Kolton Miller Jersey

The Oakland Raiders started two rookie offensive tackles in 2018, and he expects them to improve in a big way in year two.

With two of their first three picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders selected offensive tackles Kolton Miller from UCLA, and Brandon Parker from North Carolina A&T. Miller, who was picked in the first round, was expected to start in year one, as the hope was Donald Penn would be on the left side, and Miller on the right.

However, Penn was injured during the summer, and once Miller was slotted on the left side, he did not relinquish the position. With Penn back in 2019, and hopefully healthy, he will be much better suited for the right tackle spot, as Miller proved as a rookie that he should be the team’s left tackle for the foreseeable future.

In Parker, the Raiders were drafted for depth, although he was forced into the starting lineup when Penn went down due to injury early in the season. There were games where he was downright bad, and if he is going to be a part of this team’s plans moving forward, he has to get better this season.

Head coach Jon Gruden is expecting big things from Miller and Parker in 2019, as the Raiders look to get their roster solidified after a four-win 2018 season.

Vic Tafur from the Athletic tweeted this out on Saturday.
The fact that Parker is living with Gabe Jackson is big news, as Jackson is on the verge of being one of the better guards in the NFL. Parker showed flashes during his rookie season, but should not have been in the starting lineup, though he did gain valuable experience in year one.

Reggie Nelson Jersey

The transitional nature of this Oakland season has been reflected in its leadership on defense.

Before the season, the Raiders named three defensive captains: safety Reggie Nelson, defensive end Bruce Irvin and linebacker Derrick Johnson. Irvin was waived Nov. 3 and Johnson released Oct. 16. Though defensive lineman Frostee Rucker has taken up the designation, Nelson, the 12-year veteran, is the only original remaining.

And his situation, too, has evolved.

No Oakland defender played more snaps over the past two seasons than Nelson, but his percentage of snaps has decreased in each of his past six games, including 12 snaps Sunday against the Chargers. He also was inactive for the Raiders’ Week 8 game against the Colts, snapping a streak of 82 regular-season games played.

On Monday, Nelson was asked if that fluctuation has been difficult.

“It’s not difficult,” Nelson said. “I’m here to win, man. When your number’s called, you go out there and play, regardless. You ain’t got no control of how many snaps you play. We’re trying to win games. Whoever’s out there, you expect them to do their job and make plays.”

Nelson is not the only player who has ceded playing time recently as the Raiders have shuffled players in their secondary. Cornerback Rashaan Melvin was inactive for two games prior to Sunday and played just seven snaps in Week 6 against Seattle, but he was active Sunday and played 31 snaps against the Chargers.

Melvin’s playing time has dwindled as Daryl Worley, 23, and Gareon Conley, 23, have emerged as starters. Leon Hall, 33, the Raiders’ primary nickel cornerback for most of the first half, also has received decreasing snap counts of 37, 23 and 12 in the past three games. Nick Nelson, the Raiders’ fourth-round pick in April, made his debut in Week 8 against the Colts and played a personal-high 24 snaps Sunday.

“I think Conley and Worley, those are the two guys that started, I think you saw (Nick) Nelson emerge a little bit more as the nickel,” head coach Jon Gruden said of the cornerback group Monday. “We’re going to rotate Melvin in there — he’s a good player. And we’ll try to be smart about when we do it. At the same time, only two can play.”

Nelson has been giving way in recent weeks to Erik Harris and, against the Chargers, to 2016 first-round pick Karl Joseph. Nelson said changes are natural with the Raiders at 1-8, the NFL’s lone one-win team.

“The season’s not going the way it’s supposed to go,” Nelson said. “We’ve got a bunch of young guys that they drafted and want to get out there and play. That’s just part of the game, man, when things aren’t going good. You’re underneath the microscope and just got to do your job.”

The Raiders re-signed Nelson, 35, in free agency this spring as a familiar face to new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, with whom he spent six seasons in Cincinnati. The Raiders rank 27th in yards allowed per game, 30th in points allowed and last in yards allowed per play. Nelson indicated those numbers are not a reflection of the coaching staff.

“I think they do a good job of the game plan, to be honest with you,” Nelson said. “I mean, we’ve got to go out there on Sunday and execute the game plan. They work hard all week to put us in the best position to make plays. And we’ve just got to go out there and make them.

“I don’t think anyone in the locker room has lost confidence. I mean, they go out there and play hard each week, and that’s all they ask for. Go out there and play. We know what’s at stake, we ain’t going to make the playoffs. So you’ve got to go out there and play hard. You’re still being evaluated, so you’ve still got to go out there and go to work.”

Ealy let go: The Raiders announced Tuesday they waived defensive end Kony Ealy from the active roster and linebacker James Cowser from the practice squad. Ealy was on the roster for only one game and was inactive against the Chargers.

Derek Carr Jersey

When Blake Bortles was cut by the Jaguars and picked up by the Rams, he became the 13th quarterback from the 2014 NFL draft to leave the team that drafted him. Now only Derek Carr remains.

Bortles was first quarterback selected and the third overall pick in 2014, and he lasted five seasons in Jacksonville. His was not a good career, but it was pretty good by the standards of the 2014 quarterback class.

Other than Carr, there’s only one quarterback from that class who’s projected to be a starter this season: Jimmy Garoppolo, who was chosen in the second round by the Patriots and traded to the 49ers, where he’s currently atop the depth chart, as long as his surgically repaired knee holds up.

Overall, that draft is a major disappointment at the quarterback position. While Carr is the only one still with the team that drafted him, four are currently plying their trade in the Alliance of American Football: First-round pick Johnny Manziel, fifth-round pick Aaron Murray, sixth-round pick Zach Mettenberger and sixth-round pick Garrett Gilbert.

Other than Carr, Garoppolo and Bortles, first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater is the only quarterback from the 2014 draft who’s still in the NFL. The rest — Logan Thomas, Tom Savage, David Fales, Keith Wenning and Tajh Boyd — are currently not on NFL rosters. It wasn’t a good year for quarterbacks.

Antonio Brown Jersey

Antonio Brown is available for trade, and predicting where he will land (or what the Steelers will get in return) is like guessing where the pill will stop on a roulette wheel. Never has the destination for an NFL star on the trading block been so difficult to forecast.

Brown, who turns 31 years old in July, is a top-shelf No. 1 receiver on the field right now. He’s shown no marked sign of decline, but history and science suggest he could soon. His greatest strength is the speed and quickness he has getting in and out of his breaks, which is all predicated on balance—one of the first attributes an aging athlete loses. When Brown’s game does start going downhill, it could roll quickly.

However Brown is the NFL’s craftiest contested catch artist not named DeAndre Hopkins. Some teams might see Larry Fitzgerald-type longevity in store for him. It might not matter, though, because most likely whoever deals for Brown will see him as a two-year rental, with decisions about 2021 and future years to be made later.

Brown’s behavior off the field, especially last season, is another story. In recent years rumors and gripes about his diva behavior have poured in. And it’s likely that those stories are just the tip of the iceberg, considering that is has always been, and is now especially, in the Steelers’ best interest to keep ugly Brown stories sealed. As an outsider looking in, here’s what we can see from afar:

At the beginning of the 2018 season, Brown skipped a Monday practice after the Steelers fell to 0-1-1, sparking rumors. Brown’s agent Drew Rosenhaus attempted to put a lid on the rumors, saying Brown was dealing with a personal matter.

Brown was benched in the Steelers’ final game of the 2018 season after reportedly getting into a disagreement during a Wednesday morning walkthrough and skipping the rest of Week 17 practices. Brown was reportedly angry about not receiving the team’s MVP award.

Brown’s behavior away from work is more concerning, ranging from mercurial to disturbing. His cryptic social media messages, charges of driving 100 miles per hour in a 45-mph zone, allegations of threatening a reporter, a civil lawsuit for tossing furniture off a 14th-story balcony and, most recently, reports of a domestic dispute that the NFL is now investigating, are all examples.

And so we have a true No. 1 receiver whose game may or may not decline soon, who may or may not take a new contract and, scariest of all, may or may not be a total locker room cancer and off-field menace—that’s a lot of high-risk, high-reward question marks.

It’s safe to assume plenty of teams won’t even consider trading for Brown, and the ones that do also must consider how a “change of scenery” will impact the wide receiver. Whichever team gets him will claim they have a strong locker room culture that can absorb him, but that tired cliché has almost become a kiss of death for risk-taking teams.

Brown’s situation is so bizarre that we can’t even see it clearly from the Steelers’ selling perspective. For example, we’d normally assume that they would not deal Brown to an AFC rival like Baltimore, Cleveland, New England or Indy (all teams that could use another starting wide receiver, by the way). But given how heinous Browns’ “down side” appears, perhaps the Steelers would indeed ship him to a rival, hoping he’d poison their locker room. (Maybe it’s just urban legend, but some believe that San Antonio Spurs basketball czar Gregg Popovich was trying to do that to the dynastic Chicago Bulls when he dealt Dennis Rodman in 1995.)

If Brown is willing to take a new contract, that would make a team’s immediate cap space less of an issue, as almost every deal can have a cap-friendly structure. (It’s not apples to apples, but recall back in January 2014, the Saints were a projected $12 million OVER the salary cap … before signing safety Jairus Byrd to a six-year, $54 million contract.)

With this mindset, all 31 teams are (theoretically) in play for Brown. But any team that would want to do a new deal will have to go through Pittsburgh’s front office in order to talk with Brown and Rosenhaus. Any projection of Brown’s next destination amounts to total guesswork because, right now, it’s impossible to know who and what Brown really is—and what the Steelers will accept in return. Stylistically, he fits into any team’s scheme.

For most of his career he has lined up on an island on the weak side, drawing double teams and winning in space. That makes him most appealing to teams whose scheme often features two-and three-receiver route combinations:

Dallas

New York Jets

Los Angeles Chargers

Denver

Cleveland

Indianapolis

Jacksonville

Philadelphia

New York Giants

San Francisco

Minnesota

Atlanta

Tampa Bay

Teams with highly-schemed aerial assaults—featuring pre-snap motion, nuanced formationing and quick, defined throws—could incorporate Brown seamlessly. That’d be:

New England

Miami

Kansas City

Oakland

Cincinnati

Houston

Tennessee

Washington

Los Angeles Rams

Arizona

Chicago

Detroit

New Orleans

Carolina

And then there are the teams whose quarterbacks have unique sandlot playmaking abilities and would value Brown’s sense for uncovering late in the down—a skill he mastered playing with one of history’s greatest playmaking QBs, Ben Roethlisberger. Those teams:

Buffalo

Baltimore

Seattle

Green Bay

Don’t be surprised if Brown winds up somewhere that most people think was totally unexpected.