Kolton Miller

Raiders snap count: Offensive line vital to victory over Chargers

Raiders snap count: Offensive line vital to victory over Chargers

OAKLAND –The Raiders offensive line finally joined forces. The presumptive starting five had played 10 snaps together entering Thursday night, but finally, after nine weeks, they played an entire game together.

Kolton Miller, Richie Incognito, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson and Trent Brown worked all 58 offensive snaps together in a 26-24 victory over the LA Chargers at Oakland Raiders.

They weren’t 100 percent healthy with Hudson battling through an ankle sprain and Brown dealing with a knee issue. They still were good enough to beat a talented Chargers front featuring Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. They allowed three sacks and 12 total pressures, a survivable sum that allowed quarterback Derek Carr to get work done.

They kept him upright on a fourth-quarter comeback drive, which ended with Josh Jacobs’ 18-yard touchdown run. While the run game struggled throughout the night, that play was expertly blocked.

Rodney Hudson sealed the right side, combining with Richie Incognito to take out the defensive tackle. Then Hudson and fullback Alec Ingold took out a linebacker and Jacobs was able to glide right through for a touchdown.

“We've been able to have some success, but we can do any of that stuff without the guys in front of us,” Carr said. “…The Chargers won some plays, we won some plays, but when it mattered, our offensive line created this gaping hole. And Josh is able to do what he's, you know God blessed him to do, which is make people miss and win the football game.”

The Raiders line will see imperfections in this performance but great potential in the front line working together as originally assembled.

“We just have to keep rolling,” Brown said. “It’s going to be real nice real soon.”

Thin D-Line creates havoc

The Raiders were lacking up front with two injuries at defensive end. No matter. They were able to create pressure nonetheless. Rookie pass rusher Maxx Crosby is proving a three-down commodity, playing the run and pass well off the edge.

Crosby played 70 snaps, and had a sack , a tackle for loss and seven quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus stats. Clelin Ferrell had an excellent day, with eight tackles, 2.5 sacks, two other tackles for loss and a pass defensed in 56 snaps. PFF tallied Ferrell with three total pressures and six(!) run stops near the line of scrimmage.

The edge rushers were productive despite playing a ton and were effective down the stretch.

“It was a lot of heart,” Crosby said. “It was hard, especially with the quick turnaround, but we just had to keep going and keep coming after him. Their offensive line was out there a ton, too, but we feel like we’re in better shape. We just kept bringing it until the game was over.”

[RELATED: Raiders' resiliency becoming theme of surprising season]

Here’s the full Raiders snap count:

Offense

Total offensive snaps: 58

Quarterback – Derek Carr 58
Running back –Josh Jacobs 30, Jalen Richard 22, Alec Ingold 12, DeAndre Washington 6
Wide receiver – Tyrell Williams 49, Zay Jones 39, Hunter Renfrow 31, Marcell Ateman 6
Tight end – Darren Waller 56, Foster Moreau 26, Derek Carrier 12
Offensive line – Richie Incognito 58, Kolton Miller 58, Trent Brown 58, Gabe Jackson 58, Rodney Hudson 58, Andre James 1

Defense

Total defensive snaps: 77

Defensive line – Maxx Crosby 70, Clelin Ferrell 56, Johnathan Hankins 47, P.J. Hall 40, Maurice Hurst 36, Benson Mayowa 33, Terrell McClain 12
Linebacker –Tahir Whitehead 77, Nicholas Morrow 76, Kyle Wilber 16, Will Compton 5
Defensive back – Karl Joseph 77, Erik Harris 77, Daryl Worley 75, Trayvon Mullen 75, Lamarcus Joyner 70, Nevin Lawson 3, Curtis Riley 1, Isaiah Johnson 1

Special teams

Total special teams plays: 25
Carrier 25, Dallin Leavitt 23, Lawson 23, Wilber 23, Riley 19, Moreau 19, Compton 16, Ingold 13, Daniel Carlson 12, A.J. Cole 11, Trent Sieg 11, Johnson 9, Harris 9, Trevor Davis 8, Crosby 7, David Sharpe 6, Denzelle Good 6, Mullen 6, Incognito 6, Brown 6, Jackson 6, Miller 6, Quentin Polling 5, Washington 5, Hurst 4, Hankins 4, Ferrell 4, Worley 4, Whitehead 4

Five Raiders to watch in Week 8 vs. Texans: How Darren Waller is key

Five Raiders to watch in Week 8 vs. Texans: How Darren Waller is key

HOUSTON -- The Raiders started playing games away from Oakland on Sept. 22 and haven’t stopped. Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans represents the final leg of this exhaustive road swing that ran through the Midwest, the United Kingdom, back to the Midwest again and now down south.

The Raiders have gone 2-2 over this grueling stretch against playoff contenders, with a chance to punctuate it with a pivotal win. The Texans are hovering around .500 but have immense talent, and an excellent quarterback in DeShaun Watson. The Raiders haven’t beaten a signal-caller of his quality all season and will need strong showings from several players to improve to 4-3 on the season.

And as a note, Derek Carr is always a player to watch but rarely included in this weekly series to highlight others who must make positive contributions.

TE Darren Waller

The dynamic receiver and hard-nosed blocker is in the midst of a breakout year. Waller has been the Raiders’ best receiver to this point and has been a real asset in the run game. He rarely comes off the field and seems to make positive contributions on every play.

Waller's numbers are impressive, ranking second among tight ends with 44 receptions and third with 485 yards. The Raiders finally got him into the end zone last week in Green Bay, where he had two scores but could’ve had five. He is proving unstoppable despite significant attention paid to him, and coach Jon Gruden’s telling the truth by saying he might be the NFL's best all-around tight end.

The Raiders will need another strong showing against the Texans, especially if Josh Jacobs is banged up and leaves the run game at less than full power. Wide receiver Tyrell Williams is also fighting to come back from injury, leaving Waller to be the consistent steadying on offense who can keep the unit running strong in another potential high-scoring affair.

CB Trayvon Mullen

The rookie cover man was thrust into the starting lineup following Monday’s trade with the Texans, which sent Gareon Conley to Houston for a 2020 third-round pick. Mullen hasn’t played much the past month but will get the first crack at Conley’s gig, a vital role in the Raiders secondary. Conley had struggled this season despite clear lockdown talent, clearly not in lockstep with how the coaching staff prefers cornerbacks to play.

Enter Mullen, a long, fast and physical cornerback selected No. 40 overall in this year's draft, someone still developing over early portions of his rookie season. Now he’ll submit to a trial by fire, matching up with DeAndre Hopkins, who might be the NFL's best receiver. Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson’s unafraid to chuck it deep and will certainly challenge Mullen at the outset. And, look, Mullen’s going to get beat sometimes. He is, however, a resilient sort and must rebound quickly from mistakes to avoid the poor individual performance that can get a team beat.

Veteran Nevin Lawson’s waiting in the wings, with years of starting experience making him ready to fill in at a moment’s notice. The Raiders don’t want to pull that fire alarm, crossing fingers that Mullen will respond to a tremendous challenge.

DE Maxx Crosby

The fourth-round draft pick has come on strong lately, stringing three quality games together. He has two sacks, two batted passes and a forced fumble in that stretch, earning increased snaps in the process. That will continue Sunday against the Texans, especially with Clelin Ferrell struggling some against the Packers.

Watson’s the type to hang in the pocket and take a big hit to make a big throw, so Crosby must punish him for such patience. The QB is also elusive, meaning Crosby’s signature relentlessness will be vital to the pass rush being successful.

The Eastern Michigan product seems to be improving each week, though there’s certainly more room to improve. A few impact plays are required yet again, especially if one is a game-altering takeaway.

WR Zay Jones

The new receiver was on this list last week and didn’t play. Jones expected to, but Raiders didn’t deem him fluent enough to activate him in Green Bay. That won’t be the case this week. All signs point to Jones making his Raiders debut in this game. While expectations should be managed some for a player acquired in a trade from Buffalo fewer than three weeks ago, Jones is a talented player who instantly upgrades the receiver corps.

This is an important outing for Jones in terms of production and building trust with Carr. The Raiders quarterback is by far the best passer Jones has worked with, but Carr needs to know if Jones is reliable. That is proven on game day, and that process formally starts Sunday.

It’s possible we see Jones and Williams at the same time, though the Raiders’ No. 1 receiver remains questionable. If that happens, Houston would have to respect those guys in addition to a stacked group of tight ends and running backs. That could open up the passing game for Carr and make the Raiders attack difficult to stop.

[RELATED: AB bashes Raiders, says he'll never play for team again]

LT Kolton Miller

Last year’s first-round draft pick has been excellent in his second season, allowing just two sacks all season. Both of them came in one game, meaning he has a clean sheet in five games already despite facing some tremendous pass rushers. Miller will have to deal with another one on Sunday, with edge rusher Whitney Mercilus in the midst of a career renaissance.

Mercilus took over Jadeveon Clowney’s post off the Texans defense’s right edge, generally speaking, and already has 5.5 sacks this season. He brings speed and tenacity off the edge, though Miller’s as athletic as they get at 330 pounds and will have to be quick, smart and technically sound to keep this run of solid play going.

Miller and Richie Incognito have formed a powerful duo in the run game as well, and that must continue to keep the run-heavy Raiders going strong.

Raiders' Richie Incognito relishing opportunity, finds 'fountain of youth'

Raiders' Richie Incognito relishing opportunity, finds 'fountain of youth'

ALAMEDA – Richie Incognito is five weeks removed from a suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Those two games away from the Raiders were difficult, an extended reminder of two incidents that bolstered his reputation for unruly, unsavory incidents that have sullied a sterling career on the football field.

That’s all behind him now, the suspension a final reminder of mistakes he’d like to put permanently in the past while stacking good days.

Incognito has done that consistently since joining the Raiders, building solid relationships and anchoring the left guard spot along a dominant offensive line.

It’s a responsibility he relishes, one he thought he might never hold again. After a year away from the game, two run-ins with the law and suspension looming, Incognito’s offseason concerns were valid.

The Raiders gave him a chance, and Incognito’s taking full advantage.

Now he’s playing it as well as he ever has and has recaptured his love for the game in the process. In summation, he has been awesome since joining the Raiders. He hasn’t given up a sack and has allowed just four quarterback pressures in four games. Incognito and young left tackle Kolton Miller have become a dominant force in the running game.

As important as any of that: Incognito seems rejuvenated, refreshed, ready to go again. That was crystal clear after Thursday’s practice, during a discussion about his return to football following a brief retirement.

“You never know how many more days you’re blessed with to play this game,” Incognito said. “I’m definitely on the short side of things, on the downhill run. I’m just trying to enjoy everything I’m doing with teammates and Jon Gruden and this crazy travel schedule we’re in. I’m all in and have been doing everything with a smile. I’m very grateful to be doing what I’m doing right now.”

Incognito wanted one more shot in 2019, needing a team to take a chance and let him prove he was in the mental and physical shape required to find old form without bringing baggage with him. He wasn’t sure if or when the opportunity would arise, but he wanted to be as ready as possible if his phone rang.

“There was a lot of hard work that went into it,” Incognito said. “I wanted to make sure I was prepared if the opportunity presented itself. I took training very seriously, including my nutrition. I took a year off, but it was a healing year off and a year to work out hard. It has gone well, and I knew I could play but, yeah, I have surprised myself a little bit.”

The Raiders have been pleased with their return on investment to this point -- solidifying a 2018 trouble spot with a 36-year-old former Pro Bowler who still has it after a season away from the game.

“There’s always some concern at that age,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “But the year off, and again we mentioned this earlier as well, it’s almost like he’s found the fountain of youth. He looks fresh, at least through the first six games of the season he looks like a young player. So, we’re excited about that. Certainly, as they get older, you expect the legs to wear down first on somebody like that, but he’s shown no signs of aging right now.”

He has offered this offensive line a great deal to this point, making those around him better with steady physical play on a line that sets the offensive tone. Incognito lines up next to Miller, the only young player in this veteran group, and has been a productive partner.

“I’ve worked with a lot of young tackles, and what makes our working relationship so good is that he’s such a smart guy,” Incognito said. “He’s super cerebral, and I leaned on him early to help me get the plays down. We communicate really well, and we play our asses off. It has been fun.”

That’s the theme of this season. Incognito understands that his reputation will often precede him but isn’t focused on any of that. He’s rooted in the moment and clearly happy back in the game for one last run, however long that may last.

“I find that I’m enjoying all the stuff that I took for granted during my first couple years in the league,” Incognito said. “I’m enjoying hanging with the guys and being in this building. I’m embracing all of this and enjoyed every single bit of this experience.”

[RELATED: Raiders RB Jacobs determined to face Texans despite injury]

The Raiders have received a solid return on investment, getting consistent on-field play and have added an element of leadership and surehandedness to the front five.

“Richie has brought a real level of maturity to the room,” offensive line coach Tom Cable said. “He has seen almost everything on a football field in his career. That was part of the deal with him signing here, to match up with Kolton, develop a relationship and really get on the same page. You really couldn’t ask for more than what he has given us.”