Derek Carrier

Watch Raiders confuse Lions for huge first down with awesome fake punt

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Watch Raiders confuse Lions for huge first down with awesome fake punt

Raiders coach Jon Gruden went deep into his bag of tricks Sunday at the Coliseum. 

Oakland faced fourth-and-3 from their own 38-yard line early in the third quarter. The Raiders lined up to punt, but Dallin Leavitt took the ensuing direct snap and handed off to tight end Derek Carrier for a 27-yard gain. 

The rush was the second of Carrier's career and his first since Oct. 19, 2014, when he rushed two yards for a first down late in the 49ers' blowout loss to the Denver Broncos. It also was the 29-year-old's longest play from scrimmage in his eight-year NFL career. 

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Carrier's conversion ended much better for the Raiders than their fourth-down attempt in the first quarter, which ended in a turnover on downs following quarterback Derek Carr's incomplete pass to Hunter Renfrow. Oakland's continuing drive after the fake punt didn't end in points, either, as Daniel Carlson missed a 45-yard field goal.

Why Raiders tight ends are vital to offensive success against Bears

Why Raiders tight ends are vital to offensive success against Bears

WATFORD, England – The Raiders tight end group features just three players, but they are as vital as any position group to what the Raiders do offensively.

It’s a versatile crew with Darren Waller, Foster Moreau and Derek Carrier all able to block and catch effectively.

They have different specialties, with Waller a breakout receiving threat, Moreau a tough blocker and Carrier a blue-collar guy asked to back up in several different spots.

The group has been active in the passing game, with a combined 42 catches for 404 yards and a touchdown. Waller’s responsible for most of that, but Moreau certainly earned some trust after hauling in a tough touchdown pass that helped beat Indianapolis in Week 4.

That group must continue producing, especially out of multiple tight end sets, for Sunday’s game against Chicago to go well.

The Raiders receiver corps is ailing, with half the group questionable on the team’s injury report. That includes Tyrell Williams, though there’s optimism that he could play.

The tight ends have to be active in the passing game, though they won’t take over as the air attack’s primary targets.

“I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see how the game goes,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “We’ve got running backs that can catch. We’ve got other receivers that are good players. We’re not going to throw the ball to all the tight ends and backs because a couple guys are hurt. We got capable players, we’ll see who’s available and we’ll use who is available.”

The tight ends will have a busy Sunday ahead, well beyond being targets. They’ll help in maximum protection while trying to run against a dominant Bears defensive front. They’re also going to help chip Khalil Mack firing off the edge.

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Having versatile talents helps this effort and makes the Raiders tougher to predict. Waller’s an excellent receiver, but he is improving as a blocker. Moreau’s a thumper, but he is a better receiver than you think.

“That touchdown catch in Indy didn’t surprise me at all, because he has been snagging passes like that all the time in practice,” Waller said. “Seeing that come into action was pretty cool. There are no limits to his game. There are no limits in blocking, route running or pass-catching.”

The Raiders must get contributions aplenty from this healthy, talented position group that has proven integral to making the offense go.

Raiders training camp battles: Questions at tight end behind Darren Waller

Raiders training camp battles: Questions at tight end behind Darren Waller

Editor’s note: We’ll take a look at several Raiders training camp battles leading up to the first full-squad practice on Saturday, and then we’ll update their progress throughout the preseason. We continue with the tight ends.

Raiders head coach and offensive mastermind Jon Gruden has some fun things planned for Darren Waller. The tall, athletic receiving tight end will move around the formation in search of favorable matchups.

At 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds with a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, Waller is a tough matchup for anyone. He will be heavily involved in the passing game, and has worked hard to not be a liability when asked to block.

Those blocking duties primarily will be assigned to others. Lee Smith considered himself another lineman and was an excellent blocker, but his offseason release means someone else will have to fill that role.

Several candidates will vie for that job and maybe one other in a competitive tight end group. It’s a bunched pack heading into training camp, difficult to predict which guys besides Waller will make it.

Count Foster Moreau as a frontrunner. Position coach Frank Smith vouched hard for him this offseason, and fourth-round picks almost always get a few years to prove their worth. Derek Carrier returns with two years left on his contract, but none of it is guaranteed. Veteran Luke Willson is in the mix, alongside 2018 practice squad staple Paul Butler and veteran Erik Swoope.

It’s hard to count anybody out right now in what looks like a relatively even race. If Waller’s a lock and Moreau’s virtually the same, that puts four guys in the running for one, maybe two gigs.

Competition there should be fierce, played out in camp and preseason games. Special teams performance is key in this battle, as is performance as a true in-line tight end. Waller insurance would also be nice, though his unique skill set is tough to replicate.

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Finding a proper mix of tight ends is important in several areas, and a good crop on the 53-man roster adds further dimensions to what Gruden can do offensively.

Early edge: Waller is a lock; Moreau and Carrier positioned for remaining spots