Raiders

Five Raiders to watch in Week 5: Derek Carr must make plays vs. Bears

Five Raiders to watch in Week 5: Derek Carr must make plays vs. Bears

The Raiders are in a decent spot heading into the 2019 season’s second quarter. They’re at 2-2 after the first four, which would’ve been a realistic expectation even if Antonio Brown still was on this roster.

Adding another win to the tally Sunday here in London against Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears would be huge. That would put them in good standing within the AFC and provide great confidence with two more road games coming up after next week’s bye.

The road gets a little easier after that road stretch, and the Raiders could surpass expectations and maybe even enter the playoff picture. This could be a turning point game. Stealing a win here changes the Raiders' outlook on the season and would show great resilience after all the early-season setbacks.

Here are five players vital to achieving that goal:

QB Derek Carr

We normally exclude Carr from these lists, because he could easily be on them every week. An exception is to be made here because the Raiders quarterback must be awesome to work out a win here, showing shades of 2016 to beat an excellent Bears defense without some of his best weapons.

Chicago will emphasize run defense to keep Josh Jacobs quiet, and Carr must be solid moving the chains with smart ball placement that provides for yards after the catch even if the passes don’t travel far.

The Raiders might not need tons of points, but they need a zero turnover day from Carr and probably four touchdown drives to come out of this with a win. Carr has had several games like this before, with a penchant for fourth-quarter comebacks. He might have to orchestrate another one to beat Chicago.

TE Darren Waller

There’s a sense that Tyrell Williams will play Sunday, but that isn’t a stone-cold lock. Williams won’t be 100 percent even if he does play, so Waller becomes the best and most dynamic talent in the lineup. He needs to have a productive, high-volume day.

He’ll probably receive several relatively short passes as Carr will look to get the ball out quick, and Waller must do his best to create yards after the catch and turn those opportunities into bigger gains. The Bears are a sure-tackling unit, but Waller’s a powerful guy who can make plays in space. He also can chip edge rushers going into his route, a vital effort in slowing down the Bears' pass rush. Waller has a full Sunday ahead, but is capable of continuing his breakout season even if significant attention is paid to him in coverage.

DE Maxx Crosby

There’s no certainty whether first-round draft pick Clelin Ferrell will play Sunday due to concussion-like symptoms. Someone will have to pick up his slack, and Crosby has been most deserving of extra snaps. Crosby wouldn’t take over Ferrell’s role, but he could be active in the base defense. That means he would have to show well against the run, and would get extra chances to rush the passer. He had four quarterback pressures, two run stops, a forced fumble and two batted passes against Indianapolis, proving he can produce.

The Raiders need extra production off the edge, and Arden Key hasn’t done much to this point. Benson Mayowa’s an option off the edge, but the Raiders should look to Crosby for an encore after his performance last week. The Eastern Michigan product could provide some juice up front and create problems for Bears backup quarterback Chase Daniel who will start in place of the injured Mitchell Trubisky.

RT Trent Brown

The massive, shockingly athletic right tackle was paid a pretty penny for games like this. He’ll be asked to shut Mack down when the former Raiders edge rusher is on his side, often all by himself. Mack moves back and forth, so Brown could be dealing with Leonard Floyd or another Bears edge rusher on his side at times.

Brown must handle those guys effectively, largely by himself. That allows the Raiders to shade protection coverage to Kolton Miller on the left. Last year’s first-round pick is talented, but could use the help early on and possibly often. Keeping Carr upright is imperative, and doing so solo is hard. Brown certainly is up to the task.

[RELATED: Raiders 'ready to go' vs. Bears after lengthy London stay]

DB Lamarcus Joyner

Raiders coaches found some creative ways to keep their slot cornerback on the football field after Minnesota schemed him out of the game. He played the run more than usual and had three big stops in that area. He allowed five receptions on eight targets, but they totaled just 39 yards. Just four of them came after the catch.

The Bears use David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen, backs of different size and style, to make gains on the ground. Joyner must be impactful against those guys, occasionally against tight ends and, of course, against slot receivers. Joyner’s also an effective blitzer, and disguising them well and getting home could create problems for the Bears front and force Daniel into some bad decisions.

Why Raiders should add running back to help Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard

Why Raiders should add running back to help Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard

Josh Jacobs is a feature back in every sense. The Raiders star rusher can do most everything well and is capable of playing all three downs. He can carry a significant workload, as he did during an exemplary 2019 campaign where he finished second in AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting, and frankly should have won.

He had 242 carries for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games, proving to be a tough and elusive runner who gains significant yards after contact.

Jalen Richard’s an excellent complement as a third-down back who can pass protect well and is an excellent receiver out of the backfield.

While those two can cover every offensive scenario, the Raiders should still work to add another running back.

That was clear at the end of last year when Jacobs was shut down with a shoulder injury he played through for weeks. DeAndre Washington filled in as the primary ball carrier and fared well but was allowed to hit the open market, where he remains today.

The Raiders could and should look to upgrade that position and not just by finding a backup. They need someone with a different style, maybe a big and bruising back to accent what the Raiders do offensively.

They tried to do that last season, when they worked out every veteran running back under the sun but didn’t sign anyone until Rod Smith came aboard late.

The sixth-year journeyman re-signed with the Raiders on a low-cost contract.

The NFL draft will have quality options available later in the draft, where the Raiders have three third-round picks and one each in the fourth and fifth.

It might take a third-round pick to land Boston College’s A.J. Dillion, a 247-pound bruiser who can run downhill and pick up short yardage by moving the pile. Draft analysts say he’s good at reading blocks and following his assignment, something important in Jon Gruden’s offense.

Vanderbilt’s Ke'Shawn Vaughn is an option who might be available later. He isn’t quite as big but has the toughness required to get hard yards and could absorb some blows to keep Jacobs healthy and fresh.

This isn’t a full-on draft breakdown, so we won’t go down the list of every scheme fit available for selection. There aren’t many free agent dollars left, so it’s hard to see another runner coming in.

The Raiders can survive with the depth chart they’ve got, especially with fullback Alec Ingold able to carry the ball effectively when called upon. But the NFL is trending toward two back benefits, even when there’s an obvious alpha like Jacobs.

Gruden has historically preferred feeding multiple backs, as he did in his previous Raiders stint with Tyrone Wheatley and Napoleon Kauffman, and later with Wheatley and Charlie Garner.

[RELATED: Raiders reportedly meet virtually with Herbert]

Gruden has also ridden one back pretty hard, as he did with Cadillac Williams while with Tampa Bay.

The Raiders are more than capable of rolling with the crew they have but could use to make the backfield a little better before the 2020 season begins by filling a relatively low-ranking need.

NFL rumors: Raiders meeting with Oregon QB Justin Herbert before draft

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NFL rumors: Raiders meeting with Oregon QB Justin Herbert before draft

The Raiders are meeting with former Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert on an official top-30 visit. Well, the term “visit” might be a stretch considering nobody is allowed inside NFL facilities due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pre-draft meetings still are happening, but those face-to-face interactions now are done over FaceTime or Zoom or Skype or whatever video conferencing platform you prefer.

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Herbert will be meeting with the Raiders in this way, as the Silver and Black try to refine their options in the NFL draft.

Each team gets 30 meetings during the pre-draft process, though they’re often used on players from lower rounds or with character questions they need to examine further.

This meeting is sure to raise some eyebrows considering Herbert’s position and eventual draft status, but this should be viewed as an exploratory exercise of the Raiders doing due diligence.

[RELATED: How Raiders' NFL free-agency signings could impact returning players]

Herbert should be taken in the NFL draft’s top 10, well before the Raiders draft at Nos. 12 and 19. The Raiders have the capital to trade up in the draft if they choose, but it would be costly to move up high enough to get beyond the quarterback starved Miami Dolphins at No. 5 and the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 6.

They also have a quality quarterback room with Derek Carr as the starter and Marcus Mariota as the backup. There are far more pressing needs at receiver, cornerback and safety and maybe defensive line that could use talent available in the first round.

It’s possible the Raiders draft a quarterback later in the draft, but it seems unlikely in the first round.

Let’s also recall that the Raiders met with top quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins before last year’s draft and didn’t take either guy.

While the Raiders don’t have an immediate need at quarterback, general manager Mike Mayock always says the team will consider upgrades at every position. Head coach Jon Gruden loves meeting with quarterbacks and learning how they think.

Herbert is ranked high among the NFL draft’s best options at quarterback, typically third behind Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. He has ideal size for a quarterback at 6-foot-6 and 236 pounds, with great arm strength and field vision. He can throw on the move and is confident throwing the ball downfield and making smart decisions going with shorter and intermediate options.

NBC Sports Bay Area’s latest mock draft has Herbert going No. 5 to the Dolphins.

NFL Network also reported that Herbert has a video conference scheduled with the Bolts.