Raiders

Raiders sign Jacquies Smith and Kony Ealy to help subpar pass rush

smithealyusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Raiders sign Jacquies Smith and Kony Ealy to help subpar pass rush

ALAMEDA – The Raiders added some experience to their defensive front, hoping to spark a moribund pass rush that has generated just 59 total pressures through eight games.

The team signed defensive ends Jacquies Smith and Kony Ealy to help fortify the position group after Bruce Irvin was waived on Saturday afternoon.

Smith takes Irvin’s spot on the roster. Linebacker James Cowser has been waived to make room for Ealy, and is expected to re-join the Raiders practice squad if he clears waivers.

These two will try and bring life to an attack that has struggled mightily and is the core of this season’s defensive struggles.

Smith was signed and at practice on Monday. Ealy signed as well, and is expected to join the squad in time for Wednesday’s practice.

Smith has been on the outs since suffering a knee injury in 2016, bouncing around from Tampa Bay to the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals after that.

Smith had 13.5 sacks in 2014-15 combined with the Buccaneers, and has been frustrated by the lack of opportunities to re-establish himself as an impact player.

“This is the best I’ve ever felt in a very long time,” Smith said. “Now it’s on me to put a (quality) product out on the field. …(The wait between jobs) is very frustrating. I have a ton of confidence in myself, and I’ve made a lot of plays in this league. I’m confident in my ability and these guys see something in me to give me a shot.”

Raiders defensive lineman Clinton McDonald played with Smith in Tampa Bay, and will help ease his transition to the Silver and Black.

Smith believes the Raiders want him to step in and play right away and he’ll do so, but his goal isn’t to replace Irvin.

“I’m not going to say I’m any other guy who has left here,” Smith said. “That’s been thrown out there, but I’m just going to be the best Jacquies Smith I can be. I’m going to go out there and produce, and do it quickly and finish this back half of the season showing everyone exactly what I can do.”

Ealy worked out for the Raiders on Monday and signed with the Silver and Black the same day. He was Carolina’s second-round pick in 2014, and has 15 sacks in four seasons. He played for the New York Jets in 2017 and this year the Dallas Cowboys, who employed Smith this offseason but included him in final cuts.

Both guys could fit into the game plan for Sunday’s home game against the L.A. Chargers. Irvin wasn’t doing much the past few weeks, but the Raiders need more from their rotation of young players learning the ropes. This defense can’t function without a serviceable pass rush, and need something better than what they have.

Ealy and Smith will join an edge-rushing rotation that includes Frostee Rucker, Arden Key, Fadol Brown and Shilique Calhoun.

Despite big day, Darren Waller focused on opportunity missed in Raiders loss

wallerusatsi.jpg
USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES

Despite big day, Darren Waller focused on opportunity missed in Raiders loss

MINNESOTA – Darren Waller was targeted 14 times on Sunday against Minnesota. He caught 13 passes.

The Raiders tight end didn’t care much about that. He harped on the one that went through his hands, a third-down opportunity missed that would’ve put the Raiders in field goal range.

Such is life after a 34-14 shellacking from the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“The first thing that comes to mind is the pass I didn’t catch,” Waller said. “That’s points right there. We could’ve gotten on the board and entered halftime with momentum.

“I look at me first and what I could’ve done better. There are plenty of things I could’ve done better. There are things we all can do better. That’s why we play a whole season. We can turn this thing around.”

The Raiders have some soul searching to do after getting blasted by the Vikings in a game that wasn’t ever close.

They can rest assured knowing they’ve got a dangerous weapon playing tight end.

“They guy blocks and running routes on linebackers and cornerbacks and you think, ‘Darren, what can’t you do?’” quarterback Derek Carr said. “I don’t think enough kids are wearing his jersey.”

Today was tailor-made for Waller, a big, fast, sure-handed receiver. The Vikings played tons of zone coverage, leaving Waller to find holes on intermediate routes. That led Carr to feed Waller consistently throughout, though the long drives didn’t always put points on the board.

“The looks they gave us weren’t new,” Waller said. “They’re a good defense, and they’re going to run what they’re going to run. Credit the offensive staff for having things drawn up and in place. The line gave Derek time and he made those throws. We expected those [opportunities] to be there. We didn’t have to do anything special.”

The Raiders could’ve had points at the end of the first half had Waller made that play. That’s going to drive him nuts when reflecting on this game.

“I had two hands on the ball. I already know,” Waller said. “My trainer from back home told me I need to start doing pushups for all drops. It absolutely should’ve been caught.”

Waller can see he did some good things and has clearly gained Carr’s trust. He has 26 catches for 267 yards through three games, far and away the best receiving numbers on the team.

That should continue, even if extra attention gets paid down the line.

The more they put on me, the more I’m willing to take,” Waller said. “I try to not be too extreme. There’s a lot of good, and there’s bad to clean up. I feel like I’m growing in a positive direction as far as my game is concerned. I always try to take and good and bad out of everything. There was some good there, for sure.

“In the end, it’s just playing football. I try to not make it much more complex than that. The scoreboard’s there, but you just have to go from play to play to play. You can get in a groove and that’s fun.”

Watch Raiders' Vontaze Burfict seemingly try to punch Vikings players

burfictusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Watch Raiders' Vontaze Burfict seemingly try to punch Vikings players

Things didn't go well for the Raiders in a 34-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

Oakland trailed the Vikings by two touchdowns, and would fall into a 28-7 hole by the end of the third quarter of its Week 3 tilt at U.S. Bank Stadium. Frustration seemed to come to a head for Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict, as the 28-year-old appeared to try to punch Vikings players at the end of a Dalvin Cook run. 

Burfict has a lengthy history of NFL discipline for on-field incidents. He spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals and was fined or suspended 13 times from 2012 through 2018. In March, For The Win calculated that the linebacker incurred around $4.12 million in fines on top of the 10 games he missed.

[RELATED: Gap between Raiders, Chiefs will widen if KC lands Ramsey]

Coach Jon Gruden has counted on Burfict as one of the team's leaders during the linebacker's first season with the Raiders. Burfict was named a team captain before the season started, and he reportedly served as a voice of reason in former Raiders receiver Antonio Brown's practice-field confrontation with general manager Mike Mayock. 

Whether or not Burfict gets a call from Park Avenue for additional discipline remains to be seen, but Sunday's apparent punch probably wasn't what the team had in mind when Burfict became a captain.