Raiders

Josh Jacobs takes pride in being Raiders' closer in win over Colts

Josh Jacobs takes pride in being Raiders' closer in win over Colts

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Raiders had firm control of Sunday’s 31-24 win over the Colts. Most of it, anyway. Until Indianapolis made a comeback bid.

They Colts cut the lead to seven points late in the fourth quarter, armed with three time outs and momentum on their side. The Raiders needed a first down to seal victory, and called rookie running back Josh Jacobs’ number right away.

No. 28 got seven yards off right tackle. Then he got five yards off the right end. Bang. First down. Game over.

The Raiders, it seems, have found a closer.

“There’s a lot of pride in that,” Jacobs said after the win. “As a running back, you are relied upon to close the game. It was a close game at the end. It was huge for us to finish.”

Jacobs started fast and finished strong in this one, totaling 79 yards on 17 carries, with 29 more on two receptions. He ran hard and he ran smart, slicing through the Colts defense even when the whole world knew he was going to run.

“We just wanted to come in and be physical and establish the run early,” Jacobs said. “We were playing a very fast defense, but we knew there was potential to find gaps in the run game. We just tried to be patient and execute.”

Jacobs got going early, with four carries for 22 yards on the opening drive.

“We started off hot, and I felt like I was in a rhythm the whole time,” Jacobs said. “I knew there were going to be plays to be made.”

While coach/offensive play-caller Jon Gruden used some lateral runs and sweeps to great effect, he was most proud of how the entire operation executed more traditional runs.

“We like our running game,” Gruden said. “Obviously with the rotating guards as we’ve had -- I think we’ve played three different left guards in three different right guards, I’m really pleased and proud -- very proud. This guy Josh Jacobs is going to be a great back. As long as I don’t screw it up, he’s going to be one hell of a player. He can really run -- he’s got great vision. I think he’s got breakaway speed and power.

“It’s a credit to everybody when you run the ball the way we ran it. It wasn’t a bunch of RPOs and single-back lateral runs. It was old-fashioned, hard-nosed football. It takes tight-ends, it takes every lineman, it takes everybody to do it.”

[RELATED: Guden uses Bobby Knight's advice to lead Raiders to win]

Jacobs praised the offensive line's play, especially right guards Jordan Devey -- he’s done for the year with a pectoral tear -- and replacement Denzelle Good and the interior line for tough work inside. The Raiders totaled 188 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries.

They had near perfect offensive balance, as Gruden prefers. Several contributed to the solid effort on the ground, with Jacobs leading the way. He’s completely comfortable operating against NFL defenses, and has thrived when given the opportunity despite some concerns about adjusting to speed in the pro game.

“Honestly, it’s not what everybody told me it was going to be,” Jacobs said. “Since camp, I feel like I have a grasp on the pace of the game. Right now, it has gone smooth.”

Why Nick Kwiatkoski thought Raiders were 'best fit' in NFL free agency

Why Nick Kwiatkoski thought Raiders were 'best fit' in NFL free agency

Nick Kwiatkoski doesn’t have a massive social media following, but a tweet the veteran linebacker sent out on March 16 quickly went viral.

It didn’t include a single word. It contained a picture of Allegiant Stadium and nothing more, but it was a clear sign that the Las Vegas Raiders had landed their first unrestricted free agent while representing their new market.

Sources later confirmed Kwiatkoski agreed to join the Silver and Black on a three-year, $21 million contract, showing the Raiders were serious about upgrading a long deficient linebacker corps.

The deal came together quickly, on the first day of free agency’s open negotiating window, because Kwiatkoski loved what the Raiders had to say. He would join the Raiders as a full-time, three-down middle linebacker.

“I felt that I’ve earned that spot, and that’s something I looked for in free agency,” Kwiatkoski said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area, available in its entirety on the Raiders Talk Podcast. “When they told me that, it was very appealing.”

That wasn’t the only reason the former Chicago Bear signed with the Raiders.

“They called very early and, when I spoke to them, it was very clear there’s an excitement around the whole organization with the move to Las Vegas,” Kwiatkoski said. “That was one of a number of reasons why I [made my decision]. When we played them in London last year and I just loved the mentality they brought to the game where they come right at you. With their defensive scheme, I thought I’d fit right in. I gave it some time and took some other calls, but I ended up thinking the Raiders were the best fit for me.”

There was some thought he’d fit in well as the Bears’ middle linebacker, but that prospect was eliminated when Danny Trevathan signed a contract extension on March 9. Kwiatkoski proved worthy of a starting gig after taking over following Trevathan’s season-ending elbow injury in Week 9.

There was no going back after an excellent eight-game stretch that included 58 tackles, two sacks and interception. Especially, not with teams ready to court him on the open market and make him a major player.

While those numbers look solid, the clip below shows exactly what the Raiders are getting in Kwiatkoski, and he doesn’t even record a stat.

Kwiatkoski put Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook on his back during a Week 4 win over the Vikings, blowing up a play with raw power and aggression.

“That’s an example of how I enjoy playing. I like being physical, going downhill,” Kwiatkoski said. “That’s how I have always played, and I plan on continuing to do that.”

He’ll do that with the Silver and Black, while paired with fellow free-agent addition Cory Littleton.

“He’s a great linebacker,” Kwiatkoski said. “To be able to line up with him and call him my teammate is going to be fun.”

The former LA Ram is a true sideline-to-sideline presence and an excellent coverage linebacker, a perfect complement to Kwiatkoski’s strength going downhill as a run defender and blitzer. The former high school safety, who converted to linebacker at West Virginia, also is confident in coverage and running a defense from the middle linebacker spot.

[RELATED: Raiders go offense/defense in latest mock draft]

Chicago’s fourth-round draft pick back in 2016 always has worked hard and capitalized on opportunities when presented, helping him earn a lucrative deal with a Raiders team counting on him to be a consistent playmaker. Earning this opportunity certainly is a point of pride as he moves on to the next chapter of his career.

“There were definitely times where I got down on myself after certain things happened, but to see how it has all played out … for me, no matter what my role was or what the situation was, I just put my head down and kept working,” Kwiatkoski said. “For that to all payoff is really gratifying. You can only control what you can control, and that’s what I focused on. I never lost sight of my goals. No matter what my role was, I was determined to work like a starter and play each day like it’s my last. For it to work out the way it has, with this new opportunity, it’s really gratifying.”

Raiders restructure Rodney Hudson's contract to create 2020 cap space

Raiders restructure Rodney Hudson's contract to create 2020 cap space

The Raiders took on a bit more salary in free agency than they were legally allowed, but restructured center Rodney Hudson’s massive contract to get back under the NFL salary cap.

The team’s cap and contracts people got creative with the deal, obtained by ESPN on Wednesday morning, to provide relief in 2020 and push increased cap hits down the road where they have more flexibility.

The Raiders converted $11.6 million of Hudson’s base salary into a signing bonus, freeing up $9.28 in cap space for 2020. His cap hits will go up $2.32 million in subsequent seasons, which includes two voidable years at the end of the deal to spread out his cap hits.

The Silver and Black had to do that now to get Carl Nassib’s deal in while staying under the cap. He’s set to make $25 million over three years, with a $7.75 million cap hit in 2020, per OverTheCap.com.

After factoring in the Nassib deal, the Hudson restructure and some other small additions, OTC reports the Raiders have $5.214 million in cap space. They might have to make another cap adjustment down the road, with $9.408 million required to pay their draft picks as currently slotted. They won’t have to make that move until later in the spring and summer, when they start signing draft picks.

[RELATED: Ranking Raiders' offensive players ahead of 2020 NFL draft]

The Raiders own the Nos. 12 and 19 overall selections, with three third-round picks and one each in the fourth and fifth rounds.

Hudson signed a long-term contract extension last season worth $33.7 million over three years, with $24.4 million guaranteed. Moving money around helps the Raiders stay right with the cap without hurting future standing and keeping all the talent the Raiders currently employ.