Raiders

Doug Martin ready, willing to mentor Raiders first-round pick Josh Jacobs

Doug Martin ready, willing to mentor Raiders first-round pick Josh Jacobs

Doug Martin has spent most of his career as a feature running back, with some standout seasons to show for it. His career entered another phase last season, when he joined the Raiders knowing full well he’d be a backup.

Marshawn Lynch was the primary option when he signed up, and steady carries proved hard to come by as an understudy even with head coach/offensive play caller Jon Gruden’s propensity for using multiple backs. Lynch deserved the workload he got, and Jalen Richard was a change-of-pace back off the bench.

Martin went full-time after Lynch’s season-ending groin injury, and churned out a respectable 4.2 yards per carry. He wasn’t able to find another solid opportunity in free agency, and was unemployed when the Raiders drafted Josh Jacobs and signed Isaiah Crowell.

Crowell’s torn Achilles’ tendon brought Martin back to the Silver and Black, a second time with zero allusions of being the feature back. He came here to counsel Jacobs, and take over in an unexpected pinch.

He was frank about that fact after Tuesday’s OTA session.

“Josh Jacobs, he’s a good kid with good character,” Martin said. “You all heard his story, I read up on it myself. I commend him for being as strong as he is, and that being said I came here to mentor, push him, show him that I’ve been in the league eight years, so I am a vet now. I can’t believe it, but that’s the case and so I’m here to just be that role model for him.

"If he has any questions, I’m here for him to ask them. Like I said, he has good character, but at the same time he looks like he can just run you over, so he’s going to be great for the team.”

Martin definitely wanted a shot at steady carries, especially after leading the team with 723 rushing yards and four touchdowns primarily as a first-and-second-down back.

A Raiders reunion seemed likely at first, though the sides couldn’t agree on terms and Martin remained a free agent deep into the offseason. That was worrisome, but Martin insists it didn’t cause great consternation.

“If something doesn’t go your way, you just have to stay optimistic, and I was being optimistic with the situation,” Martin said. “I knew I was going to be somewhere and do good things, but it’s just crazy how things folded out. I wish happy healing to Isaiah Crowell for his Achilles' (tendon injury), but, when there is chaos you just make a positive out of negative and you just got to stay optimistic about it.”

Martin's back with the Raiders, understanding his role as mentor and backup capable of playing well on early downs.

This mentor/protégé partnership could work, considering how much Jacobs and Martin have in common. Both guys were first-round picks, with the Raiders adding Jacobs at No. 24 this year, and Tampa Bay taking Martin at No. 31 in 2012.

They also have similar builds, with Jacobs standing 5-foot-10, 220 pounds and Martin at 5-9, 223. Both guys can slash through the interior, with enough speed to pop good runs outside.

Martin had nearly 2,000 yards of total offense (on 368 touches!!) as a rookie, a sum the Raiders would gladly take from Jacobs early on.

Nearly a decade separates them and the Raiders are looking to get younger across the board, making this Jacobs’ time to shine.

[RELATED: Jacobs is Raiders rookie in best position to succeed]

This will be the first time Martin has assumed a mentorship role, but he’s ready for it.

“It’s not something I’m used to but it’s something that I want to do,” Martin said. “I’ve been in the league eight years. I’ve been through the whole spectrum of good to bad in this league and, if I can teach somebody, if I can teach Josh on what to do, what not to do, how to stay in on the narrow path and just keep his eye on the goal, then I’m here for that.

"And, yeah, I’m grateful.”

Raiders roster analysis: offense a few additions away from being truly dynamic

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AP

Raiders roster analysis: offense a few additions away from being truly dynamic

The Raiders offense is a few pieces away from being truly dynamic. They’re well stocked at several spots, with immediate help needed in others.

We’re taking a close look at the team’s offense and defense this week on all platforms, with a podcast, stories and player rankings devoted to the offensive and defensive units.

We’ll focus first on an attack coordinated by Jon Gruden and executed by longtime Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, entering his seventh season as the starter.

Let’s take a look at the current state of each offensive position group and whether they need help in the short or long term:

Quarterback

Starter: Derek Carr
Top reserves: Marcus Mariota, Nathan Peterman
State of the position: The Raiders are incredibly deep at the position, will all three signal callers armed with starting experience. Carr’s the clear-cut starter and Mariota ranks high among the league’s best backups. That pecking order should remain most of the year, with Carr assisted by a talented supporting cast. He’s in great position to thrive in 2020, with Mariota offering competition and collaboration in the quarterback meeting room.
Help wanted?: This is a big year for Carr and Mariota. Quarterbacks are well positioned for success, and struggles in 2020 could lead the Raiders to look in a different direction next offseason. If Carr thrives, he could cement himself as the starter through the remainder of his contract. Mariota can’t overtake Carr, he may want to go elsewhere next year. The Raiders could draft a young quarterback to develop, but they don’t need one.

Receivers

Starters: Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Nelson Agholor
Key reserves:Zay Jones, Marcell Ateman, Keelan Doss
State of the position: This group is missing a true No. 1. Williams is an excellent secondary option and should be better than he was in 2019, when he was dealing with foot issues. Renfrow’s a quality slot receiver who showed great chemistry with Carr down the stretch. Jones didn’t do much after an in-season trade. Agholor’s only listed as a starter until the NFL draft.
Help wanted?: The Raiders need a frontline starter they’re expected to find in the NFL draft’s first round. They could add another pass catcher in the later rounds to add depth and top talent to a position group that desperately needs more of both.

Running backs

Starters: RB Josh Jacobs, FB Alec Ingold
Key reserves: Jalen Richard, Rod Smith
State of the position: The Raiders are in great shape in the backfield, with Jacobs an elite feature back who does most everything well. Richard’s as good a third-down option as you’ll find, and Ingold a versatile fullback who works extremely well with Jacobs.
Help wanted?: The Raiders could use a young, bruising back to spell Jacobs and bring a different size and skill set to the running back room. Jacobs can be physical between the tackles, but a larger runner could help supplement an already strong ground game.

Tight ends

Starter: Darren Waller
Key reserves: Foster Moreau, Jason Witten, Darren Waller, Nick O’Leary
State of the position: There’s plenty of depth and talent in this group, so much the Raiders could keep a fourth tight end on the 53-man roster. Waller’s an elite receiving talent, Witten’s aging but still has something left and Moreau’s a solid run blocker and red zone threat. Carrier’s a glue guy who provides quality depth
Help wanted?: The Raiders are well stocked for 2020, with Waller and Moreau anchoring the position group for a long time.

Offensive line

Starters: LT Kolton Miller, LG Richie Incognito, C Rodney Hudson, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Trent Brown
Reserves:OG Denzelle Good, OG Eric Kush, OT David Sharpe, OT Brandon Parker, G/C Andre James
State of the position: The Raiders have spent heavily on the offensive line, which should be one of the NFL’s best when healthy. They used roughly 28 percent of their salary cap on the starters alone, so they’d better be. Brown and Hudson are at the top of their field, with strong guard play expected if Jackson regains old form. They have depth on the interior, with Good more than capable in a starting role.
Help wanted?: The Raiders could use some depth at offensive tackle, maybe coming from the NFL draft’s middle rounds. Parker has struggled in pass protection and Sharpe is improving but has to continue his development.

Jon Gruden, Raiders could return to glory with expanded NFL playoffs

Jon Gruden, Raiders could return to glory with expanded NFL playoffs

The Raiders were a two-point conversion away from ending their 2019 campaign on a high note. Derek Carr and Hunter Renfrow connected in the end zone with 11 seconds left in the regular-season finale at Denver but couldn’t replicate success on the game’s decisive play.

Carr’s pass fell to the turf, essentially securing the Raiders’ 16-15 loss to the Broncos. The result didn’t matter much. The Raiders would’ve finished the season 8-8 with a win. Their NFL draft picks improved with a loss.

If the Raiders would have won that game and NFL operated under a new and expanded playoff format approved Tuesday in a conference call with league owners, the Raiders would’ve made the postseason.

The Silver and Black would have claimed the AFC’s No. 7 seed and the final playoff spot in a format that includes an extra team and an extra game in each conference. A total of 14 teams now make the playoffs, with only the No. 1 seed granted a first-round bye and three games per conference in the wild-card round.

They would’ve advanced on a strength of victory tiebreaker over the Steelers. Creating that alternate reality entailed a lot of woulda, coulda, shoulda, enough to make your head spin.

Plain and simple: The Raiders didn’t deserve to make the playoffs after fading down the stretch, with ample opportunity to right the ship and get in. They ran out of gas due to poor depth and a rash of injuries to vital players, and couldn’t get the job done. 

But the Silver and Black should be contenders for a 2020 postseason berth if things go right with their improved defense and an offense that could be dynamic if the Raiders pick the right receiver(s) in next month’s NFL draft.

The extra playoff spot will certainly help the Raiders and similar teams trying to get from the middle of the pack to the AFC’s top tier.

[RELATED: Vegas could host 2022 draft]

It’ll be beneficial for the Raiders playing in the AFC West. The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs should be good for a long time, especially with Patrick Mahomes behind center. Adding an extra wild-card spot should help the Raiders make the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and just the second time since the 2002 season.

The Raiders were 6-4 and in great standing before falling on hard times and finishing 2019 with a whimper despite receiving tons of help in their playoff quest. They were formally eliminated from playoff contention entering that 2019 finale in Denver but would’ve been alive if there were a seventh spot.

They could be in a similar situation next season and should be better suited to perform well down the stretch while fighting for the playoffs.