Raiders

Raiders place Marshawn Lynch on injured reserve, out at least eight weeks

Raiders place Marshawn Lynch on injured reserve, out at least eight weeks

ALAMEDA -- Marshawn Lynch was set to miss a month or more with a groin injury that he suffered against the Seattle Seahawks in London.

Now the Raiders running back is guaranteed to miss eight weeks -- and maybe the rest of the season.

The Silver and Black placed Lynch on injured reserve Monday afternoon. They could designate him to return off IR in time to play the season’s final home game, a Christmas Eve tilt in primetime, against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Maybe. If he’s ready and physically able and wants to play one final game in front of his hometown. The Oakland native is in the final year of his contract.

Lynch has retired before, following the 2015 season, and didn’t come back because he missed the sport. He wanted to play in Oakland while the city he loves still has an NFL team, to help bring attention to charitable efforts in the community.

He will never be a Las Vegas Raider, but it’s possible the enigmatic rusher will return in 2019 on a new deal. It's just as likely Lynch will walk off into the sunset. 

There’s a small prospect he will return this season, not that the team is going anywhere after a disastrous 1-5 start. Lynch can practice with the team after six weeks and play after eight.

Doug Martin will assume Lynch’s role as the Raiders' featured back, with Jalen Richard being the primary third-down back. DeAndre Washington also should be active for the first time this season.

The Raiders can designate two players to return off IR. Defensive tackle Justin Ellis and offensive tackle Donald Penn also are candidates to come back after being on injured reserve.

Lynch was acquired in a trade with the Seahawks before the 2017 season, after which he came out of retirement and signed with the Silver and Black. He has 1,267 yards and 10 touchdowns on 297 carries as an Oakland Raider. Lynch found dominant form this season, and was running with trademark violence even at age 32.

Raiders defensive depth chart: Upgrades mandatory at several key spots

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Raiders defensive depth chart: Upgrades mandatory at several key spots

The Raiders have the salary-cap flexibility and draft picks required to significantly upgrade a talent-deficient defense. That unit was 30th in rushing, 19th against the pass and dead freaking last in points allowed.

Coordinator Paul Guenther needs more frontline talent and depth on his side of the ball, though there are a few members of the 2018 defense that will be counted on again next season.

Let’s take a look at the defensive starting lineup up as it stands heading into the offseason, and whether the Raiders can write those players in pencil, ink or a series of question marks where a name should be:

Defensive line

DE: ???
NT: Justin Ellis (ink)
DT: Maurice Hurst (ink)
DE: Arden Key (pencil)
Sub-package help: DT P.J. Hall (pencil)

The Raiders will be looking for upgrades across the defensive line, making it hard to put many names down with certainty. Both edge-rushing spots are up for grabs, with one vacant and likely filled by a veteran or high draft pick. Key’s at the other end spot right now, but another import could take that spot as well. The LSU product could be an impactful situational pass rusher while developing skills, but was forced to play beyond that role. Dialing things back might be in his best interest. ... The Raiders like Hurst a great deal, and have Ellis ready for the base defense. Another interior lineman could join the rotation, or even compete for serious snaps. The Raiders must get better up front, especially off the edges, and should spend significant capital to do so.

Linebackers

SLB: Marquel Lee (pencil)
MLB: ???
WLB: Tahir Whitehead (ink)
Jason Cabinda and Nick Morrow are available – Cabinda’s an exclusive rights free agent but should be back -- to assume the middle linebacker spot they manned last season. Both guys had solid moments working in a platoon, but an upgrade seems to be the right call here. The Raiders could use a higher draft pick to get a middle linebacker, or bring in a veteran in free agency. Competition seems a necessary addition at the very least, though outright presumptive starter is the way to go. Lee performed well after moving to the strong side from the middle, but that position doesn’t play a ton with defenses in sub packages so often. His name’s still in pencil in case the Raiders snag an athletic edge rushing type who would play strongside linebacker and move to the line in sub packages. ... The Raiders defense has lots of issues, and Whitehead isn’t anywhere near the top of the list. The veteran should return to the three-down role he held in 2018.

Secondary

CB: Gareon Conley (ink)
FS: ???
SS: Karl Joseph (ink)
CB: ???
Slot: Nick Nelson (pencil)
Conley will own one cornerback spot. Daryl Worley is expected to man the other, but we can put him down yet. He’s a restricted free agent this offseason, and while the Raiders want to bring him back, there’s no telling what the open market will bear and whether the Raiders will match any offer or offer a high-round contract tender. There is a strong, belief, however, that Worley will be back. ... Joseph showed great improvement down the stretch, and should be given an opportunity to develop further and bring physicality to the defense while attempting to be more of a big-play maker. ... Marcus Gilchrist and Reggie Nelson are unrestricted free agentd and Erik Harris is restricted. Harris will likely return, but the Raiders should still look for an upgrade here in the starting lineup, either through free agency or the draft. ... Coaches like Nelson, who struggled some after losing valuable development time recovering from an offseason knee injury. The Raiders could bring in some competition there, even as cornerback depth with Rashaan Melvin not expected back. A versatile corner could challenge and/or push Nelson over the spring and summer.

2019 NFL mock draft: Who Raiders might take with No. 27 pick

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2019 NFL mock draft: Who Raiders might take with No. 27 pick

The Raiders had the No. 4 and No. 24 overall NFL draft picks locked up entering the weekend. They had another first-rounder out there, without a slot to call home.

That changed after Dallas fell in the postseason’s divisional round Saturday and then Philadelphia lost to New Orleans the following day.

That set the Cowboys' first-round pick at No. 27 overall, though it was promised to the Raiders in trade for Amari Cooper.

NFL mock drafts have been approximating that Cowboys/Raiders, even though the slot was uncertain.

Now that it’s set, so let’s see what the latest mock drafts have predicted for the Raiders at No. 27:

CBS Sports: WR N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
What they’re saying:
“The Raiders need playmakers because 33-year-old Jordy Nelson isn't close to the player he was in Green Bay. Harry had 73 receptions for 1,088 yards and nine touchdowns last season, and he reminds us of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Anquan Boldin.”

SB Nation: WR N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
What they’re saying:
“The Raiders need one, or maybe even two wide receivers in the draft this year. Harry would be a nice pickup in the first round. He’s obviously a talent at the position, otherwise he wouldn’t be this high in the draft. But he’s capable of playing in the slot and outside, which would give the Raiders flexibility later in the draft.”

NBC Sports Washington: RB Damien Harris, Alabama
What they’re saying:
This isn't the year for round one running backs. The one goes in the first, odds lean toward the 5-foot-11 Harris, who averaged 6.1 yards per carries during the regular season, but was held to 48 yards on 1 carries in the national semifinal win over Oklahoma.

Bleacher Report: RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama
What they’re saying:
“A running back in the first round? Yes, because Josh Jacobs is an Alvin Kamara-like talent.

The junior bruiser for Alabama has excellent balance through contact, great power and has shown the agility and speed to make an impact outside the tackle box. Jacobs is also a soft-handed receiver who has shown in the Alabama scheme the skills to torch defenses in a variety of ways.

The Raiders need to get better at virtually every position, including running back. Jacobs will take pressure off quarterback Derek Carr and should have plenty of holes to run through given the strength of the team's offensive line.”

Pro Football Focus: Safety Taylor Rapp, Washington
What they’re saying:
”The defensive overhaul continues with Rapp who has the versatility to play all over the field. He finished with the No. 4 overall grade among safeties last season (90.1) while missing only two tackles on the year.”