Tag:Oakland Raiders
Posted on: November 10, 2010 12:44 pm

Colt McCoy, Eric Berry Rookies of the Week

With all due respect to Oakland Raiders' receiver and kick returner Jacoby Ford (who was spectacular in the Raiders' 23-20 overtime win over the Chiefs) and San Diego rookie Seyi Ajirotutu (two touchdown receptions against the Texans), it is time to recognize the play of Colt McCoy with Offensive Rookie of the Week honors.

I've acknowledged the gutty play of Cleveland Browns' rookie quarterback Colt McCoy the past two weeks, but his performance against the New England Patriots demands attention.

In a surprisingly close loss to the Steelers and the Browns' stunning road win against the defending Super Bowl champion Saints, McCoy's Browns played well -- but almost in spite of their rookie signal-caller, not because of him.

The stellar running of Peyton Hillis and the inspired play of the Cleveland defense certainly played critical roles in beating the Patriots, but McCoy was deadly efficient as a passer (completing 14 of 19 passes for 174 yards) and his mobility kept the Patriots' pass rushers frustrated. McCoy's biggest play was his 16-yard scramble for a touchdown on the Browns' first drive of the third quarter. That score gave the Browns a 24-7 lead that proved too much for the Patriots to recover from.

While there were several standout rookie performances on the offensive side of the ball, the pickings were slim among defensive prospects.

New England inside linebacker Brandon Spikes had his moments in the loss to McCoy and the Browns, collecting eight tackles in the loss.

Kansas City safety Eric Berry , however, continues to prove he's a young star in the making for the Chiefs. After recording a career-high 10 tackles and his second interception of the season two weeks ago in the home win over Buffalo, Berry showed off his versatility, collecting two sacks on the afternoon.

Berry, the No. 5 overall pick, now has 45 tackles, four passes broken up, two sacks, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery on the season.
Posted on: November 8, 2010 1:38 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2010 2:12 pm

Rookie WRs Ajirotutu, Roberts, Ford no surprise

One of the more entertaining parts of my typical Sunday viewing of NFL games is to see announcers stumble when an unheralded rookie makes a surprising play.

This was the case in several games yesterday, most notably among wide receivers for the San Diego Chargers, Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders.

Loyal readers of NFLDraftScout.com and our weekly PDF Draft Slant certainly knew that the big plays from Seyi Ajirotutu, Andre Roberrts and Jacoby Ford , respectively, were no surprise.

I've been accused of tooting my/our own horn on occasion, and perhaps I do it too often. When I do it, though, I provide the evidence that what I say is true.

For example...

Ajirotutu, an undrafted free agent from Fresno State, impressed early last year in a Bulldog loss to Wisconsin (six catches for 83 yards, two TDs) and again at the East-West Shrine Game. Here is what I wrote in Slant about him:
Ajirotutu intrigues scouts in much the same way as former WAC standout Legedu Naanee (San Diego) did for Boise State - with great size, raw speed and physical play. His underrated straight-line speed (reportedly has been timed in the 4.3s) forces corners to respect him deep and his size and crisp footwork gives him easy separation on slants and dig routes. Ajirotutu has shown the ability to high-point passes, using his size advantage to "box out" smaller cornerbacks (see Wisconsin, 9/12). Ajirotutu's physicality also lends itself well as a downfield blocker. In fact, as his blocking Saturday night against the Warriors can attest, Ajirotutu is a significant contributor to the success of junior Ryan Matthews, the nation's leading rusher. Fresno's focus on the running game will keep Ajirotutu's number modest (4-48 yards against UH), but with patience, he has the raw talent to blossom in the pros.

Ajirotutu caught four passes from Philip Rivers for 109 yards and two touchdowns in the Chargers 29-23 win over Houston.

Andre Roberts and Jacoby Ford, two undersized receivers mischaracterized by some as strictly big play threats, impressed me during Senior Bowl practices. In fact, in this Senior Bowl practice (Tuesday) review I lavished praise on both.

A receiver on the rise is [Andre] Roberts . Scouts expected him to be closer to 5-10, 180 pounds, but he measured in at 5-11, 192. His quickness has not been hurt by the added weight, and his routes were outstanding. Roberts has the feet to run effective comeback routes, the suddenness to free himself on slants, and the vertical to leap up and grab a high pass on the sideline. Typically one FCS receiver is selected in the top 100, and it looks like Roberts fits that ball in the 2010 draft.
Roberts played very well during the Senior Bowl practices. He only caught two passes for the Cardinals in their 24-27 loss to the Vikings, but his 30-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter gave the Cardinals a 14-10 halftime lead.

Ford flashed a week earlier in the Raiders' blowout victory over the Seahawks. Against the Chiefs and one of the better young cornerbacks in the league (Brandon Flowers), Ford was dynamic. Ford returned the opening kickoff of the third quarter for a 94-yard touchdown and caught six passes for 147 yards. If you can believe it, he was even better on tape than he was on the stat sheet, as several of his catches were highlight reel-worthy.

Again, this wasn't a surprise. Here is what I wrote about Ford following the same Tuesday Senior Bowl practice:

Clemson's Jacoby Ford is proving among the more secure handed receivers at the Senior Bowl this week -- a bit of a surprise to some who had labeled as only a big-play threat. Though short, the 5-9, 181-pound Ford has good strength to gain his release off press and has the speed to eat up the cushion. He has impressed scouts so far this week with his ability to adjust to poorly thrown passes and haul in tough catches.

Rather than focus any more attention on these rookies, let's look ahead to this year's senior crop of wideouts. A few underrated receivers that I see slipping a bit on draft day, surprising with a big day (or five) as rookies causing NFL announcers to stumble a year from now include:

Denarius Moore, Tennessee
Vincent Brown, San Diego State
Greg Salas, Hawaii

Posted on: July 29, 2010 9:52 pm

Tebow signs the headline; LBs the real story

July 29, 2010 may someday be recognized in pro football annals as the day that Tim Tebow officially entered the NFL by signing his first-round contract with the Denver Broncos, but several other rookies who signed today will almost certainly make a bigger impact as a rookie -- though few, nationally, will recognize the importance of their deals.

Fellow first round picks Rolando McClain (Oakland) and Sean Weatherspoon (Atlanta) each signed their contracts today. Despite the fact that McClain (No. 8 overall) and Weatherspoon (No. 19 overall) were each selected higher than Tebow and will almost certainly see the field in a more substantive role sooner than the former Florida superstar, only fans of the Raiders and Falcons, respectively, are likely to be giving the signings much thought.

And that is a mistake.

McClain's signing continues a surprisingly effective off-season for the Raiders. His selection with the No. 8 overall pick was lauded on draft day as a coup for the shabby run-defending team. Now, by signing McClain on the day the team's training camp workouts officially begin, they are giving the reigning Butkus Award winner a chance to help immediately.

Weatherspoon's deal is just as important given that the Falcons, like the Raiders, enjoyed a strong off-season and appear to be on the verge of breaking into the upper echelon of the NFL. The addition of free agent cornerback Dunta Robinson gives the team the shut-down cornerback they've been missing to pair with pass rusher John Abraham and young star linebacker Curtis Lofton. With Weatherspoon's speed and playmaking ability, the combination of he and Lofton should give the Falcons as athletic a duo of young linebackers as there is in the league -- a critical advantage considering the team has to contend with Drew Brees and the explosive New Orleans' offense in the NFC South division.
One could even make the argument that Miami signing outside linebacker Koa Misi, Houston signing running back Ben Tate or even the Kansas City Chiefs signing offensive guard Jon Asamoah will end up being at least equally as important to their club's 2010 success as Tebow.

But then again, Tebow is the headline. Everyone else makes up just the details.

So, what else is new?
Posted on: April 24, 2010 8:26 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2010 11:26 pm

SEA, SF, DET, OAK among draft "winners"

I've been working on grading the drafts of all 32 teams for the past few hours. Here are the clubs that immediately stood out to me:

Seattle: Tough to argue that they had a spectacular draft. The Seahawks filled their two biggest needs (OT, S) in the first round with Okung and Thomas and proceeded to get one of the better big play receiver/returners in the draft in Golden Tate, address concerns at RB with trades for veterans Leon Washington and LenDale White and might have found two Day Three steals in Walter Thurmond and Anthony McCoy. If there is something to find fault in Seattle's draft it would be that the two defensive ends they selected -- E.J. Wilson and Dexter Davis -- aren't likely going to be enough to replace Patrick Kerney.

San Francisco: I've always been a believer in building through the offensive line so I might be higher on the 49ers' draft than others would be. I believe the 49ers panicked a little bit in trading up for Anthony Davis, but in taking he and guard Mike Iupati, the team is building one of the more talented offensive lines in all of football. Considering the talent they have on defense and their skill position players, Alex Smith doesn't have to win games, he just has to manage them. That strategy won the Baltimore Ravens a Super Bowl not too long ago.

Detroit: Suh was a no-brainer with the second pick, but I like the rest of their draft, as well. Jahvid Best has to stay healthy for this draft to really be a standout one, of course, but I like the no-nonsense manner of this draft. Suh, Best, Spievey and Fox could all be in the starting lineup by midseason.

Oakland: I know, I know. What were the odds that I'd be listing the Raiders as one of the "winners" of the draft, but I have to admit it, I love what they did. The combination of Rolando McClain and LaMarr Houston makes this team instantly better against the run. I like the upside in tackles Veldheer and Campbell and like that there was still some Al Davis element to the draft, as well, in the selection of track star (and underrated football player) Jacoby Ford too. Trading for Jason Campbell was just the icing on the cake. He certainly never proved to be a superstar for the Redskins, but compared to JaMarcus Russell and Bruce Gradkowski, he might as well be.

Posted on: April 24, 2010 1:37 pm

Campbell, draft make OAK a surprise contender

I noted in an earlier blog posting that the Oakland Raiders were quietly enjoying a very solid draft. Any Al Davis team is certain to have explosive playmakers and the Raiders certainly have that. They've made moves to improve a woeful run defense with their first two picks of inside linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive tackle Lamarr Houston.

The Raiders also addressed their need for an offensive tackle with two extremely talented middle round prospects in Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell. While neither may be able to contribute as a starter immediately, both could ultimately develop into quality starters.

The biggest move, of course, was the addition of quarterback Jason Campbell.

Campbell has the big arm necessary to take advantage of Darrius Heyward-Bey's big play ability. He's used to attacking defenses down the seam through the tight end with Chris Cooley and inherits a young tight end in Zach Miller, who has quietly become of the AFC's best at the position.

Considering the that the Broncos are unlikely to get immediate help from their top draft picks, Demaryius Thomas and Tim Tebow and the Kansas City Chiefs are still a year or more away from truly competing, Oakland could emerging as San Diego's primary competition in the AFC West.
Posted on: April 23, 2010 10:08 pm

Roberts, Veldheer, Carrington will surprise

As we get into the middle rounds is where NFL scouts and draft analysts earn their money.

While few fans will know much about Andre Roberts, wideout from The Citadel, Hillsdale offensive tackle Jared Veldheer and even Sun Belt standout Alex Carrington from Arkansas State, I believe these three will prove to be three of the better picks of the third round.

Roberts is my favorite of the three. Even with the trade of Anquan Boldin, the Cardinals are well stocked at wide receiver already with Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet. Roberts is a classic slot receiver and returner who could step in immediately should one of them go down to injury. Typically small school receivers are raw route-runners, but I was very impressed with Roberts at the Senior Bowl in this area. He has hands of glue.

Perhaps the most NFL-ready of the bunch, however, is Arkansas State's Alex Carrington, who at 6-5, 280 pounds has the length and strength the Bills need at defensive end for their conversion to the 3-4 defense. Carrington, like Roberts, helped dispel any thoughts that he couldn't make the jump to better competition with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.

Veldheer, a 46 game starter and All-American, fills an area of real concern for the Raiders. He has the length the Raiders like outside and really made a name for himself at the Texas vs. Nation game. I've spoken to scouts who rate him similarly to former Sebastian Vollmer, a surprise second round pick last year for the Patriots who ended up starting eight games as a rookie, including five games at left tackle.

Posted on: April 23, 2010 2:48 pm

AFC West First Round Comments

Following the conclusion of the draft, I'll be providing grades for all 32 teams. I've begun the process of writing these grades up based on what transpired in the first round yesterday. I'll be posting comments for each team, by their division, in the blog over the next few hours.

Here is how I saw the action from the AFC West perspective:

Denver Broncos:
The mystifying direction of the Denver Broncos under the direction of head coach Josh McDaniels continues. The puzzling aspect about the Denver Broncos’ selections is that considering the holes on this team and the fact that the Broncos got very little out of two (Robert Ayers, Alphonso Smith) of their top three picks last year, it seemed the team would have opted for players likely to make more of an immediate impact than Demaryius Thomas and Tim Tebow. I believe both have starting NFL potential, with Thomas potentially becoming a star, but they are each considerable projects who may not be ready to contribute significantly early. 

Kansas City Chiefs:
Eric Berry will be a star, but general manager Scott Pioli took a significant risk in not protecting the investment he made previously in quarterback Matt Cassel by ignoring offensive tackle. Pioli devoting top five money to a safety, even one as good as Berry, may not have been a surprise to fans who just see Berry’s ability, but it was a considerable surprise to many front office executives throughout the league.

Oakland Raiders:
The Raiders surprised many with their selection of Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain with the eighth pick because, quite simply, the perpetually irrational club made a stunningly logical addition. McClain has the bulk and speed the team is missing inside and will help to shore up a run defense that finished 30th in the NFL last season and has allowed more rushing touchdowns over the past seven years than any other team in the league. 

San Diego Chargers:
In typical, aggressive A.J. Smith fashion, the Chargers traded up 16 spots to land their replacement of LaDainian Tomlinson with Ryan Mathews, who wore the number 21 at Fresno State in honor of the former Charger great. Mathews, who led the nation in rushing average with 150.67 yards per game last year, is an early Rookie of the Year candidate based on his fit in this offense.

Posted on: April 22, 2010 8:45 pm

What happened? McClain to Raiders makes sense...

The Oakland Raiders have made some odd picks in the first round in recent years and, as such, may have made an even odder pick considering how much Alabama inside linebacker made sense.

The Raiders have struggled against the run, giving up more rushing touchdowns over the past seven years than any other team in the league and ranking 30th in the NFL in rush defense last year.

Middle linebacker Kirk Morrison had developed into a fan favorite and steady producer, but his marginal straight-line speed made him a liability in the eyes of the Raiders.

Al Davis rarely takes linebackers in the first round. His club hadn't taken once since 1994, but in the physical McClain, Al Davis added to his collection of former trophy winners. McClain, of course, won the Butkus Award last year.
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