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.  

Raiders going 'all hands on deck' with Dion Jordan, D.J. Swearinger


Raiders going 'all hands on deck' with Dion Jordan, D.J. Swearinger

ALAMEDA -- Dion Jordan hasn’t been a Raider long. He signed with the team on Friday and formally joined the team on Tuesday after his NFL-imposed suspension ended, leaving some question whether he’d be ready to play right away.

That answer’s already becoming clear. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said the defensive lineman should don silver and black soon.

“Absolutely,” Guenther said. “I think there’s a very good chance he makes his Raiders debut.”

Jordan isn’t the only new guy ready to make a contribution. Safety D.J. Swearinger should step right in, possibly playing a significant role in this Bengals game with Karl Joseph now on injured reserve.

“I do [expect Swearinger to play],” Guenther said. “It’s all hands on deck this week with the guys we got.”

Swearinger seemed to have better odds of making an instant impact. He came in on Friday and his transition has been smooth after playing in a similar defense while with Arizona earlier this year.

“You know, coming from Arizona, Vance Joseph is the defensive coordinator there,” Guenther said. “He was my secondary coach when I was in Cincinnati, so he’s used to kind of the same terminology. When we got him here I was like, ‘hey this is this coverage, this is that coverage,’ and he shook his head, ‘yeah I got it.’ So that was helpful. And he’s a smart guy to begin with so he’s picked it up really good.”

Jordan had to show well in Thursday’s practice, a higher-tempo workout with one-on-one pass-rush drills. Jordan is in fantastic shape but hasn’t played all season while serving a 10-game ban for using Adderall. The Raiders really need Jordon to fortify a thin defensive end group worked hard during the past few games. 

[RELATED: Jordan ready to work, realize full potential with Raiders]

Jordan will bring some fresh legs, even if he’s only available on obvious passing downs.

“He’s big and long. He’s getting into football shape, and has really helped us out,” Guenther said. “He’s picking up the playbook quick, so he was in working with the first team at some points today.”

Derek Carr comfortable spreading ball around in Raiders' passing game


Derek Carr comfortable spreading ball around in Raiders' passing game

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr beat the Detroit Lions with a tiebreaking, game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. The Raiders quarterback completed two passes to Jalen Richard for chunk yards and another to Hunter Renfrow for a touchdown. Mix in some runs and that accounts for 75 yards with the game on the line.

Carr orchestrated another game-winner at the Coliseum the following Thursday night against the Chargers, connecting with Richard, then Renfrow, then Richard, the Renfrow, then Richard again. That set up Josh Jacobs’ 18-yard touchdown run to beat the Bolts.

Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller were in the pattern on both series. Carr enjoys going to the Raiders' top targets in big moments, but they’re typically blanketed with additional coverage.

Carr isn’t one to force the issue when a path of less resistance comes available, allowing the Raiders to steadily work down the field even in a time crunch.

He doesn’t have to worry about egos or demands for the darn ball when he gets back to the huddle. The Raiders share a singular focus, and that helps the quarterback operate under pressure and in times of less stress.

“It is so special and it’s very rare nowadays. We do not care about fantasy numbers, we do not care about stats, we don’t care about anything but winning,” Carr said. “And if they are going to take Waller away, the way we are going to have to win games is for someone else to step up and win their matchup. If they are going to take the pass game away, myself and our pass game, then Josh has to win it with our offensive line. If they want to take Josh away, then our guys have to win outside.”

Carr has worked with several top receivers and tight ends, with egos of varying sizes. His past experiences have been, at times, worse than this one.

“We as a team, we have such a good group of skill position guys that do not care about that stuff and, as you know, that’s rare especially nowadays when everything is on social media,” Carr said. “If you don’t get enough fantasy points, people are tweeting you and all this kind of stuff. I promise you no one on our team cares about that stuff even a little bit.”

Waller has been the best Raiders receiver in fantasy and the real world. His 51 catches for 588 yards rank first by a large margin, yet Carr has seven receivers with at least 12 catches.

Waller’s seeing the ball go in different directions by garnering extra attention, but he’s happy others are stepping up.

“It’s really cool, but I’m not really surprised,” Waller said. “They’ve been doing it. They’ve been showing themselves in practice from spring until now. It’s just a chance for everyone else to see it now. We’ve seen it for a while so, but it’s awesome to see.”

[RELATED: Jordan ready to work, realize full potential with Raiders]

That attitude comes from a team-first dynamic built by weathering so much adversity through the season. This group has bonded over all that and is playing better than the sum of its parts because of it.

“We care about each other; we care about seeing each other succeed,” Carr said. “That’s why if you ever watch our team, whenever someone scores a touchdown you don’t see anyone on the field like, ‘Man, that should have been my ball or man, that should have been me.’ Nobody cares about that stuff. We just cared that our buddy scored and we are going to win the football game.”