Raiders

Raiders receivers capitalizing on opportunities with Antonio Brown out

Raiders receivers capitalizing on opportunities with Antonio Brown out

NAPA – Antonio Brown missed yet another Raiders training camp practice Friday morning, his second straight since joining the fray earlier this week.

The superstar receiver showed on his Instagram Story that he’s struggling with the soles of his feet, an ailment that would account for his recent absences and his short stint on the non-football injury list.

The Raiders don’t view his absence as a big deal or significant setback, but head coach Jon Gruden certainly wants his best player practicing posthaste.

“I think we’re all disappointed (Brown isn’t practicing),” Gruden said. “I think he’s disappointed. We’d like to get the party started. We’d like to get him out here. He’s a big part of this team but, for the time being, we’ve seen the development of some other receivers that we’re excited about.”

There’s reason for optimism with a corps being lead by Tyrell Williams while Brown currently is sidelined.

“Tyrell Williams has made some big plays at multiple positions, and has showed great stamina,” Gruden said. “Darren Waller has been very good. We’re fired up to talk about those two guys, and we’re starting to see others emerge.”

There are several quality receivers currently in Napa, creating serious competition for roster spots.

Gruden name-checked Marcell Ateman. He has made some plays recently, though J.J. Nelson and Keelan Doss stole the show on Friday morning.

Both guys went horizontal to catch deep shots down the left sideline made legal after surviving the ground, though Nelson did so with one hand.

Doss is a smooth route runner with solid hands. Nelson has shown an ability to adjust when the ball is in the air, and Derek Carr clearly trusts him to make plays.

Hunter Renfrow has been an early camp standout, while Ryan Grant showed up Thursday after being largely invisible the first week.

Gruden has tough decisions ahead on the back of that depth chart, thoughreceivers will separate themselves some in games.

The Raiders should keep five receivers, six tops. Here are my favorites for those roster spots through six practices:

Locks: Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Dwayne Harris
Fighting for one or two spots: Marcell Ateman, J.J. Nelson, Ryan Grant, Keelan Doss

Former UCLA standout Jordan Lasley just got here, so he’s a wild card with talent required to challenge for gainful employment.

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Evaluating the rest of the position group without Brown taking targets seems to hold greater long-term benefit over him missing time at the start of camp, but Gruden doesn’t see it that way.

“I want the guy out there as soon as possible,” Gruden said. “I’d like him to get in the huddle and never leave. I’d like him in there every play, but life goes on and you have to continue to work. Other guys have to take advantage, and so far they have.”

Stopping Titan-ic rusher Derrick Henry should be primary Raiders objective

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Stopping Titan-ic rusher Derrick Henry should be primary Raiders objective

ALAMEDA – Ryan Tannehill is receiving credit for Tennessee’s recent resurgence. That’s appropriate given how well the former backup quarterback has been playing during a 5-1 stretch since becoming the starter.

Let’s not forget who’s really driving the Titans offense. That’s the 6-foot-3, 247-pound freight train coming out of the backfield.

Derrick Henry has been a monster this season, proving as tough to take down as ever. He has 1,140 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, currently on a run of three straight games with at least 145 yards and a touchdown.

A repeat performance on Sunday against the Raiders at Oakland Coliseum would make Henry the only player to do so in four straight games.

The Raiders would like to prevent that and armed with the No. 12-ranked run defense. They’ll try to slow a back never seems to wear down.

“The secret sauce in Henry is he’s got all the talent, and size, and running instincts, but he never tires,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “He does not get tired. He’s a machine, man. This guy wears you down – physical – he can wear you down. You’ve got to gang tackle him. He’s a better-than-advertised receiver, but he just never tires. The more they give him the ball, the better he gets. It’s an impressive human being.”

Tannehill obviously benefits from Henry’s threat and a balanced offense that has the Titans going strong. Stopping the run, or slowing it at least, will be key for the Raiders defense in this important game. It will not, however, be easy.

“We’re looking forward the challenge, but we know it’ll be a challenge dealing with Superman Derrick Henry,” defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said on this week’s Raiders Talk podcast. “…He’s a great back. He’s big. He’s fast. He sheds tackles like there are kids trying to tackle him. I think, overall, we have to do a good job of keeping him in the backfield and not giving him open lanes or creases to work. We also need to hit him as much as we can, because he’s a big guy. Overall, I think we’re ready for the challenge. I’m excited for this game.”

It’ll take the entire defensive unit playing disciplined football to slow Henry down. Give him an inch of space or leverage or poor tackling technique and he’ll take chunk yards by the mile.

“I just think you’ve got to be in good position,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “You’ve got to have eleven guys to the ball. You’ve got to play the blocks. First and foremost, you’ve got to be in the right spots, play the block, and then when he gets through there you’ve got to have eleven guys to the ball. He does a good job of trying to get extra yards, so we’ve got to put hats on him wherever he is, on his body as he’s trying to get those extra yards. We’ve got to make sure we get eleven to him.”

Raiders launch Josh Jacobs' NFL Rookie of the Year campaign online

Raiders launch Josh Jacobs' NFL Rookie of the Year campaign online

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have launched a campaign to help running back Josh Jacobs become the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

They have opened a website extolling his virtues. They have passed out buttons. They even have fullback and "chief of interior transportation" Alec Ingold giving a fireside chat about how awesome Jacobs has been in 2019.

The promotional materials may draw some extra attention, but Jacobs’ case is easy to make.

He has smashed every Raiders rookie rushing record. He exceeded 1,000 yards in his 12th game and will have huge totals even if he isn’t able to play Sunday against Tennessee. He’s formally questionable with a fractured shoulder he's been playing through since trucking Green Bay safety Adrian Amos in Week 7.

His numbers are pretty awesome. Jacobs has 218 carries 1,061 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s 4.9 yards per carry, and he ranks fifth in the NFL in total rushing yards. He also has another 18 receptions 146 yards.

The competition must always be considered, but he has to be the frontrunner after winning back-to-back rookie of the month awards.

Arizona's No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray is certainly a candidate, but the Cardinals don’t have many wins. Washington receiver Terry McLaurin and Baltimore wideout Marquise Brown have had good seasons, but they shouldn’t be considered serious competition here.

The Raiders haven’t had an offensive rookie of the year since Marcus Allen won it in 1982, and Jacobs has smashed Allen’s records from that strike-shortened year. Charles Woodson was the last rookie of the year on either side of the ball, winning the defensive award in 1998.

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Jacobs’ shoulder injury could hurt the campaign more than anything, especially if he misses a few games or gets shut down for the rest of the season if the playoffs become a distant pipe dream.

Outside of that, he should be the favorite to win the award heading down the stretch.