Raiders

How Raiders' Isaiah Johnson improved his game while on injured reserve

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AP

How Raiders' Isaiah Johnson improved his game while on injured reserve

ALAMEDA – Raiders cornerback Isaiah Johnson lost valuable development time during his rookie season through no fault of his own. It was stolen from an inadvertent knee to the head by teammate Marquel Lee in the first preseason game, where Johnson suffered a concussion and a facial fracture that put his professional career on hold.

He didn’t play or practice again during the preseason and was placed on injured reserve right after the 53-man roster was set. That final act gave Johnson belief that the entire season was not lost.

The Raiders planned to designate him for return near midseason, when he was healthy and able to contribute on defense and special teams. Defensive contributions will be harder without nine weeks of practice and playing time, especially for a former receiver with just two seasons experience at cornerback, but Johnson isn’t bitter about that.

He applied proper perspective to his downtime and set to handle this setback as best he could.

“I feel like everything happens for a reason,” Johnson said Monday. “I believe in marathons, not sprints. Everybody has a time and place for something to happen. My time just wasn’t then. When I got hurt, it didn’t really destroy me mentally. I knew there were steps to take to get where I want to go. I used it as a learning experience.”

That wasn’t always easy. Johnson was merely watching others practice and play, trying to learn conceptually without an ability to apply it on a practice field.

“I’m going to be honest: It’s really hard sitting in meetings, watching tape that you’re not on,” Johnson said. “After a while you mature and learn how to be a pro. Once you do that, you watch all that film and start applying it to yourself, so when you come back [to practice], you can use that knowledge.

"I kind of felt that today. I found myself applying some of the tools I learned during the six weeks I wasn’t playing.”

Johnson started practicing on Monday, opening a 21-day window for the Raiders to activate him or place him on season-ending injured reserve. Johnson expects activation when he’s eligible to play after eight weeks on IR.

He’ll have nine regular-season games left if all goes to plan, offering plenty of time to accomplish this year’s primary objective.

“My only goal is to help the team win games,” Johnson said. “That has always been the case, so I can do everything I set out to do. Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to come in and do it.”

Johnson is a top-tier athlete perfectly built for press-man coverage, though some development was required and understandable for someone who took up the cornerback position as a junior at the University of Houston. The Raiders need cornerback depth with Daryl Worley moving into more of a hybrid role, with Nevin Lawson and Trayvon Mullen as options to pick up Worley’s outside cornerback snaps when he roves across the defensive backfield.

Johnson will be involved in that but should be an immediate contributor on special teams.

[RELATED: Jackson, Johnson practice as Raiders prepare for Packers]

He was known as an excellent gunner in punt coverage and should give special teams a lift the moment he’s eligible to play. That’s a role he’s ready for right away.

“I have always enjoyed playing special teams,” Johnson said. “I feel like [special teams coordinator Rich] Bisaccia has a great system, and I feel like I can contribute the moment he puts me back on the field. I’m trying to show the coaches that I’m ready to go.

"I know I’ve been out, but I’m working to come back.”

Raiders report card: Grades on offense, defense in 17-10 win vs. Bengals

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USATSI

Raiders report card: Grades on offense, defense in 17-10 win vs. Bengals

OAKLAND – The Raiders didn’t bring their best to Oakland Coliseum on Sunday afternoon. They weren’t bad, not by any stretch, but had to battle a bit to beat the winless Cincinnati Bengals.

The 17-10 final score is absolutely all that matters here. The Raiders completed a perfect three-game homestand and have won five of their last seven games to join the AFC’s playoff race.

The Raiders will have to be better down the road, as early as next week against the New York Jets, and they know that.

But they fought hard and got another win at home to keep this good thing going.

There’s plenty of time to look at the big picture. Here’s how the Silver and Black graded out on this particular Sunday in our weekly Raiders report card:

Rushing offense

Josh Jacobs didn’t like his performance despite gaining 112 yards on 21. His 4.9 yards per attempt were above his season average and he ate up ground in chunks, but the rookie rusher was bothered by a red-zone fumble even after the game. He should have been. That’s a no-no.

The Raiders didn’t get much from other Raiders runners, with a 3.3-yards per carry average on the whole. That came against the NFL’s worst run defense – the Bengals had given up 173 yards per game entering Sunday – which probably increased frustration that the Raiders didn’t go off.

Grade: C

Passing offense

Derek Carr had a solid statistical day, much like Jacobs. The Raiders quarterback connected on his first 14 passes and finished with 292 yards and just four incompletions. Darren Waller was heavily involved, with five catches for 78 yards after getting some one-on-one or man coverage.

Hunter Renfrow had five catches for 66 yards, but a pass intended for him got picked. That was Carr’s first interception since Oct. 20, but still cut deep. The pass protection was lacking at times, which kept the air attack from finding a solid rhythm.

Grade: B-minus

Rushing defense

This is normally a team strength. Not on this day. The Bengals had 173 yards on 22 carries, for a whopping 7.3 yards per carry. Yeah. You read that stat line right. That normally means the Raiders lost a game. Not so here.

The Bengals still struggled on third down thanks to a terrible passing game. Joe Mixon gave the Raiders fits in last year’s matchup in Cincinnati and did so again Sunday, this time close to his Oakley home, totaling 86 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. This might’ve been the run defense’s worst showing of the season.

Grade: D

Passing defense

Ryan Finley struggled mightily in his second NFL start. The rookie completed just 13-of-31 passes for 115 yards and a Trayvon Mullen interception that sealed the Raiders' victory. The Silver and Black sacked him five times, including four from rookie edge rusher Maxx Crosby. One of them was a strip sack recovered by Maurice Hurst, though the Raiders gave the ball right back.

Newcomer Dion Jordan got in on the sack-tivity (get it?) in his first game as a Raider. The pass rush is starting to heat up now, with 10 sacks in the past two games. That’s a good sign for the defense as a whole, especially a secondary that is piecing a lineup together with Karl Joseph done for the season and Lamarcus Joyner out for the time being.

Grade: A

Special teams

Instead of kicking a long field goal late in the fourth quarter, the Raiders decided to punt to pin the Bengals deep for a final comeback attempt. Then A.J. Cole sent his punt into the end zone for a touchback. Not ideal, but not the end of the world. His 32.8-yard net punt average wasn’t great, and he put just one of five attempts inside the opposing 20. Daniel Carlson hit his only field-goal attempt, and it was a short one.

Grade: C

[RELATED: Jacobs hit hard by Tua injury]

Overall

The defense did more than enough to win. The offense feels like it didn’t do enough and still won. That’s the only important thing. Find a way to win a game. The Raiders did that for a third straight time thanks to more good coaching and enough good plays to beat the team on the other sideline. Do that enough and you’re playoff bound.

Grade: A

Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs unhappy with Raiders' offense in win vs. Bengals

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AP

Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs unhappy with Raiders' offense in win vs. Bengals

ALAMEDA – Raiders running Josh Jacobs had 112 rushing yards on 23 carries on Sunday against Cincinnati, the fourth time the rookie hit triple digits this season.

Jacobs couldn’t have cared less.

Quarterback Derek Carr completed his first 14 passes and hit on 24-of-29 passes for 292 yards and a triple-digit passer rating.

That stat line was met with a shrug.

The Raiders will gladly take a 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, but they openly acknowledged an underwhelming offensive performance that must be improved against better competition.

“We could have had more,” Carr said. "Honestly, that's how I feel. I left the game and I get our stat book and I looked at it and I was like, 'They look pretty, but I could have played better.' I'm hard on myself. … I think that's the standard that Coach Gruden puts on me.”

Jacobs felt the same way, disappointed to leave plays unmade despite several highlights during the game.

“We left a lot of points out there as an offense,” Jacobs said. “I missed a couple holes. Honestly, It wasn’t a great game for me. I had 100-and-something yards or whatever, but there’s a lot to improve on.”

The Raiders offense had been humming. The unit had scored at least 24 points in six straight games over a 4-2 stretch. The unit was balanced, steady and impactful against some solid teams, creating the expectation that the Raiders should go off against a Bengals team ranked 22nd against the pass and dead last against the run.

That didn’t happen. The Raiders weren’t bad, either. Not by a long shot. They converted half of their third- and fourth-down attempts. They accumulated 386 yards of offense and had nine explosive plays of 20 yards or more.

They misfired a few times, which bothered both Carr and Jacobs after this win. Jacobs fumbled in the red zone – that’s a major no-no – and Carr threw his first interception since Oct. 20 when Bengals safety Jessie Bates III cut off a pass intended for Hunter Renfrow.

“[Josh] never wants to put the ball on the ground,” Carr said. “I threw an interception, he fumbled. If Coach is going to put the ball in our hands every single play, one of us, then we need to be better."

[RELATED: Jacobs hit hard by Tua injury]

This was a day where the Raiders held Cincinnati to 10 points, and just a field goal after the opening drive. After having to win so many high-scoring games, the offense didn’t have to do much in this one. They were productive but not efficient enough scoring, and the Raiders playmakers believe it didn’t do well enough even though the box score looks good.

“I'm never into fantasy stats or my stats or anything like that,” Carr said. “I'm into doing whatever Coach Gruden wants me to do at a high level. I didn't do that well enough today.”