Raiders adept playing ‘big boy ball’ behind Murray, hulking O-line

Raiders adept playing ‘big boy ball’ behind Murray, hulking O-line

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio rarely looks back. Hindsight isn’t useful in a season that never stops moving, one that demands coaching staffs always prepare for the future.

Del Rio did look back at Thursday night’s loss and wished he could’ve done some things different. On 3rd-and-1 on the Raiders’ final drive, a deep shot at the end zone was called. In hindsight, Del Rio wishes a run was called. A false start eliminated a second shot at the first down, which the Raiders never got and eventually lost 21-13 at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Raiders run game was rolling that night, to the tune of 135 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. While he publicly lamented one play, Del Rio generally wanted to attack more from the ground.

“I felt like I would have like to see us play a little more big boy ball in that game with the weather, the fact that he was having an off night,” Del Rio said. “We have that big (offensive) line, I would have liked to see us hand that ball off a few more times behind that line.”

The Raiders hulking offensive line was an intimidating force, even with Kelechi Osemele out battling kidney stones on Thursday. He’ll be back for Sunday’s game at San Diego, and the running could maintain a solid six-game that began with Latavius Murray’s return from turf toe.

He missed a Week 5 contest against San Diego, when the Raiders rushed 25 times for 89 yards. He also missed a Week 6 loss to Kansas City, but has taken a greater role in the Raiders offense. He took 42 percent of the carries before his injury, and has taken 57 percent of the carries since his Week 7 return.

“I want the ball in my hands as much as I can, whether that’s carrying the ball or catching it,” Murray said. “Any way I can be a threat or get the ball in my hands, I want it. I want to be a part of this great offense we have going right now.”

The run game can be a crutch, especially in cold weather environments where passing is harder to do.

A three-man running back rotation has trimmed to two, with Murray and Jalen Richard controlling the carries. Murray has become more of a feature back with 57 of the carries over the last seven games. The Raiders have averaged 125.5 yards per game in that span, and ranks No. 6 overall with 116 yards per game.

Murray in particular has been a powerful force in this offense recently. That was clear against Kansas City, where he had 103 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.

He averaged 4.7 yards per carry that night, and a flat four yards per rush on the season. That efficiency is solid, but the Raiders like a few other metrics as well.

Murray has 12 rushing touchdowns in 11 games played, proving tough to stop near the goal line. He also leads the league with 29 percent of his runs going for first downs. He ranks ninth with 2.73 yards after contact per touch and has forced 17 missed tackles, metrics that show he’s being more elusive in the second level. At times he uses a stiff arm or a quick move. Other times, Murray uses brute force.

“I’m trying to improve on making a defender miss or making them feel it,” Murray said. “That’s something I wanted to improve on from last year, especially when I get to the second level. I continue to work on that and do whatever I can to be a dangerous back.”

Jalen Richard has also been a dangerous back. The undrafted rookie averages 5.7 yards per carry, and has been patient rushing behind solid blocks and shifty in the open field.

The Raiders have a good thing going on the ground, a fact the Raiders hope to exploit as the season wears on. They have a potent passing game, the Raiders have a good rushing system going, and they want to maintain production against a solid San Diego run defense.

“We’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing,” Murray said Tuesday. “We’ve been doing great things, and we’re not going to let what happened let us think otherwise. We have a great opportunity to win a game in San Diego. We’re excited about it.”

Raiders to sign former 49ers defensive lineman


Raiders to sign former 49ers defensive lineman

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden wanted veterans to help turn his defense around. He added a linebacker and defensive backs aplenty. Then, on Friday night, he gave the front some help.

Former 49ers defensive lineman Tank Carradine will sign with the Raiders, the 28-year old announced on his Instagram page. 

The Sacramento Bee first reported the news. 

He visited the Raiders on Thursday and was in Seattle earlier Friday, but will sign with the Silver and Black.

Carradine could help their transition to a more traditional 4-3 alignment, able to play end in the base defense. He has proven himself as a solid run defender, but believes he can be an effective pass rusher if given the opportunity.

Carradine didn’t get many pass-rushing chances with the 49ers, who generally removed him on passing downs. He has 5.5 sacks in four professional seasons. He played 37.9 percent of 49ers defensive snaps during eight games with the 49ers last season. He missed the same amount on short-term injured reserve with an ankle injury.

At 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, he has the size to be a 4-3 base end. He’ll likely have to battle Mario Edwards Jr. for snaps opposite Khalil Mack, though Bruce Irvin will take that spot in sub packages.

Carradine will be the 10th free-agent signing expected to make the roster, which means the roster turnover this summer should be significant. 

Here was his Instagram post from Friday night: 

Proud to become an Oakland Raider! Let's go #raiders#nation

A post shared by Cornellius Smith (@tank.carradine) on

Adding Rashaan Melvin the key move to Raiders' revamped secondary


Adding Rashaan Melvin the key move to Raiders' revamped secondary

The Raiders started this offseason looking to revamp their secondary around their last two first-round picks. Gareon Conley would start at one cornerback spot. Karl Joseph was penned at strong safety.

Every other job, however, was wide open and likely filled from the outside.

Safety Marcus Gilchrist came aboard Thursday, but one premium spot remained open opposite Conley. Veteran cornerback Rashaan Melvin took it Friday afternoon, agreeing on terms of a one-year $6.5 million contract.

NFL Network broke the news of a bargain compared to other cornerback free-agent deals. They aren’t attached to him long term, and Melvin can sign a bigger deal if he plays well in 2018.

The Raiders declared interest in the former Indianapolis cornerback early this week and worked toward an agreement sealed during a Friday morning visit at the team’s Alameda practice facility.

The 28-year old’s fresh off a career year, allowing just 29 receptions for 328 yards and two touchdowns on 55 targets in 2017. He had three interceptions and 13 passes defensed. Quarterbacks had a paltry 60.3 passer rating against him.

Melvin stands 6-foot-2, 196 pounds and has the athleticism to excel in Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s system.

Melvin bounced around before settling with the Colts, struggling to find footing in Tampa Bay, Baltimore New England and two offseason programs in Miami. He found a home in Indianapolis, and became a regular starter in 2016. His breakout 2017 season was cut short by a hand injury that kept him out the last five games.

Melvin projects to start right away. The Raiders will be thrilled if he stays healthy and retains recent form. Melvin has solid ball skills, regularly forces incompletions and thrived in tough assignments that came with being the Colts’ top cornerback.

Gilchrist’s addition, Melvin’s deal and the Friday addition of Shareece Wright fills a cupboard in the defensive backfield laid bare by design.

The Raiders cut David Amerson and now-jailed Sean Smith this offseason. TJ Carrie took a big deal in Cleveland. Reggie Nelson’s allowed to walk as a free agent.

The Raiders added three free agents to the group thus far, and could well draft another defensive back next month.

They’ll have safety Obi Melifonwu in reserve – he’ll have to earn a role after missing most of 2017 with injury – and cornerbacks Antonio Hamilton and Dexter McDonald vying for spots.

Melvin will be plenty motivated to have a big year and cash in at age 29, for what might be his last shot at a big payday.