Raiders

Nicholas Morrow's role will increase with Raiders MLB Lee out

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USATSI

Nicholas Morrow's role will increase with Raiders MLB Lee out

ALAMEDA – The Raiders lost both starting inside linebackers to injury against Baltimore.

Cory James missed the second half with a knee injury. Marquel Lee went down late with an ankle sprain.

They’ll get James back in time to host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon. Lee, however, isn’t ready. He was ruled out Friday afternoon on the team’s official injury report, leaving an already young, thin and undersized position group down a man.

Someone has to step up. Nicholas Morrow is that guy.

The undrafted rookie is expected to start in Lee’s place, and could end up a three-down linebacker against the Chargers.

Morrow typically plays significant snaps, entering in sub packages as a coverage linebacker. He’ll be asked to do more against L.A.

While it’s a new challenge, Morrow is ready for it.

“It’s a bit more defense to learn. I’m generally involved in the sub package, but I’ve been preparing to play in the base defense all summer,” Morrow said. “This week’s more of a refresher than it is learning something new.”

James has been coming in early and staying late getting physically ready for this pivotal Chargers game. The second-year pro had arthroscopic knee surgery this preseason but was able to return in time to start games that count, and has been a three-down linebacker on the weak side. He’s second on the team with 34 tackles, and has a forced fumble to his credit.

Losing James for any stretch would be a significant blow considering how young and thin the Raiders are on the inside, but he’s expected to rebound and play without restraint.

James needs a partner in the base defense with Lee out – the rookie’s a better run defender than you think -- and Morrow will get first crack at the job. Rookie Xavier Woodson-Luster, who has focused on special teams, can play there as well.

“Nick has been doing what he’s supposed to do, doing everything he can to be ready,” James said. “All the guys in the locker room have faith in guys stepping up with Marquel out right now, and believe they can get the job done.”

Morrow’s size may give some fans pause. The Greenville College alum is but 216 pounds, viewed more as a hybrid linebacker/defensive back. Lee, by contrast, is prototypical linebacker at 235.

Morrow and others must handle the run, especially dealing with often productive Chargers back Melvin Gordon.

He feels up to the task, despite being smaller than your standard linebacker.

“Regardless of size, you have to know your run fits and play with smart technique,” Morrow said. “If you do that and play with heart, you’re going to be fine.”

Carr taken off injury report

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will start Sunday’s game against the Chargers, as expected. He was a full participant in Friday’s light practice and was formally taken off the team’s injury report.

There was no doubt Carr would play, even after being limited in Wednesday and Thursday practices. He was given a green light by trainers heading into Week 6, and will return two weeks after suffering a transverse process fracture in his back.

“He’ll be ready to play,” Del Rio said. “I think it was smart to give him the week, which we did. Even though he was pushing for last week. He’s cleared to go and got the green light. Doctors and trainers all gave him the go. He had a full week of practice for the most part, so we’re ready to go.”

Melifonwu nearing return

Raiders second-round safety Obi Melifonwu is on injured reserve with a knee injury. Del Rio said there’s a “strong likelihood,” he’ll be ready for activation soon.

Melifonwu can practice after the Chargers game and play after playing the Buffalo Bills in Week 8. He could meet both deadlines.

He’s expected to practice next week, and might be ready to contribute when eligible.

The Radiers can designate two players to return off IR. Offensive lineman Denver Krikland is another candidate, though Del Rio didn’t address the second-year pro directly in his Friday comments. Kirkland said last month that he’ll be ready to return this season.

Melifonwu could help the Raiders cover tight ends and running backs in the sub package.

Injury report

The Raiders ruled Lee, fullback Jamize Olawale (concussion), cornerbacks Antonio Hamilton (knee) and Gareon Conley (shin) out of the Chargers clash.

James, cornerback David Amerson (shoulder) and running back DeAndre Washington (hamstring) were designated questionable on the team’s official injury report.

Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?

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Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?

Jon Gruden doesn’t love offseason restrictions on player-coach interaction. They weren’t so strict when Gruden last coached nine years ago, but the new collective bargaining agreement prevents the new Raiders head coach from extended contact with his players at this stage in the NFL’s downtime.

He has, however, run into several Raiders stopping by the team’s Alameda complex.

Count running back Marshawn Lynch and receiver Michael Crabtree among them. Conversations with those talented, yet mercurial players will be key as Gruden and general manager Reggie McKenzie decide how best to use the salary cap.

Both guys have a long history of NFL production. Both guys are getting up there in age, and have some drawbacks. Both guys can be cut without a salary cap hit.

Gruden had nice things to say about both guys in a Wednesday interview with the Bay Area News Group.

He was asked directly if Lynch will be on the 2018 roster.

“I don’t know,” Gruden said. “I bumped into him. Some of these players that live locally do come to the facility to get a workout, see the trainer. I’ve been downstairs and met several guys. I have talked to Marshawn briefly. We’ll see. We’ll keep everybody posted. Right now, he’s our leading ball carrier. He’s our back, and we’re counting on him. Hopefully we get an opportunity to work together. That’s a man that has a lot of respect in this league as a player and I certainly have respect for him also.”

Lynch started slow but finished strong, and was the team’s best skill player in the season’s second half. He’s contracted to make up to $6 million in 2018.

Crabtree came up later in a discussion of what he likes on the roster.

“I got to bump into Crabtree,” Gruden said. “Hopefully we can get the best out of Crabtree and his career.”

Crabtree is coming off a down year following two stellar seasons in Oakland. He had just 58 catches for 618 yards – he still had eight touchdowns – but his targets and snaps decreased the last two weeks. He seemed at odds with the previous coaching staff, a group that was dismissed at season’s end.

Crabtree is set to make $7 million next season, though none of it is guaranteed.

Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders

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Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders

PALO ALTO – Raiders cornerback T.J. Carrie became a father on Super Bowl Sunday. Newborn son Elijah Carrie has been the sole focus these last few weeks, as T.J. learns on the job how to be a dad.

Pardon him if he hasn’t thought much about impending free agency. The 2014 seventh-round pick turned full-time starter has a rookie deal expiring soon, with a raise on the horizon following his best season as a pro.

That’ll come in March. Early February, however, has kept him otherwise engaged.

“I’ve been so busy with my little one, and I haven’t been getting any sleep,” Carrie said Thursday. “Learning how to be a dad has been so engulfing that I haven’t delved into the details of what free agency will mean to me.”

Soul searching wasn’t required to realize his dream scenario. The East Bay native wants to stay in Oakland, with a Raiders team he loved as a kid.

“My intention is to be here,” Carrie said. “I’m a Bay Area guy, a hometown kid. I couldn’t see myself being anywhere else. This is a passion for me. I dreamed about playing for the Raiders for such a long time. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to play there for four years, I want to finish (with the Raiders).”

Carrie wants to work with a new Raiders regime. He visited the team’s Alameda complex on Wednesday and met with new head coach Jon Gruden and defensive assistants. The interaction left Carrie wanting more, furthering his belief that be belongs in Silver and Black.

“Coach Gruden is very energetic,” Carrie said. “He’s a coach that likes to have fun but it a very business oriented guy. There are a lot of things, I imagine, that are going to change, just from the way he has done things. It’s going to be different, but I embrace it. It’ll be very challenging entering into a new regime, but there are a lot of positive factors involved with it.”

The Raiders don’t have many cornerbacks under contract come mid-March. They released David Amerson, and could do the same with Sean Smith later this offseason. Gareon Conley should start at one spot, but everything else is wide-open entering free agency and the draft.

Carrie could find value on the open market after recording 70 tackles and nine passes defensed in 16 starts. He’ll explore his options further next month, before free agency begins in earnest March 14.

“I know March is really when it starts to go down,” Carrie said. “My son will be a little older then, so I can focus more on free agency and make some more decisions.”