Raiders' receivers should give offense explosiveness, stability

Raiders' receivers should give offense explosiveness, stability

There’s little Raiders access during these days. Phase II of the offseason program is conducted in private, with only team-approved pictures and videos emerging from on-field work.

Fans get little snippets, like this one Tyrell Williams released Friday night.

Head coach Jon Gruden provides the color commentary here, as he did on a previous career path.

“That is awesome,” Gruden says. “That is a thing of beauty.”

Williams and quarterback Derek Carr connect on a well-timed deep shot, perfectly thrown, that Williams caught in stride streaking down the sideline. The route wasn’t run against competition, with offense vs. defense prohibited during this part of the offseason.

Hype videos put out by Antonio Brown’s camp are hard to miss, designed to show great chemistry between him and Carr and offer a peek at his insatiable work ethic.

These snapshots, run under optimal conditions and without resistance, offer zero guarantee of explosive offense in 2019.

The guys in the receiving corps give the Raiders a great chance. Question marks can be found along the offensive line – who’s gonna replace Kelechi Osemele? Can Kolton Miller find consistent health and performance? Will Trent Brown live up to the fat contract? – and at running back – Can Josh Jacobs perform in the NFL, with a heavy workload? Will the depth chart offer enough support – but the receivers assembled this offseason are as stable as they come.

Brown is a bonafide superstar, with six straight seasons of at least 101 receptions, 1,284 and eight touchdowns. Those numbers you just read were the worst of his run, during which he has missed a total of three games with injury.

Williams has averaged 16.3 yards per reception over three-plus seasons. He is a deep threat who exceeded 1,000 yards as a primary option and roughly 700 on 42 catches in two seasons as a secondary receiver like he will be working with Brown. And Williams is always available, playing every game over the last three seasons.

Ryan Grant is a quality third option who works well from the slot, though Hunter Renfrow could push him for snaps right away, and J.J. Nelson’s speed could come into play at some point. Keelan Doss is also an X-factor in the group, a respected prospect who went through the NFL draft unselected.

That crew represents a complete positional overhaul with 2018 options Jordy Nelson, Brandon LaFell, Martavis Bryant, Seth Roberts and Amari Cooper no longer on the roster. Marcell Ateman’s the only returner to make a significant contribution in last year’s passing game, and he’ll have to battle for a roster spot.

As important as any of the numbers found above – steady hands.

The Raiders have had trouble hanging on to catchable passes with Cooper, Roberts and Michael Crabtree as primary targets.

Brown, Williams and Grant only had seven drops between them last year, and Brown only had one. He caught 104 of 105 catchable targets, an astonishing stat in its own right.

[RELATED: Raiders continue receiver overhaul by signing Burt]

Having him on the roster, with Williams, Grant and Co., suggests the receivers will be a rare sure thing on a roster still looking for stability at most spots.

Paul Guenther can get creative with 'new toys' on Raiders defense


Paul Guenther can get creative with 'new toys' on Raiders defense

NAPA – The Raiders blitzed Arizona a bit more that you might expect for a preseason. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther wasn’t giving away proprietary information in a game that didn’t count. He didn’t reach deep into his playbook for exotic looks opponents can now game plan against.

He wasn’t trying to give rookie quarterback Kyler Murray a welcome-to-the-NFL moment.

He was doing something else entirely. He was giving pop quizzes to the new kids in school.

“If you notice, some of the guys we were blitzing, [Lamarcus Joyner, Johnathan Abram, Brandon Marshall and Vontaze Burfict] are all new toys for me on this team,” Guenther said. “Those are the guys I wanted to see blitz a little bit, and not just sit back in coverage all day. Some of the [blitzes] I sent were basic things, but I wanted to see those guys communicate and play more than just one or two coverages.”

Guenther needed to know how those players, primarily cover men, would react when attacking at the line of scrimmage.

Everyone save Burfict had a quarterback pressure. Marshall got a sack and just missed another. Joyner blitzed from the slot and brought Murray down in the end zone for a safety.

Players who aren’t typically asked to provide pressure love the opportunity, and we thrilled to prove they can be unorthodox options rushing the quarterback.

“It’s fun,” Joyner said. “If you look at the personalities we have on the defensive side of the ball, we have a bunch of aggressive, fast guys. It’s fun to get after the quarterback. We love that skill. We love playing aggressive. … We have the players to do so. So, now Paul Guenther gets to look like that ‘G’ he really is.”

Guenther still prefers to get home with a four-man rush. There will still be plenty of “A” gap pressure that his scheme is known for. He has a large playbook and, with far greater speed overall, a deeper front and Burfict organizing well in the middle, Guenther can get really creative. That’s especially true knowing blitzes can come from anywhere, including his new toys.

“It has been fun,” Guenther said. “We have a lot more speed on the field. We can cover. We have guys who can blitz, guys who can play the run. I told the players, that you know what it’s supposed to look like when things go right. We had some glimpses of that the other night. Hopefully we can continue to get better and understand the details of everything we’re doing.”

Raiders appreciate Jon Gruden's coaching style, expletives included

Raiders appreciate Jon Gruden's coaching style, expletives included

NAPA -- Jon Gruden used three choice words to describe what he wanted to see heading into the Raiders’ second preseason game.

“Better f---ing execution.”

“Hard Knocks” cameras always are recording, with boom mics overhead to catch the coach’s every word. A senior producer certainly smiled when he heard those words.

That reached HBO’s air Tuesday during the second episode, along with dozens more curse words during an hour-long show.

Cameras also caught Gruden following up a stern conversation with backup quarterback Nathan Peterman by saying, “I’ve got to stop cussing.”

Derek Carr isn’t holding a breath for that to happen.

“I said, ‘Good luck, man!’ ” the Raiders' starting QB said with a smile. “’I wish you the best.’”

Look, Gruden swears like a sailor. It shows his passion. It’s part of his charm. It’s a regular occurrence on the practice field, where local reporters respect an element of privacy by not repeating what’s said.

“Hard Knocks” adheres by no such rules. They’re recording everything and editing it after -- with team approval, of course -- so there are lots of curse words to choose from.

Gruden doesn’t love seeing them all played back.

“I don’t like hearing all the profanity,” he said Saturday. “It’s like every time I swear, it makes the show. I mean, I just love football. I really have a lot of passion for this, and I get way carried away sometimes.

"I apologize, but I’m not as foul mouth as people think. If you think I am, I’m sorry.”

Gruden's players don’t have a problem with it. He’s a fiery coach, but he cares about details and making sure his players succeed. If you work hard for him, he’ll work hard for you.

“What people don’t get to see enough of maybe, is he treats us like we are his kids, like he loves us dearly,” Carr said. “That guy, when he is getting on us, [it] is just because he wants us to be perfect, and that’s just how he is.

"So, it’s fun to watch [‘Hard Knocks’] and I tell those guys, ‘Hey, man.’ I told them before, ‘He’s aggressive, he’s going to be like that, and it’s all because he wants you to be the best.’ It has nothing to do with him coming at you or him thinking some type of way about you. It’s only because he wants you to be the best version of yourself.”

Prior to last season, Carr hadn’t worked with Gruden beyond an ESPN “Gruden’s QB Camp” episode, but he was ready for a gruff exterior because he trusted that support and good intentions always were behind it.

“You know how much he cares about you. You know where his heart is,” Carr said. “You just say, ‘Yes, sir.’

"He’s just trying to make you better, so we never had a problem. I’ve had some head coaches -- I won’t throw their names out there -- Ive had some certain coaches in my life, especially in college, that were the same way, so I’ve been used to that for sure.”

[RELATED: Why Jacobs hasn't been seen on 'Hard Knocks']

Tyrell Williams, who signed with the Raiders in free agency, hadn’t experienced Gruden’s trademark intensity except for what he viewed on TV.

“Obviously, you see the mic’d up’s and stuff before I started playing for him,” the receiver said. “So, I mean just being around him, he’s hilarious and fun to be around, so it’s been awesome -- just his one-liners and all that stuff is just fun, and seeing him on the sidelines in games is comedy, too. It’s been a lot of fun being around him.”