Jon Gruden details 'launching pad' for Raiders offensive line alignment


Jon Gruden details 'launching pad' for Raiders offensive line alignment

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders have some versatile offensive linemen capable of playing both sides of center Rodney Hudson.

Head coach Jon Gruden detailed exactly where they’ll play at a Friday media session during Raiders rookie minicamp, formally stating that expensive free-agent addition Trent Brown will play right tackle and 2018 first-round pick Kolton Miller will remain on the left. Last year’s third-round pick Brandon Parker will be the swing tackle.

“We like that as a launching pad for us,” Gruden said. “Trent played very well as a right tackle in San Francisco and left tackle very well for New England. He gives us some versatility. That’s how we’re going start the show.”

That arrangement was formally confirmed, but Gruden offered some new information on Gabe Jackson. The standout guard will remain on the right, where he has played the last three seasons.

He played left guard exclusively in college and two NFL seasons before that but switched sides after Kelechi Osemele came aboard in 2016.

Jackson and Brown will form a formidable pair flanking elite-level center Rodney Hudson, who will continue as the offensive line’s leader.

There is, however, one question mark left.

“The door’s wide open at left guard,” Gruden said. “We’re going to continue to look for players to come in and compete at that position.”

GM Mike Mayock said last week that Denzelle Good was the leader in that competition, but wanted more before writing his name in pen.

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“You know, he played pretty well at the end of last season. I’m not sure, you know, he’s going to have to prove to us that he’s the long-term answer,” Mayock said. “He had some initial success at Indy (Indianapolis Colts) at tackle. He wasn’t able to sustain it. You know, so we need him to be consistent. I mean that’s going to be his challenge because he has the natural ability and size to be a starting guard in the NFL but he’s got to sustain it and be more consistent.”

The Raiders didn’t address the guard position in the NFL draft, though it was under consideration. They have guard/center Jordan Devey in the mix, but he might be an ideal super-sub on the inside. Chaz Green has NFL experience on the inside, with a few undrafted players also now on the squad. Good is the frontrunner and could remain that way unless a new combatant enters the fray.


Maxx Crosby-Trayvon Mullen bond leads to big plays in Raiders victory


Maxx Crosby-Trayvon Mullen bond leads to big plays in Raiders victory

OAKLAND -- Trayvon Mullen and Maxx Crosby are always pumping each other up while trying to be the one who makes the next big play for this surging Raiders team. 

The Clemson cornerback and Eastern Michigan edge rusher are two pillars of Jon Gruden's close-knit rookie class that continue to come up big for the Silver and Black. 

Clelin Ferrell headlined the class in Week 10, racking up 2.5 sacks in the Raiders' win over the Chargers at the Coliseum. 

For most of Sunday's fight with the winless Bengals, it was Crosby who was doing the heavy lifting for the Raiders defense. He opened the game by sacking Bengals quarterback Ryan Finley and forcing a fumble the Raiders recovered.

Much like his friend Ferrell in Week 10, Crosby was everywhere the Bengals turned Sunday at the Coliseum. When all was said and done, Crosby sacked Finley four times, recorded three other tackles for loss and forced one fumble. 

Four-sack days are rare in the NFL. Even with the Coliseum bumping "Salt and Pepa" after each sack, Crosby ran out of celebrations by the fourth takedown. Still, Crosby was in the zone from the opening snap against the Bengals.

"It's like last week, [Clelin Ferrell] got his first one and it was over from then," Crosby said after the game. "He knew he could beat the guy all day. When you get in that rhythm you are just feeling it and the sacks start rolling in." 

While Crosby made life miserable for the Bengals all day, the game hung in the balance with under two minutes to go, as the Raiders clung to a 17-10 lead. Gruden elected to punt from the plus territory, putting the game in the hands of his defense for the third straight week. 

On second-and-19 from their own 11, Finley rolled right and threw deep for Alex Erickson. Mullen saw it all the way and snatched the pass out of the air to secure a 17-10 win for the Raiders, their third straight victory. 

Mullen, who had dropped a pick-six earlier in the game, made good on a message Crosby gave him earlier in the quarter. 

"Trayon's been jumping routes since he's been playing," Crosby said after the win. "I was talking to him with about five minutes left and I said, 'Trayvon, it's time.' He could have had two today. But it awesome to see. Trayvon's a great corner and he's just getting started." 

Crosby's talk with Mullen is part of a friendly competition the two rookies have with each other, trying to see who can make the next big play. 

"Me and Maxx got that little bond," Mullen said after the game. "Almost every other play, I'm like, 'Man, go get that sack. If you rush him, I'm going to get that pick. So, it be fun because we compete with each other." 

Crosby and Mullen's tag-team performance against the Bengals is the perfect illustration of how this Raiders team, now 6-4, has evolved since Week 1. Crosby wasn't expected to see a high number of snaps. The draft experts thought he needed to get stronger in order to make a big impact. Mullen, an uber-talented corner from Clemson, played sparingly through the first six games of the season before the Raiders handed him a starting role after trading Gareon Conley to the Texans. 

Both now are thriving and making winning plays for the Silver and Black.

This rookie class has been incredibly productive. They are playing fast, free and having a lot of fun as the Raiders play meaningful November games, something most didn't believe was possible for this young team. 

"The passion we have for the game, how much we love it, care about it," Mullen said when describing the rookie class. "Also care about our teammates. Want to show them we are going to show up, do our best and give our all." 

Effort isn't something the Raiders have ever had to worry about. "Mad Maxx" has been bringing it since he arrived in Oakland, impressing Gruden with his relentlessness. The sack numbers hadn't come for Crosby prior to his mauling of the Bengals. 

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They came in waves Sunday, with the four drops of Finley raising his season total to six. Fellow rookie Josh Jacobs believes Crosby should be the Defensive Rookie of the Year. 

He and Ferrell quickly are becoming a dynamic duo. But did "Salt" feel a need to outdo "Pepa" after his breakout game in Week 10?

"No," Crosby said with a chuckle. "He had 2.5. I didn't think I would get four. I've never done that before. It was cool, but it's on to the next game." 

The Raiders head to New York to face the Jets in Week 12. Another opportunity for Crosby, Mullen or another rookie to save the day. 

Raiders takeaways: What we learned in 17-10 win over lowly Bengals


Raiders takeaways: What we learned in 17-10 win over lowly Bengals


OAKLAND -- The Raiders played a rare role in Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The favorite. An overwhelming one at that.

Point spreads don’t often play out, and the 13-point favorites didn’t dominate nearly as much as that number would suggest.

This game was close all day, never separated by more than a score. They started with a deficit and ended up with a 17-10 victory, completing a perfect three-game homestand at Oakland Coliseum.

Some sloppy, lackadaisical play kept Cincinnati in the hunt, but the win was never truly in doubt down the stretch. The Bengals had opportunities to take control but were incapable of doing so due either to ineffectiveness or bursts of solid Raiders play.

The Raiders are now 6-4 on the season, still in the mix for a playoff spot. Here are three takeaways from the Silver and Black’s third straight win.

End result all that matters

The Raiders didn’t bring their best Sunday afternoon. A better opponent probably would’ve capitalized on that and made life rough on the home team. They probably would’ve finished the day leading on the scoreboard.

The winless Bengals weren’t capable of that. They offered some resistance, especially in their run game and with their pass rush but didn’t have enough to eclipse the Silver and Black.

In the end, that’s all that matters. The Raiders won. Doesn’t matter if it was close most of the time. The NFL doesn’t offer style points.

The Raiders held serve and sit a half-game behind the Kansas City Chiefs -- who play the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night -- in the division. They sit in the AFC’s No. 7 slot, just outside the playoff picture as they don't hold the tiebreaker over the Chiefs.

This was a game the Raiders were supposed to win. They did that. They’ll have to do so again next week against the New York Jets to set up a Dec. 1 showdown with the Chiefs for the AFC West lead.

Derek Carr fuel-efficient

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was as efficient as ever through the air, adding another game to his run of solid performances Sunday afternoon.

Carr completed 25 of 29 passes for 292 yards, a touchdown and his first interception since Oct. 20. He also ran for a touchdown, slipping through the Bengals front to score from three yards out.

Carr was awesome at the start. He completed his first 14 passes -- the 15th should’ve been caught -- and had a 130.8 passer rating in the first half.

An interception trying to sneak a third-quarter pass to Hunter Renfrow – Jessie Bates undercut the route – was Carr’s major blemish.

Carr was under more pressure than usual in this one, which impacted some drives and kept things close. He failed to connect on a few key throws in the second half that stalled drives, but he played well overall and did what was required to secure a victory.

Maxx Crosby shows up big (again)

The first of two Raiders fourth-round draft picks entered Sunday’s game with 2.5 sacks. He exceeded that total against the Bengals with four takedowns in this game.

The first was a strip sack in the first quarter that Maurice Hurst recovered. The second came on third down in the third quarter and forced a punt. The third one wasn’t as consequential, but showed an efficiency impacting the quarterback displayed in recent games. The fourth made life hard on the Bengals' failed attempt to tie it late, which ended a play later on Trayvon Mullen's interception.

Crosby is a rare Raiders three-down defensive lineman, a role earned by making impact plays since getting an opportunity to play regularly in Week 4.

The Eastern Michigan product has 6.5 sacks total this season and is proving to be a steal from this draft’s middle rounds. Growth potential remains for a talented player still raw in several areas, with the work ethic required to develop under the Raiders coaching staff.