randy Starks each recorded 1.5 sacks.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has thrown five touchdowns and two interceptions, but his 5.0 yards per pass attempt ranks near the bottom in the league among the 32 starting quarterbacks. In two of the Dolphins three games this year, Tannehill has been sacked four times. Oakland needs to apply pressure to a Dolphins offensive line that has trouble protecting their third-year quarterback.

The Raiders secondary must have their eyes on Dolphins speedster, wide receiver Mike Wallace the entire game. Wallace is one of the more dangerous wide receivers in the League, and can go off in a hurry.

Wallace leads all Dolphins wide receivers in catches (17), yards (211), and touchdowns (2).

Players to Watch:

Oakland – The running backs. Whether its Maurice Jones-Drew or Darren McFadden, Oakland’s ground game has got to wake up sometime. Opponents have out-rushed the Silver and Black 476 to 193. With MJD sitting out Sunday’s game with a broken hand, McFadden rushed for 59 yards on 18 carries upping his team-leading 111 yards rushing for the season. Carr, not MJD, is the team’s second leading rusher with 57 yards.

Miami – Mike Wallace, wide receiver. As I mentioned before, Wallace is a game changer and Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver better have a great game plan to stop him. Wallace and Tannehill have had their issues connecting on deep passes, but if Tannehill gets the ball in Wallace’s hands, look out. Cornerbacks Terrell Brown and Carlos Rogers could be in for a long day.

 

Oakland looks to avoid 0-3 start travelling to Foxborough

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — At 0-2, the Oakland Raiders finds themselves quickly swimming upstream this year.

OK, you can say that it’s early in the NFL season and half the League is 1-1 or 0-2 but for the Raiders, it feels like they’re 0-4.

David Carr has played steady in his first two career starts, but has shown at times to be wild with the passes. Carr has thrown for 414 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions, one of which came while getting hit on the throw.

The running game has been non-existent in two games, averaging a pedestrian 63 yards rushing per game, 31st in the League ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars (44.5 rushing yards per game).

Running backs Maurice Jones-Drew (9 carries, 11 rushing yards,1.2 yards per carry, 0 TDs) and Darren McFadden (16 carries, 52 carries, 3.3 yards per carry, 1 TD) need to get it going and take some of the pressure off of Carr. MJD underwent a procedure on his broken right hand last week and didn’t suit up Sunday.

Monday the team added former San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Brown to an already questionable receiving corps, that includes James Jones, Rod Streater, Denarius Moore, and Andre Holmes.

Brown caught 41 passes for 472 yards and a touchdown for San Diego last season, after missing 2012 with a broken ankle. 

Jones leads the team with 12 catches, for 146 yards receiving, and two touchdowns, but 112 of those yards came in the team’s home opener, a 30-14 loss to the Houston Texans.

Defensively, the team is not good, ranking 32nd in most categories most notably, against the run. Oakland has given up 100 yards on the ground in back-to-back weeks, and have gotten manhandled upfront.

The expected strength of the team with key veteran additions such as defensive end Justin Tuck, linebacker LaMarr Woodley, cornerbacks  Terrell Brown and Carlos Rogers, it looks like Father Time has finally caught up with them.

“We suck…I’m embarrased,” veteran safety Charles Woodson said after Sunday’s 30-14 loss to the visiting Houston Texans.

Oakland’s play needs to improve, according to Raiders head coach, Dennis Allen, whose job is clearly on the hot seat as he sports an 8-26 record.

“Well, we need to go out and prove it on the field,” Allen said Wednesday during his weekly press conference.

“Like I said the other day, the talk is cheap. We’ve got to go out and play well. I think we’ve got more talent on this football team and we need to go out there and play like it on Sunday.”

The team will have another opportunity to get their first win of the season Sunday, when Oakland travels to Foxborough to take on the 1-1 New England Patriots, led by Tom Brady and mastermind head coach, Bill Belichick.

Belichick (per CSNCalifornia.com Raiders Insider, Scott Bair)  expects to see a different Raiders team than the one he saw tape on against Houston.

“Based on the comments that I’ve seen out of there and the leadership that they have on that team, the veterans that they have on that team, I’m sure that we’ll come in here and we won’t see the team we saw against Houston last week,”  Belichick said.

“That’s what we’re getting ready for – we’re getting ready for their best game. I don’t think the Houston game was probably it.”

New England is coming off a comfortable victory Sunday, 30-7, in Minnesota. The Patriots defense abused former Brady understudy, Matt Cassell, intercepting the Vikings quarterback four times and sacking him six times, that prompted the home crowd to chant “Teddy!” “Teddy!” in hopes to see rookie backup quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive end Chandler Jones each recorded two sacks.

Oakland, who currently sport the longest losing streak in the League (eight consecutive games dating back to November of last year),  is going to have its work cut out for them Sunday against a Patriots team that were 9-0 at home last season, including the playoffs.

New England has won the past three straight games against the Silver and Black, who have dropped 12 of 13 on the road.

Catch the game on CBS at 10 a.m.

Players to Watch:

Oakland: Quarterback Derek Carr. Carr will need to make smart decisions with the football, especially with former All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis lurking in the secondary. Carr completed 27 of 42 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown, but with two interceptions in Sunday’s loss to Houston.

New England: Running back Stevan Ridley. Ridley ran through the Vikings defense, carrying the ball 25 times for 101 yards and a touchdown. Ridley only had 21 yards rushing on eight carries in the Patriots 33-20 loss in Miami in Week 1.

 

NFC North again? Oakland welcomes Detroit in preseason home opener.

By. Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — With two rough and tough practices with the Dallas Cowboys under their belts where tempers were hotter than the Oxnard sun that both teams practiced under this week, the Raiders will try to keep that same intensity when they host their first preseason game at O.co Coliseum Friday night against the visiting Detroit Lions.

It will be the second consecutive time Oakland will face a team from the NFC North as the Raiders fell to the Minnesota Vikings, 10-6, in Minneapolis last Friday.

The first-team offense was anemic early with anointed starter Matt Schaub at one point, finding themselves down 10-0. Schaub finished 3-of-7 for 21 yards, but was plagued by three dropped passes that could’ve turned into first downs.

Matt McGloin played well with the second-team offense, finishing with a team-high11-of-18 for 90 yards and a 10-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that pulled Oakland within a score.

“I thought our guys came back and fought. I thought late in the game we were able to move the ball a little bit…I thought at times we could run the ball pretty well,” said Raiders head coach Dennis Allen after the game. “There are some positives there that we can take and continue to work with but obviously we have a long, long way to go as a football team to be the type of team that we want to be, but I’m sure our guys are going to continue to work.”

Derek Carr, the Raiders second round draft pick, finished 10-of-16 for 74 yards and an interception.

Darren McFadden finished with one carry on a nice 23 yard-burst in the first quarter, while Maurice Jones-Drew had 10 yards on two carries (he had a 7-yard run called back due to a penalty).

Overall, Oakland outgained the Vikings, 268-236 in total yards.

Defensively, Oakland looked sound, finishing with six sacks. Defensive tackle Pat Sims recorded a sack on the first drive of the game.

The Lions (1-0) are coming off a 13-12 home victory over the Cleveland Browns to kickoff their preseason schedule.

Detroit backup quarterback Kellen Moore threw for 121 yard on11-of-13 passing, including the game-winning touchdown from 21-yards out to wide receiver Corey Fuller with 1:05 remaining in the fourth quarter.

On the defensive side of the ball for Detroit, safety Isa Abdul-Quddus and linebacker George Johnson had great showings, combining for six tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception.

After Friday’s game, Oakland will continue their through the NFC North when they will travel to Green Bay for their third preseason game against the Packers.

Raiders open up the NFL preseason in Minnesota

By. Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — Let’s face it, the NFL preseason is nothing more than a tease, a dress rehearsal if you will.

It’s nothing more than a four-game appetizer that prepares you for the buffet that is the NFL regular season.

But the preseason is vital for all teams, particularly the opener. The first preseason game gives the coaching staff a chance to see if their team in live game action, instead of the seeing them in t-shirts and shorts during practice.

“We’ll put the first team out there for a few plays and see how things go. I really want to get the ones [starters] some work, but I really want to have the opportunity in this first preseason game to see  a lot of these young players go out of and play,” said Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen Wednesday after Oakland’s final practice in preparation for Friday’s preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis.

One of the young players that Coach Allen will definitely have a close eye on will be the Raiders No. 1 draft pick (5th overall), linebacker Khalil Mack from Buffalo. The 6’3″, 252 lbs., Mack is expected to be the linchpin to Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver’s  revamped Oakland defense that finished 22nd in total defense in 2013.

Mack has been receiving rave reviews from players and coaches in during training camp, and could have his hands full with another fellow rookie in Vikings quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater.

“He’s a great player. I’m looking forward to playing against great competition,” said Mack Wednesday. “That’s what it’s about – being a competitor. He’s a great competitor. He’s mobile. He has great arms and what not. I look forward to going out against him and whoever else.

Oakland has won four of their last six preseason openers.

Kickoff  for Friday’s tilt at  TCF Bank Stadium is at 5:00 p.m. PT. The game can be heard locally live on KFOX 98.5/102.1 or tune into KTVU FOX 2.

Transactions prior to Wednesday’s practice:

The Raiders signed two players in BYU linebacker Spencer Hadley (rookie), and Nebraska safety Larry Asante (2nd year). In a corresponding move, Oakland waived/injured LB Marshall McFadden and S Shelton Johnson.

 

 

Pryor, not McGloin to start home finale against Broncos

 

photos via San Jose Mercury

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — Terrelle Pryor will start over Matt McGloin in the Raiders’ final home game of the season against the Denver Broncos Sunday, head coach Dennis Allen announced Monday during his weekly press conference per CSNBayArea.com’s Raiders Insider, Scott Bair.

Both Pryor and McGloin were notified of Allen’s decision earlier Monday morning.

“We got a chance to see Matt McGloin for six games,” Allen said. “I liked a lot of things that I saw in Matt. It’s been a while since we’ve gotten an opportunity to see Terrelle in a game and I want to get him in the game and get another opportunity to evaluate him.”

McGloin’s three-touchdown performance in a 28-23 victory over the Houston Texans in Week 11 gave Oakland a glimpse of a possible answer at the quarterback position, but McGloin played up-and-down to a 1-5 record while Oakland (4-11) lost five straight games including a 56-31 home drubbing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15 in which he threw four interceptions.

McGloin finished 20-for-36 for 206 yards and an interception in Oakland’s 26-13 loss in San Diego Sunday and it was clear that Oakland had seen enough.

Pryor goes back under center and should get a long look against the Broncos. Pryor played well against Denver back in Week 3, completing 19-for-28 passes for 281 yards, a touchdown with a career-high, 112.4 passer rating.

Denver (12-3) is coming into Oakland looking to wrap up the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC Playoffs. Denver wrapped up the AFC West with their 37-13 victory in Houston, coupled with Kansas City’s 23-7 loss to Indianapolis at Arrowhead.

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns, while breaking Tom Brady’s NFL-record 50 touchdown passes set in 2007, sending the down-trodden Texans to their 13th straight loss in the process. Manning threw the record-breaking touchdown to tight end Julius Thomas on a 25-yard pass in the fourth quarter, his third touchdown pass of the quarter.

In a season where he most likely collect his fifth league MVP award, Manning has a chance to set another record Sunday.

With a league-leading 5,211 yards passing this year, Manning needs 265 yards to surpass New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ NFL-record 5,476 set in 2011.

Manning loves to spread the ball around and with four targets with at least 10 touchdowns  like wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (86 catches, 1,377 yards, 12 TDs), Eric Decker (83 catches, 1,261 yards, 10 TDs), Wes Welker (73 catches, 778 yards, 10 TDs), and the previously mentioned tight end Thomas (60 catches, 752 yards, 12 TDs), its almost a safe bet that Manning breaks the record against the Raiders.

McGloin to start Sunday’s home tilt against Tennessee

Hi-res-177563590-matt-mcgloin-of-the-oakland-raiders-passes-the-ball_crop_north

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — Matt McGloin will have a chance to add a second win to his career total when he (not Terrelle Pryor), leads the Raiders into battle against the Tennessee Titans Sunday at O.co Coliseum, head coach Dennis Allen said after practice Wednesday.

“This is a production business,” Allen said. “One of the things we’ve tried to create here is an atmosphere of competition. If you go out and you perform and you make plays, you get opportunities to continue to go out and perform and make plays. Matt did that last week. He’s going to get another opportunity this week. We’ll see how it goes.”

There is no question that McGloin earned a second start over Pryor for the Raiders (4-6)with his performance in the Raiders 28-23 victory on the road against the Houston Texans last Sunday, not because Pryor is nursing a Grade 2 sprain of his right MCL. Pryor took snaps with the second team and could serve as McGloin’s backup on Sunday.

McGloin completed 18 of 32 passes for 197 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The undrafted rookie quarterback out of Penn State appeared poised, confident and collected in his first career start and looked to be on the same page with his receivers all day. He also finished with a quarterback rating of 105.9, sending Houston (2-8), to its eighth straight loss of the season.

It didn’t hurt that running back Rashad Jennings had a career-day against the Texans, too.

Jennings finished the game with a career-high 150 yards rushing on 22 carries. His 80-yard touchdown run came out of the Wildcat formation, which is his career-long. Jennings has proven to be the healthy workhorse running back that Oakland has needed this year, with Darren McFadden in and out of the line up this season.

Oakland’s defense continued its strong play against Houston, forcing three fumbles (two by free safety Charles Woodson), two sacks and one interception. Cornerback Mike Jenkins led the team with 10 tackles.

The Tennessee Titans (4-6), are a coming off a 30-27 home loss to their AFC South foe, the Indianapolis Colts.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will make his fourth start of the season for the Titans in place of franchise quarterback, Jake Locker, who is done for the season with a Lisfranc injury.

In three starts this season, the Harvard graduate has thrown for 1,012 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. Fitzpatrick is a pure pocket passer and can get the ball out quick.

McGloin could have his work cut out for him when he faces Tennessee’s 10th ranked defense, led by cornerback Alterraun Verner.

Verner may not be a household name like Seattle’s Richard Sherman or Tampa’s Darrelle Revis, but is quickly making a name for himself. Verner is tied for the league lead with five interceptions (one returned for a touchdown).

Overall, the Titans’ defense is giving up 22.6 points, 213.1 passing yards, and 117 rushing yards per game.

Even though both teams are entering Sunday’s game with identical 4-6 records, this could be one a very competitive game.