08-01-12 11:18 pm pac
Photo / Thearon W. Henderson TE Tory Henderson
In high school he played DT , Linebacker and OG but his freshman year at Central Michigan he swithced from DE to Tight End.
He went undrafted in 2005, signed with the Colts and then with the Pakcers afeter being waived. He suffered a broken arm in training camp, had successful surgery but was eventually waived by the Packers.
New Orleans was his next stop where he signed in December of 2009 but was inactive during their play off run that culminated in a Super Bowl.
On June 12th the 6-2, 257 lb vet signed with Oakland and could be poised to compete for a spot in Oaklands wide open Tight End position.
Both GM Reggie McKenzie and new HC Dennis Alllen have worked with Tory Humphrey in the past (at Green Bay and New Orleans respectively) and know what the 7 yr veteran brings to the table.
"I don't know exactly what (McKenzie and Allen's) thought process was but I think that maybe had a little to do with it because Reggie, I was with him for four years so he knows what I can do. But I came out here and had to work out so I had to work for it. I think I had a pretty good workout so they signed me three weeks later."
Hes not flashy out in the pattern nor does he dazzle with his footwork (in fact, ehs got only 13 catches in his career) but he's made a living on Special Teams and leveling defenders.
With character and hard work in the trenches Humphrey has earned a reputation as a reliable, hardworing professional.
With Oaklands new commitment to the ground game Humphrey could block his way onto the team.
New Blood pt. 6
07-19-12 4:10 pm pac
Photo / AP RB Taiwan Jones
With a name one would associate with an awesome 1970s Kung Fu movie rather than an NFL Running Back, many are unfamiliar with the former Eastern Washington Eagle and what he brings to the Oakland Raider family table.
They're in for a shock.
Bay area reporters are familiar with the Antioch born, Deer Valley HS standout. In 2007 he was the Contra Costa Player of the year and earned SF Chronicles All-Metro honors.
The 6-0, 200 lb Jones was over looked by many teams and scouts because his grades saw him slip to a Division 1 school, but even as nay sayers questioned the level of competition he faced, no one could deny his ability, talent and speed.
My God, the speed.
Despite a ridiculous 7.9 yd per carry average over 24 games and his obvious physical gifts, the fact Jones struggled with dyslexia saw him slide unnoticed into the 4th round (125th overall) of the 2011 NFL draft. There were questions about his health, maturity and some wondered if he could cope with the playbook and homework associated with being a starter in the NFL.
Its not a problem.
Its true, Jones has suffered a laundry list of injuries through out his football career (ankle, foot, hand, shoulder, hip flexor, broken fibula) and that may have been a major reason he tumbled down alot of teams draft boards.
Now, in 2012, hes going to make them all pay...
Detractors also sighted Jones lack of bulk as a reason he wouldn't be able to tote the rock inside but his rare elusiveness, ability slip tackles / big hits while gliding through tiny gaps and creases means hes rarely blown up and almost never tackled for a loss.
The former Cornerback has the ultra rare combination of lightinging quick agility, lateral movement and top end speed. He is danger quick. Athletes whose physical gifts can translate directly to the NFL are few and far between.
Taiwan Jones is one of them.
He has the magical ability to start and stop at all speeds to let tacklers fly by.
He has the field vision and patience read and let blocks develop, then explodes off his first step to near full speed and when we say full speed we mean...and we don't say this lightly, full speed for Taiwan Jones means he may be the second fastest Oakland Raider in history.
Now on a team whos very foundation and historic Legacy has been built on speed?
Yeah, thats saying alot.
Don't take our word for it. If Greg Knapp and the new regime are smart, they'll find a way to get the ball into Jones' hands alot and you will all see for yourselves.
But you may not believe your eyes...
New Blood pt.5
07-17-12 7:40 pm
Photo Tony Gonzales DE Jack Crawford
The London native has exceptional athelticism for a 6-4, 275 lb big man. He moved to the U.S. in 2005 to pursue a basketball scholarship if thats any indication.
The major knock against "Sack Religious" is his lack of seasoning. As a junior at St. Augustine (N.J.) Prep in 2006, he joined the football team and found immediate success as a defensive end and tight end. During his senior season, Crawford emerged as a standout, leading to his transfer to Happy Valley.
As a true freshman in 2008, barely two years after playing organized football for the first time, Crawford played in every game for the Nittany Lions.
Taken in the 5th round (158th overall) the rookie Crawford is the prototypical Reggieball pick, low risk, high reward but the former Penn State stand-out doesn't look like a risk at all based on early reports. His ability to learn and retain info on the fly coupled with exceptional size and athelticism means Oaklands DE depth chart has quietly become formidable.
New Blood pt. 4
07-12-12 10:10 am pac
Photo / AP Raider DB Brandon Underwood
Oakland announced Feb.16th they had signed former Green Bay Packer DB Brandon Underwood.
Underwood played under new Raider GM Reggie McKenzie in Green Bay where, before he got the nod in Oakland, McKenzie worked for for 18 years.
The 6-1, 191 lb former Ohio State Buckeye was drafted in 2009 by Green Bay in the 6th round (187th overall) and played Cornerback his first two seasons before switching to Safety.
Underwood wasn't a standout but rather an up and coming prospect who saw most of his time on Special teams.
McKenzie saw something else.
Big Mac is supposed to have a super natural sense about an athletes ability to translate into on field production and hes almost as good at sniffing out character issues off field.
Time will tell if McKenzie's a keeper or not. Some of that will be based on acquistions like Underwood.
Underwood was released by the Packers last September 3rd after a second arrest, this time for a physical altercation with his wife immediately following the Packers Super Bowl ring hand out party.
The first charge Underwood plead no contest to was soliciting a prostitute June 2010 at a resort cabin in Lake Delton, Wis.
Maybe THATS why his wife was upset...
We don't know for sure but Mac and Underwood both feel like lessons learned and experienced earned will pay off for the Raiders.
Underwood was the first player McKenzie signed after joining with Oakland and he fits "Reggieball" analytics very well.
Hes under rated. Hes a ball hawk and hes low risk-high reward. If he busts out, the Raiders lose next to nothing.
If he pays off big, Oakland gets a shot at keeping him or Underwood gets a shot at a bidding war for his services elsewhere.
This is a staple of Reggieball. Just look at the roster. Its one of the hallmarks of the system itself.
Its also the best, fastest way to turn around the finacials from the perfectly functioning but dated Davis way to the analytics based system currently employed by the New Era Raiders.
Underwood likely won't be a front line starting solider but his impact on the team could be an indicator of wether Reggieball will be an immediate success or if Oakland is more likely on course for the dreaded "5 yr plan".
New Blood pt. 3
07-09-12 7:47 am pac
Photo Tony Gonzales / Raiders TE/WR David Ausberry
Entering his 2nd yr hes listed as 6-4, 245 lbs but at 2012s OTAs he showed up looking rocked out.
The former USC Trojan WR bulked up big time this off season to help his blocking game and from what can be told from non contact drills (not much) he appears to be in contention for a starting slot at the weak TE position.
Late last season, due to mass casualties Ausberry was set to fill at the decimated WR position.
Lest you envision a bulky, slow TE lumbering about, note that Ausberry clocks a 4.45 in the 40. His size and bulk make him an instant mismatch whenever he splits out wide.
Last yr as a rookie TE in training, Ausberry stated he knew over 80% of the WR route tree if needed.
That kind of diversity could bode well in Oaklands new Hybrid scheme. Especially if he can block for the Raiders run heavy new scheme.
LB TRAVIS GOETHEL
Entering year 3 Goethel has seen more hype and less playing time than any other currently rostered Raider.
His 1st year camp had Coaches touting Goethel as the starter over 1st round draft pick Rolando McClain, until Goethel suddenly underwent unexpected back surgery negating his rookie season.
Year two came and again Goethel impressed until again, he succumbed to injury.
With the new regime change it remains to be seen if Goethel will continue to be held in high regard.
Returning from back to back seasons truncated by injury could mean stamina / cardio issues but the new regime brings with it a new D and that puts everyone pretty much back in the same boat as far as the learning curve.
Like its Secondary, Oaklands Linebacking corps is wide open so if Goethel can ever live up to the hype and stay healthy, he could have a shot at proving himself.
Last year, perhaps understandably, when Goethel did see limted action, he looked a step slow. So far this off season, hes been a ghost.
Goethel has much more competition this season than he has the past two with draft pick like Miles Burris and Free Agents like Phillip Wheeler and Aaron Curry but if hes good as many thought he was, Reggieball will find a way to get Goethel on the field.
New Blood pt. 2
07-07-12 12:10 am pac
Photo / AP CBs Ron Bartell & Shawntae Spencer
Former Ram Ron Bartell suffered a broken neck.
Shawntae Spencer was placed on San Francisco's IR list with a hamstring. We all know about the injuries to Oaklands DB Free Agents and not even Bartell and Spencer themselves can say for sure if they will return to form but odds and analytics say they will.
Their acquisition this off season wasn't a luxury and it wasn't an accident.
The departure of Nnamdi Asomugha the year prior baffled some including the Pro Bowl CB but in retrospect, Oakland was likely on its path toward more Zone based coverage schemes even back then.
The departure of highly paid and highly penalized CB Stanford Routt to the rival Chiefs signaled the death knell end to Oaklands traditional, Al Davis based emphasis on strictly man coverage, ultra rare shut down corners and blazing speed.
Spencer and Bartell will be new GM Reggie McKenzie's biggest gamble in his first season. How big a gamble? Neither CB can be determined as a clear cut starter.
Oaklands new scheme and two new, untested CBs should be an area of intense scrutiny as the rookies and vets meet up on the 29th of this month.
Based on what we've seen and are hearing from trusted soruces, they're going to be fine.
RB Taiwan Jones
We're familiar with Taiwan Jones and were giddy as hell when Oakland took a chance on the former EW Eagle. Known for his blazing speed and quickness Jones also has the field vision and patience to let blocks develop which is why he is rarely tackled for a loss.
If the Raiders O is smart they'll use Jones like KC uses Jamaal Charles. We think Jones is actually faster and get this, DMC and Heyward Bey secretly (till now) admit they think Jones is probably the fastest man currently on the Raider roster.
We say currently because anyone who saw Bo Jackson knows who the fastest Raider ever was.
Even still, reporters used to decades of Al Davis "track star" draft picks, were bug eyed and slack jawed marveling at Jones' speed during this years early OTAs. The great news is and trust on this, his quickness and blazing speed translate to the field.
Jones is nowhere near as well rounded as Darren McFadden. His routes, his protection, his hands, he needs a lot of polish but get him in the open field and watch him glide.
Jones could be one of the best surprises for Oakland fans in 2012 and a rude shock to unsuspecting defenses.
07-06-12 2:33 pm pac
Photo Jose Marcio Sanchez / AP WR Denarius Moore
It was rookie Juron Criner showing off circus catches this off season after Moore tweaked a hammy. He should be back by the 29th when Oakland reconvenes to begin the 2012 campaign.
Moore's Oaklands answer to the deep threat question they've lacked for more than a decade and uhh! good gawd, that man smooth like buttah...serious acceleration and ability to flow thru tacklers rather than read and re-act make him a lethal threat even in heavy traffic and a deadly return man.
With visions of Tim Brown's blown out knee in mind we bished last season that the emerging Moore was far too valuable a WR threat to be returning kicks and guess what? He got injured. Returning kicks.
This year he could be Oaklands Y Wide Receiver meaning his kick return duties could be history. Even though hes super dynamic in the return game, we hope F'in hope so...
OL Stephen Wisniewski
One of the best Linemen Oakland has fielded in years. The Raiders Legacy pick played all last season with a torn labrum. He'll shift back from Left Guard to his old college postion Center even as Oakland shifts back into a Zone Blocking Scheme this year.
Wizzer sat out all of Oaklands 2012 OTAs with a shoulder injury. Pray we see him full go day one of camp this coming July 29th cuz heres the deal, when Oakland has All Pro play at Center? They are a contender...
06-07-12 &:10 am pac
Photo / AP WR Louis Murphy
Not since the heady days of Tim Brown and Jerry Rice have the Raiders had so much talent at the receiving position or, more precisely, potential talent.
With Carson Palmer the best QB since perennial Pro Bowl and League MVP Rich Gannon, Oakland is at least poised to compete in a Division that has the potential to post three 4,000 yd passers and that is due in part to the Raiders apparent depth at the WR corps.
Darrius Heyward Bey 6-2, 210 lbs
Bey has yet to live up to his lofty draft status (if its any consolation, neither has his draft nemesis Michael Crabtree) but quietly, he put together a very solid season in 2011.
If the hard working speedster can start to consistently catch some of those deep strikes he was drafted for, the surprise emergence of his short yards, move the chains, possession game could make some of his detractors do an about face.
Bey's recent DUI is an annoyance and its hoped not an indicator that his work ethic has slipped.
The new regime will likely be less tolerant of the pre season mystery illnesses and "toothaches" hes suffered in the past.
Is 2012 a defining year for Bey? As an X Wide Receiver, yes. Yes it is.
Denarius Moore 6-0, 195 lbs
After a spectacular rookie season were he emerged as Oaklands true deep threat, Moore is poised to show last year was no fluke. Excellent patterns, veteran instincts and great hands mean good news for Bey and other Raider Wide Outs when Defenses begin to roll coverage Moore's way.
Moore is injured right now with a hamstring. Team doctors have decided should rest so his spectacular plays will have to wait till mandatories.
Jacoby Ford 5-9, 185 lbs
Bizarrely, some advocated trading the Clemson track star this off season which just goes to show how short peoples attention spans can be and how some don't-know-what-they-don't-know.
Ford has amazing hands and an ability to track and attack the ball in flight not seen in Silver and Black since the Legendary Fred Biletnikoff.
Add his tenacious will and exceptional kick return ability and Ford gives Oakland alot of bang for its buck.
Louis Murphy 6-2, 200 lbs
Murphy's game is all mental. He has the skills and tenacity to excel as a possession receiver and contributes as a down field blocker but after taking some NFL sized hits and suffering injury hes yet to recover his former Florida Gator swagger.
He knows hes got a lot to prove and some serious competition. He hears the talk and has an attitude about it.
Good for him.
Hes got the skills. He just needs to own it and catch every pass like its his last. Because if he doesn't go all out and with all of this depth, soon enough, it will be.
Juron Criner 6-3, 221 lbs
Doing nothing in camp but making breathtaking catch after catch.
Taking full advantage of the extra reps vacated by his injured team mate, the former Arizona star is generating buzz like Denarius Moore did last year and we all know how that turned out.
Hes the type of receiver QBs love because of his ability to extend and stab errant passes out of the air is truly amazing.
Worries about his plodding 40 times saw him slip to the Raiders late in the draft but he plays much faster on field and his clean routes and crisp breaks gain him separation.
Speaking of separation, one or more of these young hopefuls will vie for a roster slot as well over the next few weeks.
Duke Calhoun, Rod Streater and Eddie McGee drawing notable mention so far but Travionte Sessions, Dereck Carrier, Brandon Carswell and Thomas Mayo are all nipping at their heels for their shot as a Raider.
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