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LaMarr Woodley Injury: Updates on Raiders DE’s Bicep and Return

Oakland Raiders veteran defensive end LaMarr Woodley suffered a biceps injury that could threaten his status beyond Week 8′s road game against the Cleveland Browns.

Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Woodley’s condition, along with what Raiders interim coach Tony Sparano had to say about the situation:

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport provides more details on Woodley’s injury:

Woodley was one of Oakland’s free-agent acquisitions this offseason; he was signed to help the maligned franchise win right away.

However, the Raiders are the only winless team remaining in the NFL with a 0-6 record. Losing Woodley for an extended period of time would only exacerbate their problems.

Next in line to fill in for Woodley, per the team’s official depth chart, is Benson Mayowa, a 2013 undrafted free agent. That doesn’t promise to improve Oakland’s defensive forecast anytime soon, which is necessary to help the league’s last-ranked offense led by rookie quarterback Derek Carr.

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com


Continued Improvement by Derek Carr Could Save Reggie McKenzie’s Job

The Oakland Raiders are 0-6 and marching steadily toward 0-16. If there is a win on the schedule, it isn’t clear against whom it will come. The Raiders already fired head coach Dennis Allen, and general manager Reggie McKenzie could be on his way out if things don’t turn around quickly.

Few general managers survive a season like the one the Raiders are having, but even fewer lose their job the year after finding what looks to be a franchise quarterback. Looks can obviously be deceiving, which is why quarterback Derek Carr’s continued improvement will be necessary if McKenzie has any prayer of keeping his job.

Arguments for and against McKenzie will be made over the next few months, but finding a franchise quarterback is like a trump card. Carr’s play can buy McKenzie another few years at the helm, because a franchise quarterback conceals a multitude of mistakes.

As Carr improves, so should the Raiders’ odds of winning. Even a few wins could make all the difference for McKenzie and likely won’t affect the draft order in a significant way.

Carr has already come a long way in six games as a starter, but he’s far from perfect. The Raiders have to make building on Carr’s strengths and eliminating his weaknesses a priority over the last 10 games.

 

Stepping Up

One of the primary criticisms of Carr coming out of college was his ability to handle pressure. It’s not uncommon for a quarterback to struggle with pressure, but it obviously makes a huge difference when they can perform under duress.

Early on, Carr had his fair share of struggles under pressure, which confirmed his college scouting report. Part of this was Carr getting the right protections called so there wasn’t a free rusher coming at him, and part of it was simply him learning to step away from pressure. Carr has improved in both areas in recent weeks and needs to keep it up.

On a key 3rd-and-7 down 14 points with less than five minutes to play in the first half last Sunday, Carr demonstrated his newfound ability to step away from pressure and deliver accurate passes. The Raiders needed their quarterback to make a play, and Carr delivered.

Prior to the snap, Carr knew he was either going to hit tight end Mychal Rivera running left to right as three receivers clear out the defenders against Cover 3, or the seam route splitting two zones. Carr had to read the coverage after the snap and make a good decision to extend the drive.

The Arizona Cardinals blitzed from the left edge and dropped two defenders on the opposite side to match the Raiders’ numbers. Both defenders ran deep with the receivers on that side, leaving Rivera all alone running across the field.

It wasn’t as simple as Carr making the right read, he also had to step away from quick pressure up the middle. By stepping up in the pocket away from the pressure, Carr not only was able to find Rivera, but he also had plenty of running room had the Cardinals covered better on the play. Had Carr hesitated or tried to bail out of the pocket in any other direction, the Raiders likely don’t get the first down and have to punt.

Carr demonstrated the ability to step up away from pressure multiple times against the Cardinals, so his development in this area is not simply a fluke. Carr is getting more comfortable in a dirty pocket, which will help him have more success on third down going forward.

On this play, Carr steps away from pressure and throws incomplete deep right for wide receiver James Jones. The officials threw a flag and called defensive holding on the Cardinals, so it was a successful play for the Raiders.

At times, Carr isn’t going to be able to find open wide receivers even after stepping up in the pocket. Oakland’s wide receivers simply aren’t getting open with enough consistency to help Carr in all of these situations. By stepping up in the pocket, Carr also gives himself the opportunities to make plays with his legs.

Although he didn’t get the first down, Carr stepped up away from pressure and tried to run for a first down on 3rd-and-7 at the start of the second quarter. The Cardinals had Oakland’s receivers covered, and there was quick pressure on Carr off both edges. A defender tripped Carr just short of the first down, but his legs gave the Raiders the best chance to convert.  

 

Tight Windows

Carr’s arm strength has never been in question, but his accuracy at the pro level was inconsistent in his first several starts. Carr can make throws few quarterbacks can make when he’s  accurate.

On a key 3rd-and-10 with the Raiders down 14-10 in the third quarter, Carr not only demonstrated his ability to step away from pressure, but also his arm strength and accuracy. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew whiffed on a block and forced Carr to step up in the pocket before making the throw.

Carr zinged the pass 13 yards deep to Jones, who fought off tight coverage to make a back-shoulder catch. The coverage was so good that Carr’s window was barely bigger than a single football in width, but it arrived quickly and accurately, and Jones made the nice catch.

These special traits could make Carr a force in the league if he can develop the rest of his game and the Raiders can put some talent around him. The Raiders have to be pleased with Carr’s ability to throw accurately and into tight windows, and it’s tough to imagine where Oakland’s offense would be without this ability.

 

Vision

Carr’s ability to step away from pressure and deliver accurate passes with velocity allows him to have some success, but to take the next step he needs to be more consistent in his progressions. Carr still occasionally locks onto one receiver, and he is missing opportunities as a result.

By staring down one receiver, either Carr misses an open man or he allows the defense to adjust and make a play on the ball. Carr had both problems at various times against the Cardinals.

On an important 2nd-and-9 in the third quarter down 14-10, Carr was determined to hit fullback Jamize Olawale despite a lurking linebacker. Carr had a wide-open receiver between the linebacker and the deep safety, but he decided to force it in for a shorter gain.

The pass was complete, but Carr missed an opportunity to get a first down. It wasn’t the worst mistake he could make, but it suggests that he predetermined where he wanted to go with the football instead of manipulating the defender to get what he wanted.

With the Raiders down eight points in the fourth quarter, Carr’s eyes again gave away where he wanted to go with the ball. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie read the play, drove on the pass and broke up a pass intended for wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins.  

Carr isn’t a finished product yet, but he’s already made huge strides in terms of dealing with pressure. When Carr learns how to manipulate defenses with his eyes, he has the talent and skill to be a very dangerous quarterback.

By not telegraphing some of his passes, Carr should be able to help his receivers gain some separation. If he can do this, instead of Carr taking risks deep or having to fit passes into very tight windows just to get a completion, Oakland’s receivers may be able to get more yardage after the catch.

It’s still too early to say Carr is Oakland’s franchise quarterback, but he moves a step closer to that every week. His statistics have fluctuated, but that’s not indicative of his progression. Carr certainly deserves the time to develop into the quarterback the Raiders hope he can be.

If Carr can continue to develop over the final 10 games, he’ll save a few jobs in Oakland. With a little luck, Carr’s progression may also help the Raiders net a couple of victories.  

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Safety Usama Young out for the season

Free safety Usama Young is out for the year with a torn ACL and MCL, sources said, confirming a report by ESPN. Young, who was already replacing Tyvon Branch in the lineup, was injured in Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals. Branch broke his foot in the second week of the season. Now that Young is out, the next man up is Brandian Ross, who started 13 games last year in place of an injured Branch. Ross was cut by the Raiders before the season, signed and cut by the Dolphins and then re-signed with the Raiders a month ago. He said he has year under his belt and is not

Arizona Cardinals vs. Oakland Raiders: Full Report Card Grades for Oakland

Six games. Six losses.

There are a lot of ways to break down the Oakland Raiders‘ season up to this point, but it all comes down to the fact that after seven weeks of the NFL season, the Raiders are the lone winless team in the league.

The offense was unable to build off of last week’s success, as it once again reverted to its inconsistent form. The unit showed signs of life, but it was unable to create sustained drives throughout the game. Too many of the drives stalled, and the team failed to score more than 14 points for the fifth time this season.

Despite struggling in the same areas it has all year, the defense somehow managed to be somewhat effective. It gave up big gains and was mostly ineffective against the run and the pass, yet this was somehow still a one-possession game with minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately, the defense once again struggled mightily on third downs, and this ultimately proved too much of an obstacle. The unit was too often unable to get off the field, giving the Arizona Cardinals too many opportunities.

After the first few games, the Raiders still had hope of turning things around, going on a winning streak at some point and turning this into a rare successful season.

After six games, what the team is left with is the knowledge that this is about as good as it’s going to get this year. For now, the team’s singular goal is to get that first win.

Here’s a full breakdown and grades for every positional unit following Sunday’s 24-13 loss to the Cardinals.

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Raiders 0-6 after 24-13 loss to Cardinals

The Raiders offense, after a breakthrough performance (for them) last week, was stuck in neutral again Sunday afternoon in a 21-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Oakland falls to 0-6, its worst start since 1962, and has now lost 12 straight games dating back to last season. That’s their worst stretch since, yeah you got it, 1962 – when the Raiders dropped 19 straight. Former Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer got off to a hot start, with touchdown passes to Stepfan Taylor and Michael Floyd that put the Cardinals up 14-0 midway through the second quarter. Oakland cut it to 14-13 midway through the 3rd quarter, on a Darren McFadden 1-yard

Arizona Cardinals vs. Oakland Raiders: Live Scores and Analysis for Oakland

The Oakland Raiders will be looking to get their first win of the season today when they host the Arizona Cardinals

Derek Carr had a breakout performance in Week 6, finishing with four touchdown passes. He was poised and in control, and he looked the part of a franchise quarterback. He’ll have to prove that his play last week wasn’t a fluke and that he can maintain that level of play against a stout Arizona defense.

The success of the offense will largely depend on the continued development of the rushing attack. It’s not a coincidence that the passing’s game’s best game coincided with the running game finally getting going.

Darren McFadden averaged over 5.5 yards per carry last week. He should see an increased workload against the Cardinals, and his productivity will be an indicator of the offense’s overall performance. 

While the offense has shown some promising signs, the defense has yet to play a game it can be proud of. The unit will have another opportunity to change that this week against Carson Palmer and the Cardinals offense.

The defensive performance will ultimately be decided by whether or not the defensive line is able to get pressure on Palmer. If he has time, Palmer will pick apart the Oakland secondary. But if he’s under pressure, he’ll be prone to mistakes. The play of the defensive line will determine the defense’s success.

Will this be the week the Raiders finally get that elusive first win? We’ll find out today beginning at 4:25 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on Fox, and keep it here for live updates, scores and more throughout the game.

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com

Tuck and Reece out for today’s game

Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck (knee) and fullback Marcel Reece (quad) are both out for today’s game against the Cardinals. C.J. Wilson and Jamize Olawale, respectively, will start. Right tackle Khalif Barnes (quad) is also out and Menelik Watson will start again in his place. Receiver Vincent Brown (hamstring), cornerback Keith McGill (groin), quarterback Matt McGloin and guard Tony Bergstrom are also inactive. Wilson, a fifth-year veteran who the Raiders signed away from the Packers in the offseason, has a team-high two sacks. Yes, the 6-foot-3, 300-pound end/tackle leads a team with Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Khalil Mack in sacks. Wilson had 3.5 sacks in his first four years. “He’s

Sparano “cautiously optimistic” Tuck, Reece play Sunday

Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck (knee) and fullback Marcel Reece (quad) both practiced for the first time this week on Friday. I asked coach Tony Sparano if he was optimistic that both could play Sunday against the Cardinals. “Based on what I saw today watching them out there today, I thought they did some good things,” Sparano said. “I’d be curious to see what happens tomorrow when they get in here, but we’ll play that one by ear. But (I’m) cautiously optimistic.” Both starters are listed as questionable on the injury report. C.J. Wilson and Jamize Olawale, respectively, would start if the veterans couldn’t go. Wilson, a fifth-year veteran who

Arizona Cardinals vs. Oakland Raiders: Complete Week 7 Preview for Oakland

The Oakland Raiders are coming off their best performance of the season, and they’ll be looking to build on it and earn their first win on Sunday when the 4-1 Arizona Cardinals visit O.co Coliseum in Oakland. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:25 p.m. ET.

After an exceptional performance in Week 6′s three-point loss to the San Diego Chargers, Derek Carr’s day ended with a tough interception to end Oakland’s final drive. Still, it was a game in which Carr exhibited the same potential he had shown in flashes throughout the season. The difference was that he was able to sustain that level of play for four quarters, and the offense showed just how dangerous it can be.

The Raiders will need a similar performance this week when Oakland takes on another red-hot team in the Cardinals.

The game will have an added level of intrigue as it will mark the return of Carson Palmer. Despite being traded from Oakland to Arizona before last season in inglorious fashion, he’s been generally complimentary about the Raiders organization. That continued this week when he was asked about his time in Oakland (via CSN Bay Area’s Scott Bair):

I have no hard feelings at all. I loved my time there. I loved living in the Bay Area and playing for the Raiders is unlike anything else. There is just something special to being a Raider and you don’t know it until you get to experience it. The fans have great passion for their team. They create a very difficult environment to play in.

Despite Palmer’s positive words, the home crowd will no doubt greet him with boos in his return to Oakland.

Here’s a look ahead at Sunday’s game including updates, matchups to watch and predictions for the game.

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Andre Holmes’ Updated 2014 Fantasy Outlook Heading into Week 7

Although the Oakland Raiders remain one of two teams without a win in 2014, Andre Holmes has emerged from the abyss as a burgeoning fantasy football star.

Considering how bad the Raiders have been through the air, it’s a surprise that anybody attached to the passing game could muster up enough numbers to become a viable fantasy option at all.

Football Outsiders ranks Oakland’s passing offense 28th in defense-adjusted value over average, and Oakland quarterbacks are throwing for an average 223 yards a game—21st in the league through six weeks.

Yet somehow, Holmes has strung two strong games together and may be on the way toward earning WR2 status. Here’s how he’s performed in the Raiders’ first five games.

According to NFL.com, Holmes is the 32nd-best fantasy wideout so far, but he’s only owned in 5.3 percent of leagues on the site. While the general malaise of the Raiders offense somewhat limits Holmes’ ceiling this year, he would be worth a flier for owners hoping to grab a wideout off the waiver wire. And he’s unlikely to be available for much longer.

ESPN.com’s Adam Caplan looked at the totality of Holmes’ work with Oakland, and the numbers aren’t too shabby, all things considered:

Sports Illustrated‘s Michael Beller is high on the 26-year-old, in particular honing in on Holmes’ potential to beat defenses over the top:

Holmes went to tiny Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Mich., but don’t hold that against the third-year player. He’s a big guy at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, and he ran a 4.53 40-yard dash, so there’s here enough speed to make him a downfield threat.

Carr’s arm talent was unquestioned coming out of Fresno State, and that will only make Holmes better. You should be targeting him on the waiver wire this week. He’s a WR3 for the rest of the season.

What’s particularly encouraging for the Raiders wideout going forward is the relationship he’s forging with Derek Carr. Holmes spoke about how important it is for him to know that his quarterback possesses enough trust to be willing to make tougher throws.

You like to hear that he’s going to have trust in you, especially on those opportunity balls where you might have to make a play over a defensive back,” said Holmes, per Jerry McDonald of the San Jose Mercury News. “He trusts you to make plays, and it’s really encouraging.

It’s rather simple: The more Carr trusts Holmes, the more he’ll throw his way. Maybe Holmes even surpasses James Jones as the No. 1 target in the Raiders passing game over the coming weeks.

The biggest immediate obstacle for Holmes, aside from his surroundings, is the Raiders’ schedule over the next couple of months. They face a lot of good teams with very good defenses.

Below is how Oakland’s next six opponents rank in passing yards allowed per game and defensive DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) against the pass, per Football Outsiders.

You shouldn’t go completely overboard and add Holmes in the hopes that he becomes an elite fantasy wideout. As Beller wrote, though, he’s at least worth presently slotting in as a WR3 and could grow into a WR2 by the time the season’s over.

This late into the year, you can’t exactly hope to find a top-end player at any position on the waiver wire. Adding somebody with Holmes’ potential is about as good as it’s going to get.

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com