In part one of this Week 17 Roundtable, Full Press Raiders writers Jordan Briskey, Ray Aspuria, Anthony Zaragoza, and Chris Simmons discuss the running game, Todd Downing and Donald Penn.
With Donald Penn turning 35 before next fall, how would you address the OT situation and why?
Briskey: Donald Penn will play in the league for 1-2 more years at an average-above average level. I am confident the Raiders will have a new coordinator. In addition, the team’s offensive woes will be somewhat solved. If that all comes true, the team improves immediately. As a result, picking a left tackle high in 2018 as an apprentice would ease a transition.
Aspuria: Give Sharpe and Ware a long look in training camp. The Raiders should draft an OT prospect in the 3rd-5th rounds. The coaching staff needs to maximize the talents of draftees. Another option is to move Osemele to left tackle, Jackson back to left guard, and Feliciano play right guard. While the shuffling appears unnerving, the group of brutes can adapt under Tice’s tutelage.
Zaragoza: Give David Sharpe another year in the system. A fourth rounder last season out of Florida, Sharpe played well enough against the Eagles to earn more reps behind Penn. Reggie McKenzie could address this position early in the 2018 draft. Yet, the Raiders have more pressing issues to address with their early picks.
Simmons: I would, at least for this draft, look for a developmental prospect in the mid to late rounds. Meanwhile, give these young players ample run in the preseason. I expect Donald Penn to produce at a much higher level next season, as I believe the holdout took him out of rhythm early in the season. He should hold down the blind side at an average to above average rate for at least one more season.
How would you improve the RB position in 2018?
Simmons: The Raiders are in desperate need of a game breaking multi-use back. They survived with a power back with smaller ones to spell him. Unfortunately, the offense loses cohesion. Marshawn Lynch has been solid, but Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington offered net minus in both the return game and in spot duty. If the Raiders have an opportunity to snag a player early, they should strongly consider it to relieve some of the pressure on Derek Carr.
Zaragoza: Give Elijah Hood a chance. . After promising rookie seasons last year, both DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard struggled in 2017. Ball security doomed the backup running backs, especially Richard. Therefore, giving the bigger back Hood an opportunity to carry the ball could do wonders for this unit.
Aspuria: Give Hood many opportunities to supplant scatbacks DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard in camp to start. If a talented tailback is for the taking in rounds 1-3, McKenzie should consider adding some new young blood to the stable.
Briskey: Improving the running back position is one of the easier tasks to do this offseason. In that case, invest in a mid-round prospect or in free agency. Running backs are not as highly valued as they once were. There will be free agents looking for a home. As always, there are plenty of prospects in the draft to choose from.
As sound of a run stopper Bowman is, he struggles in coverage, would you re-sign him. If so, how much?
Aspuria: Teammates admit Bowman brought something different to table and for that alone, he is worth a 3-yr or even 2-yr deal. McKenzie should not be cheap again at Mike linebacker.
Briskey: Navarro Bowman was a diamond found when the Raiders needed him most. Granted, living the Bay Area made it a perfect match. Ideally, the Raiders can sign for two more years. Moreover, with an incentive laden deal and low guaranteed money. Perhaps give him a decent signing bonus to keep him from testing the market. Bowman gives the Raiders some time for a year or two to draft a replacement.
Simmons: I think Bowman re-signs as a nod to the clear impact on the younger linebackers. He clearly maintains a great rapport with Bruce Irvin. Bowman earned $3-5 Million as a holdover until they Raiders finally spend either money or a pick on the future leader in the middle. If he asks for more, McKenzie will have to let him walk, as much of their spending will be focused on the secondary.
Zaragoza: Definitely – 3 years, 12.0 million total, 7.0 million guaranteed. A liability in pass coverage, NaVorro Bowman made up those shortcomings in the box. You can see that the former All-Pro can still control the middle and pile up the tackles against the run. Due to McKenzie’s track record on not drafting MLB’s early in the draft, Bowman can do the job for a couple of seasons.