Raiders

Manuel: OC Downing made signing with Raiders a 'no brainer'

Manuel: OC Downing made signing with Raiders a 'no brainer'

EJ Manuel met Todd Downing at the 2013 Senior Bowl. That was roughly four years ago now, when Downing was Detroit quarterbacks coach and Manuel was a highly touted quarterback out of Florida State.

The Lions didn’t need a quarterback then but the Buffalo Bills certainly did, selecting Manuel with the No. 16 overall pick. Manuel appreciated Downing’s tuteledge as a draft prospect, and was thrilled when Buffalo made him quarterbacks coach before his second professional season.

The pair formed a solid bond then and now have a chance to foster it. Manuel signed a contract with the Raiders on Monday afternoon, re-joining forces with the Silver and Black’s recently promoted offensive coordinator. Manuel said Downing was a big reason why he signed on this deal.

“When he did call once free agency began and told me that they were interested, for me it was a no-brainer,” Manuel said in a conference call. “That’s a situation you want. Especially as a quarterback and in my situation, trying to really change the perception of whatever I’ve gone through in Buffalo and all that kind of stuff. I know the player I can be and so does coach Downing. That’s what I’m excited about.”

Manuel’s NFL career hasn’t been smooth. He was a rookie starter who lost that job in his second season, a setback for a physically gifted passer from Florida State hoping for better.

Manuel won’t regain a starting spot in Oakland, where Derek Carr is firmly entrenched atop the depth chart. Manuel has enjoyed previous interactions and marveled at his rapid rise from afar.

“We watched him on tape a bunch because they played the same teams during the season,” Manuel said. “I used to even call or text Todd during the season the past two years and just ask him what he was doing as far as teaching Derek. What was he doing to help his game jump levels so quickly? I felt like he elevated his game so fast as a young guy. To have the consistency and such that he’s had, especially last year, in this league is very hard to do. However I can help him, I’m willing to do, but of course I’m here to compete for the No. 2 job.”

That spot could well go to Connor Cook, a 2016 fourth-round pick who started a playoff game last season with Carr and Matt McGloin on the shelf.

“I just want to be an addition,” Manuel said. “I’m not an ego guy and all that kind of stuff. I’m not driven by that. Obviously, as a player you’re very prideful in yourself, but I’m about the team. I want the team to get better. I want to be here to help this franchise and team to be where they are in whatever role or capacity that is. That’s what I’m excited to do.”

Raiders rookie Kolton Miller off to solid start with plenty of room to grow

Raiders rookie Kolton Miller off to solid start with plenty of room to grow

MIAMI -- Kolton Miller has played every Raiders offensive snap through two games, compiling stats suggesting the rookie left tackle’s season is off to a solid start.

This year’s No. 15 overall pick has allowed just three quarterback hurries -- he’s one of seven left tackles to allow no sacks, no QB hits this season -- in 83 pass-blocking snaps against the Rams and Broncos. The Raiders have not run great off the left tackle, with 13 yards in the too-small-a-sample-size four attempts. Running backs are averaging 4.0 yards on carries between Miller and mauler left guard Kelechi Osemele.

Numbers will tell part of this story. Tom Cable sees the whole matrix.

The Raiders offensive line coach believes Miller can be an excellent left tackle, but he fully understands his star pupil has a long, long way to go.

“If you’re looking at the whole spectrum of it, I would say he’s doing C-plus work right now and continuing to climb,” Cable told NBC Sports Bay Area on Thursday. “That’s where you want him. You don’t want him failing, and at the same time I don’t think there will be rookies out there doing better than him. That’s a good thing, but he has a long way to go to become a complete player.

“That’s just part of being young, more than anything. He is on course. He’s invested in this process. I like his preparation and how he gets ready for each test. He presses into it, which is really important.”

Cable has pressed new mechanics upon the 6-foot-8, 309-pound UCLA product, helping a supreme athlete become a technician in time. He has Miller going more vertical in his pass-blocking sets, to help him control matchups with defensive linemen and use his size appropriately. There’s a major emphasis in cleaning up his run blocking.

And, in an effort that will take some time, Cable believes Miller can gain functional strength and lean bulk to his frame working with the Raiders' strength staff.

“[Cable] has worked to adjust things here and there to help refine my technique and make me a better player,” Miller said. “It has been great working with him.”

Miller has the size and athleticism and savvy to be a productive player. Cable believes two other attributes are vital to his professional success: coach-ability and commitment.

“He’s the strong, silent type in terms of personality and is hungry to be the best version of himself,” Cable said. “He’s in search of that. He checks all the boxes for us. He wants to learn and fix mistakes, and the cool thing is that he’ll then come out on the field and work hard at it.”

Cable and the Raiders took a deep dive into Miller’s background, and felt confident in making him a first-round pick.

“If you’re going to take a guy early in the draft like that, you need to understand his level of humility,” Cable said. ‘There are times when guys get picked early and get paid a little bit, they think they’re made it. You want to find out of he can stay even-keeled, not put too much into the whistles and bell and put everything into being worthy of that pick. That’s important to me. That’s always important because, once the ‘disease of me’ hits people, they’re screwed up. Then they become less of a teammate.

“We learned that about him, that he’s humble and coachable, and cares about his craft. That’s a major plus that allows him to grow and develop.

The biggest fear in starting a rookie at left tackle, especially after two-time Pro Bowl pick Donald Penn moved to the right to make room for Miller, is the big mistake that gets quarterback Derek Carr in trouble. We haven’t seen anything like that off Miller’s edge.

Miller has fared well against the vaunted Rams and Broncos defensive fronts, and gained confidence from those efforts. He believes he already can compete with anyone, knowing full well there’s room for improvement. He’s honed on technique, not emotion or trash talk or who he’s lined up against. Miller is as even-keeled as they come.

“The goal is to be consistently good from week to week,” Miller said. “That’s how players become good and establish themselves in this league.”

Cable believes maintaining this current course could lead to good things.

“Potential is a dangerous word. That said, he’s potentially one of the really special young players in the game,” Cable said. “It will be up to all of us to keep him on the track of growth and development. If he ever makes it about money and outside stuff, it’ll detract him. Knowing him, I think he wants to find out how good he can be. As long as he keeps that mindset, he can be something great.”

Raiders-Dolphins injury report: Rookie P.J. Hall ruled out again

Raiders-Dolphins injury report: Rookie P.J. Hall ruled out again

MIAMI – Injury reports can be lengthy even in the early going. This one advancing Sunday’s clash between the Raiders and Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium is the opposite.

Only three are considered questionable or worse, leaving most impact players available for this Week 3 contest.

Raiders defensive tackle P.J. Hall was ruled out for the second straight game with a sprained ankle. He wasn’t expected to play this game, though head coach Jon Gruden is crossing fingers he can return soon.

“He’s working hard to get it right,” he said Friday. “Hopefully he can return next week. We miss him.”

Nick Nelson showed up on the participation report on Thursday with a hamstring injury limited his workload, though he has been inactive thus far regardless of health.

The Dolphins listed starting safety as questionable with a shoulder injury. He has 10 tackles, two interceptions and two passes defensed already, so losing him would be a blow to Miami’s secondary.

INJURY REPORT

RAIDERS
Out

DT P.J. Hall (ankle)

Questionable
CB Nick Nelson (hamstring)

DOLPHINS
Questionable

S Reshad Jones (shoulder)