Reserves must perform for beat-up, unsettled Raiders secondary


Reserves must perform for beat-up, unsettled Raiders secondary

ALAMEDA – The Raiders secondary has been beat up all year. Gareon Conley’s been a non-factor. Obi Melifonwu’s been on injured reserve since September. Antonio Hamilton’s done for the year.

David Amerson’s dealt with several injuries, including a concussion and a shoulder. Now a foot sprain will prevent him from playing the Bills. Amerson will miss his second start this season after being ruled out Friday on the official Raiders injury report.

Karl Joseph’s in line to miss his first. He’s considered doubtful with a groin injury that sidelined him two of three practices this week.

Playing Buffalo down to key members of the secondary is troubling to be sure. The team will look down the depth chart for help.

Expect Sean Smith and Shalom Luani to step into bigger roles this week, though Keith McGill could also see time at Joseph’s strong safety spot and cornerback Dexter McDonald’s snap count could skyrocket.

Smith lost his starting job in training camp, and his regular-season’s snap counts have been up and down. His only start came against Baltimore, when he was torched three times on crucial plays. He filled in well for Amerson in Denver and again last week against Kansas City.

“It’s never easy for a guy,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s handling it professional and being prepared and being ready to help his team when he’s called on. We’re going to play the best combination of people that we think can help us win. I’d love for him to get it going and finish this year strong. Where he’s had some struggles, we felt the need to play some other guys.”

McDonald has been a defensive fixture the last few weeks as a third corner active in sub packages. He has fared well, and could start opposite TJ Carrie with Smith as the third corner. 

Luani has primarily been a special teams player, but impressed on defense during the preseason. He’s known as a ball hawk and worked more at free safety this summer, but has experience in the box. According to analytics site Pro Football Focus, Luani played 97 percent of his snaps within eight yards of the line last year at Washington State, and had 17 run stops.

Del Rio didn’t name Luani the starter should Joseph miss time, but certainly leaned in that direction.

“He’s got great instincts and is a natural play maker,” Del Rio said. “He’s been (champing) at the bit for an opportunity if Karl doesn’t end up being able to go, then he’s excited to get his turn.

“…Shalom, obviously, is a young man that we’re excited about. He’s looking forward to getting a little more action than he’s had.”

McGill has experience at strong safety and size to man the position, but hasn't played much defense since the first two games of last season.

Injuries weaken a Raiders area of weakness, leaving trouble spots on the back end. That puts greater emphasis on the front seven to generate a pass rush and stop the run to set up favorable conditions for the secondary.

The Bills don’t have much speed at receiver and tight end Charles Clay’s out with a knee injury, making the job a smidge easier. The Raiders reserves must step up in larger roles to win and important game heading into the halfway point.

Doug Martin ready, willing to mentor Raiders first-round pick Josh Jacobs

Doug Martin ready, willing to mentor Raiders first-round pick Josh Jacobs

Doug Martin has spent most of his career as a feature running back, with some standout seasons to show for it. His career entered another phase last season, when he joined the Raiders knowing full well he’d be a backup.

Marshawn Lynch was the primary option when he signed up, and steady carries proved hard to come by as an understudy even with head coach/offensive play caller Jon Gruden’s propensity for using multiple backs. Lynch deserved the workload he got, and Jalen Richard was a change-of-pace back off the bench.

Martin went full-time after Lynch’s season-ending groin injury, and churned out a respectable 4.2 yards per carry. He wasn’t able to find another solid opportunity in free agency, and was unemployed when the Raiders drafted Josh Jacobs and signed Isaiah Crowell.

Crowell’s torn Achilles’ tendon brought Martin back to the Silver and Black, a second time with zero allusions of being the feature back. He came here to counsel Jacobs, and take over in an unexpected pinch.

He was frank about that fact after Tuesday’s OTA session.

“Josh Jacobs, he’s a good kid with good character,” Martin said. “You all heard his story, I read up on it myself. I commend him for being as strong as he is, and that being said I came here to mentor, push him, show him that I’ve been in the league eight years, so I am a vet now. I can’t believe it, but that’s the case and so I’m here to just be that role model for him.

"If he has any questions, I’m here for him to ask them. Like I said, he has good character, but at the same time he looks like he can just run you over, so he’s going to be great for the team.”

Martin definitely wanted a shot at steady carries, especially after leading the team with 723 rushing yards and four touchdowns primarily as a first-and-second-down back.

A Raiders reunion seemed likely at first, though the sides couldn’t agree on terms and Martin remained a free agent deep into the offseason. That was worrisome, but Martin insists it didn’t cause great consternation.

“If something doesn’t go your way, you just have to stay optimistic, and I was being optimistic with the situation,” Martin said. “I knew I was going to be somewhere and do good things, but it’s just crazy how things folded out. I wish happy healing to Isaiah Crowell for his Achilles' (tendon injury), but, when there is chaos you just make a positive out of negative and you just got to stay optimistic about it.”

Martin's back with the Raiders, understanding his role as mentor and backup capable of playing well on early downs.

This mentor/protégé partnership could work, considering how much Jacobs and Martin have in common. Both guys were first-round picks, with the Raiders adding Jacobs at No. 24 this year, and Tampa Bay taking Martin at No. 31 in 2012.

They also have similar builds, with Jacobs standing 5-foot-10, 220 pounds and Martin at 5-9, 223. Both guys can slash through the interior, with enough speed to pop good runs outside.

Martin had nearly 2,000 yards of total offense (on 368 touches!!) as a rookie, a sum the Raiders would gladly take from Jacobs early on.

Nearly a decade separates them and the Raiders are looking to get younger across the board, making this Jacobs’ time to shine.

[RELATED: Jacobs is Raiders rookie in best position to succeed]

This will be the first time Martin has assumed a mentorship role, but he’s ready for it.

“It’s not something I’m used to but it’s something that I want to do,” Martin said. “I’ve been in the league eight years. I’ve been through the whole spectrum of good to bad in this league and, if I can teach somebody, if I can teach Josh on what to do, what not to do, how to stay in on the narrow path and just keep his eye on the goal, then I’m here for that.

"And, yeah, I’m grateful.”

NFL rumors: Raiders-Packers to play Week 3 preseason game in Winnipeg


NFL rumors: Raiders-Packers to play Week 3 preseason game in Winnipeg

Buckle up, Winnipeg, Jon Gruden and the Raiders are coming to town.

It was reported in March that the Raiders were looking to play one of their four preseason games in Canada and now it appears they have found a site for that game.

The Raiders will play the Green Bay Packers in Winnipeg for their third preseason game, Jeff Hamilton of the Winnipeg Free Press reported Friday.

The Raiders have been looking to move one of their preseason games for some time, to mitigate some of the increased rent from their 2019 lease with Oakland Coliseum, and have honed on playing north of the border. The rent amount will decrease with a game off the schedule, a clause that was written into a new lease agreement with a revenue that is expected to host the Raiders one more season before the team is scheduled to relocate to Las Vegas in 2020.

It makes sense to play the Green Bay Packers in Canada, considering their close proximity to the country.

The Raiders originally looked at Regina’s Mosaic Stadium, home of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. That deal proved difficult, and the Raiders moved on to other Canadian options. Winnipeg was the best fit, and a formal deal seems to be in the cards.

The Raiders or Packers have not made a formal announcement, despite being less than three months from the game.

Oakland began Phase Three of its offseason program Tuesday when organized team activities began in Alameda.

[RELATED: Undrafted rookie WR drawing rave reviews from Gruden, Carr]

Derek Carr vs. Aaron Rodgers in a "dress rehearsal game" isn't bad NFL treat for the fine folks of Winnipeg. Enjoy.