Monday, December 28, 2009
On the last Monday of 2009 the Oakland Raiders find themselves with double-digit losses for the seventh year in a row. Another difficult year for a Raider's fan to have to deal with or should I say suffer through.
The 2009 draft was one that brought two athletes to the team as 1st (Darrius Heyword-Bey) & 2nd round (Mike Mitchell) picks, but it is unclear if or when these athletes can develop into productive football players. The teams draft produced a promising DE selected in the 3rd round (Matt Shaughnessy).
A promising WR selected in the 4th round (Louis Murphy). Another promising DE/DT was signed as an undrafted free agent (Desmond Bryant). Once again the Raiders look better drafting in reverse and this trend needs to stop.
A team's 1st & 2nd round picks should be solid and make an immediate impact on the team. Whereas a team's picks in rounds three - seven should build the team. However, what should happen always boils down to whom Al Davis wants.
I have a lot of respect for Al Davis and for what he has been able to accomplish over the years. I'm also in agreement with www.messagetoal.com and believe that it is time for him to give way to someone else running the football operations and have stated the same things for years.
Another year of surprisingly beating teams that the Raiders had no business beating and losing to teams that the silver and black should beat. A change was finally made at quarterback, but as much as I agreed with the decision it makes me wonder if things could have been different if the decision was made in week seven as opposed to week 11.
Going into 2010 it is clear to me that Oakland needs to change JaMarcus Russell's position or cut him because they have their quarterback in Bruce Gradkowski. Russell needs to out-work everyone, do a complete 180° turnaround and come back looking like a completely different player for me to consider him a potential member of the 2010 53-man roster.
Another thought has me wondering how dramatically different the win-loss record would change if the Raiders could stop the run. The team is allowing 150 rushing yards and 24 points per game for the seventh straight year. This has the silver and black ranked 29th in the league at stopping the run. Is it a coincidence that six of the teams that rank in the top ten against the run use a 3-4 front as their base defense?
I know what several people will attempt to inform me that the Raiders don't run a 3-4 defense nor have the personnel to effectively run the scheme. However, what every Raider fan knows that it is time for a change. Dramatic changes such as a new scheme on both sides of the ball, new personnel, better play calling and a completely different focus.
A switch back to the 3-4 defense, the same defense the Raiders used and while winning Super Bowl XVIII in 1983, will probably never happen. However, switching to a multiple front defense one that uses a base 4-3 front, but depending on the opposition and down and distance switching out of the 4-3 front and into either a 3-4 versus the pass or a Bear 46 to finally stop the run.
This will also ensure that the silver and black defense won't be so predictable.
Change is very slow for the Oakland Raiders, but the Raiders blitzed more as well as had more success with it in 2009 than in previous years. It might not be the massive changes I want to see, but it is a start.
Hopefully there is more change to come in 2010; I’m talking about change for the better. I can't tell you today if Tom Cable keeps his job as the head coach or not. My feeling is that he remains in place despite all of the top tier coaching talent available.
If Al Davis spoke with some of the talent available, relinquished control and told them it was their show to run and that he wouldn't interfere. Put it in the contract and provide them three years to clean up his mess that might suffice.
If some of these changes were put in place instead of discussing how great Janikowski’s 61 yard field goal was or how the officials did the Raiders again (Not Surprising or worth discussing) with some changes we could be discussing the best season the Raiders have had in a decade. The ball is always in Al Davis court and it is up to him to do the right thing for the future of the franchise.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
The Lakers are back on the hard wood tonight against a talented Atlanta Hawks team. Hopefully the Lakers will bring and employ their defense tonight at the Staples Center. The Lakers took one on the chin and were beaten by the Mavericks on Friday because of poor shooting and not being able to stop a familiar tactic; the pick and roll play.
The loss was their worse at home in two years. Los Angeles needs to shake off the rust and put on a bounce back performance. Being stunned at home by an opponent that you had beaten six times in a row could be the type of wake up call this team needs.
The Lakers have a favorable schedule to start the season that could easily vault them in the Western Conference Standing but they’ll have to play night and day better than what we saw against Dallas.
Los Angeles is still playing without All-Star Power Forward Pau Gasol who has yet to make his 2009-2010 season debut, it is doubtful that it will be tonight. The team doesn’t look the same without him. The ironic thing is that Gasol was the third pick in the 2001 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. He was traded to the Vancouver Grizzlies on draft day. However it must be said that I have no idea how Kwame Brown & Tyson Chandler were selected ahead of him.
His absence is no excuse for how lethargic the team was defensively. The coaching staff will have watching film of the game as use it as a teaching tool. It is necessary because the Atlanta Hawks are averaging 110 points per game.
All-Star Shooting Guard Joe Johnson is averaging 21 points per game and has shot 50 percent or better against the Lakers in six of his last seven games in Los Angeles. Josh Smith is averaging 19 points per game. Running the offense for the Hawks is veteran Point Guard Mike Bibby who has played well against the Lakers on more than one occasion.
Andrew Bynum has been solid this season, averaging 20 points and 11.5 rebounds but he will need help against Atlanta’s talented young front court of Al Horford, Marvin Williams and Josh Smith. Horford is averaging 17 points 14 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game.
The Lakers have to shot better and play defense without fouling. Los Angeles was outscored 25-9 from the free throw line against Dallas. The Lakers need to get back to using excellent ball movement and excellent player movement to be effective. The front line of Ron Artest, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum will be put to the test but have to step up to the challenge.
The Lakers need to focus on defense limit the Hawks to one shot per possession, stop the dribble penetration, control the boards, rotate out to three point shooters, close down the lane and make it a point to stop the pick an roll play because they’ll have to face it and defend against it all year.
Tip-off: 6:30 PM PST
• Los Angeles: Fox Sports West (Joel Myers & Stu Lantz)
• Atlanta: Fox Sports South (Bob Rathbun & Dominique Wilkins)
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
• Atlanta: 790 AM (Steve Holman)
• Pau Gasol (Hamstring)
Photo Credit: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times
Friday, October 30, 2009
The Lakers raised another banner, got their rings in a star studded ring ceremony as Lakers legends honored the reigning champions. The team officially put the 2008-2009 season behind them then it was just like that Jay Z track “On To The Next One” and began their title defense by dispatching the Clippers.
Pau Gasol sat out with a hamstring injury that will keep him out of tonight’s contest as well. Ron Artest fit in well in his Lakers debut as expected. Kobe led the Lakers with a game high 33 points; Andrew Bynum celebrated his 22nd birthday with a 26 point 13 rebound effort putting aside any doubts about his health.
Despite Bynum’s game and a few nice Kobe Bryant reverse lay ups there wasn’t a lot for the sold out crowd to cheer about as the Clippers kept the game close. The Lakers bench contributed a full nine points collectively and remains a concern. The Lakers defense has to improve and get back to a championship level it’s early in the season and not there yet.
Los Angeles faces the Dallas Mavericks tonight a team that is coming off of a terrible loss at home to the Wizards. The team is still led by Jason Kidd, who is a year older and a step slower but still effective. Dirk Nowitski was provided front court help with the additions of Shawn Marion & Drew Gooden.
The above mentioned additions will really help Nowitski by defending and crashing the boards. Whenever he is asked to rebound he appears to wear down.
Last year’s solid five–man nucleus of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitski and Brandon Bass is no longer intact for various reasons. The Mavericks can’t match the versatility of the Lakers roster even with the absence of Pau Gasol and their ability to cause match up problems.
Dallas needs someone to take the pressure off of Dirk Nowitski. The Mavericks need Jason Terry’s points off of the bench to be effective. He didn’t give them much in the first game nor did the new additions.
One would think that this game has the makings of a shootout. However the Lakers will start their offense from the inside out by getting the ball to Andrew Bynum early and often and allowing him to go to work.
You should also see Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom spend some time in the post as well. The Lakers have to shoot better and their bench has to step up and contribute. Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic and Shannon Brown have to knock down open shots and the second unit has to come in and change the pace of the game.
Defensively the Lakers have to control the tempo of the game and play at their pace, own the boards, stop the dribble penetration, limit Dallas to one shot per possession and challenge every shot. I want to see the Lakers play defense without fouling and make it a point to rotate out to three point shooters.
Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST
• Los Angeles: ESPN & FSW (Joel Myers & Stu Lantz)
• Dallas: ESPN & TXA 21 (Mark Followill & Brad Davis)
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
• Dallas: ESPN 103.3 KTXA FWB 980 (Bob Ortegal & Chuck Cooperstein)
• Pau Gasol (Hamstring)
• SF Josh Howard (Ankle)
Photo Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The Lakers are in Las Vegas, NV for a pre-season run against the Kings at the Thomas and Mack Center. In the previous game the Lakers returned to The Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, CA only to have the nostalgic run end in defeat to the Warriors who shot better than Los Angeles in the second of back to back games.
The Kings have made several additions to the squad in the off-season such as 1st round picks PG/SG Tyreke Evans & F Omri Casspi, SG/SF Desmond Mason, SF Andres Nocioni and PF Sean May. Their new Head Coach Paul Wesphal is big on versatility in his players and he will employ a three guard lineup against the Lakers tonight.
It appears to me that the move is more of a gimmick than a solution to what ails the team. Don’t get me wrong versatility is good for any team and will benefit a team in the long run.
Beno Udrih is an effective Point Guard; Tyreke Evans can be a very effective combo guard as well but losing Francisco Garcia for a while on the second high profile weight lifting accident causes a need to attempt to replace his point production which will cause a team to make adjustments.
No disrespect but the Kings are a team that will be lucky to sniff 30 wins this season. In my opinion it is not really about positions but more about putting the best five guys on the floor.
The theory has worked for the Warriors, Suns & Mavericks when the goal was to score a ton of points and concern themselves with the classic low post match ups at the four and five spots. The Kings also have more depth at the Guard positions and at Small Forward.
The Lakers have one of the most versatile rosters in the league; it will be on full display tonight. Los Angeles will use defense as their calling card tonight as well as the entire season. The Lakers could match the Kings Three Guard line up with Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest & Shannon Brown.
Derek Fisher is the starter at Point Guard but matched up against a 6’6” Tyreke Evans in the post could cause double team which will force the defense to rotate. The Kings will have to adjust to the Lakers regardless of what line up is on the floor. Los Angeles will focus on player movement and ball movement as well as executing their offense.
The fact that Luke Walton hasn’t played a lot of minutes is due to the fact that more time was given to Ron Artest an Adam Morrison. The coaching staff has big plans on how they’ll deploy both players. Morrison will come off of the bench but Coach Jackson wants the opponents to figure out how Artest will be utilized.
Look for the Lakers to play inside out and allow Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom to go to work. You might see Kobe Bryant in the post as well. I want to see Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic & Adam Morrison consistently knock down open shots.
Tip-off: 7:00 PM PST
• Los Angeles: KCAL 9 (HD)
• Sacramento: KXTV News10 (HD)
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
• Sacramento: KHTK 1140 (Gary Gerould)
• PF/C Pau Gasol (Hamstring Strain)
• C DJ Mbenga (Malalignment of his hips/ hip flexors)
• SF Luke Walton (Minor Back Pain)
• SG Francisco Garcia (Forearm)
Friday, October 9, 2009
I’ve got goose bumps by simply hearing the phrase “the Lakers will face the Warriors at the Forum in Inglewood, CA on tonight”. Call it a blast from the past but great to hear. The Lakers started the 2009-2010 Pre-Season right where they ended last season convincingly beating their opponent.
The exhibition run gave everyone a look at what this team is capable of doing.
Ron Artest had a nice debut for Los Angeles with a 12 point, 9 rebound and 7 assist night. Andrew Bynum lead the Lakers is scoring with 24 points showing a lot of athleticism finishing at the rim early and often.
He also showed that he is fully recovered from the knee injury that plagued him in the playoffs and prepared to be a presence in the paint. Hopefully for the Lakers on both ends of the court.
Kobe Bryant put up 22 points and grabbed 9 boards as the defending NBA champions used a balanced scoring effort to win their pre-season opener big in Anaheim.
The same two teams will match up again this evening under a different roof. Always great to see the start of another basketball season but and even better sight on Wednesday night was to see the Lakers reserves put up 47 points. The bench production in 2009 wasn’t as solid or consistent as it was in 2008.
Earlier indications are that this area was addressed by the coaching staff and will improve with Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar & Adam Morrison consistently knocking down open shots. The Lakers won it all last year by playing solid defense and that needs to be their calling card this season. The addition of Ron Artest works toward accomplishing that goal.
Just as in the first game you’ll see Coach Phil Jackson stick to traditional rotations with Lamar Odom the first player off the bench as well as Jordan Farmar the first guard off the bench. Josh Powell might get extended minutes in the interest of resting Pau Gasol. Look for Adam Morrison to get a longer look with the regulars to help in his development.
It is still early and the Lakers have room for improvement like every other team in the league. The Lakers have to move their feet and play defense without fouling and limit the Warriors to one shot per possession.
Tony Gaffney has to be showing flashes defensively on film but he hasn’t made the roster as of yet. The Lakers will continue to work on getting their timing and chemistry together. I’m looking forward to seeing the Lakers play solid defense and display excellent player movement and excellent ball movement.
*The thoughts and prayers of the Lakers Nation go out to the Ratliff family for their loss and ours; John Ratcliff, the Lakers official scorer for the last 48 years passed away recently and will be missed.
Tip-off: 7:00 PM PST
• Los Angeles: KCAL 9 (HD)
• Golden State: CSN (HD)
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
• Golden State: KNBR 1050 (Tim Roye & Jim Barnett)
• None to report.
• PF Brandon Wright (Shoulder)
• PG C.J. Watson
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
The Lakers showed that they had the desire, experience and toughness to compete at the highest level. These facts are some of the reasons that the Los Angeles Lakers challenged for the title in 2008, won it all in 2009 and will repeat in 2010.
A versatile and talented roster from top to bottom that includes All Stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol has also meant a lot and Mitch Kupchak needs to be applauded for that. The roster number per game is 12; we all have a pretty good idea of who will be on the roster.
The only question here is about potential additions; The Lakers signed Tony Gaffney, Mickael Gelebale, David Monds, Michael Fey and Thomas Kelati. Gaffney and Monds played on the summer league team but the question is will any of them make the 15-man roster.
It is too early to tell, but Gaffney and Monds have a good understanding of the offense. In addition, both guys have the size that Coach Phil Jackson likes.
Gaffney is a solid defensive player who ranked third in the nation in blocked shots (3.8) in his senior season at UMASS en route to being name the Atlantic 10 Defensive Player the Year.
The drive to repeat officially starts 20 days from now but today the pre-season and the first of two exhibition games against the Golden State Warriors begins. The Warriors can put up points in bunches but have endured team turmoil all off-season.
Training camp and the pre-season are dress rehearsals for the regular season. Los Angeles needs to knock off the rust and develop some chemistry with new addition Ron Artest as the starter at the three spot.
I’m also interested in the development of Adam Morrison. He was one of the principles in the trade who brought Shannon Brown to the Lakers. He’s a guy who can score but needs to hit shots consistently, and he could become an outside scoring threat. The same can be said about Jordan Farmar.
Several people in the media have stated that the point guard position is the biggest weakness on the team. I can see the argument but I disagree.
What's important to keep in mind is that Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic had disappointing years but it was the addition of Shannon Brown that solidified the guard rotation. The clutch shooting and veteran leadership of Derek Fisher was also huge in bringing another championship to L.A. and that needs to be mentioned when the point guard position in L.A. is discussed.
The Lakers run the triangle offense and in said offense you don’t need a traditional point guard to run the show. The offense is predicated on ball movement, player movement and hitting the open man.
Tip-off: 7:00 PM PST
• Los Angeles: KCAL 9 (HD)
• Golden State: CSN (HD)
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
• Golden State: KNBR 1050 (Tim Roye & Jim Barnett)
• None to report.
• PF Brandon Wright (Shoulder)
• PG C.J. Watson
Prediction: N/A in the Pre-Season
Saturday, October 3, 2009
A battle of two 1-2 teams takes place in Houston, when the Raiders and Texans clash. This isn’t the game of the week in the NFL but is sure is for the Raider Nation and the Texans faithful.
The sad reality is once the final gun sounds one team is going to have a record of 1-3; coaches and players alike will be forced to walk the plank by their Owners, the media and most importantly their fan base.
As it is with every game in the NFL there’s a tremendous amount on the line. Both teams at times have shown glimpses of success, moments of ineptitude, reasons to cheer and cause for concern in this young season.
This game has the potential of being a very competitive game but in this writer’s opinion a must win for both teams. In week 16 of the 2008 season the Raiders beat a hot Texans team that was on a roll. The Texans were in the process of attempting to extend their win streak to five straight but the Oakland Raiders weren’t having any of that winning 27-16.
The best thing about the game for Oakland was that it showed that this team has some playmakers and even better than that was the fact that the young players showed up and had an impact. The Raiders won with a total team effort playing well in all three phases of the game.
From that moment I was under the impression that this team would continue to build upon the success of this game and become much more competitive. Several key players that helped Oakland beat Houston in 2008 will not participate this Sunday; gone and definitely missed are C Jake Grove, LG Robert Gallery, FB Justin Griffith and WR Chaz Schilens.
Flash forward to 2009 and my vision of the team’s future has changed. To say that the Oakland Raiders have struggled would be an understatement but this week gives the team a great opportunity to right the ship. Houston is at or near the bottom in several defensive categories and Oakland needs to take advantage of that fact.
Offensively; now is the time for the Raiders to run the ball at least 35-45 times. Oakland needs to get all of their runners involved. Fifteen carries a piece for Michael Bush & Justin Fargas and a total of 15 touches for Darren McFadden would be nice to see.
The Raiders should be able to get the passing game going against the Texans but it is time for the team to use Louis Murphy & Javon Walker as the starters. I’m bringing up Walker because of the fact that he is a veteran and he’s being paid too much money to be a spectator. At the very least he can catch the ball and run precise routes.
The development of Darrius Heywood-Bey needs to continue but not as a starter in this game but he needs to be in the rotation. This should allow more much needed room in the middle of the field for TE Zack Miller.
Defensively the Raiders need to stop the run with either seven or eight guys in the box whatever it takes. Oakland gave up 215 yards rushing last week; it is a must that the Raiders get off of blocks and tackle well. Houston has averaged 29 points in their past two games to stop that number rising to three Oakland needs to display a pass rush and get after Texans QB Matt Schaub.
This is another area that the Raiders have struggled in but this can be corrected with a heavy dose of blitzing from the linebackers & secondary, stunts from the defensive lineman. Pressure right the middle will throw off the timing of any quarterback. The Raiders need to get to the quarterback hit him, make him rush his throws.
As fans we saw the Raiders put on a spirited effort against the Chargers on opening night so we know it can be done but this team needs to find a way to play well and finish games. Every team needs an identity and Oakland is searching for one however their identity is as a running team this Sunday Oakland will leave their calling card.
I’m looking forward to a few key match ups:
(Hou) WR Andre Johnson vs. (Oak) CB Nnamdi Asomugha
Two of the best leagues best at their respective positions.
(Hou) DE Mario Williams vs. (Oak) LT Mario Henderson
The battle of the two Mario’s call it round two in round one last year Mario Henderson held his own and was able to make Mario Williams a non factor doing the same thing two years in a row could go a long way to establishing Henderson as the LT of the present & future for the franchise and help win this game.
(Hou) MLB DeMeco Ryans vs. (Oak) RB Michael Bush, Justin Fargas & Darren McFadden
The Texans have used a lot of 1st round picks on defense and still can’t seem to stop anybody. DeMeco Ryans was a 2nd round pick and is one of the leagues best MLB’s and the leader of this defense. He will have his hands full against a team hell bent on running the ball early and often.
(Hou) LT Duane Brown or Rashad Butler vs. (Oak) DE Richard Seymour
Duane Brown a 2nd year player who had a solid rookie season and has been more than adequate so far. Butler is a swing tackle a good back-up that can play on the left or right side. Neither has the experience to handle the challenges that Richard Seymour presents.
Prediction: 24 – 20 Raiders
Friday, August 28, 2009
NFL franchises are officially back to work, their training camps in full swing. Adversity in the form of injuries has also affected teams as it has every year; several key players have gone down with significant injuries.
When it comes to injuries in the NFL it is identical to riding a motorcycle it is a known fact that if you ride one you will go down at some point in time hopefully you can recover from any injuries. Coincidentally when it comes to injuries in the NFL it isn’t a matter of if it happens it is a matter of when.
Let’s be honest injuries suck but they’re part of the game and a setback that has to be overcome. It is also an opportunity for the back up player to step up and prove he can be the guy. Here are a couple of guys who have made it happen. Can Joe Mays be the guy in Philadelphia? Can Corey Irvin, Nick Hayden or Marlon Favorite step up in Carolina? One thing is for certain both clubs and us fans we’ll all find out right away.
1. Kurt Warner stepped in for Trent Green in 1999
2. Tom Brady stepped in for Drew Bledsoe in 2001
3. Kerry Collins stepped in for Rich Gannon in 2003
4. James Harrison stepped in for Clark Haggans in 2005
If the entire organization (Owner, Front Office, Scouting Department & Coaching Staff) is one the same page and has properly built their team they’ll be prepared for this scenario. This is accomplished by drafting well with a 3-5 year vision in mind and clearly defined attainable goals.
In theory a teams 1st & 2nd round draft picks should be integral pieces to the puzzle that have the potential to be longtime fixtures for a franchise. A team should be drafting potential starters or players that can develop into starters in every round. However a team is actually built in rounds 3 – 7. Let’s not forget selecting un-drafted free agents to develop.
It has been said more than once that the best laid plans can and will go awry. Injuries have negatively affected the outcome of the season of several teams. It brings to mind the John Madden Football curse. I know to some people this might sound just a tad out of context but follow me if you will and it will make sense.
It must be stated that this isn’t a knock on John Madden Football. I absolutely love the game and have been playing it for years. Going back over the last ten years Injuries, having a significant impact on a team and being on the cover of the game have been synonymous. 1999 was also the first year that NFL players were featured on the cover of the game.
• 1999 Garrison Hearst - He had an outstanding regular season, finishing third in rushing yards. However, he suffered a broken ankle in the Divisional Playoff game against the Falcons. The severe break caused Hearst to miss two full NFL seasons. The team went 8-8 3rd place in the division.
• 2000 Barry Sanders – He is pictured over Madden’s left shoulder on the cover. Sanders abruptly retired in July before the start of the start of the 99’ season. The team went 8-8 3rd place in the division.
• 2001 Eddie George – George’s curse came in 01’ in the form of him failing to break 1,000 yards rushing and the Titans going 7-9 and missing the playoffs.
• 2002 Dante Culpepper – Culpepper missed 4 games due to injury, threw for 1,300 less yards & 19 less TD passes than in 2000. The Vikings went 5-11 their worst record since 1984.
• 2003 Marshall Faulk – Faulk played in the same number of games but ran for 430 yards less and had 4 less TD’s than in 2001. His worst since 1996. The Rams scored only 16 more points then their 1996 team that had Tony Banks at QB and Lawrence Phillips at RB. The team went 7-9 3rd place in the division.
• 2004 Michael Vick – Vick missed the first 11 games of the season with a broken leg. Vick’s QB rating, completion percentage and yards per attempt were all down from 2002. (* This is clearly a statistic that Vince Young wasn’t aware of by stating in an interview in the Sept. issue of Esquire Magazine when he stated that playing QB was all about your legs) The team went 5-11 4th place in the division.
• 2005 Ray Lewis – Lewis for the most part avoided the curse. His numbers were slightly down from the previous year, he missed one game. However, he didn’t record an interception in 2004, the first time in his career.
• 2006 Donovan McNabb – After week 9, McNabb suffered a hernia and was lost for the season. McNabb threw for more interceptions; his yards per attempt and completion percentage were down from 2004. The Eagles finished 6-10, in last place and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
• 2007 Shaun Alexander – Alexander missed 6 regular season games with a broken foot. He finished the season with 896 yards and 7 TD’s; his lowest numbers since his rookie season. He had a 3.6 yards per carry average; His career average was 4.4 yards per carry) The team went 10-6, went to the playoffs, lost in the Divisional Round to the Packers.
• 2008 Vince Young – Vince Young threw for 2,546 yards, 9 TD’s and 17 Interceptions. He did complete 62% of his passes and Tennessee went 10-6 losing to the Chargers in the playoffs.
• 2009 Bret Favre – Favre passed for 3,472 yards, 22 TD’s & 22 Interceptions. Favre & the Jets experienced a hot start but faded late after Favre injured his throwing arm and the season collapsed. Brett threw 6 less TD’s & 7 more INT’s then in 2007. The Jets finished 9-7 after an 8-3 start and missed the playoffs losing to the Dolphins with their former QB at the helm.
The NFL is the epitome of the next man up. Overcoming adversity and moving on is the name of the game. A highly important factor in answering the obvious question; can the team trust the back up and rally around him?
Halfway through the 2009 Preseason for the Raiders and as fans we’ve seen some good things and some bad things but most disturbing is the fact that the team still can’t stop the run.
Reminiscent of a cold that you just can’t seem to shake, similar to having a sheet of flypaper stuck to your hand, the Oakland Raiders can’t dodge the fact that they’ve had great difficulty stopping the run for the past six years quickly going on seven.
Oakland has surrendered 150+ rushing yards per game, on average, for the better part of the last six years. To ask what is the problem or what has gone wrong are questions that are too obvious to ask.
The message to the new Defensive Coordinator couldn’t have been spelled out clearer: stop the run and get after the quarterback. It is way too early to say that they’ve failed because they haven’t. I applauded the selection of John Marshall & Dwaine Board as Defensive Line coach but these guys weren’t given the tools to succeed.
Defensive Tackle is a position of need that has been neglected in the Draft by Oakland for far too long. 2009 has started and this team needs two Defensive Tackles in the 2010 draft.
The last time the Raiders were stout up the middle against the run was 2002. I hate to have to call anyone out but we as Raider fans knew that this was a major area of need, that it had to be addressed and that the two best Defensive Tackles on the team were Tommy Kelly & Gerard Warren.
The blame has to be placed at the doorstep of Al Davis for consistently not addressing this position in the draft. As a Raiders fan I have also been a fan of Al Davis however there is no excuse for this happening.
The importance of the position has been overlooked, the idea of drawing a line in the sand and making a definitive stand on correcting this error has been put on the back burner for over a decade and it continues to be a major weakness.
When you talk of improving any team the first thing that needs to happen would be to improve the defense. Oakland has gone through another draft where the Defensive Tackle position wasn’t addressed, again, and it has been the Achilles heel for the Raiders as well as the reason for their demise.
The last five Defensive Tackles drafted by Oakland were Anttaj Hawthorne (2005), Junior Ioane (2000), Leon Bender (1998), Darrell Russell (1997) & Grady Jackson (1997).
Since the 2006 NFL Draft there have been a total of 80 Defensive Tackles selected. It is a known fact that playing Defensive Tackle in the NFL is night and day different than it is in college.
However, I refuse to believe that none of the previous mentioned players could’ve helped stop the disturbing trend of the Oakland Raiders making every opposing runner look like a Pro Bowl player.
Some of the Defensive Tackles mentioned anchor some of the best defenses in the NFL. What has happened on more than one occasion a solid defensive tackle is available in the draft but Al Davis has chosen to select a position player (WR, RB or CB) with Raider speed.
I’m not saying that having speed is a bad thing because as we all know speed kills but it does you no good in the middle of your defensive line. This writer stated in an article that the Raiders needed to draft not one but two Defensive Tackles or a Defensive Tackle and a Middle Linebacker.
I was told that I was out of my mind and that doing so made no sense at all. I often wonder what those individuals had to say when the team gave up 160 yards rushing in 2008. The same thought crossed my mind twice this year once in the draft when the team had the opportunity to make a definitive statement that they’re finally prepared to stop the run by selecting former Boston College teammates B.J. Raji & Ron Brace.
The second time while I was in the stands watching rookie runner Glen Coffee gash the silver and black for 129 yards in a little more than a quarter of football. I know that it’s pre-season and the games don’t count but Oakland surrendered 275 yards rushing in the game. Thanks to this Oakland ranks dead last in the league in run defense.
I compiled a short list of Defensive Tackles players currently on other teams that may or may not make the roster for the current employers but they’re players the Raiders need to keep an eye on to help them stop the run.
• New England – Mike Wright, Steve Williams & Myron Pryor
• Cincinnati – Jason Shirley
• Pittsburgh – Scott Paxson
• Indianapolis – Antonio Johnson, Daniel Muir
• Jacksonville – Jonathan Lewis, Derek Landri
• Tennessee – Kevin Vickerson
• Miami – Joe Cohen
• Seattle – Red Bryant
• Chicago – Matt Toeaina
• Washington – Antonio Dixon
• New York Giants – Anthony Bryant
We’re extremely close to the first roster cuts and the production generated or the lack thereof by Terdell Sands & William Joseph means that there’s a real chance that both won’t make the roster.
Jonathan Lewis has been released from Jacksonville and I doubt he’ll make a trip to the East Bay. I was surprised to see one of the guys on this list (Joe Cohen) has been signed. There are no guarantees but when you rank dead last in run defense the sign that there needs to more competition at the position and a need for new blood should appear like a large neon sign.
I’ve no idea how Ryan Boschetti & Joe Cohen will pan out but I like their efforts. I’m not saying that these guys will be the answer but could turn out to be steps in the right direction.
The offense will be better with much more production from QB JaMarcus Russell, The Wide Receivers as a group, TE Zack Miller and a solid trio of runners. I’m hoping that the run defense improves in 2009 although you and I know that instead of drafting a Defensive Tackle or two Oakland will sign a free agent.
The run defense is the biggest question mark on this team. This team will put up more points but needs to stop drafting on emotion and start drafting based on production. Leave the projects for undrafted free agents and get this team back on track.
Several people will never forget that the 2008 Lions went defeated and didn't win a game however from 2003 - 2008 that team won more games than the Oakland Raiders. The change for the better and the improvement needs to start in 2009.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
The Lakers saved their best game of the series for last in administering a season-ending beat down to the Nuggets in dominating fashion to return to the NBA Finals. Los Angeles showed that they were focused and ready to play from the start of the game.
Trevor Ariza set the tone early by knocking down three shots from behind the arc; he finished the game with 17 points.
Los Angeles was active, aggressive, attacking the basket and had everything working, Kobe Bryant wore the hat of the facilitator early getting all of his teammates involved, and then he showed why he is the best closer in the game.
Nine Lakers had taken a shot in the first half prior to him taking over the game. Los Angeles used a focused total team effort.
Kobe had 18 points on six-for-10 shooting, six assists and one huge blocked shot in the first half. He scored 11 of those points during a decisive 21-7 Lakers scoring run that gave the Los Angeles a 53-40 lead at halftime.
Kobe Bryant’s stat line for the game showed that he scored 35 points, handed out 10 assists and grabbed 10 rebounds. All of this was accomplished by efficiently shooting 20 shots. What it didn’t show is the leadership, teaching and motivating he did to raise the level of play of his teammates.
The Lakers used all of their weapons to increase their lead and had five players score in double digits.
Pau Gasol scored 20 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, had six assists, three steals and blocked a shot. Lamar Odom had another great game leading the second unit with 20 points and eight rebounds. Luke Walton contributed 10 points off of the bench.
Los Angeles held the lead for the majority of the game the lead got to high as 29 points and sent the Nuggets faithful to the exits with four minutes and 10 seconds left in regulation.
The Lakers bench outscored the Nuggets bench 40-34. Los Angeles out-played Denver in every way possible in game 6. The Lakers out-rebounded the Nuggets 38-27, shot 57.3-percent from the field, 56.3-percent from behind the arc and knocked down all 24 of their free throws.
Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points on his 25th birthday, JR Smith pumped in 24 points but to say this wasn’t the Nuggets day would be an understatement. The Nuggets trailed for all but a few seconds of the game and never mounted a serious charge after halftime.
The Lakers 4-2 series win over the Nuggets means that it is the 16th straight time that team has won a series after winning game one.
Kobe Bryant has scored at least 500 points in four different post-seasons, only Michael Jordan, who accomplished the feat eight times, has done it more.
The Lakers have advanced to the NBA Finals for the second straight season and their 30th appearance.
The Lakers are seeking their 15th title, Head Coach Phil Jackson is seeking his 10th NBA title; Kobe Bryant is after his fourth. Los Angeles became the first team to make consecutive NBA Finals appearances since the Pistons in 2004 & 2005.
The Lakers 2009 playoff journey has been a much more bruising and much more difficult task going through Utah, Houston and Denver than cruising through West as the team did last year.
The road to the Finals this year has taken the Lakers through an arduous, grueling and physical two weeks of basketball. Ending the series in six games has allowed them some much needed rest.
Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier & Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Friday, May 29, 2009
The Lakers and Nuggets played this game even, the teams were tied after three quarters then Los Angeles put on a 23-5 run to separate themselves from Denver and take a 3-2 series lead. The Lakers got an excellent start from their reserves.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers in scoring with 22 points but he did it by shooting 13 shots. He wore the hat of the facilitator and drew countless double-teams and found open teammates. Those teammates knocked down shots provided.
Everyone who touched the floor contributed to this win however reserve Shannon Brown might’ve had the shot of the game when he got out on the fast break and put Chris Andersen on one of his posters by dunking over him.
Lamar Odom banged on Chris "the Birdman" Andersen as well and could easily challenge him for the shot of the game. The Lakers played with a sense of urgency, with passion and did an excellent job of executing down the stretch.
The Lakers were aggressive, attacked the basket and didn’t settle for jump shots. Derek Fisher & Andrew Bynum combined to score 21 points. Pau Gasol had another solid outing recording his eighth straight double-double scoring 14 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
Lamar Odom was active and finally put his stamp on this series. Lamar Odom stepped his game up and filled the stat sheet; scoring 19 points, pulled down 14 rebounds, handed out three assists and blocked four shots. He played like a man possessed.
The Lakers played solid defense in the fourth quarter causing the Nuggets to miss 11 straight shots. Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets in scoring with 31 points, despite shooting nine-of-23 from the field.
The Nuggets are now on the brink of elimination and will have to bounce back at home on Friday. The Lakers have to continue to put the pressure on the Nuggets by playing well defensively, getting a contribution from everyone and getting Pau Gasol more shots.
Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times
The Nuggets crushed the Lakers to knot the series at two games apiece. 48 hours removed from an outstanding effort by Los Angeles in the Pepsi Center to take a 2-1 advantage the Lakers came out lethargic with no energy and looked tired and got beat.
The Lakers were out-hustled, out-rebounded, out-muscled, out-worked and out-played in game four. The Lakers could be fatigued and showing the effects of going through a tough seven –game series with Houston.
The worse part about it was that the loss came on a night that Denver was playing with a sub-par Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups had an off night but finished with 24 points. Anthony & Billups combined to shoot 10-for-32 from the field.
The Nuggets received a strong contribution from everyone on the team; all of their starters were in double-digits. The Nuggets bench, led by JR Smith’s 24 points, out-scored the Lakers bench 42-24. The Lakers were destroyed in the rebounding category 58-40.
The Lakers trailed in this game from start to finish and really didn’t even compete in this author’s opinion. The officials unfortunately became part of the story by allowing the game to get out of hand.
I’m never one to say that the officials took a game from a particular team and I’m not going to start now, nor am I going to say that the officials were the reason the Nuggets won. Plain and simple the Lakers took a beat down by the Nuggets.
However the officials were too involved in this game as evidenced by the unfair advantage given by the disparity of free throw attempts 49-35. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers in scoring with 34 points on 10-for-26 shooting from the field and 2-10 from behind the arc.
Eighteen was a magic number for Denver in this game. The Nuggets out-rebounded the Lakers by 18 and out-scored them in the paint by 18. Denver also had 10 more points than Los Angeles on fast break points.
The Lakers as a team shot way too many three point shots (31), when you consider that they’ve a size advantage in the post. Pau Gasol is shooting 62.5-percent from the field and not getting enough touches. The Lakers need to make the adjustment of running their offense through the post.
The series is now tied at two games apiece heading back to Los Angeles.
Photo Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Who is Frantz Joseph?
On the surface you can consider Frantz Joseph as a priority un-drafted free agent linebacker capable of playing all three linebacker positions that the Oakland Raiders signed to a 2-year deal. You would be correct in that assumption but it doesn’t answer the question.
You would also be correct if you saw this tackling machine as a hidden gem. YOu would imagine that with his body of work the guy would be invited to the NFL Combine but he was denied that priviledge and it just made him work harder.
A guy projected as a high as a 3rd or 4th round pick by some and a 6th round pick by others as well as being the first drafted player from Florida Atlantic University but again he was denied and went un-drafted. It simply made him work harder.
Joseph is a strong inside presence, a tremendous competitor with great range and instincts. He is an excellent fit for the Raiders; a team seeking to improve their run defense by adding a tackling machine.
If he were drafted by an NFL club it would’ve been great for Florida Atlantic University and their fans but also for the Sun Belt Conference.
Several times when it comes to the Raiders draft the focus is on measureables as oppose to production on the field. Some people seem to view un-drafted players as merely guys that are being brought in as simply training camp bodies. I would beg to differ.
There is a long list of un-drafted players that have had success in the NFL.
That list would include names like Adewale Ogunleye, Brian Waters, Wes Welker, Priest Holmes, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, and Jeff Saturday, Gary Brackett, Willie Parker, Stephen Neal, Rob Bironas, Tony Romo, Antonio Gates, Kris Dielman, Jason Peters, Joshua Cribbs and 2008 Defensive player of the year James Harrison.
Upon further review when you look deeper into answering the question posed above you find a solid football player who in 2008 was the second ranked tackler in the nation recording 154 with all the tools to make an impact at the NFL level.
His journey to the NFL started as a kid in south Florida. Frantz Joseph played for David Martin at Fort Lauderdale high school football where he earned 4A All-County honors as a senior linebacker. He led the Flying L’s in tackles in 2002 & 2003.
He amassed 73 tackles in five games during the 2002 season. He followed that up with 96 tackles in seven games; he also found the time to force seven fumbles and acquire two interceptions as Ft. Lauderdale’s captain in 2003. He earned the team MVP honors, also won the All-American student-athlete award.
He attended Boston College in 2004 but did not play at all during his freshman year. He transferred in 2005 to be closer to his mother who was having health issues but he practiced with the team.
Two years removed from the game Joseph came back with a vengeance. He was moved into the starting lineup and made an immediate impact. After 11 games he finished the year with 61 tackles which was third on the team. Joseph most productive game that year came against Lafayette when he recorded a team-high 14 tackles.
He became known for his hard hits and sure tackling he earned the team’s “Bone” award, an honor earned following each victory for the hardest hit. The season-ending honor is named The Ramon Rickards Memorial Bone Award for the squad’s inaugural defensive end that was killed in a motorcycle accident in June 2006.
In 2007 he was one of just two Sun Belt Conference players listed on the Butkus Watch List. He has played hurt on more than one occasion as he did against OSU. He put up double digit tackles in victories over Minnesota, a team-high 14 tackles, 12 against North Texas.
He posted double-digit tackle totals in seven games; his lowest tackle total was seven. He accomplished playing division one football, completed a double major in business and management as well as working odd jobs to help support his mother.
Frantz Joseph had a solid game in Florida Atlantic University’s win in the Motor City Bowl posting 13 tackles. He followed that effort with a great game in the Texas vs. The Nation game; he was named the MVP of the game making plays all over the field.
He is a high character guy that understands the importance of preparation and is a guy that will do whatever it takes to win. More importantly he is a hard working guy with great leadership skills that has a nasty attitude and plays the game it is suppose to be played.
He has a desire to bring back the missing ingredients of physicality and intimidation back to the silver and black defense. They’ve been missing from this team for too long. From everything I’ve seen and read about Frantz Joseph tells me that this is a guy deserving of a shot and a guy that you can’t sleep on.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Kobe Bryant knocked down a huge fourth quarter 24-foot three point shot over J.R. Smith to give the Lakers a 96-95 lead and five clutch free throws to seal the win.
Game three was another nail biter that went down to the wire. The Lakers started off to a sluggish start but stayed close. The Nuggets took the lead early in the first quarter and held onto said lead, the score at the end of the quarter was 28-26 Denver.
Carmelo Anthony got off to a fast start for the third straight game he scored 21 points prior to fouling out 18 of which were scored in the first half. The Nuggets received a huge lift from Chris Anderson & J.R.Smith who combined for 25 points off the bench.
The Nuggets opened the second quarter with an 8-3 scoring run to increase their lead; the Lakers continued to hang around. The score was 39-all when both teams closed the quarter with scoring runs; this run was 12-8 in favor of the Nuggets. The score at halftime was 52-48 Denver.
The Lakers 13 missed free throws, bad defensive rotations and not boxing out the Nuggets front line were some of the main reasons the team was facing a deficit at the end of the first half. The Lakers and Nuggets continued to battle in the third quarter and took an eight point lead at the end of the quarter on a J.R. Smith three pointer.
The game statistics won't show this but Luke Walton played a solid game and had an excellent third quarter defensively on Carmelo Anthony. The Lakers made defensive adjustments in defending Anthony that turned out to be effective. Anthony & Billups both saw constant double-teams and four hands in their faces at all times.
Emotions got the best of him as he got in the face of Sasha Vujacic; who defended him on the shot, and started barking at him. He was called for a technical foul for taunting the score at the end of third quarter was 79-71 Denver.
The fourth quarter started with Kobe Bryant knocking down the technical free throw. The teams slugged it out toe-to-toe throughout the quarter, the lead changed hands multiple times but the Lakers defense improved and the team executed in the fourth quarter.
Once again Trevor Ariza made an important steal late in the game.
The Lakers fueled by a 21-12 run the Lakers outscored the Nuggets 32-18 in the quarter to earn a 2-1 series lead. Carmelo Anthony & Kenyon Martin both fouled out of the game.
Kobe Bryant scored 13 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter which topped his own Lakers’ record for points scored in the first three games of a conference final with 113; the previous record was 109.
This was a heart breaking loss for the Denver Nuggets; it also snapped their 16-game home win streak. The win was also the Lakers seventh straight road playoff win against the Nuggets which ties an NBA record for consecutive road wins against a single opponent.
Photo Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Nuggets Forward Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points and grabbed nine rebounds and led his team to a 106-103 road win to knot the series at a game a piece. The win also snapped the two decade plus long playoff dominance the Lakers have had over Denver.
The playoff win was the first for Denver over Los Angeles since 1985, the second-longest post season winning streak against one team in NBA History a span that lasted 11 games.
Chauncey Billups made his mark on the game by scoring 27 points, 17 of those points came in the second half and knocking down three of four free throws to seal the win.
This game was eerily similar to the first game. Give the Nuggets credit the team did what it had to do to avoid going home looking up at a two game deficit to overcome. This game it was the Lakers jumping out to an early 14 point lead, playing highly efficient basketball and solid defense.
All of the momentum that the Lakers built to start the game was erased by a 14-2 Denver scoring run along with excellent defense that allowed them to get back into the game. The score was 55-54 Lakers at halftime.
Linas Kleiza came off the bench for Denver and had an immediate impact scoring 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Unlike game one, the Lakers were the ones who missed free throws and the clutch shots made in game one didn’t fall the Lakers in game two.
The second half started with the Lakers increasing their lead but the Nuggets stayed close, the score at the end of the third quarter was 81-80 Lakers. The lead changed hands multiple times in the fourth quarter.
Identical to game one, this game came down to executing in the fourth quarter and in the first game the Lakers were the ones that executed down the stretch but in game two it was the Nuggets.
The game came down to a critical jump ball situation, Trevor Ariza got control of the tip and then lost it when he was bumped. Denver outscored the Lakers 26-22 in the fourth quarter.
A foul could’ve been called but it wasn’t, in addition to that a jump ball violation was made by J.R. Smith for entering the jump ball circle which wasn’t called as well.
It was water under the bridge so to speak and the bounce of the ball didn’t go the Lakers way and the reality is that the series is tied and the Lakers need to make adjustments and rebound in Denver where the series shifts to for games three and four.
The Lakers front line played much better in the game as oppose to game one. Kobe Bryant led the in scoring with 32 points.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
The Lakers got off to another sluggish start, clearly functioning on tired legs against the well rested Nuggets. Denver came out on fire and almost knocked down every shot that the team put up.
Carmelo Anthony was held to 14 points per game against the Lakers all season. He sought to break out of his scoring slump against L.A. and the Nuggets followed the hot hand. Anthony had 39 points in the game; 16 points came in the first quarter.
This helped Denver take a double digit lead; the Lakers were able to cut the lead down to eight by the end of the quarter. The score at the end of the first quarter was 31-23 Denver.
The second quarter appeared to mirror the first quarter in terms of scoring, but the difference was that the momentum had shifted into the Lakers favor.
Los Angeles outscored Denver 32-23 in the quarter, capped off by a play where Kobe drove to the basket and drew two defenders and passed to Derek Fisher for a 25-foot three-point basket to give the Lakers a slim 55-54 lead at halftime.
You could sense in the second quarter that this would be an epic playoff battle that would go down to the wire. The third quarter didn’t disappoint as Denver continued to play well and knockdown shots led by Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
This was a match up where we saw both teams continue to fight. The Lakers used an 11-2 scoring run to take a four point lead only to see that lead vanish; the score at the end of the third quarter was 76-74 Denver.
The Nuggets maintained their lead in the fourth quarter increased said lead to as many as six points. Kobe Bryant kept the Lakers close; he finished the game with 40 points which included him dropping 18 points on Denver in the fourth quarter. Whenever Los Angeles needed a basket Kobe Bryant was the one that provided it.
The Lakers continued to chip away at the Nuggets lead and eventually took the lead on a timely Derek Fisher three point play after Kobe attacked the painted area and drew a double-team making the score 97-96.
Nuggets power forward Kenyon Martin then made the first of his two ridiculous fouls late in the quarter sending Pau Gasol to the free throw line. Denver escaped that blunder as Gasol missed both free throws.
Chauncey Billups knocked down a 27-foot three pointer to give Denver a 99-97 lead. Gasol was fouled again and given the opportunity to redeem himself at the line and this time he made both free throws to knot the score at 99-all.
There were 30 seconds on the clock and the game was on the line; Kobe made the correct decision when he decided to attack the basket. He was fouled by Kenyon Martin and calmly knocked down both free throws 101-99 Lakers.
An interesting coaching move was made by both coaches that would seal the fate of both teams. Nuggets coach George Karl made the decision to insert Anthony Carter into the game for J.R. Smith. Lakers coach Phil Jackson replaced Luke Walton with Trevor Ariza.
On the in bounds play; the 6’2” Anthony Carter attempted to lob a pass over the 6’10” Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza who was out of the vision of Chauncey Billups, read the play shot the gap and made arguably his biggest play as a Laker stealing the ball.
He got the ball to Kobe Bryant who was fouled and sent to the free throw line where he knocked down both shots again 103-99 Lakers. On the very next play Chauncey Billups knocked down a controversial 23-foot three pointer to cut the lead to one.
It was controversial due to the fact that the replay showed that his right foot was on the line as he jab-stepped to shake free of Ariza’s defense. Kobe Bryant was fouled on the next possession and calmly knocked down another pair of free throws to secure the win for Los Angeles 105-103.
The Lakers used energy, guts and experience to come from 13 points down and literally stole this game from the Nuggets who played well enough to win. The Nuggets lead the majority of the game and their frontline destroyed the Lakers scoring 68 points.
The problem was that Denver missed 12 free throws, didn’t get the defensive stops they needed and made some bad decisions at the end of the game. Carmelo Anthony & Chauncey Billups were nothing short of spectacular and the Nuggets wasted an excellent performance by the duo.
This was an epic battle of basketball played at its highest level. Kobe refused to lose this game as evidenced by his 40 points but a point made clearer by the six clutch free throws down the stretch.
Kobe Bryant was able to will his team to victory in game one but he will need help from his teammates who were wildly inconsistent to win the series. I could say the same thing for Carmelo Anthony.
It will be difficult for the Nuggets to recover from the loss mentally but they’ve no choice but to forget about it Game Two will be on Thursday 5/21/09 at 6:00 pm PST.
Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier & Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Monday, May 18, 2009
The series win took the Lakers 13 days and 7 games and came down to an anti-climatic series ending blowout by the Los Angeles Lakers. Some might say that the Lakers woke up, broke out of their doldrums or finally decided to show up.
Facing elimination Kobe Bryant set the tone early; he played the role of facilitator and scored 14 points.
All of the pressure in this game was on the Lakers, but the team knew what they had to do to end this series, the team played hard; they were active and aggressive from the start.
The fast start afforded Los Angeles an 8-0 run to start the game.
The Lakers defense was the story in this series clinching game. The defense Los Angeles played in Game 7 forced the Rockets to miss their first 12 shots and forced them into 15 turnovers; of which the Lakers turned into 20 points.
The Rockets went scoreless for the first five minutes of the game and notched their first field goal of the game seven minutes and fifteen seconds into the contest. The purple and gold clad team from Los Angeles raced out to a lead and never looked back.
Los Angeles increased their lead to take a double-digit lead into the end of the quarter. The score at the end of the first quarter was 22-12. The team that has won the first quarter has won the game several times.
The Lakers were playing through the post; Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were dominating the paint. The two big men combined for 35 points, 24 rebounds and five blocked shots. Los Angeles owned the glass and out-rebounded Houston 55-33.
The team continued to play well and build on the lead acquired in the first quarter. The Los Angeles lead reached as many as 25 points; the team held a 51-31 lead at halftime.
The game was essentially over and a bit of a sigh of relieve came over the Lakers and some of their fans. The ones in the know realized that the team had to play just as well if not better in the second half to secure victory.
The Rockets working off of the directive of head coach Rick Adelman; looked to cut into the Los Angeles lead and get back into the game. The directive was heard but the Rockets were out of gas and could not muster a charge.
The Rockets traded a few baskets with the Lakers but never got the much needed stops defensively. Los Angeles was able to maintain their lead and close out Houston and take the series four games to three and advance to the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets.
Photo Credit: Wally Skalij & Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times
Sunday, May 17, 2009
The pressure is on the Los Angeles Lakers, no one expected the series to go seven games but it has. The good news is that the Lakers are back at home. The bad news is that the Lakers didn't take care of business lost Game 6 and have to play in an all important Game 7.
This isn’t the type of situation that the Lakers wanted to be in, they haven’t been in this position in a while. This is the playoffs folks, this is the epitome of the phrase “win or go home” this speaks to the finality of the situation.
The Lakers know what they have to do, the team fought to earn the home court advantage in the event they were put into this situation. This is a different Rockets team then the one the Lakers faced this season and Los Angeles has to adjust to this team on the fly.
The Lakers need to adjust to the Rockets being physical with them on the block and be physical themselves. Too many times when teams are physical with the Lakers the team settles for jump shots. That can not happen today, the Lakers need to use ball movement and player movement to find the open man who needs to take a high percentage shot.
The Lakers need to attack the basket early and often, this is the attack the rim time of the year. It is what it is; the Lakers know what is at stake and will deal with it. The real question is what type of energy, effort and resolve the team will bring into this game.
The Lakers have been wildly inconsistent from game to game. The Lakers need to have a high energy level, increased effort and play with a sense of urgency. The Lakers need to play hard & commit to playing solid defense, the type of defense that the team played in the 40-point beat down administered in game 5.
It is imperative that the Lakers increase the intensity of their defense and get off to a fast start so they aren’t playing uphill. The team that has won the 1st quarter has won the game several times in this series. Kobe Bryant will provide a stellar performance, as usual, but the rest of team has to knock down shots.
The Lakers will win by doing something that they haven’t done with any consistency. The Lakers need to control the tempo, the glass, get back in transition, stop the dribble penetration and most importantly rotate out to three point shooters.
Nothing can be left to chance, the Lakers need to stop the pick-and-roll play and Aaron Brooks and make the screener Chuck Hayes beat you. When the Lakers got back into the game the Rockets used the pick-and-roll play to distance themselves.
This game and the rest of the playoffs for the Lakers is about their defensive intensity, focus and controlling the painted area.
The Lakers know what they’re dealing with a scrappy trio of energy and effort guys in Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes. The Lakers need to match the intensity, effort and energy of these guys and the entire Rockets team.
The Lakers need to limit the Rockets to one shot per possession and contest every shot. Despite the fact that Houston was able to dominate the paint in Game 6; that will not happen again. This has been an action packed playoff series the will end today, the Lakers will be ready to play.
To be a champion you have to rise to the occasion and overcome obstacles like this. You’ll see a game ready focus from the Lakers. Kobe Bryant will start fast, aggressive start and set the tone his teammates will follow his lead. The world watched the Spike Lee Joint "Kobe Doin' Work" on ESPN over the weekend, we will have the opportunity to see him doin' work again today live on ABC.
Photo Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
The Lakers came into Game 6 with the opportunity to closeout the Rockets and this series. The key term in that sentence was ‘opportunity’ and it was apparently a concept lost on the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers put on an excellent performance in game 5 and all of the momentum built from the success of that game was left in Los Angeles with their defense because I know for a fact that neither made the trip to Houston.
The lessons learned from prior success in this series did nothing for them in this game partly because it wasn’t put into to action.
Kobe Bryant scored 32 points, he is in this authors opinion the best player in the game, but he can’t do it by himself his teammates have to knock down shots. Houston has something that several other teams don’t; two players that can defend Bryant.
Kobe will get his but Shane Battier & Ron Artest will make him work for it. The Lakers are a talented team but entirely too inconsistent from game to game. This was a lackadaisical defensive performance of epic proportions.
I am of the belief that if the Lakers weren’t going to show up they should’ve simply forfeited this game informed the league office stating they were going to wait to play in game seven.
The Rockets are a formidable team that plays with tremendous amount of effort and energy at home, as the Lakers can attest to. The Houston Rockets refused to be closed out at home. This Houston team played with a high energy level and out-worked the Lakers.
Houston looking to make amends for the beating that the team took in game five, really put it on the Lakers right from the tip off. The Rockets got off to a fast start and the Lakers appeared to be either sleepwalking or walking quicksand, the start I’m speaking of 21-3.
The Rockets forced the Lakers into a horrible shooting night they were 1-of-11 with 3 turnovers and the already mentioned three points. The first quarter ended with the Rockets on top 27-15.
The Lakers were immediately playing uphill on the road, again. The Rockets bombarded the Lakers scoring at will playing screen-and-roll basketball and the Lakers never adjusted. The Rockets were on a roll and proceeded to increase their lead, the first half ended with the Rockets on top 52-36.
The Lakers came out of the locker room with a little more resolve, a higher energy level and fought their way back into the game with a 7-0 run to start the quarter. The Lakers dramatically cut the lead and got to within a basket when the score was 52-54.
The Lakers put on a furious 16-2 rally to tighten the score, the Rockets re-grouped with a 8-2 run of their on and were able to hold off the Lakers and proceeded to increase their lead, the lead was 74-65 at the end of the third quarter.
The Rockets held on and maintained their lead by continuing to play pick-and-roll basketball. Chuck Hayes was the screener on numerous occasions and the Lakers decided to play him as oppose to the more dangerous Aaron Brooks.
The Rockets got a tremendous contribution and effort from the entire team and staved off elimination. Houston forced a series deciding game seven which will be played in Los Angeles on Sunday May 17, 2009 on ABC.
Photo Credit:Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
The Lakers came out aggressive and played with a much needed sense of urgency. The Lakers had to overcome and early deficit but took the lead by ending the first quarter on a 22-4 run.
Conventional wisdom said that after the fall that Lamar Odom took in the third game of the series that he wouldn’t play in this game. He not only played but played well and was a bit of an inspiration to the team scoring 10 points and six rebounds.
Andrew Bynum showed up and put up 14 points and grabbed six rebounds; meaning that it’s time to officially welcome him to the playoffs.
The Lakers played smart basketball using their size advantage and playing offense through the post. The Lakers defense was active, aggressive with timely rotations and much improved leading to a 35-24 lead after the first quarter.
The Lakers played the game at their pace and tempo and continued to increase their lead. The Lakers defense was solid and the team forced the Rockets into multiple turnovers the L.A. was able to score 1 points off of said turnovers. This allowed them to get out in transition and score20 fast break points.
The Lakers shooting was much improved in Game 5 compared to their Game 4 performance; the Lakers knocked down shots and continued to outscore the Rockets. The Lakers were clicking on all cylinders and ended the quarter on a 23-6 run, the score at halftime was 64-39.
The Lakers started the second half with the same aggression that the team begin the game with, the quarter began with an 8-0 run. The Lakers continued to pour it on and never looked back; the Lakers lead quickly became insurmountable.
The Lakers solid play continued throughout the third quarter, the score at the end of the quarter was an amazing 94-54. The Lakers put on the dominate performance that the team and their fans were waiting to see.
A performance so dominate that if the Lakers would’ve been completely shutout and held scoreless in the third quarter the Rockets would’ve still been down by ten points.
The Lakers showed the killer instinct that was missing earlier in the series and continued to score putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the Rockets. The Lakers received a contribution from everyone with seven players scoring 10 points or more.
The 40-point beat-down that the Lakers laid on the Rockets was the worse playoff loss in franchise history. It was the Lakers seventh 40 point win in franchise history, their first since the 1986 season. The Lakers now have the opportunity to close out the series with a win in Houston.
Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier & Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Thursday, May 14, 2009
There will be several positional battles in the Oakland worth watching. It is way too early to start making predictions as to what will happen without attaching the phrase “until proven otherwise” to it.
It appears that the Raiders will have a nice mix of youth and veterans and almost every spot. The first mini-camp of the year gave us all a glimpse of the new players. The main thing it did was give the coaching staff a chance to play with their new toys.
You can’t come away from it with any definitive answers, it is premature to do so but with that being said some people did. Look forward to one of the most competitive training camps you’ve seen as the team works toward respectability. Coach Tom Cable is prepared to right the ship and lead the team in the right direction.
Here are some of the highly anticipated training camp battles to look forward to:
LT Mario Henderson vs. Kalif Barnes
Mario Henderson played well in the opportunities that he had last year. In my opinion he should’ve started the remainder of the season after the week 2 game in Kansas City. He had a prominent role in all of the Raiders five wins last season. He earned the right to be the starter of the left side. Barnes was brought in to challenge him, he will have the opportunity to compete for the starting job but it is Henderson’s job and it will be up to him to remain the starter or lose it to Barnes. There is also a good chance that the loser starts on the right side.
RT Cornell Green vs. Erik Pears, Kalif Barnes and James Marten
Cornell Green was the starter on the right side last season but did not play well and didn’t cause anyone to forget about Lincoln Kennedy. He was the starter on the right side in the team’s recent mini-camp but it isn’t a mystery to say that the Raiders really want someone to take that position from him. You’ll see a tremendous amount of competition at the position Kalif Barnes, Erik Pears and James Marten.
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey vs. Johnnie Lee Higgins, Louis Murphy, Todd Watkins, Sammie Parker, Arman Shields
Al Davis wanted more targets with Raider speed for JaMarcus Russell to throw to. Al has his track team and a talented group of young receivers. The team has a total of 11 receivers on the roster right now. Obviously several won’t make the roster but more than likely five or six will the number of receivers carried on the roster. I’ll use a wait and see approach with this statement but I don’t think that Javon Walker will be on the active roster. He appears to be ready to go on I.R. Look for a talented young group of wide outs that will be able to make plays all over the field. You’ll see a few of the other receiver’s factor into the return game.
SLB Ricky Brown vs. Frantz Joseph, David Nixon
This position and the DT position are the two most neglected positions on the team and have been for a while. The team has started Robert Thomas, Ricky Brown and Sam Williams at the position. Robert Thomas is no longer on the team, Ricky Brown has returned from injury and Sam Williams was re-signed.
The team needs to have a lot of competition at the position between Ricky Brown, Frantz Joseph and David Nixon. The team should come out of training camp two or three deep at the position.
MLB Kirk Morrison vs. Frantz Joseph
Kirk Morrison has the starter in the middle for a few years now. He has been the team’s leading tackler for years. However, too many of his tackles have been after the runner has gained substantial yardage. This isn’t a knock on him or his play nor is it a demotion and speaks more of the problems the team has had at the DT position.
Frantz Joseph is a talented player and if he can show in training camp that he can play in the middle it would be better for the team to move Kirk Morrison to the SLB position. He played the SLB when he came to the Raiders. One of the reasons he was drafted was his versatility and showing he can play all three linebacker positions. This would allow the team to have three solid young linebackers on the field at the same time.
Frantz Joseph is a very versatile 6’2” 243 lb. linebacker that can play all three of the positions. He has what is known as natural violence which is trademark for a solid linebacker, he has takes on blocks very well and shows a lot a desire, effort, instincts and playmaking ability he has the ability to change the culture of a defense.
LDE Jay Richardson vs. Derrick Gray, Matt Shaughnessy, Stryker Sulak and Desmond Bryant
The team added depth at the position selecting three players at the position in the draft and one as an un-drafted free agent. All of the players mentioned won’t make the roster but this group will have brought healthy competition to the position. Jay Richardson is in his third year but hasn’t seized the position. Derrick Gray was an un-drafted player that came off of the practice squad last year. It appears that players were brought in to compete with and will have the opportunity to beat out Jay Richardson. Expect the team to come out of training camp two or three players deep at the position while the remainder will have a chance to make the team on special teams.
RDE Derrick Burgess vs. Trevor Scott, Greyson Gunheim, Slade Norris
Derrick Burgess is the starter and he is in a contract year so I fully expect him to have a good year but it all depends on him remaining healthy and injury free. Perhaps the team can use him more on passing downs as oppose to running plays to keep him healthy. Trevor Scott had a great first year and made an impact as a sixth round draft choice with five sacks. Greyson Gunheim came off of the practice squad to contribute and show the coaching staff what he could do. The unknown factor right now is Slade Norris he played both Defensive End and Linebacker in college right now he is being penciled in as a developmental pass rusher. Expect the team to come out of training camp three or four deep at the position.
TE Zack Miller vs. Tony Stewart, Darrel Strong, Branden Myers, Chris O’Neill and John Paul Foschi
Zack Miller is the unquestioned starter the reason this position is put down as a position that will have a training camp battle is due to the fact that Zack Miller is recovering from sports hernia surgery. He is scheduled to be ready for training camp but it also appears that the Raiders will run more two tight-end sets which will help improve the running game and provide more pass protection while allowing Zack Miller to be more involved in the passing game.
Brandon Myers was drafted for his size & blocking ability. Chris O’Neill is a talented player that is an excellent receiver and a decent blocker. The Raiders brought back veteran John Paul Foschi who was with the team from 2004-2006, he played fullback, tight end and on special teams. He is an excellent blocker and a good receiver over the middle and on the seam routes.
The article isn’t going to predict the Raiders regular season record either. The goal of this article is to point out a few of the training camp battles that will go down in Oakland, Ca.
I want to be realistic and with that concept in mind first things first I want to see the Oakland Raiders play better, be more consistent, show improvement and be far more competitive. These are all attainable goals for the team.
Al Davis wanted his track team at the wide receiver position and he has it. As a matter of fact the team’s got the height, weight, speed combination that they’re at every position with the exception of the offensive line & defensive tackle position where you need more power than speed.
Speed does you no good in the middle. Speaking of the middle the Raiders didn’t draft any defensive tackles which I didn’t agree with but it wasn’t my decision to make. This means that the team will count on the current players at the position and these guys have to get the job done or this will be the main need area in the 2010 draft.
New Defensive Coordinator John Marshall will not talk to the media but word has gotten out through Head Coach Tom Cable that the team will address their issues against the run with scheme and technique as well as that the team wants to be more aggressive on defense.
That could mean several things, however, try this on for size the Raiders playing multiple fronts. The Raiders are focusing alot on fundamentals, making sure players are in the right position. They're also adding a lot of pressure packages but focusing on the fundamentals, teaching them and coaching them is a welcome sign.
Keeping the 4-3 as their base defensive look but also showing a 3-4 look. I know some might scoff when that statement is read but a good way to mask the issues at DT is playing with less of them.
To be successful in the 3-4 you need a NT who is big enough to demand a double-team block as well as one willing to sacrifice himself and his body for the good of the team. I don’t feel that the team has that right now but the hope is that Terdell Sands can be a stop gap toward say a Terrance Cody next year.
The next step would be having the necessary linebackers to pull it off. This is all speculation but imagine this if you will: LDE Desmond Bryant, NT Terdell Sands, RDE Tommy Kelly, LOLB Thomas Howard, LILB Kirk Morrison, RILB Frantz Joseph, ROLB David Nixon, LCB Nnamdi Asomugha, RCB Chris Johnson, FS Hiram Eugene, and SS Mike Mitchell.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
As I reminisce about my favorite Raiders team of all time several thoughts come to mind, how satisfying 1976 was, providing equal vindication was the 1980 team but I have to talk about 1983.
Taking you back to a time prior to free agency in the NFL; this didn’t start until 1992 known as “Plan A Free Agency” which remains in the league today. Actually the first form of free agency was known as “Plan B Free Agency” which was the norm from 1989-1992.
Speaking of free agency, the Raiders acquired CB Mike Haynes from the Patriots mid-season to shore up the secondary and form one of the strongest CB duos in the league. Being awarded his contract in a settlement the Patriots received a 1st round pick in 1984 and a 2nd round pick in 1985.
The Raiders franchise that started in 1960 in Oakland had moved 343 miles south to Los Angeles in 1982. The team had won two super bowls prior to coming to Los Angeles so the expectations were high. The Raiders second year in Los Angeles started with a successful draft.
The 1983 NFL draft was one of the leagues best ever, when you factor in the performance of the players drafted. This is the draft that is widely thought of as the draft that produced the QB bonanza of Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and John Elway.
However the fact that 15 of the 28 prospects selected in the first round participated in at least one Pro Bowl makes a definitive statement in my opinion. The draft was 12 rounds in those days and the Raiders got a lot of production out of several their selections that year.
First Round pick Center Don Mosebar played 173 games, Second Round pick Nose Tackle Bill Pickel played 174 games, Defensive End Greg Townsend played 190 games, Wide Receiver Mervyn Fernandez played in 86 games and Wide Receiver Dokie Williams played in 74 games.
When you consider that the players selected in 1983 were in addition to the second year players selected in 1982 Running Back Marcus Allen, Linebacker Jack Squirek, Free Safety Vann McElroy. This provided the Raiders an excellent mix of veterans and youth.
That mix produced a team that put up 20 points or better every game of the year. In fact, the Los Angeles Raiders scored 442 points (27.6 points per game) third in the league and allowed 338 points (21.1 points per game) 13th in the league.
One of the more intriguing games of that year was a wide open high scoring week five game against the Washington Redskins, the Raiders came into the game undefeated. A game won by the Redskins 37-35, in which the Raiders rushed for 105 yards and Jim Plunkett passed for 372 yards and four touchdowns.
Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann passed for 417 yards and three touchdowns and Running Back John Riggins rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown. An impressive game seeing the Redskins score 17 points in the final six minutes of the game, but an interesting note about the game was the fact that two future Hall of Fame players Marcus Allen & Mike Haynes didn’t play in that game.
Even in defeat the Raiders knew that they could play with and beat the Redskins and to a man still wanted a piece of the Washington Redskins as well as another shot to prove their point. That chance would come in the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida.
After posting a 12-4 regular season record, winning the AFC Western Division in the process, the Raiders earned a playoff appearance. In the post-season the Los Angeles Raiders outscored the opposition 68-21 by beating the Steelers and the Seahawks.
The outstanding playoff run led to a Super Bowl match-up against the Washington Redskins on January 22, 1984 at Tampa Stadium. The Redskins were winners of Super Bowl XVII.
The Redskins were favored to win the game by three. Due to their stellar play all season, a 14-2 record, setting a NFL record scoring 541 points (later broken by the 1998 Vikings & 2007 Patriots) and the fact that the Redskins had the top rated defense. Washington defense allowed the fewest yards against the run.
Not to mention Joe Theismann was the league MVP, the second rated passer in the league that year. He had WR’s Art Monk & Charlie Brown at his disposal in concert with RB John Riggins and the always dangerous, Multi-talented Joe Washington.
Former NFL player Bronco Nagurski performed the coin toss, Barry Manilow sang the National Anthem and fittingly Pat Summerall & John Madden were in the Broadcast booth for CBS Sports. A total of 72,920 fans were at the game with millions more watching on television.
What we all witnessed was a Raiders blowout, seeing as the Redskins came in as the favorites and left after a humiliating defeat it become known as ‘Black Sunday’ in reference to one of the Raiders colors.
History buffs will associate the name ‘Black Sunday’ with the 1977 novel written by Thomas Harris and the film with the same name in 1977. The win gave the city of Los Angeles its first NFL championship since the Rams victory in 1951.
The starting lineup for the Raiders:
QB Jim Plunkett
RB Marcus Allen
FB Kenny King
WR Malcolm Barnwell
WR Cliff Branch
TE Todd Christiansen
LT Bruce E. Davis
LG Charley Hannah
C Dave Dalby
RG Mickey Marvin
RT Henry Lawrence
LDE Howie Long
NT Reggie Kinlaw
RDE Lyle Alzado
LOLB Ted Hendricks
LILB Matt Millen
RILB Bob Nelson
ROLB Rod Martin
LCB Lester Hayes
RCB Mike Haynes
SS Mike Davis
FS Vann McElroy
For those who don’t know the Raiders played a 3-4 defensive front and not the four-man line that the team has played for years.
The Raiders took an early one touchdown lead off of a Jeff Hayes punt that was blocked by Derrick Jensen deep in Redskins territory and never looked back.
Early in the second quarter Jim Plunkett connected with Cliff Branch on a 50-yard pass to advance the ball to the Redskins 15-yard line. Two plays later; Jim Plunkett found Branch again for a 14-point lead. The Redskins put together a 73 yard drive but it stalled in Raiders territory and Washington had to settle for a 27-yard field goal.
The score was 14-3 and the Raiders drive stalled leading to a punt, Ray Guy did the honors and pinned the Redskins at their own 12-yard line with .12 seconds left in the half. Linebacker coach Charlie Sumner made a last second substitution and sent in LB Jack Squirek for Matt Millen.
The Redskins called the play that the Raiders were ready for and waiting on “Rocket Screen”, but Jack Squirek read the play intercepted Theismann’s pass and returned it for a touchdown to make the score 21-3 at halftime.
Going back to week five, the Redskins ran the same play to Joe Washington and it resulted in a 67-yard gain. The Redskins put together a nine-play 70 yard drive capped off by a John Riggins TD but Mark Moseley’s extra point attempt was blocked by reserve Tight End Don Hasselbeck making the score 21-9.
On the next drive Redskins CB Darrell Green was called for a 38-yard pass interference penalty while defending WR Malcolm Barnwell, setting up Marcus Allen’s 5-yard TD run. The next Raider drive Marcus Allen broke free on a 74-yard run the made the statement that this game was officially over.
You know about all the stars of the game but what isn’t mentioned enough are the unsung hero’s like Punter Ray Guy (who should’ve been inducted into the Hall of Fame years ago), Linebacker Jack Squirek, Special Teams player Derrick Jensen to name a few.
When I think of my favorite Raiders teams, several thoughts come to mind but I can’t forget the 1983 Los Angeles Raiders.
Photo Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times