Raiders

Raiders notes: Jon Gruden's unused plays for Martavis Bryant 'getting stale'

Raiders notes: Jon Gruden's unused plays for Martavis Bryant 'getting stale'

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have several players in various stages of rehab. Some are fighting through ailments. Others just got hurt in Sunday’s 40-33 loss to Kansas City. Still more are working their way back to health, including a few names you know.

Martavis Bryant is one of them. The receiver suffered a PCL injury in a Week 10 loss to the L.A. Chargers and hasn’t played since.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Bryant would return at some point this season, and was designated questionable on Friday’s Raiders-Chiefs injury report despite not practicing in three weeks. Then he was downgraded to doubtful the next day, and now head coach Jon Gruden isn’t sure whether Bryant will return at all.

“I have no sense, common sense or sense on Bryant,” Gruden said, before digressing on to another topic.

The Raiders need receiver help in the worst way, with Marcell Ateman playing beyond his experience, Jordy Nelson still returning to full health and Jared Cook the only consistently dynamic option.

“We have a lot of plays, and when the players are healthy it’s a lot more fun to use some of those plays,” Gruden said. “Hopefully Martavis Bryant can start using some of his plays, because they’re getting stale in my office.”

This isn’t the first time Gruden has tried to push Bryant back toward the field. He did so a few times in training camp, calling him the “white tiger,” inferring to the rarity in which those animals (and, by extension, Bryant) are seen in their habitat. Bryant missed several camp practices dealing with migrane headaches.

Penn return uncertain

Gruden isn’t sure whether right tackle Donald Penn will return off injured reserve this season. That’s still up in the air at this stage, even as Penn’s rehab progresses.

Gruden believes it’s possible he could start practicing again, though there’s no certainty that he’ll return to game action.

“He came in the office last week and he’s excited about where he is,” Gruden said. “Maybe we’ll get him on the practice field at some point, but I don’t know that we’ll see him this year. It is encouraging to see him getting better and coming close to getting back on the grass.”

Marshawn Lynch is also on injured reserve, and could be eligible to return for a Christmas Eve game versus Denver. That doesn’t mean he will.

“I saw Marshawn a couple weeks ago,” Gruden said. “I think he’s getting better, but he’s rehabbing on his own. I know (Raiders head trainer) Rod Martin is keeping a close eye on it. I don’t know that he’ll be back this year, either.”

Raiders make Good claim

The Silver and Black claimed guard/tackle Denzelle Good off injured reserve from Indianapolis on Monday. He has played four seasons, with 20 starts to his credit. He had 10 in 2016 with Indianapolis.

Guard/tackle Ian Silberman was waived in a corresponding move.

Banged up D-Line

Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was limited with an ankle injury heading into the Chiefs game, and a few others pulled up lame. That included Shilique Calhoun and Arden Key, who were sore after the contest and could be limited during the upcoming practice weeks.

NFL preview 2019: Derek Carr, three other possible MVP sleepers in AFC

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USATSI

NFL preview 2019: Derek Carr, three other possible MVP sleepers in AFC

With training camps getting started, hope once again springs eternal in the NFL.

Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots are primed to defend their crown, but a pack of worthy challengers is frothing at the mouth for the chance to take down the king.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes sits atop the NFL's other throne as The Shield's reigning league MVP. The dynamic signal-caller once again is viewed as the favorite to take home the hardware, and while the like of Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Baker Mayfield, Carson Wentz, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers are viewed as the most likely to take the crown from Mahomes, the AFC has a few other young passers who are lying in wait.

When looking at possible MVP sleepers in the AFC, I made sure to look only at players that had odds at 80-to-1 or higher, as listed by Westgate Las Vegas. With the framework set, here are four potential MVP sleepers who reside in the AFC.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders

The Case For: Carr has the arm talent and the leadership qualities to be an MVP. We saw that in 2016 when he led the Raiders to a 12-3 record before fracturing his fibula in Week 16. With a wealth of offensive talent around -- including Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, -- and a full year of Jon Gruden's system under his belt, it wouldn't be hard to see Carr returning to his MVP-caliber form in 2019. If he puts up big numbers while helping the Raiders navigate a tough early-season schedule, he should be in the mix.

The Case Against: There was little about the Raiders' offense in 2018 that would tell you a turn around is coming. The offensive line struggled and the running game was relatively non-existent. This is a make or break year for the Carr-Gruden relationship and there's a chance it just won't work.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans

The Case For: Despite a shaky offensive line, Watson completed 68.3 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,165 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 551 yards and five scores. If the Clemson product can get some protection, he could put up big numbers and lead the Texans to another AFC West title. The recipe for an MVP campaign is there for Watson.

The Case Against: The offensive line is atrocious. Watson might spend more time running for his life than looking downfield for the streaking DeAndre Hopkins. If the Texans can't keep Watson off his back, there will be no MVP delusions in Houston.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans

The Case For: When he's been healthy, Mariota has put up good numbers. That was with an offense designed for the 1940s with one offensive weapon. Mariota enters a make-or-break year for him with the Titans with two new wide receivers in rookie A.J. Brown and former Buccaneers Adam Humphries. If new offensive coordinator Arthur Humphries can tailor the offense to Mariota's strengths, the possibility for a breakout season is there.

The Case Against: Look, he hasn't been able to stay healthy. If Mariota can't stay on the field, then his chance at winning the MVP and the Titans' playoff hopes go in the trash can.

[RELATED: How Raiders' defense stacks up against AFC West rivals]

Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens

The Case For: Jackson rushed for 556 yards in the seven games he started last season. If you extrapolate that over a 16-game season, it amounts to 1,271 yards. That would be more than the 1,039 yards Michael Vick rushed for in 2006. If Jackson has improved his passing and leads the Ravens to the playoffs, he could very well be an MVP sleeper.

The Case Against: As the Los Angeles Chargers showed in the AFC Wild Card Game, it's easy to stop Jackson if he's only able to move the chains with his legs. If the Louisville product hasn't made big strides with his accuracy and pocket presence then he won't be in the MVP conversation.

Raiders' Jon Gruden ranked as 15th-best veteran head coach by NFL.com

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AP

Raiders' Jon Gruden ranked as 15th-best veteran head coach by NFL.com

Just win, baby.

Twice in his career, Jon Gruden has been given that directive as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. He was considerably more successful the first time around.

Gruden never finished below .500 in his first go-around with the Raiders, but in making his return to the franchise last year, he led Oakland to a 4-12 record -- tied for the worst record in the AFC.

Right after Gruden signed a 10-year, $100 million contract to move out of the Monday Night Football booth and back to the sidelines, many questioned whether his time away from coaching would put him behind the eight-ball. Given how the Raiders performed last season, it didn't exactly silence that noise.

And yet, at least one analyst believes Gruden is still an above-average coach. NFL.com's Elliot Harrison ranked the 32 NFL head coaches Monday, and Gruden came in at No. 15.

Here's what Harrison had to say about Chucky:

"As [Gruden] shipped out star players and cut ties with front office execs he didn't want in Oakland last year, the Raiders managed just four wins. That's why '19 should be the tell on what kind of coach he is going forward. New GM Mike Mayock helped Gruden begin to rebuild the roster after stockpiling picks, providing an infusion of talent that should at least make this team more competitive. Given the strength of the division-rival Chargers and Chiefs, simply leading Oakland to the playoffs should be a ringing endorsement for the coach."

[RELATED: Raiders given 20th best outlook in future power rankings]

Indeed, if they make the playoffs this coming season, that's an undeniable success for Gruden and the Raiders in their final season in Oakland -- one that would be worthy of Gruden ascending on next year's coaching rankings. But, as Harrison suggests, it's not going to be easy.