Raiders run game a key factor in besting tough Broncos defense

Raiders run game a key factor in besting tough Broncos defense

ALAMEDA – The Denver Broncos defense is world class, as good as it gets in most areas. That’s especially true in pass defense, where they’re the NFL standard bearer halfway through the year.

They’re a top five defense in total yards allowed and scoring. Their run defense doesn’t jive with those totals. They’re ranked No. 23 against the run, allowing 117.4 yards per game on 27.5 carries per contest.

That might be a relative weakness the Raiders could try to exploit during Sunday night’s pivotal AFC West showdown. The Raiders have run it well, especially when Latavius Murray, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have all been healthy and running strong.

Discounting two games while Murray was out dealing with turf toe, the Raiders have 778 yards and seven touchdowns on 153 carries, a 5.08-yard average that would rank among the league’s best.

Those backs, sprinkled with some Jamize Olawale runs and Derek Carr scrambles, have been an effective tandem thus far.

“We all complement each other, and it makes us hard to game plan against,” Washington said. “Everybody has their own unique talents, and it makes us tough to stop when everybody’s running strong.”

Every Silver and Black back has the luxury of running behind an excellent offensive line that creates the space required for efficient runs.

“It starts with the guys in the trenches, the O-line, and I think we’ve done a pretty solid job opening holes and protecting our quarterback,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “And, you have to be able to run it well.

“In my opinion, you’ve got to be able to run it when you want to and this will be a great challenge. This is a really good, really good defense we’re going against this week and they make it difficult to run the ball, so that’ll be one of the key factors for us, how well can we run the ball against this team.”

Del Rio’s right. Just because the stats say something doesn’t mean running will be easy against a talented Broncos defensive front. They have some solid run stuffers, especially Derek Wolfe and Brandon Marshall.

The Raiders have been able to run effectively against everyone when all backs are right. They’ve exceeding 120 rushing yards in five of six games when Murray and the gang was healthy. A Week 4 contest against Balitmore was tough sledding against the best run defense the Raiders have faced.

Their per carry average suggests efficient running, but it’s been buoyed by longer runs. They have nine runs of 20 yards or more and several jaunts above 10. That’s a stat the entire Raiders running game enjoys.

“The offensive line has been great creating space up front, but (Running backs coach Bernie Parmalee) always tells us that the o-line can only do so much,” Washington said. “At some point you’re going to have to make a guy miss. If you can do that, it’s usually a big run. We pride ourselves on following the line’s lead and winning our one-on-one matchups to create explosive runs.”

Explosiveness and efficiency. That’s the key to a impactful run game the Raiders hope to feature against Denver.

“You always want to have a good average, so you want to make sure you’re popping off efficient runs,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “When you’re doing that, you can kind of dictate things. You always want to stay on schedule, too, with the down and distance. It’ll definitely help us, not just this week but any week.”

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.