Raiders

Raiders notes: Keon Hatcher signed to replace injured Brandon LaFell

Raiders notes: Keon Hatcher signed to replace injured Brandon LaFell

ALAMEDA – Raiders coach Jon Gruden joked he might’ve gotten kicked out of the airplane home from Seattle if he decided to cut wide receiver Keon Hatcher after scoring three touchdowns in a preseason game against the Seahawks.

He didn’t do it right away, but it didn’t take long for Hatcher to get the axe. It formlly swung on Sept. 12 -- Hatcher was notified the night before -- when the Raiders brought back Martavis Bryant.

The Arkansas alum bounced around some after that, and spent the last six weeks on the Green Bay Packers' practice squad.

The Raiders signed him off of it Monday morning, and put him right back on their active roster. The move was required with Brandon LaFell officially placed on injured reserve.

Hatcher’s familiarity with this offense will help him integrate quickly. He’s expected to hit the ground running, and play next week against the Baltimore Ravens.

“I know the playbook inside out,” Hatcher said. “I know every [receiver] position. I think I’ll be out there pretty quick.”

Hatcher had a strong preseason, but was a surprise member of the 53-man roster. There are several reasons to like his game: Namely, he has great speed and is a smooth route-runner with solid hands.

The 24-year-old is coming in to help after LaFell tore his Achilles in the third quarter of Sunday’s 23-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. LaFell is a pro’s pro, and signed early this season as a reserve before moving into a larger role following the Amari Cooper trade.

He was on a one-year deal and faces a long recovery, so it’s likely he has played his last down as a Raider.

“He was a good player,” Gruden said. “He beat [top-flight Cardinals cornerback] Patrick Peterson on a touchdown pass yesterday. Went up and got a huge third-down conversion. Touchdown against the Colts. He did a lot of things for us. He played multiple positions. We’re going to miss him. He’s going to be a hard guy to replace.”

Ellis on the way back

The Raiders plan to designate defensive tackle Justin Ellis to return from injured reserve this week. Ellis is expected to practice starting Wednesday, and he would be eligible to play Baltimore if he’s physically ready to go.

That determination will be made later in the week, though the Raiders have an open roster spot should they want to add him. One was created when the team waived Saeed Blacknall Monday afternoon. It’s possible Blacknall will return to the Raiders' practice squad if he clears waivers.

The Raiders could use some help against the run, where they have struggled mightily. Ellis is a nose tackle in the base defense, primarily where Johnathan Hankins has played. Hankins hasn’t been bad, but adding another big body in the middle will be a plus the rest of the season.

Jordy Nelson nearing return

Gruden said there was a chance receiver Jordy Nelson could start practicing this week, after he missed Sunday's game with a bone bruise centered on his knee.

“I visited with Jordy a little bit last night on the airplane,” Gruden said. “I thought he ran pretty good this morning. He’s got a chance. It’s important to him, I think he wants to come back and play no doubt, and he’s getting close to doing that.”

It’s somewhat unusual for players ruled out during the week to make road trips, but Nelson came to Arizona ro aid a young group of wideouts playing much larger roles.

“I asked Jordy if he wanted to stay in Oakland and get extra treatment,” Gruden said. “He said, ‘heck no, I want to come to the game.’ It’s just that kind of attitude we need right now on this team. A veteran presence, being with the receivers, being with Derek on the sideline. It’s a good group of guys, and he is at the head of the list. He’s really a special person to give himself to the team like he has.”

Five potential Reggie McKenzie replacements with Jon Gruden ties

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AP

Five potential Reggie McKenzie replacements with Jon Gruden ties

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders have a vacancy in their personnel department. General manager Reggie McKenzie was let go Monday, though his replacement won’t share the same title.

The Raiders issued a statement saying they’d search for a “new front office executive” starting immediately, a search that coach Jon Gruden says owner Mark Davis will conduct.

Gruden said he wasn’t sure if he’d be involved in the interview process, but he’s expected to have influence in this important hire.

Gruden wants someone McKenzie-esque to fill that role.

“(We’re looking for) similar qualities,” Gruden said. “We’d like a guy who works hard and loves football and this organization, who will scratch and claw and fight with the rest of us. It all starts there, in addition to the expertise in personnel. Great leadership skills, a great number of things go into this job. It’s a tough position in this league.”

Gruden said Davis will compile a list, and the two will discuss those options later this week.

[RELATED: Why Gruden-McKenzie pairing was doomed to fail]

It’s too early in the process to have a solid grasp on the leading candidates, but a few names from Gruden’s past (and present) could be options for the Raiders. A few new ones could emerge in time, but let’s look at a few Gruden connections who might fit well here with the Silver and Black.

Mark Dominik

NFL Network mentioned Dominik’s name as a possible front office addition. He was Tampa Bay’s director of pro personnel when Gruden was coaching the Buccaneers, and Dominik became GM after Gruden was fired following the 2008 season.

Dominik has the personnel chops to lead a scouting department, though he has been out of the NFL in recent years doing media work.

Bruce Allen

Allen and Gruden worked together in Oakland and Tampa Bay, and a third partnership could help get the Raiders organized and execute Gruden’s vision for the team.

Allen is adept at working with the salary cap, and he potentially could figure out how to get Gruden’s guys in the building. One major question: Will he have enough personnel clout to fight back against Gruden while making important decisions? That’s a quality that would help the organization make the right calls.

It seems uncertain -- maybe unlikely -- that their pairing would come together for a third time.

Louis Riddick

The highly respected ESPN analyst has been a top candidate for front-office jobs before, and he has an extensive résumé in personnel and scouting. Riddick and Gruden were simultaneously employed by the national sports network, and Riddick played for Gruden with the Raiders in 1998.

Riddick is a younger influence who could grow within the job and work his way to a GM post with full control at some point down the line.

Michael Lombardi

Lombardi has become a popular football analyst in recent seasons, but he worked with Gruden and Al Davis as a personnel executive starting in 1998. He also worked with Bill Belichick in New England, while the Patriots were winning Super Bowls.

He has plenty of experience and has worked with Gruden. Will that make a match back in Alameda?

Shaun Herock

Gruden had some nice things to say about the Raiders' director of college scouting. He’ll act as interim GM during this executive search and play an integral role in guiding the Raiders through the 2019 draft.

Jon Gruden hints Raiders owner Mark Davis decided to fire Reggie McKenzie

Jon Gruden hints Raiders owner Mark Davis decided to fire Reggie McKenzie

ALAMEDA -- Raiders coach Jon Gruden beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, decompressed some with his team and headed home following a job well done.

Owner Mark Davis had a different itinerary.

He met with Reggie McKenzie and told the general manager his time was up. He could finish the season or walk away right now. McKenzie chose the latter.

Gruden said Monday he didn't know what would transpire in that meeting.

“We won a game last night, and I went home,” Gruden said in his weekly press conference. “Obviously, there was a meeting last night, and obviously, changes have been made. I respect everything that this organization is about. I can’t exactly answer why this change was made last night, but changes were made. We have to continue to fight, and build this team back. That’s what we’re going to do.”

When asked directly whether firing McKenzie was a Davis decision, Gruden inferred that it was.

“We all work for the same man,” Gruden said.

Gruden said he wasn’t sure if he'd be involved in the interview process, though sources have said the head coach/Raiders football czar will have a say in the hiring. It's believed the hire will be someone Gruden knows well and trusts.

[RELATED: Hard to believe Gruden knew nothing of GM's firing]

While he said he didn’t know exactly what was going down with McKenzie, Gruden wasn’t surprised by the move.

The Raiders will hire a new personnel executive, though that person won’t necessarily be given the GM title. Gruden was set to meet with scouts Monday afternoon, and he said he’ll continue to show confidence in those on staff as the Raiders head into the offseason and ever closer to a pivotal NFL draft armed with three first-round draft picks.

Director of player personnel Joey Clinkscales remains employed at this time. Gruden said director of college scouting Shaun Herock will play a pivotal role over the next few months.

“He’s a talented personnel man with a lot of Raiders history,” Gruden said. “He’s our college scouting director, and we have a lot of good scouts. We have a lot of picks in this draft, so his leadership will be important. I expect him to be a big part of the organization moving forward.”