Greg Olson

Raiders injury report: Rodney Hudson, Andre James hopeful for Week 9

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AP

Raiders injury report: Rodney Hudson, Andre James hopeful for Week 9

ALAMEDA – Raiders centers Rodney Hudson and Andre James didn’t practice Thursday, missing their second workout in as many days.

That has left guard Richie Incognito to take snaps at center, along with recently signed center Erik Magnuson. That’s not an ideal situation, but offensive coordinator Greg Olson isn’t too worried about it.

“[It’s] really not that high, to be honest with you,” Olson said after Thursday’s practice. “Both Rodney and Andre were out there today. They both felt good. They looked good walking around. They’ve given us indication that there’s a good chance they’ll be out there tomorrow.”

That’s still ultimately uncertain, especially for Hudson. James is a bit of a wild card, with the severity of his ankle issue ultimately unknown.

Incognito is Plan C, but the veteran has played some there in the past. For Olson, as a matter of fact.

“He played center when I was with the St. Louis Rams, a long time ago,” Olson said. “And he played it very well. He got some work there today. That’s a credit to the people that assemble the team to have so many versatile linemen.”

[RELATED: Playoffs?! Long road trip showed Raiders what is possible]

Safety Erik Harris missed Thursday’s workout with an illness, but his playing status is no major cause for concern at this stage. That’s a good thing considering the Raiders are thin at his position with demoted former starter Curtis Riley as the primary backup. Harris and Karl Joseph have played almost every defensive snap the past four games.

Raiders practice report

THURSDAY
Did not practice
C Rodney Hudson (ankle)
WR Dwayne Harris (ankle)
C Andre James (ankle)
DE Josh Mauro (groin)
S Erik Harris (illness)

Limited practice
DT PJ Hall (shoulder)
RT Trent Brown (calf)
RB Josh Jacobs (shoulder)
LB Tahir Whitehead (shoulder/wrist)

Full practice
OT Trent Brown (calf)
OG Gabe Jackson (knee)
WR Tyrell Williams (foot)

Raiders practice report

WEDNESDAY
Did not practice
C Rodney Hudson (ankle)
WR Dwayne Harris (ankle)
C Andre James (ankle)
DE Josh Mauro (groin)

Limited practice
WR Tyrell Williams (foot)
RT Trent Brown (calf)
RB Josh Jacobs (shoulder)
LB Tahir Whitehead (shoulder/wrist)

Full practice
OT Trent Brown (calf)
OG Gabe Jackson (knee)

Raiders' Hunter Renfrow studying hard to hasten adjustment to NFL game

Raiders' Hunter Renfrow studying hard to hasten adjustment to NFL game

INDIANAPOLIS -- Hunter Renfrow knows how to win. The Raiders slot receiver had plenty of experience with that at Clemson, both on the scoreboard and in the pattern.

The Tigers were a juggernaut during his time in orange and purple, and he was a vital reason why thanks to clutch play and an ability to work his way open.

Again, Renfrow knows how to win. Often, though, using less conventional ways.

“You can look around and see that I’m not the big guy in here,” Renfrow told NBC Sports Bay Area after Friday’s practice in Alameda. “I’m sure not the fastest. I create advantages by outthinking the opposition and understanding football.”

That’s how he rose from walk-on scout team player to Clemson legend, and that’s how he plans to excel in the NFL.

Renfrow’s off to a ho-hum start, averaging 7.9 yards per reception with nine catches for 71 yards on 13 targets. His efficiency and yards after the catch -- right now it’s a too-low 2.9 YAC average -- will increase with experience.

Let’s not forget his NFL career is just three games old, with plenty of hard work ahead adjusting to the professional game.

“I played a lot of college ball and felt like I really understood college defenses,” Renfrow said. “NFL defenses are just different. They’re a lot more condensed. In college, everything’s so spread out. There’s a formula to handle those defenses. In the NFL, there are tight splits and you’re learning new ways to create separation beyond just beating leverage.”

Renfrow welcomes the opportunity to hit the books. He’s in his element cramming every practice week, trying to take what he learned the previous game and build a foundation of knowledge and techniques to beat defensive backs most always bigger, faster and stronger.

Progress is being made in subtle ways that coaches can see on tape.

“It’s not easy for a rookie at any position, but we’re happy with where he’s at,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said, “and, certainly, we are looking to get more production out of him as well.”

Renfrow beat Ryan Grant outright to win the starting slot-receiver gig, a position he manned almost exclusively at Clemson. Teammates marveled at his excellent hands and savvy routes -- even against top slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner -- despite lacking elite athleticism.

“He’s doing well,” Raiders No. 1 receiver Tyrell Williams said. “He makes crazy catches, sometimes ones you’re surprised he just made. Seeing him do that has been awesome.”

An instant impact is expected despite his fifth-round draft status, especially with the receivers struggling after Antonio Brown’s ill-timed departure.

Renfrow’s adjustment period takes time and tinkering in order to find ways to steal extra space in routes and the production required to move the chains. He’s not being asked to burn cornerbacks deep downfield. His role as an accent piece is important, especially on third-down-and-manageable.

Six of Renfrow's nine catches have gone for first downs despite low yards per reception, fulfilling his job as first-down converter. Those moments, and others winning routes that didn’t produce a target, have shown Renfrow he can compete and produce.

“It reminds me of playing on the Clemson scout team my freshman year, going against the best defense in the country every practice,” Renfrow said. “There was a realization that, if I could get open against them, I could get open against anybody. Going against NFL defenses now, I’ve learned that I can create separation and make plays. I see that by doing it, and by learning what works at this level and what doesn’t.”

[RELATED: Why Raiders rookie Ferrell is one to watch Sunday vs. Colts]

That’s a process, once that takes time. Renfrow’s gaining confidence from it nonetheless, while learning on the job for the Silver and Black.

“I’m light years ahead of where I was three weeks ago, just from seeing defenses and recognizing coverages,” Renfrow said. “Now it’s not, ‘what do I have on this play?’ and more of ‘how will I execute this play with the coverage their giving me, and how can I attack the defender?’ It’s those little things you get better at the more you learn and the more you study.”

Raiders trying to incorporate more deep shots into scuffling offense

Raiders trying to incorporate more deep shots into scuffling offense

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders want to push the ball down the field more. They want to take big shots through the passing game and grab yards in chunks.

They haven’t done much of that yet, with just eight completions of 20-plus yards and one of 40-or-more. That ranks 24th in the NFL through three games, and is thus far not the explosive offense the Raiders hoped to be.

Before we go any farther, this is not an argument about Derek Carr’s willingness to let it rip. Let’s let that endless war wage in social media’s darkest, meanest corners.

The Raiders quarterback is an accurate deep-ball thrower. He just doesn’t get to use that skill as often as he or the Raiders would like.

He’s 4-for-9 for 121 yards and a touchdown on passes thrown 20 yards or further in the air. A total of 9.4 percent of his attempts are launched that far, which is 27th in the NFL.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff ranks below Carr at 5.7 percent, and don’t forget about who calls his plays. It’s Sean McVay, who apprenticed under Jon Gruden and his brother Jay, among others. My point: Offensive scheme plays into this, as well.

The scheme has deep plays drawn up, but executing them generally requires a perfect storm.

The hopes and dreams of an explosive, downfield passing game were built when Antonio Brown was still a Raider, when his breakneck speed and Tyrell Williams' size and contested-catch ability would create havoc going deep.

That equation has changed with Brown gone, speedster J.J. Nelson recovering from injury and Williams seeing extra attention.

"We’re certainly looking for ways to generate explosive plays,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said on Thursday. “I think we all know that, the importance of explosive plays and not turning the ball over. So, week in and week out we will continue to find ways to try and push the ball down the field more often, and with success and without risk, but that’s something that we’ve looked at here through these first three games and we realize we can get better at it.”

Olson said the Raiders are self-scouting each week, tinkering with game plans and play choices to make the scheme more impactful. It certainly needs to be after scoring just 14 points in its last 18 drives, dating back to the second quarter of a Week 2 loss to Kansas City.

The Raiders are adjusting receiver roles, trying to free Williams up schematically and get Nelson matched up well to accentuate his speed. Darren Waller’s an x-factor, both in the intermediate game and going yard.

[RELATED: Raiders could catch break with key Colts missing practice]

Taking chunks, especially while minimizing risk, counts on several factors. They included prolonged pass protection, quality matchups outside, defensive coverage scheme and preference, game context and -- of course -- throw accuracy. That combination isn’t easy to come by without breakneck speed at several spots, but the Raiders know the deep ball must be incorporated more into what they do.

“I feel like we took shots last week in Minnesota, and we can take even more shots, too,” Williams said. “We’re still getting to know each other. We’re still seeing how fast J.J. really is and how fast I really am, and trusting that. It’s also about coverage.

“For us, I think it’s about getting that time together as an offense.”