Raiders

Raiders snap count: Bowman a three-down linebacker vs Bills

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USATI

Raiders snap count: Bowman a three-down linebacker vs Bills

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Raiders have a new field general running their defense. NaVorro Bowman played all 69 defensive snaps in a 34-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills, acting as the three-down linebacker his former team didn’t prefer.

Bowman’s snaps were expected to decrease with the 49ers, a major reason why they released him roughly two weeks ago. The Raiders had a glaring need on the inside, especially for someone with Bowman’s experience, on-field leadership and tackling ability.

He won’t be a part-time player here. The Raiders are banged up at linebacker, Bowman’s the position group’s permanent fixture.

Weakside linebacker Cory James was a three-down player – he missed most of the last two games with a knee injury – but left in certain packages.

Nicholas Morrow, previously involved in sub packages, only played special teams on Sunday.

Time will tell if this change is permanent or injury related, but Bowman has quickly taken command of this defense. He led the team with 11 tackles, including one for a loss. He allowed three receptions for 19 yards – just two after the catch – on as many targets. Pass coverage was a perceived weakness in Bowman's game, but the Raiders aren't putting him in bad spots. They're playing to strengths whenever possible while keeping him on the field. 

“We haven’t really asked him to go eliminate people in terms of if they’re trying to play a lot of man and isolate him on backs or things like that or tight ends," Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. "We’re not asking him to do a lot of that. From what I’ve seen, he’s a good football player. He’s come in, two weeks in a row he’s led our team in tackles. He’s taking charge. He’s been a very positive addition to our football team. His experience, his toughness, his love for the game; it’s a positive for us.”

OFFENSE
Quarterback – Derek Carr 65
Running back – DeAndre Washington 32, Jalen Richard 26, Jamize Olawale 5
Wide receiver – Amari Cooper 63, Cordarelle Patterson 57, Michael Crabtree 55, Johnny Holton 13
Tight end – Jared Cook 46, Lee Smith 19, Clive Walford 6
Offensive line –Kelechi Osemele 65, Rodney Hudson 65, Donald Penn 65, Marshall Newhouse 65, Gabe Jackson 65, Vadal Alexander 2, Jon Feliciano 1

DEFENSE
Defensive line – Khalil Mack 58, Justin Ellis 47, Mario Edwards 43, Denico Autry 37, Eddie Vanderdoes 37, Treyvon Hester 30, Mario Edwards 28, James Cowser 7
Linebacker – NaVorro Bowman 69, Bruce Irvin 61, Cory James 49
Cornerback – TJ Carrie 68, Dexter McDonald 67, Sean Smith 29, Shilique Calhoun 11, Xavier Woodson-Luster 1
Safety – Reggie Nelson 69, Shalom Luani 68, Keith McGill 8

SPECIAL TEAMS
Keith McGill 25, James Cowser 25, Xavier Woodson-Luster 19, Erik Harris 19, Nicholas Morrow 15, Shalom Luani 16, Jalen Richard 12, Johnny Holton 12, Cordarrelle Patterson 11, DeAndre Washington 9, Lee Smith 9, Jon Feliciano 9, Elijah Hood 8, Demetrius McCray 8 Clive Walford 7, Jamize Olawale 7, TJ Carrie 6, Mario Edwards 6, Denico Autry 6, Eddie Vanderdoes 6, Treyvon Hester 6, Jon Condo 6, Marquette King 6, Giorgio Tavecchio 5, Gabe Jackson 2, Marshall Newhouse 2, Kelechi Osemele 2, Vadal Alexander 2, Justin Ellis 2

DID NOT PLAY
QB EJ Manuel, WR Seth Roberts

INACTIVE
CB Gareon Conley, QB Connor Cook, OT Jylan Ware, LB Marquel Lee, DL Jihad Ward, CB David Amerson, OT David Sharpe

Secondary takes another hit; injury updates for two key Raiders

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AP

Secondary takes another hit; injury updates for two key Raiders

ALAMEDA – The Raiders secondary has been beset by injuries this season. An already shaky crew never really had first-round pick Gareon Conley, who played two games due to a shin injury and is on injured reserve.

Even he did more than Obi Melifonwu. The second-round safety was active for five games but played just 34 defensive snaps. He won’t play another this season.

Melifonwu had surgery to repair an injured hip on Thursday, and was placed on season-ending injured reserve Friday afternoon. Cornerback Antonio Hamilton was called up in a corresponding move.

This is Melifonwu’s second IR stint this season. He spent the season’s first half on IR following knee surgery, but was designated to return. Melifonwu never played his natural position. The Raiders used him at cornerback, a desperate experiment that failed in a Week 11 loss to New England and barely played after that.

Injury may have played a part in that.

“I can’t tell you exactly when that occurred,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I think it’s been a little bit that he’s been working with. It required surgery and he had it, so he’ll be out.”

Injuries ran deeper than the draft class.

Top cover man David Amerson has missed six straight games with a foot sprain, and remains doubtful for Sunday night’s clash against the Dallas Cowboys. That absence stings, especially with the secondary working without the young bucks.

Expect Sean Smith, TJ Carrie and Dexter McDonald to maintain their posts at cornerback.

“Those guys have done a good job in a tough spot,” Hamilton said. “They’ve stayed healthy and available for us. That has been key.”

Hamilton tore the meniscus in his knee in a Week 4 loss at Denver and is healthy and ready to contribute.

The NFL’s No. 25-ranked pass defense must make do with what they’ve got down the stretch. There’s some hope Amerson will return, even after being removed from practice the past few days. He performed side work with a trainer Friday right next to the media area, and continues to work on a return despite having so few games left.

Cooper could come back: Raiders receiver Amari Cooper re-injured his sprained ankle in a loss at Kansas City and was ruled out for the Cowboys game. It might not, however, keep him out the rest of the season.

“I think he’s better than he was, but he’s going to be out this week,” Del Rio said. “I think we have a chance to get him back.”

Inconsistency paints the picture of Raiders' underperforming offense

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AP

Inconsistency paints the picture of Raiders' underperforming offense

ALAMEDA – Johnny Holton has made dynamic plays this season. The second-year Raiders receiver has three touchdowns in nine catches, and averages 24.2 yards per reception. His straight-line speed’s tough to match, which is why he has three catches of 40-plus yards.

Holton’s still developing. Therefore, good comes with some bad. He has lost two fumbles in as many games, with four drops and two passes headed his way that were intercepted.

“I think it all kind of is a great example of how our season’s been as an offense,” offensive coordinator Todd Downing said after Thursday’s practice. “We have flashes of really good production and executing well and then flashes or spurts where we’re not exactly executing the way we want.

“Johnny’s kind of a microcosm of that and so, I would say to him and have said to him and to the team, the message that we preach is let’s look for consistency and let’s look for doing the little things right. And then the big things happen.”

Downing’s analogy works. Inconsistency has plagued a talented offense playing below potential, with just enough flashes to drive players, fans and coaches crazy. Productive victories over the Tennessee Titans, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs provide stark contrast to a new normal, where the Raiders struggle to score or produce.

The Raiders have scored 17 points or less seven times in 13 games. They’re 22nd in scoring and 19th in total offense heading into Sunday night’s home game against Dallas.

That’s a drastic drop after last year’s production, a fact that’s been dissected extensively during a disappointing season thus far. We won’t go over them all here. Everyone, from quarterback to coordinator to skill players to the line, shares some of the blame.

Ultimately, it comes down to the inconsistency Downing discussed earlier. The Raiders have three games left to get it right, and even that might be unworthy of a postseason birth.

“We know how to throw the ball. We know how to catch it. We know how to run the ball. We know how to block,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Now we just have to do those things better and more consistent. It always comes down to fundamentals of footwork and all those kinds of timing kind of things.”

“…Sometimes we go out there and it’s great. Then sometimes we go out there and it’s crap. That’s on us as players. We have to execute better.”

Carr says little details cause big problems. Problem is, it isn’t something you can circle with a red pen. It isn’t one thing that takes one permanent fix. The mistakes are coming from everywhere, and they’re coming often. That’s why so many Raiders have said they’re close to solid execution so many times this season.

That must drive detail-oriented offensive captains Carr and Rodney Hudson nuts. The entire offensive depth chart, remains committed to the process, hoping a talented roster will realize potential before the season’s out.

“There are a lot of things in life that look good on paper,” tight end Lee Smith said on this week’s Raiders Insider Podcast. “If you don’t put it together in the right way and form itself, it doesn’t matter what the pieces are if the puzzle doesn’t come together.

“We have to keep working as a football family from the top all the way down. We have three more football games to win. We plan on winning all of them. There are three good teams left on the schedule, and it’s excited to see what we’re made of now that we’re back into a corner a little bit.”

The Raiders receivers are backed into a corner, with Amari Cooper likely out a week at least with an ankle sprain. That'll put Holton back in the heavy rotation, meaning he'll have to avoid mistakes to keep the offense going. 

"Johnny is a hard worker and a guy that I know is excited to get back on that field Sunday and have an opportunity to make some plays for us and help us win this ball game," Downing said. "We’re looking forward to that.”