Raiders familiar with Bosa, another dominant AFC West pass rusher

Raiders familiar with Bosa, another dominant AFC West pass rusher

ALAMEDA – San Diego Chargers defensive lineman Joey Bosa’s season didn’t start on schedule. The No. 3 overall pick missed the preseason during a contract holdout and the first four games with a hamstring issue.

Bosa’s professional debut came in Oakland five weeks in, and he was awesome. The rookie had two sacks, a quarterback hit and four other pressures.

“I think it was a good game to get my feet wet and really get a feel of being out there,” Bosa said in a conference call. “It got my confidence up for the rest of the season.”

It marked a productive start to a season that hasn’t slowed much. Bosa has 27 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 11 quarterback hits, 27 other pressures, a forced fumble and 10 tackles for loss in just nine games.

The Raiders know all about Bosa’s ability from that first meeting, and will be keenly aware of him during Sunday’s game at Qualcomm Stadium.

“He’s very active, looks like they have a good young player that we’ll be seeing at least twice a year for a long time,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a good player.”

He’s yet another top-flight pass rusher in the AFC West, with at least one game wrecker per team. The Raiders have Khalil Mack, Von Miller’s in Denver, Justin Houston’s now back playing for Kansas City and Bosa seems like a real threat in San Diego.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is just thrilled about that, having to face quality pass rushers in every division game.

“We don’t have enough in this division,” Carr said in a tone dripping with sarcasm. “Yeah, we obviously don’t have enough. Joey plays with great effort. He does a real good job with moving on the line of scrimmage and things like that. They put him in different spots.

“They have a great defensive coordinator, a very smart coach. He knows what he’s doing with him, and he uses him to his strengths, he really does. We have our hands full, obviously, but looking forward to it.”

Bosa believes he’s better than his last Raiders game, a more complete player who shouldn’t be judged on high motor alone. He takes pride in great technique, being fundamentally sound to accentuate tremendous athletic talent.

“I notice a good amount of how I changed this year,” Bosa said. “One thing I could tell is how much more flexible I am now. The way I move out there just looks quicker, and I’m bending better. There’s pretty significant change throughout the short, however many weeks it has been.”

Bosa enjoys watching other pass rushers, but he doesn’t get to the quarterback like Khalil Mack does. The Raiders offensive line can’t rely on Mack to help prepare for a unique pass rusher who weighs in a 280 pounds and can play all over the line.

“(Mack is) just a freak of nature, just so quick and twitchy the way he moves,” Bosa said. “I think we’re pretty different players when it comes to our pass rushing technique and how we go about it. I always love watching other great players. Of course, any little thing I can pick up off his game is good.”

Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders


Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden had a hand in drafting Josh Johnson a decade ago. The agile quarterback and Oakland native was a Tampa Bay’s fifth-round pick in 2008, Gruden’s last year as Buccaneers coach.

The pair will reunite in Johnson’s hometown. The well-traveled quarterback signed with the Raiders on Monday, the team announced.

Johnson will compete with Connor Cook to backup starter Derek Carr, and brings a veteran’s influence to the position group. It likely spells the end of EJ Manuel’s short tenure in silver and black. The strong-armed former first-round pick, who started one game last season, remains a free agent after a year with the Raiders.

This move should make Marshawn Lynch happy. He and Johnson are extremely close and together run the Family First Foundation, a charitable organization that does significant work for East Bay kids. Johnson and Lynch also played football together at Oakland Tech High.

Johnson has played 10 NFL teams prior to this Raiders stop, but hasn’t played in a regular-season game for some time.

Raiders well equipped to 'slam the ball with a beast'


Raiders well equipped to 'slam the ball with a beast'

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden needed specific tools to run his running game. He wanted blocking tight ends and a bruising fullback, relics of a bygone offensive era.

“If Marshawn Lynch is the feature back, I think it’d be nice if we serviced him with a fullback,” Gruden said at the combine. … You need a blocking tight end if you’re going to slam the ball with a beast. So, those are two things that I’m looking for.”

Gruden said he wanted to import some old-school elements to help run with brute force.

Enter free-agent fullback Kyle Smith and tight end Derek Carrier. Welcome back, Lee Smith.

Then, on Sunday, Raiders made another vital move in this old school effort. They cut Marshawn Lynch a $1 million check.

The Oakland native’s roster bonus came due and the Raiders had no problem paying it, the clearest sign Lynch will be the Raiders feature back in 2018.

He’ll have a great chance to thrive in that role. The Raiders have a hulking, expensive offensive line (that still needs a right tackle). They have new ancillary blocking elements, and the centerpiece remains in place.

That last part was expected in recent weeks. The coaching staff, offensive line coach Tom Cable especially, wanted Lynch back. NFL Network confirmed those facts, stating Lynch will be around in 2018.

That was the case, even with Doug Martin’s addition. The former Tampa Bay back is expected to be a backup bruiser, someone who might put DeAndre Washington or (less likely) Jalen Richard’s job in jeopardy.

The Raiders can cut Lynch without a cap hit. Lynch is scheduled to make $6 million in salary and bonuses, with another $2 million available in incentives. The Raiders should hope to pay those; it would mean Lynch is running well.

The Raiders have given him a great opportunity to do so. They have solid blocking and a coach in Cable who helped him succeed during dominant days in Seattle.

Lynch proved he’s still got it in 2017’s second half, with 70 percent of his 891 rushing yards in the final eight games. He struggled early on, and upset some fans by helping the opposition during a scuffle with Kansas City. That mitigated a PR bump the Raiders looked for when signing a popular Oakland native just months after committing to Las Vegas long-term.

Jack Del Rio and staff grew tired of what they perceived as leeway given to Lynch unavailable to others, and probably wouldn’t have kept him on if still gainfully employed.

Gruden seems committed to Lynch this season, though nothing is ever 100 percent with an enigmatic rusher who doesn’t make private thoughts public.

His elusive, rough-and-tumble rushing style fits well with what Gruden wants, though he demands commitment to the team and sport. Sports Illustrated relayed a story of Gruden saying he needed a “full-time Lynch.”

If he gets that, the Raiders run game should thrive.