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Oakland Raiders LB Khalil Mack Has Shaken Nerves and is Seeing Game at Next Level

December 19th, 2014 at 11:03 AM
By Nicholas Gill

The transition from college to the NFL is very challenging. Oakland Raiders 2014 first-round pick Khalil Mack has been no exception. However, he has continued to work and improve which is allowing him to see the benefits late in the season. Mack has come so far in his first season with the Raiders and his play has given Oakland plenty of excitement for the future.

“I’ve grown a lot,” Mack said. “Opening day, it was nerve-racking, but that’s calmed down a lot. Knowing the fans that we have here and knowing how they support us and all those different things, you want to go out and do your best, and that has changed from me being nervous, to me going out and trying to do everything I can to make them happy and put a smile on my face at the end of the game with a win.”

The strides Mack has made are apparent. Even this early is his career; he has established himself as a terrific run defender. Mack is leading the Raiders in tackles for loss with 12 and is fourth on the team with 68 tackles. He offers the versatility to play along the defensive line or at linebacker. In both cases, his knack for sniffing out the ball carrier has been a huge boost to the Oakland defense.

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Oakland Raiders LB Sio Moore Ends Season on IR, but Made Significant Progress in 2014

December 17th, 2014 at 10:29 AM
By Nicholas Gill

The Oakland Raiders will be without starting linebacker Sio Moore for the final two games of the 2014 season. Moore was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury that he sustained before the Kansas City Chiefs game. The injury ends a season in which Moore made significant progress as a player. He should come back in 2015 as a foundation player on the Raiders' defense.

The former third-round pick in 2013 ends his second season making 11 starts and is currently third on the Raiders with 90 tackles. He has produced a team-leading three sacks and is second on the team with eight tackles for loss.

His biggest strength this season was his aggressiveness. When Moore reacts to a play, he possesses the speed, quickness, and power to disrupt. He made several big plays for the Raiders defense by using those attributes to get into opponent's backfield and make plays. Moore developed his game this season especially against the run. He showed pass rushing prowess last season and carried that over to this season. However, his improvement in run defense was substantial.

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Pass Happy Oakland Raiders Struggle to Find Offensive Balance

December 16th, 2014 at 10:22 AM
By Nicholas Gill

The Oakland Raiders have struggled to find balance on offense throughout the 2014 season, and that has manifested into a number of dismal offensive showings. Last Sunday in a 31-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Raiders had one of their poorest offensive displays because of a pass happy strategy which played right into the hands of their opponent.

In the first meeting between the Chiefs and Raiders, Oakland used their running game as a catalyst in a 24-20 victory. So naturally, offensive coordinator Greg Olson went away from what worked in the second meeting and the result changed dramatically. The Chiefs defense gave up an average of 184.5 rush yards per game in the last four weeks, including 179 yards to the Raiders three weeks ago. Instead of trying to exploit that weakness in the Kansas City defense, the Raiders relied on the passing game to move the offense and failed miserably. Oakland was only able to rack up 280 yards of total offense.

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Oakland Raiders Have Drastically Improved Third Down Defense

December 9th, 2014 at 10:44 AM
By Nicholas Gill

One of the biggest issues the Oakland Raiders faced early in the season was getting off the field on third down. It was a huge factor in Oakland's struggles early in the year. In the last four games, that has changed and it is no coincidence the team has strung together a couple wins over that period. The Raiders' defense has been terrific on third down, allowing opponents to convert only 20.8 percent of the time.

In the Raiders victories against the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland limited those teams to a combined 5-25 on third down. That allows the offense to have more possessions to get into rhythm and more opportunities to score points, while giving the defense necessary rest. The defense has really taken a step forward in the past several weeks, with the only anomaly a 52-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams. Even in that game the Raiders held the Rams to 1-8 on third down. The problem was all the other facets fell apart.

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Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr Takes Another Step Forward in Win Against San Francisco 49ers

December 8th, 2014 at 11:53 AM
By Nicholas Gill

Wins have been hard to come by this season for the Oakland Raiders, but they were able to put together a complete game in a victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. The Raiders controlled the 49ers on both sides of the ball and rookie quarterback Derek Carr put together one of his best games of the season in the 24-13 win.

“I honestly thought Derek played really well tonight,” Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano said. “I think he threw really well. We had a lot of people down there in the box today and they didn’t want us to run the ball. They obviously wanted to see whether or not we could beat them throwing the football and Derek was able to do that.”

There have been some hard times for Carr this season, but Sunday was not among them. It may have been his best performance of the season as he completed 22-28 for 254 yards, three touchdowns, and zero turnovers. He did it against a San Francisco defense ranked in the top five of the league against the pass. Carr led the Raiders on scoring drives of 74, 80, and 80 yards while making impressive and important throws on those drives. He helped the Raiders offense stay on the field by converting 6-13 third downs, which has been a huge issue for the offense. He also threw all three of his touchdown passes on third down, making his effort even more outstanding and clutch.

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