Raiders

Paul Guenther will captain effort to get Khalil Mack caught up when he reports

Paul Guenther will captain effort to get Khalil Mack caught up when he reports

NAPA – Khalil Mack isn’t with the Raiders in training camp. The elite edge rusher is holding out for a long-term contract that could set the market for defensive players, and has stayed away from his team since the offseason program started back in April.

He hasn’t practiced under Jon Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. He doesn’t know all Guenther has in store for Mack. He won’t be anchored to one edge, ordered to see ball carrier, kill ball carrier.

“When he gets here, he’s going to find out that he’ll have a lot of new matchups,” Guenther said on the Raiders Insider Podcast. “We have an ability to move him around. We have guys like Bruce Irvin and Arden Key, who can move around as rushers, too. They won’t always know where Khalil is at when we play on Sundays.

“Hopefully, when everything gets rectified here and we get rolling, he’ll see that.”

It remains uncertain when Mack will report to the Raiders. A deal is not close, and Mack seems set on staying away until a pact is reached. That may change if the impasse gets close to the regular season and the loss of game checks, owed as part of a $13.846 million fifth-year option he’s owed in 2018, becomes a real thing.

Guenther isn’t concerned about all that. He wants Mack in camp posthaste, but has a plan for whenever the Raiders’ best player does arrive. Guenther will teach a crash course in his scheme to get him as ready as possible to make an immediate impact.

While the nature of Mack’s position and him being in impeccable shape will help him return, he’ll operate within a new system with new terminology. Guenther will personally get him up to speed.

“When he shows up, I’ll be his position coach for about a week,” Guenther said. “I’ll catch him up. We have a plan for that. Hopefully he can get here sooner than later. If that doesn’t occur, then we’ve got some guys out here working their tails off and competing and we’ll roll with them.”

Guenther expects to roll with a speed rushing package during obvious passing downs that could include Mack, Irvin, Key and the hottest interior rusher between Maurice Hurst, PJ Hall or Mario Edwards.

“I look forward to seeing that one day,” Guenther said. “If that works, I won’t have draw up crazy blitzes to reach the quarterback. That’s ideal, because teams who win the NFL can rush four and get home. They have seven guys in coverage and they don’t give up explosive plays. Having guys like that we can roll through can make us more disruptive.”

NFL picks: Raiders vs. Dolphins Week 3 score predictions

NFL picks: Raiders vs. Dolphins Week 3 score predictions

The Raiders (0-2) make the long trip to South Beach to take on the Dolphins (2-0) Sunday in Week 3 of the 2018 NFL season.

Oakland had a chance to pick up their first win last week against the Broncos, but squandered a fourth-quarter lead and lost on late Denver kicker Brandon McManus field goal. Head coach Jon Gruden is looking for more out of his pass rush and hoping linebacker Bruce Irvin can step up.

The Dolphins are coming off a 20-12 win over the Jets in New York last weekend. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw two touchdown passes while running back Kenyan Drake ran for 53 yards and one touchdown.

Paul Gutierrez, ESPN.com: Raiders 24, Dolphins 23

Cameron Wolfe, ESPN.com: Dolphins 26, Raiders 20

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Dolphins 23, Raiders 16

Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Dolphins 26, Raiders 20

Brad Weiss, Just Blog Baby: Dolphins 28, Raiders 24

Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Dolphins 24, Raiders 20

Four Raiders to watch in Sunday's game vs. Dolphins

Four Raiders to watch in Sunday's game vs. Dolphins

MIAMI -- The Raiders have held second-half leads twice in as many games, without a victory to show for it. Jon Gruden’s consequently off to an 0-2 start running a team that can’t seem to finish well enough.

Game plans have been good, but the competition has been tough. The L.A. Rams surged using superior talent and force in the regular-season opener. The Broncos, though…Raiders had several opportunities to close that one out and couldn’t. There’s plenty of blame to go around for those second-half letdowns.

The pass rush is took a beating this week for failing to pressure well enough, which consequently extends the life of Khalil Mack trade talk. Penalties and a key dropped pass – nobody feels worse than fullback Keith Smith – came into play against the Broncos.

Quarterback Derek Carr said on this week’s Raiders Insider Podcast, “taking away two boneheaded plays by me,” and maybe the Rams game goes different.

Those results are etched in stone. All the Raiders can do is perform better Sunday here in Miami, where heat, humidity and a chance of thunderstorms await a team forced to wear black jerseys.

Here are four Raiders to watch as the Silver and Black try to avoid an 0-3 start.

Bruce Irvin

The Raiders’ best edge rusher hasn’t started the season particularly well. He has a strip sack and a quarterback hit and…no other pressures in two games. Those two plays made an impact, and no much else beyond it. He hurt the team’s chances against Denver with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty extending a Broncos scoring drive after the Raiders stopped it on third down.

The Raiders are looking to him to step up and not fill Mack’s shoes – few, if any, could do that – but generate steady pressure off the edge. That hasn’t happened yet but needs to here in Miami. He’ll have a tough task against Miami left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who has allowed but one quarterback pressure all year.

“We need to get more out of our captain,” Gruden said. “He’s been put in some tough spots, certainly. He’s a good player and has played some good snaps. We need more and more from him. I know he’s giving us everything he has. It’s tough on him because we have a lot of new guys around him up front, but we’re happy he’s here.”

[How to watch Raiders-Dolphins]

Jordy Nelson

Tight end Jared Cook exploded for a franchise record (for a tight end) 180 receiving yards in the opener. Amari Cooper roared after a less-than-impactful opening game, totaling 10 catches for 116 yards on as many targets against Denver.

Nelson has been relatively quiet in both games, with just five catches and 53 yards to his credit. Could this be Nelson’s first big game in Silver and Black. If the matchups dictate, as they did for Cook and Cooper in consecutive weeks. The Raiders need Nelson as a steadying presence, especially on third down. He will find a rhythm in this offense eventually. Starting Sunday could help his team get on the right track.

“There was improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 individually and as a whole,” Nelson said. “It’s all about matchups and opportunities. Jared had a great game in Week 1 and Cooper had one in Week 2, so maybe I’m next up this week. We’ll see.”

Erik Harris

The rangy safety hasn’t played much defense in his NFL career. He was labeled a special teams player before 2018 but Gruden’s staff saw more in him starting with the offseason. He failed to secure a starting spot over Reggie Nelson and/or Marcus Gilchrist to begin the year, but he played 26 defensive snaps in Denver after playing two since his Raiders tenure started in 2017.

Harris looked good working in, with a few one-on-one, open-field tackles that impressed many. He allowed just one four-yard catch on the day, and could earn more playing time as the season carries forward.

That’s especially true if Reggie Nelson struggles in coverage. Coaches love Nelson’s smarts and assistance getting the team lined up properly, but Harris provide long speed, range and sure tackling that could prove helpful against the Dolphins.

“He has been playing good,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “He’s real smart. He understands the ins and outs of the defense. He earned his right to play. Like I’ve been saying in the past, I’m going to utilize all the personnel I have. I think you’ll see some more of that on Sunday.”

Marshawn Lynch

The Raiders don’t have a proven defensive closer now that Khalil Mack works in Chicago. They have one, however, on offense. Lynch can go full BeastMode late in games and grind out tough yards that continually move the chains. He was on a roll late in that Denver game, but Cook’s false start took them off schedule and messed up Lynch’s flow.

He had great rhythm last time the Raiders were in Miami, rumbling for 57 yards on 14 carries, notching two touchdowns and four first downs in the process.

He’s only averaging 3.7 yards per carry thus far, though penalties have negated some big runs and coaches believe he’s in great shape and has a big game on the immediate horizon.

“I know this, he’s extremely hard to tackle still,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “He almost popped out a big one last week again. He’s a dangerous guy to deal with. He’s a big man that does not like to touch the ground. I’ve seen him way too much it seems like.”

Gase might see him a lot on Sunday.

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