Friday, August 28, 2009

It's Time, DHB

DHB had arguably his best week of practice leading up to the game tomorrow vs. the Saints. Cable praised DHB and raised the bar. In reference to a spectacular catch by DHB, Cable said, "He had a great day of catching the ball. Right after he caught it, I said to him, 'Your mistake is you showed me you can do that and, so now, the expectation goes up. That's who you are. That's what you're capable of."

It is time for DHB to start building momentum and confidence leading up to the regular season opener on Sept. 14. He needs to prove to himself, his teammates, and the coaching staff that he can carry a good week of practice into an actual game. I don't care how many circus catches he makes in Napa or Alameda if it doesn't translate to reliable production on game day.

The game vs. the Saints is significant for DHB for a few reasons. First, it is the last meaningful exhibition game where starters will be given significant time on the field. In the last pre-season game vs. the Hawks, the starters will only get a series or two before being yanked for injury precautions. Secondly, DHB needs to test himself vs. quality cornerbacks to build his confidence. He also needs to start developing a chemistry and building trust with QB JaMarcus Russell.

The Raiders Nation knows DHB is more than capable of running deep routes to clear the field for other Raider skilled players. We also know that he is a hard working, humble young man who could become a big play threat. What I'm interested in seeing on Saturday is DHB running a full complement of routes with precision and showcasing his ability to secure the ball and gain yards after the catch. With DHB's blinding speed there should be a cushion of space for him to work the underneath routes and comeback patterns. Lastly, it would be ideal for the Russell to DHB combination to put on film a deep ball connection. It will become much easier to force opponents to double team and account for DHB if he is producing and a legitmitate deep ball threat. DHB can make a valuable contribution to the team and impact a game with his big play ability.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

CJ's 2 Cents

The Raiders defensive front 7 got completely mauled last Saturday by the Niners in a 20-21 loss. The Niners rang up 275 yards on the ground on 47 carries. In the context of an exhibition game, what really concerns me most is what happened in the 1st half when the Raiders played most of their defensive starters.

It is startling that 1 basic play was run over and over and over again by the Niners with continued success. Rookie RB Coffee was able to gouge the Raiders defense for 129 yards on only 16 carries which equates to over 8 yards per carry. This basic play was the Niners guards pulling and the tackles power blocking.

Said defensive end Greg Ellis: “They were pulling some of the linemen around and we’re just going to look at it. I’m pretty sure the coaches are going to come up with a solution to make sure that doesn’t happen again. It wasn’t like they were able to run any play and get yardage on us. That one play, we just didn’t handle it well. They did what they should, they kept doing it one side to the other and they kept having success with it.”

The question I have is why an in-game adjustment wasn't made by Defensive Coordinator John Marshall? Improving the run defense is paramount for any team success in 2009.

Unfortunately, the run defensive woes isn't just 1 thing that can be easily "tweaked". It is a combination of numerous factors.

(1) Poor tackling

There were plenty of times vs. SF where (a) our players are in the right spot but lacking the fundamental techniques to bring the carrier down upon contact or (b) the Raider defender allowed the ball carrier to drag him for an addition 2,3,4 extra yards.

(2) Inability of the DL and LBs to get off/shed their blockers

Watching the game vs. SF, what I noticed was that the Raider D had a VERY difficult time disengaging from their counterpart. Shedding the blocker and wrapping up the RB is basic stuff that was faulty throughout most of this game.

(3) Lack of discipline

Each individual player needs to focus on his individual assignment/responsibility and trust that their teammates will do their own job. This was evident every time a defender over pursued and neglected maintaining gap control.

(4) Lack of aggression and toughness

The Raiders front 7 got completely manhandled by the Niners OLine. Cable put it correctly although he used a poor choice of words when he said that the defenders "need to set their jaw". In other words, winning the physical one on one matchups is the essence of winning the battle.

(5) Lack of in-game adjustments by the coaching staff

This is in reference to countering what the opponent is doing. Changing up defensive playcalling, adjusting formations, schemes, gap controls, and personnel accordingly is imperative to stopping the bleeding.

(6) Lack of talented run stoppers

Our front 7 that doesn't have 1 single player who is noted for being a good run stopper. Since we don't have any outstanding run defenders, the team needs to compensate for this lack of talent with discipline, scheme and collective aggression, and most importantly, a coaching staff that puts a premium on improving this area.

My personal belief is that the Raiders need to commit their energies, coaches' meetings, personnel, and focus to making the necessary improvement of run defense PRIORITY #1. If this means sticking SS Tyvon Branch in the box, so be it. If it means putting in the best personnel at stopping the run, I'm all for it. For example, I wouldn't be opposed to using DE Trevor Scott as only a situational pass rusher. I wouldn't disparge the useage of newly acquired LB Nap Harris even if it means sitting Kirk Morrison. If it requires scouring the waiver wire for a run plugging DT, go for it.

Whatever it takes to force the opponent to put the ball in the air to beat us the better chance we have to win. Pass defense is clearly the strength of the unit. If we allow opponents to run the ball down our throat without an answer, it will be next to impossible to have a successful 2009 campaign. Sure, it might have been only a preseason game in August but I don't think it is too early to ring the bells in order to put the emphasis and urgency in fixing this major shortcoming.

P.S. Hard to believe but "CJ's 2 Cents" was my 200th post at SBF ... time flies by way too fast!

Monday, August 17, 2009


According to Nancy Gay at AOL Fanhouse, Tom Cable punched Defensive Assistant Coach Randy Hanson on August 5th at the Raiders Napa Valley training site. Since Hanson had to go to the emergency hospital with what is being reported as a fractured jaw, the hospital was obligated to report it to the police department as a possible assault.

Just when the Raiders seemed to be having a controversy free, business like training camp, this incident crops up. If Cable did in fact assault Hanson, it was a serious mental meltdown. Whatever Hanson did or said to anger Cable, Cable showed a lack of leadership and judgment in how he conducted himself. These are the type of distractions that a Head Coach is responsible for eliminating not starting himself.

According to Police Lt. McGovern, he considers the matter closed at this point, "unless we are re-contacted by the victim, and the victim changes their mind that they want us to follow through and pursue an investigation. At this point we're not doing anything else with it."

In a surprise twist to this speculative story, Pro Football Talk reports that ESPN has a different take. ESPN backs Cable's denial of sucker punching Hanson. I'm sure this isn't the last we've heard on this story.

I must admit, in today's 24/7/365 "news" cycle, it is easy to be a little too quick on the trigger. I will say this though ... If the real facts paint a far different picture of the alleged incident than the one Nancy Gay posted, she is in for a rude awakening from the Raider Nation. If Gay was factually incorrect about her post AND her "sources" are not credible, I will personally lambaste Gay to no end for irresponsible, damaging, unprofessional, and cowardly journalism. Stay tuned!

From ESPN; "But Cable told ESPN's Mark Schlereth later Monday that no punches were thrown.

That's backed up by what a former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah told ESPN's Chris Mortensen. Jeremiah's "reliable source" said that Hanson broke a facial bone when his cheek hit a cabinet in a team meeting room when Cable flipped him out of his chair.

Jeremiah also wrote on his Twitter page that Cable reacted when Hanson spoke profanely to defensive coordinator John Marshall. He rebuked Hanson, then pushed his chair, which caused the injury."

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Dallas vs. Oakland

With the preseason starting up this week, I exchanged a friendly Q&A with a Cowboys blogger named Phillip from The Raiders play the Cowboys this Thursday night in Oakland for their first preseason game. It will be interesting to see how sharp the Raiders execute the game plan coming off of 2 weeks of training camp. I am excited to see some of the new players (Greg Ellis, Lorenzo Neal) and rookies (DHB, Mike Mitchell, Louis Murphy) perform for the 1st time in Raiders gear. Later this year, the Raiders visit the Cowboys on November 26th on Thansgiving Day for their 11th regular season game.

These are my questions with Phillip's answers directly below. To see my answers to Phillip's questions, go to

1. Give the Raider fans some valuable insight on Greg Ellis as a player, teammate, and person. Do you think he will make an impact as a base DE in our 4-3 alignment?

Greg Ellis for the largest portion of his career with the Cowboys was an exceptional player! He is a very gifted athlete, strong, smart, and can play just about anywhere. No one has ever questioned Greg the person; by all accounts he is just an outstanding individual. Greg as a teammate, well that depends! If you are asking about the Greg Ellis that completely confident in his place on the team, well he is an exceptional teammate. On the other hand if you are asking about the Greg Ellis of today that is much older and much less confident on where he stands, well do not expect a lot of mentoring of younger players and such. Greg is just the type of person that wears his heart on his sleeve, and gets his feelings hurt very easily. He could be a very big contributor to your team as a DE, he fills that position very well. Greg is most comfortable as a DE.

2. Is the clock ticking on the tenure of Head Coach Phillips? Do you expect Phillips to be your head coach in 2010 or is it more likely that Mike Shanahan will be hired?

The clock on any coach in the NFL begins as soon as they accept the position! Wade Phillips is no different, Wade catches a lot of grief and some of it due to his making but quite a bit of it has nothing to do with him. This team must make a deep push into the playoffs this year or there will be a ton of heads rolling around Valley Ranch, one of those most assuredly will be Wade Phillips. From there though I have no idea what Double J may do?

3. Here in Southern California, I have noticed many proud, brash Cowboy fans at bars and in the general public. Have you noticed a strong contingent of the Raider Nation in Texas?

Other than the handful of times I have been to Southern California I have never seen a strong contingent of the “Raider Nation” anywhere much less Texas!

4. Which rival do you take the most satisfaction in beating? Is it the Giants, Redskins, or Eagles?

That is a very tough question, simply because I take a great deal of satisfaction in beating all of those teams! If I had to just pick one though, I must go with the Redskins. There is no better day than a day that includes a beat down of the Redskins!

5. Give us your prediction on the Raiders at Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day ... your overall prediction for both team's records in 2009?

While I really like a few of your players there, the Raiders stand absolutely no chance at winning this game! As long as the Vampire is calling the shots in Raider Nation you guys are destined to lose! The Cowboys are just way to strong on both sides of the ball for this game to be any closer than 10 points.

6. You are probably aware of the Raiders recent 6 years of ineptitude. Set me straight ... is the current Cowboy playoff win drought eating you alive?

Of course it is! All of us longtime Cowboy fans though have been here before; it sucks to lose in the playoffs. What is more aggravating about it though is to see the likes of ESPN and Douchebags like them point fingers at unwarranted people for being the cause if this run. It took this team a long time to figure out how to work the salary cap; therefore it took a longtime to reload. Jerry Jones was a huge part of this problem, maybe even the entire problem. I can tell you this though, the problems this team had when this streak began are not the problems today. This is a young team, and all young teams go through growing pains.