Raiders

Healthy Edwards, NFL Draft could help Raiders improve interior pass rush

Healthy Edwards, NFL Draft could help Raiders improve interior pass rush

The Raiders had an NFL-worst 25 sacks last season, and that’s with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin in their employ. That duo had 18 sacks (and 11 forced fumbles) between them. That left only seven for everyone else. Stacy McGee and Denico Autry had 2.5 each, and McGee isn’t here anymore.

Mario Edwards Jr. was certainly missed last season, when he missed 14 games with a preseason hip injury. The versatile defensive lineman is a solid edge run defender and internal pass rusher in the sub package.

If he’s healthy, Edwards Jr. could pose a real threat rushing the passer next to Irvin or Mack.

“Having Mario healthy will make us a better defense, and that’s not just as a pass rusher,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said in March. “He’s a solid run player. We’ve just got to have him healthy.

“But we’ll continue to add there, too.”

McKenzie subtracted one Tuesday, releasing Dan Williams to free salary cap space. He hasn’t yet added a defensive tackle in free agency, but could certainly do so in next week’s NFL draft.

There’s some quality interior pass rushers in this class. Let’s take a look at some options the Raiders could select and when:

Good fits: The Raiders select 24th overall in this draft, far lower than years past. Some quality defensive tackles might be a proper fit there, especially with depth at positions of need.

They could use some versatility, players like Edwards Jr. who can play multiple techniques. Michigan State’s Malik McDowell is an strong, athletic freak who analysts believe needs to improve his effort and technique. McDowell could develop into a top talent and be viewed as a steal at No. 24, or not realize full potential.

Michigan’s Chris Wormley is a versatile player in the Edwards Jr. mold, a player who seems to fit Raiders needs. Analysts says inconsistency is troubling but has the leadership quality and character the Raiders love. He can be a base end and move inside when required. He also has the size at 6-foot-5, 298 pounds and could develop well at the NFL level while making an immediate impact.

Florida’s Caleb Brantley is also an intriguing prospect adept at reaching the offensive backfield. Analysts say he’s a powerful player with quickness and an ability to work through blocks despite being slightly undersized. Brantley is potential to be a quality NFL pass rusher, and is confident in his ability. He didn’t play a high snap count at Florida, but the Raiders might use him in sub packages as a rookie and fill an important role right away. He’s viewed as a second round pick, and the Silver and Black might cross fingers he’s available at No. 56.

Auburn’s Montravius Adams could help if the Raiders are looking for more of a run stuffer. Clemson’s Carlos Watkins could also play multiple spots and could be available later in the middle rounds. Old Dominion’s Rashaad Coward also fits that mold and would be available in later rounds, though he hasn’t had much pass-rush production.

Jon Gruden knows firsthand why Saints NFC title loss 'will sting forever'

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Jon Gruden knows firsthand why Saints NFC title loss 'will sting forever'

MOBILE, Ala. – Jon Gruden reached out to New Orleans head coach Sean Payton after the Saints lost the NFC championship on Sunday, largely due to a blown no-call on an obvious pass interference violation.

The Raiders head coach knows all too well both Payton and the pain felt after losing a chance to advance in the playoffs due to an officiating mistake.

Gruden was, after all, victimized by the Tuck Rule. The New England Patriots beat the Raiders back in the 2001 AFC divisional round largely because of a call that negated Tom Brady’s lost fumble, which would have essentially secured a Raiders victory.

“That’s one of the reasons Sean and I have talked,” Gruden said Monday during Senior Bowl week. “What do you say to your team? It’s tough. You lose a game like that, it’s tough. It’s tough to lose a game, period. It’s tough that it came down to that.”

Gruden has strong feelings on instant replay, but didn’t want to comment on whether pass interference calls should be reviewable. By rule, the egregious non-call in the L.A. Rams’ victory over the Saints wasn’t allowed to undergo a review.

Payton was despondent after the overtime loss to Los Angeles, saying the NFL told him shortly after the game that pass interference should have been called.

While the Tuck Rule Game happened 17 years ago, Gruden and several Raiders involved in that game are still bothered by the end result. That’s why Gruden believes the Saints might not ever get over such a loss.

“No. I don’t think so,” Gruden said. “If you really want to dwell on it, you won’t ever get over it. It’s the last time that team will ever be together. It will never be the same. Those guys fought long and as hard as they could. It will sting forever.”

Gruden and Payton have discussed the Saints’ situation already, and will again down the road.

“Sean and I worked together a long time ago (in Philadelphia), and I was involved in a playoff game that ended in quite dramatic fashion,” Gruden said. “So is he, now. He and I will have a couple of hot dogs and a couple Cokes and talk about it at some point in the future, I’m sure.”

Gruden isn't the only Raiders still sore over the Tuck Rule Game. Charles Woodson caused the fumble that was negated, and it still bothers him greatly. The Raiders were awesome that year, and had a real chance to win the Super Bowl if his big play had stood as a fumble. 

When Jon Gruden, Raiders expect some clarity on Marshawn Lynch's plans

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When Jon Gruden, Raiders expect some clarity on Marshawn Lynch's plans

MOBILE, Ala. – Marshawn Lynch hasn’t played football in a while. There’s no telling if he’ll play football again.

The Oakland native and Raiders running back only played six games last season before a groin injury ended his campaign, the last of his contract with the Silver and Black.

There’s no telling if Lynch will return to the Raiders. He is, after all, an enigma.

Lynch doesn’t say much, and marches to his own drum. Even head coach Jon Gruden didn’t have an idea what Lynch wanted to do.

Clarity, he believes, should come relatively soon.

“When we get back after the Super Bowl, we’ll have a lot better indication of his health and his desires, of what he wants to do,” Gruden said Tuesday during Senior Bowl week. “If he wants to play I’m sure somebody, like me, would want him back.”

Lynch doesn’t speak publicly about much, and has given no indication about whether he would want to return. He largely rehabbed on his own after landing on IR.

Lynch could drift back into retirement. He enjoyed during the 2016 season, though he was his physical, at-times dominant self after returning to the game. He said several times during his Raiders tenure that he enjoyed playing in the East Bay, which also increased visibility for his charitable works in and around Oakland.

The Raiders don’t yet have a home stadium for the 2019 season, but it’s certainly possible Lynch would be less interested in a return if the Raiders played outside Oakland city limits, even if they remained in the greater Bay Area.

Gruden would like to know Lynch’s plans relatively soon, so he can decide on a proper course of action for his running back position. It’s possible Doug Martin will return after a strong 2018, but he’ll deserve a raise. The Raiders could draft a young, physical rusher for early downs as well. That need would become more pressing if Lynch doesn’t return.

We should have a better understanding of Lynch’s plans in coming weeks.