Raiders

Jon Gruden pinpoints several spots where Jordy Nelson's 'it' factor will help Raiders

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AP

Jon Gruden pinpoints several spots where Jordy Nelson's 'it' factor will help Raiders

The Raiders have signed or re-signed 22 free agents since mid-March. Jordy Nelson remains that school’s biggest fish.

The former Green Bay Packers receiver inked a two-year, $15 million deal with $13 million guaranteed. He’s the most recognizable on the massive signings list, and prompted the release of Michael Crabtree, a popular and productive, yet mercurial talent who signed with Baltimore.

It doesn’t matter that Nelson’s nearly 33, coming off a disappointing statistical season by his standards. Expectations surrounding him remain high.

Count head coach Jon Gruden among Nelson’s biggest fans. Armed with intelligence from receivers coach Edgar Bennett – he worked with Nelson in Green Bay – and experience covering him as a broadcaster, Gruden has great confidence Nelson can positively impact the Raiders’ on-field product and locker-room culture.

“He can still run,” Gruden said last week at the NFL owners meetings. “He’s a guy we can put on the backside of (triple receiver formations). He can win at the line of scrimmage against press coverage. He’s good after the catch.

“He brings a lot of ‘it’ factor we need. He’s unselfish. He’ll block. He’s excellent at uncovering in scramble drills. His work ethic and consistency is something that will benefit our football team. He’s one of the free agents who will play a huge role for us.”

Gruden expects Nelson to be an asset to 23-year old standout Amari Cooper. Gruden expects him to be a tone setter throughout the offense, and help establish heightened levels of accountability throughout that unit. Gruden also expects excellence working with Derek Carr despite just 53 catches for 482 yards (9.1 ypc) and six touchdowns last season in Green Bay.

“We’re not playing fantasy football,” Gruden said. “We know his production fell off. So did (the production of) Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. So did the Packers offense when Aaron Rodgers went down.”

Gruden has a point. Nelson had 60 percent of his receiving yards and all of his touchdowns in six games before Rodgers was lost with a broken collarbone.

The Raiders believe Nelson will fit in well and enhance the team while essentially taking Crabtree’s place (and paycheck) on the Raiders roster.

“’Crab’ was a good player, no doubt,” Gruden said. “With a lot of receivers, sometimes a change of scenery is a good thing. I think Crab’s in a good place. I think this is a good place for Nelson.

NFL Playoff Picture: Where Raiders stand after Chiefs win Week 11 game

NFL Playoff Picture: Where Raiders stand after Chiefs win Week 11 game

The Raiders had a chance to move into first place in AFC West on Monday night, but they needed a little help.

They did not get that help as the Chargers failed to beat the Chiefs in Mexico City on "Monday Night Football." Kansas City held on for a 24-17 victory and moved to 7-4 on the season.

The Raiders, coming off a 17-10 win over the Bengals,  sit and 6-4 and remain in second place in the AFC West and in seventh place in the AFC playoff picture.

Had the Chargers won, the Raiders would have moved into third place in the AFC by virtue of the tiebreaker with the Indianapolis Colts.

Alas, the Raiders still are on the outside looking in.

Here's how the AFC playoff picture looks through 11 weeks of the NFL season.

1. New England Patriots (9-1)
2. Baltimore Ravens (8-2)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
4. Indianapolis Colts (6-4)
5. Buffalo Bills (7-3)
6. Houston Texans (6-4)
7. Oakland Raiders (6-4)

The good news for the Raiders is that their schedule the rest of the way is slightly easier than that of Kansas City's.

Oakland has six games remaining and only their Week 13 matchup against the Chiefs comes against a team with a winning record. The Raiders also have games remaining against the Jets (3-7), Titans (5-5), Jaguars (4-6), Chargers (4-7) and Broncos (3-7).

[RELATED: Raiders-Chiefs Week 13 clash flexed to afternoon slot]

After a bye next weekend, the Chiefs host the Raiders, then travel to New England to take on the AFC-leading Patriots. They close the season against the Broncos, Bears (4-6) and Chargers.

Buckle up because the last six weeks of the season are going to have many more twists and turns.

Raiders snap count: How Dion Jordan made an impact against Bengals

Raiders snap count: How Dion Jordan made an impact against Bengals

ALAMEDA – Dion Jordan has played several spots along the line in his NFL career, most of it off the edge. The Raiders need help there but requested he help in another spot on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“We asked him to go inside and rush,” coach Jon Gruden said. “We want to keep [Clelin] Ferrell and Maxx [Crosby] and [Benson] Mayowa outside. Dion gives us another guy with length who can go against the guards.”

Jordan’s a superior athlete who stands 6-foot-6, 284 pounds. He’s quick and agile enough to go around blockers, strong enough to go through them.

That certainly helped him work from interior spots over 14 snaps against the Bengals, and he was able to generate some pressure working obvious passing downs. He had a quarterback sack on third down that forced a punt, a run stop and one other quarterback pressure.

Jordan's presence was also felt in ways that can’t be quantified in the box score. His teammates said his athleticism helps create chances for others. Crosby credited Jordan for freeing him some off the edge.

Fellow interior rusher Maurice Hurst, who plays a different, yet effective game getting to the quarterback, liked the new energy Jordan brought to the front.

“He’s a great athlete who gets the guards to kick out to him pretty fast,” Hurst said. “It creates space for some of the other guys. You can run cool things with him. He will really help us inside.”

We’ll see whether Jordan’s role expands as we move forward. He only had three practices to adjust to this Raiders scheme after formally joining the team on Tuesday after his NFL suspension was lifted. More time might allow him to do some different things, or at least prep him to take more snaps helping this pass rush and defensive effort as a whole.

"He gives us some athleticism and chase-down ability, and he showed that he can still do that [after 10 games away on suspension]," Gruden said. "We have to keep working him into football shape, and try to get him some more turns."

Here is the entire Raiders snap count: 

Offense

Total offensive snaps: 70
Quarterback – Derek Carr 70
Running back – Josh Jacobs 45, Alec Ingold 17, Jalen Richard 16, DeAndre Washington 9
Wide receiver – Tyrell Williams 51, Zay Jones 48, Hunter Renfrow 31, Marcell Ateman 5
Tight end – Darren Waller 66, Foster Moreau 41, Derek Carrier 20
Offensive line – Richie Incognito 70, Kolton Miller 70, Trent Brown 70, Gabe Jackson 70, Rodney Hudson 70, Brandon Parker 2

Defense

Total defensive snaps: 63
Defensive line – Maxx Crosby 49, Clelin Ferrell 41, Johnathan Hankins 41, P.J. Hall 35, Maurice Hurst 30, Benson Mayowa 19, Josh Mauro 18, Dion Jordan 16
Linebacker – Tahir Whitehead 63, Nicholas Morrow 59, Will Compton 6
Defensive back – Erik Harris 63, Daryl Worley 63, Trayvon Mullen 63, Nevin Lawson 57, D.J. Swearinger 38, Curtis Riley 25, Isaiah Johnson 7

[RELATED: Raiders sign Preston Brown]

Special teams

Kyle Wilber 20, Dallin Leavitt 18, Carrier 18, Riley 15, Moreau 14, Keisean Nixon 14, Johnson 13, Compton 12, Morrow 9, Harris 9, Lawson 8, Crosby 8, A.J. Cole 8, Trevor Davis 8, Trent Sieg 8, Mullen 6, Daniel Carlson 7, Hurst 5, Whitehead, Worley 5, Denzelle Good 3, Parker 3, Washington 3, Brown 3, Miller 3, Jackson 3, Incognito 3, Jordan 2, Mayowa 2