‘DJ Duffelbag’ uplifts struggling Raiders

ALAMEDA — Locker rooms are generally filled with duffelbags.

The Raiders‘ locker room, though, has a different mix. Brice Butler, a.k.a. DJ Duffelbag, has been in control of the soundtrack for practices with a mixture of inspiration and ebullience when choosing the music played during stretching drills.

During Wednesday’s practice, it was a Journey and a Michael Jackson mash-up.

Thursday, the voice of Al Pacino played loudly. Butler, as DJ Dufflebag, said:

“Duffelbag last night was thinking about something that could get the guys going. I just thought about ‘Any Given Sunday,’ and Al Pacino, and Duffelbag liked that. Dufflelbag put it together and went to sleep Brice Butler and woke up Duffelbag, ready to go today.”

Any Given Sunday, a football movie from the late 1990s, was about a good team falling apart at the seams. As they entered a championship game, Pacino gave a speech that is fairly well-known among football people:

“We heal as a team, or we crumble. Inch by inch, play by play, until we’re finished. We’re in hell right now, gentlemen. Believe me.”

While the Raiders have been good at times, their season as it relates to the general sense of success, has been nothing short of hellish. Currently winless and through nine games, analysts have serious trouble believing they’ll win a single game.

A winless season has occurred only once in NFL history, when the 2008 Detroit Lions went a horrible 0-16.

Interim head coach Tony Sparano said of his team’s musical choices:

“Actually I had nothing to do with it. I wish I did have something to do with controlling the music. Quite honestly, it’s one of our players who picks those things. I said to pick something with a message, but I don’t have anything to do with that.”

Sparano noted that if he had his choice in tunes, Frank Sinatra would be heard:

“I liked the message. I like the fact that they’re thinking about the message. I think those things are good. … I think it’s great. You can have a team full of glass-half-empties and I think that would provide a terrible, terrible environment at this point. Our guys really have a good time with each other in there. They have a good time with each other, they have a good time with their coaches.”

Trust an imperative for Raiders offense

It’s not an uncommon thing for quarterback Derek Carr to mention one of his receivers and talk about how much he trusts them and how big that is.

In recent weeks, though, Carr has come under fire for throwing too many check-down passes to running backs before a play can develop and receivers get a chance to go down-field.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson described Carr, and some of the things that go along with dumping the ball off:

“I think he’s got a good feel in the pocket. He’s not a guy that holds onto the ball. That can be good and bad. There are times that he could hold it and maybe create, but I think it’s, for him, for a young player, a crucial part of development to getting them to understand protections and knowing blitz patterns and blitz packages. Knowing who is responsible for picking up blitzers or who is the free hitter on each protection, that’s been invaluable experience for him. More than anything, just getting a chance to stand in an NFL pocket has helped him understand that part of the game. It was critical in his development.”

For quarterbacks, climbing the pocket — stepping up so edge rushers can be worked around by offensive linemen — is almost always necessary for receivers to get open 20 or more yards past the line of scrimmage.

Often Carr will throw the ball short instead of climbing the pocket and holding the ball a second or two longer. According to Pro Football Focus, Carr holds the ball a mere 2.59 seconds before throwing the ball.

Rarely has Carr scrambled, and while he’s still learning different blitz packages and NFL-level schemes, Carr will need to move the ball downfield more often if Oakland is to score more than the 16.2 points per game they’re now at.

There’s trusting wide receivers to get open and make the catch. But linemen? Olson said:

“It’s totally that. That’s part of just feeling the pocket. Depending on who you’re playing, it changes every week, but having the trust factor in there that they’re going to block their guys and give you time enough to throw the ball down the field.”

The Raiders travel to San Diego this weekend for a battle against the San Diego Chargers, an opponent that Carr played his best against in Week 5. The Chargers will certainly switch some things up and give Oakland’s offense some different looks, and may serve as an important test for Carr.


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