Raiders waive Johnny Townsend as A.J. Cole wins punter competition

Raiders waive Johnny Townsend as A.J. Cole wins punter competition

NAPA – The Raiders' punter competition is over not long after it began.

The Silver and Black waived Johnny Townsend on Tuesday morning while making minor transactions on the bottom of the roster.

Last year’s fifth-round NFL draft pick didn’t last long despite his relatively high selection, following an underwhelming rookie season with a lackluster start to training camp.

Undrafted rookie A.J. Cole outshined him at most every stage, including Saturday’s preseason opener against the L.A. Rams. Cole puts a pair inside the opposing 20-yard line, one inside the 10, and didn’t allow a single punt to be returned. He also proved competent on kickoffs, giving another point to the N.C. State alum.

Townsend came in with a reputation for accurate directional punting, but he wasn’t able to pin opponents back regularly enough and couldn’t show great distance when it was required.

“[Cole] put on an orbital display the other day against the Rams [in joint practices last week],” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said Saturday night. “We haven’t seen kicks like that since [Shane] Lechler was here or [Marquette] King. He has a live leg and it looks like he can directional punt and hold, so Townsend has his hands full.”

Townsend wasn’t given another shot to respond, leaving Cole as the guy moving forward.

[RELATED: Gruden, Raiders played AB helmet situation perfectly]

Townsend and cornerback Hamp Cheevers were waived on Tuesday to create space for defensive backs Makinton Dorleant and Joshua Holsey.

Kolton Miller carrying quiet confidence, 'playing better than he's ever played'


Kolton Miller carrying quiet confidence, 'playing better than he's ever played'

ALAMEDA – Kolton Miller isn’t an excitable sort. The Raiders left tackle is a soft-spoken guy, with neither actions nor words reaching a fever pitch. Trash talk won’t bait him into fits of rage, and hyped matchups barely raise his pulse.

One piece of advice: don’t mistake quiet for timid.

Last year’s No. 15 overall pick carries an air of confidence with him now, a strident belief that he can beat and compete with the best.

He has the stats to back it up. Miller has allowed just nine quarterback pressures through five games despite facing Bradley Chubb, Frank Clark and Khalil Mack already this season.

“I am gaining confidence game after game,” Miller said on this week’s Raiders Talk podcast. “I continue to overemphasize the details because, once you get that down, you can just go play and have fun with it.”

Miller wasn’t having much fun as a rookie. He played hurt most of the season, fighting through a Grade 2 MCL sprain suffered in Week 4 and aggravated a few times later in the year. He never missed a start, playing 1,067 offensive snaps. They weren’t all pretty, allowing 16 sacks and 65 total pressures. Miller continued to fight, and actually gained confidence from the experience competing with highly touted pass rushers at far less than full strength.

He knew gaining size and strength this offseason would put him in prime position to make a quantum leap his second season. He felt an obligation last year and this to validate his selection last year at No. 15 overall. He wanted to reward those who had immense faith in him.

“That was a huge thing for me last year,” Miller said. “I really wanted to play well for this team and the people that believed in me. I wasn’t going to let injury or setbacks stop me. I think it’s a huge year for all of us to prove ourselves and make a name for ourselves. I’m doing thing for the Raider Nation. I hope to make those guys proud.”

Miller showed great improvement in training camp, which has carried over into this regular season. He was the biggest question along an offensive line full of stable forces (when healthy and available), but he has proven a reliable part of a real team strength.

“[Kolton] is playing better than he’s ever played,” Gruden said. “I think [left guard Richie] Incognito and the stability we’ve had at left guard has helped him. He’s stronger, he’s better versed in the offense.”

His two sacks allowed came against Minnesota, a rough day at the office for everyone in silver and black.

Miller and Incognito have been excellent against the run game, forming a formidable left flank. The offensive line has been solid all around, and a driving force earning respect with every strong showing. The men who comprise this front believe they should rank among the very best.

“If we continue to improve, we should be in the running for sure,” Miller said. “…I’m really excited for this group.”

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.