Raiders

Jon Gruden compares Raiders DB Lamarcus Joyner to one of his favorites

Jon Gruden compares Raiders DB Lamarcus Joyner to one of his favorites

Jon Gruden has never worked with new Raiders defensive back Lamarcus Joyner. Safe to say to he’s looking forward to it.

“I have so much respect for him,” Gruden said. “I’m so excited to coach him I can’t even tell you.”

Gruden loves guys who work hard, guys who play hard and guys who hit hard. Joyner checks every box. Several on this Raiders roster do. Few, however, get lofty comparisons like one Gruden made earlier this week at the NFL owners meeting.

“When I was in Tampa, I coached a guy named Ronde Barber,” Gruden said. “He may have been, perhaps, my favorite player I ever coached. He wasn’t the biggest guy and he wasn’t the fastest guy, but when he put the helmet on, something happened to him.

“Joyner is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to Ronde as a slot corner. I think he’s the best. I think he has a chance to be dynamic in there.”

Joyner started his NFL career as a slot cornerback but switched to free safety the last two seasons with the L.A. Rams. He also thrived in that role, so it’s likely he’ll play free safety in the base defense while moving to the slot in sub packages.

Joyner said a few weeks ago he enjoys switching back and forth, and doing so could help the Raiders secondary. The team would consequently need depth at safety, and Erik Harris or Curtis Riley could compete to play deep when Joyner moves inside.

Joyner will anchor a secondary loaded with young players in the starting lineup, including Gareon Conley, Daryl Worley and Karl Joseph.

[RELATED: Raiders still on hunt for pass rush help as NFL draft nears]

“His leadership ... when you meet Lamarcus Joyner, he’ll be the favorite guy you’ve met in a while,” Gruden said. You’re going to like him. There’s something about this guy that’s special. I think the Rams would tell you that. That’s why he was franchise tagged.

"His ability in the slot is rare. That’s a guy who comes in and replaces a linebacker, and Lamarcus will hit you like a linebacker.”

Aaron Rodgers calls Ex-Raider Charles Woodson best defender he ever faced

Aaron Rodgers calls Ex-Raider Charles Woodson best defender he ever faced

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has faced a multitude of impressive defensive players in his 14-year NFL career. During a recent interview at the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe with NBC Sports NFL Analyst Chris Simms, Rodgers was asked which defensive player he's feared the most during his career. 

"It’s Charles Woodson,” Rodgers told Simms during an episode of "Unbuttoned."

“I got to go against him in practice for years. Nobody had better instincts, could bait quarterbacks better than him, more talent, ball skills, coverage ability, smart little nuances of the position. He’s the best. By far.”

Rodgers was teammates with Woodson with the Green Bay Packers from 2006-2012, and they helped lead the Pack to a Super Bowl victory in 2010. He grew a particular appreciation for Woodson during his time practicing against the cornerback while they were both in Green Bay.

“Charles dominated in a way I never saw anybody dominate before. The 2009 season, one of the greatest seasons I’ve ever seen,” Rodgers said. “What he did on defense, impacting the game, I’ve never seen a player impact the game that way until Aaron Donald.”

In 2009, Woodson had nine interceptions and was named the Defensive Player of the Year along with being named First-Team All-Pro. The former MVP quarterback also doesn't feel that Woodson has exhausted all of his ability on the field.

[RELATED: 49ers, Raiders picked to be among most improved teams by NFL analyst]

"He could probably still play today, he's in that kinda shape, you know," Rodgers told Simms.

Woodson previously has denied that he has any intention of returning to the NFL, but Raider Nation no doubt would be excited to see that No. 24 jersey back on the field in the Silver and Black.

NFL preview 2019: Derek Carr, three other possible MVP sleepers in AFC

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NFL preview 2019: Derek Carr, three other possible MVP sleepers in AFC

With training camps getting started, hope once again springs eternal in the NFL.

Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots are primed to defend their crown, but a pack of worthy challengers is frothing at the mouth for the chance to take down the king.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes sits atop the NFL's other throne as The Shield's reigning league MVP. The dynamic signal-caller once again is viewed as the favorite to take home the hardware, and while the like of Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Baker Mayfield, Carson Wentz, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers are viewed as the most likely to take the crown from Mahomes, the AFC has a few other young passers who are lying in wait.

When looking at possible MVP sleepers in the AFC, I made sure to look only at players that had odds at 80-to-1 or higher, as listed by Westgate Las Vegas. With the framework set, here are four potential MVP sleepers who reside in the AFC.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders

The Case For: Carr has the arm talent and the leadership qualities to be an MVP. We saw that in 2016 when he led the Raiders to a 12-3 record before fracturing his fibula in Week 16. With a wealth of offensive talent around -- including Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, -- and a full year of Jon Gruden's system under his belt, it wouldn't be hard to see Carr returning to his MVP-caliber form in 2019. If he puts up big numbers while helping the Raiders navigate a tough early-season schedule, he should be in the mix.

The Case Against: There was little about the Raiders' offense in 2018 that would tell you a turn around is coming. The offensive line struggled and the running game was relatively non-existent. This is a make or break year for the Carr-Gruden relationship and there's a chance it just won't work.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans

The Case For: Despite a shaky offensive line, Watson completed 68.3 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,165 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 551 yards and five scores. If the Clemson product can get some protection, he could put up big numbers and lead the Texans to another AFC West title. The recipe for an MVP campaign is there for Watson.

The Case Against: The offensive line is atrocious. Watson might spend more time running for his life than looking downfield for the streaking DeAndre Hopkins. If the Texans can't keep Watson off his back, there will be no MVP delusions in Houston.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans

The Case For: When he's been healthy, Mariota has put up good numbers. That was with an offense designed for the 1940s with one offensive weapon. Mariota enters a make-or-break year for him with the Titans with two new wide receivers in rookie A.J. Brown and former Buccaneers Adam Humphries. If new offensive coordinator Arthur Humphries can tailor the offense to Mariota's strengths, the possibility for a breakout season is there.

The Case Against: Look, he hasn't been able to stay healthy. If Mariota can't stay on the field, then his chance at winning the MVP and the Titans' playoff hopes go in the trash can.

[RELATED: How Raiders' defense stacks up against AFC West rivals]

Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens

The Case For: Jackson rushed for 556 yards in the seven games he started last season. If you extrapolate that over a 16-game season, it amounts to 1,271 yards. That would be more than the 1,039 yards Michael Vick rushed for in 2006. If Jackson has improved his passing and leads the Ravens to the playoffs, he could very well be an MVP sleeper.

The Case Against: As the Los Angeles Chargers showed in the AFC Wild Card Game, it's easy to stop Jackson if he's only able to move the chains with his legs. If the Louisville product hasn't made big strides with his accuracy and pocket presence then he won't be in the MVP conversation.