Irvin: Raiders pass rush making 'significant strides'

Irvin: Raiders pass rush making 'significant strides'

The Raiders pass rush wasn’t effective enough early on. Certainly not by Bruce Irvin’s standards.

He comes from Seattle, where defense dominates. The Seahawks bring pressure in waves, and Irvin believes he and Khalil Mack will lead a similarly persistent attack.

It just didn’t happen right away.

The new Raiders edge rusher wanted more out the gate and said as much, but was pleased to see progress made in a victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

The defensive front produced 26 total quarterback pressures in that one, including several when it mattered most. The blitz was effective, as was a four-man rush even when Irvin and Mack drew extra attention off the edge.

Mack had a fourth-quarter sack. Irvin had a sack that forced a turnover in the same period. Irvin, however, appreciated that it wasn’t a two-man show.

“The first three weeks, the pass rush wasn’t there much,” Irvin said Friday. “Last week though, we made significant strides. That happened because we were all rushing together. It’s not just one person getting pressure. It was everyone doing his part. That’s the biggest difference.”

The Raiders haven’t gotten good push on the interior. They clearly miss Mario Edwards Jr., on injured reserve until Week 9 at least with a hip injury. Denico Autry has intensified his efforts on passing downs, and Karl Joseph proved to be an effective blitzer from the secondary.

That, in turn, helped guys off the edge.

“The offense chipped them just like they usually do, but they just played hard,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “They play hard every week and some weeks they’ll have better games and you’ll feel them more than others, but at the same time, with Bruce and Khalil, those are two really good football players who really play hard all the time. So, they’re always going to be out there, but you really felt them a lot more last week.”

Their presence should be felt on Sunday against San Diego. The Chargers have struggled protecting Philip Rivers. Their injury-riddled offensive line has allowed eight sacks, nine quarterback hits and 55 total pressures in four games. According to analytics site Pro Football Focus, San Diego’s pass blocking efficiency – the percentage of pass dropbacks where pressure is allowed – ranks 31st in the NFL.

That should create opportunities off the edge.

“Philip Rivers is a great quarterback,” Irvin said. “He does an excellent job of getting the ball out, but he will sit back in the pocket sometimes. If he doesn’t like his first read, he’ll hold it until something develops. That’ll give us some time to get back there, and we have to take advantage of it. Their o-line is kind of beat up, so we have to win our individual matchups.”

Irvin has won plenty over his first four games in silver and black. He has two sacks, five quarterback hits and six other pressures thus far. His badge of honor, however, comes from another category. Irvin has three forced fumbles thus far, including a pair of strip sacks resulting in turnovers. The Raiders have scored 10 points off those takeaways.

Irvin believes improvement is being made. After giving up 1,035 yards in the first two games, it couldn’t get much worse. He didn’t mask disappointment after a Week 2 loss to Atlanta, saying he didn’t want to spend the season on a subpar defense. The Raiders have been better the last two weeks, but still aren’t good enough.

“We’re still the 32nd ranked defense in the league,” Irvin said. “We’re not where we need to be yet, but we’ve definitely improved. Our communication has gotten better and guys are playing better together. That’s going to take time, but we need to make strides every week.”

Report: Raiders trade FB Jamize Olawale to Cowboys


Report: Raiders trade FB Jamize Olawale to Cowboys

The Raiders lured fullback Keith Smith away from Dallas in free agency. The Cowboys suddenly had a need at the position, and called a Raiders team with a surplus.

They wanted Jamize Olawale, a tough, faster-than-you-think blocking back with receiving skill.

A draft pick swap got it done.

The Raiders traded Olawale and the No. 192 overall pick to Dallas for the No. 173 overall selection. NFL Network first reported the news. The Dallas Morning News revealed trade details.

The Raiders didn’t have a fifth-round pick this year, but now have two after trading Olawale and WR Cordarrelle Patterson in combination with a glut of sixth-round selections. They still have four remaining.

Smith is more of a true blocking fullback Gruden sought. Olawale doesn’t fit that old school mold, but is a versatile player who can produce if used correctly. He has dealt with injuries in the recent past, which also may have been a knock against him.

This thins the running back room a bit, but more ball carriers will be jettisoned before the season starts.

The trade also saved $1.6 million in salary cap space, important for a team where every little bit counts this offseason.

Olawale returns to the team that originally signed him as an 2012 undrafted free agent. He was cut at preseason’s end, and picked up by Oakland. He enjoyed a productive tenure in silver and black, though he wasn’t used much by 2016 offensive coordinator Todd Downing.

The Raiders aren’t necessarily done in free agency. They have a little cap space left, and could look for another receiver or defensive lineman. Middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman remains on the open market, and the Raiders hope to have him back.

Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders


Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden had a hand in drafting Josh Johnson a decade ago. The agile quarterback and Oakland native was a Tampa Bay’s fifth-round pick in 2008, Gruden’s last year as Buccaneers coach.

The pair will reunite in Johnson’s hometown. The well-traveled quarterback signed with the Raiders on Monday, the team announced.

Johnson will compete with Connor Cook to backup starter Derek Carr, and brings a veteran’s influence to the position group. It likely spells the end of EJ Manuel’s short tenure in silver and black. The strong-armed former first-round pick, who started one game last season, remains a free agent after a year with the Raiders.

This move should make Marshawn Lynch happy. He and Johnson are extremely close and together run the Family First Foundation, a charitable organization that does significant work for East Bay kids. Johnson and Lynch also played football together at Oakland Tech High.

Johnson has played 10 NFL teams prior to this Raiders stop, but hasn’t played in a regular-season game for some time.