Raiders run game 'must get back on track' to help Cook in playoffs


Raiders run game 'must get back on track' to help Cook in playoffs

ALAMEDA – The Raiders ran right at Denver back in Week 9, and there was nothing the Broncos could do about it. They were determined to avoid getting run over again, and were set up to stop Latavius Murray and Co. on the ground.

Stacking the box was easier with Derek Carr recovering from surgery, and Denver allowed just 57 yards on 17 rushes. Those were disappointing totals for a run game expected to set the tone for a Raiders team carrying on without their MVP.

“We didn’t run it the way we wanted to run it and to me we didn’t run it enough,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I mean, Latavius (Murray) ends up with five carries. How’s that happen? It wasn’t a great job of executing by the Oakland Raiders.”

Denver loaded up against the run, bringing extra bodies into the box while daring the Raiders to throw deep.

“You have to run when everybody knows you’re going to run,” running back Jalen Richard said. “Coming into a game where (Carr’s) out, we have to be able to run the ball. Denver had a good game plan, and we couldn’t connect on the back end.”

That should be a new reality for the Raiders run game without their starting quarterback. The Raiders will play an aggressive front during Saturday’s playoff game at Houston.

The whole world knows the Raiders need to run well to stabilize the offense. There’s no spinning that. At times, they’ll have to produce against a defensive front expecting the run.

“That’s always a tough way to make a living, but we’re all used to it,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “That’s what happens in professional football. You have to be able to handle eight and nine man boxes and run it when you want to. We’ve experienced a lot of success in the run game his year, more than we did two years ago. Last weekend, we didn’t have a lot of success running it, but we want to get right back on track.”

The Raiders were close to running well, but blocking wasn’t perfect. Nor was the timing within these plays. Poor play on third down dropped their carry count, especially for Latavius Murray.

Seeing only minor imperfections gives the Raiders confidence they can rebound from one bad showing following four games with 130 yards or more.

“We were one block away from a few big runs,” Richard said. “We had one where, if one thing went different, it was a house call. The details got away from us a little bit.”

Houston got to the run game in a Week 11 meeting, and held the Silver and Black to a season-low 30 yards. That didn’t eliminate running backs from the game plan. Running backs had 199 receiving yards and two touchdowns in that game.

Houston can stop the run without loading the box. Also, Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said this week he might try defensive backs on Raiders backs, which could create better matchups downfield. 

“A lot of teams want to bring in extra DBs, go dime or quarter, instead of just nickel, so they can put DBs on our backs instead of linebackers,” Musgrave said. “We’ll anticipate that, just like we have the past few weeks.

“You have to give and take on offense and defense when you make adjustments. We’ll hope that we can play the chess game with them and come out on top.”

Outsmarting the opposition is obviously beneficial. At times, however, the Raiders want to succeed when everyone in the building knows what’s coming. That will be key for a running game looking to control tempo and help Cook ease into his first NFL start.

“We know we need to run the ball to be successful, as we do week in and week out,” Murray said. “I’m sure me, DeAndre (Washington) and Jalen take on the responsibility of carrying this team. I know I do. We need people to step up and make plays. I’m going to look to do that as a leader on this team and as a running back in this offense.”

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.