NaVorro Bowman

Bowman's shown well since coming to Oakland, hopes to return to Raiders

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AP

Bowman's shown well since coming to Oakland, hopes to return to Raiders

ALAMEDA – Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers means something to Raiders middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman. They all do at this juncture, even with playoff hopes now extinct.

The 29-year old former All-Pro is in a prove-it period, and has been since signing with Raiders in Week 7. The 49ers released him days before, and he joined the Silver and Black to show he could still be a high-functioning three-down linebacker in this league.

He has earned that title in Oakland, playing 96.4 percent of the Raiders’ defensive snaps since joining the team. His 84 tackles are five off the team lead despite him spending the season’s first five weeks – he was unemployed during Week 6’s game -- in Santa Clara. He has a sack, an interception, four passes defense and a fumble recovery.

Bowman’s highly motivated to increase those totals against the Chargers in Carson.

“It’s about your character as a player,” Bowman said after Friday’s practice. “People don’t understand what goes into this game and how cutthroat it is. We can’t afford that mindset of not having anything to play for. We’re playing for our families. We’re playing for next year. We’re playing to not put bad film out there.”

Bowman has plenty of good film stopping the run and running a defense he’s learning on the fly, something he considers an ‘eye-opening’ experience. Coverage was the biggest question mark heading into his Raiders tenure and remains so heading into the season finale, but Bowman believes overall play will continue to improve with further distance from a 2016 Achilles’ tendon tear – burst and agility generally returns a second year removed from the injury -- and greater scheme knowledge.

“There are still things I can learn in this defense,” Bowman said. “I’m known throughout the NFL for my instincts. I haven’t been able to use those instincts in this defense because I don’t really know it. I don’t know when I can take those chances. I don’t know who’s backing me up in certain calls. If I’m able to come back next year and get a full training camp and get used to really communicating with everyone on the field, I feel like I’ll be able to do a lot more.”

Bowman was happy with his choice to sign with the Raiders. He was able to keep family close in the Bay Area, and assume a coveted full-time role right away.

He’d like to keep it next year. Bowman’s an unrestricted free agent who has made a positive impression on a franchise sorely missing reliability and experience at inside linebacker before he arrived. If the price and terms are right for both sides, Bowman could come back for more. It’s an opportunity he’d appreciate, especially after the defense made significant improvements down the stretch.

“I feel comfortable with (defensive play caller John Pagano) and Coach Del Rio being at the helm and with Khalil (Mack) and Bruce (Irvin) on the outside,” Bowman said. “They key, the formula is here, to play good defense. There are things you can improve, and I’m willing to put that work in to get better with them.”

Bowman says improvement will come with intimate scheme knowledge, an important factor for his position. Bowman calls plays in the huddle, and helps the front seven get aligined and react to presnap formations. That wasn't always easy, with Bowman learning new parts of the defense each week. 

"It’s been eye opening for me," Bowman said. "I’m able to take all this in and put it on my back on each week and am still able to execute. There are words being said that I may not have heard before, but it applies to a concept from San Francisco. Understanding which words go with which concepts are new and something I may mess up in practice, but I learn and know that I’ll be able to apply it properly in a game and play fast. Those things happen every single week. There’s something new that comes up, but I make sure I understand it and go out there and perform."

 

After giving Raiders' defense a lift, will Bowman be back in 2018? 'I don't...'

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AP

After giving Raiders' defense a lift, will Bowman be back in 2018? 'I don't...'

ALAMEDA – The Broncos were a yard from the goal line, but NaVorro Bowman could tell quarterback Paxton Lynch was trying to throw it in. Eyes were evidence in this regard. Lynch locked on tight end Virgil Green near the baseline, so Bowman stopped tracking the quarterback and drifted toward the intended receiver. He got in Green’s way and defensed the pass. Reggie Nelson batted it back to Bowman, who caught it lying on the ground. In the end zone, of all places.

Interception, Raiders. Drought over.

The Raiders set an NFL record going 10-plus games without a pick. The Raiders went 357 passes without an interception, so this one was a big deal.

“Oh, God. We celebrated,” defensive play caller John Pagano said. “It was like the Holy Grail they brought walking over. It was outstanding. I wanted to put that ball on a pedestal. That’s a great effort play by No. 53 [NaVorro Bowman]. You can’t say enough of him filling in an A-gap, turning, running. The tight end was covered by Reggie. All of the sudden, he loops back inside, the quarterback throws it, but just the effort of 53, getting over there, hitting it, tipping it, Reggie keeping it alive and that ball being able to fall.

“That was a great ball. I touched it. I made sure I touched it. That thing was awesome.”

Bowman hasn’t been here that long. The 21-14 victory over Denver was Bowman’s fifth game in silver and black, his desired destination after the 49ers released him early in the season. The interception gap didn’t have the same weight, but he was happy to lift it all the same.

“Anytime you make a play like that,” Bowman said, “you expect it to propel you in a positive direction.”

It certainly did. It was part of a solid defensive showing that featured five sacks and (drumroll, please)…a real, live turnover. It has to be graded on a curve because Lynch was downright awful, but that defensive effort could be a foundation for better.

“I think it could help us,” Bowman said. “Teams that start figuring things out in November and December have a chance to get hot and close the season strong. We still have a ton of work to do, but that Broncos game was a good sign, and showed that we have the capability to control the game on defense.”

Pagano tweaked some things after Ken Norton Jr. was fired early last week. Head coach Jack Del Rio wanted the team to play faster, so Pagano made assignments easier even when disguised as complex.

“Simplifying things helped everyone, coaches included,” Bowman said. “It got everybody playing fast and got people comfortable and utilize our talents.”

The Raiders have given Bowman on-field control to line the unit up right. The middle linebacker has had some issues in coverage, but has brought stability to the interior defense, with 44 tackles, a pick and two passes defensed with the Raiders.

“This scheme allows you to just play,” Bowman said. “The last scheme I was in asked you to be very specific in some areas. Some times it’s best to just let players go play. You can’t draw it up from A to Z and expect everything to go according to plan. Over here they allow me to play a little bit and utilize my experience.”

Bowman signed a one-year deal with the Raiders in Week 7. They aren’t committed to him beyond that, and have fifth-round pick Marquel Lee as a long-term possibility. General manager Reggie McKenze said during the bye week he was open, yet noncommittal, to re-signing Bowman to another deal.

“Yes, he could be. He’s a football player,” McKenzie said. “Needless to say, his experience, and the way he plays...I’m talking about from an instincts and savvy standpoint, anytime you come two years off an injury, it’s always going to be better than the next year, so that’s not going to be a deterrent, but he can still play.”

McKenzie referred to an Achilles’ injury suffered early last season. It takes time to return from that injury, and it’s possible some lost explosiveness could return as McKenzie suggests.

Bowman believes he can still be an impactful player. He has five games left in this season, but admits he has pondered a future that keeps him in silver and black.

“I still study the same way,” Bowman said. “I still feel like I can play this game at a high level. I feel like I can average 10 tackles a game. I don’t see why they wouldn’t sign me back. I’d love to stay. I like the area. I like the team and the organization. Hopefully we can make it happen.”

Finally! NaVorro Bowman records Raiders' first interception of season

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Finally! NaVorro Bowman records Raiders' first interception of season

It took 12 weeks, but the Raiders finally have their first interception of the season.

It came in unlikely fashion from an unlikely source.

With the Broncos at the 1-yard line early in the second quarter, Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch scrambled to his left and attempted to throw across his body. He was trying to find tight end Virgil Green in the end zone. NaVarro Bowman broke up the pass and fell to the ground. The ball stayed in the air, deflected off Reggie Nelson's hands and ended up in the hands of Bowman, who was lying on the ground.

It ends the Raiders' NFL record for longest drought without a touchdown. It was the Raiders' first interception in 357 pass attempts.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/934908437778989056

On the ensuing drive, the Raiders went down the field and cashed in with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Amari Cooper.