Raiders

NFL free agency: Raiders sign speedster J.J. Nelson to receiver corps

NFL free agency: Raiders sign speedster J.J. Nelson to receiver corps

The Raiders have signed five new players in free agency. Three of them are receivers.

That position claimed a majority Friday, when the team announced J.J. Nelson signed with the Silver and Black.

Terms of the contract were not immediately disclosed.

The former Arizona Cardinal has speed, and plenty of it. He isn’t a regular starter or steady contributor, but he can take the top off a defense and has a penchant for big plays.

Nelson averages 17.8 yards per catch, though he only has 81 receptions for 1,439 yards and 10 touchdowns over four seasons. He had just seven catches for 64 yards last season.

The Raiders wanted to get faster in the passing game and did that by adding Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and now Nelson in recent days. The first two guys mentioned will start and play most every down, but don’t take Nelson’s signing to mean they’re done looking for a No. 3 receiver after cutting Jordy Nelson the day before.

The door’s open for his return, though a younger drafted talent with experience in the slot could fit in just fine. Seth Roberts also has experience there, and can be kept around to see if he fits in to 2019 plans. If not, he could be cut without dead money and nearly $4.65 million in cash and cap savings.

While the Raiders will keep fingers on free agency’s pulse, we’re moving into this period’s later stages and might not see one of the few big names remaining come to Alameda.

[RELATED: NFL free agency winners and losers]

The Raiders have plenty of cap space left, but might be running relatively low on cash flow after shelling out roughly $112 million in guaranteed money over the last week signing new players and retaining a few of their own.

Their newest addition is super fast. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, a blazing time the Raiders will try to utilize in their offense, which has received tons of help in the past week.

Vontaze Burfict's football IQ critical to Raiders’ defense playing fast

Vontaze Burfict's football IQ critical to Raiders’ defense playing fast

The Raiders set out to get faster on defense. That mission was accomplished in every sense.

That’s true by traditional measures, as the Raiders hope their raw speed can keep up with the track stars Kansas City trots out on offense Sunday afternoons.

It’s also true in terms of reading and diagnosing plays. The Raiders installed a faster multi-core processor this offseason, plugging Vontaze Burfict into a defensive network that now runs at warp speed.

Burfict has mastered Paul Guenther’s scheme and knows exactly how to adjust and re-align to best defend a particular offensive play. Burfict is confident in his reads, efficient and clear when dispensing pre-snap information. Being in the right spot, able to anticipate what’s coming, allowing the defense to play faster.

Burfict as Guenther’s field general has been a storyline since the veteran joined the Raiders in March, and his scheme knowledge assisted returners and newcomers alike during the preseason.

That was clear when operating at game speed. Burfict orchestrated the defense well in a Monday night victory over Denver, making individuals better while helping the defense play as a cohesive unit.

“It was awesome,” defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said. “He knows the system inside and out, so he’s able to make checks pretty quickly. He always seems to know what’s coming and gets us aligned fast, so we can just play ball.”

The Raiders must play mentally and physically fast against Kansas City, armed with speed and an offense that will attack using both latitude and longitude.

“They make you defend every inch of grass,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “Laterally with the jet sweeps, you got to defend them sideline to sideline. They can outrun you, outflank you and vertically they can run right by you over the top.”

There’s a buzz word that describes the key to defending this high-powered attack.

“Eye discipline,” linebacker Nicholas Morrow said. “[Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and coach Andy Reid] will try to mess with a defense, to shift people around the formation and put you in a bad spot. They will do all types of things to play with your eyes and make you think you’re seeing one thing when it’s something else. You have to trust your preparation and make the right checks.”

That’s where Burfict comes in, and why he’s so key to the Raiders’ defensive effort on Sunday.

“He obviously knows the system, but Vontaze is very intelligent,” Morrow said. “He processes information quickly and is confident in what he’s doing. That’s what you want from somebody in his position.”

Burfict is the defense’s cerebral cortex, but he isn’t just directing troops while watching them work.

He plays with trademark intensity and didn’t step over the line in his Raiders debut. That’s key moving forward, because the Raiders need him on the field to succeed against Kansas City, a team that doesn’t need freebies to score.

“He’s really fun to play with,” Hurst said. “He’s an aggressive player. He’s going to come downhill and hit everything that moves. It’s awesome playing with someone like that.”

[RELATED: Raiders vs. Chiefs live stream: How to watch NFL Week 2 game online]

Burfict fought through some knicks in the opener but didn’t miss a practice snap all week. It’s important for him to stay upright and available, because they need his presence and football smarts on all three downs.

“Those of us returning for a second year with Paul [Guenther] feel pretty fluent in the system,” cornerback Daryl Worley said. “But having a leader like Vontaze in complete command is definitely helpful.”

Chiefs-Raiders odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 2 game

Chiefs-Raiders odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 2 game

An undefeated record is on the line.

It may only be Week 2 but after the Raiders and Chiefs earned victories to open the season, both will look to keep the momentum rolling in Oakland on Sunday afternoon.

The Chiefs are favored by a touchdown and likely would get a few additional points if the game were being played at Arrowhead Stadium.

[RELATED: NFL rumors: Raiders' Johnathan Abram fined for hit causing shoulder injury]

Line:

Caesars: KC -7 (-110)
Consensus: KC -7 (-110)
Westgate: KC -7 (-110)
Wynn: KC -7 (-110)

Here’s how NFL writers around the country see the matchup shaking out:

Paul Gutierrez, ESPN: Chiefs 38, Raiders 30
Adam Teicher, ESPN: Chiefs 37, Raiders 31
Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com: Chiefs 30, Raiders 26
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk: Chiefs 30, Raiders 17
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk: Chiefs 35, Raiders 21
Tadd Haislop, SportingNews: Chiefs 34, Raiders 20
Greg Patuto, Heavy.com: Chiefs 37, Raiders 21