Norton: Raiders secondary improved; Joseph a 'pack of dynamite'


Norton: Raiders secondary improved; Joseph a 'pack of dynamite'

Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. believes this year’s unit is more talented than last year’s collection. That’s especially true in the secondary, where the Raiders spent significant capital this offseason.

Sean Smith got $38 million to anchor one cornerback spot. Reggie Nelson got $8.5 million to play free safety. Strong safety Karl Joseph was acquired with the No. 14 overall pick and should start in a secondary with three new pieces over a year ago.

David Amerson is lone returner, and he was a waiver claim after getting cut by Washington.

“We see a real good backfield,” Norton said. “We’re improving. We’re coaching better. They’re playing better. We want to make sure we add our rush, combined with our coverage. Those two are connected and they work together. They’re doing a fantastic job of understanding what we have.

“We have guys that can cover and we have guys that can rush. That should work out to be pretty good for us.”

The secondary should be better than a collection of last year’s parts. Right now, however, that’s an academic pursuit. The Raiders starting secondary has been missing during OTAs.

Nelson hasn’t practiced in an OTA open to the press due to injury, and it’s uncertain whether he’ll be active during this week’s mandatory minicamp.

We know Joseph will be on the sideline, recovering from ACL surgery. He’s due back in training camp, and should earn a starting spot over veteran returner Nate Allen.

Norton is excited about Joseph’s ability, which has been lauded by many following his draft selection.

“You see in the film, the guy is explosive,” Norton said. “He loves ball. He’s around the football a lot. He’s a pack of dynamite. He’s a really good football player. The more good football players you get on the team, the better you get. Anytime you have a first-round draft pick, you expect an impact player. We expect him to be that.”

Norton expects his backups will want to push for starting spots. That includes DJ Hayden and TJ Carrie, players with starting experience now fighting for expanded roles. Neiko Thorpe is also in the mix, and could be a player for the pivotal role in the slot.

Carrie has a proper skill set to play inside, though Hayden has taken significant snaps there during OTAs.

“Roles are good, but at the same time, it’s competition,” Norton said. “There’s no spot that’s already given. It’s a matter of competing. Coming out here every day and working really hard to show what you have. We’ve surrounded all the players with really good football players. They can look to the side, look around the room, they see every day guys showing up, playing and competing. It’s important that the group sees their growth, how they’re improving every day, and knowing the tools that we have.”

Future NFL power rankings: Raiders given 20th best short-term outlook


Future NFL power rankings: Raiders given 20th best short-term outlook

How bright is the future for the Raiders?

Well, according to the good folks over at ESPN, it could be a little brighter.

On Tuesday, ESPN published its "Future NFL Power Rankings," which ranks the outlook of all 32 teams over the next three years.

And the Raiders came in at ...


No. 20.

Hey, for a team that went 4-12 a season ago, it could be worse. 

The Colts, Patriots, Eagles, Chiefs and Seahawks made up the top five.

ESPN ranked each team based on its roster (minus the quarterback), head coach, front office, quarterback and draft to determine their outlook for the next three campaigns.

The Raiders checked in at

  • Roster (minus QB): 20
  • Front office: 15
  • Head coach: 17
  • Draft: 17
  • Quarterback: 25

Well, not a rosy outlook for Derek Carr.

Field Yates, Louis Riddick and Kevin Seifert all believe the Raiders' outlook will be determined by whether or not the Carr-Gruden connection is a fruitful one. In Year 1 of Gruden's second reign with the Raiders, Carr had a rough year. With a lack of offensive weapons and a line that had issues with the zone blocking tendencies, Carr only threw for 4,049 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Carr has shown he has the ability to be a top-tier quarterback, and with the weapons, the Raiders collected in the offseason, 2019 could be a different story.

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

Riddick lauded the Raiders' draft picks and offseason moves. Oakland added Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Trent Brown, Josh Jacobs, Ryan Grant and Hunter Renfrow on offense. Lamarcus Joyner, Clelin Ferrell, Johnathan Abram and Trayvon Mullen came in to help a defense that was awful last season.

Things are looking up for the Silver and Black. If Carr can rediscover his MVP-level form, good times could be on the horizon.

NFL preview 2019: How Raiders' defense stacks up against AFC West rivals


NFL preview 2019: How Raiders' defense stacks up against AFC West rivals

If the Raiders plan to improve on their dismal 4-12 season a year ago, the defense will have to be world's better in 2019.

Much has been made about Oakland's non-existent pass rush in 2018, when the Raiders ranked last in the NFL after managing only 13 sacks -- 17 fewer than the next closest team.

The Raiders tried to rectify some of their issues in the offseason by drafting star Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Silver and Black also drafted safety Johnathan Abram, cornerback Trayvon Mullen and edge rusher Maxx Crosby. They also signed defensive back Lamarcus Joyner and linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall. 

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

Oakland's defense likely will be improved from a season ago. But by just how much remains to be seen.

The AFC West, meanwhile, has no shortage of explosive offenses, so the division very well could come down to which defenses are able to get off the field when it matters most. As such, let's take a look at home the Raiders' defense stacks up against the rest of the AFC West.

Raiders vs. Chiefs

Defensive line: The Chiefs made some changes in the offseason, bringing in new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo while cutting Justin Houston and trading edge rusher Dee Ford to the 49ers. They also acquired Frank Clark from the Seattle Seahawks.

KC is transitioning from a 3-4 base to a 4-3 and as such could have some growing pains. Only Clark and nose tackle Chris Jones are locks to make the roster in camp.

The Raider's defensive line has issues of its own, but another year for Maurice Hurst, PJ Hall and Arden Key should buoy Oakland's unit and Ferrell hopefully will provide instant impact off the edge. Don't sleep on Eddie Vanderdoes who returns after missing the entire 2018 season while recovering from a torn ACL. Edge: Raiders

Linebackers: Kansas City got a steal when they acquired Darron Lee from the New York Jets for a sixth-round draft pick. Lee and Anthony Hitchens are two solid backers, but the drop off after those two is severe. Unless Reggie Ragland can rediscover the promise he showed in 2017, this unit could be in trouble.

As for the linebacking corps in Oakland, Paul Guenther's unit is hoping veterans Burfict and Marshall can bring some stability and leadership to a group that struggled mightily last year. If Tahir Whitehead and Marquel Lee can continue their improvement from the end of last season, Guenther might have the makings of a real defense on his hands. Edge: Raiders

Secondary: The Chiefs' secondary will need to communicate better in order to improve on what was a relatively dismal performance a season ago. Eric Berry is gone. Tyrann Mathieu is in. Kendall Fuller was solid in his first season in Kansas City but the rest of the secondary struggled, giving up explosive play after explosive play.

Mathieu is a good player, but unless Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward take a step forward, the Chiefs' secondary will struggle again.

Oakland's secondary added Joyner and Abram which should, in theory, make them better. If Gareon Conley can stay healthy and Mullen, Daryl Worley or Nevin Lawson can cement themselves as a solid corner on the other side, Oakland's secondary has the potential to be good. Edge. Raiders

Overall: Advantage Raiders

Raiders vs. Chargers

Defensive line: Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and now Jerry Tillery. The Bolts will have a fearsome frontline yet again. Edge: Chargers

Linebackers: The Chargers' linebacking corps was hit hard with injuries a season ago. The health of Denzel Perryman, Kyzir White and Jatavis Brown is paramount. If the Bolts' backers are healthy this is a no-brainer. Edge: Chargers

Secondary: I like Abram and Mullen. Conley has a ton of potential. The Chargers have Desmond King, Casey Hayward, Adrian Phillips, Derwin James and Nasir Adderley. Wow. Edge: Chargers

Overall: Advantage Chargers

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

Raiders vs. Broncos

Defensive line: For the purposes of this exercise, I'm going to include Von Miller and Bradley Chubb in this category as well even though they technically play outside linebacker in Denver's 3-4 scheme. Chubb and Miller are paid to get after the passer. So is Derek Wolfe.

Oh, and the Broncos drafted Dre'Mont Jones. Have fun, opposing offensive lines. Edge: Broncos

Linebackers: If you want to include Miller and Chubb in this group, that's fine. They'll be the starting outside linebackers. Both Miller and Chubb should feast in new head coach Vic Fangio's defense. (Remember what he did with Khalil Mack?) Todd Davis and Josey Jewell will start inside and have their warts.

Rookie Justin Hollins could slide inside to help in coverage at some point. Edge: Broncos

Secondary: Kareem Jackson is in to stabilize the safety group. Chris Harris still is the best slot cover man in the game. No need to go any further. Edge: Broncos

Overall: Advantage Broncos