Raiders

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

elliott-mckenzie-lataviusmurray-usatsi.jpg

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.

[RELATED: McKenzie: Aldon Smith remains in Raiders' plans]

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 CSNBayArea.com’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.”

[RELATED: Davis: Rams' LA stadium site 'a great opportunity' for Raiders]

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 Derek Carr dismissed by Khalil Mack when asked about being dunked on

mackcarrusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Raiders Derek Carr dismissed by Khalil Mack when asked about being dunked on

Khalil Mack and Derek Carr remained close even after they stopped being teammates. Carr was devastated to lose Mack in a trade for a Raiders' future draft compensation, both in the locker room and on the field.

Beyond the friendship, the two became main members of the silver and black, and brought much promise to the organization and hoped to create a culture change.

That, unfortunately, didn't come to fruition. 

But we're lucky they still participate in Twitter exchanges to show there are no hard feelings and the bromance is still alive and well. But most recently, they showed there will always be a competitive nature between the two.

Carr answered some questions on his YouTube channel Thursday. But someone wanted to ask via Twitter if he will still dunk on Khalil Mack in the offseason after it became public knowledge Mack has already dunked on him at David Carr's house.

The answer? Without question:

Well, that settles that, but we won't truly believe it until we see it. But at least there's the 1-on-1 win that Carr had against Mack.

Your move, Carr.

Raiders offensive depth chart: Skill positions need a big boost

grudenmarshawnus.jpg
USATSI

Raiders offensive depth chart: Skill positions need a big boost

The Raiders offense entered the 2018 season with optimism, believing that an expensive, talented crew could flourish immediately under new head coach/play caller Jon Gruden.

Former coordinator Todd Downing took serious (and mostly deserved) flak for offensive struggles the year before, and there was a belief last winter the Raiders were a savvy offensive mind away from scoring in bunches.

It didn’t work out that way in Gruden’s first season back. Quarterback Derek Carr took some time to get comfortable with the head coach's system. An expensive offensive line regressed due to injuries inside and two rookie tackles on the flanks.

Marshawn Lynch got hurt. Amari Cooper got traded. While Jared Cook flourished and Carr got better, the offense never produced consistent quality.

Changes will be made to this unit – especially at receiver – leaving varied levels of certainty that incumbent starters will retain their post. Let’s take a look at a super, duper early 2019 starting lineup, with some names written in ink, others in pencil and more than a few uncertainties.

Backfield

QB: Derek Carr (ink)
RB: Doug Martin (pencil)
3rd-down RB:Jalen Richard (RFA; ink)
FB: Keith Smith (pencil)

There are some quarterback hungry teams out there who might believe they’re a quality passer away from the postseason. That might prompt the Jaguars or Giants or another team to make an offer for Carr that Gruden can’t refuse.

Anything’s possible with the unpredictable head coach, though Gruden hasn’t said anything recently to suggest dissatisfaction with his quarterback.

[RELATED: 2019 NFL Draft: Raiders favored to pick Kyler Murray by sportsbooks]

Carr expects to be back in 2019. That’s an accurate assumption at this stage, which would allow Carr continued growth within the system and a chance to prove he can find 2016 form.

While playing out a contract that runs through 2022 that isn’t guaranteed, Carr should get more time to build on a strong statistical season by finding more wins in 2019.

It’s uncertain whether Lynch is coming back. He’s an enigma, though his return’s more likely if the Raiders play within Oakland’s city limits next year. There has been talk of Martin’s return, but he’s north of 30 and, despite a strong finish to the season, a drafted running back could come in and compete for the feature slot.

Richard’s a restricted free agent, but he’s fully expected to be back. Smith has another year on his deal worth $1.5 million in 2019.

Receivers

WR:Jordy Nelson (ink)
WR:???
Slot: ???
Receiving TE:????
Blocking TE:Lee Smith (ink)

Expect a positional overhaul here. Jordy Nelson’s 2019 roster bonus was paid out early, virtually locking him in for the 2019 season. He showed great chemistry with Carr towards the end of the season, and continued to produce despite a showing less speed than years past, especially after a knee injury midway through last season.

The Raiders should draft at least one receiver, maybe two, in the NFL draft. Seth Roberts could be cut this offseason as well, leaving the roster without someone with extensive experience playing inside. Gruden will rotate receivers through multiple positions, so here’s the bottom line: the team needs talent and depth at this spot.

Jared Cook is an unrestricted free agent and his return is uncertain, especially if his market soars after a career year in 2018. Darren Waller flashed late, but was it enough to provide confidence he can be a major player? If Cook walks, the Raiders should another receiving option at tight end.

Offensive line

LT:Kolton Miller (ink)
LG: Kelechi Osemele (ink)
C: Rodney Hudson (ink)
RG: Gabe Jackson (ink)
RT: Brandon Parker (pencil)

The Raiders offensive line gave up 51 sacks last year and was inconsistent in the run game last year, so why bring the crew back?

The interior has tons of talent, and the tackles are young and still developing. Coaches believe Miller will become a quality protector, especially after an offseason devoted to gaining strength and lean mass.

Hudson was a team MVP and Jackson’s an excellent guard who plays through pain and will be just 28 next season. Osemele is a tone-setter up front, but his name could require liquid paper considering he’s owed $10.2 million next season and could get released without dead money attached.

Re-signing Jon Feliciano would help whether or not Osemele comes back. He provides depth at all three interior spots and has solid chemistry with the starters.

Penn should return to compete with Parker, though additional veteran depth is warranted for injury protection. This unit must get deeper, but the starting unit could return to old form if the interior stays healthy and Miller especially develops into a solid player.