Irvin rounding into 'rugged,' complete player in Raiders defense

Irvin rounding into 'rugged,' complete player in Raiders defense

Bruce Irvin certainly felt the altitude’s sting playing in Mexico City’s extreme elevation on Monday night. The effects were real, with a lack of oxygen leaving the Raiders edge rusher and his teammates sucking for air late in a close game with Houston.

No matter. Irvin rarely left field. He played 69 snaps, and one big moment came on on No. 68. He sprinted into the backfield, then cut inside his man and hit Texans quarterback Brock Osweiller hard.

Irvin’s sack killed a final comeback attempt and helped ice a 27-20 victory at Estadio Azteca.

“Everybody was breathing hard at that altitude, but Bruce found a way to get it done,” fellow edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “It was a big moment for sure.”

That wasn’t Irvin’s only contribution. He equaled a team high with 10 tackles, with six stops for a minimal gain. He had a sack and three other quarterback pressures. Irvin was everywhere that night, performing well in all phases of his game.

It was clearly his best game as a Raider, and might have been more than that.

“That might have been the best game of my career to be honest with you,” Irvin said. “It might’ve been my best complete game, not one where I had a good rush or good run defense. I really feel I played a complete game, and it showed.”

The Raiders want Irvin coming forward most often, but signed a complete player comfortable in coverage and run defense. Irvin was an excellent fit at strongside linebacker in Ken Norton Jr.’s defense, an agile pass rusher who can perform other functions in a pinch.

Norton was familiar with Irvin, as his only NFL linebackers coach after getting drafted by Seattle. Norton was integral in bringing Irvin to Oakland this offseason on a four-year deal worth up to $37 million.

“That was him just being a total package football player,” Norton said. “Coming into the league, he may have been detailed as a finesse type player. He’s really rugged now. He’s really strong, really smart, really confident. He can play sideline to sideline. He can rush the passer. He can drop into coverage. He can knock tight ends off the line. He can cover tight ends. He can do all this stuff. Anything you want him to do, Bruce can do it.”

The Raiders have him attacking off the edge most often, but drops into coverage 11 percent of the time. That’s a decrease over his final three seasons in Seattle. That has helped his numbers. He has 33 tackles, three sacks and four forced fumbles, and is on pace to set career highs in every stat except for sacks.

“Bruce plays hard, he’s tough, he’s athletic,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I think some of those things that Bruce [Irvin] brought, some of the reasons that he’s here, I think they showed up last night on the stat sheet, when he gets a sack and makes a lot of tackles, he makes an impact on the game.”

Irvin has made grand contributions to a defense that is coming together. The Raiders gave up massive yard totals early in the season, leaving many to wonder it the defense would be a liability this year. Irvin raised that question publicly, and demanded better execution from players when coaches were under fire for subpar defense. Irvin is happy to see improvement from himself and others, but still wants more.

“Bringing in a lot of faces, sometimes it takes a while to come together,” Irvin said. “Ken Norton has been here too long, and becoming an elite defense takes time. I always knew we had the pieces here, and it’s really starting to show off. We just have to continue to get better each week.”

Raiders-Dolphins injury report: Clinton McDonald may get heavy workload

Raiders-Dolphins injury report: Clinton McDonald may get heavy workload

ALAMEDA – Clinton McDonald is not on the Raiders injury report. Defensive tackle P.J. Hall is, and isn’t expected to play Sunday in Miami.

That suggests the veteran defensive tackle, signed just a week ago to fortify an ailing position group, could see steady snaps in South Florida.

He played 52 against Denver, just days after being signed off the street. He fared well considering the circumstances. He had two tackles, two quarterback pressures and graded out well against the run.

“Clinton has played in our system, so he’s familiar with what we do in our system,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “He was with me in Cincinnati, so it was a little bit easier of a transition for him going in there. He did a tremendous job on short notice, playing that many snaps.”

He could see another heavy workload on Sunday, and the Raiders need him to play well inside to function well on the defensive line. Johnathan Hankins was signed last week for a similar task, and his workload could increase after improving his football shape considering he was a free agent all preseason.

Hall missed his fifth straight practice on Thursday. Rookie offensive tackle Brandon Parker returned to full work after missing Wedensday’s practice with an ankle issue.

Nick Nelson was added to the injury report with a hamstring injury. He was limited.

Thursday’s Practice Report

Did not practice

DT P.J. Hall (ankle)

Limited practice
C Rodney Hudson (ankle)
RG Gabe Jackson (pectoral)
RB Marshawn Lynch (shoulder)
CB Nick Nelson (hamstring)

Full participation
OT Brandon Parker (ankle)
CB Leon Hall (illness)
WR Dwayne Harris (foot)

Did not practice

RB Frank Gore (not injury related)

Limited practice
S Reshad Jones (shoulder)
LS John Denney (shoulder)
Bobby McCain (knee)

Full participation
DT Jordan Phillips (knee)
RB Kenyan Drake (abdomen)
DE William Hayes (finger)
WR DeVante Parker (finger)
QB Ryan Tannehill (knee/ankle)
WR Danny Amendola (not injury related)

Peter King: I wouldn't have traded Khalil Mack for four first-round picks

Peter King: I wouldn't have traded Khalil Mack for four first-round picks

We probably won't stop talking about the Khalil Mack trade for a while.

With every passing week, every passing game where the Raiders struggle to get to the quarterback and every passing game where Mack dominates for the Bears, it will keep coming up. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden will keep fielding questions. The media and fans will continue to be puzzled by every aspect of the trade.

More than two weeks after writing a column in which he said the Raiders made a huge mistake trading Mack, NBC Sports' Peter King had more harse words for Gruden.

"He's like Donald Trump with the wall or Donald Trump with the Russia investigation. He can't leave it alone and he's not convincing anybody," King said Thursday on The Dan Patrick Show. "Who possibly can be convinced that Khalil Mack didn't want to be on the Raiders? That was his first one. And now how hard it is to find a pass rusher. It's almost insult to the people who listen, really. I hear him say these things, and I like Jon, but everything is a justification for trading away a franchise pass rusher in his prime, a guy over the last two years in the NFL has impacted the passing game, via Pro Football Focus, more than any rusher in the NFL. You trade him in his prime, for two 1's. I wouldn't have traded him for four 1's."


King wasn't done.

"We've seen him play well enough. I'm not trying to be argumentative," King said. "I'm just saying that even if he had been pedestrian the first two weeks, I still would have said it's a dumb trade. I'll say it's a dumb trade for the next three years. I just think it's a dumb trade. I never understood it. I still can't to this day."

Safe to say King and Gruden won't be having dinner together anytime soon.