By Abraham Gutierrez
With nothing to play for but pride, Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio met with media members prior to Wednesday’s practice and touched on a number of topics. In what felt more like an exit interview than a weekly press conference, the first-year head coach discussed the Week 17 showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs, Derek Carr’s sophomore year, and the development of some of the Raiders rookies in 2015.
Given that a clash with any intra-divisional opponent could never be ignored, there was no shortage of questions regarding Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium. Because the Raiders are winless in The Show-Me State since 2012, the first order of business was discussing how Oakland would snap its two-game skid at this site.
“You have to have poise in the noise. You’re going to have noise,” Del Rio said. “For us, we’ve been pretty solid at the way we’ve traveled, business-like approach, so I think really that’s what it takes going in there to play well. Hostile environment; there’s as loud as we let them be. If we play well, they won’t be quite as loud.”
The last time these teams met was just four weeks ago in the East Bay, where the Chiefs came away with a 34-20 victory on the strength of three Raiders turnovers. With all those mishaps belonging to Carr, including a pick-six, it’s going to be interesting to see how Del Rio and his staff plan to protect their young signal-caller along with other key takeaways.
“They’ve been able to win the turnover battle and they score defensively,” he added. “I think they lead the league in defensive touchdowns, if not, they’re at the top. Those are ways that they’ve found to kind of overcome the loss of a guy like Jamaal Charles, one of the best backs in the league. They’ve lost him and they’ve been able to continue to win. That’s a credit to their football team.”
Speaking of Carr, it’s no secret that the Oakland Raiders have finally found their first franchise quarterback since Rich Gannon. The Fresno State product comes into the season finale having completed 61 percent of his passes, going 329-for-540 for 3793 yards, 31 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 92.0.
“I think he’s had a really strong year. It’s one more opportunity to add onto that,” Del Rio said of his 24-year-old star. “He’s nearing the franchise record for touchdowns thrown. He’s thrown for a bunch of yards. He’s done a great job of bringing us back in several games. I think he’s had a really strong year. It would be great to end that year on a strong note.”
Finally, it would be impossible to touch on the success of the Raiders passing game without noting some young wide receivers that made this team a playoff contender up until the final weeks of the season. As one of the leading candidates for Rookie of the Year honors, Amari Cooper was sensational, leading the team in receptions (70) and receiving yards (1050) while finishing second in the team in touchdown grabs (6), only behind Michael Crabtree’s eight scores. But the former Bama standout isn’t the only wide out that impressed the Raiders coaching staff in 2015.
“We believe in developing talent, that that we acquired in the draft, that that we brought in as free agent acquisitions,” Del Rio noted. “The guys have been here that are continuing to get an opportunity to compete – guys like Seth [Roberts] who created roles for themselves. We’ve created that kind of culture here. I like that.”
Abe Gutierrez’s (Twitter: @GutierrezAbe) passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com, AXS.com and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers), CBS-BayArea (Raiders), CBS-NewYork (NY Jets), CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers), AXS.com, Examiner.com and other online publications.