Raiders

Report: Longtime Chiefs Pro Bowl linebacker to visit Raiders on free-agent visit

Report: Longtime Chiefs Pro Bowl linebacker to visit Raiders on free-agent visit

The Raiders filled several needs in the NFL Draft. They did not, however, go after a middle linebacker early. A top prospect could’ve been an option to start right away, but the Raiders focused on offensive and defensive lines with most of their amateur selections.

That doesn’t mean their linebacker corps is set for the season. They’re still looking for help on the inside, which is why a former rival is coming to meet with the Raiders.

Longtime Kansas City Chief Derrick Johnson will visit the Raiders’ facility on Thursday about joining the Silver and Black, according to an ESPN report.

The four-time Pro Bowler is widely respected throughout the league as a leader and sure tackler, but is 35 years old and on the open market after the Chiefs voided his contract this offseason.

He has suffered two Achilles’ tendon tears since 2014, but has responded to them well. He had 91 tackles and a fumble recovery in 15 games last season.

General manager Reggie McKenzie said last week the door’s still open for NaVorro Bowman to return to a defense he led most of 2017. He signed with the Raiders after the 49ers cut him, but player and team haven’t reached a pact despite a mutual desire to do so. Bowman has deemed the Raiders’ offers unsatisfactory to this stage, leaving the Raiders lacking in the middle. Second-year pros Marquel Lee and Nicholas Morrow would likely platoon in the middle if no other additions are made.

Jon Gruden disappointed by Khalil Mack's absence, Raiders not distracted

Jon Gruden disappointed by Khalil Mack's absence, Raiders not distracted

The Raiders spent three calendar weeks training in wine country. Khalil Mack wasn’t there a single second.

The Raiders edge rusher is withholding services waiting for a massive, long-term contract extension. He doesn’t have one. Not yet, anyway.

That’ why he wasn’t in Napa when veterans reported July 26 and wasn’t there Thursday when camp formally closed.

Mack’s hold out has captured nationally on sports talk on several mediums – they just love the drama – but Gruden insists Mack’s absence been a distraction. But…

“It has obviously, for me, been disappointing,” Gruden said Wednesday. “You want to have your best player here. This guy is really a great guy, too. I’m disappointed we don’t have him here.

“We’re going to try to get him here as soon as we can. In the time being, you got to move on. You’ve got to get up and go to work. That’s one thing I’m very proud of what we’ve done here.”

The Raiders hope Mack reports soon, and nothing has changed regarding their desire to sign him to a long-term contract extension they know won’t be cheap.

And, no, they don’t currently have plans to trade Mack.

Mack’s an elite edge rusher, excellent against the run, remains in impeccable and never, ever gets in trouble. He’s the type of player teams want to pay, especially those ready to enter a new market.

The Raiders understand that and want Mack with the team posthaste.

"Mack's the best player coming off the edge in football. That's our opinion,” Gruden said in an interview with SiriusXM NFL radio. "We're determined to find a way to get him in here, get him a contract, and get on with life.

“This is a negotiation. Joel Segal is Khalil’s agent. They’ve got their plan. General manager Reggie McKenzie and the people negotiating on our end have a plan. I’m coaching the team. At this time, he’s not here, and we have to focus on what we can control, and that’s just working.”

Mack is currently under contract, set to make $13,846 million on a fifth-year team option of his rookie contract applicable only to first-round picks.

Derek Carr has shown mastery of Jon Gruden’s scheme in short time

Derek Carr has shown mastery of Jon Gruden’s scheme in short time

Jon Gruden heaps responsibility on his quarterback. That’s true of most NFL schemes, but the Raiders head coach challenges his signal callers know all the terminology and concepts and adjustments and variables built into most every play.

He tests them constantly, changing defensive looks in practice, forcing quarterbacks to recall details on call in front of team meetings. It’s hard to handle by design.

Few can handle it well. Rich Gannon was one. Derek Carr is another.

The Raiders current franchise quarterback’s comprehension rate and recall under pressure has been welcome, but his insatiable desire for more might impress Gruden most.

“I think he’s one of the best, in terms of processing information,” Gruden said. “I think he craves new things. He wants more… ‘What do we have today? What are we doing today? What’s new? What do we got?’ He has a photographic memory. It comes so easy to him. He’s got the offense mastered more than I do.”

That last part’s hyperbole, but his exaggeration’s meant to make a point. Carr is pushing hard to get Gruden’s scheme down cold and apply its rules like his coach would.

Carr’s mastery is evident in practice, where he seems in complete control of the first unit. That has combined with his arm strength, quick release and accuracy that gives many confidence Carr will thrive this regular season and beyond working with Gruden. It might not have come quite so easy.

“There’s a lot of hard work for sure, a lot of hours spent trying to master it,” Carr said. “You think like he thinks, which has been fun and interesting for me to learn.

“In order to do that, the time you have to put in is a lot. It’s a lot. And both of us worked really hard on getting on the same page. I think we’re always going to continue to grow together and think about things differently and then figure it out. The main thing is when we hit the field, that’s us, that’s what he and I are putting on the field, the product at the same time. We didn’t want it to look like we’ve only been together for a short period of time. We wanted it to look like these guys have been around each other, it seems, like forever.”

Carr and Gruden have come a long way in a relatively short time. Learning a system like this takes time and includes several stages, starting with root concepts and terminology. The quarterback said the early days were spent cramming for a test, memorizing a ton early on. Gruden is constantly teaching new things, but continues to review and repeat to help quarterbacks learn.

“He does a great job, his teaching, progression for quarterbacks, the system, every single day he’ll hit on the new things but he’ll always remind you of what we did the past couple days,” Carr said. “So, you’re hitting it about seven to eight times before you really move on, to where it really becomes repetition and you become used to it.

“It has been a lot of work to get to the point to where it’s not just, ‘yeah, I memorized something on a paper.’ Well, I have to memorized every detail of it, and then know it inside and out and still know the defense inside and out and how do we beat it, how do we get to certain things? Initially, it was just, ‘what can I remember?’ As you continue to reference it and go back over it, it just becomes who we are.”