Doug Martin finds rhythm in Raiders' run game despite lack of preseason carries

Doug Martin finds rhythm in Raiders' run game despite lack of preseason carries

Doug Martin has been a ghost in preseason games for the Oakland Raiders. He has four snaps and touched the ball once thus far, but don’t take that as a sign he’s fallen out of favor.

He’s not being shunned for other running backs. He’s being preserved for games that actually count.

“He has showed us a lot,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “We think he’s a really good back. I don’t know how much he’s going to play against Green Bay, honestly.”

The Raiders will play the Packers on Friday in the preseason’s third installment, where starters usually play into the second half. Gruden said Wednesday they’ll only make it to the second quarter.

The Raiders have practiced well, and coaches don't want to expose regulars to prolonged injury risk. That’s especially true for Martin and Marshawn Lynch.

“You go throughout training camp, and you do a lot of thudding in practice,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “We do a lot of ball security drills offensively for the running backs. Poking and prodding with different type drills. But until they get out on the field and actually get a live contact, I think it’s a different mindset.

"We’ll get those guys some carries. Get them a chance to get a couple of thuds, and then we’ll get them out.”

Martin’s fine with that. He doesn’t need a huge preseason workload to feel comfortable within the running game. In fact, he’s already there. Martin has shown good burst, slashing ability and elusiveness in space. Timing with the offensive line is key, and he believes that can be honed with a few carries Friday.

“I came into a new system this year, but from OTAs, being in camp until now, I’ve gotten accustomed to the offensive line and doing camp with pads and practice,” Martin said. “So I definitely feel like I’m where I need to be.”

The same can be said for Martin’s location. Signing with the Raiders this offseason set up a homecoming of sorts for an Oakland native who grew up in Stockton.

His home base isn’t far away, and he has lots of friends and family in the East Bay. That has put Martin in a good mood working with the Raiders, helping prime what he and the coaches believe will be a career renaissance.

“It’s cool to call my mom, because she’s about an hour away, my friends are about 30, 40 minutes away that I grew up with in high school, cousins that live in Sacramento,” Martin said. “My grandpa lives right up the hill. It’s about like 14 minutes away. It’s nice to have those types of people around me. ...

"I have a lot of family around here, a lot of guys who live around here so, it’s comfortable. They do a good job of having that vibe around the organization that it’s a family vibe.”

Why Gabe Jackson sees plenty of potential in Raiders offensive line


Why Gabe Jackson sees plenty of potential in Raiders offensive line

ALAMEDA -- Gabe Jackson was back in action after a long layoff Monday. The Raiders' star right guard hurt his knee during a joint training camp practice with the Los Angeles Rams and hadn’t worked out with the team since.

Just being back with his team was an accomplishment, an important step in his return to action after missing five games. The Raiders left him on the 53-man roster hoping he could be back before midseason.

That should happen. Jackson said he hopes to return Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. If that doesn’t work out, he should be ready for a Week 8 clash with the Houston Texans.

“I feel pretty good,” Jackson said Monday. “I’m excited to be back with my brothers. It has been a long time.”

Jackson went more than nine weeks between practices, a layoff that sent his position into flux. The Raiders tried several at right guard, settling on Denzelle Good as a quality placeholder on an offensive line off to a great start. The Raiders are averaging 4.9 yards per carry and rank fourth in pass-blocking efficiency.

Jackson will pair with longtime running mate Rodney Hudson on the interior and work with Trent Brown on what should be a dominant right side.

The 28-year-old was part of a dominant offensive line in 2016 that was integral to the Raiders' lone trip to the playoffs this decade. He believes this year’s line could compete with that one.

“I think we could be even better,” Jackson said. “If everybody stays the course and grinds it out, I think we could be pretty good.”

This offensive line operates in a different scheme but has executed well to this point. Jackson will energize and fortify the unit, which has been bolstered by Brown’s addition in free agency.

“I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I can say for sure Trent is a beast,” Jackson said. “When he first came here, I knew it would be fun to play with him. Watching the things he has done recently and since he has been here, he’s impressive.”

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Raiders coach Jon Gruden said that Jackson might be in his best shape, certainly over the past two seasons. Jackson did shy away from that compliment. He believes it’s warranted after training hard during this down period.

“I had some time to work on myself,” Jackson said. “There are some things I’m still working on, but I feel like I have gotten better. Now, I’m ready to get back at it and play.”

Zay Jones pushing hard to learn Raiders offense, make instant impact

Zay Jones pushing hard to learn Raiders offense, make instant impact

ALAMEDA -- Zay Jones was an active, engaged member of the Buffalo Bills offense this season, until a Week 5 contest against the Titans. The third-year receiver barely left the sideline that day in Nashville, a setback he considered temporary.

Jones had no idea that would be the last time he suited up for the team that drafted him. The East Carolina product was blindsided by the trade that sent him to the Raiders for a 2021 fifth-round NFL draft pick.

“I was shocked. I didn’t know it was coming,” Jones said. “I didn’t ask to be out of Buffalo, but it’s something that transpired. That’s the nature of the business. I wish those guys the best. I’m happy to be in this locker room and part of a team that really wanted me.”

Make no mistake: The Raiders need Jones to contribute as soon as humanly possible.

The Raiders receiving corps is an offensive weak link, with Tyrell Williams banged up and J.J. Nelson and Ryan Grant cut over injury, effectiveness or both. Williams is the only legitimate, established threat in the group, which has struggled to make dynamic plays downfield.

General manager Mike Mayock was a big Jones fan before the 2017 draft and said so as NFL Network’s premier draft analyst. Jones hasn’t lived up to his second-round draft status, with ho-hum numbers and just a 50 percent completion rate when targeted.

He had a solid year in 2018, with 652 yards and seven touchdowns on 56 catches. But he was targeted just 16 times in five games this season, showing the Bills considered him expendable. The Raiders need him right away and are pushing to prepare him as fast as possible.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden spent his bye week helping prepare Jones, who admittedly had his head spinning during this crash course in a complicated scheme.

“We hit the playbook pretty hard, trying to get me up to speed,” Jones said. “The offense is very complex. There’s a lot that goes into it. Some guys have been here since camp and I’ve been here for a few days. I’m trying to catch up as fast as I can.

“There are some situations where the head spins, but I think I’m getting it down. I just have to keep pressing, stay in the playbook and get to know the quarterbacks.”

Monday’s practice was the first working with Derek Carr and applying what he learned last week.

“I’m still evaluating the team and see how we operate,” Jones said. “I’m just going to control what I can and prepare like crazy to play the Green Bay Packers. It’s a day by day process, and this is Day 1 for me. I think it was trending in the right direction in terms of understanding everything. When the bullets are flying, it’s so much different than it looks on paper.

“…Each quarterback is different in terms of how they speak and their terminology, what they want and expect and how they throw the football. I was just talking with Derek earlier about what he wants and how he operates. It seems like he’s an unbelievable person. It’s about getting with him and understanding his timing. We’ll get that down and go from there.”

[RELATED: Raiders stand pat in power rankings after Week 6 bye]

Carr will be the best quarterback Jones has worked with, as he tries to spark his career just over halfway through his rookie contract.

“I’m coming into a situation where this is a good football team already,” Jones said. “To be just a small piece of it is an honor and a blessing.

“I’m going to give this team everything I have. I’m a playmaker. I’ve made plays in my career. I have put that on tape. Hopefully I can continue to keep making plays for this football team and get them to where they want to be.”