Notes: Raiders 'getting close' to being a stout run defense

Notes: Raiders 'getting close' to being a stout run defense

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t run much on Sunday, but were certainly effective when they did.

They churned out 105 yards on just 16 attempts, a 6.6 yards per carry average that would make any defensive mind cringe. Had the Jaguars run more before the Raiders took control late in the first half, a 33-16 result might’ve been closer at the end.

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio’s glass was half full Monday afternoon despite that showing, and he focused on the positives gleaned from analyzing game tape.

His biggest takeaway: The Raiders are oh, so close to being stout against the run.

“I think it’s really coming together and getting close to being really, really good,” Del Rio said during his press conference at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, where the Raiders will prep for next week’s game at Tampa Bay. “I don’t like to see any runs go through us. We’ll continue to work where we need to. The attention to detail, the physicality of the guys in the trenches, we have the right people to be really good up front.”

The Raiders are near the bottom in run defense, allowing 128.3 yards per game and seven rushing touchdowns through seven contests. They were gashed for 180-plus yards by Kansas City and Tennessee thus far, and have given up triple digits five times thus far.

Del Rio sees improvement stopping the run, which will be aided by players maintaining gaps and operating as 11 players working together as one unit.

Several players were encourage by greater cohesion against Jacksonville, something that hurt the Raiders in previous games.

“What I keep saying is the work is there, is being put in,” Del Rio said. “The care is there. I mean, our guys care. We’re staying together, I really see it. Throughout the staff, with the players, everybody is hanging onto the rope. Everybody is pulling the rope in the same direction. We’re going to make improvements with that approach. We’ve got good people that care. If you have good people that care to stick together, then good things are going to happen.”

Good things are starting to happen for the Raiders pass rush. They flustered Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles most of the day and, while the only had one sack, Bortles was hit seven times and pressured on 11 other occasions.

The pass rush is starting to crank up, but Del Rio still wants more in the middle.

“We feel like we’ve got a couple guys that can really get there,” Del Rio said. “We’re still looking for a little more interior push and I think as we get that, I think it’ll make the entire rush look at a lot better. But, we’re getting good energy, good effort from those guys.”

Edwards Jr. headed for Sunshine State: Raiders defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. has spent the season on injured reserve, but was eligible to start practicing last week for a Week 9 return. That hasn’t happened yet, though Edwards Jr. will join the team in Florida this week and is expected to start side work that would be a precursor of a return to practice.

The delayed start might mean he won’t be ready to face Denver when eligible and that he might return later in the season, though that remains undetermined.

Riley-Smith combo works well inside: The Raiders inserted veteran linebacker Perry Riley into the starting lineup over rookie Cory James, a move that paid immediate dividends. He worked well with Malcolm Smith on the inside, and formed a solid duo against the run and pass the Raiders will stick with in the immediate future.

“Those guys have a lot of skins on the wall, so to speak,” Del Rio said. “They’ve been through a lot of battles. So the experience is there. We really like Cory. Cory is a good, young player, but to have those two guys and the experience that they have and the number of battles that they’ve been in, they communicated well together. The idea going into the game was we’re going to play all three, but the way we started, we started well and those two guys played well. We just basically left them (out there), let them go.

This ‘n’ that: Stacy McGee suffered an ankle injury in Sunday’s game, and Del Rio didn’t provide an update on his status. Kelechi Osemele tweaked his knee against Jacksonville, but was able to return to the game and should be fine. ...Michael Crabtree was flagged for a throat slash after his Sunday touchdown despite the fact he’s paying homage to the HBO character Kenny Powers with his fingers. Del Rio said Crabtree and the Raiders must be smarter about avoiding unnecessary penalties. The Raiders were flagged 11 times for 117 yards on Sunday.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden issues stern response to Rashaan Melvin tweets

Raiders coach Jon Gruden issues stern response to Rashaan Melvin tweets

ALAMEDA -- Rashaan Melvin made five consecutive starts this season, playing significant snaps in each of those contests.

Then Raiders coaches told the veteran cornerback Saturday in London that his role would decrease significantly in the next day's game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Melvin and Gareon Conley were benched for Daryl Worley and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and the new starters played most every snap in the Raiders' 27-3 loss. Melvin was in for seven, only while Rodgers-Cromartie was being examined by trainers, and he gave up a 10-yard touchdown catch in that short span at Wembley Stadium.

Melvin wasn’t happy about the result or the playing time afterward. The well-traveled cornerback also is being asked to use new techniques in coverage and hasn’t adjusted well.

That frustration led to these two tweets.

The posts were well circulated, and eventually brought to Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s attention.

“I haven’t talked to him yet, no. I’m sure I will. I know (defensive coordinator) Paul Guenther did,” Gruden said in a Tuesday press conference. “I heard there was a Twitter report out there. Melvin is on his seventh team, I think. He’s had different techniques. Maybe he’s confused, I don’t know. I’ll talk to him.

"But he has to play better. He’s in a competitive situation. Perhaps he’s frustrated, and I can’t blame him.”

Melvin’s frustration is clear. He declined comment earlier Tuesday, before Gruden spoke with the press, but he entered this season with high hopes.

He wanted to inarguably prove himself a No. 1 cornerback, and earn the money associated with such distinction. Melvin believed it might come after a career year in Indianapolis, but free agency wasn't generous. He ended up signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Raiders, hoping a good year would secure the multiyear deal he hoped to get this spring.

Being benched and performing below expectation won’t help Melvin’s pride or his pocketbook. That has caused some frustration vented in public.

Gruden somewhat backed off the hard line later in his press conference, addressing Melvin’s frustration in a more political manner.

“He handled adversity and sometimes in an emotional way. But Melvin is a good kid,” Gruden said. “He’s a good kid. He’s given us some good snaps. He’s just in a competitive situation, and we’re trying to help him improve.”

Raiders injury notes: Marshawn Lynch's groin strain causing Gruden some concern

Raiders injury notes: Marshawn Lynch's groin strain causing Gruden some concern

ALAMEDA – The Raiders injury list grew significantly during their disastrous loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Several joined the group of walking wounded, including concussed receivers Amari Cooper and Seth Roberts.

Jon Gruden added another prominent name to the list during his Tuesday press conference.

Running back Marshawn Lynch.

Gruden said Lynch’s groin strain is “cause for concern,” though it’s uncertain how much time the veteran rusher would miss. Gruden said he would offer an update on Lynch and other ailing Raiders next week.

It’s bad news for the Raiders if he misses any time at all. He’s their steadiest offensive player and their clear feature back.

Lynch will be evaluated further, likely with an MRI, in the near future.

“We’re concerned about him, but we’re also hopeful that we can continue to use him,” Gruden said. “We’ll let you know next week.”

That last comment sounded somewhat ominous, so Gruden was asked again whether Lynch’s injury could be considered long-term.

He backed off making predictions over a possible Lynch absence until he knows more, but…

“Anytime a man like this is sore,” Gruden said, “I’m concerned.”

Other Raiders injury notes

-- WRs Amari Cooper and Seth Roberts remain in the concussion protocol.

-- S Karl Joseph (hamstring) was close to playing against Seattle. The Raiders hope to have him back after the bye week.

-- QB Derek Carr (shoulder/arm) is sore but should be okay, as the quarterback himself said after Sunday’s game.

-- There’s a chance OG Jon Feliciano (ribs) returns after the bye week.

-- LG Kelechi Osemele is making progress recovering from a knee sprain, but it’s uncertain if he’ll be ready to go after the bye week.

-- DE Frostee Rucker (neck) should be back to face Indianapolis in the Raiders’ next game.