Derrick Johnson feeling ‘positive pressure’ to master, lead Raiders defense


Derrick Johnson feeling ‘positive pressure’ to master, lead Raiders defense

ALAMEDA – Derrick Johnson joined the Raiders relatively late. Teammates had a head start learning new schematics when the veteran middle linebacker signed with silver and black, creating a viable excuse why Johnson would be behind this spring.

The four-time Pro Bowler didn’t want to use it. Not his style.

Johnson also understood the Raiders brought him here to lead this defense on the field. His resume with the Kansas City Chiefs gave Johnson street cred. Becoming quickly versed in the Raiders defense would validate it.

That’s why Johnson didn’t celebrate after signing with the Raiders. He immersed himself in Paul Guenther’s scheme.

“My abilities come out when I know what’s going on; for me to know what’s going on I have to gear down,” Johnson said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “You don’t want to rush it, but really, thoroughly get it down and make sure I have Paul Guenther’s defense really down, so I can start moving some pieces here and there. Start helping some guys out if they’re iffy on some things and telling certain guys what to do at sometimes.

“That’s not a bad pressure (to master the scheme quickly), that’s a positive pressure for me. That’s one of those things where this is what I’ve been doing for a long time in KC. I’m used to telling different guys what to do.”

The input is welcome. The Raiders have lacked stability at middle linebacker, save midseason respite from Perry Riley Jr. and NaVorro Bowman, respectively, the last two years.

Johnson made his presence felt quickly in OTAs, and has earned rave reviews from his coaching staff. He demands accountability in practice, and is active in meetings. Such command is only allowed, however, with the scheme down.

“He has picked it up real quick,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “He’s able to get us in and out of defenses. When you’re at that point, the guy has been here for what, two to three weeks now and he’s able to really understand what we’re trying to get to. To have a veteran piece that can kind of control the show out there is a big, important part for me.”

Learning new terminology is the toughest part, but Johnson believes he has consistently improved during this spring in Alameda.

That has allowed Johnson to quickly assume a leadership role.

“This Raider team really respects me; really respects me,” Johnson said. “Once I say something, they kind of get it. My style isn’t too aggressive. It’s not that guy that’s in their face. I’m a big guy of lead by example, of course. But at times you have to speak up. You have to let them know what you’re thinking. You have to demand some things at times. Everybody is different, with different personalities. You can’t talk to everybody the same. I have to talk to (second-year pro) Nick Morrow different than (veteran) Bruce Irvin. It’s just a different type of deal.”

Johnson has gravitated toward veterans that litter the roster, especially fellow first-team linebackers Tahir Whitehead and Emmanuel Lamur. He has also taken Morrow under wing, helping the coverage linebacker find his way after a promising rookie year.

Johnson feels comfortable with his new team after 13 seasons in Kansas City. He fits in well with the coaching staff and a scheme that heaps responsibility on its middle linebacker.

“Man, Paul Guenther’s defense, it’s very aggressive,” Johnson said. “There are so many different looks. The onus is really on the linebackers to learn a lot of stuff. That’s good for myself because I know a lot. It’s putting a lot of pressure on me to learn it quickly. Learn it well enough where I can put my own flavor in making plays on this defense.

“I’m having fun with it now. The last couple of days have been my best days, running around. I was telling the young guys this, once you get the system down… you’ll look a lot faster out there on the field. We all can run fast and jump high, but mentally, once you got it down, all your abilities, your talents can show out there on the field. That’s what we’re doing right now. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.”

Marshawn Lynch's mom definitely wants Khalil Mack back on Raiders

Marshawn Lynch's mom definitely wants Khalil Mack back on Raiders

While Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch is a man of few words, his mom, Delisa, never has been known to bite her Twitter fingers.

One day after Marshawn spoke to the media about what's wrong with the Raiders, his mom did the same thing -- except her response was more succinct.

Without edge rusher Khalil Mack, who was traded to the Chicago Bears before the season opener, the Raiders have struggled to rush opposing quarterbacks. On the flip side, Mack has been in a pain in the rear end for the offensive lines of the Packers, Seahawks and Cardinals, with 13 total tackles, four sacks, three forced fumbles and a pick-six in three games.

The Raiders as a team, over the first three games, have five sacks and zero forced fumbles.

We'll guess that just about every Raiders player privately agrees with Mama Lynch. We know every Raiders fan definitely agrees with her.


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Raiders snap count: Bruce Irvin's opportunities decrease in heavy rotation

Raiders snap count: Bruce Irvin's opportunities decrease in heavy rotation

MIAMI -- The Raiders need more from Bruce Irvin.

Coach Jon Gruden made that clear last week. The effort is there, Gruden said, but the production isn’t at a level required to generate pressure on the quarterback.

He was right. Irvin had two pressures through two games, a strip sack in the opener and a quarterback hit in Week 2.

In Week 3, he didn’t have a ton of opportunities on a hot, humid day where the Raiders played just 44 defensive snaps. He played 26 downs in Sunday’s 28-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins, just 59 percent of the overall total.

A heavy rotation continued up front, but those spelling Irvin didn’t offer much. Shilique Calhoun wasn’t in the right spot while subbing for Irvin in the third quarter, and Jakeem Grant blew right by him for an 18-yard touchdown.

Irvin played a lot more for the previous Raiders coaching staff, who used him and edge rusher Khalil Mack on virtually every down.

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther prefers keeping guys fresh, but Irvin and Frostee Rucker are the Raiders' best edge run defenders. Irvin definitely is their best edge pass rusher, and Raiders need him to find his way back to the quarterback.

The coaching staff seems committed to starting captain Reggie Nelson and playing him regularly, though it will be interesting to see if Erik Harris can chip away at Nelson’s snaps as the season progresses.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie rotated in on defense as he did in Week 1, taking series from Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin. Raiders cornerbacks have been the steadiest part of an ailing defense that can’t hold strong for four quarters.

The receiver corps also got shaken up some in Miami. Seth Roberts played significant snaps in the first two games, but he was a healthy scratch Sunday. Martavis Bryant pushed Roberts down on the priority list, and now it seems veteran Brandon LaFell has caught up quick enough to start earning more playing time.

The total number of snaps also is of note. The Raiders dominated time of possession, holding the ball more than 17 minutes longer than the opposition, and totaled just 20 points. The Dolphins, by contrast, used some trickery to create big plays and efficient scores in just 44 plays.

The Raiders allowed five plays of 20-plus yards, including three touchdowns from at least 34 yards out. That will get you beat. So will struggles in the red zone, where the Raiders were 2-for-5 with an interception and a turnover on downs.


Total offensive snaps: 76
Quarterback -- Derek Carr 76
Running back -- Marshawn Lynch 42, Jalen Richard 20, Keith Smith 19, Doug Martin 13
Wide receiver -- Amari Cooper 60, Jordy Nelson 55, Maratvis Bryant 35, Brandon LaFell 33, Dwayne Harris 2
Tight end -- Jared Cook 62, Lee Smith 19, TE Derek Carrie 18
Offensive line -- Gabe Jackson 76, Kolton Miller 76, Rodney Hudson 76, Kelechi Osemele 76, T.J. Clemmings 58, Donald Penn 18, Jon Feliciano 2


Total defensive snaps: 44
Defensive line -- Clinton McDonald 34, Maurice Hurst 28, Bruce Irvin 26, Johnathan Hankins 23, Frostee Rucker 22, Arden Key 19, Fadol Brown 14, Shilique Calhoun 9
Linebacker -- Tahir Whitehead 44, Marquel Lee 28, Derrick Johnson14, Emmanuel Lamur 11, Nicholas Morrow 2
Defensive back -- Reggie Nelson 39, Rashaan Melvin 33, Leon Hall 33, Marcus Gilchrist 33, Gareon Conley 31, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 24, Erik Harris 17, Karl Joseph 1

Special teams

Total special teams plays: 23
Lee 23, Rodgers-Cromartie 22, Harris 22, Kyle Wilber 22, Carrier 19, K. Smith 18, Morrow 18, Harris 16, Calhoun 14, Mike Nugent 9, Melvin 9, L. Smith 9, Gilchrist 8, Richard 8, Johnny Townsend 7, Trent Sieg 7, Lamur 6, Whitehead 5, Nelson 5, McDonald 5, Irvin 4, Rucker 4, Key 4, Miller 4, Feliciano 4, Jackson 4, Osemele 4, Clemmings 4, Joseph 3, Conley 2, Brown 1, Nelson 1, LaFell 1, Penn 1


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