Raiders

Karl Joseph making strong case to be in Raiders 2019 plans

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AP

Karl Joseph making strong case to be in Raiders 2019 plans

ALAMEDA – Reggie Nelson and Marcus Gilchrist sat atop the Raiders safety rotation to start this season. Erik Harris had earned some opportunities over the summer, was working in with are typically three-down starting spots.

Karl Joseph was in the fourth spot, draft status be damned. The Raiders’ 2016 first-round pick was said to have struggled making accurate reads and checks in a new defensive system. He wasn’t playing much the first two weeks, and then suffered a hamstring injury in Week 3 that kept him out three games. He returned after the bye to find himself on the trading block, an unwelcome turn he’s happy never became an actual deal.

He’s been solid since the trade deadline passed, especially after entering the starting lineup on Nov. 11.

Joseph has added toughness and physicality to the defensive front as a rover who can move and play all around the field.

“He’s been a really good open field tackler,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “I think he’s showing really good range. He’s recognizing plays and he’s making plays. That’s exciting. He’s getting better and better in this defense.”

The third sentence of Gruden’s quote was a perceived weakness. Showing progress in that area has made Joseph a playmaker the Raiders expected when taking him in the first round.

His size presents a disadvantage in some coverage matchups, but the Raiders are doing well to avoid putting him in bad spots. He’s being given a chance to shine, and has taken advantage.

“I'm just trying to get better every game, every week, every practice,” Joseph said after Sunday’s 40-33 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. “You just have to keep growing as a player. I'm starting to establish myself more as a role in the defense. Just have to keep building on it. Everything is about wins in this league. We just have to keep getting better, build on this.”

[RELATED: Derek Carr taking Gruden's QB system in stride]

The back end has gotten better with time, as Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley playing well. Rashaan Melvin has his moments, and Joseph brings a new and vital element to proceedings.

He’s a thumper, something the Raiders have missed in recent seasons. He carried that reputation out from West Virginia, but is out to prove he’s more than just a heavy hitter.

He has been better in coverage and strong playing the run, with seven “run stops” tackles Pro Football Focus considers an offensive failure on the ground. He has 18 tackles in this four-game run as a starter, with just one catch allowed.

He had a beauty on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, standing up Chiefs rusher Spencer Ware with a vicious blow. He almost got Ware again on fourth down, but a direct snap to him created just enough misdirection to get past the goal line.

Joseph also just missed an interception against the Chiefs, one that bothered him after the Chiefs loss. That fits Joseph’s personality. He’s critical of his own work, and knows he isn’t playing perfect football.

Even strides are important at this stage of a lost season, as Joseph is already trying to carve out a spot on next year’s squad.

“He has a lot of talent, and I think he’s taking advantage of his opportunities,” Gruden said. “He’s healthy. He’s been able to practice. I think his preparation has a lot to do with his performance. He’s strung some really good weeks together for us.”

NFL rumors: Ex-Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie joins Dolphins

NFL rumors: Ex-Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie joins Dolphins

Former Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie didn’t take long to find a new gig.

The Silver and Black fired him the evening of Dec. 9, following a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. McKenzie didn’t mesh well enough with new coach/football chief Jon Gruden to stick around and chose to bow out before the season’s end despite an offer to finish the year.

McKenzie has a new team and a new title roughly two months later. He was hired as Miami Dolphins senior personnel executive, according to several reports out of South Florida on Saturday afternoon.

McKenzie will work with Dolphins general manager Chris Grier, trying to rebuild a downtrodden Dolphins franchise that recently named Brian Flores its new coach.

McKenzie didn’t need a new job right away. His Raiders contract was fully guaranteed, meaning he would be paid through its expiration after the 2021 draft.

McKenzie hasn’t had an employment lapse in decades after six-plus years as Raiders GM and more than two decades working in the Green Bay Packers’ front office.

The 2016 NFL Executive of the Year helped get the Raiders right with the salary cap and snap a prolonged playoff drought in 2016. That was due in larger part to his signature 2014 draft class, where he added edge rusher Khalil Mack, quarterback Derek Carr and guard Gabe Jackson with his first three picks.

[RELATED: How Mike Mayock will approach draft]

While McKenzie made some higher-round mistakes in the draft, he found quality in the first round most years but struggle to flesh out the roster appropriately.

Now he’ll try to do better with the Dolphins, who need some serious talent upgrades to compete in the AFC.

Raiders discussions with Oakland Coliseum progressing, could resolve soon

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AP

Raiders discussions with Oakland Coliseum progressing, could resolve soon

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority board met on Friday morning, and executive director Scott McKibben provided a closed-session update on talks to host the Raiders during the 2019 NFL season.

No Raiders officials were present, but it was still a small and productive step towards keeping the Silver and Black in Oakland for one more year. The board liked the direction of talks between McKibben and Raiders brass.

“I updated the board on where I’ve been with the Raiders management and ownership,” McKibben said on Friday afternoon. “It’s fair to say that the talks are progressing.”

Talks will continue soon, with a resolution expected in the relatively near future.

“We’ll talk against next week,” McKibben said. “Again, this will come to a conclusion one way or another in the next week or so. It’s fair to say that discussions have been meaningful and productive and, after the update with our board, things are progressing.”

Continued progress will have the Raiders remaining at the Oakland Coliseum for another season, the last before formally moving to Las Vegas in 2020. The Raiders have remained in the East Bay since being approved for relocation prior to the 2017 season.

They preferred to remain in Oakland until the Vegas move – they had a 2017 lease at Oakland Coliseum, with a team option for ’18 – but halted negotiations for 2019 after the city of Oakland sued the Raiders and the NFL for antitrust violations and breach of contract.

The Raiders and the Coliseum Authority were working on a $7.5 million deal for 2019, but the team walked away after the lawsuit was filed.

[RELATED: Raiders have lots of flexibility ahead of pivotal offseason]

The Silver and Black explored several options, including some outside the market, but their preference was to continue playing in the Bay Area. The 49ers halted work on a deal to play at Oracle Park by refusing to waive their territorial rights, leaving Levi’s Stadium – owner Mark Davis doesn’t like the venue – and a return to Oakland Coliseum as the only viable local options.

Talks with McKibben ramped up a bit last week, and the foundation of previous extension talks has made a return to the table easier.

There’s plenty of work left to be done on a 2019 deal, but a resolution is closer following productive and meaningful talks to this stage.