SARASOTA, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t run much on Sunday, but were certainly effective when they did.
They churned out 105 yards on just 16 attempts, a 6.6 yards per carry average that would make any defensive mind cringe. Had the Jaguars run more before the Raiders took control late in the first half, a 33-16 result might’ve been closer at the end.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio’s glass was half full Monday afternoon despite that showing, and he focused on the positives gleaned from analyzing game tape.
His biggest takeaway: The Raiders are oh, so close to being stout against the run.
“I think it’s really coming together and getting close to being really, really good,” Del Rio said during his press conference at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, where the Raiders will prep for next week’s game at Tampa Bay. “I don’t like to see any runs go through us. We’ll continue to work where we need to. The attention to detail, the physicality of the guys in the trenches, we have the right people to be really good up front.”
The Raiders are near the bottom in run defense, allowing 128.3 yards per game and seven rushing touchdowns through seven contests. They were gashed for 180-plus yards by Kansas City and Tennessee thus far, and have given up triple digits five times thus far.
Del Rio sees improvement stopping the run, which will be aided by players maintaining gaps and operating as 11 players working together as one unit.
Several players were encourage by greater cohesion against Jacksonville, something that hurt the Raiders in previous games.
“What I keep saying is the work is there, is being put in,” Del Rio said. “The care is there. I mean, our guys care. We’re staying together, I really see it. Throughout the staff, with the players, everybody is hanging onto the rope. Everybody is pulling the rope in the same direction. We’re going to make improvements with that approach. We’ve got good people that care. If you have good people that care to stick together, then good things are going to happen.”
Good things are starting to happen for the Raiders pass rush. They flustered Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles most of the day and, while the only had one sack, Bortles was hit seven times and pressured on 11 other occasions.
The pass rush is starting to crank up, but Del Rio still wants more in the middle.
“We feel like we’ve got a couple guys that can really get there,” Del Rio said. “We’re still looking for a little more interior push and I think as we get that, I think it’ll make the entire rush look at a lot better. But, we’re getting good energy, good effort from those guys.”
Edwards Jr. headed for Sunshine State: Raiders defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. has spent the season on injured reserve, but was eligible to start practicing last week for a Week 9 return. That hasn’t happened yet, though Edwards Jr. will join the team in Florida this week and is expected to start side work that would be a precursor of a return to practice.
The delayed start might mean he won’t be ready to face Denver when eligible and that he might return later in the season, though that remains undetermined.
Riley-Smith combo works well inside: The Raiders inserted veteran linebacker Perry Riley into the starting lineup over rookie Cory James, a move that paid immediate dividends. He worked well with Malcolm Smith on the inside, and formed a solid duo against the run and pass the Raiders will stick with in the immediate future.
“Those guys have a lot of skins on the wall, so to speak,” Del Rio said. “They’ve been through a lot of battles. So the experience is there. We really like Cory. Cory is a good, young player, but to have those two guys and the experience that they have and the number of battles that they’ve been in, they communicated well together. The idea going into the game was we’re going to play all three, but the way we started, we started well and those two guys played well. We just basically left them (out there), let them go.
This ‘n’ that: Stacy McGee suffered an ankle injury in Sunday’s game, and Del Rio didn’t provide an update on his status. Kelechi Osemele tweaked his knee against Jacksonville, but was able to return to the game and should be fine. ...Michael Crabtree was flagged for a throat slash after his Sunday touchdown despite the fact he’s paying homage to the HBO character Kenny Powers with his fingers. Del Rio said Crabtree and the Raiders must be smarter about avoiding unnecessary penalties. The Raiders were flagged 11 times for 117 yards on Sunday.