Irvin rounding into 'rugged,' complete player in Raiders defense

Irvin rounding into 'rugged,' complete player in Raiders defense

Bruce Irvin certainly felt the altitude’s sting playing in Mexico City’s extreme elevation on Monday night. The effects were real, with a lack of oxygen leaving the Raiders edge rusher and his teammates sucking for air late in a close game with Houston.

No matter. Irvin rarely left field. He played 69 snaps, and one big moment came on on No. 68. He sprinted into the backfield, then cut inside his man and hit Texans quarterback Brock Osweiller hard.

Irvin’s sack killed a final comeback attempt and helped ice a 27-20 victory at Estadio Azteca.

“Everybody was breathing hard at that altitude, but Bruce found a way to get it done,” fellow edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “It was a big moment for sure.”

That wasn’t Irvin’s only contribution. He equaled a team high with 10 tackles, with six stops for a minimal gain. He had a sack and three other quarterback pressures. Irvin was everywhere that night, performing well in all phases of his game.

It was clearly his best game as a Raider, and might have been more than that.

“That might have been the best game of my career to be honest with you,” Irvin said. “It might’ve been my best complete game, not one where I had a good rush or good run defense. I really feel I played a complete game, and it showed.”

The Raiders want Irvin coming forward most often, but signed a complete player comfortable in coverage and run defense. Irvin was an excellent fit at strongside linebacker in Ken Norton Jr.’s defense, an agile pass rusher who can perform other functions in a pinch.

Norton was familiar with Irvin, as his only NFL linebackers coach after getting drafted by Seattle. Norton was integral in bringing Irvin to Oakland this offseason on a four-year deal worth up to $37 million.

“That was him just being a total package football player,” Norton said. “Coming into the league, he may have been detailed as a finesse type player. He’s really rugged now. He’s really strong, really smart, really confident. He can play sideline to sideline. He can rush the passer. He can drop into coverage. He can knock tight ends off the line. He can cover tight ends. He can do all this stuff. Anything you want him to do, Bruce can do it.”

The Raiders have him attacking off the edge most often, but drops into coverage 11 percent of the time. That’s a decrease over his final three seasons in Seattle. That has helped his numbers. He has 33 tackles, three sacks and four forced fumbles, and is on pace to set career highs in every stat except for sacks.

“Bruce plays hard, he’s tough, he’s athletic,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I think some of those things that Bruce [Irvin] brought, some of the reasons that he’s here, I think they showed up last night on the stat sheet, when he gets a sack and makes a lot of tackles, he makes an impact on the game.”

Irvin has made grand contributions to a defense that is coming together. The Raiders gave up massive yard totals early in the season, leaving many to wonder it the defense would be a liability this year. Irvin raised that question publicly, and demanded better execution from players when coaches were under fire for subpar defense. Irvin is happy to see improvement from himself and others, but still wants more.

“Bringing in a lot of faces, sometimes it takes a while to come together,” Irvin said. “Ken Norton has been here too long, and becoming an elite defense takes time. I always knew we had the pieces here, and it’s really starting to show off. We just have to continue to get better each week.”

Aldon Smith back in custody after police say he violated restraining order


Aldon Smith back in custody after police say he violated restraining order

SAN FRANCISCO — Former Oakland Raiders player Aldon Smith surrendered to police Friday on charges he violated a domestic violence restraining order.

San Francisco police said the 28-year-old Smith turned himself and was booked on three misdemeanor charges of violating a court order to stay away from a domestic violence victim.

Earlier this month, Smith pleaded not guilty to domestic violence and other charges and a judge issued a protective order prohibiting him from contacting the victim.

Police said Smith violated the restraining order earlier this week.

Smith’s attorney, Joshua Bentley, did not return a voicemail message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The Raiders released the linebacker days after his arrest on the domestic violence charges.

He had been on the suspended list since late 2015 for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse.

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.”