Raiders

Martavis Bryant to injured reserve part of Raiders' recent roster moves

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USATSI

Martavis Bryant to injured reserve part of Raiders' recent roster moves

ALAMEDA – Jon Gruden has plays designed to maximize Martavis Bryant’s ideal size and speed. The Raiders head coach lamented the fact they were growing stable with his most athletic receiver on the shelf.

The Raiders clearly hoped to get Bryant back down the stretch and use those plays again. Now they’re going to expire, maybe never revived again.

Bryant was placed on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday with a PCL injury that wasn’t going to get right before the season ended.

That was part of a significant roster shuffle as we head into the season’s final four games, with several transactions including another big-name move we’ll get to below.

Let’s stay on Bryant for now. That could be the last of him in a Raiders uniform. He’ll hit unrestricted free agency this spring, and could well sign with another team after an odd experience in the East Bay.

The Raiders traded a third-round pick for him on draft day, only to cut him just before the regular season began. Some outlets reported that Bryant could be suspended again for violating terms of his reinstatement – he was banned for a year as a repeat violator of the NFL’s substance abuse policy – but that never came to pass.

Bryant was re-signed on Sept. 12, heading into Week 2, but never became a reliable target in Gruden’s scheme. Gruden criticized Bryant frequently in the preseason, mostly for struggling to learn several receiver positions. Gruden also dubbed him the “white tiger” for majesty that was rarely visible after he missed so much practice time battling migraine headaches.

The Raiders were hopeful he would return late this year, but ultimately wasn’t ready to do so.

He wanted to use 2018 as a springboard to a bigger, long-term contract after three tumultuous seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but wasn’t able to do that. Injury, ineffectiveness and little use when healthy wasted this season and leaves Bryant still trying to realize vast potential.

Bryant wasn’t the only Raider moved to IR on Wednesday. Shilique Calhoun was also sent there with a neck injury.

So was three-time captain Reggie Nelson. The 35-year old safety struggled in pass coverage this year, and gradually lost snaps to Karl Joseph as the season went on, was shelved this season with a shoulder injury suffered against Kansas City. It's possible that, like Bryant, Nelson has played his final game in silver and black. 

Nelson had seven interceptions over three seasons, and made the Pro Bowl as a Raider after the 2016 season. He had an uneven 2017, and was somewhat surprising that he returned this year. He was reunited with defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, whom Nelson worked for in Cincinnati. 

The Raiders currently have three safeties remaining on the roster in Joseph, Marcus Gilchrist and Erik Harris, though last week's signing Montrel Meander is a cornerback with experience at safety. 

 

The team is swapping talent to account for recent injuries, and try out new players to see if they can compete for a spot on next year’s squad.

Here’s a recap of all the Raiders roster moves over the past few days:

Added
OL Denzelle Good
DE Damonte Moore
CB Bene Benwikiere
RB C.J. Anderson
DE Kony Ealy

Dropped
OL Ian Silberman (waived)
DE Fadol Brown (waived)
DE Shilique Calhoun (IR)
WR Martavis Bryant (IR)
S Reggie Nelson (IR)

NFL preview 2019: Derek Carr, three other possible MVP sleepers in AFC

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USATSI

NFL preview 2019: Derek Carr, three other possible MVP sleepers in AFC

With training camps getting started, hope once again springs eternal in the NFL.

Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots are primed to defend their crown, but a pack of worthy challengers is frothing at the mouth for the chance to take down the king.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes sits atop the NFL's other throne as The Shield's reigning league MVP. The dynamic signal-caller once again is viewed as the favorite to take home the hardware, and while the like of Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Baker Mayfield, Carson Wentz, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers are viewed as the most likely to take the crown from Mahomes, the AFC has a few other young passers who are lying in wait.

When looking at possible MVP sleepers in the AFC, I made sure to look only at players that had odds at 80-to-1 or higher, as listed by Westgate Las Vegas. With the framework set, here are four potential MVP sleepers who reside in the AFC.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders

The Case For: Carr has the arm talent and the leadership qualities to be an MVP. We saw that in 2016 when he led the Raiders to a 12-3 record before fracturing his fibula in Week 16. With a wealth of offensive talent around -- including Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, -- and a full year of Jon Gruden's system under his belt, it wouldn't be hard to see Carr returning to his MVP-caliber form in 2019. If he puts up big numbers while helping the Raiders navigate a tough early-season schedule, he should be in the mix.

The Case Against: There was little about the Raiders' offense in 2018 that would tell you a turn around is coming. The offensive line struggled and the running game was relatively non-existent. This is a make or break year for the Carr-Gruden relationship and there's a chance it just won't work.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans

The Case For: Despite a shaky offensive line, Watson completed 68.3 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,165 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 551 yards and five scores. If the Clemson product can get some protection, he could put up big numbers and lead the Texans to another AFC West title. The recipe for an MVP campaign is there for Watson.

The Case Against: The offensive line is atrocious. Watson might spend more time running for his life than looking downfield for the streaking DeAndre Hopkins. If the Texans can't keep Watson off his back, there will be no MVP delusions in Houston.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans

The Case For: When he's been healthy, Mariota has put up good numbers. That was with an offense designed for the 1940s with one offensive weapon. Mariota enters a make-or-break year for him with the Titans with two new wide receivers in rookie A.J. Brown and former Buccaneers Adam Humphries. If new offensive coordinator Arthur Humphries can tailor the offense to Mariota's strengths, the possibility for a breakout season is there.

The Case Against: Look, he hasn't been able to stay healthy. If Mariota can't stay on the field, then his chance at winning the MVP and the Titans' playoff hopes go in the trash can.

[RELATED: How Raiders' defense stacks up against AFC West rivals]

Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens

The Case For: Jackson rushed for 556 yards in the seven games he started last season. If you extrapolate that over a 16-game season, it amounts to 1,271 yards. That would be more than the 1,039 yards Michael Vick rushed for in 2006. If Jackson has improved his passing and leads the Ravens to the playoffs, he could very well be an MVP sleeper.

The Case Against: As the Los Angeles Chargers showed in the AFC Wild Card Game, it's easy to stop Jackson if he's only able to move the chains with his legs. If the Louisville product hasn't made big strides with his accuracy and pocket presence then he won't be in the MVP conversation.

Raiders' Jon Gruden ranked as 15th-best veteran head coach by NFL.com

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AP

Raiders' Jon Gruden ranked as 15th-best veteran head coach by NFL.com

Just win, baby.

Twice in his career, Jon Gruden has been given that directive as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. He was considerably more successful the first time around.

Gruden never finished below .500 in his first go-around with the Raiders, but in making his return to the franchise last year, he led Oakland to a 4-12 record -- tied for the worst record in the AFC.

Right after Gruden signed a 10-year, $100 million contract to move out of the Monday Night Football booth and back to the sidelines, many questioned whether his time away from coaching would put him behind the eight-ball. Given how the Raiders performed last season, it didn't exactly silence that noise.

And yet, at least one analyst believes Gruden is still an above-average coach. NFL.com's Elliot Harrison ranked the 32 NFL head coaches Monday, and Gruden came in at No. 15.

Here's what Harrison had to say about Chucky:

"As [Gruden] shipped out star players and cut ties with front office execs he didn't want in Oakland last year, the Raiders managed just four wins. That's why '19 should be the tell on what kind of coach he is going forward. New GM Mike Mayock helped Gruden begin to rebuild the roster after stockpiling picks, providing an infusion of talent that should at least make this team more competitive. Given the strength of the division-rival Chargers and Chiefs, simply leading Oakland to the playoffs should be a ringing endorsement for the coach."

[RELATED: Raiders given 20th best outlook in future power rankings]

Indeed, if they make the playoffs this coming season, that's an undeniable success for Gruden and the Raiders in their final season in Oakland -- one that would be worthy of Gruden ascending on next year's coaching rankings. But, as Harrison suggests, it's not going to be easy.