Notes: Edwards Jr. ready for side work, not full practice

Notes: Edwards Jr. ready for side work, not full practice

ALAMEDA – The Raiders certainly miss Mario Edwards Jr. They’re in need of a quality interior pass rusher, someone who can also be a run stopper on the outside.

The second-year pro does those things well when healthy, which he isn’t right now. Edwards suffered a hip injury in the preseason opener and hasn’t played or practiced since.

He was placed on injured reserve at regular season’s start, and the Raiders plan to designate him for a return this season. He’s eligible to play in Week 9 against Denver.

He’s eligible to practice starting Tuesday, though Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said he might not be ready right away.

He will clear one hurdle this week, even if he’s not ready for football activity.

“I hope that he can begin running on the side,” Del Rio said in his Monday press conference. “He hasn’t done that yet. We think he’ll begin to run on the side this week. We’ll bring him into practice as soon as he’s cleared.”

Murray progressing: The Raiders have played two games without top running back Latavius Murray, and the ground game has been hindered because of it.

He’s battling a case of turf toe, caused by strained ligaments around the big toe. Murray is improving, though it’s uncertain when he’ll return to practice.

“He’s getting better,” Del Rio said. “I just don’t really have much more to share on that than I know he’s anxious to return. He’s definitely better, so it’s just a matter of when he feels like he can fully participate, push off at full speed and be ready to go.”

Murray hasn’t practiced since getting hurt in a Week 4 victory over Baltimore.

Del Rio remains confident in running backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, rookies who have carried the load in Murray’s absence.

“We have other players that can get things done,” Del Rio said. “We expect to be able to continue on with the guys that we have.”

No carries for Olawale: Bruising fullback Jamize Olawale was a part of the Latavius Murray-less Raiders rushing rotation against San Diego. He had six carries then, but never touched the ball in a rain-soaked loss to Kansas City on Sunday.

The game seemed-tailor made for a physical runner, but Del Rio thought carry volume was the running game’s biggest issue. They only ran 14 planned runs and averaged 3.6 yards per carry, totals that don’t match efforts from earlier this season. With more carries, Olawale might’ve made an impact.

“It’s one of those deals where when you look at running the football and running it well and getting everybody their carries and getting everybody involved,” Del Rio said. “Typically you’re going to do some of the things outside of the running game to help that happen; converting third downs, playing better defense, the special teams component, all of it. Yeah, the weather was one where you’d expect your big mudders to be more involved and also getting more opportunities to run anybody in the game.”

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.