Norton: Raiders pushing to snap interception drought


Norton: Raiders pushing to snap interception drought

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders have played seven games. They have zero interceptions. They’re the only NFL team in such a drought, a badge of dishonor the Raiders prefer to discard posthaste.

It’s not just the unwelcome distinction that bothers them so. It’s also completely out of last year’s character. The Raiders had 16 picks last season. That’s one per game, and was a staple of a 30-takeaway campaign.

The Raiders gave up a lot of yards and points last year, ruined drives with well-times takeaways.

They have five this year, two of which came on special teams. That’s a detriment to winning games, and the Raiders know it.

“There are stats out there to show you win a lot of ball games if you get one turnover. Your percentages are higher when you get two turnovers in a game,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “Those things are really important to our winning. Winning, everybody likes to win. We need to continue to stack these wins together. To get those wins that we want, getting that ball is going to be a big part of it. So, turnovers are greatly emphasized.”

The streak could’ve been snapped several times. Reggie Nelson had one in his sights against the New York Jets. He’s had others bounce off his hands. David Amerson’s been in position, just inches from making a big play that ends up a big catch.

Nothing explains their bad luck like Keith McGill last week. The reserve safety tracked a deep ball well against Kansas City, only to have it clank backward off his hands, right to Chiefs receiver Albert Wilson. He cruised in for an easy touchdown.

The secondary understands it must do better, and are a bit flummoxed why the total remains at zero. Confidence hasn’t wavered, but they are working hard to ended a peculiar drought.

“We have the JUGS cranked up,” head coach Jack Del Rio said, with a hyperbolic slant. “I think we burned out a motor, we’re going at it so much. We’ll just keep going. Get a new motor in. Keep shooting them balls and try to catch the next one.”

A total of seven teams have had a longer interception drought. The 49ers went 10 games between the 1976-77 seasons, and Jacksonville had a nine-game drought to start last year.

The Buffalo Bills are protective of possession. The Raiders’ next opponent has but two picks and a lost fumble all year long. It’ll be tough, but aggressiveness around the ball could lead to a big play in the defensive backfield.

“The ball isn’t just going to come to you,” Norton said. “You have to go up and get it. You have to want it. You have to practice it. You have to play make it. You have to go up and make the play on it.

“...It’s going to happen. It’s our fabric. It’s who we are. It’s a matter of us continuing, emphasizing, working it, making it important. It’s going to come. We know it’s coming. It’s just a matter of we don’t want to wait any longer. Let’s do it now.”

Doug Martin ready, willing to mentor Raiders first-round pick Josh Jacobs

Doug Martin ready, willing to mentor Raiders first-round pick Josh Jacobs

Doug Martin has spent most of his career as a feature running back, with some standout seasons to show for it. His career entered another phase last season, when he joined the Raiders knowing full well he’d be a backup.

Marshawn Lynch was the primary option when he signed up, and steady carries proved hard to come by as an understudy even with head coach/offensive play caller Jon Gruden’s propensity for using multiple backs. Lynch deserved the workload he got, and Jalen Richard was a change-of-pace back off the bench.

Martin went full-time after Lynch’s season-ending groin injury, and churned out a respectable 4.2 yards per carry. He wasn’t able to find another solid opportunity in free agency, and was unemployed when the Raiders drafted Josh Jacobs and signed Isaiah Crowell.

Crowell’s torn Achilles’ tendon brought Martin back to the Silver and Black, a second time with zero allusions of being the feature back. He came here to counsel Jacobs, and take over in an unexpected pinch.

He was frank about that fact after Tuesday’s OTA session.

“Josh Jacobs, he’s a good kid with good character,” Martin said. “You all heard his story, I read up on it myself. I commend him for being as strong as he is, and that being said I came here to mentor, push him, show him that I’ve been in the league eight years, so I am a vet now. I can’t believe it, but that’s the case and so I’m here to just be that role model for him.

"If he has any questions, I’m here for him to ask them. Like I said, he has good character, but at the same time he looks like he can just run you over, so he’s going to be great for the team.”

Martin definitely wanted a shot at steady carries, especially after leading the team with 723 rushing yards and four touchdowns primarily as a first-and-second-down back.

A Raiders reunion seemed likely at first, though the sides couldn’t agree on terms and Martin remained a free agent deep into the offseason. That was worrisome, but Martin insists it didn’t cause great consternation.

“If something doesn’t go your way, you just have to stay optimistic, and I was being optimistic with the situation,” Martin said. “I knew I was going to be somewhere and do good things, but it’s just crazy how things folded out. I wish happy healing to Isaiah Crowell for his Achilles' (tendon injury), but, when there is chaos you just make a positive out of negative and you just got to stay optimistic about it.”

Martin's back with the Raiders, understanding his role as mentor and backup capable of playing well on early downs.

This mentor/protégé partnership could work, considering how much Jacobs and Martin have in common. Both guys were first-round picks, with the Raiders adding Jacobs at No. 24 this year, and Tampa Bay taking Martin at No. 31 in 2012.

They also have similar builds, with Jacobs standing 5-foot-10, 220 pounds and Martin at 5-9, 223. Both guys can slash through the interior, with enough speed to pop good runs outside.

Martin had nearly 2,000 yards of total offense (on 368 touches!!) as a rookie, a sum the Raiders would gladly take from Jacobs early on.

Nearly a decade separates them and the Raiders are looking to get younger across the board, making this Jacobs’ time to shine.

[RELATED: Jacobs is Raiders rookie in best position to succeed]

This will be the first time Martin has assumed a mentorship role, but he’s ready for it.

“It’s not something I’m used to but it’s something that I want to do,” Martin said. “I’ve been in the league eight years. I’ve been through the whole spectrum of good to bad in this league and, if I can teach somebody, if I can teach Josh on what to do, what not to do, how to stay in on the narrow path and just keep his eye on the goal, then I’m here for that.

"And, yeah, I’m grateful.”

NFL rumors: Raiders-Packers to play Week 3 preseason game in Winnipeg


NFL rumors: Raiders-Packers to play Week 3 preseason game in Winnipeg

Buckle up, Winnipeg, Jon Gruden and the Raiders are coming to town.

It was reported in March that the Raiders were looking to play one of their four preseason games in Canada and now it appears they have found a site for that game.

The Raiders will play the Green Bay Packers in Winnipeg for their third preseason game, Jeff Hamilton of the Winnipeg Free Press reported Friday.

The Raiders have been looking to move one of their preseason games for some time, to mitigate some of the increased rent from their 2019 lease with Oakland Coliseum, and have honed on playing north of the border. The rent amount will decrease with a game off the schedule, a clause that was written into a new lease agreement with a revenue that is expected to host the Raiders one more season before the team is scheduled to relocate to Las Vegas in 2020.

It makes sense to play the Green Bay Packers in Canada, considering their close proximity to the country.

The Raiders originally looked at Regina’s Mosaic Stadium, home of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. That deal proved difficult, and the Raiders moved on to other Canadian options. Winnipeg was the best fit, and a formal deal seems to be in the cards.

The Raiders or Packers have not made a formal announcement, despite being less than three months from the game.

Oakland began Phase Three of its offseason program Tuesday when organized team activities began in Alameda.

[RELATED: Undrafted rookie WR drawing rave reviews from Gruden, Carr]

Derek Carr vs. Aaron Rodgers in a "dress rehearsal game" isn't bad NFL treat for the fine folks of Winnipeg. Enjoy.