Raiders getting vital contributions from undrafted free agent class

Raiders getting vital contributions from undrafted free agent class

SAN DIEGO – James Cowser needed less than 10 professional snaps to make a big impact. The Raiders edge rusher pushed his man deep into the backfield, then cut inside and sacked Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor for a 10-yard loss.

The Southern Utah alum’s first NFL sack was a big moment. The entire team enjoyed it, though there were few enjoying as much as Jalen Richard.

Undrafted rookies, it seems, always stick together.

“Everything that we’re doing now, people didn’t think we would be able to do,” Richard said. “There were no expectations for undrafted guys like us. Everything we do, no matter how small, is bigger than what people thought we would do.”

There’s something about coming up the hard way that bonds players together. Going undrafted is an unpleasant experience. Working from the bottom on up comes with a great sense of satisfaction.

There are several Raiders who have felt that way. They started the season with four undrafted free agents on the 53-man roster, and now have seven on the active roster.

Richard is the most popular and productive member of that group, but isn’t the only contributor. Darius Latham is a staple on the interior defensive line. Johnny Holton is a quality gunner and used on reverses. Denver Kirkland was an extra linemen in jumbo packages. Cowser has a sack and a fumble recovery in just three games played.

Cowser took a long road to this opportunity. He impressed in training camp but suffered a concussion in the preseason finale and got cut with an injury settlement. He was signed to the practice squad when rules permitted and was promoted to the active roster with Shilique Calhoun suffered a knee injury. He has made the most of this chance.

“It’s a great story and we have so many of these young guys that are creating their own stories,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Their desire and their effort, their energy, it’s healthy for the team to have that around. We let guys earn their way and these guys that have come in, no matter how you get here, once you get here take advantage of the opportunity and he has. He’s really a dependable guy, works really hard, very diligent and happy to see him have that success.”

The Raiders take pride in finding diamonds in the rough. General manager Reggie McKenzie and the staff have found several undrafted gems in recent seasons, including Marquette King, Denico Autry and Seth Roberts.

“Our scouts do a really great job of identifying guys we need to target after the draft,” McKenzie said. “It was impressive how many undrafted guys made the team this year, especially this was our most talent roster since I’ve been here.

“You’re expected to get good players early in the draft, but to have some of the later round guys and free agents not only make it but produce, that’s what it’s all about.”

Adding young depth through unorthodox sources could help keep this good thing going and veterans filter through. This undrafted group in particular has really bonded over earning their role the hard way. That’s why they’re always rooting the other undrafted guys on.

“We first came here for rookie minicamp, and you ended up spending all the extra time with young guys,” Cowser said. “You really get to know each other, so it’s super cool to see your friends doing big things.”

Raiders-Bengals injury report: New guys preparing for big roles on O-line


Raiders-Bengals injury report: New guys preparing for big roles on O-line

ALAMEDA – The Raiders offensive line remains in big trouble.

Starting guards Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele remained out with injury, lessening their chances of playing Sunday’s game in Cincinnati.

Jackson has a new elbow injury and a lingering ankle problem. Osemele is dealing with a toe issue.

Jon Feliciano has filled in well for Osemele four times already this season. The fourth-year veteran is considered worthy of an NFL starting job, but even he’s unavailable after landing on injured reserve with a calf problem.

That should leave Denzelle Good and Chaz Green are getting work in practice, trying to prepare for important roles on game day.

Both guys were signed as emergency options, but it’s nearly time to pull the alarm.

“We like Chaz Green,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “I know the scouting department, they liked him when he came out of college. We like him as a guard and some other teams played him as a tackle. We think he looks comfortable at the guard and think that’s his natural position. With Good, certainly we had some coaches that had come from Indianapolis and had some insight on him as a player and we like what we saw. Certainly, since he has been here, we’ve been equally as impressed with them as we were with seeing them on tape.”

Raiders practice report

Did not practice
G Gabe Jackson (elbow/ankle)
LG Kelechi Osemele (toe)
LB Kyle Wilber (hamstring)

Limited practice
C Rodney Hudson (ankle, knee)
DL Maurice Hurst (ankle)
WR Dwayne Harris (foot)
CB Daryl Worley (shoulder)
TE Lee Smith (back)

Full practice
CB Gareon Conley (groin)
FB Keith Smith (calf)

Bengals practice report

Did not practice
LB Vontaze Burfict (concussion)
DE Michael Johnson (concussion)
CB KeiVarae Russell (finger)

Limited practice
OT Cordy Glenn (back)
CB Tony McRae (concussion)
CB KeiVarae (finger)
CB Dre Kirkpatrick (ankle)

Full practice
QB Jeff Driskel (right shoulder)
WR Alex Erickson (shoulder)
OT Clint Boling (knee)
OT Bobby Hart (knee)

Amari Cooper says Mark Davis, not Jon Gruden, wanted to trade him


Amari Cooper says Mark Davis, not Jon Gruden, wanted to trade him

The day in October that Amari Cooper was traded by the Raiders to the Cowboys, we were led to believe that the decision was made by then-GM Reggie McKenzie and head coach Jon Gruden.

But now, it appears that owner Mark Davis was the driving force behind the Cooper trade.

According to The Athletic's Calvin Watkins, Cooper said on Thursday that Davis, not Gruden, wanted to trade him.

Cooper also revealed to Watkins that the Raiders kept rejecting offers of a 2020 first-round pick. The team was only interested in a 2019 first-round pick.

McKenzie said on Oct. 23 that Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones called and offered a 2019 first-round pick. That's when McKenzie walked out to the practice field, relayed the offer on the table to Gruden and the head coach approved the deal with a thumbs up.

Cooper's assertion that Davis pulled the strings on his trade falls in line with Gruden comments on Monday following the firing of McKenzie. Gruden revealed that Davis met with McKenzie after the Raiders' win over the Steelers to deliver the news of his fate.

When reporters asked if the decision to fire McKenzie was strictly made by Davis, Gruden said this: “We all work for the same man."