Del Rio: Raiders defense can't put Oakland's QBs behind eight-ball

Del Rio: Raiders defense can't put Oakland's QBs behind eight-ball

ALAMEDA – The Raiders won Sunday’s coin toss and, as always, deferred. They prefer to let defense set the tone and give the offense a chance to kick off the second half.

The defense has been good on opening drives. Not against Denver. The Broncos marched right downfield, scoring a touchdown on an eight-play, 84-yard drive.

“That’s the worst thing you can do for an offense that’s playing with a new quarterback,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Now they’re feeling more pressure than they need to feel.”

Matt McGloin and the Raiders offense didn’t deal with it well. That unit struggled moving the football and punted on all five first-half series. The Raiders couldn’t run, and McGloin couldn’t get the pass game going in his first start since Derek Carr broke his fibula.

“I think (with) the magnitude and the opportunity, I think he pressed a little bit,” Del Rio said. “But at the end of the day was that the end-all and be-all? No. It’s a team game. We made it harder.”

The Raiders quarterbacks were behind from the start and never recovered. McGloin wasn’t good before injuring his neck and shoulder in the second quarter. Connor Cook had some nice moments in his NFL debut, but he had one touchdown and two turnovers in nine series.

Del Rio wasn’t overly critical of his signal callers a day after his Raiders lost 24-6 at Denver. He was more upset that the rest of his roster didn’t help those guys out.

McGloin and Cook are in a tough spot. They’ve been thrown into the fire without a safety net, no weak teams to ease a transition to the starting lineup. They faced the Broncos first, and now open the playoffs on Saturday in Houston.

The Raiders didn’t pick up their quarterbacks in Denver. The run game sagged. The defense allowed big plays and the team was penalized far too often to compete against Denver’s tough defense.

That, above all else, bothered Del Rio the next day.

“Quarterbacks are going to give us what they have and do the best they can,” Del Rio said. “We have to play well around them. We can’t expect them to come in and put us on their shoulders. We need them to come in and do their job and that’s what we expect them to do this week.”

The Raiders didn’t run consistently, with rare blocking issues against the Broncos. The defense gave up a few big plays, including a 64-yard Justin Forsett run that set up Denver’s first touchdown. They also allowed a short pass to Devontae Booker to go 43 yards for a touchdown. On 3rd-and-18. Del Rio didn’t like that one bit. It put Denver up 17-0 in the second quarter, a massive deficit that made life difficult on the quarterbacks.

The Raiders must do the opposite to have a chance against Houston whether McGloin or Cook starts the game, though signs are pointing to Cook becoming the first NFL player to make his first start in the playoffs. 

“Either way, you know you’re dealing with a tough situation,” Del Rio said. “You’re dealing with your backup, maybe a third-stringer. For us, it’s so much more important that we focus on second-and-13, not giving up a 64-yard run, third-and-18, not giving up a 43-yard touchdown on a screen pass. Those are the ways we can help the quarterbacks.”

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”

Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini


Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini

The Raiders need help at right tackle, the lone vacancy along their offensive line. They signed a veteran presence on Thursday afternoon, adding 32-year old Breno Giacomini as the frontrunner to join the starting five.

He has 86 starts in 94 career games, and has been a full-time starter three of the last four years. Giacomini spent 2017 in Houston and the previous three seasons with the New York Jets.

He was a Seattle Seahawk before that, working with Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable for three of his four years there. Cable gave Giacomini his first chance to start in the second half of 2011, and held the post through 2012.

The bond between the two is clearly strong, considering what Giacomini tweeted shortly after Cable got fired in Seattle.

Coach and player will reunite, hoping to provide steadiness on the right side of the Raiders offensive line.

He’ll compete for a starting spot with Vadal Alexander, second-year pros David Sharpe and Jylan Ware and possibly a drafted player. Giacomini should be considered the favorite unless the Raiders use an early pick on an offensive lineman.

Giacomini has plenty of starts, but his Pro Football Focus numbers aren’t pretty. The analytics says he allowed nine sacks, eight quarterback hits and 64 pressures with Houston last year. He had some decent years under Cable, and a return to that form might push him into the starting lineup for good. Time will tell on that front.