Raiders

Raiders' entire 2019 NFL draft class making profound impact on season

Raiders' entire 2019 NFL draft class making profound impact on season

OAKLAND – Jon Gruden gets asked about the Raiders' rookie class almost every week.

Those questions don’t get old, and they’re always relevant.

This isn’t just the Josh Jacobs show. At least a few are making positive contributions each Sunday. That was the case again Sunday when rookie contributions were vital to a 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Coliseum.

Fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby had four sacks, including a strip-sack where the Raiders recovered. Tight end Foster Moreau, also picked in that round, had a key touchdown catch. Second-round pick Trayvon Mullen had two pass breakups and his first NFL interception iced victory. Undrafted fullback Alec Ingold blocked well as always and converted a key fourth down set up to a field goal.

Oh, and Jacobs posted his fourth triple-digit rushing total in 10 tries.

All that comes two weeks after fifth-round pick Hunter Renfrow caught the game-winning touchdown late to beat Detroit. It also came one week after first-round pick Clelin Ferrell’s breakout performance, where he had 2.5 sacks and six(!) run stops against the Chargers.

We could bloat the internet with this season’s Raiders rookie contributions, but you get the point. This year’s class has been awesome, truly making an instant impact.

Jacobs tweeted, ‘best rookie class since…” after Sunday’s game. The ellipsis is appropriate because you have to stop and ponder that one. That's a tough ranking in league history but it does seem appropriate to say this year’s crop is arguably the greatest collective effort by a group of rookies in franchise history.

Gruden isn’t into bold proclamations like that, but he loves what the young players have provided his ascending team.

“The poise and the production and the professionalism that they play with and come to work with,” Gruden said, “is something everybody would be impressed with.”

The stats have been impressive, to say the least. Some numbers for support, via ESPN:

The Raiders have the most rookie sacks (10), touchdowns from scrimmage (14), scrimmage yards (1,676), rushing yards (937) and receptions (73). They have the second-most receiving yards (739).

Per the AP, the Raiders are the first team to have 10-plus sacks and 10-plus touchdowns over the first 10 games of the season since the sack became a stat in 1982.

Odds are more superlatives will come next week and the week after that, with the Raiders so reliant on rookies who have grown up fast.

"We just bought in,” Jacobs said. “Like I said when we came in, the rookie class came in together and we came to an agreement that we were going to do things the right way and build this program. We wanted to try and shape it back to the Raider culture and back to what we feel like dominating football is. Just to see how we are all coming in and trying to keep that promise and execute every week has been huge."

Jacobs is a frontrunner for Offensive Rookie of the Year and was one of three Raiders first-round draft picks. Ferrell just now is coming on, and Johnathan Abram is missing from the equation after being lost to injury in the season opener. The Silver and Black are receiving key contributions from mid-round picks and undrafted guys alike, with most everyone asked to step up and play.

[RELATED: Raiders protect Coliseum, chart course for playoff push]

This group’s confidence is growing by the game, which will help push for a playoff spot this season and set the Raiders up for sustained success when they move to Las Vegas in 2020.

“It comes down to preparation,” Mullen said. “All of us young guys put the time in and pay attention to details during the week. That allows us to come in on Sunday and play free.”

Raiders' primary objective vs. Titans: Stop 'machine' Derrick Henry

Raiders' primary objective vs. Titans: Stop 'machine' Derrick Henry

ALAMEDA -- Ryan Tannehill is receiving credit for Tennessee’s recent resurgence. That’s appropriate given how well the former backup quarterback has been playing during a 5-1 stretch since becoming the starter.

Let’s not forget who’s really driving the Titans' offense. That’s the 6-foot-3, 247-pound freight train coming out of the backfield.

Derrick Henry has been a monster this season, proving as tough to take down as ever. He has 1,140 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, currently on a run of three straight games with at least 145 yards and a touchdown.

A repeat performance on Sunday against the Raiders at Oakland Coliseum would make Henry the only player to do so in four straight games.

The Raiders would like to prevent that and are armed with the No. 12-ranked run defense. They’ll try to slow a back that never seems to wear down.

“The secret sauce in Henry is he’s got all the talent, and size, and running instincts, but he never tires,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “He does not get tired. He’s a machine, man. This guy wears you down -- physical -- he can wear you down. You’ve got to gang tackle him. He’s a better-than-advertised receiver, but he just never tires. The more they give him the ball, the better he gets. It’s an impressive human being.”

Tannehill obviously benefits from Henry’s threat and a balanced offense that has the Titans going strong. Stopping the run, or slowing it at least, will be key for the Raiders' defense in this important game. It will not, however, be easy.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge, but we know it’ll be a challenge dealing with Superman Derrick Henry,” defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said on this week’s Raiders Talk podcast. "... He’s a great back. He’s big. He’s fast. He sheds tackles like there are kids trying to tackle him. I think, overall, we have to do a good job of keeping him in the backfield and not giving him open lanes or creases to work. We also need to hit him as much as we can, because he’s a big guy. Overall, I think we’re ready for the challenge. I’m excited for this game.”

[RELATED: Raiders' offense takes big hit with Brown out vs. Titans]

It’ll take the entire defensive unit playing disciplined football to slow Henry down. Give him an inch of space or leverage or poor tackling technique and he’ll take chunk yards by the mile.

“I just think you’ve got to be in good position,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “You’ve got to have eleven guys to the ball. You’ve got to play the blocks. First and foremost, you’ve got to be in the right spots, play the block, and then when he gets through there you’ve got to have eleven guys to the ball. He does a good job of trying to get extra yards, so we’ve got to put hats on him wherever he is, on his body as he’s trying to get those extra yards. We’ve got to make sure we get eleven to him.”

Raiders launch Josh Jacobs' NFL Rookie of the Year campaign online

Raiders launch Josh Jacobs' NFL Rookie of the Year campaign online

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have launched a campaign to help running back Josh Jacobs become the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

They have opened a website extolling his virtues. They have passed out buttons. They even have fullback and "chief of interior transportation" Alec Ingold giving a fireside chat about how awesome Jacobs has been in 2019.

The promotional materials may draw some extra attention, but Jacobs’ case is easy to make.

He has smashed every Raiders rookie rushing record. He exceeded 1,000 yards in his 12th game and will have huge totals even if he isn’t able to play Sunday against Tennessee. He’s formally questionable with a fractured shoulder he's been playing through since trucking Green Bay safety Adrian Amos in Week 7.

His numbers are pretty awesome. Jacobs has 218 carries 1,061 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s 4.9 yards per carry, and he ranks fifth in the NFL in total rushing yards. He also has another 18 receptions 146 yards.

The competition must always be considered, but he has to be the frontrunner after winning back-to-back rookie of the month awards.

Arizona's No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray is certainly a candidate, but the Cardinals don’t have many wins. Washington receiver Terry McLaurin and Baltimore wideout Marquise Brown have had good seasons, but they shouldn’t be considered serious competition here.

The Raiders haven’t had an offensive rookie of the year since Marcus Allen won it in 1982, and Jacobs has smashed Allen’s records from that strike-shortened year. Charles Woodson was the last rookie of the year on either side of the ball, winning the defensive award in 1998.

[RELATED: NFL prospects for Raiders to watch on Championship Weekend]

Jacobs’ shoulder injury could hurt the campaign more than anything, especially if he misses a few games or gets shut down for the rest of the season if the playoffs become a distant pipe dream.

Outside of that, he should be the favorite to win the award heading down the stretch.