Del Rio: Adrian Peterson's interest in Raiders a positive sign

Del Rio: Adrian Peterson's interest in Raiders a positive sign

Adrian Peterson is set to be an unrestricted free agent next week. The future Hall of Fame running back made no secret of his interest in the Raiders after the Minnesota Vikings declined his 2017 contract option.

His people have been pushing the Raiders option in private, and Peterson himself told ESPN the Silver and Black were an intriguing option.

Whether the Raiders have interest is another matter. Peterson doesn’t seem like a great scheme fit – he isn’t functional in the passing game, as a receiver or protector – but the 31-year old can certainly produce on the ground.

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio wouldn't comment on Peterson specifically, but said Thursday interest from top talents is a positive sign. It means the Raiders have become an attractive destination. A few years back, they had trouble spending salary cap space soundly. Now players view Oakland as a place to thrive.

“I think it’s great that we’re on the list of guys who are premier guys,” Del Rio told Bay Area reporters at the NFL scouting combine. “To the best of my knowledge, he’s still with the Vikings, right? So don’t get me in trouble talking about…I’m not out there trying to target other players are recruit other players.

“But I think the message I get is that players and coaches and people recognize that this is a good place to be, that we have turned this thing around. When I first arrived three years ago, the thought was nobody wants to come here. We battled through that and became a place that people wanted to come and over the last two years we’ve been able to attract some nice free agents and, of course, pay them. That’s part of it. But it has become a destination where people recognize we do have a good young nucleus and a quarterback and some pieces in place to have a good run, so they want to be a part of it.”

That could help the Raiders strengthen the roster this spring. They have funds required to pay players, and the reputation to help them sign. The Raiders need some key pieces to improve on last year’s group, especially on defense at interior linebacker, cornerback and defensive tackle.

Raiders will have hands full with Chandler Jones, Cardinals' pass rush

Raiders will have hands full with Chandler Jones, Cardinals' pass rush

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Arizona Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones has more sacks thus far than the entire Raiders defense. That's no joke, and speaks to Jones' effectiveness and the Raiders' lack thereof. 

The Arizona edge rusher has been awesome this year, with 8.5 sacks, three quarterback hits, and 17 other pressures. 

The Raiders, meanwhile, have eight total sacks. Three are credited to since-waived veteran Bruce Irvin, leaving five on the current Raiders roster from three players: Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (three), rookie defensive end Arden Key (one), and defensive lineman Clinton McDonald (one).
That isn’t a deep group successfully getting after the quarterback. The Cardinals, by contrast, boast 13 different defenders with at least half-a-sack. 

It’s a diverse pass rush, and one the Raiders offensive line must be ready to combat. 
“Well it starts with Jones,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “Don’t forget [Markus] Golden either, he has had double-digit sacks. They have two centerpieces that can really get after you. They push the pocket. They’re big inside. It’s hard for the quarterback to step up because of the mass that they have inside. They blitz a lot. I think Cardinals must have 10 guys with a sack. They come from everywhere. It’s a wide-range of problems. It’s good pass rushers, a diverse blitzing scheme. That’s a tough combination in the crowd noise, it’s loud there.”
“There,” is State Farm Stadium, Arizona’s newly renamed indoor stadium that can generate plenty of crowd noise when things are going well. 

That could spell trouble for pass protectors going through a rough patch. They allowed 26 sacks in the last seven games entering Sunday, and at least three in the previous six. The Raiders faced tough pass rushers this season, but never a group quite so deep. The Silver and Black has to be better than before to pick up a second win. 
The offense failed to score a touchdown in the last nine quartrs, despite moving the ball relatively well, and hasn’t held a solid lead in some time. That allowed opposing pass rushers to pin their ears back, and go hard after Raiders QB Derek Carr. 
“We always emphasize pass rush; that’s every team I’ve been on,” defensive end Chandler Jones said, via the Cardinals' team website. “We have had some success rushing the passer, but hopefully we can have more success. Lot of plays we leave out there.”

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The Raiders' pass rush kicked up a notch last week against the Los Angeles Chargers. Maurice Hurst got his third sack, and the defense hit Philip Rivers five times. They had 11 total pressures, after totaling 59 through eight games. 
Can that continue against Arizona? Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther sure hopes so. He doesn’t expect a Herculean effort, but progress is mandatory in his eyes. 

“We just have to keep building off of it,” Guenther said. “We’ll continue to mix things up in there and everything kind of works in conjunction, whether it’s the rush or the coverage or a blitz in the coverage in behind it. So, we have to continue to work on those things and keep putting those things into play.”

[BAIR: Four Raiders players to watch in NFL Week 11 matchup vs. Cardinals]
Gruden says the Raiders need “at-bats,” or chances to impact the QB. That involves better run defense to keep a team off schedule – stopping ACardinals running back Davis Johnson will be a chore – and establishing a significant lead for once. 
That has been rare, but the odds will increase if the offensive line can keep Jones, Golden and the Cardinals pass rush at bay.

Four Raiders players to watch in NFL Week 11 matchup vs. Cardinals

Four Raiders players to watch in NFL Week 11 matchup vs. Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- We’ve hit that point in this season where fans start to question the merits of a win over a loss.

The No. 1 overall draft pick is in play for the 1-8 Raiders. In fact, they’re in pole position to get it, with the two-win New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers just behind. A winning streak would hurt Oakland's draft position, something the players don’t care one bit about right now.

The Raiders still are striving to win games, and that’s a goal realistically reached Sunday against the Cardinals. Arizona has struggled mightily this season, on offense in particular, with both of its wins coming against a down-on-their-luck 49ers squad.

The Raiders must score against a savvy Cardinals defense that possesses an excellent pass rush, and they also must rattle rookie quarterback Josh Rosen enough to negate gains from running back extraordinaire David Johnson.

Here are four Raiders who can help achieve those ends Sunday in Arizona.

WR Seth Roberts

The Raiders are down several receivers. Amari Cooper was traded to the Dallas Cowboys a few weeks back. Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson now are down with knee injuries. Jared Cook will be the primary target, but Roberts must be a reliable secondary both outside and from the slot.

Roberts has a penchant for dramatic catches and scoring plays, though opportunities have been rare this season while he was mired further down on the depth chart. He’s back in the starting lineup Sunday, and must find ways to make big plays and take pressure off Cook. He’s also a stout run blocker, and could help free Doug Martin and Jalen Richard once those rushers reach the second level.

MLB Jason Cabinda

The Raiders made a position switch last week, moving Marquel Lee to strongside linebacker from the middle. That served two masters: 1. It helped strengthen the SAM spot, and 2. It gave Cabinda more opportunities from his natural position.

The undrafted rookie made his first NFL start and platooned with Nicholas Morrow in the middle. Cabinda has drawn praise all week, and coaches believe he can be a regular contributor from the middle linebacker spot.

“Cabinda, you’ve got that Penn State Linebacker U tradition all over him,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s got that stuff. We need that at middle linebacker. Haven’t had a middle linebacker in terms of stability here for awhile, maybe since Greg Biekert (from 1993-2001). I don’t know when the last time was that we had a linebacker that played in the middle for two, three, four years in a row.

"He’s got those leadership traits. He’s a great communicator. Passionate about the game. He’s improving.”

Safety Karl Joseph

The team’s 2016 first-round pick either was hurt or buried on the depth chart for most of the season, but he played far more against the Chargers than any other game. He spent 27 of his 48 defensive snaps inside the box, where he can be most effective against the run. He had five total tackles, with three close enough to the line of scrimmage to constitute an offensive failure, according to Pro Football Focus metrics.

“He did a good job in there,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “He had some nice hits, some good blitz pass. Did a good job in coverage for the most part. He’s a guy who will continue to progress, and I think he’s coming along right where we want him.”

Raiders safety play has been lackluster at best, and Joseph was effective at times and certainly worth a longer look as coaches evaluate young players. He could help slow Johnson some as an extra run defender, or assist in middle-of-the-field pass coverage. His size (5-foot-10, 205 pounds) is of concern against bigger receivers, but his main focus is on being more consistent. He’ll have to be against the Cardinals' attack. The Raiders simply need better from the safety spot.

LT Kolton Miller

This year's first-round pick was a full participant in practice this week for the first time in some time, meaning his ailing knee is starting to improve. That will be important in what might be his toughest challenge yet.

Miller will go up against Arizona edge rusher Chandler Jones, who already has 8.5 sacks and can be dominant rushing the passer. Miller has been solid when healthy and has struggled some while battling injury. He is working through those rigors while trying to maintain solid form.

"There’s a difference between pain and injury. I think he’s realizing that,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “He has done a nice job in that regard. He has played with nicks throughout the season, his elbow, his knee, a number of different things that he’s experienced since he’s been here, knowing that he still has half a season left. He’s getting a real taste of what the NFL is like and the pain you have to play with.”

He’ll have a tough battle with Jones, though he’ll get some help from tight ends, running backs and left guard Kelechi Osemele. Miller must win regularly to keep Derek Carr upright and the Raiders' offense moving.