ALAMEDA – The Raiders sack leader is not a guy you’d expect. It’s defensive tackle Stacy McGee, a fourth-year veteran primarily known as a rotational run stuffer who has shown greater pass-rush ability this season.
He has 2.5 sacks in the first five games, including 1.5 in Sunday’s 34-31 victory over the San Diego Chargers. He also had four tackles and two forced fumbles in that game, by far his best statistical showing as a pro.
“Stacy’s a guy who has done some great things for us,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said in his Monday press conference. “He has flashed rushes and been really close on a couple this year, and it was nice to see him finish some.”
It’s something McGee has been working on, to be a more productive interior pass rusher.
“It’s about continually rushing,” McGee said. “Even when I think I’m beat, I have to just keep going and going and going until I get to the quarterback. It’s starting to pay off for me.”
McGee has gotten better push on the inside, something the Raiders need with so much attention paid to Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin on the outside.
“We’re going to get a lot of attention with the outside guys,” Del Rio said. “We look forward to getting Mario (Edwards Jr.) back at some point, which we will.
“Guys like Stacy and (Jihad Ward) have to step up and be a presence in the middle for us to have the kind of rush we’re looking for.”
Edwards Jr. on track? The Raiders miss defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr., who has been on injured reserve since the season began. Del Rio was asked about his progress, and said he believes the second-year pro is on track for a return near midseason.
Edwards Jr. is eligible to play starting in Week 9 against the Denver Broncos. He’s allowed to practice starting next week in preparation for game action.
“Whenever he’s eligible to practice and all that and he’s ready to go, we’ll get him started,” Del Rio said.
Edwards Jr. suffered a hip injury in the preseason opener at Arizona, and is expected to be the one player the Raiders designate to return off of injured reserve.
Carr change play on 4th down?: The Raiders went for it on a crucial fourth down late in the third quarter against San Diego, and Carr didn't run the play as called. That's what NFL Network's Mike Silver reported, that he checked out to the play everyone saw, that became a 21-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. Del Rio played coy on the topic in his press conference.
"He may have," Del Rio said with a smile. "He does have the freedom to do that. That goes back to the whole trust thing. As he’s made good decisions and made accurate throws, and in those situations, we give him more leeway to do those things."
Injury update: Del Rio said he’s hopeful that running back Latavius Murray (toe) and weakside linebacker Malcolm Smith can return to play the Kansas City Chiefs next week.
Del Rio sounded optimistic about Smith’s return.
“I would anticipate getting him back this week,” Del Rio said. “We went into the game yesterday trying not to use him if we could, but he was available in an emergency role. We got through the game without having to put him in.”
Too many pre-snap penalties: Pre-snap penalties shouldn’t happen much at home, especially on offense. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, when four of the team’s six penalties were false starts. Another came before the snap with defensive lineman Denico Autry lined up in the neutral zone.
“The pre-snap penalties, don’t have a lot of patience for those,” Del Rio said. “We have zero tolerance for those. We’ve got to clean those up. Pre-snap penalties get me going there.”