Raiders

Raiders activate Justin Ellis off injured reserve in time to play Chiefs

Raiders activate Justin Ellis off injured reserve in time to play Chiefs

OAKLAND -- Justin Ellis had been practicing well the past few weeks, after the Raiders designated him to return off injured reserve. He was eligible to return for last week’s game in Baltimore, but he wasn’t quite ready for action.

The fifth-year veteran kept practicing strong, but it wasn’t until a Friday afternoon conversation between Ellis, coaches and trainers did the green light get lit.

The Raiders formally added Ellis to the 53-man roster Saturday afternoon, meaning he’ll play for the first time since injuring his foot in the season opener.

Ellis has been missed on the inside, especially against the run. The NFL’s worst run defense will get a boost, and in certain situations play Ellis and fellow gap-plugging defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins together on the inside.

“It changes us,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said last week. “You could have two big bodies to stuff up the middle, and they're not just slugs in there. They're athletes, big guys who can move. Having both of those guys available would be a big asset."

That will happen against Kansas City, though it’s uncertain how much Ellis will play in his first game back.

He re-signed with the Raiders this offseason on a three-year, $15 million deal to shore up the inside and allow others to make plays. The team hopes he can do exactly that upon return.

Offensive lineman Denver Kirkland was waived in a corresponding move.

2019 Pro Bowl: Raiders tight end Jared Cook replaces Chiefs' Travis Kelce

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2019 Pro Bowl: Raiders tight end Jared Cook replaces Chiefs' Travis Kelce

MOBILE, Ala. -- Raiders tight end Jared Cook had a career year in 2018. It didn’t come with many wins, but he was excellent as Derek Carr’s primary target in the passing game.

Cook either led or tied for the team lead in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. He was solid as an in-line tight end or in receiving spots outside and in the slot.

The 31-year-old was certainly worthy of a spot in the Pro Bowl, and wanted that honor for the first time in his career. He didn’t get in on the first ballot, but is now part of the team.

Cook will replace Kansas City’s Travis Kelce on the AFC squad, the NFL announced on Monday. He will practice and participate in festivities leading up to Sunday’s Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.

Cook won’t receive the Pro Bowl bonus earmarked for him if he had made the first ballot, but the veteran tight end will be recognized among the NFL’s best at his position. That’s just after he had 69 receptions for 896 yards and six touchdowns.

The Raiders now have their first member of the Pro Bowl after a disappointing 4-12 season.

Jon Gruden, Raiders coaching staff: Senior Bowl 'great tool' for team

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Jon Gruden, Raiders coaching staff: Senior Bowl 'great tool' for team

MOBILE, Ala. – The Senior Bowl has NFL coaching staffs run the annual college All-Star Game and NFL draft showcase. They’re typically offered to the worst team from each conference with a returning coach, and the Raiders fit that bill.

The invite wasn’t accepting begrudgingly, out of obligation. Head coach Jon Gruden jumped at the opportunity. The Raiders wanted to do it.

The Silver and Black coaching staff will lead the North squad during the practice week and in Saturday’s game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

“We are really excited,” Gruden said. “It will be the fourth time that I have done it. We have to do a good job in this draft and the best way to do it is to be as close as possible to the players."

The experience allows Raiders coaches to get their hands on invited prospects and see how they meet, absorb information and perform in practice against top competition looking to boost draft stock.

It will be a valuable evaluation tool heading into a pivotal NFL draft, one that could energize Gruden’s return to the Raiders.

While there isn’t a player here expected to be a Raiders target at No. 4 overall – Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen would’ve been the only one and he backed out of a commitment to play – there’s quality at several positions of need that could be options when the Raiders select early at Nos. 24, 27 and 35 overall and further down the NFL draft.

The Raiders will get to know these Senior Bowl players as well or better than any prospects in the NFL draft. Most teams get to meet with these guys and watch them practice. The Raiders will get to work with the North squad, with the 49ers running the South.

“When you get to the Senior Bowl and you get the access to these kids and the opportunity to see both teams practice, how they practice, how they retain information, how they process information, both on an install basis and mechanics on the field,” general manager Mike Mayock said. “I think it’s just a huge advantage.”

A unique week’s interaction will draw the Raiders to certain players. It will also push them away from others.

“If we can eliminate two or three players by coaching the Senior Bowl,” Gruden said, “sometimes that is just as important as finding two or three guys that you really want.”

The importance of the Raiders’ three 2019 first-round picks can’t be oversold. They will be vital in this roster rebuild, and nailing two or all three could expedite an often painful reconstruction process.

Gruden hopes it helps find prospects and sell the coaching staff to college free agents and anyone watching this week’s work.

“We have three picks in the first round,” We also pick in every other round and we also have the potential to add players after the draft. It will give our coaches, I think, a chance to go to Mobile in front of the entire NFL and show what kind of coaching staff we have - show the energy and enthusiasm that we have as a staff. We are going to sell ourselves to the players.”

[RELATED: Raiders should be watching safeties at Senior Bowl]

The Raiders are happy to interrupt the offseason for this experience, which Gruden has done three times before. He led a Senior Bowl squad twice while with Tampa Bay and once in his previous stint in Oakland, back in 1999.

“The last time I coached the Senior Bowl as the head coach of the Raiders, we drafted Eric Barton and Rod Coleman,” Gruden said. “It was a great tool for us, in Tampa and in Oakland.”