Raiders adept playing ‘big boy ball’ behind Murray, hulking O-line

Raiders adept playing ‘big boy ball’ behind Murray, hulking O-line

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio rarely looks back. Hindsight isn’t useful in a season that never stops moving, one that demands coaching staffs always prepare for the future.

Del Rio did look back at Thursday night’s loss and wished he could’ve done some things different. On 3rd-and-1 on the Raiders’ final drive, a deep shot at the end zone was called. In hindsight, Del Rio wishes a run was called. A false start eliminated a second shot at the first down, which the Raiders never got and eventually lost 21-13 at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Raiders run game was rolling that night, to the tune of 135 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. While he publicly lamented one play, Del Rio generally wanted to attack more from the ground.

“I felt like I would have like to see us play a little more big boy ball in that game with the weather, the fact that he was having an off night,” Del Rio said. “We have that big (offensive) line, I would have liked to see us hand that ball off a few more times behind that line.”

The Raiders hulking offensive line was an intimidating force, even with Kelechi Osemele out battling kidney stones on Thursday. He’ll be back for Sunday’s game at San Diego, and the running could maintain a solid six-game that began with Latavius Murray’s return from turf toe.

He missed a Week 5 contest against San Diego, when the Raiders rushed 25 times for 89 yards. He also missed a Week 6 loss to Kansas City, but has taken a greater role in the Raiders offense. He took 42 percent of the carries before his injury, and has taken 57 percent of the carries since his Week 7 return.

“I want the ball in my hands as much as I can, whether that’s carrying the ball or catching it,” Murray said. “Any way I can be a threat or get the ball in my hands, I want it. I want to be a part of this great offense we have going right now.”

The run game can be a crutch, especially in cold weather environments where passing is harder to do.

A three-man running back rotation has trimmed to two, with Murray and Jalen Richard controlling the carries. Murray has become more of a feature back with 57 of the carries over the last seven games. The Raiders have averaged 125.5 yards per game in that span, and ranks No. 6 overall with 116 yards per game.

Murray in particular has been a powerful force in this offense recently. That was clear against Kansas City, where he had 103 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.

He averaged 4.7 yards per carry that night, and a flat four yards per rush on the season. That efficiency is solid, but the Raiders like a few other metrics as well.

Murray has 12 rushing touchdowns in 11 games played, proving tough to stop near the goal line. He also leads the league with 29 percent of his runs going for first downs. He ranks ninth with 2.73 yards after contact per touch and has forced 17 missed tackles, metrics that show he’s being more elusive in the second level. At times he uses a stiff arm or a quick move. Other times, Murray uses brute force.

“I’m trying to improve on making a defender miss or making them feel it,” Murray said. “That’s something I wanted to improve on from last year, especially when I get to the second level. I continue to work on that and do whatever I can to be a dangerous back.”

Jalen Richard has also been a dangerous back. The undrafted rookie averages 5.7 yards per carry, and has been patient rushing behind solid blocks and shifty in the open field.

The Raiders have a good thing going on the ground, a fact the Raiders hope to exploit as the season wears on. They have a potent passing game, the Raiders have a good rushing system going, and they want to maintain production against a solid San Diego run defense.

“We’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing,” Murray said Tuesday. “We’ve been doing great things, and we’re not going to let what happened let us think otherwise. We have a great opportunity to win a game in San Diego. We’re excited about it.”

Raiders-Dolphins injury report: P.J. Hall expected to miss another game


Raiders-Dolphins injury report: P.J. Hall expected to miss another game

ALAMEDA – The Raiders will likely play another game without P.J. Hall. The second-round defensive tackle sprained an ankle early in the regular-season opener and hasn’t practiced since.

Head coach Jon Gruden doesn’t expect Hall to be available for Sunday against the host Miami Dolphins.

“I doubt it,” he said Monday. “I don’t think so. Keeping my fingers crossed.”

That’s a blow to a Raiders defensive line that needs help rushing the passer. He’s tough to block up front, with a knack for pushing the pocket back on the interior.

The Raiders will go with Maurice Hurst and recent signings Clinton McDonald and Johnathn Hankins on the inside. Brian Price was waived on Tuesday morning.

The Raiders should get Dwayne Harris back in the mix returning punts and kickoff. He missed the Broncos game with a foot injury. He was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, and made an acrobatic catch during a portion open to the media.

Also, the Raiders signed defensive tackle Gabe Wright to their practice squad. There was an open spot after Shilique Calhoun was promoted to the 53-man roster.


Thursday’s Injury Report

Did not practice

DT P.J. Hall (ankle)
OT Brandon Parker (ankle)

Limited practice
CB Leon Hall (illness)
C Rodney Hudson (ankle)
RG Gabe Jackson (pectoral)
RB Marshawn Lynch (shoulder)

Full participation
WR Dwayne Harris (foot)

Did not practice

WR Danny Amendola (not injury related)
S Reshad Jones (shoulder)

Limited practice
LS John Denney (shoulder)
DT Jordan Phillips (knee)

Full participation
RB Kenyan Drake (abdomen)
DE William Hayes (finger)
WR DeVante Parker (finger)
QB Ryan Tannehill (knee/ankle)

Jon Gruden, who traded Khalil Mack, calls great pass rushers 'hard to find'

Jon Gruden, who traded Khalil Mack, calls great pass rushers 'hard to find'

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders' pass rush has been lacking this season, and trading Khalil Mack for future draft compensation certainly hurt that effort. An inability to reach the quarterback has directly contributed to the team’s 0-2 start.

The Raiders have two sacks on the season and just 17 total pressures over two games. That certainly won’t cut it, which is why coach Jon Gruden keeps getting asked about it.

That happened again Wednesday, when he was asked how hard it is to find guys who can get after the quarterback.

“It’s hard to find a great one,” Gruden said. “It’s hard to find a good one. It’s hard to find one; you just said it. With college football, they aren’t dropping back to pass and throwing anymore. They’re throwing laterals and bubble screens and running read options. You have to train these guys, and it takes a little time to learn how to rush the passer. We have some guys who are in that process right now (with Arden Key, P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst).”

That certainly will raise some eyebrows, less than a month after the Mack trade. The Raiders found a great one, maybe the best in the NFL, and shipped him to the Bears because they were unwilling to pay Mack’s market value.

Gruden could’ve said it’s hard to find one and keep him and a franchise quarterback and stay in good salary cap standing. That’s dead right, and went into his thinking when executing the blockbuster trade.

Gruden said Monday that he didn’t regret trading Mack -- what else is he supposed to say? -- and that it’s now part of executing a long-term vision. It doesn’t help the 2018 Raiders a lick, though, and is hindering their ability to win games this season.

The coach has suggested the Raiders might blitz more, though they did so more Sunday against the Broncos than is customary in Paul Guenther’s defense. He brought extra rushers 13 times on just 37 drop backs, per analytics site Pro Football Focus, and generated 12 pressures.

“You do what you have to do, with the personnel you have to win the game,” Gruden said. “There were years in Cincinnati when Mike Zimmer was there where they blitzed more than they did in other seasons. ….When you have Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, you don’t have to blitz. Having the quarterback thinking you’re blitzing when you’re not can also be good. We were able to get Denver in seven-man protections and three-man routes. We just have to do a better job collectively getting off the field.”