Raiders

Raiders practice 2: Heeney gets green dot, will man the middle

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Raiders practice 2: Heeney gets green dot, will man the middle

NAPA – Raiders linebacker Ben Heeney will have a green dot on his helmet this season. That identifies the helmet with a direct line to defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., who calls plays Heeney will relay to the team in games.

It’s a job typically given to an interior linebacker always in the mix. It signifies a few things beyond the obvious: The Raiders feel comfortable with the 2015 fifth-round pick at middle linebacker, coordinating their effort from the center of the hive.

“It’s been the goal the entire time,” Heeney said after Saturday’s practice. “I’m happy to be there, and I’ll do whatever I can to keep the spot. Coach Norton has confidence in me heading into the second season.”

Heeney feels comfortable in an important role, one he manned all offseason prepping for this camp.

“Last year I was all over the place, not really knowing what I was doing,” Heeney said. “I feel really secure in knowing what to do.”

Heeney is an aggressive playmaker, someone many have said operates like his hair’s on fire. The Raiders like his tenacity and believe continued technical development will help him become a steadying presence alongside Malcolm Smith forming a duo that must tackle well in wide-open space.

“There were times were I was overaggressive last year, and that was one of the knocks on me coming out of college,” Heeney said. “I was supposedly a guy who missed a lot of tackles or whatever. I play aggressive, but I have a bunch of good coaches who have brought me along. I’ve had a lot of help to get me where I am. I’m happy where I’m at right now, and hoping to have a good camp.”

Catch of the day: Matt McGloin threw two interceptions and one of the day’s prettier passes. The backup dropped a perfectly-arched rainbow to Andre Holmes down the left sideline the tall receiver hauled in well.

Hayden’s second pick: Cornerback DJ Hadyen snagged his second interception in as many days on Saturday, stepping in front of a Matt McGloin pass before breaking free for what would’ve been a pick-six. Hayden has fared well in coverage thus far, both as a first-team slot cornerback who moves outside with the second unit.

Heeney pops one free: Ben Heeney got stuck covering Amari Cooper over the middle, a mismatch that clearly favors offense. It was no surprise that Cooper got open and caught the pass, but Heeney stuck with the play. The second-year linebacker jarred the ball loose, recovered his own forced fumble and ran it back to the end zone.

Daily transactions: None
Returned to practice: N/A
Did not practice: No one
Physically unable to perform list: DL Denico Autry, DL Greg Townsend Jr.
Next practice: The Raiders will practice on Sunday morning, and is the first session in pads. That’s always a spirited affair for players who haven’t strapped them on since December.

NFL rumors: Raiders work out running backs LeGarrette Blount, Bo Scarbrough

NFL rumors: Raiders work out running backs LeGarrette Blount, Bo Scarbrough

Through the first six games of his NFL career, Josh Jacobs has been everything the Raiders hoped he'd be, and the rookie running back clearly is a front-runner for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Still, he soon will enter uncharted territory.

Jacobs never was a full-time bell cow throughout his college career. Over three years at Alabama, he totaled 251 carries, never topping more than 120 in any single season. Of the 122 carries by Raiders running backs so far this season, 88 of them have gone to Jacobs.

The rookie has been productive with those attempts, averaging 4.9 yards per, and he has scored five touchdowns. Oakland has increased his workload in the wake of several injuries to its wide receivers, culminating with a career-best performance in the Raiders' Week 6 win over the Bears, in which Jacobs rushed 26 times for 123 yards and two scores.

At 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, Jacobs has the physical traits to be an every-down back. But behind him are two similarly sized backs in Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, both of whom are 5-8 and between 205 and 210 pounds. With Jacobs' backups being diminutive in stature, the Raiders reportedly went looking for a bigger-bodied bruiser.

ESPN's Field Yates reported Wednesday that Oakland worked out two free-agent running backs, both of which immediately would become the largest running back on the Raiders' roster, if they were signed.

Of those two backs, LeGarrette Blount is the more accomplished. A 10-year NFL veteran, Blount played for the Lions last season, rushing 154 times for 418 yards and five touchdowns. A short-yard specialist, Blount has 56 career rushing touchdowns to his name.

Bo Scarbrough has yet to appear in an NFL game, but he was on the Cowboys and Jaguars' practice squads last year before being signed by the Seahawks toward the end of the season. Interestingly enough, he and Jacobs overlapped for two years at Alabama, and Jacobs only moved into a featured role after Scarbrough departed.

[RELATED: Why Jacobs is harsh grader even after biggest Raiders games]

The Raiders appear intent on relying on their run game, and while Jacobs affords them that ability, the stable of running backs could be rounded out a bit better. Whether it's Blount, Scarbrough or another power back, don't be surprised if there's a new addition to Oakland's running back room sometime soon.

Why Darren Waller contract extension with Raiders is money well spent

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USATSI

Why Darren Waller contract extension with Raiders is money well spent

ALAMEDA -- Raiders tight end Darren Waller is just five games into a breakout season, but it’s already clear he’s in the NFL's top tier. He’s a dynamic playmaker with a prototypical body, a receiver’s speed, soft hands and the toughness required to block effectively.

Waller’s just entering his prime at 27 years old, with several years of excellence ahead. His three-year contract extension Wednesday was

 money easily and well spent on a player just scratching the surface of what he can do in this league.

The Raiders should shout this news from the mountaintops and put him on Las Vegas billboards posthaste. He’s a fantastic redemption story who inspires those around him and is incredibly easy to root for.

Waller was a player suspended twice for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy while battling addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs and whatever else he could find.

He’s now more than two years clean, living his best life while realizing vast potential nearly wasted. Waller has no problem discussing his past and his path to sobriety, hoping to inspire others to overcome issues with substance abuse.

“It’s one of the great stories in football, one of the great things that I’ve seen in my career,” Gruden said last week. “I’m really proud of him, so thrilled for him getting it together and being an honest, upfront guy and talking about it and giving other young people the same enthusiasm to beat it, the same confidence that they can beat whatever addiction they might have.”

This is a guy you want around long-term. This is a steady locker room presence and a reliable target who will be just 31 years old when he plays out this contract extension. Waller can be one of the league’s best tight ends for years, making this deal seem like a bargain in the long run.

Gruden easily earmarked money for Waller, already considering him among the league’s best.

“He’s really a rookie playing tight end,” Gruden said. “He was a wide receiver in college. He sat out of football for a year. He leads the league in receiving right now at that position. If you watched him block, I don’t know if there’s a better tight end in football, really.”

Waller’s extension also suggests the Raiders are set up at tight end fro a long time. Rookie fourth-round draft pick Foster Moreau has surprised many in an excellent start to his professional career, showing toughness in the run game and an ability to make clutch catches.

They will play a huge role in a Raiders offense struggling to find receiver production with Tyrell Williams ailing, as well as three players who were in training camp now cut and two in-season trades to account for those losses.

[RELATED: Carr making most of Raiders' revolving cast of receivers]

Waller is the passing game’s best asset right now, with an ability to play in-line tight end and every receiver spot. Having him around long term adds vital stability to the offense, and the timing could’ve have been better.

The Raiders eliminated contract uncertainty down the line with a respectable sum Wednesday. Waller's extension thus avoids the drama associated with encroaching free agency and increased market value when his stats shoot skyward in 2019 and beyond as he further develops as a player.