Hello Raider Nation!
Nflfan123 here. For those of you have been following my previous blog, "getting to know the new raiders", you may have noticed I haven't updated it in a while. (Link: http://www.silverandblackpride.com/2013/5/24/4364582/getting-to-know-our-new-raiders#166439267). However, summer is here, and I will finish every major signing, draft pick, and important UDFA signing. For those of you who are new to my work, I have been making a thread of background information of the new players the Raiders acquired (draft, trade, and free agency), as well as some of my input. I made this for those who may not be familiar with all of the new players the team acquired. I will go through all of the Raiders' draft picks, main free agent signings, and some undrafted free agents who I think have a shot of making the team and making an impact.
Name: Conner Vernon
Position: Wide Receiver
ACC All Time leader in receptions and receiving yards
Second team All ACC (2010, 2011, 2012)
Draft status: Undrafted in 2013
First off, let me just add I was thrilled when I found out we had signed Conner Vernon. I remember it was a few days after the draft and I was searching the top UDFAs on twitter to see where they ended up. I searched Conner Vernon and to my pleasant surprise he had chosen to sign with the Raiders. Vernon was a projected late round selection however a lot of analyst had stated he had been overlooked. Vernon seems like he could be a classic overachiever given playing time. Vernon came off a terrific senior season finishing with 85 catches, 1074 yards and 8 TDs in 13 starts. However he has been a weapon for Duke for years. He started 8 games his freshman year, catching 55 balls for 746 yards and three touchdowns. He came out of the gates strong and the next year played he payed even better. He started 12 games and finished with 73 catches and 946 yards to go along with 4 TDs. He was also a kick returner and in those two years and had returned 18 kickoffs for 483 yards and a 24.3 yards per return average. His junior year he finished with 70 receptions and 956 yards with 6 TDs. This made him the first player in ACC history to have multiple 70+ catch seasons. Vernon was an outside receiver and used his size to act as a possession receiver. However, his quickness allowed him to excel in the slot as well, which is the position he has been playing well at so far in camp. He uses his size to pick up yards after the catch which makes him effective on bubble screen plays. Now before I get carried away, let's go with the traditional pros and con layout to further evaluate his game.
- Has the size and quickness to line up anywhere
- Uses his size and agility to pick up yards after the catch
- Good route runner, knows how to get open
- Good awareness
- Lacks speed (4.68 40), not an explosive athlete
- Not a great down the field blocker
- Needs to work on jump balls
Vernon was a quality UDFA signing and has a good shot of making the team. He's a reliable possession receiver and won't necessarily make the "sexy" plays. He could turn into Tyler Wilson's best friend in the future just because he is so reliable and consistent. His ceiling seems limited but he could potentially have a lot to offer having a role as a "big slot" receiver. He seems comparable to Wes Welker although he is four inches taller than Welker, which makes me want to compare him to Fred Biletnikoff.
Fun Fact: His cousin, Al Del Greco was a kicker in the NFL for 18 seasons. He has the 14th most points than any other player in the NFL ever.
Vernon vs Cincinnati 2012 (Bowl game): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXlpkZ9qfDU
Vernon vs Virginia 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZZA0HTuv1M
Vernon vs UNC 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3m94_1hCDM
Please continue to check back and enjoy part 2. If you haven't already seen part one check it out!
Now let's go back to learning about our free agent pickups
Name: Kevin Burnett
Scheme: 3-4 ILB/4-3 LB
First Team All SEC (2004)
Second Team All SEC (2003)
2003 All-SEC Coaches (2nd)
AFCA Good Works Team
2004 All-America Playboy Preseason
SEC Good Works Team
2002 Academic All-SEC
Draft Status: picked 42nd overall (round 2) in the 2005 NFL Draft
Career Stats: 120 games(59 starts), 525 tackles, 17.5 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, 4 interceptions, 21 pass deflections, 23 tackles for loss, and three touchdowns.
Contract: 2 years, $5.25 million
For the past three seasons, Burnett has been a three-down everyday starting linebacker. Last season with the Dolphins was his best, as he finished with 110 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 5 pass deflections, one forced fumble, and two tackles for loss. He proved that he was starter material in 2009 as a player on the San Diego Chargers. That year was his breakout year where he had 11 games (7 starts) with 66 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one pass deflection. The next year he was upgraded to full time starter and he did not disappoint he had 95 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, two interceptions, five pass deflections, seven tackles for loss and a touchdown. Before Burnett made his way to the Dolts, he was drafted by The Cowboys in the second round. Unfortunately, he played little as a rookie as he was battling with knee injuries. But during his time in Dallas he was nothing more than a quality backup and key special teams player. It wasn't until he signed with the Chargers when he was given his chance, and as we know, he took advantage of the opportunity. Once he became a free agent, he signed with the Miami Dolphins and had back to back 100 tackle seasons. However, In the offseason, Miami GM Jeff Ireland wanted to get younger so he released the 30 year old Burnett and replaced him with 28 year old, more athletic, Philip Wheeler, which ironically played for the Raiders the year prior. This allowed the Raiders to sign Burnett and reunite him with his brother, Kaelin, who is already on the team. Burnett was a great pickup, he was ranked the fourth best 4-3 OLB in the NFL last year by ProFootballFocus.
Burnett will step in and fill the role of Philip Wheeler. He has good coverage ability, is a solid tackler, and can get to the quarterback. He could also act as a mentor to rookie LB Sio Moore. Burnett adds to our talented LB core. We have a solid corps of Roach, Sio, Kaluka, Burris, and Burnett. I expect to see looks with all five of them this upcoming season. Burnett was signed to a two year, 5 million dollar deal. Great value signing by Reggie. At 30 years old, it may seem that age is a factor, but he's coming off his best season, so to him, he's just getting started.
I'm back Raider Nation, remember to keep checking for updates
Moving on to another key FA signing
Name: Tracy Porter
Position: Cornerback/Nickle back
Scheme: Man to Man
First team All Big Ten (2007)
Second team All Big Ten (2006)
Super Champion (XLIV)
Draft Status: picked 40th overall (round 2) in the 2008 NFL draft
Career Stats: 49 games (43 starts), 215 tackles, one sack, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 8 interceptions, two touchdowns, 38 pass deflections, 11 tackles for loss
Best season: 2009, 16 games (16 starts), 57 tackles, four interceptions, one touchdown, 2 forced fumbles, 12 pass deflections
Contract: One Year, $2.5 million
The Tracy Porter signing follows a couple of similar paths of other players that have been signed. One, he has super bowl winning experience. Two, he has familiarity with Head Coach Dennis Allen. And three, he is a man to man cornerback. Nearly all of the CBs currently on the team excel in man to man coverage.This is because Dennis Allen's best area of expertise is in man to man coverage. He was the defensive backs coach of the New Orleans Saints from 2008-2010. This is where he won his super bowl ring and where he met Tracy Porter, and developed him into a starting CB in NOLA. Dennis Allen was successful as the New Orleans Saints finished with the third most interceptions in 2009. Anyway, it seems apparent that the Raiders are switching back to the aggressive man to man defensive Al Davis used to run. DA has confirmed this by saying, We’re not going to exactly do what Mr. Davis’ teams did, we will be more exotic, there will be some different looks," Allen said. "But man-to-man is where we are going to start. It all starts with coverage. You have to win your coverage battles." Tracy Porter is best known as a clutch performer. Most notably his key 74 yard pick six vs the Colts in the Super Bowl during the closing minutes of the game (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBlvjtfpPAg). However, this isn't the only clutch play Porter is known for. For example, in just the game before that (The NFC Championship) Tracy Porter did the same thing. Vikings Quarterback Brett Favre was in field goal range with less than 30 seconds remaining, yet he opted to pass on 3rd and long and it was picked off by Tracy Porter (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UUeqvquXZI). Which led the Saints to eventually win 31-28 and go to the SB. Porter also made another key play in that same game. In the fourth quarter, the Vikings were in the redzone and about to score. Brett Favre threw the ball to Bernard Berrian and it was caught, but Porter punched the ball out of his hands and the fumble was recovered by the Saints. When Tracy Porter became a free agent, Dennis Allen wanted him. But Porter chose to sign with the Broncos instead, where he continued his clutch play. In week 1 (his first game as a Donkey) he intercepted Ben Rothtard in the closing minutes of the game with the Broncos up 25-19 to seal the victory (http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-fantasy/0ap1000000061000/Broncos-defense-INT-TD). Unfortunately for Porter, he suffered from a seizure shortly afterward, and when he finally came back, Donkeys CB Chris Harris had broken out and as soon as Porter started to play again he suffered a concussion and missed the rest of the season. Porter is now back and he has something to prove after finishing last season with a bad taste in his mouth. The Raiders are hoping he brings his clutch gene and winning experience to Oakland.
Porter was signed to a one year "prove it" deal, and will most likely be a starter for the Raiders in 2013. However, nothing is guaranteed as he has fellow free agent pickup Mike Jenkins and youngster Philip Adams breathing down his neck. Porter is talented, and has had plenty of successful seasons in the past. However, he struggled last year but at just 26 he has room to improve. Porter will try and prove that he is an NFL starter in his contract year, if he does than the Raiders have more than enough cap room to bring him back in 2014.
Speaking of fellow free agent man to man corner
Name: Mike Jenkins
Scheme: Man to man
Pro Bowl (2009)
First-Team All-American (2007)
First-Team All Big 10 (2008)
Second team All Big 10 (2007)
Draft Status: picked 25th overall (round 1) in the 2008 NFL draft
College: South Florida
Career Stats: 71 games (48 starts), 161 tackles, one forced fumble, 8 interceptions, one touchdown, 43 pass deflections, one tackle for loss
Best Season: 2009 (pro bowler), 49 tackles, 5 interceptions, 19 pass break ups, one tackle for loss
Contract: One Year, $1.5 million
Mike Jenkins was an up and coming corner coming into the league. He showed a lot of promise and after a quiet rookie season he followed it up with back to back solid outings. But in 2011, he was plagued by injuries. First, he suffered a neck stinger in training camp which caused him to miss the whole pre-season. On top off that, he had gotten a hamstring strain, a sore shoulder, a bum knee and he finished it all with a dislocated shoulder that required offseason surgery. However, despite all injuries he battled through them and managed to play 12 games, starting all of them. Jenkins proved he was a tough player, overcoming all injuries. However, in the final year of his rookie contract, Jerry Jones went on to sign Chiefs CB Brandon Carr to a mega contract and draft CB Morris Claiborne 6th overall in the NFL draft in which they traded up to do so. To make things worse, Jerry Jones gave Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick a contract extension. These moves suddenly moved Jenkins from number one on the depth chart to number four. The cowboys knew that Jenkins was still rehabbing from shoulder surgery and they felt it was best to go in a different direction and have him walk in free agency. Once teams noticed Jenkins was not in the Cowboys future plans, several trades were offered to the cowboys for Mike Jenkins. However, all of them were declined, not sure why though. The Cowboys then stated they had no intentions of trading Mike Jenkins period. Despite being fourth on the depth chart starting the season, he managed to start two games in the 14 he played. Jenkins have himself the reputation of being a solid coverage corner with good ball skills. He's particularly good at covering the deep ball. He's a solid tackler as well. Jenkins is the type of player who doesn't always seem focused but when he is, watch out. He has the natural ability. Now, Jenkins is looking to revive his career on another one year "prove it" deal given by Reggie McKenzie.
Mike Jenkins declined a multi year contract offer from the Jacksonville Jaguars to join the Raiders. Here he will compete for a starting job and put his natural ability to good use. Jenkins, another aggressive man to man corner adds to a pretty interesting secondary. The starters seem to be Tracy Porter and DJ Hayden at first glance. However, in nickle packages we may see Jenkins and Hayden on the outside and Porter in the nickle. I expect Porter, Hayden, Jenkins, and Philip Adams to rotate on the outsides regularly and Porter and Joselio Hanson rotating as the slot CB. Third year players Chimdi Chekwa and former RB Taiwan Jones are interesting pieces as well. Any player could win the starting job and that's the beauty of competition.
Summers been busier than I thought, but I'm finishing this series so y'all better stay tuned
Name: Josh Cribbs
Position: Wide Receiver/Return Specialist
3x Pro Bowler (2007, 2009, 2012)
2x All Pro (2007, 2009)
NFL Special Teams Player of the Year (2009)
Cleveland Brown's MVP (2009)
Cleveland's Pro Athlete of the Year (2010)
NFL's All Time Kickoff Return Leader (8)
NFL 2000s All Decade Team
NFL Record: Two kickoff return touchdowns of 100 yards or more in a single game
NFL Record: Most kickoff return touchdowns in a single game (2)
Browns Franchise Records:
- Most career Kickoff return yards (10,015)
- Most career combined Kickoff and Punt return yards (12,169)
- Most career All-purpose yards (14,128)
- Most kickoff return yards in a single season: 1,809 (2007)
- Most kickoff return touchdowns in a single season: 3 (2009)
- Most All-purpose yards in a single season: 2,510 (2009)
- Most career combined Kickoff and Punt return touchdowns (11)
Draft Status: went undrafted in the 2005 NFL Draft
College: Kent State
Career Stats: 124 games (31 starts), 107 receptions, 1,161receiving yards, 7 receiving touchdowns, 128 rushing attempts, 753 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, 195 punt returns, 2154 punt return yards, 3 punt return touchdowns, 387 kickoff returns, 10015 kickoff return yards, 8 kickoff return touchdowns, 4-12 passing completions to attempts, 45 passing yards, one interception, zero passing touchdowns, long pass of 18 yards, 10.8 career passer rating, 103 tackles, one fumble recovery
Contract: 1 year, $865,000
First off, notice how I added the contract part in the beginning. I just decided to add that in because I fee that it is very important to know how long and how much the player will be a Raider. So I'm gonna add it in to the players I already did and moving forward. This means, check back at the other players I did, and revisit part 1 (link is at the top of this article) to see how much those guys are making. Now to get things started, Josh Cribbs was another guy I was thrilled when I found out we signed. He is one of the greatest returners in NFL history. Not only that, but he is a solid receiver that can create yards after the catch and he will be a happen in the Raiders new quick pass offense with Matt Flynn. Plus, he can operate the wildcat package. Obviously, he's a great athlete. He played football in HS, but he also a star baseball player, basketball player, and swimmer. He played QB in HS and was teammates with Vernon Davis (whom he also played Bball with). He was very successful winning three consecutive DCIAA titles as well as the 2000 Turkey Bowl. He made the All-Met selection by the Washington Post his senior year. Him and Vernon Davis formed a great tandem. He went on to Kent State University and remained playing quarterback. He put up great numbers, starting as a true freshman. He is one of only four quarterbacks in NCAA history to rush for 3,500 yards and throw for 7,000 yards in his career. He ended up going undrafted and signed with the Browns, where he made instant impact as a kick returner. He set the franchise record his rookie year. The next year, he signed a six year extension and broke his own record. He continued to be an explosive return man every year and got touchdowns. Cribbs wasn't used as a WR much, but when he was, he was explosive. In 2010, the Browns offered him another extension, but he felt it was way too low and stated his time in Cleveland was done. However, the Browns caved in and gave him a three year 20 million dollar extension. The catch? He had to play WR more. He returned the favor, catching 41 balls for 513 yards and four touchdowns the following year. He was named to the NFL 2000s All Decade Team, an incredible feat. Cribbs continued to be an explosive player in 2012, having 1136 kick return yards and 450 punt return yards but he was no longer used as a WR. Earlier in the offseason, the Browns again wanted to resign Cribbs, however he was seeking around 2 million dollars a year annualy and the Browns thought they could look else where and they were not willing to commit that much to a specialist. This led several teams into wanting him, such as the 49ers, Chargers, Giants, Cowboys, Patriots, and most importantly the Cardinals. Later in the offseason, it seemed the Cardinals had signed Cribbs and won the sweepstakes. All he needed to do was pass his physical, which is generally a given. The Cardinals wanted him to take over as the RS so that Patrick Peterson can focus on CB. But, when the physical was given, it was revealed that his knee was not fully healed. He had meniscus surgery earlier and he hadn't fully recovered. The deal was off and the Cardinals drafted LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu in the third round of the draft to take over return duties. His market then became dead due to the knee. However, was later cleared healthy and teams came lining up to sign him. Unfortunately for the Cardinals and Patriots (the two teams originally most interested) they had already signed KRs because they didn't trust his knee. The new teams that became interested were the Lions, Giants, Jets, and Raiders. He chose the Raiders in the end because he would have more opportunities playing as a WR. The Raiders are preparing to run a short, quick pass offense that best suits Cribbs strengths. Here, he can catch some short passes and use his explosiveness and elusiveness to take it all the way to the house. Jacoby Ford is a great return man, however he is always crippled. The two of them will now rotate returns, preserving Ford and allowing him to be the playmaker he is.
Cribbs originally wanted 2 million annually over several years, but the knee made him take less than a million for one year. Now he has something to prove and that he deserves the more lucrative contract, even at his age. Cribbs will make our return game very dangerous and he will be useful in other packages. In the modern NFL, athletic QBs are good to have, he could even teach Pryor how to transition (I don't see him succeeding in the NFL as a QB). Cribbs will be out until training camp, so the his injury is valid. If it does't affect come when it's time to play, he can be a great asset. Again, he is on a one year "prove it" deal. We have roughy 70 million dollars of cap space next year, so Reggie will decide if he's worth it. At the price, he could potentially be a steal.
Another signing, this one will have some competition and will serve as insurance
Name: Rashad Jennings
Position: Running Back
Scheme: Man Blocking Scheme (PBS)
2008 Big South Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
2008 Big South Preseason All-Conference Selection
Draft Status: picked 250th overall (round 7) in the 2009 NFL Draft
Career Stats: 38 games (9 starts), 224 carries, 944 rushing yards, 4.2 yards per carry average, 7 rushing touchdowns, 61 receptions, 454 receiving yards, 13 kickoff returns for 297 yards (22.85 average)
Best year: 2010, 13 games (3 starts), 84 carries, 459 yards, 5.5 yards per carry average, 4 rushing touchdowns, 26 receptions for 223 yards
Contract: One year, $630,000
Rashad Jennings looked like a steal for the Jags early on. In his first two seasons he averaged over 5 yards per carry. Last year he was terrible. MJD was either injured or holding out his contract, this allowed Jennings to step up into the starting lineup. He averaged just 2.8 yards per carry and ended the season on IR. He was once a promising player, but he was a total flop last year. RM is taking a gamble on him, but this is minimal risk financially. He originally was the starting RB for Pittsburgh but his father had become ill, forcing him to transfer to Liberty, closer to his hometown of Forest, Virginia. He was a star there, breaking the Big South Conference record with 3,633 yards with 42 TDs and a 5.7 yards per carry average. He earned himself a draft selection and immediately went to work his rookie year. Jennings calls himself a "complete back" however, he was a total flop in his first opportunity to start. Call it a down year, but in Oakland he needs to be prepared in case DMC goes down. He showed flashes as MJD's assistant. Hopefully he will do the same here in Oakland. However, if Rashad doesn't pick up his game, I think Latavius Murray has a real shot of stealing the number two job (for his assessment see part one).
Rashad Jennings is coming off a bad year, but prior to that he had back to back seasons averaging 5+ ypc. He is making close to nothing, and if he bounces back to his old form he could help a lot in the run game. The number 2 job is not being handed to him, he will have to win it, competing with Jeremy Stewart (averaged 4.0 ypc for us last year as a UDFA) and Murray. He needs to be prepared to take over if DMC goes down. If he continues to under perform in camp, he will be cut with no penalty. However, if he does bounce back, he would be a hell of a bargain at just 630k. A low risk high reward signing, because the capability is there.
First off, I think I may create a part three so the article is on the front page, easier to check it. I'll talk more about that later. Moving on to the next players
Name: Usama Young
Position: Strong Safety/Free Safety
Second Team All-Mid-American conference (2006)
Super Bowl Champion (XLIV)
Draft Status: picked 66th overall (round 3) in the 2007 NFL Draft
College: Kent State
Career Stats: 81 games (25 starts), 229 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, 7 interceptions, 22 pass deflections, 5 tackles for loss
Best Season: 2012, 13 games (11 starts), 53 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, 7 pass deflections
Contract: One Year $985,000
Usama Young was drafted by the New Orleans Saints as a CB coming out of college. At the time, Dennis Allen was the DB coach for NOLA and realized Young was a better fit at Safety so he moved him. Usama served as quality depth as he registered 50 tackles in one season coming off the bench. He continued to service the team, earning him a Super Bowl. He was later signed by the Cleveland Browns where he earned himself a starting job at Safety. However, the team never had complete trust in him. His first year in Cleveland, he had 70 tackles, and an interception, despite starting just 8 games even though he played in all 16. He is able to play both safety positions as well. Young is best at stopping the run (something the Raiders definitely need help with last year). According to Pro Football Focus, he graded out very well in stopping the run (+6.1) and finished with 70 tackles and a respectable 9.9% tackle frequency and was among the top 15 safeties in run stop percentage (8.1). The reason he didn't start every game is because the team preferred Eric Hagg, even though he graded out negatively. Last year he started more games (despite missing some with injury) and returned the favor. He was ranked 3rd best in tackling and 11th best in coverage. Young had his best season in terms of coverage last season, picking off three passes. The Browns never trusted Young, as they were reluctant to start him and the new management just released him. However, his production shows otherwise. However, on tape he has been afraid to hit at times (against Houston for example) and he has gotten lost in coverage before (vs Colts in the SB). However, the good news is he gets better each year. On the Raiders, he will be reunited with several former teammates, Tracy Porter, Kaluka Maivia, Josh Cribbs, and his former DB coach Dennis Allen.
Usama Young will serve as quality depth behind Charles Woodson and Tyvonn Branch. He will come in at either safety spot and in three safety packages. His familiarity with Coach and winning experience should help. He was signed to a cheap contract so there is no risk financially and he play with a lot of effort to earn himself a multi year contract next year. Young isn't getting his chance to be a full time starter yet, but he'll get a chance to showcase his skills. The Raiders seems to have a solid safety group.