Raiders

Camp preview: Raiders RBs should share the load, but there could be one tough cut

Camp preview: Raiders RBs should share the load, but there could be one tough cut

Jon Gruden typically spreads the love among his running backs. There’s never a true split – his primary back has exceeded 180 carries in all 11 of his seasons as head coach – but his backups have received 90-plus carries six times. Multiple backs have averages 650-plus all-purpose yards eight times under Gruden.

That wasn’t the case last season, with Marshawn Lynch did most of the damage. The Raiders haven’t diversified their rushing attack much (save 2016) in recent seasons, a trend that will change under Gruden.

Lynch remains the bell cow, but Doug Martin could play a significant role in this offense.

Don’t forget about the fullbacks, a rarely used position revived under Gruden. That’s good news for Keith Smith, who should be heavily involved offensively, especially in the passing game.

The blocking scheme will vary, with multiple zone concepts and the good, ol’ fashioned power the offensive line’s built for. There should be carries to go around in this group, though Lynch will get the lion’s share.

Who’s Here

RB Marshawn Lynch, RB Doug Martin, RB DeAndre Washington, RB Jalen Richard, RB Chris Warren, FB Keith Smith, FB Ryan Yurachek

Best Of The Bunch: Lynch

Most professional rushers fall off the map at 30 years old. All the hits, working hard over so many yards can take a toll. Lynch didn’t show such wear in last season’s second half.

This generation’s toughest takedown ran strong late in the year, improving on a slow start to 2017. Lynch didn’t meld with the Raiders system right away, but showed resolve down the stretch following a one-game suspension for his role in a brawl with Kansas City. He should fare better with new offensive line coach Tom Cable, who ran the blocking scheme during his salad days in Seattle.

He might not produce the 1,339 yards he averaged from 2011-14, but Lynch will still be primary battering ram in Gruden’s offense. Even at 32 years old, Lynch should still produce.

Top Camp Battle: Washington vs. Richard

This pair turned pro in 2016, with both members making an impact as rookies and second-year pros. One problem: They ran the same. Coaches were asked time and again to differentiate the two, without many evident separations. Both guys are smaller in stature. Both guys can slash and sprint and catch passes out of the backfield. Both guys return punts and kicks. Both fit in Gruden’s offense, but both could be considered complimentary pieces.

Another problem: Gruden probably doesn’t need two guys for one role, especially with Lynch and Martin expected to assume large roles and fullback Keith Smith in an important offensive role. That might make for an intense camp battle this summer and one tough cut for an NFL-caliber back.

Longshot: Warren

The undrafted rookie from Texas is an intriguing prospect, a bulldozer at 6-foot-2, 246 pounds. His power and size means he could be a hybrid back capable of blocks and carries from the backfield. Roster spots are hard to come by in this position group, but a strong summer (and quality special teams play) could put him in the mix for a surprise roster spot. Some practice squad seasoning might help, and prep him for an injury-related promotion.

Overview

We haven’t talked enough about Martin yet. That changes now. The 29-year old Stockton native impressed this spring – we know, pads weren’t on yet – and showed great burst. This might be Martin’s last chance to revive his career after two down years. He seems hell bent on maximizing it.

Don’t sleep on him earning a larger-than-expected role in the offense.

Raiders sign tight end Darren Waller to contract extension through 2023

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USATSI

Raiders sign tight end Darren Waller to contract extension through 2023

Raiders tight end Darren Waller will be a part of the Silver and Black for the foreseeable future. 

The Raiders signed Waller to a contract extension Wednesday, the team announced. A source confirmed to NBC Sports California's Scott Bair that Waller's three-year extension will last through 2023, coming into effect next season.

NFL Media's Tom Pelissero first reported the news Wednesday night.

Waller, 27, has emerged as a focal point in the Raiders' offense in 2019. The four-year pro has a career-high 37 receptions for 359 yards through five games this season, and he leads the Raiders in receiving yards and targets (42) after developing strong chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr. 

[RELATED: Carr making most of revolving cast of Raiders receivers]

The extension means the Raiders have offensive cornerstones Waller and Josh Jacobs under contract through the team's move to Las Vegas.

The Raiders are set to play their first season in Sin City in 2020, and Waller now is sure to be one of the headliners. 

Why Josh Jacobs is harsh grader even after his biggest Raiders games

Why Josh Jacobs is harsh grader even after his biggest Raiders games

ALAMEDA – Josh Jacobs had his best game as an NFL player in London, totaling massive numbers in a 24-21 victory over the Chicago Bears.

The Raiders rookie running back had 123 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, a monster sum that led the Raiders to a huge win that pushed them to 3-2 and into the thick of the AFC West race.

That’s a great game, right? Wrong, apparently.

The Raiders running back never judges his game based on the box score, and saw flaws aplenty in a seemingly standout performance in a series of excellent showings.

“People think I had a good game last weekend, but there was a lot that I need to improve on, a lot that I missed and a lot that I messed up,” Jacobs said. “From the outside looking in it probably looked good, but it really wasn’t that great.”

Jacobs said he missed a few protections, missed making proper reads. Then there was the audible call he missed that led to a turnover, and he said he took a play outside instead of cutting upfield.

Those mistakes are the focus over all the positives easily gleaned from that game, that Jacobs is a tough runner with patience and vision who finds unique ways to take extra yards required to keep the Raiders on schedule.

That’s part of Jacobs’ nature -- a trait that won’t ever go away. He’ll always be a hard grader, even when things look great to an untrained eye.

“That’s me wanting to be the best,” Jacobs said. “There’s always something you can improve on. That’s how I look at it. Some of the best games I’ve played in stats-wise, you wouldn’t notice the mistakes. For me, it’s about putting it all together.”

[RELATED: Carr making most of Raiders' revolving cast of receivers]

Jacobs might be honed on playing a truly complete game, but he has become an offensive centerpiece that his teammates certainly appreciate.

“Josh is a professional football player,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “…It’s unbelievable how good he is. I can give him the ball and he’ll make eight guys miss and we’re all high fiving after a first down. It’s a luxury as a quarterback, one of the things you see with Zeke Elliott or Saquon Barkley or Todd Gurley, guys who you can give the ball to and get 10 yards. It takes a lot of stress off a quarterback, a play caller and an offensive line that I guy can do things like that. …He has been good for us.”