Bruce Irvin's role with Raiders reduces further in loss to 49ers

Bruce Irvin's role with Raiders reduces further in loss to 49ers

ALAMEDA – Edge rusher Bruce Irvin’s role continues to decrease with the Raiders, reaching new lows in recent weeks. 

He played 24 defensive snaps in a Week 8 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, and that paltry sum dropped to nine Thursday night against the 49ers. 

That begs one question: Why phase the team’s only established pass rusher out?
Irvin, with 40 career sacks to his credit, has been used primarily in sub packages. Coach Jon Gruden said Friday that’s why his workload has decreased. 
“Well, last night we weren’t in our nickel defense very much,” Gruden said Friday. “Remember we’re a 4-3 team, we’re not a 3-4. So in the base defense, sometimes he doesn’t fit the role that we need done. No disrespect to Bruce. He’s an edge rusher. We haven’t had a lead. We haven’t had the opposition behind in the chains a lot. So his role has been reduced. I know he’s frustrated. I’m frustrated. We’ll try to solve that as soon as possible. He’s a good player. He’s a good player.”

Irvin was an edge rusher at strong-side linebacker in Jack Del Rio’s scheme the last two years, but was moved to the front in Paul Guenther’s more traditional 4-3 base alignment. Irvin is generally regarded as a quality run player, though at 250 pounds is a bit small to play on the strong side in the base defense. 
There is one problem with chalking up Irvin’s lack of playing time to an issue of which packages are on the field. 

The Raiders played 23 defensive snaps in the nickel package Thursday night. Irvin was only involved in seven of those plays. His two other snaps came in a goal-line defense. 
Irvin has been limited in practice with a pectoral injury, and last week Gruden said Irvin was dealing with a shoulder issue. 
Clinton McDonald started at end along with Frostee Rucker. Rucker has played there during a long career, though McDonald is playing out of position there after typically playing three technique. 

“We need somebody to line up on the tight end and jolt the tight end,” Gruden said. “We need somebody that can play on the edge and really be a factor, bend the edge, don’t let the ball get to the corner and credit to him, he’s been able to do a pretty good job of it. But to answer your question, outside of Frostee Rucker, we’re still looking for guys that can bend the edge and be a factor on the running game, particularly on the strong side where the tight end is.”

Where Raiders could play in 2019 if they abandon Oakland Coliseum


Where Raiders could play in 2019 if they abandon Oakland Coliseum

The City of Oakland has filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the Raiders and the NFL in search of millions in debt relief from remodeling the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, additional damages and possibly the team’s name and branding elements over their decision to leave for Las Vegas.

The action could spell death for the team’s tenure at the 52-year-old stadium. The Silver and Black’s lease with the aging venue expires at season’s end, and the team obviously is uneasy about finalizing a lease for the 2019 season with a public entity that is suing them.

The Raiders have explored contingency plans in case a long-threatened lawsuit was levied. They don’t have great alternatives if they eliminate the Coliseum as an option for next season, the final year before a new Las Vegas stadium is scheduled to open in 2020.

Here are some possibilities, and whether they’re realistic or not:

Sam Boyd Stadium (Las Vegas)

Let’s get this out of the way first: UNLV’s home field is not an option. It would take major renovations to make the venue viable, and it makes zero sense to pour money into a stadium that even the Rebels football team will abandon after next season. Also, the Raiders don’t want to crawl into the Las Vegas market and wait for their new stadium’s big splash.

All of those reasons virtually eliminate Sam Boyd Stadium as a viable option, and it’s the only venue in the state of Nevada that could be considered an prospect. 

Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara)

Raiders owner Mark Davis doesn’t like Levi’s Stadium one bit, and he wouldn’t be thrilled to play there for even one season. The 49ers might love some extra dates but not the extra wear on their home turf.

But ... Levi’s Stadium was built to house two NFL teams. The 49ers easily could accommodate -- or tolerate -- an extra tenant. The Raiders easily could move in there for a year, and stay in their home market. It also might be the league’s preferred option if the Coliseum is out, because it doesn’t mess with any markets already claimed by other teams.

The league certainly could nudge the Raiders and 49ers into a pact for one season. Keep an eye on Levi’s as an option as we trudge ahead.

Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego)

San Diego just lost a team, and is still reeling over the Chargers relocating north to Carson. That market, which housed the Bolts for 56 years, can be a football-friendly market with a large Raiders fan base residing there, and throughout Southern California.

It also has an aging, yet NFL-ready stadium that's collecting dust on Sundays. One problem: The Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams both are marketing heavily in San Diego. Those teams might not appreciate the most popular team in SoCal invading their turf, even on the southern fringe.

However, it would be a short flight for the Raiders to play home games while continuing to practice in Alameda, so San Diego could be a prospect over several others on this list.

Alamodome (San Antonio)

The Raiders flirted with San Antonio before moving relocation prospects to L.A., and then to Las Vegas. The facility also is NFL-ready, but it’s a great distance from California for home games.

It’s also difficult to imagine the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans, two heavyweight franchises within the league, allowing another team to enter the Lone Star State.

Cal Memorial Stadium/Stanford Stadium

Both NCAA venues could host NFL games, but there are issues aplenty with on-campus stadiums at Cal and Stanford, respectively.

Stanford doesn’t want or need the extra dates. Parking around Cal is a nightmare, and there’s no tailgating. Neither stadium is a realistic option.

Raiders as a traveling band

Coach Jon Gruden would hate it, but the Raiders could play more than half their games on the road, even if they call a new venue home. They have given up a home game to play abroad in four of the past five years, and they could give up another to an international city.

The Raiders could, conceivably, establish a short residence in London to avoid extra travel while playing through their last season before heading to Las Vegas.

Ben Roethlisberger says old Coliseum X-ray machine kept him out vs. Raiders


Ben Roethlisberger says old Coliseum X-ray machine kept him out vs. Raiders

Sunday wasn't a banner day for Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. 

The turf was the Raiders' most valuable player in a Week 14 win, causing Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell to slip on a game-tying field-goal attempt as time expired. There also was the matter of not one, but two dead rodents in a vending machine.

"I was glad I only had coffee," a press-box source told NBC Sports California on the condition of anonymity. (Editor's Note: It was Raiders Insider Scott Bair

Plus, an outdated X-ray machine kept Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out for much of the second half, according to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. 

“The X-ray was inconclusive because the machine was old,” Roethlisberger told Ron Cook and Joe Starkey on 93.7 The Fan (H/T KDKA-TV).

We're sure CC Sabathia empathizes. 

Roethlisberger suffered an injury in the first half, but he said he still didn't know what his injury was when he left the locker room at the start of the second half. He said he took a pain-killing shot after being evaluated for a rib injury, and he ultimately felt he was able to return when Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called his number with just over five minutes remaining. 

The 36-year-old led the Steelers on a go-ahead touchdown drive once Roethlisberger returned, and Pittsburgh was in position to tie the score, thanks to a hook-and-lateral on his second drive. Then, the Coliseum turf struck. 

The Raiders have one home game remaining in Oakland this season when they host the Denver Broncos on Christmas Eve. It might be the last Raiders game in Oakland, after the city announced it was suing the team and the NFL. That lawsuit could have profound consequences for all parties, but that means there's only one more chance for stories like this.

Well, at least until A's Opening Day.