Raiders

Jon Gruden feels Warriors' pain as Raiders continue to fight injuries

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USATSI

Jon Gruden feels Warriors' pain as Raiders continue to fight injuries

OAKLAND -- All season long the Raiders have fought a constant opponent, it's the same one the team that used to share a zipcode with them now fights across The Bay: Injuries. 

From Day 1, Jon Gruden's club has battled injuries. There was Tyrell Williams' feet, Josh Jacobs' shoulder, Trent Brown's calf and knee, now Rodney Hudson's ankle and the numerous injuries of now-departed Raiders Antonio Brown, J.J. Nelson and Ryan Grant. Let's not forget the 12-game suspension to middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict. 

But the Raiders' aches and pains are a far cry from the plague that has befallen the Warriors, whose basketball dynasty was crippled in six devastating games dating back to the 2019 NBA Finals. Kevin Durant's Achilles, Klay Thompson's ACL, Steph Curry's broken hand and Draymond Green's torn finger ligament led the Warriors to trot out a lineup that would hardly be recognizable even to their most ardent supporters. 

Injuries aside, Gruden knows the Raiders, like the Warriors, must batten down the hatches and fight through the adversity if they plan to make it back to the postseason. 

"Well it's pretty obvious," Gruden said when asked how big the Raiders' 31-24 Week 9 win over the Lions on Sunday. "We're building our team. I'm just going to continue to hit that chord. We want to win every week, we'd like to go back to the Super Bowl and win it for our fans and our players and everybody included. But we're building a team and I like some of the blocks that we've got in place. I'm going to leave it at that. We got a heck of a challenge on a short week. We're missing a lot of key players and I know the Warriors are missing key players and it ain't easy."

While the Warriors will be without Curry for at least three months, Thompson likely for the entire season and Durant forever after he joined the Nets in free agency, the Raiders still have quarterback Derek Carr, tight end Darren Waller, Jacobs and Williams to lean on as they prepare for a massive Thursday night game against the rival Chargers in Week 10 that could propel them toward the playoffs should they secure a win. 

In a weakened AFC, Gruden and the Raiders have their entire path in front of them at 4-4. Rack up the wins against subpar competition -- Bengals, Jets, Jaguars and Titans -- and you'll be playing meaningful football in the final weeks of the season with the playoffs within reach. 

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr's outlook is much bleaker. Without Curry and Thompson and off to a 1-5 start in a loaded Western Conference, the Warriors must look to the future and spend the season developing their young players for what they hope is the second half of their planned dynastic run. 

[RELATED: What we learned from Raiders' wild home win over Lions]

The Warriors have been crippled, there's no other way to put it. 

Jon Gruden feels their pain, but at least the Raiders still have a path to survival.

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Ranking Raiders' top 20 defensive players heading into 2020 NFL Draft

Ranking Raiders' top 20 defensive players heading into 2020 NFL Draft

The Raiders spent big in free agency and focused on the defense.

They added two, three-down linebackers in Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski. They bolstered their interior line with Maliek Collins, a powerful nose tackle who thrives at beating double teams. In comes edge rusher Carl Nassib, replacing Benson Mayowa as a key pass-rushing rotational piece. After the Eli Apple contract fell through, the Raiders signed Damarious Randall, a versatile defensive back who began his career at corner before moving to safety with the Cleveland Browns.

Those additions are expected to pair well with returning youngsters Maxx Crosby, Trayvon Mullen, Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Abram to create a defense that should, in theory, be a lot better than the unit that was decimated by injuries, fatigue and an overall lack of talent last season.

To be sure, the Raiders still need help in the secondary and that should come early in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. But for now, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's unit is much better than it was a season ago.

Let's rank the top 20 Raiders defensive players after free agency. I'm sure you'll have issues and concerns with this list and that's more than fine. Let's debate.

VIEW RAIDERS' TOP 20 DEFENSIVE PLAYERS

Damarious Randall, Raiders agree to terms after Eli Apple pact dissolves

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AP

Damarious Randall, Raiders agree to terms after Eli Apple pact dissolves

The Raiders fell into some unexpected salary-cap space Thursday when their deal with Eli Apple dissolved. They wasted no time putting it to use.

They kept the investment in the secondary, agreeing on terms of a contract with defensive back Damarious Randall on Thursday night. That news comes via ESPN’s Josina Anderson, who said Randall texted her directly with news of the deal. Randall has agreed to sign a one-year contract worth up to $3.25 million, per a league source. 

The 27-year old played free safety his last two years with the Cleveland Browns and cornerback the previous three with the Green Bay Packers.

Randall could pair with Johnathan Abram at safety or play outside cornerback, if that’s what is required. The Raiders have needs at both spots.

Randall and Abram seem like an ideal mix at safety, though the Raiders desperately need a starting outside cornerback opposite Trayvon Mullen. That position could get filled with remaining funds in free agency or with one of two first-round NFL draft picks.

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The 27-year-old Randall’s a proven commodity, with 16 interceptions in five NFL seasons. He didn’t have a pick last year but had four in every season before that.

Randall was traded from Green Bay to Cleveland before the 2018 season and was solid in coverage with the Browns. He was awesome in 2018, with four interceptions, five passes defensed and he allowed just a 68.8 passer rating when targeted.

The Raiders' secondary is better with Randall than it would’ve been with Apple in the mix, so this should be considered a win for the Silver and Black after a strange and unexpected turn of events.

[RELATED: McKinney headlines top DB prospects for Raiders to target]

Las Vegas has three solid pieces of its secondary with Randall, Abram and Mullen. Lamarcus Joyner is expected to man the slot again in 2020, with just one more void left to fill.

The Raiders have upgraded several defensive positions, including some at every level of the unit. The team should be significantly better on that side of the ball, especially if they hit on a defensive player high in the draft.