Raiders

How Raiders' bolstered secondary depth can help defense vs. Packers

How Raiders' bolstered secondary depth can help defense vs. Packers

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have some serious cornerback depth right now. They’re healthy at that spot and have activated Nevin Lawson after a four-game suspension and a week’s practice as a roster exemption.

The veteran’s primed and ready to contribute right now, if he’s worthy of an active roster spot over some others. Isaiah Johnson is set to come off injured reserved after next week’s game at Houston, further fortifying the deepest defensive position group.

Those numbers will also allow Daryl Worley to move around the defensive backfield in what Jon Gruden called a hybrid role.

Coaches aren’t spelling out exactly what that will look like, but defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said Worley’s comfortable playing several different spots in the defensive backfield, from cornerback to safety to down low in the box.

“Daryl is a smart guy, he can be like having an extra corner cover guy on the field,” Guenther said. “He understands the run fits, the blitzes, the leverages in coverage, whether it’s inside or outside. So, to have a guy with that knowledge and that ability and the physicalness to play inside versus the run on some early down and distances, that’s something that we utilize him for, and he can do it. That’s kind of what we are talking about there, it’s having an extra corner on the field.”

That means Lawson or rookie Trayvon Mullen would slide into Worley’s regular cornerback spot opposite Gareon Conley to fill a gap. That allows the Raiders to use more of their secondary strength while countering some deficiencies at linebacker with Vontaze Burfict suspended the rest of the year. They got creative to keep Lamarcus Joyner on the field when he was largely schemed out of Week 3’s loss to Minnesota, and are coming up with creative ways to enhance coverage against tight ends and in bigger packages.

“You have to give credit to our coaches credit,” Lawson said. “They are doing a great job of getting people involved. We have some talent across the board in the secondary, and we have depth there as well. The defensive backs have to rise to the occasion, no matter who is out there or where guys are playing. We look forward to the challenge of playing well."

While we don’t know who will be among the 46 active players on Sunday at Green Bay, Lawson is excited for a return after missing the season’s start due to a PED violation. The anticipation’s certainly high for the veteran hoping to make his season debut.

“I’m more than excited to be out there,” Lawson said. “I got really tired of watching. This is a good team and we’re getting better every day. I just want to contribute to the group and help us win.”

The Raiders know they can’t survive forever playing just two linebackers on defense, even with Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow operating well as a pairing.

[RELATED: Raiders must pounce with Mahomes out]

“Well you got to have linebackers,” Gruden said. “Anytime someone comes out and wants to play old-fashioned, big boy football you got to have linebackers. Losing Burfict is big, I’m still not happy about it. I’m just not happy about it. … I’m not happy about that but it is what it is, and we’ll get Dakota Allen and whoever the next man up is, we’ll get him ready to go.”

Allen and Justin Phillips are linebackers in reserve, though the Raiders won’t just put them out there because it says “LB” on their football card. Secondary depth will play a role in the defensive scheme, which is forced to adjust to some setbacks in the front seven.

Raiders going 'all hands on deck' with Dion Jordan, D.J. Swearinger

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USATSI

Raiders going 'all hands on deck' with Dion Jordan, D.J. Swearinger

ALAMEDA -- Dion Jordan hasn’t been a Raider long. He signed with the team on Friday and formally joined the team on Tuesday after his NFL-imposed suspension ended, leaving some question whether he’d be ready to play right away.

That answer’s already becoming clear. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said the defensive lineman should don silver and black soon.

“Absolutely,” Guenther said. “I think there’s a very good chance he makes his Raiders debut.”

Jordan isn’t the only new guy ready to make a contribution. Safety D.J. Swearinger should step right in, possibly playing a significant role in this Bengals game with Karl Joseph now on injured reserve.

“I do [expect Swearinger to play],” Guenther said. “It’s all hands on deck this week with the guys we got.”

Swearinger seemed to have better odds of making an instant impact. He came in on Friday and his transition has been smooth after playing in a similar defense while with Arizona earlier this year.

“You know, coming from Arizona, Vance Joseph is the defensive coordinator there,” Guenther said. “He was my secondary coach when I was in Cincinnati, so he’s used to kind of the same terminology. When we got him here I was like, ‘hey this is this coverage, this is that coverage,’ and he shook his head, ‘yeah I got it.’ So that was helpful. And he’s a smart guy to begin with so he’s picked it up really good.”

Jordan had to show well in Thursday’s practice, a higher-tempo workout with one-on-one pass-rush drills. Jordan is in fantastic shape but hasn’t played all season while serving a 10-game ban for using Adderall. The Raiders really need Jordon to fortify a thin defensive end group worked hard during the past few games. 

[RELATED: Jordan ready to work, realize full potential with Raiders]

Jordan will bring some fresh legs, even if he’s only available on obvious passing downs.

“He’s big and long. He’s getting into football shape, and has really helped us out,” Guenther said. “He’s picking up the playbook quick, so he was in working with the first team at some points today.”

Derek Carr comfortable spreading ball around in Raiders' passing game

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AP

Derek Carr comfortable spreading ball around in Raiders' passing game

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr beat the Detroit Lions with a tiebreaking, game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. The Raiders quarterback completed two passes to Jalen Richard for chunk yards and another to Hunter Renfrow for a touchdown. Mix in some runs and that accounts for 75 yards with the game on the line.

Carr orchestrated another game-winner at the Coliseum the following Thursday night against the Chargers, connecting with Richard, then Renfrow, then Richard, the Renfrow, then Richard again. That set up Josh Jacobs’ 18-yard touchdown run to beat the Bolts.

Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller were in the pattern on both series. Carr enjoys going to the Raiders' top targets in big moments, but they’re typically blanketed with additional coverage.

Carr isn’t one to force the issue when a path of less resistance comes available, allowing the Raiders to steadily work down the field even in a time crunch.

He doesn’t have to worry about egos or demands for the darn ball when he gets back to the huddle. The Raiders share a singular focus, and that helps the quarterback operate under pressure and in times of less stress.

“It is so special and it’s very rare nowadays. We do not care about fantasy numbers, we do not care about stats, we don’t care about anything but winning,” Carr said. “And if they are going to take Waller away, the way we are going to have to win games is for someone else to step up and win their matchup. If they are going to take the pass game away, myself and our pass game, then Josh has to win it with our offensive line. If they want to take Josh away, then our guys have to win outside.”

Carr has worked with several top receivers and tight ends, with egos of varying sizes. His past experiences have been, at times, worse than this one.

“We as a team, we have such a good group of skill position guys that do not care about that stuff and, as you know, that’s rare especially nowadays when everything is on social media,” Carr said. “If you don’t get enough fantasy points, people are tweeting you and all this kind of stuff. I promise you no one on our team cares about that stuff even a little bit.”

Waller has been the best Raiders receiver in fantasy and the real world. His 51 catches for 588 yards rank first by a large margin, yet Carr has seven receivers with at least 12 catches.

Waller’s seeing the ball go in different directions by garnering extra attention, but he’s happy others are stepping up.

“It’s really cool, but I’m not really surprised,” Waller said. “They’ve been doing it. They’ve been showing themselves in practice from spring until now. It’s just a chance for everyone else to see it now. We’ve seen it for a while so, but it’s awesome to see.”

[RELATED: Jordan ready to work, realize full potential with Raiders]

That attitude comes from a team-first dynamic built by weathering so much adversity through the season. This group has bonded over all that and is playing better than the sum of its parts because of it.

“We care about each other; we care about seeing each other succeed,” Carr said. “That’s why if you ever watch our team, whenever someone scores a touchdown you don’t see anyone on the field like, ‘Man, that should have been my ball or man, that should have been me.’ Nobody cares about that stuff. We just cared that our buddy scored and we are going to win the football game.”