Notes: Raiders will 'get some help' at running back


Notes: Raiders will 'get some help' at running back

Raiders running back Latavius Murray exceeded 1,000 yards and made his first Pro Bowl last season. Yet, by Murray’s standards and many others, the Raiders rushing attack wasn’t good enough.

The fourth-year pro expressed disappointment in the ground game, and head coach Jack Del Rio echoed those sentiments at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The Raiders addressed it during free agency by signing elite offensive guard Kelechi Osemele and re-signing left tackle Donald Penn.

The next step is adding options carrying the ball. Murray took 72 percent of his team’s carries, a whopping total of 266. There’s no doubt the Raiders could use some help.

That hasn’t happened yet.

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A fortnight’s passed since free agency began, and the team’s backfield depth chart remains unchanged. Taiwan Jones and Roy Helu are behind Murray, despite being ineffective last season. Jones had ball security issues, and Helu never caught on after early injuries and hip ailments that required offseason surgery.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said Monday at the NFL owners meetings fresh blood is on the way.

“We had some injuries there, both backups Helu and Tawian were injured. We need some healthy bodies back there to help out,” McKenzie told’s Matt Maiocco. “The way this league is with the pounding you’re taking, you can’t just have one guy getting beat up all year with no help. We’ll get some help. We’ll get healthy. We’ll see how it goes. It’s March, so we have some time.”

The Raiders reportedly showed interest in unrestricted free agents Chris Ivory and Doug Martin, though those players signed relatively big money deals with other teams.

Second tier options remain on the free agent market, and there are quality alternatives in the NFL draft. Some experts have suggested Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott could be an option at No. 14 overall. The Raiders could find value later the draft as McKenzie did with Murray, a sixth-rounder from 2013.

Desire to keep Penn ‘never wavered’
The Raiders re-signed left tackle Donald Penn last week, a happy ending to a process that took a bit longer than the player hoped. Penn hoped to re-sign early in the offseason, but the sides couldn’t agree on a value. There was pessimism it would happen, prompting Penn to book a trip to New York for a visit with the Giants. A last-minute deal kept Penn in Oakland on a two-year, $11.9 million deal with $5.5 million in guaranteed money.

“I was trying to sign him during the season, so that never wavered,” McKenzie said. “If he’d gone somewhere else, that would’ve been the only thing. But we’ve always wanted him back.”

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Mario Edwards Jr. update:
The Raiders are still taking a wait-and-see approach with young defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr., who suffered a strange neck injury near last season’s end. An exact diagnosis hasn’t been given, though significant concern about the player has been expressed since the injury occurred.

McKenzie suggested in February that Edwards Jr.’s injury might’ve been genetic, something that was compounded when he got hurt. Edwards Jr. is confident he’ll return and play well, though the Raiders are giving last year’s second-round pick time for further evaluation.

He’ll be reexamined in April.

“He’s rehabbing. He feels great so that’s a good thing, but we’re going to wait and get all the information and get with the doctors,” McKenzie said on Monday. “We have another month for him to go by and see, listen to what he has to say, and we’re going to take it one day at a time.”

The Raiders offseason program begins April 18, which OTAs and practices set to begin in May.

Raiders notebook: Arden Key must build off professional debut


Raiders notebook: Arden Key must build off professional debut

ALAMEDA – Arden Key made his professional debut Saturday against the L.A. Rams. Okay, let’s call it a cameo.

The rookie edge rusher played nine snaps, eight of them rushing the passer. That could mimic his regular-season role with Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack -- whenever he joins the team -- primarily rushing off the edge.

He’ll provide depth the Raiders have been lacking in recent seasons, with dynamic athleticism and bend that helps him disrupt passing attacks. He didn’t have a pressure to speak of – again, small sample size – and that left defensive coordinator Paul Guenther wanting a bit more from the LSU product.

He’ll have time to improve after his first NFL game, with more snaps coming Friday against Green Bay and likely in the preseason finale in Seattle.

Guenther wants Key to build on his first foray.

“He did okay,” Guenther said. “I think he was a little disappointed in a couple of his rushes, but it was his first NFL game. I told him to just, ‘relax and do what you do.’ You don’t want to over-coach those guys. Arden is special rushing the quarterback. He’ll get some more snaps (Friday) and we’ll get him ready for the (regular season).”

Gilchrist back in action

Veteran defensive back Marcus Gilchrist missed roughly two weeks with a foot injury, but returned to practice Monday with roughly a fortnight to get ready for the regular season. That’s plenty of time for Gilchrist to fit in with what should be a versatile role that includes work at safety and slot cornerback.

Gilchrist was gone a while, as long as active Raiders this preseason, but doesn’t feel behind.

“I’m feeling good. I wasn’t practicing, but I was taking mental notes, mental reps,” Gilchrist said. “I feel good from that aspect.

“…That’s something we do a great job of here with this coaching staff, is getting ready. If you’re healthy or hurt, you’re mentally engaged in meetings and practice.”

Still looking for consistency from Bryant

There’s little doubting Martavis Bryant’s pure athleticism and skill. The guy is a playmaker.

Raiders coaches want more from the speedy receiver, a refrain that has carried throughout this preseason. They acknowledge his penchant for the spectacular, but want fewer downhill slides in practice and play.

“Everywhere, from the meeting room to practice to the games, you need consistent performance,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “That starts with preparation and carries over to the game. We’re trying to eliminate some of the dips in play. There are going to be some mistakes along the way but, the less that curve goes down, the better off we’ll be.”

Another new cornerback

The Raiders have cycled through defensive backs some this preseason, and added a third new face since the start of training camp. They claimed Antwuan Davis off waivers from Detroit on Tuesday afternoon. They got a close look at him during joint practices with the Lions in Napa and the subsequent exhibition game.

Tevin Mitchel was waived injured in a corresponding move.

The Raiders have also added cornerback Reysean Pringle and safety Quincy Mauger during the preseason.

Injury update

Second-round defensive tackle P.J. missed Tuesday’s practice for an undisclosed reason, his first workout missed since being activated off the physically unable to perform list early in camp.

Running back DeAndre Washington didn’t play against the Rams, and hasn’t practiced since dealing with an ailment.

Kicker Eddy Piñeiro continues to miss time with a groin injury suffered in training camp’s final days. Breno Giacomini has missed an extended stretch with a knee injury. Dexter McDonald was out Tuesday, and Obi Melifonwu hasn’t been seen a long time dealing with what Jon Gruden called a lower body injury.

Donald Penn has looked 'very natural' in week after position switch

Donald Penn has looked 'very natural' in week after position switch

ALAMEDA – Donald Penn has been a right tackle for a week now, longer than any other point in his professional career.

The two-time Pro Bowler has anchored the left side for a successful career, but was asked to make the position switch after being activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 14.

That came after restructuring his contract, and Penn went along with the switch when he could’ve been militant about it. The Raiders prefer to leave first-round pick Kolton Miller on the left side, to continue developing the young talent at his preferred spot.

That left Penn to make the switch, as he did in the 2016 regular-season opener while playing the only 24 snaps at right tackle in his NFL career.

Going from left to right isn’t easy, but Penn has fared well in the early going.

“He has had a good week,” Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “He really looked very natural from the first day we put him out there. That was extremely encouraging because he hasn’t played that position much throughout his career. I think we still have to get him in shape. He’s working after practice and the conditioning staff has done a good job with that.”

Penn hasn’t played a game since the switch, meaning it remains in the experimental stage and that could continue into the early regular season. His debut will come on Friday against Green Bay, when he’ll get acclimated to the position at full speed.

Penn’s working to learn new footwork and free himself from instincts and routines built over a career on the left side. He’s also working back into shape following Dec. 2017 Lisfranc foot surgery. That’s a tough two-step, but Penn has a few weeks to show he can play right tackle when the games count.

“It’s about getting game ready,” Olson said. “It’s been a long time since Donald has played in a game, and it’s been a long time since he has gone through full practice. He is having to play himself into shape. … As far as playing the position, he has looked very comfortable there.”

Penn’s trying to help Miller gain comfort playing at the professional level. He didn’t play last week’s preseason game at the L.A. Rams – most offensive starters sat – and has little experience to rely upon. Enter Penn, who has been helped Miller along the way, willingly passing on tricks of the trade.

“It’s a credit to Donald Penn for how he has approached this chance,” Olson said. “We talked with him about it, and has been on board with it since the move was made. It says a lot about the man and the player.”