Del Rio: Raiders haven't 'adequately addressed' middle linebacker spot

Del Rio: Raiders haven't 'adequately addressed' middle linebacker spot

The Raiders needed linebacker help entering the NFL Draft, especially in the middle. That hasn’t changed, even after taking Wake Forest’s Marquel Lee in the fifth round.

The Raiders took a cornerback, a safety and a defensive tackle in the first three rounds, supplementing talent-needy position groups.

A void remains in the eye of the storm. General manager Reggie McKenzie said before the draft he’d like to add a couple inside linebackers to the roster. Lee is one. Head coach Jack Del Rio believes another should be coming down the line. 

McKenzie wants to evaluate those currently on the team before looking for outside help. Del Rio considers it imperative the Raiders add more talent to an inexperienced, largely unheralded group.

“I don’t know that we’ve adequately addressed our middle linebacker position, to be honest,” Del Rio said Thursday afternoon on NFL Network. “I think we have some work to do there. The rest of our roster is pretty well situated, but we’ll be looking for a linebacker and we’ll continue to look, whether it’s the waiver wire, trades or available guys out there, veterans on the street. We’ll continue to look.

“The guys that are here, we’re going to develop and grow and hope we can take them to a higher level.”

McKenzie said the door isn’t completely closed on Perry Riley, who started 11 games at middle linebacker for the Raiders last season and remains on the open market.

Free agent signing Jelani Jenkins is viewed more as a weakside linebacker.

Lee, second-year pro Cory James, and third-year man Ben Heeney are currently in the mix to play at middle linebacker. The rookie is untested at the NFL level, and the other options need more consistency and time to develop.

Adding another player would certainly help the Raiders, who have struggled to find answers at that position in free agency or with later-round picks in the NFL Draft.

Raiders report card: Grading offense, defense in win over Cardinals

Raiders report card: Grading offense, defense in win over Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Raiders lost five straight by at least 14 points heading into Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.

They snapped that streak, and not just with a close loss.

The Raiders actually won. For real.

Derek Carr orchestrated his 15th career fourth-quarter comeback to help the Raiders beat the Cardinals 23-21 at State Farm Stadium.

We typically hand out Fs by the bushel in this space, but not tonight, my friends. Not tonight.

The Raiders were far from perfect, but still did several things well in this win. Here’s the report card from the Valley of the Sun.

[BAIR: Raiders wanted to win for fans impacted by California wildfires]

Rushing offense

The Raiders were committed to the run against the Cardinals, and it paid off in spades. Running backs Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington and Doug Martin rushed 33 times for 152 yards. That’s 4.6 yards per carry, a strong effort that gave the Raiders a balanced offense for once.

The offensive line opened holes and the backs burst right through them to keep the offense moving. Good job all around by the ground game.

Grade: A

Passing offense

Derek Carr didn’t pile up stats, but he completed passes at critical times. That was especially true on the game-winning field goal drive. He worked with the bottom of the depth chart, but still made plays with depth receivers Marcell Ateman and Seth Roberts, as well as Jared Cook.

The pass protection was spotty at best, and the entire operation needs to be cleaner. But, these guys got the job done when it counted Sunday.

Grade: B-minus

Rushing defense

After a terrible first drive, the Raiders did a solid job corralling star Cardinals running back David Johnson. All it takes, however, is one bad play to ruin a day. That came on a 55-yard run by Johnson that set up a go-ahead score with five minutes left.

In all, the Raiders allowed 154 yards on 31 carries, which will get you beat in most scenarios. Just not Sunday. 

Grade: D

Pass defense

The Raiders secondary delivered on Sunday with interceptions from defensive backs Gareon Conley and Karl Joseph. Both takeaways created great field position and resulted in Raiders touchdowns.

Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen was awful, and completed only 9-of-20 passes for 136 yards thanks to errant throws and some solid coverage from the Raiders secondary.

Grade: A-minus

Special teams

Daniel Carlson nailed the first game-winning field goal of his career as time expired. That’s all you need to get an ‘A.’

The rookie from Auburn is coming on strong the past few weeks. He could be a long-term answer at kicker if he keeps this up.

Grade: A


A cynic would say the Raiders blew it by winning, hurting their draft position in an already lost season. That’s not how the players and coaches think. They wanted to win and were able to.

It might not happen much the rest of the year, so they have to bask in this victory.

Grade: A

Inside Raiders' final drive to complete comeback win over Cardinals

Inside Raiders' final drive to complete comeback win over Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals took a fourth-quarter lead with roughly five minutes left Sunday. Then they couldn’t do anything else offensively.

That gave the Raiders three cracks at a comeback. The first two attempts went nowhere, as a bad, ailing offense continued to sputter in crunch time.

No matter. The offense took the field considering the third time a charm.

Quarterback Derek Carr tried to ease tension before that must-win series, telling center Rodney Hudson to “protect it up. We’re just going to go play catch outside.”

The Raiders played pitch and catch well into field-goal range. where Daniel Carlson secured a 23-21 victory at State Farm Stadium with a 35-yard kick at the gun.

That's what they expected before the final drive started. Despite failing to consistently perform under pressure, the Raiders believed they would get the job done.

“We believed the outcome was never in doubt,” Carr said after his 15th career fourth-quarter comeback. “There have been times where we believed but didn’t win. … Everyone had that look in their eye, though it was a little different because, ‘Hey, this is probably our last chance.’ ”

Carr made it worthwhile.

He completed two short passes to get a first down, then spiked the ball to stop the clock. Carr saw Marcell Ateman break free down the left sideline on the next snap and, with no regard for the receiver's rookie status, sent the ball deep.

Ateman came up with a huge 32-yard catch that worked the Raiders into Cardinals territory -- in his NFL debut, no less.

“He made one heck of a catch, keeping his feet in,” Carr said. “For him to do that in his first start, his first game, with everything going against him. … He did his job, got to his landmark when I wanted him to be there, and it was all him. He made an excellent play, and got a game ball for it. It was awesome.”

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An incompletion and a sack left Carr just 25 seconds to work with. He then correctly identified the defensive back covering Seth Roberts ready to blitz, and quickly got the ball out to his veteran receiver. Ateman and fellow rookie Saeed Blacknall blocked their cover guys well, allowing Roberts to zip 20 yards upfield.

Roberts didn’t get out of bounds, and the Raiders had zero timeouts, meaning Carr had to quickly spike the ball to set up Carlson’s field goal with two seconds left.

The rookie kicker nailed it, giving his team a much-needed win after five consecutive losses.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Carlson told reporters. “We kept chipping away, knowing eventually the rock was going to crack. It felt really good, really sweet to help make it happen.”