Jon Gruden, Derek Carr preparing to face 'magician' Aaron Rodgers


Jon Gruden, Derek Carr preparing to face 'magician' Aaron Rodgers

ALAMEDA -- To outside observers, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are winning a different way this season under new head coach Matt LaFleur.

Through six games, the Packers rank 17th in the NFL in total offense and 14th in points per game. Despite LaFleur's reputation as an offensive guru, the Packers have been relying on a much-improved defense to win games early on, with the offense scuffling thanks to injuries to receivers Davante Adams and Equanimeous St. Brown. 

Rodgers, now 35, has put together serviceable numbers through six games, throwing for 1,590 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions. Those numbers are good, but they aren't what we've become accustomed to seeing from one of the most talented quarterbacks in NFL history. 

While the numbers haven't been Rodgers-esque, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden still isn't looking forward to the challenge of facing the future Hall of Famer on Sunday at Lambeau Field. 

"Rodgers is still working the snap count, you see him beat Denver with the hard count," Gruden said Wednesday after practice. "He's magnificent scrambling, creating offense is uncommon. It's just unbearable to watch. I hate watching this guy. He's fun to watch, but he's really not fun to watch when you got to play against him. He still has a very quick trigger, deadly accurate, a lot of overall athleticism and a great competitor. You saw it again the other night." 

Gruden and the Raiders exit their bye week at 3-2 and in the thick of the AFC West race. The Silver and Black responded from a Week 3 drubbing at the hands of the Vikings by beating the Colts and the Bears on the back of an efficient run game and a brilliant game script from Gruden. 

The Raiders' grueling road trip continues in Week 7 with a trip to Green Bay to face Rodgers, a guy who has been giving advice to quarterback Derek Carr since he came into the league. Carr wants him and Rodgers to have a different conversation after Sunday's duel. 

"When we go out there, it's going to be a tough, physical football game," Carr said. "You never underestimate Aaron Rodgers. The guy -- he can do whatever he wants with a football. He's like a magician back there. It's fun to watch. I've had great conversations with him throughout my career. He's been awesome in helping me with stuff and things like that, but hopefully, we can beat him this week and that would feel much better than having to ask him questions knowing they beat us again."

Carr and the Raiders will look to their balanced attack for success at Lambeau Field come Sunday. While the Packers defense looks a lot better from the leaky units of the Mike McCarthy era, Green Bay still is surrendering 124.5 yards per game on the ground and is giving up 4.9 yards per carry, which means Josh Jacobs should get the ball early and often as the Raiders look to control the game against another difficult opponent.

[RELATED: Only Rodgers, Watson stand in way of epic Raiders road trip]

Getting an early lead will be Step 1 of the Raiders' plan to leave Green Bay with a win. The second and much more difficult part of the equation will be keeping Rodgers from going into his bag of tricks and tormenting the Raiders secondary.

Best of luck.  

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could find late-round steal in Harrison Hand

NFL Draft 2020: Raiders could find late-round steal in Harrison Hand

Wide receiver and linebacker are the Raiders' two biggest needs as they enter the offseason.

But the Silver and Black need upgrades across the entire defense. All eleven positions will be evaluated and improved if possible. That improvement won't just be for the starting unit, but for the depth as well.

While the linebackers are the most glaring issue, the secondary also needs to be fixed. Trayvon Mullen showed lock-down potential during his rookie season, and the Raiders will be excited to get Johnathan Abram on the field in 2020.

The Raiders first can address their leaky defense in free agency, before turning their attention to the 2020 NFL Draft. There they will find a talented crop of corners from LSU's Kristian Fulton to Alabama's Trevon Diggs.

I don't expect the Raiders to use a first-round draft pick on a cornerback, but even if they do, they'll still need to improve their depth at the position and Harrison Hand could be a great fit.

Hand started his career at Baylor before transferring to Temple. Hand, 5-foot-11, 197, is projected to be a Day 3 pick. He won't be ready to jump in right away, but he's a physical corner, who has worked hard to become a better tackler. He's long, rangy and has solid ball skills.

He believes he has the tools to be a star at the next level.

"I'm a lockdown corner," Hand told NBC Sports Bay Area on Radio Row during the week of Super Bowl LIV. "I've got speed in coverage. Not a lot of corners tend to want to come up and tackle and be in the box -- be that aggressive -- but that's a part of my game that I like to make an impact."

With Gareon Conley traded to the Houston Texans and Daryl Worley hitting free agency, the Raiders need to find a long-term solution to the corner opposite of Mullen. 

Some believe Hand would be a better safety than corner at the next level, but the Temple product wants to mold his game after another corner who many counted out in the draft -- Richard Sherman. 

"His knowledge," Hand said of what part of his game he wants to model after Sherman. "He's a film junky. He knows the game like the back of his hand because of all the film he watches."

[RELATED: Ruggs, Claypool, Jefferson should have Raiders' attention after combine]

The Raiders only have one Day 3 pick right now, but Hand might be someone for them to look at if he's still on the board. He's not afraid to be physical and has the potential to be a solid corner in the NFL if the right team gets ahold of him.

Henry Ruggs, Chase Claypool among combine stars Raiders should target

Henry Ruggs, Chase Claypool among combine stars Raiders should target

We know two things for certain about the 2020 NFL Draft: The wide receiver class is deep and stocked with talent, and the Raiders need a lot of help at wideout.

With five picks in the first 92, it should be a match made in heaven.

General manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden have spent all week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, and Thursday they got an up-close look at the best the class has to offer. 

While the class is insanely loaded, six receivers dazzled Thursday during drills and testing, no doubt shooting up the Raiders' draft board.

Chase Claypool, Notre Dame

Teams asked Claypool to work out at tight end during the combine, not knowing if he had the athleticism to play wideout at the NFL level.

At 6-foot-4, 238 pounds, the Notre Dame product was a touchdown machine in college. Any doubts about his athleticism and fit should have been put to bed Thursday with his testing.

Running a 4.43 at 6-foot-4 is some alien-type stuff.

In fact, only one other receiver in history has run a sub 4.45 40 at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds or more.

Calvin Johnson.

In the age of positionless football, just put Claypool on the field and let him go to work.

Henry Ruggs, Alabama

Much like Lamb, Ruggs only solidified his position as one of the top-three wideouts in this loaded class.

Have you ever seen a cheetah run on two legs? Here you go.

An effortless 4.27.

In a freaky class, Ruggs is at the top of the class.

Denzel Mims, Baylor

You want to talk stock up? Look no further than Denzel Mims.

The 6-foot-3, 207-pound receiver had the best three-cone time of the night at 6.66, he broad jumped 10' 11'', had a 38.5-inch vertical and ran a 4.38 40-yard dash.


He also looked fluid in pass-catching drills, showing he's not just a workout warrior.

Mims dominated the Senior Bowl and continued his rise in Indianapolis.

CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

This is going to be short. I've long believed Lamb is the best receiver in the class and the Raiders should jump at the opportunity to draft him if he's available at No. 12.

He did nothing Thursday to dispel that belief. He just spent it showcasing why he'll be highly coveted in the draft.

Another look?

Your WR1.

[RELATED: Hurts' talent entices, but should Raiders take chance on QB?]

Justin Jefferson, LSU

Despite Jefferson lighting the world of college football on fire this past season, Jefferson entered the combine with some questions about his speed and overall athleticism. Those now are gone.

And since catching the football is the name of the game, he put on a show in The Gauntlet.

Jefferson might have had the best overall combine performance. Don't be surprised if the Raiders snatch him up at No. 19.