Irvin: Raiders pass rush making 'significant strides'

Irvin: Raiders pass rush making 'significant strides'

The Raiders pass rush wasn’t effective enough early on. Certainly not by Bruce Irvin’s standards.

He comes from Seattle, where defense dominates. The Seahawks bring pressure in waves, and Irvin believes he and Khalil Mack will lead a similarly persistent attack.

It just didn’t happen right away.

The new Raiders edge rusher wanted more out the gate and said as much, but was pleased to see progress made in a victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

The defensive front produced 26 total quarterback pressures in that one, including several when it mattered most. The blitz was effective, as was a four-man rush even when Irvin and Mack drew extra attention off the edge.

Mack had a fourth-quarter sack. Irvin had a sack that forced a turnover in the same period. Irvin, however, appreciated that it wasn’t a two-man show.

“The first three weeks, the pass rush wasn’t there much,” Irvin said Friday. “Last week though, we made significant strides. That happened because we were all rushing together. It’s not just one person getting pressure. It was everyone doing his part. That’s the biggest difference.”

The Raiders haven’t gotten good push on the interior. They clearly miss Mario Edwards Jr., on injured reserve until Week 9 at least with a hip injury. Denico Autry has intensified his efforts on passing downs, and Karl Joseph proved to be an effective blitzer from the secondary.

That, in turn, helped guys off the edge.

“The offense chipped them just like they usually do, but they just played hard,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “They play hard every week and some weeks they’ll have better games and you’ll feel them more than others, but at the same time, with Bruce and Khalil, those are two really good football players who really play hard all the time. So, they’re always going to be out there, but you really felt them a lot more last week.”

Their presence should be felt on Sunday against San Diego. The Chargers have struggled protecting Philip Rivers. Their injury-riddled offensive line has allowed eight sacks, nine quarterback hits and 55 total pressures in four games. According to analytics site Pro Football Focus, San Diego’s pass blocking efficiency – the percentage of pass dropbacks where pressure is allowed – ranks 31st in the NFL.

That should create opportunities off the edge.

“Philip Rivers is a great quarterback,” Irvin said. “He does an excellent job of getting the ball out, but he will sit back in the pocket sometimes. If he doesn’t like his first read, he’ll hold it until something develops. That’ll give us some time to get back there, and we have to take advantage of it. Their o-line is kind of beat up, so we have to win our individual matchups.”

Irvin has won plenty over his first four games in silver and black. He has two sacks, five quarterback hits and six other pressures thus far. His badge of honor, however, comes from another category. Irvin has three forced fumbles thus far, including a pair of strip sacks resulting in turnovers. The Raiders have scored 10 points off those takeaways.

Irvin believes improvement is being made. After giving up 1,035 yards in the first two games, it couldn’t get much worse. He didn’t mask disappointment after a Week 2 loss to Atlanta, saying he didn’t want to spend the season on a subpar defense. The Raiders have been better the last two weeks, but still aren’t good enough.

“We’re still the 32nd ranked defense in the league,” Irvin said. “We’re not where we need to be yet, but we’ve definitely improved. Our communication has gotten better and guys are playing better together. That’s going to take time, but we need to make strides every week.”

Raiders owner Mark Davis thrilled Oakland Coliseum lease was approved

Raiders owner Mark Davis thrilled Oakland Coliseum lease was approved

PHOENIX – The Raiders will spend one more season in Oakland, the final stretch of a prolonged transition from the East Bay to Las Vegas.

It will happen at the Oakland Coliseum, after NFL owners unanimously approved a new lease agreement on Monday at the annual league meeting. It was the last of four approval votes to validate a pact to play 2019 in Oakland.

It brought owner Mark Davis great relief, which was written on his face while speaking with NBC Sports Bay Area in the Arizona Biltmore hotel’s main lobby.

“I won’t work out a stadium lease again in my lifetime,” Davis said with a smile.

His search for a place to play 2019 has been stressful. The Raiders abandoned negotiations with the Oakland Coliseum in December 2018, after Oakland sued the Raiders and the NFL for antitrust violations and breach of contract.

That sent the Raiders searching outside the market, into negotiations with the San Francisco Giants to play at Oracle Park and the undesirable Levi’s Stadium option. They all proved fruitless, sending the Raiders back to work out a deal with the Oakland Coliseum.

Now the Oakland Coliseum deal is done, including a 2020 option to account for unforeseen Las Vegas stadium delays. In short, there’s the clear path to Las Vegas.

Davis is happy to have a place to play until the Raiders debut in the Silver State.

“I think (Raiders president Marc Badain and Raiders general counsel Dan Ventrelle), with both hands tied behind their back, did a really admirable job working with the city (of Oakland) and getting a deal done under tough circumstances,” Davis said. “We’re ready to go.”

Despite pulling his Raiders up and leaving for Las Vegas, Davis still holds affection for the Raiders’ Bay Area fan base, and hopes to honor the team’s past before starting a new chapter in franchise history.

“The main thing here is that we get to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the AFL and the Raiders in the Bay Area, which I was hoping to do all along,” Davis said. “That’s going to be exciting.”

While he’ll look back on his team’s tradition in 2019, Davis is focused on the future and a rapidly progressing stadium in Las Vegas.

“I go by it and water it,” Davis said with a smile. “Then I come back a couple weeks later and it grows.”

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While there have been minor delays, the new venue opening just off the Las Vegas Strip should be ready to host games in Aug. 2020. A state-of-the-art training facility is being built in nearby Henderson, Nevada, and that could be ready around June 2020.

Until then, however, the Raiders have a place to play in Oakland as this long transition comes to a close.

Antonio Brown appears to take shot at Steelers after Mike Tomlin's comments

Antonio Brown appears to take shot at Steelers after Mike Tomlin's comments

There's no love lost between Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers. That much is clear.

By now you know the story. The star wide receiver wore out his welcome in the Steel City, demanding to be traded this offseason due to reported issues with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin.

Brown got his wish and was traded to the Raiders on March 9, but that doesn't mean he's ready to let bygones be bygones, as the 30-year-old star fired off a cryptic tweet Monday afternoon that was pointed directly at Tomlin and the Steelers.

Confused? We'll explain.

Earlier Monday at the NFL owners meeting, Tomlin gave his first comments since the end of the Steelers' season and he had a few things to say about his former receiver and former running back Le'Veon Bell.

It was a rough offseason for Tomlin, who lost his star receiver and running back and will enter the 2019 season with an aging quarterback and middle of the road defense.

So it's easy to understand why he's a bit salty.

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As for Brown, he got exactly what he asked for when the Steelers traded him to Oakland. He got away from Roethlisberger, inked a new contract and the Raiders didn't have to give up the world to acquire the All-Pro receiver.

All that's left for Brown to do is make the Steelers regret the way things unfolded by putting up huge numbers for the Silver and Black in 2019.