Why Raiders LB Derrick Johnson believes he still has 'a lot left in the tank'


Why Raiders LB Derrick Johnson believes he still has 'a lot left in the tank'

Derrick Johnson is 35 years old, with another birthday coming in November. Most NFL players are retired by then, especially linebackers anchoring a defense.

The four-time Pro Bowler is still working despite the Chiefs letting him walk after 14 years in Kansas City. He could’ve walked away, with a possible coaching position available on Andy Reid’s staff.

Johnson didn’t want that. He wanted to keep playing, which is why he signed a one-year contract reportedly worth up to $3 million.

The middle linebacker is not chasing a paycheck. He’s chasing something far more valuable.

“The main reason why I’m still playing ball, why I’m still chasing a championship, is because I feel I have a lot left in the tank,” Johnson said Wednesday in a conference call with local media. “That’s the only reason I’m back. When I get to a point where I feel like I’m just hanging on, I’ll get out of the league.”

Johnson remains an active player following a productive meeting with Raiders brass. He instantly bonded with head coach Jon Gruden over a shared desire to win now. The Raiders defensive system suits Johnson well, and he looks forward to what should be a prominent role as the middle man.

“This scheme is linebacker friendly,” Johnson said. “It’s built for linebackers to make plays. We have a lot of responsibility to make plays in this defense. With my wisdom after playing 13 years, they ask linebackers to do a lot mentally just so we can make plays. That’s right up my alley.”

There’s little doubt Johnson can dissect an offense as well as anyone. His football IQ is sky high, and relishes the rank of field general. There are some questions about a physical drop off at an advanced football age, following two Achilles’ tendon tears since 2014. His last came in 2016, and he followed that year looking a step or two slower.

It’s often the case player regain explosiveness the second season back from an Achilles’ injury, and Johnson’s experiencing that rebound.

“My burst is back,” Johnson said. “It’s better than ever, and that’s a good feeling. It’s going to help me make plays and be more explosive. The longer you’re out from a season-ending injury, it’s usually better. It helps you out mentally. This will be my second season out from my Achilles’ injury.

“I was healthy last year and I’m better this year because I got a really good offseason training that I didn’t get last year coming off the injury. I’m excited. My body’s healthy. At this age, being healthy is big. If I can be healthy, I can help this team win and be an impact player.”

Johnson wants to make an impact outside the Raiders as well. His Defend the Dream foundation did great work in Kansas City, and he plans to extend that outreach to the East Bay while he’s here.

“Playing in the NFL, we’re role models. We have to conduct ourselves in a certain way off the field, too,” Johnson said. “I can’t wait to dive into this community. There are always places that need help, especially in lower-income areas. My passion is working with kids. I’ve always been that way, even in Kansas City. Even though I’m in Oakland, my mindset hasn’t changed. The NFL gives you a platform, and kids look up to you. I’m going to use that platform to the best of my ability and set a great example. I can’t wait to start working in the community.”

Raiders report card: Grades for offense, defense in loss to Bengals


Raiders report card: Grades for offense, defense in loss to Bengals

CINCINNATI – The Raiders still don’t have a winning streak this season. They have three wins, but each was a singular entity. It takes at least two to constitute a streak, and the Silver and Black had a real chance to secure one Sunday here in Cincinnati.

They weren’t able to overcome some obstacles, and ended up playing Raiders football fitting of this disastrous season, executing far worse than competitive games recently played.

They didn’t do many things right, fell into an early hole and never dug out.

Let’s grade this Raiders performance out in our Week 15 report card:

Rushing offense

The Raiders fell behind early and therefore weren’t able to commit to attacking the NFL’s worst run defense. That was a tough turn, because Doug Martin seemed poised to churn out yards against a defense like this. Missing guard Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele was a major setback, but Martin only had nine attempt at 4.3 yard per clip. Jalen Richard lost a fumble, and that’s inexcusable.
Grade: D-plus

Passing offense

Derek Carr was under pressure all day. He was sacked five times and hit twice more, with pressure coming from inside and off the edge. That prevented him from retain form from two previously strong performances, and the Raiders couldn’t do enough to erase an early 17-point Bengals lead. Cincinnati clearly wasn’t going to let Jared Cook beat them -- he had just two catches for 23 yards -- and it was a good strategy without dangerous options left open.
Grade: D

Rushing defense

Joe Mixon’s slashing, downhill rushing style was kryptonite to the Raiders run defense. He totaled 129 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries, which was enough to carry the Bengals to victory despite lackluster quarterback play. It’s hard to blame any one player for rough run defense, but it wasn’t good enough up the middle and off the edge.

Pass defense

Driskel won a game with a 51.3 passer rating, 130 yards passing and 3.6 yards per attempt. That’s mind-boggling. Gareon Conley was lost with a concussion, and will be missed if he doesn’t return soon. The Silver and Black didn’t let anybody go off, but the run defense was steady enough where that didn’t matter. Erik Harris made a nice pick, and played well as a deep safety.
Grade: C

Special teams

Daniel Carlson took another step toward becoming the long-term kicker here, with a 50-yard field goal right through the uprights. Johnny Townsend was just okay. The kickoff return team let the Raiders down by allowing Alex Erickson to go 77 yards in the fourth quarter after cutting the deficit to one score. That led to the game-icing touchdown, and Gruden wasn’t happy about it.
Grade: D


The Raiders were hoping for better despite a banged up offensive line, but they couldn’t do much against a poor team. They got beat at the line of scrimmage, and that’s always a recipe for defeat.
Grade: F

Kolton Miller goes through growing pains in rookie year for Raiders

Kolton Miller goes through growing pains in rookie year for Raiders

CINCINNATI – Raiders first-round left tackle Kolton Miller gave up two sacks to Sam Hubbard in Sunday’s loss to the Bengals. His rookie sack total stands at 14 with a pair of games to go, an unflattering number regardless of experience.

The UCLA product has made some mistakes this season. He has battled knee sprains (notice the plural) without missing a single start, without uttering a single complaint.

He has learned a difficult job on the fly while playing next to four different left guards, with tight end help frequently assisting the right flank.

There have been bright moments and quality games, where Miller has proven capable of being a quality pro. Coaches believe that, and will count on him to be the starting left tackle again next season knowing full well his first professional season hasn’t been easy.

Starting every game at left tackle is a rookie experience unique to Miller this year. He’s the only one to hold the job from wire to wire, which underlines how rare it is even for mid-first-round picks to step in and perform consistently well right away.

He has dealt with expert pass rushers most of the year, and dealt with some better than others. He has learned from each experience, and will continue to do that as this season comes to a close.

[RELATED: Raiders' loss to Bengals proves to be fitting end for rough week]

“It’s a big year to learn from, to grow from,” Miller said. “That’s the only thing you know you can do. You have to take (what you’ve learned) into the offseason, and try to keep getting better.”

Miller will also be working to get bigger and stronger. His 6-foot-8 frame can handle more than the 309 pounds it presently holds, which will help him hold up against power rushers. He’s already agile, but experience and continually refined technique will help him identify and handle speed rushers and spin moves while trying to reach the quarterback.

Miller allowed some pressure off the edge, while most concern was centered on two new starting guards with Gabe Jackson, Kelechi Osemele and top backup Jon Feliciano on the shelf.

Miller said communication with left guard Chaz Green was good, and that it didn’t impact play up front. There were some execution issues against a strong Bengals defensive front in all areas, and Gruden will factor that into this game’s evaluation.

“This is a tough defensive front,” Gruden said. “Geno Atkins, he’s been a Pro Bowler every year. Carlos Dunlap’s a great player. They’ve got a very good front and Hubbard’s an up-and-comer out of Ohio State, but we’ve got to do better. We’ve got to do better, but I will acknowledge that was one tough situation that we were put under today.”