Jay Gruden: Marshawn Lynch 'fun and terrifying to watch'


Jay Gruden: Marshawn Lynch 'fun and terrifying to watch'

ALAMEDA – Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch took a year away from football. The Oakland native came out of retirement to play for his hometown team this season, leaving some to wonder if the Marshawn of old would return at 31 years of age.

Washington head coach Jay Gruden has an opinion on that.

“It really looks rusty, I’ll tell you,” Gruden said sarcastically on a Wednesday conference call. “No, he’s fun to watch. I don’t like to say that about other people, but it’s actually fun and terrifying to watch him at the same time. It’s no fun to go against him. The way he runs is a great example for the young running backs that we have, especially with how he protects the ball and the physicality he runs with.”

Lynch has shown real aggression when he runs, welcoming contact the way he did as a younger man in Seattle. It’s an entertaining, impactful style, especially running behind what might be the best offensive lines in football.

Gruden listed positive qualities of each lineman before landing on Kelechi Osemele.

“Good God, is he a monster?” Gruden said. “…(As a whole), they’re strong. They can run between the tackles. A lot of times big guys like that don’t pass protect as well, but they’re equally good in that area. They’re the backbone of that offense. I don’t think they get enough credit.”

The running game could give Washington fits, but Gruden has to worry about the Raiders quarterback as well. Derek Carr runs a well-oiled offense into Washington on Sunday Night Football.

“He’s a great player with great command of the offense,” Gruden said. “He really has great receivers catchable balls even when they’re covered. He can drop the ball in buckets that not many people would throw, let alone complete. I’ve been impressed with his poise in the pocket and the success he’s had. Great quarterback.”

Raiders seven-round mock draft: Defense for five of first six picks


Raiders seven-round mock draft: Defense for five of first six picks


NFL draft picks create a butterfly effect. One move will impact many others in unpredictable ways. That’s why mock drafts are often a fool’s errand, even if their focused on the first round.

A trade or unexpected pick or run on a certain position changes the dynamic of the entire round, making the prediction business extremely difficult. We were only talking about the first round, here.

The Raiders have 11 picks over the course of this three-day NFL draft. Trying to get all of them right (or even some) is an impossibility. We’re gonna do one anyway. It’s for fun. Let’s treat it that way and see what a good Raiders draft might look like, one that addresses several needs over the course of seven rounds.

First round (No. 10): DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
-- Fitzpatrick’s a popular player, a versatile and dynamic defensive back capable of doing so much so well. He’s a coveted talent, but I feel like a quarterback run and early inside linebacker selections will send Fitzpatrick tumbling to the 10th pick. The Raiders will snatch him up without hesitation, led by former Alabama secondary coach Derrick Ansley, who now occupies that position with the Raiders. Fitzpatrick can do so many things well, and could shore up several problem spots for this Raiders defense.

Second round (No. 41): DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
-- There was some talk of Hurst sliding way down the NFL draft due to a heart condition that got him sent home from the combine. He was cleared to perform at his pro day, but health questions keep popping up. I haven’t seen his medical chart and couldn’t understand it if I did (not a doctor), but let’s assume the Raiders think he’s okay to play. If that’s the case, Hurst’s a near-perfect fit, and it’s maybe too much of a risk to wait and see if he lasts until in the third round. The Raiders desperately need an interior pass rusher, and Hurst’s the best in this draft. His slide stops here.

Third round (No. 75): WR Dante Pettis, Washington
-- Jon Gruden loves precise route runners. Pettis is an excellent one, who can operate outside or in the slot. He has sure hands, is reliable and has a strong work ethic. Gruden likes thost traits, too. Good fit for this new offense.

Fourth round (No. 110): EDGE Kemoko Turay, Rutgers
-- The Raiders need depth rushing off the edge behind Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. He has solid size (6-3, 258), explosiveness and sure tackling ability. He needs some technical seasoning and more moves in the arsenal, but could spell the top guys right away and take over for Irvin in the long run.

Fifth round (No. 159): CB Parry Nickerson, Tulane
-- The Raiders are looking for a steady slot cornerback. Nickerson could compete to fill that role now or in time. He might be gone by this point in the draft – Nickerson has a 4-6 round projection -- but they should pounce if he’s available. He’s more physical than you’d think for someone his size and never quits on a play. Nickerson visited the Raiders during the pre-draft process.

Fifth round (No. 173): ILB/SLB Tegray Scales, Indiana
-- Fans certainly wanted linebacker help before the fifth round – where GM Reggie McKenzie typically takes his linebackers -- but this mock draft didn’t fall that way. Scales is a quick player and sure tackler with coverage ability. He has strong leadership, and could play on the strongside, another spot where the Raiders need help. He should step right in and help on special teams as well.

Sixth round (No. 185) P JK Scott, Alabama
-- The Raiders didn’t let Marquette King walk without a plan to replace him. They worked out several punters in this draft, and snag an excellent one here. Scott is used to the big stage. He’ll be able to step in and produce right away. They might be pushing their luck waiting this long. A trade up could be in order to secure the draft’s second-best punter.

Sixth round (No. 212) RB Justin Jackson, Northwestern
The Raiders add another running back to the mix, an extremely productive one at that. Jackson was durable despite taking so many carries for the Wildcats, thanks in part to his elusiveness. He’s a solid receiver out of the backfield and could be an asset running behind a effective offensive line.

Sixth round (No. 216) DT R.J. McIntosh, Miami
The former Hurricane was given to the Raiders in an mock draft, and he seems to be a good fit in Oakland. McInthosh is a versatile defensive lineman who can be a productive interior rusher if he continues to develop. He could be a rotational piece behind Hurst, Mario Edwards and Treyvon Hester if he earns such a role. He could also spend a year on the practice squad if he’s not ready.

Sixth round (No. 217) DL/OG Kahlil McKenzie, Tennessee
-- Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie wasn’t against drafting his son when asked about the prospect. Kahlil McKenzie has all the physical tools to be a productive pro, and nobody knows that better than his dad. He could fit in on defense or on the offensive interior, a place he worked out at during the pre-draft process.

Seventh round (No. 228) TE Jordan Thomas, Mississippi St.
-- Thomas is a lump of clay at this stage, someone with great athleticism and size at 6-4, 265 pounds. He has the tools to succeed as a pro, but analysts say there isn’t much tape to back it up. If he can be taught well and developed into a proper football player, the former basketball player could become a productive NFL receiving tight end. He’s worth a flier in the seventh, maybe a bit earlier than that.

Raiders would buck a trend by drafting ILB early


Raiders would buck a trend by drafting ILB early

The Raiders are, once again, searching for help at middle linebacker. That position’s been a black hole, lacking stability or talent save a few brief periods.

Perry Riley anchored that spot well most of the 2016 season, and NaVorro Bowman did the same last year after the 49ers cut him. The Raiders want Bowman back, but the veteran didn’t like contract offers and consequently remains a free agent.

The Raiders would still like him back, at the right price. That might not hold true after the draft, if they ignore tradition and select an inside linebacker early.

Reggie McKenzie hasn’t taken one above the fourth round since becoming Raiders general manager in 2012. The Bengals never took one high when Paul Guenther was Cincinnati defensive coordinator.

First-round premiums generally fall to other positions. This year might be an exception.

The Raiders are in desperate need of linebacker help -- Tahir Whitehead’s the only established starter, and is expected to play the weak side – and there are two elite prospects worthy of a top 10 pick.

The Raiders have 2017 fifth-rounder Marquel Lee and sub-package coverage linebacker Nicholas Morrow in the mix right now. It could be time to alter strategy and select a three-down linebacker who can anchor the middle of Guenther’s defense.

The Raiders should have options at No. 10 overall, if they trade down in the first round and again at No. 41. If they take a linebacker early, Bowman likely won’t come back. If linebacker remains a need as rounds go by, it might be time to get Bowman signed or stick with a Lee and Morrow platoon.

Here’s a look at their prospects in this year’s draft.

Roquan Smith, Georgia
-- The former Bulldog’s a true sideline-to-sideline playmaker, a picture of the modern-day NFL linebacker. He’s only 6 feet, 236 pounds, but packs a punch while playing smart, aggressive football. He has great speed and pursuit, and is a smart on-field leader of a defense. Smith’s a plug-and-play prospect at this point, seemingly ideal for what the Raiders need at inside linebacker. It’s possible, however, Smith doesn’t make it to No. 10 overall. He could be gone before the Raiders pick, which might constitute a bummer for Silver and Black.
Projected round (per 1

Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
-- Edmunds has prototypical linebacker size (6-5, 253) and can play all three spots. He could function as a pass-rusher in certain alignments, with the speed and smarts to cover well in space. Analysts say Edmunds has All-Pro potential, but a lower floor than Smith. The former Hokie has some development work to do, expected considering the kid’s only 19 years old. He, like Smith, may be gone before the Raiders pick. If he’s there and some other top talents are gone, Edmunds could well end up a Raider.
Projected round (per 1

Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
-- The former Bronco is another inside linebacker with the speed and sure tackling to play from sideline to sideline, with huge range against the run and in coverage. He was a team captain at Boise State and committed to his craft. He is capable of making an early impact the Raiders need at the position. Vander Esch, however, might only be available as a trade-down candidate. The same goes for Alabama’s Rashaan Evans, another inside linebacker (with versatility to play anywhere) set to go late in the first-round.
Projected round (per 1

Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
-- Leonard is considered one of this draft’s best coverage linebackers, with a chance to be a quality NFL starter inside. He’s 6-2, 234, a bit smaller than ideal for a 4-3 middle linebacker, but he processes information quickly and has great closing speed as a tackler and in coverage. He needs to increase play strength, but could be an asset on a team needing agility inside.
Projected rounds (per 2-3

Malik Jefferson, Texas
-- Jefferson was a top high-school recruit who plays significant time during his Texas career. He has tremendous athleticism and coverage ability on the inside, though analysts believe he might be a 4-3 WILL linebacker. That would move Whitehead to the middle, a spot he’s capable of playing. He might need to be taught more about mental aspects of the game, and doing so would unlock great physical ability. He may go higher than his projected rounds suggest.
Projected rounds (per 3-4