Raiders

Speed demon Rico Gafford helps Raiders prep for Ravens' Lamar Jackson

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AP

Speed demon Rico Gafford helps Raiders prep for Ravens' Lamar Jackson

ALAMEDA – Lamar Jackson ran more often in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals than any Raiders rusher has in a game all season.

The Baltimore Ravens rookie's 26 carries for 119 yards isn’t all that unusual under normal circumstances. There is, however, one catch. Jackson’s a quarterback.

That’s the largest carry count by a quarterback since the NFL merger. The yardage total is second in history for a signal-caller.

But the QB wasn’t running for his life. He was running with purpose

That presents one huge problem for the Raiders defense: Containing the first-round Louisville product and Heisman trophy winner in his second career NFL start.

Jackson’s ability to run and throw – despite what some draft experts might say about that second trait – makes him unpredictable. That’s magnified because he has just one professional start. There just isn’t much tape to go on or tendencies to identify.

“[He presents] a lot of challenges, just because you don’t know what plays they are running,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “I don’t recognize some of the plays they are running. You got to go back to Louisville and study him there. He’s got magnificent running ability. He’s going to get better and better the more he plays, and we got to respect his passing ability and these receivers. We know a lot about them.”

[RELATED: Jordy Nelson limited in on-field work in practice]

The Ravens will build off what Jackson did against the Bengals, and give the Raiders new and unscouted looks. It’s certainly possible he’ll throw more than the 19 passes he attempted in a win over the Bengals. Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther must be ready for such chess moves.

Tackling Jackson is difficult, even if defenders know what’s coming. He has raw speed in spades. He ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash as Louisville’s pro day, showing that he can be gone in a flash.

The Raiders have someone who can match that pace.

“We got Rico Gafford,” Gruden said, “who runs about 4.2.”

Gafford is a practice-squad receiver and former college cornerback who turned in a 4.22 40-yard dash at Wyoming’s pro day. The Raiders will run Johnny Holton, activated Wednesday from the practice squad, as a Jackson clone as well.

“The best I can tell you,” Gruden said, “is we are going to be very, very creative on how we try to emulate and simulate the Ravens.”

[RELATED: Derek Carr's aim for Raiders' final six games is to mess up NFL draft order]

Gafford will do his best to give Raiders defense proper looks as they try to get used to Sunday’s unique challenge.

“I love running,” Gafford said, via the Las Vegas Review Journal. “That’s the one thing about me: I love running. I’m a track guy. Anyone who knows me can tell you I run. I run a lot, and I run fast. I’m just going to do the best that I can … to be the best Lamar Jackson I can be, other than him.”

Raiders' Trent Brown accused of domestic violence by woman in lawsuit

Raiders' Trent Brown accused of domestic violence by woman in lawsuit

Raiders offensive tackle Trent Brown has been accused of domestic violence by his son's mother, Diorra Marzette-Sanders, in a lawsuit filed in Alameda County on Monday.

Pro Football Talk obtained a copy of the lawsuit, filed in a California civil court, in which Marzette-Sanders accuses Brown of slapping her "across the face, leaving her mouth bloody and her face bruised," and that he has "bruised, bloodied and battered" her multiple times. Marzette-Sanders also accuses Brown of threatening her by saying he'd "shoot yo a-- in the fu--ing head" when she wanted to leave with their son.

The lawsuit further cites three incidents this year as evidence of the abuse. In March, Brown “grabbed her face and covered her mouth while choking her out until she couldn’t breathe,” leaving “a ring of bruises around her neck," according to the suit. One month later, Brown “grabbed the Plaintiff’s arm, took her into a room, locked the door, slapped her across the face and punched her in the ribs” while they were vacationing in Hawaii, Marzette-Sanders alleges.

In June, police in Bastrop County, Texas, were called and a report was filed after Brown allegedly slapped Marzette-Sanders in the face. Charges were never filed. According to the lawsuit, Brown terminated his relationship with Marzette-Sanders at that time. The lawsuit also alleges that Brown and Marzette-Sanders were engaged in a "non-marital partnership agreement," an oral and implied pact that they would be together for life. They have a son together, and the suit alleges that Brown committed to supporting Marzette-Sanders and their offspring for life. In addition to alleged domestic violence, Brown is accused of violating that non-marital agreement. 

The NFL is aware of the suit, and a league spokesman said the NFL will "review the matter."

According to the 2019 NFL personal conduct policy, the league investigates possible violations even when charges are not filed and a player is not charged with a crime: "Whenever the league office becomes aware of a possible violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, it will undertake an investigation, the timing and scope of which will be based upon the particular circumstances of the matter," the policy reads. "Any such investigation may be conducted by league office personnel, independent parties, or by a combination of the two."

The Raiders signed Brown to a record-setting four-year, $66 million contract this past offseason.

Surging Raiders face tough upcoming tests in Packers, Texans offenses

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USATSI

Surging Raiders face tough upcoming tests in Packers, Texans offenses

The Raiders haven’t played a true home game in forever. That's true, even though the Silver and Black have two games left in a five-game stretch played away from Oakland that will define this season.

They have started it off well, with two quality wins in three attempts. The team has rallied together during this time, facing in-game adversity and practice-week setbacks head on. This group doesn’t wilt, finding ways to beat Indianapolis and Chicago after what could’ve been a demoralizing loss in Minnesota.

Head coach Jon Gruden deserves credit for guiding the Raiders through with expert game plans. The coaching staff and the locker room’s leadership core have kept the team together during tough times playing difficult opposition.

The path doesn’t get any easier as this road trip winds down. In fact, the competition ratchets up. The Raiders face Green Bay on Sunday and Houston the following week before returning to Oakland for a three-game homestand.

Yeah, that’s Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson in consecutive weeks. Those elite quarterbacks are as tough as they get, with an ability to score at will and perform well in the clutch.

The Raiders have scored 55 points in the last two games with a solid run game and efficient passing, with strong starts in both wins. That will be essential yet again if the Raiders are to continue performing well against a run of legitimate playoff contenders.

This two-game win streak, punctuated by an excellent win over the Bears in London, has brought positive press about the coaching staff and the team's toughness. The next two games could offer a reality check -- or densely pack the bandwagon. 

The Packers and Texans offer stiff competition to a Raiders team right in the thick of the AFC West race. The division is bunched up at the moment, with the Chiefs and Chargers each losing two straight games. The Broncos have won two in a row. The Raiders are in a position to make some noise in the division, especially if they can get at least one win out of the next two games.

The schedule gets a bit easier after these two, with golden opportunities down the stretch. There are weak sisters on the schedule that a quality team should handle and a flood of division games. The Raiders can remain highly competitive if they maintain a strong ground game offensively while shutting down the opponent’s rushing attack.

Early leads allow the Raiders to play their way, with a steady diet of Josh Jacobs working behind an imposing offensive line. The Raiders seem committed to playing solid run defense, but the back end must hold its own against excellent quarterbacks. Doing so puts most every game in play, even those where the Raiders look inferior on paper. 

[RELATED: Why Jackson sees so much potential in this Raiders O-line]

The Raiders have played quality competition tough, and found ways to win three important games through five attempts. They aren’t going to win every game, nor should that be expected from a team managing significant talent losses via injury, suspension or other.

Coming out of this two-game stretch with a win, or even two, would show the NFL these Raiders arrived before many expected, and that they’re a legitimate playoff threat heading into the season’s second half.