OAKLAND RAIDERS & JON GRUDEN Q&A – Lots of rumors out there about Mark Davis chasing Jon Gruden (again).


Q1: Is or will Mark Davis entice Jon Gruden with an ownership stake in the Raiders?

No and no.

Q2: Is Mark Davis truly interested in Gruden or is this just rumors, gossip, and or another unnamed sources story?

All three. Sure, Davis could end up hiring Gruden but he’s not going to do it unless his current head coach does something stupid (unlikely) or tells his boss he’s having doubts about continuing as head coach of the Oakland soon to be Las Vegas Raiders. Mark Davis well remembers his father firing the Great Art Shell after going 9-7 in the 1994 season only to call it a mistake years later. Changing head coaches is not going make a major difference with this team. They need more talent, particularly on defense. At the end of the day, the only way Del Rio gets replaced is if his team outright quits on him in Week 17.


Q3: Okay, let’s look at it from the other side. Is Jon Gruden truly interested in the Raiders?

Every man has his price and in that regards the answer is, yes. But think about it. Gruden has a cushy primetime analyst job plus the commercials and consulting he does. Compare that to the brutal hours an NFL head coach must put in just to keep his job. If Gruden comes back, nothing short of a Super Bowl will be deemed a success. Above all, his reputation and brand are at stake. That’s a lot of stress for a guy already making tens of millions. But again, every man has his price.


Q4:  At the end of the day, would the Oakland Raiders & Jon Gruden be a good fit?

Well, the real question is: would Jon Gruden take the Raiders to the Super Bowl any faster than Jack Del Rio?  As noted previously, above all, the Oakland Raiders need more defensive talent and playmakers far more than they need a new head coach.  Gruden, however, would give the team buzz going into Las Vegas.  It’s a double edged sword though.  If Gruden doesn’t get them to the Super Bowl within two years, LV fans are going to be dejected and may make their voices known by staying home on game day.  That’s the last thing Mark Davis needs.  We’re all disappointed with the 2017 season but let’s stick it out with JDR.




Raiders & Jon Gruden



Are the Oakland Raiders all that?  After falling to the Baltimore Ravens 30-17, maybe it’s time to ask that specific question and be honest about happened and didn’t happen during the offseason.  And no, the Raiders didn’t lose because HC Jack Del Rio opted to punt with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

 We were actually surprised heading into the season that people were predicting Oakland to catapult over Kansas City,  New England, and Denver as favorites to reach the Super Bowl.  We raised an eyebrow because the Oakland Raiders had some glaring deficiencies in 2016 that weren’t fully addressed via the draft and free agency.  We assumed then and still do, that the Raiders will make a run in the playoffs but this team should never have been considered to be the AFC frontrunner.  And to be clear, front runner status is about punditry…winning and winning it all is about what you do on the field.  Just ask the 1980s Oakland Raiders.


Are the Oakland Raiders all that? #15 Michael Crabtree is still the Oakland’s best WR. #89 Amari Cooper is in a funk.





Despite having one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the league, the Raiders cannot consistently put quarterbacks on their rear-ends.  You can never allow opposing quarterbacks to get comfortable, and for the Raiders, their troubles are simple.  They have virtually no threat from the inside.  NT Justin Ellis is the only interior lineman to record a sack, one-half at that.  DT Eddie Vanderdoes is a rookie so we’ll see how he grows and develops but winning games is about the here and now, not down the road potential.  On the ground, the Raiders are giving up 150 yards per game.


The other big area to be addressed was the secondary.  It’s debatable that the Raiders could have grabbed CB Gareon Conley a round later than they did and by virtue of that, pick up another defensive talent.  Regardless of the what-if, Conley was a solid pick.  They just need to get him on the field.  We’re not going to lament CB Sean Smith but clearly there’s an issue there that needs to be addressed.  He’ll have some good games here and there but he’ll also get torched far too often for a guy who, just three years ago, was pegged one of the top 5 CBs in the NFL.  And David Amerson.  He had that magical year in 2015 but his play has fallen off ever since.  Through five games, the Raiders have ZERO interceptions in 2017.  Last year there was a sense of fire and excitement, confidence if you will, that the defense would come up big when it had to.  That electric feeling doesn’t seem to be there right now.  Perhaps they’re too worried about scheme and not making a mistake rather than playing football.


WR Amari Cooper.  Everyone wants to know what’s happened to the young WR.  Some say confidence, some say other, and some say scheme and play calling.  We say the kid will come back around.  What didn’t get fully addressed during the offseason was the Right Tackle position.  It’s not that Marshall Newhouse and Vadal Alexander are bad (far from it) but it wasn’t an upgrade over last year.  Adding RB Marshawn Lynch was a modest upgrade but perhaps not meaningfully so.  TE Jared Cook was a solid pick up but at the end of the day, Oakland did not significantly improve their offense during the offseason.  We know that’s a minority opinion but stand by it.  Our biggest takeaway this year is the players are too tight.  In the words of the Great Al Davis, “Believe in your players and they’ll make plays for you.”  Just go out and there and play the game like a bunch of barefoot kids in a grassy field. 





RAIDERS TITANS GAME NOTES – The Oakland Raiders opened up the 2018 season by defeating the Tennessee Titans on the road, 26-16.  Oakland struggled at times against Tennessee, an 8-8 team give or take, but a win is a win and winning on the road is never easy in the NFL.  The Raiders are at home next week against the 0-1 New York Jets.





Raider Titans Game Notes

·        Derek Carr had a good game but clearly his best is yet to come.  Carr completed 68% of his passes for 262 yards and 2 TDs.


·        WR Amari Cooper hauled in 5 passes for 62 yards and one TD, but was targeted 12 times (42%).  His 8 yard, never surrender TD in the first quarter will make the highlight reels all year long.  Tennessee knew Carr was going after Cooper and shifted their coverage accordingly.  That opened up passes for Michael Crabtree who was credited with 6 receptions for 83 yards.   


·        New Raiders TE Jard Cook pulled in 5 catches for 55 yards while new Raiders WR Cordarrelle Patterson had one run and one pass for a total of seven yards.  His big contribution was a 41 yard kickoff return.  RB Marshawn Lynch carried the ball 18 times for 76 yards (4.2 avg) and posted one reception for 16 yards. 


·        The Raiders had only sack and allowed QB Marcus Mariota to scamper untouched around the left side for a 10 yard TD.  However, after allowing Tennessee’s offense to march the length of the field several times in the first half, the Raiders dense stiffened, allowing only two first downs in the second half.  DE Khalil Mack recorded two tackles for a loss.  Despite giving up only 16 points, the Raider defense must play better if they’re to beat the better teams in the AFC.


·        Game Ball – Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio.  After a poor preseason and being cut (no surprise), Giorgio was called off the couch two days ago due to Sebastian Janikowski’s back injury.  In his first official NFL game, Tavecchio nailed 4 of 4 field goals, including a 43 yarder and 2 from 52 yards.











OAKLAND RAIDERS TRAINING CAMP: The Oakland Raiders wrapped up Sunday with a family BBQ and will have tomorrow off. The family day BBQ was a reward of sorts for the hard efforts the players have put into training camp. Getting quality time with the family reinvigorates the players and actually helps team bonding. Overall the week has gone well though there are a number of young players nursing injuries and being held out of camp.





QB Derek Carr has been looking good. His broken leg seemingly has had zero impact on him physically and mentally. The chemistry between Carr and his receiving corps is fun to watch. He and WR Michael Crabtree are going to have a great year. In 2016, too many dropped balls detracted from an otherwise solid effort.

DE Khalil Mack and OLB Bruce Irvin have definitely gotten the better of the Raiders offensive tackles. The interior of the offensive line, however, is generally outplaying the defensive line. Some of that just goes to show how good the Raiders 0-Line is. At the risk of sounding an alarm, it also indicates the interior of Oakland’s defensive line is far from battle ready.

CB Sean Smith has been delegated to a backup role as DC Ken Norton Jr gives TJ Carrie and other young players a chance to earn the starting spot. That does not include Gareon Conley who is still on the PUP list. Smith, who is not practicing with the first team, is coming in during sub packages, lining up against the TE and occasionally in the slot. He seems to be having trouble keeping up with the likes of Crabtree and Amari Cooper.

The biggest play so far in camp was SS Karl Joseph stripping the ball from RB Marshawn Lynch in a 9 on 9 drill. Top rookies in camp so far are CB Antonio Hamilton and DT Eddie Vanderdoes.

A number of Raiders are currently being held out of practice.
CB Gareon Conley
FS Obi Melifonwu
OT David Sharpe
DT Jihad Ward
CB Keith McGill
WR Amari Cooper
WR Michael Crabtree
OLB Shilique Calhoun
C/G Jon Feliciano


RAIDERS 2017 TRAINING CAMP:  Palace intrigue has cometh to the Oakland Raiders as they open up training camp on July 29th.  RT Austin Howard and ST Taiwan Jones were released while LT Donald Penn is holding out.  A couple players have also been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform List.  Any positive news?  Yeah.  Training Camp 2017 is underway and all rookies have been signed.


Released on the eve of the Raiders 2017 Training Camp, RT Austin Howard is under consideration by the Baltimore Ravens.















Austin Howard signed a 5 year $30M contract in 2014 and has started 39 games in three years with the Silver and Black.  While he’s played very well at times, injuries over the past two years have prevented him from being the force Oakland was hoping for when they inked him to the big deal.  Howard was due $4.9M this year and Oakland’s management couldn’t justify the salary.  By cutting Howard in 2017, the dead cap money is limited to $2.4M.

Taiwan Jones wasn’t going to get any touches on offense and most likely none as a kick returner with the signing of KR/WR Cordarrelle Patterson.  In fact, Jones had only eight returns in 2016.  That means Taiwan’s only impact on the team would be as a Gunner.  He’s was the Raiders best in 2016 but the coaching staff and management obviously felt the value didn’t justify a salary of $1.5M, not with a crew young players ready to step in.  The Raiders could resign Jones at a lower salary but the league minimum for an 8-year veteran is $900k.  Some improvement but not much.   He will probably look to catch on with another team in the hopes of rejuvenating his career.   We wish him luck.


Raiders 2017 Training Camp
LT Donald Penn surrendered only 1 sack in 2016.











And then there’s LT Donald Penn.  Statistics and numbers can be shifty things.  If you look at the totality of Penn’s two-year contract, he’s the 20th highest paid LT In the NFL.  If you look only at his 2017 salary of $5.8M, he comes in at number 11.  Penn feels he’s outperformed his contract and the Raiders should offer him a new contract commensurate with a top 10 LT.  In reality Donald Penn is looking for respect. 

Penn signed his two-year deal in March of 2016 so a natural question is why didn’t he hold out for more last year?  Well, he and the Raiders thought the deal was fair for a 33-year-old Tackle.  Having a darn good season has led to buyer’s remorse but maybe he should be upset with agent for not demanding an incentive laden deal.  The problem now is he’s 34 and coming off a knee injury.  The reality is, and this applies to the NFL and other high skilled professions, you’re paid for what you can do in the present and the future, not what you did in the past.  Penn is saying the Raiders got a great deal in year one and that might be true.  Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee of what will happen in year two and that is why it’s hard to support Donald Penn at this point in time.

Oakland is primed to make a run at the AFC Championship but they need a reliable starter on Derek Carr’s blindside.  Penn is probably looking for $8.5M to $9M, which the Raiders can afford, but it also sets a dangerous precedent.  Some have said the 34-year-old is doing this to give his aging body more time to heal and rest.  Possible, very possible but we think it is about the money and about respect. 

The Oakland Raiders first day in pads is July 31stR.


Players on the Active – Physically Unable to Perform List:

CB Gareon Conley – DL Jihad Ward – G Jon Feliciano



Oakland Raiders 2017 Training Camp - raiderghosts.com


OAKLAND RAIDERS 2017 MINICAMP:  The Oakland Raiders 2017 minicamp wrapped up yesterday.  We say this every year about OTAs and minicamps and will say it again.  They are not predictors of how players and teams will perform in the regular season nor do they give any indication of who the starters will be for highly contested positions.  You need pads and game simulations before you can sift the wheat and that won’t happen until training camp revs up in late July.

We did not have anyone that personally stopped by or attended any one day of the camp but this is what we’ve heard and been told.



  1. The Raiders are experimenting with WR/KR Cordarelle Patterson to see if he can “enter a game anywhere at anytime”.
  2. SS Karl Joseph had a good rookie year but his coaches asked him to take it to a higher level in terms of coverage and instinctive reaction.
  3. All teams focus on bonding but HC Jack Del Rio seemed to place more emphasis on it this year.  The same goes for selflessness.  The coach knows, despite serious concern at a couple positions, his team is ripe for a strong playoff run.  Fostering these intangibles now will help the team overcome any adversity that might occur during the regular season.
  4. The starters were held out of teams sessions on the final day of camp.  That gave the younger guys and / or non starters more reps so they are more confident going into training camp. Mentally, it was a good break for some of the older guys and an expression of confidence.
  5. CB Gareon Conley was praised by HC Jack Del Rio for how quick he’s been catching on.  That’s a good sign, albeit none of the practices have been at game speed.









RAIDER ROOKIE MINICAMP:  The Oakland Raiders Rookie Minicamp wrapped up this weekend.  Players arrived on Thursday for the three-day camp that started on Friday and was limited to the 2017 draftees, UDFA, try out players, and a handful of players who did not register a full year of service in 2016.  More than anything, rookie minicamps are a chance for players to familiarize themselves with the coaching staff, their system, and the team facilities.  It’s also an opportunity to show their skills and athleticism in basic alignments and game simulations.  What it has never been is a predictor of NFL success.






1.       All bodies in attendance on day one left healthy on day three. 

2.      Collectively, the Raiders nine draftees are good, young men.  They are definitely modest, humble, and willing to work.  There’s no flashy or wild characters in the group (for good or bad) but that might change as they get more comfortable with their surroundings and the tremendous opportunity they’ve earned. 

3.      Contrary to criticism from some NFL analysts, DT Eddie Vanderdoes came to camp in shape.

 4.       Safety Obi Melinonwu is gifted physically but he knows he has a lot to learn in terms of scheme and technique.  He has a great coach in Rod Woodson.

 5.      Raider first round CB Gareon Conley said football takes his mind off the rape allegations that are still being investigated.  There’s nothing he can do but wait for the investigation to wrap up.  He’s really just a quiet kid and you can’t help hoping everything works out.  Glad to have him as an Oakland Raider.

 6.      It’s only Raider Rookie Minicamp, but MLB Marquel Lee was vocal on the field, trying to demonstrate he can be a defensive leader.  He knows the MLB is sometimes asked to be the QB of the defense. 




Oakland Raiders Rookie Minicamp


Raiders Top Offseason Requirements – The Oakland Raiders biggest offseason needs on Defense and Offense are Interior Pass Rusher and Offensive Tackle. We’ll take a quick look at each position as we gear up for free agency and the draft.

On a separate note, the top vote getter for 2016 Raider Rookie of the Year poll was RB Jalen Richard with 44% of the Vote.  SS Karl Joseph was second with 34%.


DT Stacy Mcgee had 2.5 sacks for the Oakland Raiders in 2016.



Interior Pass Rusher

This was a high priority going into 2016 and is probably now the top priority for 2017. Free Agent DT Stacy McGee showed promise early in the 2016 season as a run stopper and pass rusher but groin and ankle injuries put him on the sideline for 7 games. He’ll garner attention from other teams due to last year’s fast start but is largely viewed as a player with potential who has not yet proven himself. Therefore McGee will double his $675k salary but a large payout is unlikely. And most likely he stays with the Raiders. Regardless, Oakland needs to look at a Free Agent pickup or use their first pick in the draft if the right DT is available.  They absolutely must get better at rushing the passer.

DT Darius Latham had a pretty good season for an undrafted rookie but at this point is best suited as a rotational player. Justin Ellis is a decent backup entering the final year of his rookie contract. Veteran Dan Williams underperformed in 2016 after having a pretty good year in 2015.  Of the three, Williams was the only to record a sack in 2016…actually 1/2 a sack.


Offensive Tackle

LT Donald Penn is entering his 12th season and will be 34 years old in April. The Raiders need to groom a replacement on the expectation Penn can give them at most two more years of high level play. This can be done via the draft or acquiring a young player via FA or a trade. If Penn can’t make it two years and the heir apparent is not ready, Oakland would have to sign a top Free Agent. Worst case scenario for Oakland is Penn goes down midseason.

RT must be addressed and that includes resigning Free Agent Menelik Watson. Injuries to both Watson and Austin Howard devastated the position last year but bringing in a FA does not appear to be a viable option in 2017. The talent gap between Watson and Howard and the current crop of Free Agent RTs just isn’t big enough for the Oakland Raiders to make a change. Better to resign Menelik, who’ll come fairly cheap, and draft some insurance in the middle rounds.





Here are the Oakland Raider 2017 Free Agents. All are UFA.


2017 Raider Free Agents: Is Latavius Murray leaving?



There’s lots of speculation Murray will be allowed to sign elsewhere without much of a fight.  We say not so fast.  The wage scale for RBs is ever shrinking and there are ways for Reggie McKenzie to be creative.  Rookies Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington had solid seasons but Murray added a physicality to the running game the smaller backs couldn’t.  In 2016, Murray showed significant improvement in the receiving game and picking up the blitz. We’d like to see him stay in Oakland but know dollars might prevent that.



Stacy missed 7 games last year due to injury and 12 over the past 3 years.  That will make some but not all teams shy away from him in free agency.  We actually expect the resigning of McGee to heat up if the Raiders don’t make an early offer.  When healthy last year he was Oakland’s best interior pass rusher.  They still need a lot of interior help beyond McGee but losing him would only compound the problem.



Signed in 2015, Smith has been a strong teammate and Oakland’s leading tackler the past two seasons.  What he’s failed to do is elevate the players around him and defend the pass at a consistently high level.  That has folks predicting a free agent departure.  But if you let Malcom walk, who do the Raiders replace him with…a top tier free agent?  We think the Raiders would be better suited spending that money on a DT that can generate a pass rush and the defensive backfield.



Nate’s experience and leadership are countered against his knees and age.  Doubtful another team picks him up at his 2016 $3M salary.  Therefore the Oakland Raiders could and should resign him at a lower salary.



DJ Hayden was an on the field liability his first three years but his performance improved in 2016, playing primarily in the slot.  Even then he was average at best.  The talent may not be there but the kid gives his all.  Depending on what the Raiders do in free agency and the draft, it may be worthwhile to give Hayden another shot at a salary substantially lower than the $2.6M he earned in 2016.



The Silver and Black sign him to compete in training camp.  If they keep only two QBs, his tenure with the Raiders is over.



The Raiders need to resign Andre Holmes but chances are he leaves for a team that will utilize him as a third or even a second WR.  Holmes had 14 receptions in 2016 as a backup WR.



A fan favorite, Watson’s injuries have hurt his free agent prospects.  He was salaried at $1.2M in 2016 and will probably get a small bump due to potential.  The Raiders resign him as a reliable backup while looking for an overall upgrade in the draft or FA.  8th year RT Austin Howard is still under contract.



Entering his 11th year, hard to see Condo leaving on his own.



True worth is special teams and needs to be resigned.  Made $800k in 2016.



Signed last year after the season started, Riley had a decent year for the Oakland Raiders.  He played for only $800k last year and will get paid more in free agency due to his 2016 performance.  At a minimum he would provide Oakland with depth at the LB spot.



Special Teams player worth resigning.  Was paid $700k in 2016.



Mychal has showed flashes at times but never materialized into a receiving threat.  The Raider have platooned the TE positon the last few years and regardless of salary, Rivera may search out a change of scenery to get more playing time and kick start his career.



2017 Raiders Free Agents


RAIDERS 2016 TEAM AWARDS:  The Oakland Raiders shed several demons by posting a winning record and making the playoffs.  As good as it was, we’ll all look back at 2016 knowing it could have been much more had Derek Carr stayed healthy.  And now expectations are high for the 2017 campaign.  Before we get there, however, we’re pausing to hand out Team Awards.


RAIDERS 2016 TEAM AWARDS – Offensive Line Coach, Mike Tice



At one point, we, like so many others were looking at Jack Del Rio as the NFL’s Head Coach of the Year. Then came the loss of Derek Carr. It wasn’t that Oakland lost the season finale to Denver and thus the AFC West. Nor was it the loss to Houston in the Wildcard. Losing a potential MVP QB is difficult and the shoulder injury to Matt McGloin only confounded the problem. It was rather, that the Raiders were vastly outplayed in those final two games. It was Del Rio’s job to get his players to rise up and “embrace the suck”. Forget NFL Coach of the Year, he’s not even our Raider Coach of the Year.

That award goes to Offensive Line Coach, Mike Tice. The Raiders offensive line was arguably one of the NFL’s best despite injuries ravaging the Tackle position. Throughout the year five different players manned the Right Tackle spot and Tice did a masterful job preparing his men across the entire line. Losing Donald Penn showed an utter lack of depth at a key position but we put that more on GM Reggie McKenzie and to a certain extent Jack Del Rio.


RAIDERS 2016 TEAM AWARDS – Khalil Mack and Derek Carr



There’s no debate, it’s Derek Carr. He ended the year with 26 TDs, only 6 picks, and a QBR of 96.7. In reality, in today’s NFL, those stats are very good but not exceptional. What made Carr special was his 7 4th quarter comebacks and a 4th quarter QBR of 110.1. The number of comebacks were second only to Matthew Stafford and the rating second only to Tom Brady. Carr’s prowess energized the Raiders with confidence and propelled them to the playoffs.

Looking for a runner up? Our 2015 offensive MVP, WR Michael Crabtree, led the team with 89 receptions and 8 receiving TDs. He also led the NFL with 9 drops. WR Amari Cooper led the team with 1,153 yards but often disappeared in the second half. RB Latavius Murray racked up 788 rushing yards and 12 TDs (5th in NFL). He was also tied for 4th with 33 receptions. Murray struggled with pass protection early in his career but turned things around in 2016. His running brought physicality and attitude to the Raider running game. And thus Latavius Murray is our runner up, albeit it’s wide chasm between #1 and #2.


RAIDERS 2016 TEAM AWARDS – FS Reggie Nelson



Once again, there’s no debate. Khalil Mack accounted for 44% of the Raiders sacks (11 of 25). He was the Raiders second leading tackler and was second in the NFL with 5 forced fumbles. His 25 QB Hurries were nearly double the nearest Raider (Irvin with 14). He also led the team in Stuffs and Tackles for Loss. The defensive players continuously looked to Mack for leadership and game breaking plays.

Although the secondary was much aligned, our runner up is FS Reggie Nelson. Nelson led the team with 5 interceptions and was second on the team with 12 Passes Defensed. His 12 PDs ranked second among NFL Safeties. He also played every defensive snap for the Oakland Raiders, which is quite a statement. Bruce Irvin didn’t have the year many hoped for but was forceful at times. He recorded 7 sacks and led the NFL with 6 forced fumbles.


oakland raiders 2016 team awards
RAIDERS 2016 TEAM AWARDS – Brynden Trawick



Lacking an elite returner, this award usually goes to the Kicker or Punter. Yet Janikowksi was only 3 of 8 from 50+ whereas King was golden for most of the season but began to wane in the final weeks. We debated this pick to the very end as some felt Marquette King should be the MVP but others were bothered by his performance in the final weeks and the killer punt return for a TD versus Denver. In the end, we’re giving our Special Teams MVP Award to Specialist Brynden Trawick who recorded 15 ST tackles, 4th best in the NFL.