Curtis Riley

Raiders' Curtis Riley ready to step up in Johnathan Abram's absence

Raiders' Curtis Riley ready to step up in Johnathan Abram's absence

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders suffered a big loss during their 24-16 win over the Denver Broncos in Week 1, as rookie safety Johnathan Abram tore his rotator cuff and will be placed on injured reserve. 

The first-round NFL draft pick is a hellacious tackler, and his speed and tenacity are things the Raiders' defense will miss for the rest of the season.

"Big blow to our team," coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday about the injury. "It's a big loss, no question. Fortunately for us, we kept five safeties, five really good players. So, we'll hope to get John back, keep him around to learn the defense and consider this a redshirt year." 

The Raiders rotated their safeties in Week 1, but now there will be more asked of veterans Curtis Riley and Erik Harris. Oakland will need a collective effort to fill the void left by Abram. 

"I think they did well," Gruden said of his other safeties' performances in Week 1. "Everybody has a role and right now everybody at the safety position's role has changed a little bit. Fortunately, we have some veterans -- Erik Harris, Karl Joseph, Riley started 16 games for the Giants and played well for us. So, we'll go with those guys and perhaps Leavitt will get his shot." 

Riley, a five-year pro out of Fresno State, started all 16 games last season for the New York Giants, collecting four interceptions and five passes defensed during his final season in the Meadowlands. Losing Abram is a huge hit to the Raiders' defense, but Riley is confident he can do what is needed to keep the unit on track. 

"Whatever comes my way, whatever the coaches got going, whoever they feel should be out there -- if it's me then I'm going to give it my all and go out there and execute the plays," Riley told NBC Sports California on Wednesday. "We all have similar styles. We're all fast, we're all physical, we all tackle. It's just the same thing all the DBs doing now, just got to come in and do the same thing. I'm always confident." 

[RELATED: Doss looking to prove he belongs with Raiders]

Joseph, who roomed with Abram during training camp in Napa, believes Riley will fill in admirably for their fallen teammate and the Raiders' defense will be able to maintain an upward trajectory. 

"I think we'll be just fine," Joseph said. "I think Curtis has played at a high level before, he's started in this league so he's going to have to come in and step up for us. He's proven that he can play this offseason, so I think we'll be just fine."

Riley, Harris and the rest of the new safety group will be thrown into the first immediately as the Raiders welcome reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs to the Coliseum on Sunday. While star receiver Tyreek Hill will miss the game, the Chiefs passing attack still is one of the best in the league, and Abram's replacements will be tested immediately. 

NFL rumors: Raiders' Johnathan Abram has shoulder injury, could miss season


NFL rumors: Raiders' Johnathan Abram has shoulder injury, could miss season

Johnathan Abram played his first Raiders regular-season game on Monday night. It may have been his last of the year.

The first-round draft pick suffered a torn rotator cuff during the 24-16 victory over the Broncos and will have surgery this week, Bleacher Report’s Adam Lefkoe reported on Tuesday.

ESPN also reported about Abram’s injury but said he’ll receive a second opinion and that injured reserve is a possibility.

That would be a huge blow to the Raiders secondary, where he was paired with Karl Joseph in the back. He had a strong game against Denver, with three tackles and two quarterback pressures. He was often trying to deliver a tone-setting blow, and missed a few tackles because of it.

Head coach Jon Gruden loves Abram’s enthusiasm, but knows it must be tempered some in the future. Or, if he’s hurt, whenever he plays next.

[RELATED: Raiders CB Conley could play Chiefs after scary neck injury]

“I think he probably got a little bit too reckless at times,” Gruden said. “He made some great plays, some impact plays and certainly I think some tackles he’s got to make for us, he missed, but his debut was pretty good.”

Curtis Riley would be the first reserve up if Abram can’t go, with Erik Harris available after that. Lamarcus Joyner is an excellent slot cornerback, but he has proven to be a quality safety in the past and could move back and forth if required.

Six Raiders to keep an eye on during preseason game vs. Cardinals

Six Raiders to keep an eye on during preseason game vs. Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Raiders haven’t practiced much between last Saturday's preseason opener and Thursday’s second showing at Arizona. They had one full session and some walkthroughs, but progress and production still are expected from a group firmly on the roster bubble as we work through the preseason.

Head coach Jon Gruden said some veteran starters will play against the Cardinals, though probably not much. That includes one prominent player on this list of six to keep an eye on during this preseason contest against the Cardinals.

QB Derek Carr

The team’s starting quarterback should play a little bit here in Arizona, but it might look more like a cameo than a prolonged stretch. Every throw will be overly scrutinized, as Carr’s efforts always are, but it’ll show whether he has found sync with receivers not named Antonio Brown.

He has developed chemistry with Tyrell Williams and J.J. Nelson and, if Carr’s going to play, it only makes sense that the first-team offensive line and prominent skill players join him.

Carr told NBC Sports Bay Area that he’s quarterbacking as well as he ever has in this training camp. A solid, short performance should build momentum through the preseason and help him prep for what should be a big year for No. 4.

DT Anthony Rush

The undrafted defensive tackle, who wasn’t signed until training camp, has really impressed since joining the interior rotation. He had three tackles in the preseason opener against the Los Angeles Rams, and every tackle was either for a loss or no gain.

He’s pushing hard for a roster spot inside, and P.J. Hall’s is vulnerable after struggling to stay healthy and perform well in training camp. Maurice Hurst, Johnathan Hankins and Justin Ellis are roster locks. Ethan Westbrooks has a leg up on another spot, and Rush could fit into a fifth tackle spot if they keep that many interior guys. If the Raiders only keep four, then Rush, Hall and Westbrooks will battle for the final opening.

Rush has a real shot a job if he continues to shine.

“Anthony Rush is a 340-pound guy that really took advantage of his snaps [against the Rams],” Gruden said. “He’s only been here eight or nine days. Caused some tackles for loss, made a couple of plays and pushed the pocket pretty good. We like him. We’re going to try to keep working him into great shape and looking forward to see him play here against Arizona.”

WR Ryan Grant

The veteran receiver was largely invisible in camp’s early stretch, outshined by rookie slot man Hunter Renfrow and other talented rookies. Then Grant showed up in the Rams game, reminding everyone he can be a smooth, reliable receiver able to contribute to a talented receiver corps.

Finding a roster spot might be more of a challenge than originally expected, but Gruden likes him. Gruden’s brother loved working with Grant in Washington, and that’s a point in his favor.

Grant must continue to produce in these preseason games to fight for a roster spot against several quality options of varied skill sets.

S Curtis Riley

The veteran has worked behind the three top safeties options most of camp. Johnathan Abram, Karl Joseph and Erik Harris seems to have roles locked up, but Riley has experience playing deep and has the veteran knowledge Gruden likes in that spot. He started alongside Abram in the Rams game -- Joseph was held out to preserve health -- and received some first team reps with Joseph this week.

He must convince the Raiders to keep four safeties, something that seems unlikely considering slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner is an excellent safety, but don’t count the former New York Giant out just yet. Solid games could keep him in the mix this summer.

[RELATED: How Raiders' Key is seeking sack advice from all sources]

OLs Denver Kirkland and Jordan Devey

The Raiders must survive the first quarter of the season at least without Gabe Jackson, who injured his knee during joint practices against the Rams.

Gruden said Devey has the first crack at that right guard spot, though Kirkland’s auditioning for that role as well. Devey will be a super sub at guard and center and thus should have a roster spot secured, but Gruden must feel comfortable with him or Kirkland at the right guard position moving forward. Solid performances at right guard from one or both of those guys would keep general manager Mike Mayock’s eyes from wandering to the waiver wire or street free agents for Jackson’s stand-in.