Raiders hope trio of draft picks can help Mack and Irvin


Raiders hope trio of draft picks can help Mack and Irvin

Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin have done good work the past two years. The Raiders edge rushers have combined for 36 sacks over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, with efficient pressure rates.

The Raiders were ineffective reaching the quarterback despite those efforts. Mack and Irvin were the primary providers, without much quarterback hunting help. The Silver and Black had just 19.5 sacks attributed to others, with 13 attributed to those no longer on the team.

While sacks aren’t the only sign of effective quarterback pressure, the numbers above illustrate a greater point: Mack and Irvin need some help.

“It was a priority, yeah,” head coach Jon Gruden said Friday. “It was a major priority.”

That’s why he called in the cavalry.

He and Reggie McKenzie drafted PJ Hall (second round) and Maurice Hurst (fifth round) to bring pressure inside. They selected Arden Key (third round) to bring edge pressure on a rotational basis.

That was expected. Gruden said a few times this offseason the Raiders must upgrade on the defensive interior and that Mack and Irvin especially didn’t need to play so many snaps.

There’s no telling how draft picks will turn out or whether they’ll make an immediate impact, but there’s no doubt these guys are talented.

Hall was a monster at Sam Houston State, dominating FCS competition and compiling monster strength and agility numbers during the pre-draft process. Hurst might be the draft’s best inside pass rusher, a first round talent who fell because of a health concern.

Hurst and Hall guys can play three technique, a pivotal spot in coordinator Paul Guenther’s defense, and help rush the passer in sub packages.

“To get those two guys,” Gruden said, “we felt they were the top two inside rushers in this draft.”

The Raiders hope Key can return to 2016 form, when he was considered a top NFL prospect. He fell to the third round after an all-around subpar 2017 season, but he still possesses great length and size. He’s built like Aldon Smith, an excellent pass rusher at his playing peak.

“Arden Key, that we had ranked very, very high as a pure pass rusher in this draft,” Gruden said. “It’s a commodity that’s hard to find… I like this kid a lot. He checked out with us, and he can bend the edge, I know that.”

This isn’t the first time the Raiders have tried to give Mack (and Irvin) some help. Defensive tackle Mario Edwards Jr., a second-rounder in 2015, has been good at times but largely inconsistent when healthy. He remains in the mix.

Jihad Ward (second round) and edge rusher Shilique Calhoun (third round) were taken in the 2016 draft, but haven’t provided much help. Ward was traded to Dallas after the NFL draft, following two ineffective seasons. Calhoun was cut before his second season and spent part of 2017 on the practice squad.

The Raiders hope this volley proves successful. The picks themselves understand the importance of helping top-flight edge rushers.

“Coming on my visit, I knew that they needed help on the interior pass rush, trying to help out the edge rushers that they had,” Hall said. “Having interior pass rush that can help collapse the pocket will actually help them out too, on the edge. We’re just ready to get to work here and do what’s best for the team.”

Gruden isn’t the only one asking new guys for help. Irvin stopped by the Raiders rookie minicamp on Friday to meet with new recruits.

“He was just up there trying to help us out, give us some advice,” Hurst said. “Just telling us that you have to show up and work – that’s exactly what we want to do and we want to be a crucial part of this team and help them win as many games as possible.”

NFL free agency: Raiders sign QB Mike Glennon to back up Derek Carr


NFL free agency: Raiders sign QB Mike Glennon to back up Derek Carr

The Raiders wanted an experienced backup quarterback behind Derek Carr, and got one Friday by signing Mike Glennon.

Now they hope he never plays. It’s still a vital role in meeting rooms and on-the-field, should an emergency arise on game day. Young bucks can get caught in the headlights. Veterans won’t be as good as the starter, but can generally function better being inserted into a game without many practice reps.

He has hopped into action during five seasons and has 22 starts, meaning he can handle short-relief or a stretch as the starter.

That calms some fan's nerves after the Raiders released AJ McCarron, who has already signed with the Houston Texans, leaving Nathan Peterman as the only non-Carr quarterback on the roster.

Glennon steps into the No. 2 slot having completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 5,107 yards and 35 touchdowns with 20 interceptions over five seasons.

Peterman is still with the Raiders on a futures contract, and is the No. 3 guy at the moment.

Many will look at the signing and wonder if it impacts the possibility of drafting a quarterback next month. It’s hard to rule anything out, but the disciplined choice would be to address the pass rush early and often in the 2019 NFL Draft, though a quarterback could get taken later in the selection process.

But…having Glennon on the roster won’t prohibit the Raiders from taking Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins. Would the Raiders eliminate the prospect of taking Quinnen Williams because interior pass rushers P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst were drafted last year? Absolutely not.

A edge rusher is the team’s most pressing need and must be addressed with quality and quantity before the season starts.

The Raiders don’t have to take a quarterback now in the draft, and adding Glennon takes the pressure off the demand to get another one down the line. Glennon should be viewed as a reliable backup who can step into service if Carr isn’t available.

Curtis Riley signs with Raiders to boost short-handed secondary

Curtis Riley signs with Raiders to boost short-handed secondary

The Raiders continued fleshing out their secondary on Friday agreeing on terms of a contract with safety Curtis Riley, the team announced Friday. The former New York Giant visited the team’s Alameda facility on Thursday and left without a deal, but he ended up taking the Raiders offer despite interest from other teams.

Riley hinted at a pact on Twitter on Friday, saying he was coming to the Bay Area. He’ll exchange coasts after starting all 16 games at free safety with last year’s Giants. He had 75 tackles, four interceptions and five pass breakups for that squad.

He’ll have an opportunity to play significant snaps in the Raiders secondary. High-priced free-agent signing Lamarcus Joyner is also a free safety, but is expected to play slot cornerback regularly in 2019, likely shuttling back and forth between positions.

Riley could step in as the free safety in sub packages that defenses spend significant time in nowadays. Erik Harris will compete for that role opposite strong safety Karl Joseph.

The Raiders have options in the secondary now, with the aforementioned safeties and depth at cornerback. Gareon Conley’s a virtual lock to start at one outside cornerback spot. Daryl Worley’s expected to return on a second-round free-agent tender, through Thursday’s signing Nevin Lawson will compete for time there as well. Last year’s fourth-round pick Nick Nelson will have to fight for time with this new defensive back depth chart.

The Raiders could well draft another defensive back as well, especially if a good one slips and becomes a great value pick.

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News of Riley’s agreement should excite quarterback Derek Carr. Riley’s a fellow Fresno State alum. and was teammates with Carr in 2013.

The Raiders also had interest in George Iloka, who played with defensive coordinator Paul Guenther in Cincinnati. Iloka visited the Raiders complex Thursday, but left without a deal and scheduled other visits.