Jon Gruden, Raiders still on cornerback hunt with NFL draft upcoming


Jon Gruden, Raiders still on cornerback hunt with NFL draft upcoming

The Raiders have some quality cornerbacks on the roster, enough to fill out a lineup card.

Gareon Conley’s locked into a starting spot outside. Daryl Worley should occupy the other one, though veteran Nevin Lawson won’t take that lying down.

Head coach Jon Gruden considers newcomer Lamarcus Joyner a top option in the slot.

Nick Nelson will be available everywhere in reserve.

Gruden wants more at a premium position.

“I think you need five corners,” Gruden said. “I think you gotta have five because they do get banged up. It is a very difficult position to play and sometimes you want to play three or four at a time.”

You’ve read five names to this point, but Joyner will play a significant amount of free safety and will have that position on his football card.

There’s another reason why the Raiders could go for another cornerback in this upcoming NFL draft, possibly with one of four picks in the top 35 overall: Their top outside options have trouble staying healthy.

“We are still looking,” Gruden said. “Getting Conley healthy and playing to his potential is priority No. 1. We got to see it 16 weeks now from Gary. He flickered some and did some really good things last year but he didn't finish healthy, which is a concern. Worley started really good, got hurt. We need 16 outings from him. Lawson can play nickel, he can play outside. He has been healthy. That is what I love about Lawson. He doesn't miss any action.”

Lawson has been a full-time starter for three seasons now, and will expect that run to continue even after signing relatively late to a team with returning starters.

Gruden wants further depth, but could absolutely go for an upgrade at a position with 2019 options but few long-term solutions. Conley’s going to be around for a while, but Worley and Lawson will work on one-year contracts. The jury’s out on Nelson, a fourth-round pick last season who played catch-up after a pre-draft knee injury.

You’ll see mock drafts aplenty attaching cornerbacks to the Raiders at No. 24 or 27, where some quality cover guys should be available. There isn’t an agreed-upon order the cornerback prospects will go in, so everyone from Georgia’s Deandre Baker, LSU’s Greedy Williams, Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin and Washington’s Byron Murphy could make it to the 20s.

“We are looking for another corner,” Gruden said.

The Raiders have had boots on the ground doing that. It is known defensive backs coach Jim O’Neil was at Kentucky and Washington to see prospects, and he saw several quality options while coaching the Senior Bowl.

Versatile safety Nasir Adderley of Delaware was there and showed well. So did Maryland’s Darnell Savage. O'Neil saw Washington safety Taylor Rapp up close along with Murphy.

[RELATED: Here's where Raiders' defense stands at 2019 season approaches]

The draft could provide long-term solutions and competition right away as the Raiders figure out which cornerbacks are worthy of sticking around, and whether Conley can stay healthy enough to reach his grand potential.

Raiders' primary objective vs. Titans: Stop 'machine' Derrick Henry

Raiders' primary objective vs. Titans: Stop 'machine' Derrick Henry

ALAMEDA -- Ryan Tannehill is receiving credit for Tennessee’s recent resurgence. That’s appropriate given how well the former backup quarterback has been playing during a 5-1 stretch since becoming the starter.

Let’s not forget who’s really driving the Titans' offense. That’s the 6-foot-3, 247-pound freight train coming out of the backfield.

Derrick Henry has been a monster this season, proving as tough to take down as ever. He has 1,140 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, currently on a run of three straight games with at least 145 yards and a touchdown.

A repeat performance on Sunday against the Raiders at Oakland Coliseum would make Henry the only player to do so in four straight games.

The Raiders would like to prevent that and are armed with the No. 12-ranked run defense. They’ll try to slow a back that never seems to wear down.

“The secret sauce in Henry is he’s got all the talent, and size, and running instincts, but he never tires,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “He does not get tired. He’s a machine, man. This guy wears you down -- physical -- he can wear you down. You’ve got to gang tackle him. He’s a better-than-advertised receiver, but he just never tires. The more they give him the ball, the better he gets. It’s an impressive human being.”

Tannehill obviously benefits from Henry’s threat and a balanced offense that has the Titans going strong. Stopping the run, or slowing it at least, will be key for the Raiders' defense in this important game. It will not, however, be easy.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge, but we know it’ll be a challenge dealing with Superman Derrick Henry,” defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said on this week’s Raiders Talk podcast. "... He’s a great back. He’s big. He’s fast. He sheds tackles like there are kids trying to tackle him. I think, overall, we have to do a good job of keeping him in the backfield and not giving him open lanes or creases to work. We also need to hit him as much as we can, because he’s a big guy. Overall, I think we’re ready for the challenge. I’m excited for this game.”

[RELATED: Raiders' offense takes big hit with Brown out vs. Titans]

It’ll take the entire defensive unit playing disciplined football to slow Henry down. Give him an inch of space or leverage or poor tackling technique and he’ll take chunk yards by the mile.

“I just think you’ve got to be in good position,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “You’ve got to have eleven guys to the ball. You’ve got to play the blocks. First and foremost, you’ve got to be in the right spots, play the block, and then when he gets through there you’ve got to have eleven guys to the ball. He does a good job of trying to get extra yards, so we’ve got to put hats on him wherever he is, on his body as he’s trying to get those extra yards. We’ve got to make sure we get eleven to him.”

Raiders launch Josh Jacobs' NFL Rookie of the Year campaign online

Raiders launch Josh Jacobs' NFL Rookie of the Year campaign online

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have launched a campaign to help running back Josh Jacobs become the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

They have opened a website extolling his virtues. They have passed out buttons. They even have fullback and "chief of interior transportation" Alec Ingold giving a fireside chat about how awesome Jacobs has been in 2019.

The promotional materials may draw some extra attention, but Jacobs’ case is easy to make.

He has smashed every Raiders rookie rushing record. He exceeded 1,000 yards in his 12th game and will have huge totals even if he isn’t able to play Sunday against Tennessee. He’s formally questionable with a fractured shoulder he's been playing through since trucking Green Bay safety Adrian Amos in Week 7.

His numbers are pretty awesome. Jacobs has 218 carries 1,061 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s 4.9 yards per carry, and he ranks fifth in the NFL in total rushing yards. He also has another 18 receptions 146 yards.

The competition must always be considered, but he has to be the frontrunner after winning back-to-back rookie of the month awards.

Arizona's No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray is certainly a candidate, but the Cardinals don’t have many wins. Washington receiver Terry McLaurin and Baltimore wideout Marquise Brown have had good seasons, but they shouldn’t be considered serious competition here.

The Raiders haven’t had an offensive rookie of the year since Marcus Allen won it in 1982, and Jacobs has smashed Allen’s records from that strike-shortened year. Charles Woodson was the last rookie of the year on either side of the ball, winning the defensive award in 1998.

[RELATED: NFL prospects for Raiders to watch on Championship Weekend]

Jacobs’ shoulder injury could hurt the campaign more than anything, especially if he misses a few games or gets shut down for the rest of the season if the playoffs become a distant pipe dream.

Outside of that, he should be the favorite to win the award heading down the stretch.