Raiders inactives: TE Walford out, LB M. Smith active vs Chargers

Raiders inactives: TE Walford out, LB M. Smith active vs Chargers

OAKLAND – Linebacker Malcolm Smith missed most of the Raiders practice week with injury, leaving a thin interior linebacker corps to pick up the slack. Rookie Cory James, special teams specialist Darren Bates and brand newcomer Perry Riley were that position group’s only healthy bodies, for two practice sessions.

Smith returned for Friday’s walk thru, and proved healthy enough to be active for Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers. That’s a boon for the Raiders defense against veteran Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, assuming he's able to play significant snaps. The Raiders have more healthy bodies than inactive slots, so it's uncertain how fit Smith is at this point. 

The Raiders tight ends weren’t quite so lucky. Clive Walford was deemed inactive with a knee injury a week after Lee Smith suffered a season-ending ankle injury, leaving Mychal Rivera and practice-squad promotion Ryan O’Malley as Sunday’s only healthy tight ends.

Austin Howard has returned from an ankle injury, though rookie Vadal Alexander will make his second straight start against the Chargers. Latavius Murray was ruled out earlier this week with a toe injury. DeAndre Washington will start in Murray's place, though Jalen Richard will see significant touches. Jamize Olawale could factor into the run game as well. 

No. 3 overall pick Joey Bosa will make his season debut for the Chargers after missing four games with a hamstring injury. San Diego will be without cornerbacks Jason Verrett – he’s now on IR with an ACL tear - and Brandon Flowers.

Here are inactives from both teams.


Raiders notebook: Arden Key must build off professional debut


Raiders notebook: Arden Key must build off professional debut

ALAMEDA – Arden Key made his professional debut Saturday against the L.A. Rams. Okay, let’s call it a cameo.

The rookie edge rusher played nine snaps, eight of them rushing the passer. That could mimic his regular-season role with Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack -- whenever he joins the team -- primarily rushing off the edge.

He’ll provide depth the Raiders have been lacking in recent seasons, with dynamic athleticism and bend that helps him disrupt passing attacks. He didn’t have a pressure to speak of – again, small sample size – and that left defensive coordinator Paul Guenther wanting a bit more from the LSU product.

He’ll have time to improve after his first NFL game, with more snaps coming Friday against Green Bay and likely in the preseason finale in Seattle.

Guenther wants Key to build on his first foray.

“He did okay,” Guenther said. “I think he was a little disappointed in a couple of his rushes, but it was his first NFL game. I told him to just, ‘relax and do what you do.’ You don’t want to over-coach those guys. Arden is special rushing the quarterback. He’ll get some more snaps (Friday) and we’ll get him ready for the (regular season).”

Gilchrist back in action

Veteran defensive back Marcus Gilchrist missed roughly two weeks with a foot injury, but returned to practice Monday with roughly a fortnight to get ready for the regular season. That’s plenty of time for Gilchrist to fit in with what should be a versatile role that includes work at safety and slot cornerback.

Gilchrist was gone a while, as long as active Raiders this preseason, but doesn’t feel behind.

“I’m feeling good. I wasn’t practicing, but I was taking mental notes, mental reps,” Gilchrist said. “I feel good from that aspect.

“…That’s something we do a great job of here with this coaching staff, is getting ready. If you’re healthy or hurt, you’re mentally engaged in meetings and practice.”

Still looking for consistency from Bryant

There’s little doubting Martavis Bryant’s pure athleticism and skill. The guy is a playmaker.

Raiders coaches want more from the speedy receiver, a refrain that has carried throughout this preseason. They acknowledge his penchant for the spectacular, but want fewer downhill slides in practice and play.

“Everywhere, from the meeting room to practice to the games, you need consistent performance,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “That starts with preparation and carries over to the game. We’re trying to eliminate some of the dips in play. There are going to be some mistakes along the way but, the less that curve goes down, the better off we’ll be.”

Another new cornerback

The Raiders have cycled through defensive backs some this preseason, and added a third new face since the start of training camp. They claimed Antwuan Davis off waivers from Detroit on Tuesday afternoon. They got a close look at him during joint practices with the Lions in Napa and the subsequent exhibition game.

Tevin Mitchel was waived injured in a corresponding move.

The Raiders have also added cornerback Reysean Pringle and safety Quincy Mauger during the preseason.

Injury update

Second-round defensive tackle P.J. missed Tuesday’s practice for an undisclosed reason, his first workout missed since being activated off the physically unable to perform list early in camp.

Running back DeAndre Washington didn’t play against the Rams, and hasn’t practiced since dealing with an ailment.

Kicker Eddy Piñeiro continues to miss time with a groin injury suffered in training camp’s final days. Breno Giacomini has missed an extended stretch with a knee injury. Dexter McDonald was out Tuesday, and Obi Melifonwu hasn’t been seen a long time dealing with what Jon Gruden called a lower body injury.

Donald Penn has looked 'very natural' in week after position switch

Donald Penn has looked 'very natural' in week after position switch

ALAMEDA – Donald Penn has been a right tackle for a week now, longer than any other point in his professional career.

The two-time Pro Bowler has anchored the left side for a successful career, but was asked to make the position switch after being activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 14.

That came after restructuring his contract, and Penn went along with the switch when he could’ve been militant about it. The Raiders prefer to leave first-round pick Kolton Miller on the left side, to continue developing the young talent at his preferred spot.

That left Penn to make the switch, as he did in the 2016 regular-season opener while playing the only 24 snaps at right tackle in his NFL career.

Going from left to right isn’t easy, but Penn has fared well in the early going.

“He has had a good week,” Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “He really looked very natural from the first day we put him out there. That was extremely encouraging because he hasn’t played that position much throughout his career. I think we still have to get him in shape. He’s working after practice and the conditioning staff has done a good job with that.”

Penn hasn’t played a game since the switch, meaning it remains in the experimental stage and that could continue into the early regular season. His debut will come on Friday against Green Bay, when he’ll get acclimated to the position at full speed.

Penn’s working to learn new footwork and free himself from instincts and routines built over a career on the left side. He’s also working back into shape following Dec. 2017 Lisfranc foot surgery. That’s a tough two-step, but Penn has a few weeks to show he can play right tackle when the games count.

“It’s about getting game ready,” Olson said. “It’s been a long time since Donald has played in a game, and it’s been a long time since he has gone through full practice. He is having to play himself into shape. … As far as playing the position, he has looked very comfortable there.”

Penn’s trying to help Miller gain comfort playing at the professional level. He didn’t play last week’s preseason game at the L.A. Rams – most offensive starters sat – and has little experience to rely upon. Enter Penn, who has been helped Miller along the way, willingly passing on tricks of the trade.

“It’s a credit to Donald Penn for how he has approached this chance,” Olson said. “We talked with him about it, and has been on board with it since the move was made. It says a lot about the man and the player.”