Notes: Raiders get backs involved even with run game stalled

Notes: Raiders get backs involved even with run game stalled

ALAMEDA – The Raiders ran all over the Denver Broncos in Week 9, and were expected to do the same thing to Houston on Monday night.

That didn’t work out so well.

The Raiders ran 20 times for 30 yards, a season low by a long shot and a stark contrast to three previous games where they averaged 163 yards on the ground.

“Clowney caused that,” Del Rio said. “He’s a big boy.”

Del Rio’s referring to Jadeveon Clowney, a No. 1 overall taken four spots higher than Khalil Mack. He had five tackles for little to no gain and was a menace while moving around the defensive line.

“They did some good things up front,” Del Rio said on Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “(Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel) is a good defensive coordinator. They have some little adjustments. Part of that was having good people. They won up front on a couple of occasions. That doesn’t happen very often to our guys.”

The Raiders still found a way to win 27-20 at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca and still found a way to get their backs involved. They threw it their way often, and not just in the flat. Jalen Richard and Jamize Olawale had long touchdown receptions and got open in sneaky, often schematic ways.

“All those guys can pass protect, they can run routes, they can run the ball inside and outside. Having that versatility opens up for the offensive coordinator the ability to utilize them in a lot of different ways.”

Quarterback Derek Carr completed 11 passes to running backs for 199 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were vital to a Raiders victory.

While trying to close this one out with a sustained, clock-devouring drive, they went back to the ground. Latavius Murray kept the time ticking, but the Raiders were faced with a 4th-and-1 and an opportunity to finish it on offense.

Del Rio elected to go for it, and Murray got five more than he needed.

“You know you’re putting yourself out there a little bit, but you’re believing in your guys, and they delivered,” Del Rio said. “So, when you know you’re putting yourself out there, and then they deliver, it’s satisfying.”

Del Rio: Right calls were made: The Texans are upset that important calls went against them on Monday night. The first came when receiver DeAndre Hopkins was rules out of bounds on a long pass play while running free to the end zone.

Referees also spotted two Texans runs short of the first-down marker on third and fourth down, prompting a turnover on downs. Head coach Bill O’Brien challenged the ruling and lost.

Del Rio had a different view of those two plays, which ruled in the Raiders favor.

“He was out,” Del Rio said with a smile, “and they marked it appropriately.”

No Mario, Aldon updates: Del Rio didn’t have an update on Mario Edwards Jr. or whether he would be ready to practice this week. The Raiders are still waiting for the green light from trainers.

He also didn’t have an update on edge rusher Aldon Smith, who is eligible for reinstatement after being banished a calendar year for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Del Rio spoke with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell but said Smith didn’t come up. He certainly could have during longer talks with general manager Reggie McKenzie and owner Mark Davis.

Raiders ignore stadium talk: Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf announced Tuesday morning that a framework of a land-use deal intended to help keep the Raiders in Oakland. So, oh so predictably, the most visible member of the Raiders brass was asked about it.

Del Rio deflected inquires, and said his team and coaching staff is focused solely on football.

“That doesn’t have anything to with the team right now,” Del Rio said. “We’re focused on the next opportunity. We have to stay in our tunnel. Those discussions go on and we don’t partake.

“I grew up right down the road, and I’m proud to be the coach of a team where it is right now.”

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.