Raiders

With sneaky speed, Carr must pick the right times to unleash his wheels

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With sneaky speed, Carr must pick the right times to unleash his wheels

NAPA – Derek Carr has sneaky speed. The Raiders quarterback flashes it occasionally outside the pocket, but prefers his legs to buy him time to let his right arm do the real work.

Carr has shown great ability to throw on the run this training camp and find receivers downfield after dodging pass rushers in the backfield. That happened a few times during Friday’s practice in pads. 

“I want to be able to put stress on people, not only from the pocket,” Carr said. “Obviously, I’ve been able to do that for three years, but if I can break contain, if I can see…it makes it easier this year because the game’s slower. Every year the game gets slower. I know where the coverage is, I know what route beats that coverage and as soon as I see it, if it’s not there then I can make something happen with my feet.

“I’m never going to do it too much, obviously. You guys know that. But, the fact that when those coverages play out that way and I can move out and extend plays.”

He also has straight-line speed – Carr ran a 4.69-second 40-yard dash at his scouting combine – and has made a long run and won a few races to the goal line this past week.

It’s hard to imagine Raiders coaches want their $25 million man venturing outside the pocket and away from an excellent offensive line too often. Injury risk increases out there, and this team can’t afford that. Just ask the 2016 Raiders how things when after Carr went down.

Speed is a weapon Carr will wield at times during the regular season, though he has to be smart about it. He must get rid of the football outside the pocket before a big hit, and should be careful when trying to tuck and run. He hurt his hand trying to stiff-arm a defender in 2015, but admits that’s not in the repertoire anymore.

“The stiff arm needs to go away,” Carr said with a smile. “Yes, we don’t need any more hand (injuries).”

QUICK SLANTS

-- Starting cornerback Sean Smith spent his practice with the second unit for the first time. TJ Carrie took his snaps at outside cornerback in the starting base defense. The high-priced veteran has struggled some in training camp, continuing last season’s trend of inconsistency. He would play well at times, but give up far too many big plays.

It’s uncertain how long Smith will stay with the backup unit, but it’s something to watch in the coming days. Carrie fared well in his stead, but Smith’s real competition will come when Gareon Conley recovers from shin splints and tries to earn snaps outside in the base defense and the slot in sub packages.

-- Cornerback TJ Carrie and receiver Michael Crabtree locked horns in camp’s first prolonged tussle. Helmets came off during an exchange where Crabtree threw Carrie to the ground and Carrie kicked him back. Cool heads prevailed quickly, though Crabtree beat David Amerson for a touchdown on his next rep. Crabtree scored another touchdown later in the same red-zone period.

-- DeAndre Washington has taken more first-unit reps and more volume in general than Jalen Richard.

-- Donald Penn continues to hold out and David Sharpe (lower leg) is banged up enough to miss practice, putting a strain on available offensive tackles. Those guys are taking more reps than normal, at times outside a desired position to get through a practice. Marshall Newhouse has also been glued to the left side, even when he’s expected to start at right tackle. Chauncey Briggs and Jylan Ware are taking a heavier load as well while the Raiders are lacking bodies.

-- Defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes had a strong day, including a sack of Derek Carr rushing from the inside.

-- Receiver Amari Cooper missed his second practice in the last three sessions on Friday, wearing a compression sleeve on his left knee. He came up gingerly late in Thursday’s practice and shut himself down. The injury is not considered serious.

-- Second-round safety Obi Melifonwu missed practice with an undisclosed ailment. First-round cornerback Gareon Conley remains on the PUP list with shin splints.

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

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Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were out at Raiders practice Wednesday for the stretching period. Both edge rushers left one-at-a-time during the individual period, which was open to the press, headed into the main building and did not return.

There was no perceived reaction, certainly no surprise, from the coaching staff or players on the field. Irvin and new defensive coordinator John Pagano were seen joking around on the field before practice began in earnest. 

Both Irvin and Mack were given a practice off. A Raiders official called it a day off/rest-type day that was not injury related. The Silver and Black typically practice in pads or shells on Wednesday, but were in jerseys and sweats in the interest of recovery.

This day off's timing did raise an eyebrow.

Wednesday marked the first practice Irvin has missed since training camp. Mack hasn’t missed one in months.

Mack and Irvin’s downtime also came a day after beloved defensive coordinator Ken Norton’s firing.

Several defensive players were upset about Norton's firing, but Mack and Irvin especially were among those loyal to Norton. Mack and Norton developed a bond after the coach was named defensive coordinator in 2015. Norton and Irvin go way back to their days together in Seattle. Irvin credits Norton for helping him get on the right path and stay there.

Neither player was happy Norton got the axe. Irvin made his displeasure clear, tweeting “BULLS***” shortly after news of Norton’s demise broke. Mack told ESPN “I like to keep my thoughts private.” Defensive stars declined comment Wednesday or didn't appear in the locker room when the media was present. 

It isn’t immediately clear if the non-injury related day off was related to Norton’s dismissal. Head coach Jack Del Rio won’t speak to the media again until Friday. New defensive coordinator John Pagano is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon.

Del Rio addressed the media before Wednesday’s practice, and was asked how he’ll handle players unhappy with the in-season shake-up.

“I don’t try and 'handle' them,” Del Rio said. “I think the biggest thing is to understand the relationship, respect that, give him a little space and then at the end of the day, we’re going to get on with our work. But, I’m human. It wasn’t easy for me either.”

Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

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Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio put out a statement Tuesday explaining why he fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

He went into greater detail Wednesday afternoon, his first time facing the media since a change was made

Specifics will be discussed further down this story. We don’t, however, want to bury the lede.

Del Rio’s main message wasn’t about Norton. It applied to all in Silver and Black. This season has not met lofty expectations. That is unacceptable.

“I know one thing,” Del Rio said. “Nobody should feel comfortable, because what I’ve been watching is not good enough.”

Del Rio didn’t absolve himself from blame. Norton got fired, but everyone has played a part in this disappointing 4-6 record.

“It’s always shared,” Del Rio said. “A change was made, obviously. We all share in it, all of us, starting with me. It’s coaches and players. It’s a team game, and we’re all in it together. And nobody is coming to help us.”

The Raiders must look inward to start a prolonged winning streak they’ve shown little evidence they can create.

The seat will be warm under players and coaches alike, even if only one change was made. Expect further shakeup on the coaching staff after the season, if vast improvements don’t come down the stretch, possibly with several position coaches being shown the door. More than a few higher profile players could be cut or allowed to leave, especially on defense.

While Del Rio has taken more heat the past month than at any other time in his Raiders tenure, expect him to be around a longer term. He was given a contract extension in February, and has significant capitol built after changing the culture in Oakland and re-teaching this team how to win. One bad year, even if this season continues heading downhill, shouldn’t erase that.

Del Rio was looking to shake things up, and Norton was the obvious move. Experienced play caller John Pagano was on staff – he was Chargers defensive coordinator from 2012-2016 – and firing the popular Pagano’s style could create some new waves and looks that any offensive Norton would make an impact in the locker room and prove this story’s opening quote, that no one should feel comfortable.

Del Rio hopes firing Norton will be a shock to the defense’s system.

“I really felt like I needed to shake things up,” Del Rio said. “We couldn’t continue doing what we’ve been doing to this point. So I made the call. The whole idea is to change what we’re doing and make sure…what I’m looking for at the end of the day is for us to play fast on defense. We weren’t playing fast enough. We weren’t playing confident enough.”