Category Archives: NFL news

Initial Roster Cuts

The first two big-name roster casualties in the Raiders offseason appear to be safety Tyvon Branch and defensive end LaMarr Woodley.

Branch showed himself to be a tough tackler during his first four seasons, and was rewarded after the 2012 season with a fat $26.6M/$10M guaranteed contract. Since that time he had only managed to play five games, with recurring injuries hampering his ability to get on the field. Branch also had a large ($9.657M) cap number.

Woodley came to the Raiders as a free agent last offseason, afte being cut by Pittsburgh. He has was given a 2-year/$12M contract, and started six games, racking up five total tackles (three solo) before getting injured. It should be noted that Woodley’s best years with the Steelers were in more of a linebacker role, but for some reason former Raiders DC Jason Tarver decided to deploy Woodley as a down lineman.

Naturally, many fans have asked about Maurice Jones-Drew’s continued status with the Raiders, and new head coach Jack Del Rio(who coached MJD in his most productive years with the Jaguars) has mentioned it at press conferences.

While it is important to determine whether Jones-Drew is still able to contribute significantly, it’s also important (and Del Rio is already addressing it) to recognize that the offensive line was horrible at creating running lanes for MJD and Darren McFadden. And while former OC Greg Olson probably did what he could with what he had, a real problem is that MJD and DMac are both one-cut-and-go type runners, and Olson for some reason insisted on plowing them up the middle as power runners, behind a line that could not reliably function as a true power line.

All that is to say that while Jones-Drew may be done, he might also be rejuvenated after an off year (he had only 43 carries for 96 yards), if given a competent run-blocking line. It would not cost the Raiders very much to find out, and use MJD (and possibly even McFadden as well) to complement Latavius Murray as he develops.

Unless Marshawn Lynch suddenly becomes available at a reasonable price, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Raiders’ running back corps remain largely intact. They might let DMac test the free agency waters again, and someone (probably Dallas or Indy) might snap him up, and Oakland can grab one with a mid-round draft pick.

But unless the wheels have visibly fallen off, I see MJD staying at least into camp or preseason. He just doesn’t cost them enough to worry about, and could have some real upside behind a better line and better play-calling.

The Harder They Fall

You may have caught the subtle impression in the season finale that I don’t like the Denver Broncos, or Peyton Manning for that matter. Obviously, they’re a good team, and Manning is one of the all-time great QBs, a first-ballot Hall of Fame pick. But like with Brady and the Pats, it just gets old, and it felt like Denver was piling it on, flandersrunning up the score for no good reason, in that final game.

So the past few days in Donkeyland have been great fun, watching a division rival fall flat on their faces, go one-and-done in the playoffs after a 12-4 regular season run. After four consecutive division titles, and just a year after their disastrous Super Bowl appearance, Denver’s coaching staff is gone, Manning may retire, and several key players in their prime, such as Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas, become free agents (and you can bet that the Raiders will make an offer to one or both of them).

And Jack Del Rio may very likely wind up coaching the Raiders; we’ll probably know one way or the other within a day or so. Regardless, it’s a lesson in how quickly fortunes change in the NFL, where a team can be riding high one day, and rebuilding  the very next day.

Roster Moves

As expected, DE LaMarr Woodley and S Usama Young have been placed on injured reserve, which ends their seasons. Young has been a solid replacement for injured safety Tyvon Branch, where Woodley, who has been a stand-up linebacker for most of his career, has struggled as a down lineman in the Raiders’ defense, notching just 3 tackles and 2 assists in 6 games played.

Perhaps someone should ask either GM Reggie McKenzie or DC Jason Tarver why they would bring in a free agent linebacker and insist on converting him into a defensive end. Why not grab a true defensive lineman in free agency instead? That’s nothing against Woodley, who was a very good player in a very good Steelers defense for 7 seasons. But it makes you wonder what the process is that leads the management and coaches to make these square-peg-round-hole type of decisions.

Converting a linebacker to a lineman — especially an end — is much different than, say, converting a cornerback to a safety to give him a few more years of playing time. And this defense has never had the luxury to do that kind of experimenting.

We’ll have a little more on this subject as the week progresses, but for now let’s just say that it’s this sort of puzzling management and use of the roster that has gotten the team to where they are today, and on the path to another huge round of turnover in the coming off-season.

Brandian Ross had been signed to replace Young, and played last week. Cornerback DJ Hayden has been activated, and should see playing time tomorrow against Cleveland. Defensive end Denico Autry has been activated from the practice squad to replace Woodley (many fans are asking why Autry instead of Shelby Harris, who made some plays in preseason games).

Dennis Allen Fired

According to Jay Glazer just a few minutes ago, Dennis Allen has been handed his walking papers. Offensive line coach (and assistant head coach) Tony Sparano has been assumed by most observers to be the likely replacement for Allen for the rest of the season, though over the past week Greg Olson has been the subject of much speculation. Given that Sparano is the only member of the coaching staff signed through next season, and the offense has been dismal, Sparano makes more sense.

The team still has Reggie McKenzie and a ridonkulously bad roster for the rest of the season, however.