Raiders notes: Richie Incognito making positive impression on coaches


Raiders notes: Richie Incognito making positive impression on coaches

ALAMEDA – Left guard Richie Incognito signed with the Raiders on May 28 and was inserted into the first unit that same day. Denzelle Good was unavailable for the afternoon OTA session, and the 35-year-old Incogntio stepped right in without skipping a beat.

He came to Alameda in great physical shape, prepared to re-join a team after a year away from the NFL.

Good hasn’t returned yet, giving Incognito plenty of opportunities to make a good first impression. That included Tuesday afternoon’s minicamp practice, where the four-time Pro Bowler worked again with the first-unit offensive line.

“He’s pretty good,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said Tuesday, during this week’s Raiders minicamp. “I like him. He’s a Pro Bowl left guard. The last time he strapped it on, he wasn’t just good. He was one of the best.”

Gruden wanted to bring an established veteran in at that spot, with Good the primary option after Kelechi Osemele was traded this offseason to the New York Jets.

“We need to solidify that position," Gruden said. "It was a sore spot for us last year. We played four different left guards, and that hurt us. We had injuries and more injuries and then we had some more. Hopefully Richie finds his stride like he had a couple years ago. When he’s right, he’s one of the best in football.”

Incognito also comes with some baggage after several off-field incidents, including a few within the last year. One that resulted in a disorderly conduct conviction that could bring a NFL suspension, something the Raiders are aware might happen. He also walked away from the Bills, before stepping away from football last year. But, Gruden believes Incognito’s fully committed to this Raiders endeavor and doing it right.

“I’ve spent a lot of time talking with Richie, and this is not a far-fetched comeback that he’s trying to make,” Gruden said. “This is something he has thought a lot about. He walked away from the game for very good reasons; I’m not going to get into that. We like where he is. We like what he’s done and the potential of what he can do for us.”

Joint practices with Rams possible

Gruden and LA Rams head coach Sean McVay have spoken a few times about coordinating joint training-camp practices in Napa heading into the preseason opener in Oakland, but nothing is set in stone at this point.

“Nothing is 100 percent finalized yet,” Gruden said, “but, if possible, I think that might benefit both of us. We are in the final stages of trying to work something out.”

If the Rams come to town, they would be featured with the Raiders on “Hard Knocks.” The Silver and Black will be the team followed on this year's show.

New travel plans

The Raiders left for their 2018 game in London at the last possible minute. They arrived in England on a Friday and played two days later. While that wasn’t the only reason the Seattle Seahawks kicked the Raiders’ tail, it certainly didn’t help.

Gruden is changing course this season, leaving right after a road game at Indianapolis to spending the week in England preparing to play the Chicago Bears at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“You try to research it, some people try to stay the least amount of time as possible because they want to put the preparation in at home and not be in a foreign country, in a different bed for five or six nights,” Gruden said. “This year, I think we will probably go over after that game (at the Colts) and get acclimated to the time zone and get ready for Chicago, but will address that here in the next couple months.”

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This ‘n that

The Raiders looked crisp in their first minicamp practice on Tuesday, the final stretch of this year’s offseason program, despite running it in 100-degree heat. … Wide receiver Antonio Brown was a highlight as usual, beating safety Curtis Riley bad on a deep touchdown pass. He never let a ball hit the turf, and showed excellent sideline skill yet again. … Owner Mark Davis was at Tuesday’s practice, speaking with general manager Mike Mayock, equipment manager Bob Romanski, several players and agent Drew Rosenhaus during the session. … Cornerback Gareon Conley was among a few prominent players missing Tuesday’s on-field work. Nick Nelson and Nevin Lawson filled in for him at outside cornerback. Linebacker Brandon Marshall, offensive linemen Jordan Devey, Denzelle Good, cornerback Isaiah Johnson and wide receiver Saeed Blacknall did not practice, though the entire squad was in Alameda for the mandatory three-day stretch. … Rookie wide receiver Keelan Doss showed strong route running with one well-timed catch in particular showcasing that ability. … Punter Johnny Townsend had a good day in special-teams periods, with Hunter Renfrow, Dwayne Harris, Jalen Richard and Rico Gafford back returning them.

How Raiders' Isaiah Johnson improved his game while on injured reserve


How Raiders' Isaiah Johnson improved his game while on injured reserve

ALAMEDA – Raiders cornerback Isaiah Johnson lost valuable development time during his rookie season through no fault of his own. It was stolen from an inadvertent knee to the head by teammate Marquel Lee in the first preseason game, where Johnson suffered a concussion and a facial fracture that put his professional career on hold.

He didn’t play or practice again during the preseason and was placed on injured reserve right after the 53-man roster was set. That final act gave Johnson belief that the entire season was not lost.

The Raiders planned to designate him for return near midseason, when he was healthy and able to contribute on defense and special teams. Defensive contributions will be harder without nine weeks of practice and playing time, especially for a former receiver with just two seasons experience at cornerback, but Johnson isn’t bitter about that.

He applied proper perspective to his downtime and set to handle this setback as best he could.

“I feel like everything happens for a reason,” Johnson said Monday. “I believe in marathons, not sprints. Everybody has a time and place for something to happen. My time just wasn’t then. When I got hurt, it didn’t really destroy me mentally. I knew there were steps to take to get where I want to go. I used it as a learning experience.”

That wasn’t always easy. Johnson was merely watching others practice and play, trying to learn conceptually without an ability to apply it on a practice field.

“I’m going to be honest: It’s really hard sitting in meetings, watching tape that you’re not on,” Johnson said. “After a while you mature and learn how to be a pro. Once you do that, you watch all that film and start applying it to yourself, so when you come back [to practice], you can use that knowledge.

"I kind of felt that today. I found myself applying some of the tools I learned during the six weeks I wasn’t playing.”

Johnson started practicing on Monday, opening a 21-day window for the Raiders to activate him or place him on season-ending injured reserve. Johnson expects activation when he’s eligible to play after eight weeks on IR.

He’ll have nine regular-season games left if all goes to plan, offering plenty of time to accomplish this year’s primary objective.

“My only goal is to help the team win games,” Johnson said. “That has always been the case, so I can do everything I set out to do. Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to come in and do it.”

Johnson is a top-tier athlete perfectly built for press-man coverage, though some development was required and understandable for someone who took up the cornerback position as a junior at the University of Houston. The Raiders need cornerback depth with Daryl Worley moving into more of a hybrid role, with Nevin Lawson and Trayvon Mullen as options to pick up Worley’s outside cornerback snaps when he roves across the defensive backfield.

Johnson will be involved in that but should be an immediate contributor on special teams.

[RELATED: Jackson, Johnson practice as Raiders prepare for Packers]

He was known as an excellent gunner in punt coverage and should give special teams a lift the moment he’s eligible to play. That’s a role he’s ready for right away.

“I have always enjoyed playing special teams,” Johnson said. “I feel like [special teams coordinator Rich] Bisaccia has a great system, and I feel like I can contribute the moment he puts me back on the field. I’m trying to show the coaches that I’m ready to go.

"I know I’ve been out, but I’m working to come back.”

Why Gabe Jackson sees plenty of potential in Raiders offensive line


Why Gabe Jackson sees plenty of potential in Raiders offensive line

ALAMEDA -- Gabe Jackson was back in action after a long layoff Monday. The Raiders' star right guard hurt his knee during a joint training camp practice with the Los Angeles Rams and hadn’t worked out with the team since.

Just being back with his team was an accomplishment, an important step in his return to action after missing five games. The Raiders left him on the 53-man roster hoping he could be back before midseason.

That should happen. Jackson said he hopes to return Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. If that doesn’t work out, he should be ready for a Week 8 clash with the Houston Texans.

“I feel pretty good,” Jackson said Monday. “I’m excited to be back with my brothers. It has been a long time.”

Jackson went more than nine weeks between practices, a layoff that sent his position into flux. The Raiders tried several at right guard, settling on Denzelle Good as a quality placeholder on an offensive line off to a great start. The Raiders are averaging 4.9 yards per carry and rank fourth in pass-blocking efficiency.

Jackson will pair with longtime running mate Rodney Hudson on the interior and work with Trent Brown on what should be a dominant right side.

The 28-year-old was part of a dominant offensive line in 2016 that was integral to the Raiders' lone trip to the playoffs this decade. He believes this year’s line could compete with that one.

“I think we could be even better,” Jackson said. “If everybody stays the course and grinds it out, I think we could be pretty good.”

This offensive line operates in a different scheme but has executed well to this point. Jackson will energize and fortify the unit, which has been bolstered by Brown’s addition in free agency.

“I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I can say for sure Trent is a beast,” Jackson said. “When he first came here, I knew it would be fun to play with him. Watching the things he has done recently and since he has been here, he’s impressive.”

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Raiders coach Jon Gruden said that Jackson might be in his best shape, certainly over the past two seasons. Jackson did shy away from that compliment. He believes it’s warranted after training hard during this down period.

“I had some time to work on myself,” Jackson said. “There are some things I’m still working on, but I feel like I have gotten better. Now, I’m ready to get back at it and play.”