Raiders

Tyrell Williams, Raiders receivers must help get offense back on track

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Tyrell Williams, Raiders receivers must help get offense back on track

The Raiders offense has hit the skids. A unit that scored 24 points or more in six consecutive games has crossed the goal line just once since Nov. 17, a garbage-time touchdown that only mattered to those who bet the over.

The run game keeps marching along save a hiccup against the Jets, but the air attack has fallen on hard times.

Fingers will point straight at Derek Carr for recent offensive failings, but it’s never all on the quarterback. There were several times in that disastrous 40-9 loss to Kansas City where Carr was well protected, waiting for prospective targets to create separation.

Wide receivers had just eight yards through three quarters and just 34 on four catches and eight targets.

Tyrell Williams knows that isn’t good enough, even if the conditions, early turnovers and the quickly lopsided score made life harder on the passing game.

“They were trying to take me away. They were trying to take away [tight end Darren] Waller, making sure they had two guys on him,” Williams said Monday in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “I saw a couple of double teams every once in a while. Hindsight is 20/20, but in the game, we felt like we had a good game plan. We’re trying to continue to execute that game plan, but sometimes you get behind in the sticks and that takes us away from what we’re trying to do."

"We need to stay on schedule so we aren’t facing third-and-long situations, and we obviously have to avoid turnovers. Playing from behind, on the road, and in that environment is hard.”

Head coach Jon Gruden took some blame for the overall lack of receiver production against the Chiefs. The position group has struggled this season after dealing with significant personnel turnover, Williams’ difficult bout of plantar fasciitis around midseason and Hunter Renfrow’s current rib injury. The overall talent level isn’t soaring at this stage, but Gruden believes he can scheme targets open.

“Well, I’ve got to do a better job,” Gruden said. “We’ve got to do a better job getting them better looks and getting them involved in the game no question, so I put that on myself. I think we’ve got good, young receivers. We might shake it up a little bit, give some other guys some more opportunities this week, but we’ll study the Titans and see what goes.”

Keelan Doss, Marcell Ateman and recent practice squad promotion Rico Gafford are 53-man roster options who haven’t been involved much. Zay Jones has and hasn’t ever gotten in sync with Carr.

Williams scored touchdowns in his first five games as a Raider and has had a few nice moments in his return from injury, but has hit a production slump. He has three catches for 27 yards on eight targets over the last two weeks and was the intended target on two interceptions in that span, though neither pick should be blamed on him.

Williams is the team’s best deep threat and has been targeted twice on passes 20-plus yards downfield in the last two games, and five times between 10-20 yards from the line of scrimmage in that span.

Williams obviously wants to be more productive than in recent weeks, especially with the offense struggling, but he isn’t the type to yell or scream or demand the ball.

“I never want to be that type of person,” Williams said. “Of course I want to get more targets. I want to be able to stretch the field a bit more and get that deep threat out there. I think that comes with talking and communicating with coaches and being on the same page with Derek throughout the week. That should allow us to focus and hit on those opportunities.”

There’s also a danger of pressing to get out of slumps, whether it’s trying to do too much, stepping outside of one’s responsibility or Carr forcing a throw. This offense has been steadily productive before and Williams believes it can be again. One key is not overthinking it.

“You have to focus on each play as it comes and let the game come to you,” Williams said. “I’m going to go out there and play hard and leave everything I have out there, but I don’t like focusing on when targets are coming and when they’re not because that takes me out of my game. I have to just play and after the game evaluate and see what we did do and what we could’ve done better.”

[RELATED: Jacobs vows to get Raiders 'right' after loss]

There’s time to get rolling again. While losses to the Chiefs and Jets essentially snuffed their AFC West title hopes and largely erased margin for error, the Raiders can still land a playoff spot with a strong showing against the Titans and Jaguars at home and then on the road against the L.A. Chargers and Denver Broncos to close out the year.

“The season’s long and there’s still time to get back on track,” Williams said. These two home games are obviously huge. They’re against teams that are, like us, fighting for a playoff spot. The rest of the way for us, they’re all playoff games in a sense.”

NFL rumors: Donald Trump says season should start on time despite coronavirus

NFL rumors: Donald Trump says season should start on time despite coronavirus

President Donald Trump held a call with the commissioners of major American sports leagues Saturday, and offered a prediction for the upcoming NFL season.

Trump told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the other members on the call that the NFL season should start on time despite the coronavirus outbreak, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Adam Schefter reported. Trump reportedly told the commissioners that he expects arenas and stadiums to be filled come August and September, according to Wojnarowski and Schefter.

However, it's currently unclear if public health officials agree with Trump's prediction. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as a lead member of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, told Warriors star Steph Curry that sports only can return once the country as a whole has turned the corner with the outbreak and the medical system no longer is under strain. Then it will be easier to identify cases, and the cities won't be overwhelmed.

It is unknown when sports will return and how it will look when they do.

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While Trump's optimism might lift some spirits, it will be up to public health officials to determine when it is safe for sports to begin and be held with fans in attendance. With many epidemiologists expecting the virus to surge in the fall, the NFL's season could be in jeopardy.

While all major sports currently are on pause, the NFL is planning to start the season on schedule and hold games as normal with fans in attendance.

The NBA suspended its season indefinitely after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11. The NHL, MLB, PGA Tour and MLS all followed suit, with the NCAA choosing to cancel the men's and women's tournaments altogether.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver reportedly said on the call that his league would love to "lead the way" in jumpstarting the economy but they only can do so once they are told by public health officials that it is safe.

[RELATED: Raiders reportedly eyeing DT at No. 19 in draft]

Trump reportedly also brought up the idea of the leagues lobbying for a tax credit that used to exist for fans. This credit would allow fans to deduct concessions and ticket prices from their taxes, according to Schefter and Wojnarowski.

The call included commissioners and top executives from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, WNBA, WWE, PGA Tour, LPGA, UFC, IndyCar and Breeders' Cup, according to a White House pool report.

As of Saturday, there were more than 270,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and NBC News reporting.

NFL draft rumors: Raiders expected to take defensive tackle in Round 1

NFL draft rumors: Raiders expected to take defensive tackle in Round 1

The Raiders stocked up in free agency, spending big to fix a defense that was leaky at best in 2019.

Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock now must turn their attention to hitting another home run in the NFL draft. With the No. 12 and No. 19 overall picks, most expect the Raiders, who have glaring needs at wide receiver and cornerback, to address those holes in some manner with their first two picks. That might not be where Gruden and Mayock are planning to go, though.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported Friday, citing league sources, that most around the league expect the Silver and Black to draft a top wide receiver with the No. 12 pick, but use their second pick on a "middle-of-the-field" defender since the Raiders would like to make an upgrade at defensive tackle.

The middle of the field was a massive problem for the Raiders' defense in 2019. But they went out and added defensive tackle Maliek Collins and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski to lead the unit. They also lucked into signing safety Damarious Randall, upgrading the middle of the field at all three levels.

However, the Raiders do still need some help in the middle of their defensive line. Collins is young and thrives beating double teams, but he only signed a one-year deal. Maurice Hurst had a nice 2019 but he still needs to improve and Johnathan Hankins, while great against the run, doesn't move the needle rushing the passer.

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If the Raiders do want to draft a defensive tackle -- it might not be the best use of a first-round pick -- there are a few elite talents they could look at.

Derrick Brown leads this year's defensive tackle class. The 6-foot-5, 318-pound Auburn product might be the most complete defensive tackle to enter the draft since Aaron Donald. He has powerful hands, an unreal motor and can play in odd and even fronts. He's a Day 1 plug-and-play starter with All-Pro potential. Brown is expected to be a top-10 pick so the likelihood of him donning and Silver and Black is low.

Second on the list is South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Gamecock is an elite pass-rusher with all the tools and the strength of a bull. He has a great first step and unreal explosiveness. Kinlaw might be a shade below Brown but he appears to have Pro Bowler written all over him. He could be available for the Raiders at No. 12, but it's doubtful he slips to No. 19.

The next two players are end of Day 1-beginning of Day 2 guys, which means the Raiders must be sure they can contribute right away to take them at No. 19 or must trade down to make the pick lineup with the talent.

Next up is TCU's Ross Blacklock, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound load who has all the goods to be a star at the NFL level. Blacklock has the size, length, power and athleticism to be a dynamic playmaker at the NFL level. While some evaluators believe it might take him some time to adjust to the NFL game, he has all the tools you want in a three-down interior defensive lineman.

The last high-end interior defensive lineman is Oklahoma's Neville Gallimore. The rare defensive tackle that is defined by his speed, the 6-foot-2, 302-pound Gallimore has all the looks of a Day 1 NFL starter who can collapse the pocket and put the quarterback on his heels. His quickness, motor and power are traits that leap off the tape.

[RELATED: McKinney headlines top DB prospects for Raiders to target]

Now a middle-of-the-field defender could mean a safety like Alabama's Xavier McKinney, which would mean the Raiders would shift Randall to corner where they have a huge hole after Eli Apple's contract couldn't get finalized.

If Kinlaw or Brown falls to the Raiders, Gruden and Mayock should snap them up. Both would be a powerful inside presence who could open up rushing lanes for Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby.

But if both are off the board and corner like Florida's C.J. Henderson or even LSU's Kristian Fulton still are available, it might be wise to address to cornerback need first and see if a defensive tackle like Davon Hamilton,  Raekwon Davis or Justin Madubuike falls to them in the third round.