Raiders

Locals among cornerbacks who can help Raiders early in NFL Draft

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AP

Locals among cornerbacks who can help Raiders early in NFL Draft

The Raiders have an opening in their secondary.

Finding a slot cornerback is a top priority with DJ Hayden now in Detroit. TJ Carrie is an option there, but the Raiders could add a young, versatile talent capable of taking a more prominent role down the line.

That’s true despite the fact Sean Smith signed a free-agent deal through 2019 last year and David Amerson received a contract extension through the 2020 season. Those contracts, however, become pay-as-you-go deals after this season.

The dead money goes away, freeing the Raiders to look for long-term upgrades if they see fit.

Head coach Jack Del Rio loves creating competition and depth, especially at such an important position in today’s NFL. The Raiders like larger, physical cornerbacks with ball skills, and there are plenty in this year’s draft.

Many analysts have the Raiders taking a cornerback at No. 24 overall, and that’s a realistic possibility. They could certainly look to help last year’s No. 24-ranked secondary in the early rounds.

Let’s take a look at some top options available in this week’s draft:

Good fits:There are quite a few quality cornerbacks who could be available at No. 24 overall, even if there’s an early run on the position.

Oakland native and Washington alum Kevin King visited the Raiders during the pre-draft process, and certainly fits what the Raiders like in a cornerback. He’s confident and aggressive, unafraid to use great physical traits to make plays on the ball. He’s tall and long and isn’t afraid to tackle.

USC’s Adoree Jackson has the quality ball skills the Raiders like, and is adept high-pointing the ball. Analysts say he can play several coverage techniques and has the agility to make up for mistakes. He can work in the slot, but at 5-foot-10 isn’t as tall as the Raiders like. They’d have to take him in the first round. He may not last beyond that.

San Jose native and Colorado product Chidobe Awuzie is another interesting local defensive back ready to turn pro. He can play outside or in the slot, and analysts say he has excellent one-on-one coverage skills but needs tackling work. He was a solid slot blitzer at Colorado, and could fill an immediate need crucial against so many three and four receiver sets.

Louisiana State’s Tre’Davious White has experience playing the slot, and could help right away there before transferring outside if asked. He can cover extremely well, though analysts say he isn’t much of a tackler. He might be a tweener as far as the Raiders are concerned, not worthy of the No. 24 pick but long gone before the Raiders pick in the second round.

Central Florida’s Shaquill Griffin visited the Raiders this spring, and rightfully so. A willing run defender with good ball skills and tackling ability who could be available in the third round should intrigue them.

Jon Gruden: Kolton Miller 'gaining strength' in injury-riddled rookie year

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USATSI

Jon Gruden: Kolton Miller 'gaining strength' in injury-riddled rookie year

Kolton Miller’s mired in a rough patch.

It’s not due to lack of talent or ability, size or natural strength. Plain and simple: the Raiders first-round left tackle is banged up pretty good. He has a knee injury that can’t get right and a troublesome elbow that also requires a brace.

That makes life hard. The UCLA product is tough and not a complainer, battling through injuries despite knowing full well he’s better when healthy.

[RELATED: Miller has room to grow]

Miller’s also the Raiders’ best option at left tackle even when feeling suboptimal, so he grinds through the week to perform the best he can every Sunday.

“My goal is to have a good game even when I’m not feeling my best,” Miller said last week, before Sunday’s loss to the L.A. Chargers. “Most of the time you’re not going to be 100 percent healthy. You have to work your way through it.”

Miller is grinding through the season, while compiling stats he’d rather not see on his ledger.

Miller allowed a sack, two quarterback hits and five other pressures in Sunday’s 20-6 loss to the L.A. Chargers, continuing a poor run of pressures allowed that unsurprisingly coincides with his knee issues.

He has allowed 39 total pressures this season, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus, including 10 sacks allowed and four quarterback hits. The sack total is the NFL’s highest by three. He gave up six sacks when he knee was at is worst, during games at the Chargers and against the Seahawks in London.

Miller was awesome to start the season, way back when he was healthy. That's why most evaluators believe he'll be a standout pro. Injuries, however, have sapped effectiveness. 

Miller allowed five total pressures in 117 pass-block snaps over the season’s first three games, per PFF, before suffering a serious MCL sprain in his right knee. That’s his anchor leg, and losing strength there makes Miller susceptible to bull rushes.

The Raiders keep pushing Miller out there – losing veteran tackle Donald Penn to IR was a real blow -- believing he can emerge from this storm a stronger player.

“I think what you’re dealing with (in) Miller is one of the most mentally tough kids that you will find,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “I think he’s gaining strength from playing. I think he’s really learning a lot about this business the hard way. Not only losing, not only playing hurt, playing from behind a lot, but learning how to play well against great rushers when you’re not at your best."

“That’s really the definition of a lot of these great pro football players. A lot of these guys don’t feel good after Week 2 or 3. For that young man to go out there and give us all that he’s given us under these circumstances is really exciting.”

Raiders' Eddie Vanderdoes done for the year, staying on PUP list

Raiders' Eddie Vanderdoes done for the year, staying on PUP list

ALAMEDA -- Raiders defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes hasn’t played a lick this season while rehabbing from offseason surgery to repair his ACL, but he had an opportunity to join the active roster Monday.

The Raiders declined to do so, and Vanderdoes remained on the reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP) list. He has been there since the start of training camp. The Raiders started a 21-day practice window in Week 8, but Vanderdoes didn’t make the progress required to join the 53-man roster.

The Silver and Black is playing it safe with someone they consider a solid scheme fit, and who may be able to help them in 2019. This season, by contrast, is already down the drain, and there is no sense in rushing him back.

“We had a chance to look at him for a couple weeks and although he has made progress he has had a couple injuries to the knee in his background,” Raiders coach Gruden said, referring to two torn knee ligaments during Vanderdoes' time at UCLA. “We want to make sure that we give him the proper time to get ready. We are going to be very precautionary with him. I believe his season will end unfortunately, but it’s the right thing to do for him and his future.”

The 24-year-old was expected back this season, but suffered a setback in training camp that slowed his recovery timetable. He didn’t have enough padded practices to be thrust into games, so the Raiders stepped off the gas and ended his season.

Vanderdoes tore his ACL in the 2017 regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers, awful timing for a young prospect known as a stout run defender. 

[RELATED: Raiders' receiver corps razor thin with Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant injuries]

[RATTO: Raiders owner Mark Davis is just poking the rubble by taking the blame now]