Raiders

Trayvon Mullen can develop without pressing need to help Raiders right away

mullenus.jpg
USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES

Trayvon Mullen can develop without pressing need to help Raiders right away

The Raiders have worked hard to remake their secondary. They paid a premium to get Lamarcus Joyner in town to play safety and lots of slot cornerback. They re-signed restricted free agent Daryl Worley with a second-round tender, added unrestricted veteran Nevin Lawson and still drafted two cornerbacks in the first four rounds.

Trayvon Mullen was the first corner added in the draft, coming in the second round despite having depth at the position already. That should take some pressure off him to play right away, but he’ll still have a chance to compete for a role early on. Let’s take a look at what’s fair to expect from Mullen in 2019.

Also, stay tuned for Tuesday’s installment in this series, focused on fourth-round edge rusher Maxx Crosby.

Trayvon Mullen

Draft slot: No. 40 overall (Second round)
Position: Cornerback
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 199 pounds
School: Clemson

Skill set

Mullen a long, physical and aggressive cornerback who fits the Raiders' scheme well. They’re remaking the defensive depth chart largely through the draft, and had eyes on Mullen even earlier than when they picked him. Trading back a bit still landed a player comfortable playing press-man coverage on the outside. Mullen can do that well, and he has the size and frame well suited to thrive under defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. He also can play off-man coverage and is comfortable in a zone when that’s required. He has solid quickness and good reaction time to close gaps when they open.

Training camp proving ground

Mullen doesn’t have much ball production, with just four interceptions and seven passes defensed in three Clemson seasons. There’s a reason why. He wasn’t targeted much. He’ll have to prove he belongs with more than just sticky coverage. He’ll get targeted in the pros, even in training camp and preseason games. That’s a good thing for Mullen, who must show consistent quality ball skills when given greater opportunities. While he isn’t expected to start right away, the Raiders will allow him to compete for a starting spot. An excellent preseason could force the Raiders to rethink early plans at cornerback.

Best-case scenario

The Raiders have presumptive starting cornerbacks in Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley. They have Navin Lawson as a third option, with extensive experience starting.

The Raiders have been true to their word that the best players play, pedigree or paycheck be damned. If Mullen earns a starting spot, their plans for the future start now.

He has the skill set to play well in the system, with confidence overflowing even at this early stage. The Raiders are looking for playmakers in the secondary who don’t get beat deep. Mullen could well be that guy, but he’d have to be awfully impressive to steal a significant role from those above him right now.

Worst-case scenario

The Raiders would be comfortable if Mullen took some time to develop behind other, more experienced options. They’d be disappointed if he didn’t progress towards the long-term starter they projected him to be when targeting Mullen in the second round.

Guenther will want to see scheme knowledge, good instincts and an ability to step right in if called upon in a reserve role. The pressure’s far lower than on three first-round picks expected to contribute right away, but he’ll still be held to a higher standard considering their expectations and grand plans for a talented scheme fit.

[RELATED: Raiders' best-, worst-case scenario for safety Abram]

Realistic expectations

The Raiders have been on a terrible run of second-round picks since 2015. Mario Edwards Jr., Jihad Ward and Obi Melifonwu were taken there, respectively, and none remain on the roster. Even last year’s pick P.J. Hall was slow out the gate, so Mullen must break the streak and challenge for a role as a rookie and develop into a productive Raiders player.

Mullen should vie for a role right away, but even pushing Lawson for the third spot would be satisfactory in this secondary climate. Conley’s a virtual lock in the starting lineup, but Worley’s gig could be had with an excellent showing, though Mullen might take a year’s seasoning before sliding into the starting lineup opposite Conley. That’s how it should work for most draft picks taken outside the first round, but the talent-strapped Raiders haven’t had that luxury recently. They do in this particular instance, and Mullen should be better for it in the long run.

Raiders report card: Grades on offense, defense in 17-10 win vs. Bengals

carrcelebrationraidersbengalsusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Raiders report card: Grades on offense, defense in 17-10 win vs. Bengals

OAKLAND – The Raiders didn’t bring their best to Oakland Coliseum on Sunday afternoon. They weren’t bad, not by any stretch, but had to battle a bit to beat the winless Cincinnati Bengals.

The 17-10 final score is absolutely all that matters here. The Raiders completed a perfect three-game homestand and have won five of their last seven games to join the AFC’s playoff race.

The Raiders will have to be better down the road, as early as next week against the New York Jets, and they know that.

But they fought hard and got another win at home to keep this good thing going.

There’s plenty of time to look at the big picture. Here’s how the Silver and Black graded out on this particular Sunday in our weekly Raiders report card:

Rushing offense

Josh Jacobs didn’t like his performance despite gaining 112 yards on 21. His 4.9 yards per attempt were above his season average and he ate up ground in chunks, but the rookie rusher was bothered by a red-zone fumble even after the game. He should have been. That’s a no-no.

The Raiders didn’t get much from other Raiders runners, with a 3.3-yards per carry average on the whole. That came against the NFL’s worst run defense – the Bengals had given up 173 yards per game entering Sunday – which probably increased frustration that the Raiders didn’t go off.

Grade: C

Passing offense

Derek Carr had a solid statistical day, much like Jacobs. The Raiders quarterback connected on his first 14 passes and finished with 292 yards and just four incompletions. Darren Waller was heavily involved, with five catches for 78 yards after getting some one-on-one or man coverage.

Hunter Renfrow had five catches for 66 yards, but a pass intended for him got picked. That was Carr’s first interception since Oct. 20, but still cut deep. The pass protection was lacking at times, which kept the air attack from finding a solid rhythm.

Grade: B-minus

Rushing defense

This is normally a team strength. Not on this day. The Bengals had 173 yards on 22 carries, for a whopping 7.3 yards per carry. Yeah. You read that stat line right. That normally means the Raiders lost a game. Not so here.

The Bengals still struggled on third down thanks to a terrible passing game. Joe Mixon gave the Raiders fits in last year’s matchup in Cincinnati and did so again Sunday, this time close to his Oakley home, totaling 86 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. This might’ve been the run defense’s worst showing of the season.

Grade: D

Passing defense

Ryan Finley struggled mightily in his second NFL start. The rookie completed just 13-of-31 passes for 115 yards and a Trayvon Mullen interception that sealed the Raiders' victory. The Silver and Black sacked him five times, including four from rookie edge rusher Maxx Crosby. One of them was a strip sack recovered by Maurice Hurst, though the Raiders gave the ball right back.

Newcomer Dion Jordan got in on the sack-tivity (get it?) in his first game as a Raider. The pass rush is starting to heat up now, with 10 sacks in the past two games. That’s a good sign for the defense as a whole, especially a secondary that is piecing a lineup together with Karl Joseph done for the season and Lamarcus Joyner out for the time being.

Grade: A

Special teams

Instead of kicking a long field goal late in the fourth quarter, the Raiders decided to punt to pin the Bengals deep for a final comeback attempt. Then A.J. Cole sent his punt into the end zone for a touchback. Not ideal, but not the end of the world. His 32.8-yard net punt average wasn’t great, and he put just one of five attempts inside the opposing 20. Daniel Carlson hit his only field-goal attempt, and it was a short one.

Grade: C

[RELATED: Jacobs hit hard by Tua injury]

Overall

The defense did more than enough to win. The offense feels like it didn’t do enough and still won. That’s the only important thing. Find a way to win a game. The Raiders did that for a third straight time thanks to more good coaching and enough good plays to beat the team on the other sideline. Do that enough and you’re playoff bound.

Grade: A

Why Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs say Raiders offense didn't meet high standard

carrjacobsraidersbengalsap.jpg
AP

Why Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs say Raiders offense didn't meet high standard

ALAMEDA – Raiders running Josh Jacobs had 112 rushing yards on 23 carries on Sunday against Cincinnati, the fourth time the rookie hit triple digits this season.

Jacobs couldn’t have cared less.

Quarterback Derek Carr completed his first 14 passes and hit on 24-of-29 passes for 292 yards and a triple-digit passer rating.

That stat line was met with a shrug.

The Raiders will gladly take a 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, but they openly acknowledged an underwhelming offensive performance that must be improved against better competition.

“We could have had more,” Carr said. "Honestly, that's how I feel. I left the game and I get our stat book and I looked at it and I was like, 'They look pretty, but I could have played better.' I'm hard on myself. … I think that's the standard that Coach Gruden puts on me.”

Jacobs felt the same way, disappointed to leave plays unmade despite several highlights during the game.

“We left a lot of points out there as an offense,” Jacobs said. “I missed a couple holes. Honestly, It wasn’t a great game for me. I had 100-and-something yards or whatever, but there’s a lot to improve on.”

The Raiders offense had been humming. The unit had scored at least 24 points in six straight games over a 4-2 stretch. The unit was balanced, steady and impactful against some solid teams, creating the expectation that the Raiders should go off against a Bengals team ranked 22nd against the pass and dead last against the run.

That didn’t happen. The Raiders weren’t bad, either. Not by a long shot. They converted half of their third- and fourth-down attempts. They accumulated 386 yards of offense and had nine explosive plays of 20 yards or more.

They misfired a few times, which bothered both Carr and Jacobs after this win. Jacobs fumbled in the red zone – that’s a major no-no – and Carr threw his first interception since Oct. 20 when Bengals safety Jessie Bates III cut off a pass intended for Hunter Renfrow.

“[Josh] never wants to put the ball on the ground,” Carr said. “I threw an interception, he fumbled. If Coach is going to put the ball in our hands every single play, one of us, then we need to be better."

[RELATED: Jacobs hit hard by Tua injury]

This was a day where the Raiders held Cincinnati to 10 points, and just a field goal after the opening drive. After having to win so many high-scoring games, the offense didn’t have to do much in this one. They were productive but not efficient enough scoring, and the Raiders playmakers believe it didn’t do well enough even though the box score looks good.

“I'm never into fantasy stats or my stats or anything like that,” Carr said. “I'm into doing whatever Coach Gruden wants me to do at a high level. I didn't do that well enough today.”