Raiders

What allows Jon Gruden, Raiders to make Daryl Worley 'hybrid player'

What allows Jon Gruden, Raiders to make Daryl Worley 'hybrid player'

The Raiders have reinforcements coming at cornerback.

Nevin Lawson formally was reactivated Monday after serving a four-game PED suspension and a week practicing under a roster exemption. Rookie Isaiah Johnson is set to return off injured reserve, and should start practicing after the bye week off.

That’s good news for the position group, which already was functioning well with Gareon Conley, Lamarcus Joyner and Daryl Worley.

Cornerback is by far the team’s deepest spot on defense, which has allowed the Raiders to get creative how they use some of their most versatile pieces.

They have moved Joyner around some over the past two weeks, keeping him on the field even in the base package. They’re going to do the same with Worley, using his size and physicality to their advantage knowing there are capable players able to step into a spot he vacates while roving around the defensive backfield.

Lawson’s return should give the Raiders freedom to let Worley help several areas.

“Hopefully he can do that,” Gruden said. “We have a big picture [plan] for Worley. We think Worley is going to be a hybrid player for us. A guy that can play at safety, at nickel, at left corner or right. As we go down the stretch here I think Worley’s role is going to expand.”

Worley stands 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, with the strength, physicality and speed to match up with most any receiver or tight end. The Raiders need help against bigger tight ends especially, and Worley could be a weapon there or in places where shorter defensive backs Joyner and Karl Joseph have a tough time matching up.

The Raiders tried this a bit in a Week 2 loss to Kansas City, where Worley lined up in several locations. They didn’t really have the support required to make it all work well. They do now, with the secondary’s ranks healthy and getting stronger.

Worley’s exact role may vary based upon opposing matchups, and it will be interesting to see how he is deployed on a week-to-week basis.

The Raiders used their defensive backs well in Sunday's 24-21 victory over Chicago, playing just two linebackers the entire game. They used Joyner and Joseph in different spots to sustain quality run defense, making do without the standard compliment of linebackers in a front seven. 

Getting more experienced defensive backs involved will help. 

Lawson has tons of experience and should be able to step in and contribute. Johnson will be a real asset on special teams -- he was an excellent gunner in college -- and has the ideal size to play outside cornerback here. More development is required for someone new to the position -- he mostly has played receiver -- who missed most of the preseason with a concussion and a facial injury that ultimately got him placed on injured reserve.

Even if he starts practice Monday, it might take a few weeks to get him game ready. 

[RELATED: Report: Raiders DE Key out multiple weeks with knee injury]

“We’re hoping to get Isaiah Johnson, our fourth-round pick, back here on the practice field Monday so we can see where he is,” Gruden said. “We’d like to get him on the grass. He’s another big press guy that we like.

"We’re excited about getting our corners back at full strength. We’ll see how it goes.”

Why Raiders should add running back to help Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard

Why Raiders should add running back to help Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard

Josh Jacobs is a feature back in every sense. The Raiders star rusher can do most everything well and is capable of playing all three downs. He can carry a significant workload, as he did during an exemplary 2019 campaign where he finished second in AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting, and frankly should have won.

He had 242 carries for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games, proving to be a tough and elusive runner who gains significant yards after contact.

Jalen Richard’s an excellent complement as a third-down back who can pass protect well and is an excellent receiver out of the backfield.

While those two can cover every offensive scenario, the Raiders should still work to add another running back.

That was clear at the end of last year when Jacobs was shut down with a shoulder injury he played through for weeks. DeAndre Washington filled in as the primary ball carrier and fared well but was allowed to hit the open market, where he remains today.

The Raiders could and should look to upgrade that position and not just by finding a backup. They need someone with a different style, maybe a big and bruising back to accent what the Raiders do offensively.

They tried to do that last season, when they worked out every veteran running back under the sun but didn’t sign anyone until Rod Smith came aboard late.

The sixth-year journeyman re-signed with the Raiders on a low-cost contract.

The NFL draft will have quality options available later in the draft, where the Raiders have three third-round picks and one each in the fourth and fifth.

It might take a third-round pick to land Boston College’s A.J. Dillion, a 247-pound bruiser who can run downhill and pick up short yardage by moving the pile. Draft analysts say he’s good at reading blocks and following his assignment, something important in Jon Gruden’s offense.

Vanderbilt’s Ke'Shawn Vaughn is an option who might be available later. He isn’t quite as big but has the toughness required to get hard yards and could absorb some blows to keep Jacobs healthy and fresh.

This isn’t a full-on draft breakdown, so we won’t go down the list of every scheme fit available for selection. There aren’t many free agent dollars left, so it’s hard to see another runner coming in.

The Raiders can survive with the depth chart they’ve got, especially with fullback Alec Ingold able to carry the ball effectively when called upon. But the NFL is trending toward two back benefits, even when there’s an obvious alpha like Jacobs.

Gruden has historically preferred feeding multiple backs, as he did in his previous Raiders stint with Tyrone Wheatley and Napoleon Kauffman, and later with Wheatley and Charlie Garner.

[RELATED: Raiders reportedly meet virtually with Herbert]

Gruden has also ridden one back pretty hard, as he did with Cadillac Williams while with Tampa Bay.

The Raiders are more than capable of rolling with the crew they have but could use to make the backfield a little better before the 2020 season begins by filling a relatively low-ranking need.

NFL rumors: Raiders meeting with Oregon QB Justin Herbert before draft

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NFL rumors: Raiders meeting with Oregon QB Justin Herbert before draft

The Raiders are meeting with former Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert on an official top-30 visit. Well, the term “visit” might be a stretch considering nobody is allowed inside NFL facilities due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pre-draft meetings still are happening, but those face-to-face interactions now are done over FaceTime or Zoom or Skype or whatever video conferencing platform you prefer.

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Herbert will be meeting with the Raiders in this way, as the Silver and Black try to refine their options in the NFL draft.

Each team gets 30 meetings during the pre-draft process, though they’re often used on players from lower rounds or with character questions they need to examine further.

This meeting is sure to raise some eyebrows considering Herbert’s position and eventual draft status, but this should be viewed as an exploratory exercise of the Raiders doing due diligence.

[RELATED: How Raiders' NFL free-agency signings could impact returning players]

Herbert should be taken in the NFL draft’s top 10, well before the Raiders draft at Nos. 12 and 19. The Raiders have the capital to trade up in the draft if they choose, but it would be costly to move up high enough to get beyond the quarterback starved Miami Dolphins at No. 5 and the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 6.

They also have a quality quarterback room with Derek Carr as the starter and Marcus Mariota as the backup. There are far more pressing needs at receiver, cornerback and safety and maybe defensive line that could use talent available in the first round.

It’s possible the Raiders draft a quarterback later in the draft, but it seems unlikely in the first round.

Let’s also recall that the Raiders met with top quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins before last year’s draft and didn’t take either guy.

While the Raiders don’t have an immediate need at quarterback, general manager Mike Mayock always says the team will consider upgrades at every position. Head coach Jon Gruden loves meeting with quarterbacks and learning how they think.

Herbert is ranked high among the NFL draft’s best options at quarterback, typically third behind Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. He has ideal size for a quarterback at 6-foot-6 and 236 pounds, with great arm strength and field vision. He can throw on the move and is confident throwing the ball downfield and making smart decisions going with shorter and intermediate options.

NBC Sports Bay Area’s latest mock draft has Herbert going No. 5 to the Dolphins.

NFL Network also reported that Herbert has a video conference scheduled with the Bolts.