Raiders have utmost respect for Von Miller, Broncos pass rush

Raiders have utmost respect for Von Miller, Broncos pass rush

ALAMEDA – The Denver Broncos have the NFL’s best pass defense. Their secondary is awesome, featuring Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby and Chris Harris Jr. at cornerback.

Those guys cover exceptionally well, but often not for long. Why? Von Miller’s most always on the case. The Denver pass rush is tied for the league lead with 28 sacks. Miller has that sum’s lion’s share.

Miller has 8.5 sacks and a forced fumble through eight games, easily heading toward double-digit sacks in five of his first six seasons. He had five sacks in 2009 when he only played nine games.

Bottom line: Miller is a game wrecker, and could be major a factor in Sunday night’s clash between the Raiders and Broncos. He certainly was in Super Bowl 50, when he earned MVP honors in a Broncos victory.

“Von Miller, I have the utmost respect for, obviously,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “…He’s one of the best players that we’ve ever seen in this league, especially as a pass rusher. … It doesn’t matter what you try to do, eventually he’s going to make a play. It’s fun to watch him play. It’s fun to compete against him because he’s one of the best. I love that. He’s just a special talent, he really is.”

As the opposition often does against Khalil Mack, teams scheme against the top pass rusher. That’s certainly the case with Miller, though Denver has a diverse pass rush. A total of five players have at least two sacks this season, including edge rushers DeMarcus Ware and Shane Ray and end Derek Wolfe.

“A lot of different players are capable,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “DeMarcus Ware is one of the more decorated pass rushers of the last 10 years or so. They have a bunch of guys that can get there. They have good cover people. Rush and coverage make up good pass defense.”

Many have compared Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack and Miller, though they’re different players in style and function.

“There isn’t really a comparison,” Mack said. “We’re two different players in two different schemes. We’re trying to do the most to put our teams in position to win. That’s what you see.”

What many see is that Miller’s a game changer as much by threat as action. In addition to 8.5 sacks, he has four quarterback hits and 31 other pressures. He’s excellent forcing errant throws for an opportunistic secondary. Football people say rush and coverage work together, and Miller’s the catalyst of Denver operating at a staggering defensive clip with opportunities for big turnovers.

Carr is fully aware of the challenge ahead.

“You definitely want to make sure your feet lead you to completions,” Carr said. “You try and train in the offseason to where you’re on a clock all the time, so not just when you need it or things like that. That’s why you train your feet to make sure you’re on time to your throws and things like that then you don’t even have to worry about it.”

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.