Five Raiders to watch in Week 10: Maxx Crosby must slow Chargers' run game

Five Raiders to watch in Week 10: Maxx Crosby must slow Chargers' run game

The Raiders didn’t have much time to celebrate a dramatic victory over Detroit in their return from a five-game road trip. They immediately moved on to a Thursday night game against the Los Angeles Chargers, played on a quick turnaround that players and coaches hate.

It’s another unwelcome scheduling quirk for the Raiders, but they haven’t used any of them to excuse a poor performance. They seem determined to overcome such obstacles and show toughness and resilience that has become this season’s signature trait.

They’re a bit banged up at important spots, but the Raiders will try to improve their playoff standing against an AFC West rival with plenty of firepower and similar aspirations.

Here are five Raiders to watch heading into the final (scheduled) primetime game at Oakland Coliseum:

DE Maxx Crosby

The Raiders are a little light at defensive end with Arden Key recovering from foot surgery and Josh Mauro out with a groin issue. The fourth-round draft pick was playing a ton already but should be a three-down player against an opponent with dynamic backfield talent.

He must help slow Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler in the run game and find a way to impact quarterback Philip Rivers.

The longtime Chargers signal-caller has owned the Raiders in his career but is a pure pocket passer prone to aggressive mistakes. Putting him under duress helps coaxed him into making some that could turn tides.

Crosby is relentless and must stay vigilant going against a Chargers right tackle spot that has been substandard no matter who plays.

LT Kolton Miller

The Raiders left tackle has been excellent this season. He and Richie Incognito have paired well together blocking for the run, and he has deflected pressure as well as any NFL left tackle. He’s bigger, stronger and healthier this season, with increased confidence providing wind at his back.

Miller has parried tough pass rushers before, and must deal with a pair of excellent ones who move around the formation. Joey Bosa is on a tear and Melvin Ingram’s having another solid all-around year playing a number of different positions.

There will be times Miller has one of them straight up, and he must win as he has against other top players coming off the edge. He’s prepared for that challenge and could get some help with Trent Brown apparently healthy and ready to anchor the right tackle spot.

The Raiders need another strong, mistake-free day from their left tackle to stay engaged in what should be a close contest down the stretch.

WR Tyrell Williams

Players always relish playing an old team. Williams admits there will be extra juice in this one after spending his previous four NFL seasons with the Chargers.

Williams’ case of plantar fasciitis is largely behind him, setting the stage for a big performance against defensive backs he practiced against for years.

It was always clear Williams would leave the Chargers in free agency – they couldn’t have paid his open-market freight – but he’ll still want to prove to his old team that he’s a true No. 1 receiver capable of taking control of a game especially if tight end Darren Waller remains a defensive focal point.

Williams has done damage downfield, with Carr well protected and comfortable working the ball downfield. Taking big chunks is possible if Carr has time. If not, Williams needs to be an available intermediate route runner to keep the Raiders on schedule and prolonging drives.

DT Johnathan Hankins

The Raiders don’t want to face a balanced Chargers attack. That one’s dangerous. They need to create long third downs and obvious passing situations to increase the odds of creating stops and takeaways.

That effort starts in the middle with Hankins and the Raiders run defense.

CB Daryl Worley

Worley survived a scare this week, when an MRI showed no tearing in his strained Achilles’ tendon. That makes him a go for Thursday night, an important fact for a struggling Raiders pass defense that made a few key stops Sunday against the Lions.

Worley’s acrobatic, one-handed interception in the end zone was a real highlight, especially after he got beat several times earlier in the first half.

The Raiders need him to be consistently reliable from his outside cornerback spot, where he has played despite talk he could operate some from a safety spot or a rover in the secondary.

[RELATED: Raiders wearing 1970 throwback uniforms on TNF vs. Chargers]

This finally might be a game where he plays such a role, with big-bodied tight end Hunter Henry always being a threat inside the numbers. The Raiders have struggled against tight ends and Worley could help there, or he could stick outside and deal with Mike Williams and Kennan Allen when they’re on his side.

Either way, the Raiders need Worley to provide stable, quality coverage to minimize the damage done by the Chargers' potent air attack.

Raiders-Chiefs Week 13 AFC West matchup flexed to afternoon slot

Raiders-Chiefs Week 13 AFC West matchup flexed to afternoon slot

Remember back in Week 3 when the Raiders were licking their wounds after being dismantled by the Vikings to open their five-game road trip?

Jon Gruden's club was 1-2, two games back of the Chiefs in the AFC West with four consecutive road games staring them in the face. The AFC West crown was the Chiefs and no one would be told otherwise.

How the tables have turned.

The Raiders survived their road odyssey and returned home to win three straight games to head into a Week 12 matchup with the Jets at 6-4. The Chiefs, meanwhile, hit some road bumps. They dropped games to the Colts and Texans before quarterback Patrick Mahomes dislocated his knee cap.

Backup quarterback Matt Moore went 1-1 in relief. Mahomes returned in Week 10, but KC's defense was gashed on the ground by the Titans and they fell to ... 6-4.

Gruden and old friend Andy Reid still have one more showdown on the calendar, with the Raiders' Week 13 visit to Arrowhead Stadium possibly serving as the AFC West title game. 

As such, the NFL has opted to flex the Dec. 1 game from the 10 a.m. PT window to the 1:25 p.m. PT slot. The move shifts the Browns-Steelers matchup into the 10 a.m. PT slot. The 49ers-Ravens game will remain in the 10 a.m. PT slot with the NFL opting to keep Patriots-Texans as the Sunday night game.

[RELATED: Raiders rookie class having profound impact on season]

The Chiefs still have to play the Chargers on Monday night in Mexico City. A loss will drop them a half-game behind the Raiders heading into their bye week. A win will ensure the AFC West rivals will be in a virtual tie at 7-4 -- with KC holding the head-to-head tiebreaker -- should the Raiders beat the Jets at MetLife Stadium in Week 12.

Gruden's Raiders have fought tooth and nail to survive injuries, a brutal schedule and the loss of Antonio Brown to give themselves a shot at the playoffs and even the division title. The Chiefs beat the Raiders at the Coliseum in Week 2, with Mahomes accounting for four second-quarter touchdowns in a 28-10 win.

This is a different Raiders team. One with an offensive identity and rookies growing more comfortable with each victory put under their belt.

The Chiefs' run defense is primed to be gashed by Josh Jacobs and the Raiders' offensive line. Oakland's banged-up secondary could be an issue against Mahomes. It's going to be quite the showdown at Arrowhead.

Knock on wood, if you're with us.

Raiders' entire 2019 NFL draft class making profound impact on season

Raiders' entire 2019 NFL draft class making profound impact on season

OAKLAND – Jon Gruden gets asked about the Raiders' rookie class almost every week.

Those questions don’t get old, and they’re always relevant.

This isn’t just the Josh Jacobs show. At least a few are making positive contributions each Sunday. That was the case again Sunday when rookie contributions were vital to a 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Coliseum.

Fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby had four sacks, including a strip-sack where the Raiders recovered. Tight end Foster Moreau, also picked in that round, had a key touchdown catch. Second-round pick Trayvon Mullen had two pass breakups and his first NFL interception iced victory. Undrafted fullback Alec Ingold blocked well as always and converted a key fourth down set up to a field goal.

Oh, and Jacobs posted his fourth triple-digit rushing total in 10 tries.

All that comes two weeks after fifth-round pick Hunter Renfrow caught the game-winning touchdown late to beat Detroit. It also came one week after first-round pick Clelin Ferrell’s breakout performance, where he had 2.5 sacks and six(!) run stops against the Chargers.

We could bloat the internet with this season’s Raiders rookie contributions, but you get the point. This year’s class has been awesome, truly making an instant impact.

Jacobs tweeted, ‘best rookie class since…” after Sunday’s game. The ellipsis is appropriate because you have to stop and ponder that one. That's a tough ranking in league history but it does seem appropriate to say this year’s crop is arguably the greatest collective effort by a group of rookies in franchise history.

Gruden isn’t into bold proclamations like that, but he loves what the young players have provided his ascending team.

“The poise and the production and the professionalism that they play with and come to work with,” Gruden said, “is something everybody would be impressed with.”

The stats have been impressive, to say the least. Some numbers for support, via ESPN:

The Raiders have the most rookie sacks (10), touchdowns from scrimmage (14), scrimmage yards (1,676), rushing yards (937) and receptions (73). They have the second-most receiving yards (739).

Per the AP, the Raiders are the first team to have 10-plus sacks and 10-plus touchdowns over the first 10 games of the season since the sack became a stat in 1982.

Odds are more superlatives will come next week and the week after that, with the Raiders so reliant on rookies who have grown up fast.

"We just bought in,” Jacobs said. “Like I said when we came in, the rookie class came in together and we came to an agreement that we were going to do things the right way and build this program. We wanted to try and shape it back to the Raider culture and back to what we feel like dominating football is. Just to see how we are all coming in and trying to keep that promise and execute every week has been huge."

Jacobs is a frontrunner for Offensive Rookie of the Year and was one of three Raiders first-round draft picks. Ferrell just now is coming on, and Johnathan Abram is missing from the equation after being lost to injury in the season opener. The Silver and Black are receiving key contributions from mid-round picks and undrafted guys alike, with most everyone asked to step up and play.

[RELATED: Raiders protect Coliseum, chart course for playoff push]

This group’s confidence is growing by the game, which will help push for a playoff spot this season and set the Raiders up for sustained success when they move to Las Vegas in 2020.

“It comes down to preparation,” Mullen said. “All of us young guys put the time in and pay attention to details during the week. That allows us to come in on Sunday and play free.”