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.”

Neiron Ball, Raiders 2015 draft pick, in a coma after brain aneurysm


Neiron Ball, Raiders 2015 draft pick, in a coma after brain aneurysm

Raider Nation has a heavy heart at the moment.

Former linebacker Neiron Ball, Oakland's fifth-round pick in 2015 out of Florida, suffered a brain aneurysm on Sept. 16 and is currently in a medically induced coma. He is not responding to stimuli. The Raiders sent out a tweet Tuesday asking for thoughts and prayers for the 26-year-old.

News of Ball's situation was first made public by people that run the Facebook page for his old school district in Georgia. Ball attended Jackson High School in the Butts County School System.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, in 2011 while at Florida, Ball was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, "a tangling of blood vessels." Surgery to alleviate the issue cost him the 2011 season.

"I can't really explain it," Ball told the Orlando Sentinel in 2012. "The closest thing I can think is somebody just smushing my brain...Like somebody was squeezing my brain."

Ball appeared in six games his rookie season with the Raiders, recording four tackles and one sack. A knee injury forced the Raiders to place him on injured reserve.

Report: Raiders to sign new kicker Matt McCrane

Report: Raiders to sign new kicker Matt McCrane

Mike Nugent is dealing with a hip injury suffered in a loss to Miami, which forced the Raiders to work out several kickers Tuesday morning. The Silver and Black have chosen to sign undrafted rookie Matt McCrane, according to NFL Network.

McCrane spent the summer with the Arizona Cardinals and played college ball at Kansas State. He was 4-for-4 on field goals in the preseason, including two from beyond 50 yards. 

While the team hasn't announced his addition, McCrane has already added "kicker for Oakland Raiders" on his Twitter profile. The account, however, is not verified. 

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden didn't formally rule Nugent out of Sunday's game against Cleveland, but his hip injury is of concern. Nugent has been solid since assuming the kicking job this regular season. He was 6-for-6 on field goal attempts, including two conversions from 50-plus yards. 

The Raiders worked out McCrane, 2017 kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, among others on Tuesday. Tavecchio was released early in camp for Nugent, who was expected to be Eddy Pineiro's mentor during the preseason. Pineiro suffered a groin injury at the end of training camp and was placed on season-ending injured reserve.