Five Raiders to watch in Week 3: All eyes on Josh Jacobs vs. Vikings


Five Raiders to watch in Week 3: All eyes on Josh Jacobs vs. Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS – The Raiders start a brutal stretch of road games on Sunday in Minnesota, and find themselves labeled underdogs right off the bat against the Vikings.

Oakland has the talent and game-day coaching to earn an upset at U.S. Bank Stadium, but these five Raiders must make key contributions to make it happen.

RB Josh Jacobs

The rookie running back has been effective when give the chance, churning out tough yards and taking chunks working in space. The Alabama product can do everything well, from rushing inside while making smart cuts to zone reads. He can be effective out of the backfield as well, and this might be a game Jacobs can control both in terms of time of possession and steady scoring.

The more attention Jacobs draws, the easier life will be on a passing game heavily reliant on Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller. Jacobs had 24 touches in a season-opening win over the Denver Broncos, and needs an equally heavy workload on Sunday. He has been dealing with an illness making its way through the locker room – coach Jon Gruden didn’t like Jacobs announcing that fact on social media – but must persevere for the Raiders to beat a tough NFC team on the road.

DT Johnathan Hankins

Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook has been the NFL’s most productive running back through two weeks. He has 265 yards and three touchdowns, gaining an impressive 6.5 yards per carry.

Cook will square off against a surprisingly effective Raiders run defense ranked fifth in the NFL with 63 rushing yards allowed per game. The Silver and Black have been tough to run against thus far, thanks in large part to Johnathan Hankins’ excellent interior line play.

Hankins has been collapsing plays on the inside with regularity, allowing others to fly downhill and make plays on the ball carrier. He lately has been playing most every down, which is a rarity on the defensive front, and the 27-year-old has proven impactful against the run and pass.

“He’s a load in there, and he can move,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said this week. “He’s a big, athletic guy who’s playing some on third down for us now, so he’s shown in the training camp that he can rush. He’s just not this big nose who can play the run and rush some.”

WR Hunter Renfrow

The Raiders need receiving targets not named Tyrell Williams or Darren Waller to take some heat off the top two guys. Renfrow’s certainly capable of creating quick separation and making tough catches. He has to prove quarterback-friendly and take advantage of single coverage inside to keep the chains moving.

If Renfrow’s especially impactful on third downs, the Raiders can be more threatening than they were after the first quarter last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. He only has six catches for 43 yards on 11 targets, which isn’t efficient or productive enough. The Clemson product must do better in Week 3.

DE Arden Key

The second-year pro has not followed a solid training camp and preseason with production in games that actually count. Key’s snap count has dipped a bit, but the LSU product must be more disruptive for the Raiders pass rush to reach another gear. The Raiders have done a good job stopping the run and setting up pass-rush opportunities that aren’t being maximized.

Key has the talent to make big plays -- if he can find ways to finish.

“He’s getting close each and every week,” Guenther said. “It’s going to come. It’s a lot like turnovers, everyone is saying, ‘Hey, you need turnovers!’ One of the things I’ve always said is, if you’re in position and you’re doing the things the right way, turnovers and sacks and those types of things come in bunches, so don’t press. Just keep working your techniques, keep working your moves and get off the ball.”

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C Rodney Hudson

The Vikings have a savvy, talented defensive front capable of causing trouble, one the Raiders offensive line must manhandle against the run and pass despite some injury issues. Trent Brown and Denzelle Good are both questionable heading into this contest, so Hudson must orchestrate the line well regardless of who is playing. Richie Incognito returns after a two-game suspension, so Hudson must integrate him well and assist whomever lines up at right guard.

The Raiders offense falls apart without solid line play, so Hudson must play like the elite talent he is to keep the line going strong.

New guys D.J. Swearinger, Dion Jordan make instant impact in Raiders win


New guys D.J. Swearinger, Dion Jordan make instant impact in Raiders win

OAKLAND – Jon Gruden stood in front of his Raiders during a Wednesday team meeting. He introduced safety D.J. Swearinger and defensive lineman Dion Jordan to the full squad and made a simple, immediately granted request.

Knock on wood if you’re with them.

Nope. That wasn’t just a “Hard Knocks” gag. It’s a way of bringing everyone together and, in this instance, guys signed less than a week ago who would be counted on to make an immediate impact Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I definitely appreciated that,” Swearinger said. “I’ve never seen that anywhere else. The confidence he gives you as a player is great. You want to go to [play your heart out] for a guy like that.”

Swearinger and Jordan played significant roles and made significant contributions in a 17-10 victory over the Bengals.

Swearinger played in the base package and on most early downs and led the entire team with seven tackles. Jordan was an interior rusher on third downs and obvious passing downs and had a sack that forced a Bengals punt.

That was a big moment for the team and for Jordan personally. It was his first sack since last season, considering he sat out the first 10 games of 2019 while serving an NFL suspension. Jordan has had troubles with the league and was excited to return to the NFL stage. He’s on the right path now, sober more than three years and ready to get his NFL career restarted.

“With a guy like Dion Jordan, there are no judgements. We just want him to come in and do what he does,” said tight end Darren Waller, over two years sober after his own battles with addiction. “…We’ve had a relationship before he came here. It was good to see him and how he’s carrying himself and how he’s working. To see him get that sack today, I was really excited for him.”

The Raiders needed reinforcements after losing safety Karl Joseph and situational pass rusher Arden Key for the season in the past fortnight. Enter Swearinger and Jordan, needing to fit in quickly and contribute right away.

That doesn’t just happen. It takes time and lots of it in meeting rooms with position coaches trying to get guys ready and adapted to the scheme’s concepts and terminology.

This is nothing new for the Raiders, not after so much turnover at several position groups.

“The new guys get great, positive energy from the coaching staff,” Waller said. “They’ll be patient, but there’s also a sense of urgency with those guys. You see how it pays off. It’s amazing to see guys come in and contribute like they have on this team.”

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Swearinger has played for five teams – he was with Arizona twice – over seven seasons and has experienced a rush to adapt in-season once before. He was also comfortable with Paul Guenther’s system considering how similar it was to what he ran in Arizona earlier this year, but it still took tons of work to get ready for Sunday.

“I put in a lot of hours,” Swearinger said. “I came in and met with coaches over the weekend when I got here. I made sure I studied every night and definitely put in the work. It ended up with a great result.”

Raiders' Josh Jacobs 'praying' for Tua Tagovailoa after hip injury


Raiders' Josh Jacobs 'praying' for Tua Tagovailoa after hip injury

OAKLAND -- Before becoming a breakout star for the Raiders, Josh Jacobs was one of a multitude of playmakers in Alabama's backfield.  

Last season, Jacobs shared the backfield with college football's biggest star, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. 

Tagovailoa was seen as the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft, but everything changed Saturday when the junior signal-caller was hit during the end of the second quarter of Alabama's eventual 38-7 win over Mississippi State. Tagovailoa was hit as he let the ball go. He stayed down on the field with his helmet off before being carted off the field. 

Tua, the game's brightest star, dislocated his right hip, the team announced. Tagovailoa also suffered a posterior wall fracture, The Athletic's Aaron Suttles reported Saturday. 

Following the Raiders' 17-10 win over the Bengals on Sunday at the Coliseum, Jacobs spoke about the devastating injury to his former teammate. 

"It’s a tragedy, honestly," Jacobs said."That’s because of the type of person he is. If you’ve ever met him, he’s the coolest dude on Earth. To see him go through all the adversity he has gone through [in the past] is huge. He has been in my prayers. Hopefully, he can come back from this."

Alabama team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain said the hip dislocation was "immediately reduced at the stadium." Tagovailoa will have surgery Monday in Houston and is expected to make a full recovery. He will miss the rest of the season as Alabama vies for a spot in the College Football Playoffs, and there is no timetable for his recovery. 

This type of hip injury is tricky and the exact course of action and rehab isn't known as it would be for a torn ACL or an ankle injury. Tua will have surgery and then he will go from there. His NFL future will be decided by how teams view the injury and his rehab timetable. 

The injury likely ends what was a captivating college career for Tagovailoa. He burst onto the scene in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game, replacing the ineffective Jalen Hurts at halftime to lead the Crimson Tide back from a 13-point deficit to force overtime against Georgia. 

After Georgia kicked a field goal to open overtime, Tagovailoa took a sack that knocked Alabama out of field goal range. A freshman facing the biggest moment of his life, Tagovaiola answered his costly mistake with one of the most iconic plays in college football history. He dropped back, looked the safety off and threw a strike down the left side to Devonta Smith for a 41-yard touchdown to give Alabama the title. 

His sophomore season only can be categorized as brilliant. He threw for 3,966 yards and 43 touchdowns and would have won the Heisman if not for an ankle injury that knocked him out of the SEC Championship Game against Georiga. 

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He's faced a number of injuries in his college career but none as severe as this. The road back will be long, and his draft stock will be a roller coaster for the next several months. 

He was a college football icon who forced Nick Saban to change the way his offense is run in order to accommodate and utilize a transcendent talent. He was mesmerizing. His deep-ball captivating. Every time he dropped back, the stadium held its breath in anticipation of the next unbelievable play. 

Jacobs had a front-row seat to Tagovailoa's greatness and resiliency. He hopes, like the rest of us, he can see it again.