Raiders visit Tennessee Titans Sunday in key Week 1 matchup that could be playoff preview

AP File Photo: Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) smiles on the sideline during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — Finally, the NFL regular season is here.

For me, the preseason schedule is nothing more than a dinner salad. It’s just there to help me pass the time until my main course (preferably a grilled salmon with broccoli and red potatoes or homemade spaghetti), is brought to my table.

Bring on the “meal” that is the NFL regular season.

Week 1 has some great matchups that can set the tone for the 2017 season: Kansas City traveling to Foxborough to take on the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on Thursday night in the league’s kickoff game, Seattle at Lambeau Field to take on the Packers and Dallas hosting the New York Giants on Sunday.

Add the Raiders against the Titans in Nashville to that list of games.

Oakland has been picked by many national publications and experts as a trending opponent to play New England in the AFC Championship Game (the Raiders “host” the Patriots on Nov. 19 in Mexico City), but the true test starts against Tennessee at 1:00 p.m. ET (12:00 p.m. CT/10:00 a.m. PT) at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.

The Raiders are making their second straight trip to Nashville for a regular season game. Oakland defeated the Titans 17-10 in Week 3 last season.

Derek Carr threw for 249 yards with one touchdown and an interception, while the defense forced three turnovers to pace the Silver and Black to victory that day.

Carr posted his second consecutive season with at least 25 touchdowns passes (28) and 3,900 yards (3,937) after throwing 3,987 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2015.

The Raiders raced out to a 10-2 start in 2016 before a 2-2 finish, highlighted by Carr’s season-ending leg injury that doomed Oakland’s chances in the playoffs. Oakland had no chance against the Texans in the AFC wild-card playoff game with rookie Connor Cook under center and lost 27-14 in Houston, there first playoff appearance since 2002 when I was just a freshmen in college.

With additions like running back Marshawn Lynch, tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in the offseason through free agency to go along with wide receivers Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper and Seth Roberts, Oakland has the offensive talent to match any team in the league score-for-score.

The Silver and Black finished with the NFL’s sixth-ranked offense averaging 26 points per game last season so its a virtual guarantee that the offense can score more this season.

Will longtime kicker Sebastian Janikowski still handle the kicking duties for Oakland this season? Janikowski and the team are at crossroads on a contract that the Raiders want to restructure that pays Oakland’s all-time leader in games played (268) $4.05 million this season, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

At 39, Janikowski said he wanted to kick for the Raiders when the team moves to Las Vegas in 2020. The veteran kicker has been dealing with back issues that kept his out of the team’s final two preseason games.

On Monday, the Raiders worked out three kickers: Mike Nugent, Josh Lambo and Marshall Koehn.

With Janikowski still on the roster Tuesday, he’s collected $238,000, representing one-seventeenth of Janikowski’s salary or one game-check. If Janikowski is still on the roster Saturday at 1:00 p.m. PT, the remainder of his contract becomes fully guaranteed.

Defensively?

The strength of the unit will come from defensive end Khalil Mack, the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year after recording a team-leading 11.0 of Oakland’s league-low 25 sacks in 2016.

Mack is tougher than sandpaper to block.

Double- and even triple-teams seems to not work on a guy that also registered a pick-6 (interception returned for touchdown) last season. Mack had a stretch where he recorded at least one sack in eight straight weeks.

Linebacker Bruce Irvin finished second on the team with 7.0 sacks, but has double-digit sack talent. Irvin was tied with Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley for the league lead with six forced fumbles in 2016.

Oakland is high on rookie defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, the team’s third-round pick in this year’s draft out of UCLA. Vanderdoes had an impressive training camp and showing in preseason games and has cemented a starting spot on the defensive line.

But Oakland still has a bag of footballs at middle linebacker, with rookie Marquel Lee as a starter and second-year player Tyrell Adams as the backup. Lee was decent against the run in preseason, but still has to improve in pass coverage against running backs out of the backfield and tight ends over the middle of the field.

In the secondary, David Amerson is Oakland’s best cornerback. TJ Carrie is expected to start at the other cornerback spot since high-priced free agent addition Sean Smith can’t cover speedy wide receivers. Smith was working as a hybrid safety/linebacker in training camp covering tight ends with the second-team defense, and lined up as the fourth cornerback when the offense deployed four wide receivers in drills.

The hope is once this year’s first-round draft pick, cornerback Gareon Conley steps onto the field, he’ll surpass the entire group. Conley didn’t play in the preseason and barely took reps with the team during training camp as he dealt with legal issues and litany of nagging injuries.

Second-round draft pick Obi Melifonwu, who the team hoped would contribute at safety, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday after battling a knee injury during training camp.

The earliest that Melifonwu could return would be Week 8.

Some pundits are questioning with players like linebacker Perry Riley Jr., who was signed by Oakland off the street last season and was the team’s starting middle linebacker the rest of the way and cornerback Joe Haden available via trade this season, why didn’t the Raiders, a legitimate Super Bowl contender, upgrade those key spots on a defense that finished ranked 26th in total defense last season?

The overlooking of a strong middle linebacker and a sturdy cornerback may come back to bite the Raiders in key situations this season, as it did last season.

Like Oakland, Tennessee has a hot, young signal-caller that is returning from a leg injury of his own and have the Titans thinking playoffs for the first time since 2008 in quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Mariota had Tennessee on the brink of the playoffs last season at 8-7 before finishing tied at 9-7 with division rival Houston for the AFC South title, but Houston won the division due to a better division record (Houston was 5-1, Tennessee was 2-4) that left the Titans outside of the playoffs.

The former No. 2 overall pick by Tennessee out of Oregon threw for 3,426 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2016. Mariota, just like Carr, is a mobile quarterback that will use his legs to get out of trouble.

Just like Carr, Mariota suffered his season-ending injury on Christmas Eve while being sacked by the opposing team’s defense.

The Titans’ running game could spell trouble for Oakland, especially with the physical running styles of both DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Tennessee boasted the NFL’s third-ranked rushing attack averaging 136.7 yards and Murray was a big reason for that.

The seventh-year running back from Oklahoma finished third in the NFL in 2016 in rushing with 1,287 yards and nine rushing touchdowns in his first season with Tennessee after a forgettable season 2015 season in Philadelphia.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Titans called 44-percent of rushing plays (2nd in the NFL) and was fourth in the league averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

Henry, a former Heisman Trophy winner, was selected by the Titans in the second round in the 2017 NFL draft, was second on the Titans with 490 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in his rookie campaign.

Wide receiver Rishard Matthews gives the Titans a big-play threat downfield that they haven’t had in forever.

Matthews quickly became one of Mariota’s trusted receivers last season in his first season with Tennessee after four seasons in Miami, finishing tied with tight end Delanie Walker for the team lead in catches with 65 to go along with 945 yards and leading the team with nine touchdown catches.

Walker gives Mariota a pass-catching threat that is tough as nails that Raiders safety Karl Joseph will have to keep an eye on come Sunday. After not playing in last season’s contest, Walker could be the difference maker this time around as Oakland has had trouble in recent years covering agile tight ends with linebackers and safeties.

Especially agile tight ends like Walker, who has been targeted by Mariota 159 times over the past two seasons. The 12-year veteran from Central Missouri State racked up 800 yards receiving and seven touchdown catches last season following a career-high season in 2015 when Walker had 94 catches for 1,088 yards and six touchdowns.

Tennessee’s first-round pick, wide receiver Corey Davis who didn’t play in the preseason while dealing with a hamstring injury, is expected to see action on Sunday but its unknown how many plays the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Davis will line up for.

The Titans did sign eight-year veteran wide receiver Eric Decker in the offseason to bolster the wide receiving corps for Tennessee, and has a hidden gem in rookie wide receiver Taywan Taylor in the event Davis doesn’t start.

It might not be the best week to start a Davis on your fantasy team, just some friendly advice.

On defense, Tennessee is quietly won of the better defenses in the league that no one really talks about led by defensive tackle and space-eater, Jurrell Casey, who is the 6-foot-1 and 305-pound clog in the middle of the Titans’ 3-4 defensive scheme ran by legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

Casey recorded 44 tackles for 5.0 sacks for a Titans defense that ranked 20th in total defense in 2016, finishing second in the league against the run surrendering just 88.3 yards per game and 30th against the pass yielding 269.2 yards through the air per game.

Tennessee’s pass rush is powered by outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. Orakpo led the Titans with 10.5 sacks and Morgan was second on the team with 9.0 sacks.

Casey, Orakpo and Morgan combined for 23.5 of the Titans’ 40 sacks in 2016. Tennessee was just one of seven teams to record 40-plus sacks last season.

Inside linebackers Avery Williamson (team-leader in tackles with 104) and Wesley Woodyard (57 tackles) aren’t household names, but are consistent and provide additional support in the running game.

The player that I’m most intrigued to watch Sunday is second-year safety Kevin Byard.

The MTSU product didn’t record an interception during his rookie season after recording 19 interceptions (a career-high six during his junior season), but did finish third on the team with 58 tackles, four passes defensed and a sack in 16 games played. His seven starts were the most for a Titans rookie safety since Michael Griffin’s 10 starts in 2007 according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

At 5-foot-11 and 212 pounds, Byard isn’t the biggest safety, but his instincts and attention to detail is an important element for Tennessee’s defense.

Throw in free agent addition in cornerback Logan Ryan, a Super Bowl champion with New England and the drafting of USC’s speedster and highlight-maker Adoree’ Jackson, the Titans have talent in the secondary to compete with top-end wide receivers.

Sunday’s matchup between the Raiders and Titans could very well be a playoff preview that may not be decided until late in the fourth quarter.

The game’s outcome could be reminiscent of last season’s game when Tennessee had a would be game-tying touchdown from Mariota to wide receiver Andre Johnson that was called back due to an offensive pass interference call before the Raiders took over on downs two plays later.

Prediction: Raiders 27 Titans 23

 

 

 

Oakland Raiders preview: Raiders head to Dallas for preseason clash with Cowboys

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) talks with Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) after an NFL preseason football game in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — The Raiders travel to Dallas for their final preseason game this week when they take on the Cowboys on Saturday, Aug. 26 at 5:00 p.m. PT at AT&T Stadium. This will be the first meeting between the two teams since 2013, when both teams met each other in the preseason and on Thanksgiving Day in the regular season.

Both teams will meet each other again this season when Dallas comes to Oakland-Alameda Coliseum on Dec. 17 on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, which will be one of the NFL’s most watched games in 2017.

Last week, the Raiders lost at home to the Los Angeles Rams 24-21 in Oakland’s first home game this preseason.

Quarterback Derek Carr completed 7-of-9 passes for 100 yards, two touchdowns and one interception while posting a quarterback rating of 113.0 in his first action in the 2017 preseason. The game also marked the first time that Carr played at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum in an NFL game since breaking his leg on Christmas Eve against the Indianapolis Colts.

Carr looked good and showed no lingering affects from the season-ending injury that derailed the 2016 season for the Silver and Black, a season that saw Oakland finish 12-4 and reach the postseason for the first time since 2002.

Carr found wide receiver Michael Crabtree for a dazzling 13-yard touchdown pass where Crabtree shook the defender out of his cleats, and backup tight end Lee Smith hauled in a 19-yard touchdown down the middle of the field from Carr for the quarterback’s first touchdowns in the 2017 season.

Raiders running back and Oakland native Marshawn Lynch finished with 10 yards on two carries. Lynch made his home debut in front of Raider Nation and got the crowd on its feet with a “Beast Mode” like run for five yards on his first carry.

Defensively, Khalil Mack appeared to be in regular season form after recording four tackles (three solo) and a sack in his first action in the preseason, but Oakland’s defense overall still have some holes to fill, most notably at middle linebacker and in the secondary.

But the big story heading into Saturday night’s game in Dallas for Oakland is the return of the their left tackle Donald Penn to the team. Penn was seen on the practice field in Alameda on Wednesday after ending his 26-day holdout in search of a new contract.

According to NBC Sports Bay Area Raiders Insider Scott Bair, the two-time Pro Bowler ended his holdout and re-joined the club on “faith” and “believing the Raiders will work out a higher pay rate” once he returned.

To make room on the active roster for Penn, Oakland waived defensive end Jimmy Bean.

Penn allowed just one sack and 28 total quarterback pressures in 2016, ranking No. 6 among all NFL tackles according to Pro Football Focus. The 11-year veteran is in the final year of a two-year, $11.9 million contract and wanted money that would put him in the top-10 among highest paid left tackles in the game.

Penn is scheduled to make $5.8 million this season, which is pittance compared to other elite left tackles.

Typically in the third week of the preseason, teams will play their starters well into the second half hoping to build more chemistry as the regular season approaches and with Penn missing most of training camp, you’d expect to see him in the lineup Saturday with Carr and the rest of the first-team offense to play catch-up.

Dallas defeated Indianapolis 24-19 last week at AT&T Stadium.

Cowboys starting quarterback Dak Prescott completed 7-of-8 passes for 106 yards, with a 32-yard touchdown toss to wide receiver Dez Bryant down the left side line on the game’s opening drive. Bryant finished with two catches for 55 yards in one-half of action.

Star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who hasn’t played in the entire preseason for the Cowboys, is expected to get reps against Oakland according to Dallas head coach Jason Garrett via ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter Todd Archer.

Elliot, the NFL’s rushing leader with 1,631 yards to go along with 15 touchdowns and a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie, was recently suspended by the NFL for six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy following and has repealed the decision. The hearing is set for Tuesday, Aug. 29.

“I think the biggest thing is just having the mindset of preparing him for Week 1 of the season, and that’s the approach that we’ve taken,” Garrett said via Archer. “He’s got a number of more reps in training camp than he did last year. If you remember, he had the hamstring injury last year and ended up playing in the second-to-last preseason game and got eight, 10, 12 snaps in that ballgame, so that’s the approach that we’ve taken with him, and anything beyond that we’ll take as it comes.”

Both teams will have short turnarounds after Saturday night’s contest, with the Raiders set to play the Seattle Seahawks in Oakland on Thursday, Aug. 31, and the Cowboys traveling to Houston to take on the Texans the same day.

All teams must trim down their rosters from 90- to 53-man by Sept. 2, as mandated by the NFL.

 

 

 

 

Takeaways from Raiders preseason home tilt with Rams

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — Halfway through the preseason, the Raiders are 0-2.

Cause for concern if you’re Raider Nation?

Not really, seeing that the first game of the regular season against the Titans in Nashville isn’t for another month and records don’t carry over from the preseason, but after watching the Raiders lose to the Rams 24-21 at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Saturday night, a few things jumped out at me in the press box relating to the Silver and Black:

Starting quarterback Derek Carr looks healthy, but starting left tackle Donald Penn’s absence looms large

Saturday night marked the first time that Carr was in uniform for the Silver and Black for a home game after sustaining a season-ending leg injury on Christmas Eve against the Indianapolis Colts last season.

Showing no signs of the injury that derailed the Raiders’ chances of winning their first playoff game since 2002, Carr completed 7-of-9 passes for 100 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in three drives for Oakland.

Carr found backup tight end Lee Smith for Oakland’s first score of the game with a 19-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter that gave Oakland an early 7-0 lead, then in the second quarter, Carr hooked up wide receiver Michael Crabtree on a 13-yard, catch-and-run touchdown that saw Crabtree absolutely abuse Rams cornerback Troy Hill with a ridiculous fake out move that left Hill on roller skates.

Fellow wide receiver Amari Cooper may had the highlight of the night when he jumped over two defenders to reel in a 31-yard pass from Carr in the second quarter.

Carr finished with a passer rating of 113.0, but had to move around in the pocket to avoid a bevy of Rams’ pass rushers coming from the left side of the offensive line to complete his passes. When you’re worth $125 million and play the most crucial position in football and the team will only go as far as you, your health is of the utmost concern and it was evident that the Raiders need their wall of an left tackle on the field if Carr is to remain healthy.

Penn has been a no-show during all of training camp in Napa due to wanting a new contract. The 11-year veteran is set to make $5.8 million in the final year of his deal and wants to be paid as a top-10 left tackle.

Some may point out that Penn could be replaced if he decides to stay away, which I don’t buy. Penn may have given up the sack that led to the end of Carr’s MVP-like 2016 season, but he is irreplaceable and the Raiders and Penn need to come to an agreement somewhere if they expect to be a Super Bowl team.

The defense can be leaky

Defensive end Khalil Mack recorded a sack in his first preseason action, but the rest of Raiders’ defense has some work to do.

Rams’ starting quarterback Jared Goff was razor sharp, completing 16-of-20 passes for 160 yards and one touchdown in leading Los Angeles to 17 points in his three drives of work. Goff looked more poised and confident in Year 2 than he did as a rookie last year and showed growth as an NFL quarterback by keeping the Raiders defense on their heels with quick passes and tough runs by starting running back Todd Gurley.

But the real guy that was hurting the Raiders was Rams’ rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

Kupp was a matchup problem for Oakland, especially working in the slot and it showed in catching six balls for 70 yards and a 23-yard touchdown where Goff found Kupp 10-yards ahead of the closest Raider defender. There’s no question that Goff will look for Kupp early and often in games during the regular season.

There were times where you saw Raider defensive backs looked out of position, most notably on the Rams’ final drive of the game and backup quarterback Sean Mannion dropped a 20-yard dime for a touchdown to another promising Rams rookie, wide receiver Josh Reynolds, for the game-winning score leaving reserve cornerback Chris Humes confused.

Mannion finished 15-of-22 for 132 yards after taking over for Goff at halftime.

The battle for the No. 2 quarterback continues, but Cook could have inside track at job

One week, fifth-year quarterback EJ Manuel appeared to be in the driver’s seat to be the No. 2 guy behind Carr after completing 10-of-12 passes for 107 yards and posting a 103.8 passer rating against the Cardinals, Manuel didn’t look near as good against the Rams in front of Raider Nation.

Manuel took over for Carr and was just 3-of-9 for 16 yards with a passer rating of 42.4 in two drives.

Connor Cook may have actually helped his case at being the primary backup behind Carr with his night.

The second-year signal-caller from Michigan State finished the game completing 9-of-15 passes for 81 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown dart to backup wide receiver Johnny Holton to give Oakland a 21-17 lead late in the fourth quarter. Cook completed his final six-straight passes on the 11-play, 65-yard drive for the Silver and Black.

After posting a meager 58.0 passer rating in Arizona, Cook finished with a passer rating of 97.4 against Los Angeles.

Both teams will be in action again next Saturday, Aug. 26 for preseason football, with the Raiders traveling to Dallas, and Los Angeles hosting their in-city rival, the Chargers.

Lynch sits again, Carr puts right arm around Mack during National Anthem

Prior to the start of the game, Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat down during the National Anthem. Lynch also sat during the National Anthem in Arizona last weekend.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr put his right arm on the shoulder of defensive end Khalil Mack during the National Anthem.

Recently, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett (who sat during the National Anthem during Seattle’s 48-17 win over the Chargers last Sunday), called for white football players to join the anthem protest to help change and improve race relations and the general treatment of other human beings.

 

 

 

Oakland Raiders host Los Angeles Rams at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Preseason Encounter

Oakland Raiders quarterback EJ Manuel (3) during an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — The Raiders will play their first home game of the preseason schedule when they host the Los Angeles Rams Saturday night at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum.

Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. PT.

This will mark the first game between the Raiders and the Rams in the preseason since 2015 (an 18-3 home win for the Silver and Black). Oakland and Los Angeles last played in the regular season in 2014, when the Rams rolled over the Raiders 52-0 in St. Louis where the Rams called home from 1995-2015 after relocating from Los Angeles originally.

Oakland dropped their preseason opener 20-10 to the Arizona Cardinals last Saturday night in Glendale.

The Raiders held out most of their top players most notably quarterback Derek Carr, running back Marshawn Lynch, wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, offensive lineman Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson, and Kelechi Osemele.

With left tackle Donald Penn still holding out due to a contract dispute, the Raiders were cautious about playing Carr in the preseason opener. Carr is the franchise signal-caller the organization rewarded with a five-year, $125 million extension following his second-straight 3,900-passing yards and 25 touchdown-passing season in the offseason.

But with the second preseason game on the horizon and the Raiders returning to their Alameda headquarters Thursday following their annual training camp in Napa for the remainder of the season, you’d expect Carr and the first-team offense to be on the field Saturday night for at least the first quarter in front of Raider Nation.

Training camp reps are great, but Carr and the first-team offense need to be on the same page and live-action in an NFL game (even if it’s preseason), is the only way teams get better especially a team that have been picked by most Las Vegas odds-makers as the AFC’s representative in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis on Feb. 4, 2018.

Once Carr gets his work in for the evening, the battle for Carr’s backup will continue between five-year veteran quarterback EJ Manuel and second-year signal-caller Connor Cook.

Manuel got the starting nod against Arizona and played admirable in the first half, completing 10-of-12 passes for 107 yards and a quarterback rating of 103.8. The former Buffalo starter was signed in the offseason to be Carr’s backup, but Cook was drafted in the fourth round by the Raiders in 2016 and the organization believes he could be just as good as Carr someday.

Cook took over for Manuel and played the entire second half and was just 10-of-21 for 82 yards, but did lead the Raiders to their lone touchdown of the evening, a one-yard rushing score by second-year reserve running back John Crockett in the third quarter that finished off a five-play, 63-yard drive.

Remember, Cook did make NFL history last season becoming the first rookie quarterback to make his pro debut in a playoff game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, albeit after the Raiders lost Carr to a broken leg for the remainder of the season after an 12-3 start on Christmas Eve.

Losing Carr was the ultimate lump of coal in the stockings of Raider Nation.

Defensively, defensive end Khalil Mack and linebacker Bruce Irvin sat out Saturday’s contest in the desert. Both Mack and Irvin should see the field and get a chance to play with some of Silver and Black’s younger talent in second-year linebacker Cory James and rookie middle linebacker Marquel Lee.

James led all defensive players with seven tackles (seven solo) and looked more comfortable defending the run, while Lee finished with six tackles (five solo) and a fumble recovery in his first NFL preseason game.

Lee did struggle at times covering the running back out of the backfield and tight ends on option- and curl-routes, and needs to improve his coverage skills as the Raiders face dynamic tight ends almost on a weekly basis with Kansas City and San Diego coming to mind with elite guys named Travis Kelce and Antonio Gates, respectively.

Rookie defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes may have wrapped up a starting job, but fellow rookie defensive tackle Treyvon Hester racked up two of Oakland’s four sacks in Arizona with rookie linebacker LaTroy Lewis registering the other two sacks to go along with four tackles (four solo).

Add in holdovers Justin “Jelly” Ellis and defensive end Mario Edwards, Oakland’s defensive front could be intriguing to watch in 2017 after lacking any serious punch in 2016 with a league-low 25 sacks, 18 by the aforementioned Mack (team-leading 11.0 sacks) and Irvin (second with 7.0 sacks).

The Rams enter Oakland 1-0 in the preseason following a 13-10 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Los Angeles last Saturday.

Former California starting quarterback Jared Goff, the Rams No. 1 overall pick in 2016, started the game and finished 3-of-4 for 34 yards during his only drive. The Rams are entering the 2017 season hoping that they can rebound from a disastrous 4-12 season a year ago that resulted in a head coaching change, out goes longtime head coach Jeff Fisher and enters first-timer Sean McVay.

McVay spent the last seven seasons in Washington as an offensive assistant, but the last three as the offensive coordinator where he’s aided in the growth of Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins has posted back-to-back 4,000-yard passing seasons in the Nation’s Capital and is line for a major contract next offseason after making  nearly $44 million (fully guaranteed) on one-year franchise tenders the past two seasons (which includes this season at $23.9 million after walking away with $19.9 in 2016).

The Rams are banking on the 31-year-old McVay (the youngest head coach in NFL history) to develop Goff into a franchise quarterback. Goff started the team’s final seven games of the season last year and completed 112-of-205 passes for 1,089 yards and a  five-to-seven touchdown:interception ratio during that stretch.

Los Angeles did add weapons for Goff to help expedite the second-year pro by bringing in former Buffalo Bills wide receivers Robert Woods (signed by the organization to a five-year, $34 million ($15 million guaranteed) contract in free agency), a USC Trojan; and former top-pick Sammy Watkins in a blockbuster trade last Friday.

Watkins is also looking to have a bounce back season in 2017 that is reminiscent of his second year in 2015; where he exploded on to the NFL landscape with 60 catches for a career-high 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games after a down year in Buffalo in 2016; where he posted career-lows in catches (28), yards (430) and touchdowns (2) while dealing with a nagging foot injury that limited the former standout from Clemson to just eight games.

When healthy, Watkins can take the top off a defense as his career average of 16.1 yards per catch can attest, which should open things up for wide receiver Tavon Austin.

Austin, who is paid like the Rams’ No. 1 wide receiver at $42 million ($28.5 million guaranteed), doesn’t play like a No. 1. With the additions of the Woods and Watkins on the outside, the 5-foot-9, 174-pound Austin can now flourish in the slot and be utilized in the similar fashion that the 5-foot-10, 178-pound DeSean Jackson (now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) was utilized by McVay in Washington.

The Rams also added skill players via the NFL draft, utilizing three of their first four picks on tight end Gerald Everett, and wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds that will give Goff or third-year backup quarterback Sean Mannion (18-for-25 for 144 yards against Dallas) more options to look to in the passing game.

Kupp had fumble recovery on the Rams’ first drive of the game for a touchdown and could be a fixture in the Rams’ offense by Week 5 as coaches have salivated over his route-running ability. The former wide receiver from Eastern Washington is arguably the greatest weapon in Football Championship Subdivision history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, setting all-time records in total receptions (428), receiving yards (6,464), and receiving touchdowns (73).

Kupp finished his senior season as the best wide receiver in FCS in 2016, hauling in a conference-leading 117 receptions, for 1,700 yards receiving and 17 receiving touchdowns.

Third-year running back Todd Gurley is still the bell-cow for the Rams.

As a rookie in 2015, Gurley carried the ball 229 times for career-highs in rushing yards (1,106) and rushing touchdowns (10) in 13 games, but dipped a bit in his second year out of Georgia. Although Gurley played all 16 games in 2016 and finished with a career-high 278 carries, Gurley had only 885 yards rushing and six touchdowns to go along with a career-high 327 receiving yards.

Defensively for Los Angeles, veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips brings 39 years of coaching experience to Southern California and help McVay’s transition as a first-time head coach almost seamless. Phillips was the defensive coordinator from 2015-16 where he help guide Denver to their third Super Bowl championship in franchise history in 2015.

In 2016, Phillips’ defensive unit finished tops in the league in pass defense and yards per play.

Fourth-year defensive tackle Aaron Donald highlights the Rams’ defense. Donald was selected to his third-consecutive Pro Bowl in 2016 after recording eight sacks and 62 tackles while playing in all 16 games.

The glue to the Rams’ defense, Donald is currently holding out for a new contract that will make him one of the highest-paid defensive tackles in football. Recent reports have Donald threatening to extend his holdout into the season, which would cripple the Rams.

After Saturday’s game, the Raiders will travel to Dallas for their third preseason game against the Cowboys; and the Rams will return home to take on the Chargers in the “Battle of Los Angeles” or what my mentor likes to call the game, the “Carson Chargers” vs the “Inglewood Rams” at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Both games will be on Saturday Aug. 26th at 7:00 p.m. PT.

 

 

 

Oakland Raiders report: Khalil Mack is the driving force, but Raiders’ defense needs more punch in 2017

Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack during an NFL football training camp Monday, July 31, 2017, in Napa, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

Heading into the 2017 NFL season, the Oakland Raiders will have a top-10 offense that will score a bunch of points and be entertaining to watch.

That we do know.

When the Raiders’ offense, (sixth in total offense in 2016 averaging 26 points per game) is engineered by Derek Carr, who is vastly becoming one of the league’s top quarterbacks with back-to-back seasons of at least 3,900 passing yards and 25 touchdowns in his first three seasons  in the NFL, all signs point to the Raiders being in good hands with Carr at the helm.

The supporting cast isn’t too shabby either: with precise route-runners in wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree (both had 1,000-yard receiving seasons last season) and a stable of running backs, with hometown hero Marshawn Lynch (acquired via trade from Seattle after retiring prior to the 2016 season) expected to be the lead-dog ahead of change-of-pace backs in Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington.

Third-year tight end Clive Walford and nine-year veteran Jared Cook (signed in the offseason) should provide matchup problems in the middle field for the Raiders with opposing linebackers and safeties. Play from the tight end position has been an afterthought for Oakland early in Carr’s career, but should be vastly improved this season.

But if Oakland has any shot at playing in Super Bowl LII (let alone topple the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game), the defense will need to do a lot more in support of their high-octane offense if they are to play at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on the first Sunday in February.

First, the pass rush needs to improve tremendously.

Defensive end Khalil Mack, the reigning Associated Press (AP) Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY), finished with 11 of Oakland’s 25 sacks (a league-worse in 2016 for any defense).

There’s no questioning the motor that the two-time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro plays with on every down and he’s the most feared player on Oakland’s defense, but he can’t do it all by himself and needs help. Even if Mack has his sites on 30 sacks in 2017, according to Carr who mentioned that after one of the Raiders’ practice sessions during training camp in Napa last week, Mack can’t be everywhere.

Taking a closer look, the Arizona Cardinals finished with a league-best 48 sacks and had two guys in Markus Golden (team- and personal career-high 12.5 sacks) and Chandler Jones (11.0 sacks) getting to the quarterback at-will.

Arizona’s second-ranked defense almost doubled the Raiders’ output in sacks from last season.

Mack had an eight-game stretch where he recorded at least one sack in every game last season, but there’s no way he can get to 30 sacks this season, which would shatter former New York Giants defensive end and Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s record of 22.5 sacks set in 2001. The four-year stud from Buffalo would need to average 2.5-3.0 sacks per game and the way opposing teams double- and triple-team him, that’s a tough feat to accomplish even if you’re considered one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.

Along with Strahan, there have only been 10 other occasions in NFL history where there have been 20+ sacks by a defensive player in a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau:

  • Three players with 22.0 sacks in a season: defensive ends Mark Gastineau for the New York Jets in 1984 (previous all-time record holder in a season), Jared Allen in 2011 for the Minnesota Vikings and outside linebacker Justin Houston in 2014 for the Kansas City Chiefs.
  • Two players with 21.0 sacks in a season: the late, great defensive end Reggie White in 1987 for Philadelphia and defensive end Chris Doleman in 1989 for Minnesota. Both men are in enshrined in Canton after playing 15 seasons each, with White second all-time with 198 career sacks (Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith is first all-time with 200 career sacks), and Doleman sitting fourth all-time with 150.5 sacks.
  • Two players (one accomplished the feat twice) with 20.5 sacks in a season: Hall of Fame outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1986 for the New York Giants, who changed the way the outside linebacker position was played and made the “sack” term a household name when the statistic became official in 1982 after “LT” won his second-consecutive AP DPOY following his rookie season; and defensive end J.J. Watt, took home AP DPOY honors after the 2012 and ’14 seasons. Both men are tied for the most AP DPOYs in NFL history with three a piece.
  • Two players with 20.0 sacks in a season: the late, great outside linebacker Derrick Thomas for Kansas City in 1990, and recently retired outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware in 2008 for the Dallas Cowboys. Thomas ranks 16th on the NFL’s all-time sacks list with 126.5 in his career, is also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and many folks believe that Ware (eighth all-time with 138.5 sacks) and a Super Bowl ring in 2015 with the Denver Broncos, is bound for Canton once his five-year waiting period is over.

The dropoff from Mack, on defense was considerable last year for Oakland, who finished as the 26th-ranked defense in the NFL.

Outside linebacker Bruce Irvin was second on the team with seven sacks, but he needs to get 10.0-12.0 sacks this season on the opposite side of the defense to lighten the load for Mack. Irvin did finish tied with Atlanta Falcons’ outside linebacker Vic Beasley with five forced fumbles last season, most in the league.

Mario Edwards Jr. has had a hard time staying healthy, and Justin “Jelly” Ellis needs to step up his production and provide more pressure to opposing quarterbacks. Throw in Denico Autry and Jihad Ward into the mix as well of guys that are expected to have better seasons for the Silver and Black.

Rookie defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes could be a force in the middle of the defensive line if he’s completely returned from the ACL injury that derailed his junior season two seasons ago for UCLA, in the Bruins’ first game of the 2015 season.

The Raiders believe that Vanderdoes has recovered well, well enough that they spent a third round pick on him in the NFL Draft this past April.

As of Monday, Vanderdoes was the starting defensive tackle on the team’s unofficial depth chart ahead of Ward but according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, Vanderdoes was briefly out with what the team called a “minor” knee injury Tuesday, but returned to practice on Wednesday.

It remains uncertain if Vanderdoes plays in Oakland’s preseason opener in Arizona Saturday night.

Second with no “true” middle linebacker on the roster (“true” meaning a middle linebacker with at least 1-2 years of NFL experience) on the roster, the Raiders need someone to fill the void at one of the critical spots on the defense for any team.

There’s high hopes for another rookie in Marquel Lee to seize the job in training camp, a fifth-round pick from Wake Forest that could be a hidden gem for Oakland.

The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Lee was a three-year starter in his four seasons for the Demon Deacons and finished tops on the team 105 tackles (63 solo and 42 assisted), 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles his senior year.

Lastly, Oakland’s secondary has to protect the back-end of the defense and limit the long ball. Oakland was seventh-worse in the league last season surrendering an average of 375 passing yards per game in 2016.

With both safety positions solidified with 11-year veteran Reggie Nelson (team-high five interceptions and his second-straight Pro Bowl berth) and second-year player Karl Joseph (60 tackles total) patrolling the middle of the field, and David Amerson likely to maintain his spot at right cornerback, incumbent Sean Smith’s starting job at left cornerback is in jeopardy to four-year player TJ Carrie.

The nine-year veteran had a forgettable 2016 where he was consistently picked on by opposing quarterbacks, who had a passer rating of 114.0 against Smith last year, completing 44 receptions on 77 targets for 749 yards and eight touchdowns according to a recent training camp report filed by NBC Sports Bay Area Oakland Raiders Insider Scott Bair.

Carrie has passed Smith on the depth chart in training camp, lining up with the starting 11 over the weekend. Smith has been seen working out with the second-team defense playing a hybrid linebacker/safety covering tight ends in sub packages and at slot cornerback when the offense goes four wide receivers.

Limiting the the big-play wouldn’t hurt either.

Oakland’s defense surrendered a league-most 61 plays of 20+ yards to opposing offenses.

The 2017 season could be one of the greatest seasons in Raiders’ franchise history, and the defense will play a major roll (good or bad) in what Raider Nation is hoping will end in the organization winning its fourth Vince Lombardi trophy.

 

 

 

Oakland travels to Arizona for preseason opener Aug 12th

AP Photo File: Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) applauds during an NFL football training camp on Saturday, July 29, 2017, in Napa, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — The Raiders gear up for 2017 preseason with a road trip to the Valley of the Sun to take on the Arizona Cardinals Saturday night Aug. 12, with kickoff set for 7:00 p.m. PT from University of Phoenix Stadium. This marks the third time in seven years that the Silver and Black open up the preseason schedule on the road, as they opened the 2016 preseason in Arizona last season and in Minnesota for the 2014 preseason.

This also marks the fifth time in seven years that Oakland and Arizona meet in the preseason, with the Raiders taking last year’s preseason opener 31-10.

The Raiders will be a team that will score a lot of points this season with Derek Carr throwing to his talented wide receivers in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Oakland was the sixth-ranked offense with Carr throwing for 3,937 yards and 26 touchdowns (to just 6 interceptions) in 2016.

Cooper and Cooper each had 1,000-yard receiving seasons last year.

Add in a physical running back in Marshawn Lynch to an already deep running back stable with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington to go along with free agent addition Jared Cook and holdover Clive Walford to sure up the tight end position, the Silver and Black will be a feared offense in 2017.

With left tackle Donald Penn a training camp holdout over his contract, I wouldn’t expect to see Carr and the first-team offense play no more than a series or two as the point of the preseason is to find your team’s identity, see which rookies can be contributors to an NFL team, and most importantly, keep your starters healthy.

Carr who signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension with the organization during the offseason and is coming off a broken fibula last season, is the most important Raider the team has to keep healthy with all of the Super Bowl hype surrounding the team heading into the season.

The reigning Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year in defensive end Khalil Mack and the defense look to improve a unit that finished 26th in the league last season despite Mack registering 11 sacks, five forced fumbles, and an interception that returned for a touchdown.

Overall defensively, Oakland already has the majority of their starting lineup intact with the exception of middle linebacker, and possibly cornerback opposite of David Amerson.

Rookie Marquel Lee and second-year pro Tyrell Adams battling for the starting job at middle linebacker. Lee is currently ahead of Adams on the team’s depth chart in training camp and should start in Oakland’s first preseason game but should see a lot of action.

Lee is one of 30 rookies who should see their first live action in an NFL game.

Nine-year veteran Sean Smith is being pushed hard for his starting spot at cornerback by fourth-year player TJ Carrie and rookie Gareon Conley. Carrie has passed Smith on the Raiders depth chart in training camp after lining up with the starting 11 over the weekend in Napa.

Conley hasn’t practiced yet due to shin splints and off the field issues, is playing catch up.

Arizona lost to the Dallas Cowboys 20-18 in the NFL’s Hall of Fame Game last Thursday as both teams held out most of their starters.

Former 49ers starter/backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert completed 11-of-14 passes for 185 yards leading Arizona to touchdowns on their first two drives.

 

 

 

 

 

Carr and Raiders agree on 5-year, $125M extension

AP File Photo: Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) passes against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — The Oakland Raiders knew they had something special at quarterback with Derek Carr.

Now, he is paid like one.

Carr and the Raiders have agreed to a five-year, $125 million extension, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, noting a source close to the negotiations. Carr’s new contact makes him the highest paid player in terms of average money per year ($25 million per), moving past Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

Before breaking his leg on Christmas Eve in a home loss to the Colts, the 26-year-old Carr was having an MVP-type of season, throwing for 3,937 yards with 28 touchdowns to just six interceptions. In three seasons, Carr has thrown for 11,191 yards, 81 touchdowns and 31 interceptions.

Carr was finishing up his rookie deal, and was scheduled to make less than $1 million in base salary this season before agreeing to the new deal. According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, Carr’s deal includes $70 million in guarantees with $40 million guaranteed at signing.

With Carr’s deal now completed, the Raiders should turn their attention in locking up defensive linchpin Khalil Mack long-term.

The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year after an 11-sack season in 2016 that included a pick-6 interception, has a team option through 2018, but you’d think that general manager Reggie McKenzie would want to keep the nucleus of the team intact and Mack is a big part of the Raiders’ future.

Information from this report provided from the NFL Network and USA Today.

 

 

 

Raiders close to deal with Marshawn Lynch; Seahawks still holds RB’s rights

Marshawn Lynch, right, a former NFL football running back with the Seattle Seahawks greets Sheri Schultz, left, the wife of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Thursday, May 5, 2016, before he spoke at a job fair in Seattle sponsored by the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, an organization backed by Starbucks and other companies that seeks to increase employment and education opportunities for youth aged 16-24. The Seahawks announced Thursday that Lynch has been placed on the reserve/retired list. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — “Beast Mode” back on the football field?

Almost a done deal.

NFL Network’s Michael Silver and Mike Garafolo reported Friday that Marshawn Lynch is nearing a new contract agreement with the 30-year-old running back.

But before Lynch can officially play for his hometown Raiders, Seattle must trade Lynch as they still hold his rights as he retired after the Seahawks’ Super Bowl 50 loss to the New England Patriots at the end of the 2014 season.

Sources close to the situation told Garafolo that Oakland and Seattle are optimistic that a deal can be struck, the two sides have yet to engage in trade talks for one of the NFL’s most punishing running backs when healthy.

Lynch sat out all of 2016 after an injury-filled 2015 (where he dealt with hamstrings/hernia injuries) but has been durable for the majority of his nine-year career. Three years removed from a Super Bowl championship (a season that Lynch rushed for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns), it’s fair to ask how much football does the former Oakland Tecbnical High School product have left?

The rumors have been swirling for weeks that Lynch was itching to resurrect his career and Oakland was his preferred choice, not Seattle. Lynch took to Twitter to clear the air of those rumors:

“If u kno me you kno my business is my business,” Lynch tweeted, “and if u don’t kno me that’s a fun fact for ya… when (expletive) get REAL I’ll let you kno!!!!”

Oakland, who have second-year running backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington slated to share the load in the backfield after letting starter Latavius Murray (and his 12 rushing touchdowns) depart for Minnesota via free agency, may believe Lynch is an upgrade and will add more bite to a deep running back corps.

NFL Network’s Steve Wyche noted that he was in Alameda this week and sources told him that one possible sticking point in a deal coming together between Oakland and Lynch, would be the compensation that Oakland would need to give Lynch. Wyche got indication that Oakland really wants to get a deal done and see Lynch as a key piece to a potential Super Bowl participant this season, but want some assurances from Lynch before the NFL Draft on Apr. 27.

According to Spotrac.com, Oakland is sixth in the NFL with roughly $33 million in salary cap space and have key core players who are up for hefty extensions, most notably quarterback Derek Carr and defensive end Khalil Mack.

Wyche was adamant that the Raiders didn’t want to dip to heavy into that cash to overpay for Lynch. Sources told Wyche that Oakland wants to, “take care of the horses.”

Carr and Mack are two of the Raiders’ biggest “horses” who’ve earned new contracts.

Should Lynch and the Raiders come to an agreement, it would give the Silver & Black some much needed great news, in wake of the organization’s announcement to relocate to the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas in the next two years.

 

 

 

Oakland Raiders report: Khalil Mack named AP Defensive Player of the Year

Houston Texans running back Jonathan Grimes (41) carries the ball as the Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack (52) looks to make the tackle during an NFL Wild Card Playoff game between the Houston Texans and the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 in Houston. The Texans beat the Raiders 27-14. (Matt Patterson via AP)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

HOUSTON, TX — Oakland Raiders defensive end/linebacker Khalil Mack took home the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award at the NFL Honor ceremony on Saturday night.

Mack would win his first career DPOY award over notable stars such as Giants safety Landon Collins, Denver pass rusher Von Miller, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and Seahawks thumping linebacker Bobby Wagner.

After a slow start to the 2016 season with just one sack in his first five games, Mack would go on a frenzy from mid-October through mid-December in which the former Buffalo standout would collect 10 sacks, 13 quarterback hits, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and a pick-six while helping the Silver & Black earn their first playoff berth since 2002.

Mack finished the season with 73 tackles, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles, and one interception.

Mack leads the NFL with 11 fourth-quarter sacks since 2015. That season, Mack finished with 15 sacks and became the first player ever in NFL history to be named to the Associated Press All-Pro Team at two different positions.

The straw that stirs the drink for Oakland’s defense was responsible for 44 percent of the Raiders’ sacks, while his 26 quarterback hits were second only to Donald’s 31 this season, per NFL Research.

 

 

Oakland Raiders Report: McKenzie named NFL’s top executive for 2016

Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie looks up from the sideline prior to a NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, December 4, 2016 in Oakland. The Raiders won the game 38-24. (Paul Jasienski via AP)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — In a season where the Raiders made the playoffs for the first time since 2002, the league recognized the man that helped lead the turn around when Oakland General Manager Reggie McKenzie was named the NFL’s Executive of the Year for 2016 Thursday morning.

The news was first reported by Associated Press.

The award is presented by the Pro Football Writers of America, who vote among themselves to determine the league’s top executive.

McKenzie oversaw a Raiders team that finished 12-4 and clinch a wild card berth. The Raiders lost to the Houston Texans 27-14 on Wild Card Weekend.

McKenzie’s fingerprints are all over this team, adding key free agents in Pro Bowlers safety Reggie Nelson and left guard Kelechi Osemele, to go along with edge rusher Bruce Irvin that spearheaded a 9-2 start for the Silver and Black this season.

Sprinkle in wide receiver Michael Crabtree, left tackle Donald Penn, and right guard Gabe Jackson, McKenzie has brought stability to a franchise that were in an abyss since their last Super Bowl appearance, also in 2002.

But where McKenzie has really flourished for the Raiders has been in the draft room, building Oakland’s strong foundation starting in 2014 and 2015 where McKenzie drafted defensive linchpin Khalil Mack, franchise quarterback Derek Carr, game-breaking wide receiver Amari Cooper, and defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr.

Carr was named the AFC West Offensive Player of the Year, as voted by four reporters who cover the AFC West for ESPN.com on Friday.

Mack and Osemele were named to the All-NFL team (voted by the AP), while safety Karl Joseph was named to the All-Rookie team.

McKenzie will have his work cut out for him as Mack and Carr will be in line for big extensions once their rookie deals expire. The team has the club option on Mack in 2018, but Carr’s deal ends after the 2017.

And with Oakland having filed for relocation to Las Vegas on Thursday, McKenzie’s will need to work hard to keep the nucleus of the franchise in tact.

But when you have $46.6M in salary cap space, the time to get both Carr and Mack locked up long term should be this offseason.

For now, McKenzie can take a second to enjoy being named executive of the year but there is more work to be done for the Silver and Black.