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Allen talks about quarterback decision

Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Friday that “we’ll know exactly what we’re doing’’ on Monday with regard to the starting quarterback. If you think that’s a far cry from last week’s (and the past month’s) declarations that Matt Schaub is his starter, you’re right. The team returns to practice Monday, and Allen will apparently weigh Schaub’s sore elbow against rookie Derek Carr’s strong performance in the preseason finale Thursday night. Schaub, who was ineffective the first three preseason games, hasn’t practiced this week and didn’t play against the Seahawks. Carr, meanwhile, led the Raiders to four touchdowns in four possessions against the Super Bowl champions, completing 11 of 13 passes [...]


Oakland Raiders: Immediate 53-Man Roster-Cut Predictions Post-Win

With the preseason having concluded, the Oakland Raiders have until Saturday to pare the roster down to 53 players. Some of the cuts are obvious, but there are several that will remain a mystery until the team’s official announcement.

Oakland’s roster underwent a massive rebuild this past offseason, which meant that almost every spot on the roster was there for the taking. Whether it was for a starting spot or for depth, there were a lot of players on the Raiders’ roster who were not only playing for a roster spot but also for substantial playing time.

Different players came in with different levels of expectations. Some, such as Greg Little, were looked at as possibly becoming major factors for the team. Others, such as rookie T.J. Carrie, were intriguing prospects, but the team was more interested in whether he could actually play in the NFL than if he could actually contribute this season.

After training camp and a full preseason, every player on the roster has had the opportunity to earn a roster spot. The official cuts won’t be known until Saturday, but there’s enough of a sample to predict which direction the Raiders will go at every position.

Here’s the likely 53-man roster that’ll begin the 2014 NFL season.

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Derek Carr Has Given Raiders Reason to Name Him Starting QB Over Matt Schaub

Start the Carr.

It doesn’t get any more obvious.

After Thursday’s performance against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in a 41-31 win—11-of-13 for 143 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions—Oakland Raiders rookie Derek Carr should start in Week 1 versus the New York Jets.

Head coach Dennis Allen tried to avoid a quarterback controversy by naming Matt Schaub his starter, but by sticking with him now, he’s only delaying the inevitable.  

When the Raiders selected Carr with the 36th overall pick in May, they were making a statement that he was the future. The only question was when the future would arrive for a team that hasn’t had a franchise quarterback since Rich Gannon.

According to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle via Pro Football Talk, the chances Carr will start Week 1 are 100 percent. For good reason. 

The Raiders brought in Schaub, 33, to give them a veteran option, but after the team selected Carr, he became a bridge to the future. So far this preseason, Schaub has been as incapable of carrying the team as the former eastern span of the Bay Bridge was at carrying traffic.

Schaub, who is nursing a sore elbow, sat back and watched Carr thrive versus Seattle’s first- and second-team defense—a unit that embarrassed Peyton Manning‘s record-setting offense in last year’s Super Bowl.

This is what the Raiders wanted when they selected Carr. This was general manager Reggie McKenzie’s vision. McKenzie and Allen just have to trust their evaluation and their eyes.

McKenzie is the protégé of former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf, who summed up the situation the Raiders now face perfectly.

“I would think in the ideal world everybody says you need to groom them slowly. I don’t really believe that,” said Ron Wolf via Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. “I think this is one area where the game hasn’t changed. If you don’t have one of those guys [elite quarterbacks] you don’t have a bleeping chance when you play on Sunday. It’s a demoralizing experience. I had been through that for two years. It’s an unbelievable feeling.

“However, if you get a guy that’s good enough, he’s good enough now. Not in all the nuances of the game, all the sophistications of the game, but he’s good enough to play.”

Yes, the Raiders would need to eat the $8 million Schaub is guaranteed in 2014, but look at it this way: Last season, Oakland guaranteed Matt Flynn $6.5 million and released him after five games in favor of Terrelle Pryor. After 10 games with Pryor as the starter, the Raiders knew that experiment was also over.

Sitting on Carr makes little sense short and long term. He can play now even if he has some learning to do. 

If he becomes a legitimate quarterback, the Raiders will only have him under control for four seasons. Unlike a first-round pick, they don’t have an option for a fifth year. Delaying Carr’s maturation process only reduces the amount of time before Oakland would have to pay him.

If Carr isn’t the future, the Raiders need to know. As evidenced by the past 12 years in Oakland, finding a capable quarterback isn‘t easy. Carr certainly still has some learning to do, but he passed the preseason test. He’ll need regular-season reps at some point regardless.

Carr wasn‘t perfect versus Seattle, but his talent and ability to make players around him better stood out. One such example was when his pass was tipped and tight end Mychal Rivera was able to secure it for a 20-yard touchdown pass.

Carr’s arm strength was able to save him from interceptions and incompletions, like when he threaded a back-shoulder pass past star cornerback Richard Sherman to wide receiver Denarius Moore on third down to extend a drive that ended in a touchdown.

Carr also demonstrated improved pocket presence this preseason, and he was able to slide away from pressure and still throw accurately down the field, something Schaub has struggled with in Oakland.

Schaub has completed just two passes more than 10 yards down the field this preseason; Carr had three touchdown passes longer than 10 yards Thursday night alone. Schaub has been sacked three times playing with the first-team offensive line; Carr wasn’t sacked Thursday night playing with the same unit. Carr has also been sacked just two times this preseason.

The decision is clear. The only question is if the Raiders will make the right choice.

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com

Derek Carr Deserves Starting Nod over Matt Schaub After Preseason Performance

Preseason games don’t count, but Derek Carr’s dominant display against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night gives the Oakland Raiders a worthy excuse to jettison Matt Schaub as their starting quarterback.

In the fourth and final exhibition content, Oakland reached the end zone in all four of Carr’s series. He finished his night with 143 yards and three touchdowns, completing 84 percent of his passing attempts.

Just to be clear, he wasn’t showing up Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom, although the starters made a brief cameo during the opening drive. While it’s just the preseason, Carr’s strong performance forces the Raiders to wonder what exactly they have to lose by playing the rookie in Week 1 over the acquired veteran.

The Raiders haven’t made the postseason since their Super Bowl appearance during the 2002 season. That drought is unlikely to end regardless of who takes the starting snaps under center. Heck, they haven’t even registered a winning season during that stretch.

So why not re-ignite a dejected fanbase by giving them a look ahead? The San Jose Mercury News‘ Tim Kawakami believes the young gunslinger should get the nod.

If Oakland had a loaded batch of receivers and a treacherous defense ready to wreak havoc, starting Schaub would be the prudent decision. After all, should we forget about his career 64.0 completion percentage, 7.63 yards per attempt and 89.9 quarterback rating after one down year?

It seems cruel, but probably. The 33-year-old endured the worst season of his career in 2013, mustering a mediocre 6.45 yards per attempt while throwing 14 interceptions through 10 games. 

At his best, Schaub benefited from an impenetrable offensive line that ignited a world-beating rushing attack. That gave the quarterback the simple duty of baiting the defense into mistakes on play-action passes. Throwing to Andre Johnson didn’t hurt either. 

He’s also dealing with a sore elbow that has kept him out of a practice. Last year, a similar ailment contributed to Matt Flynn losing the starting job to Terrelle Pryor in an eerily familiar situation.

Meanwhile, the No. 36 pick has opened eyes throughout the entire preseason. Prior to his outburst against Seattle, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport spoke to an unidentified general manager convinced of Carr’s staying power.

Also before Thursday’s game, offensive coordinator Greg Olson applauded his maturity to the San Jose Mercury News‘ Jerry McDonald: “I’ve said it from Day 1, the guy’s comfortable in the huddle,” Olson said. “The game’s not too big for him. … I don’t think the game’s too fast for him, which a lot of times is a concern with a rookie quarterback.”

It has been discussed that this will mark the first season in seven years that a rookie quarterback won’t start in Week 1. Let’s put that memo on hold, as Carr might have forced Oakland into making a bold move.

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com

Oakland Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks: Live Score and Analysis

The Oakland Raiders have several position battles that could be settled tonight against the Seattle Seahawks, but there’s one position that will steal the spotlight: quarterback. Head coach Dennis Allen continues to publicly support Matt Schaub, but a strong performance by Derek Carr will force Allen to seriously consider making a switch at the position.

The Raiders will also look to answer some final roster questions at other positions. Neiko Thorpe and T.J. Carrie are currently locked in a battle for the third cornerback spot behind Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. Their performances tonight will likely be the deciding factor.

Oakland will also look to settle its wide receiver depth chart. Despite the attention paid to Denarius Moore, Greg Little and Andre Holmes, its been unheralded Brice Butler who’s been the most impressive wide receiver in the preseason. Once considered a long shot to make the final 53-man roster, Butler is now a serious contender for significant playing time in 2014.

Seattle will provide a tough test for the Raiders, even with most of their starters unlikely to see much, if any, action. Oakland’s players still have a lot to play for, and this is their last opportunity to make a major impression in hopes of making the final roster and earning some playing time.

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com

Murphy takes cut at trying to make the cut

(Student Ethan Gaines had a chance to talk with Raiders tight end Jake Murphy, who is trying to make the team with a good performance against the Seahawks tonight in the preseason finale. Here is his report:) Jake Murphy comes from good, professional stock. His older brother played four years in the NFL with the Dolphins, Buccaneers, Panthers, and Broncos. And of course, Murphy is the son of six-time MLB All-Star and two-time NL MVP Dale Murphy. Jake Murphy thought he would be running the bases, and not patterns trying to make the Raiders football team. “Baseball was my first love,” he said. “I grew up playing (baseball) and when [...]

Oakland Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks: Preseason Week 4 Game Preview

After three preseason games, the Oakland Raiders still have plenty of questions to answer. They’ll be hoping to answer them against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night.

After missing last week’s game, Derek Carr suddenly finds himself in a great position. He’s healthy, he’s played well, and now that Matt Schaub is dealing with an elbow injury, he has an opportunity to make a strong case for the starting job.

Head coach Dennis Allen insists there’s no quarterback controversy in Oakland. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Vic Tafur tweeted Allen is “not concerned” about the injury. That may be true, but Schaub doesn’t seem as confident (via the Contra Costa Times‘ Jerry McDonald):

It’s just something that’s kind of come up. It’s lingered a little bit. But it’s come up and we’re dealing with it. It’s something we want to take care of and get out of the way now before we start the regular season.

Allen has staunchly opposed a change, but a strong performance by Carr combined with a slow recovery by Schaub could force his hand.

While the biggest position battle on Thursday will take place under center, there are several other position battles to be decided. The Raiders remain unsettled at wide receiver and cornerback, and players at both positions will be fighting for playing time and roster spots.

It might be the fourth game of the preseason, but the Raiders still have plenty to play for.

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Cornerback Depth Means Raiders Don’t Have to Rush D.J. Hayden

Coming into 2014, the Oakland Raiders penciled second-year cornerback D.J. Hayden in as a starter opposite Tarell Brown. Hayden was looking to put an injury-plagued rookie season behind him and become the player general manager Reggie McKenzie thought he was getting with the 12th overall selection of the 2013 NFL draft.

When the Raiders placed Hayden on the reserve PUP list, they hoped he could rehab a broken foot and be healthy enough to play Week 1. Despite Hayden moving around well Monday, the Raiders opted to put him on the reserve PUP list to start the regular season. Hayden will miss at least the first six weeks of the season.

Just a few weeks ago, losing Hayden for five games would have been a devastating blow to a thin secondary, but the Raiders are suddenly flush with cornerback depth. The team now has the luxury of ensuring Hayden is both 100 percent healthy and in football shape before activating him.

 

No One to Blame

It’s disappointing that Hayden has missed so much time, but it’s not fair to say it was a bad draft pick by McKenzie at this point. Aside from surgery prior to training camp last year to remove scar tissue, the Raiders couldn’t have predicted the injuries that have forced Hayden to miss games.

Many people have suggested that Hayden was an injury risk due to the freak injury he suffered in college and that the Raiders should have drafted defensive tackle Star Lotulelei instead. This ignores the fact that Lotulelei had a heart condition that prevented him from working out at the combine.

Although Lotulelei’s condition cleared up, that didn’t remove all the injury questions. As featured columnist Dave Siebert M.D. pointed out, Lotulelei’s heart was ejecting below-normal levels of blood when he was tested, and there’s no way to know when or if that might happen again.

… there is no way to know if and when the drop in EF will happen again, and questions remain: Is Lotulelei predisposed to further temporary decreases? If the first episode indeed produced no symptoms, how will teams know if Lotulelei is suffering from another? Does it even matter?

It’s a good example of the problem with trying to project injuries. Without the benefit of hindsight, Lotulelei was as much or more of an unknown from an injury perspective as Hayden.

Lotulelei’s condition cleared up, and he’s stayed healthy since. Hayden healed from his college injury and has two unrelated injuries that have caused him to miss games.

Sometimes, it’s just bad luck and no one is to blame.

The reality at the time was that the Raiders needed a contributor more than they needed a cornerback, but they also really needed a cornerback. On a better team with better cornerbacks, Hayden’s injuries wouldn’t be such an indictment of the front office.

 

A Young Trio

There are multiple ways to change the perception of Hayden’s injury. One is for Hayden to get healthy, and the other is to have players playing well enough to make everyone forget Hayden even exists—at least for six weeks.

Three cornerbacks are competing for the nickel role made available by Hayden’s injury—TJ Carrie, Neiko Thorpe and Chimdi Chekwa. If you were looking for a positive out of Oakland this preseason, the development of the young cornerbacks has been one of them.

Asked if he was concerned about his No. 3 cornerback spot with Hayden going to the PUP list, defensive coordinator Jason Tarver seemed more excited than worried via Raiders.com.

I think we’ve had good competition at the corner position through camp and through the preseason. There’ve been some players that step up like TJ Carrie and Neiko [Thorpe], and that battle will still be going on this week, two days from now. I’m excited to see these guys play, because they both did some good things last week and they’ve both done good things throughout camp. What’s happening is some other players are getting the chance to prove they deserve to be on this roster.

Carrie, Thorpe and Chekwa each took very different paths to this point, but their play this preseason was a big reason the Raiders were able to keep Hayden on ice. Hayden being hurt in the first place may have also accelerated their maturation process.

The Raiders drafted Carrie in the seventh round of last April’s draft and viewed him mostly as a return specialist, but he’s steadily climbed the depth chart. Carrie has a chance to win the nickel role Week 1 with a good performance Thursday against the Seattle Seahawks.

Last Friday against the Green Bay Packers, the Raiders asked Carrie to cover star wide receiver Jordy Nelson, and he did well. On four targets, Carrie only allowed two receptions for 19 yards, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Unfortunately, Carrie did allow a 12-yard touchdown, but it’s better to learn from that kind of mistake during preseason than the regular season.

Thorpe was also impressive last Friday against Green Bay, as he didn’t allow a reception on four targets. Pro Football Focus gave Thorpe a positive grade of 2.5 for the game and credited him with four tackles and two stops.

In 2012, Thorpe played nine games with the Kansas City Chiefs, but he was cut last August and played last year in the CFL. Tarver said Tuesday that Thorpe’s CFL experience has only helped because “the only way to get better at playing football is playing football.”

The veteran pushing for a role is Chekwa, who had a solid performance in the first preseason game before hurting his knee, but the Raiders were considering him for the nickel role prior to that. If he’s healthy enough to play in Week 1, he could get the nod ahead of Thorpe or Carrie simply because he’s going into his third year in the same defensive scheme.

Chekwa told me during training camp that veterans like Carlos Rogers and Brown are coming to him when they have questions about Tarver‘s defensive scheme. Chekwa‘s knowledge of the defense, even after missing the last three preseason games, may give him an edge. 

“We’re pretty excited about who we have in here,” Tarver said Tuesday. “We have a good mix of veterans and, like we talked about with Neiko, some hungry young players that want to do it right. (Chimdi Chekwa) was doing well and he’ll be back doing well.”

Isolated performances happen during the preseason, but Carrie, Thorpe and Chekwa have each carried over their practice performances into games. There will be growing pains, but for the first time since they drafted him, the Raiders don’t need to rush D.J. Hayden.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com

Hayden officially placed on PUP list, out six weeks

Despite coach Dennis Allen saying that DJ Hayden looked good in workouts the last couple of days and that the Raiders would wait until Saturday, the cornerback was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list on Tuesday morning. That means that last year’s first-round pick, who had surgery for a stress fracture in his foot in June, is out the first six weeks of the season. Hayden can start practicing after six weeks, then a five-week window opens up where the team has to activate him to the roster or put him on injured reserve. Former 49ers Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers, originaly slated to play the slot, have [...]

Simms: Oakland ‘Hard Place to Be Successful at QB’; Matt Schaub on ‘Short Leash’

Quarterback Matt Schaub has had an extremely underwhelming preseason for the Oakland Raiders.

Is his bad play the result of recent elbow soreness? Who should get the start Week 1 against the New York JetsWhen might the Raiders turn to rookie Derek Carr or Matt McGloin

Watch as Adam Lefkoe goes in-depth with Bleacher Report NFL Analyst Chris Simms in the video above.

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com