Scott Bair

Three veteran additions who will make biggest impact on Raiders season

Three veteran additions who will make biggest impact on Raiders season

We’ve seen this new Raiders roster in snippets, during occasional offseason practices open to the press. We’ve been given clear examples of chemistry during this growth period, more often in team-sanctioned photos and individual Instagram stories.

That’s an objective during a relatively slow stretch, with games still months away.

Intensity elevates in training camp later this month, and mettle will be tested with pads and physicality and Napa’s never-ending work schedule. Then things get real when guys start getting cut and this team finally starts playing for keeps.

That’s when we’ll see how much of an impact these new veterans have on a Raiders roster skewing dramatically younger. Leaders must be stable during tough times, making others better with words and, far more often, with action. Here are three veteran additions who should make the greatest overall impact on the 2019 Raiders:

WR Antonio Brown

Brown might be the NFL’s hardest worker. The man never quits, going full speed in every practice and walk-through, with individual side sessions at high schools and Bay Area parks after being acquired in a trade. He takes workouts on vacation, finding time to get better while in Maui. He crowd-sourced workout partners in Paris. While many do as much without putting it all on social media, Brown is showing everyone, teammates included, that his grind never stops.

He has set a new standard for work rate and practice effort, which should lead to major on-field production. That, above all else, will be his greatest contribution in 2019. Putting up just average numbers (for him) would be a huge boon for all things Raiders, and give the Silver and Black a true superstar who comes through in the clutch.

All is good right now, but it will be important for Brown to maintain positive energy even when things hit the skids during the regular season. The Raiders will have rough patches navigating a brutal schedule. Brown’s used to 10 wins per year. How will he handle losing streaks? That will be as important as anything. If he keeps working hard for better days, the skill players will follow suit. If he sulks, lulls could last longer.

DB Lamarcus Joyner

Joyner isn’t much of a rah-rah guy, but he’s highly respected throughout the talented young secondary. Safeties love him. Cornerbacks respect him. Both positions can learn something from someone who has done it well for a long time.

While he focused on slot cornerback during this offseason program, his impact will be felt in several areas. He’s undoubtedly the team’s best free safety and can slide over there in the base defense if the Karl Joseph/Johnathan Abram pairing doesn’t pan out.

He should be a stabilizing force in the entire secondary both as a sage and a productive player who can quiet part of an opponent’s passing game. He isn’t afraid to mix things up and can make others better around him, making this secondary far better than it was a year ago. Joyner didn’t come cheap in free agency, but he’ll be worth the freight if he plays to his high standard and helps others improve during the season either through words or example.

[RELATED: Entire Raiders draft class signed up as Jacobs inks deal]

LB Vontaze Burfict

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther says there were aspects of his defensive scheme he didn’t use last year without a trusted field general to execute it.

That’s not a slight on Tahir Whitehead or Nicholas Morrow. Guenther’s defense can be complicated and takes time to master. Nobody, however, knows it better than Burfict. The veteran linebacker ran it for years in Cincinnati and has a kinship with Guenther that is evident on the field.

Burfict’s a Raider now, and he has been helpful teaching subtle nuances of this scheme to his teammates despite being a new kid in town. He has been a great asset during the offseason, and he will be again in training camp.

He’ll have to prove productive to sustain a positive impact. His last season was a struggle, with injuries and concussion issues sapping his availability and effectiveness. He’s on this list due to a belief he’ll get right and be effective in the base defense at least. Burfict has been a solid tackler and tone-setter who plays right on the edge, sometimes going over it, in his past. Finding vintage on-field form and sustained health will be key to maximizing his impact. That’s important for a defense that needs Burfict at his best.

Raiders sign first-round draft pick Josh Jacobs to rookie contract

Raiders sign first-round draft pick Josh Jacobs to rookie contract

And that’s a wrap. The Raiders have now signed every member of their 2019 NFL draft class.

No. 24 overall pick Josh Jacobs formally inked his rookie deal on Tuesday, the team announced, a four-year deal slotted to pay $11.9 million over four seasons. That sum includes a $6.69 million signing bonus, and there’s a fifth-year team option standard for all first-round draft picks. The payout is fully guaranteed, according to NFL Network, and stands as the last such guarantee in the NFL's draft order. The first 24 players will it this time, when all contracts are signed. Baltimore did not give No. 25 overall pick Marquise Brown that luxury, which stands as the dividing line for full guarantees. 

The Jacobs deal comes three weeks after the Raiders signed their other two first-round draft picks, Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Abram.

There’s rarely drama in these deals, with a rigid rookie wage scale established in this collective bargaining agreement that compensates players based upon draft slot. There are a few spots for sticking points, though this deal got done well ahead of when Raiders rookies report to training camp on June 23. 

Jacobs was drafted using one of two first-round picks acquired from Chicago on Sept. 1, 2018 for Khalil Mack. There’s another first-rounder coming next year, though the Raiders had to give up a second-round pick to get it.

Jacobs is Oakland's feature back, possibly a three-down player who rarely needs a spell considering his diverse skill set. He can play physical running inside, break outside the tackles, catch passes in the pattern and pass protection. Just because he can play three downs doesn't mean he will. Jon Gruden will feed his primary back heavily, but likes using multiple rushers. Jalen Richard will play an active role in the offense, especially as Jacobs weathers his first season since high school as the clear-cut No. 1 back. 

Doug Martin and Richard are locks in reserve. DeAndre Washington and Chris Warren III are battling for a fourth running back spot if there is one.

[RELATED: LT: Jacobs should be rookie of the year]

Jacobs will spend the remaining offseason and training camp preparing for a heavy workload he never absorbed at the University of Alabama, but the Raiders believe he’ll handle it well as a professional over the life of the rookie contract he’ll play under now that it’s officially signed.

LaDainain Tomlinson: Raiders' Josh Jacobs should be rookie of the year

LaDainain Tomlinson: Raiders' Josh Jacobs should be rookie of the year

The Raiders drafted Josh Jacobs at No. 24 overall this year and immediately slotted him into the start spot, so he’ll certainly have a chance to make an immediate impact.

LaDainian Tomlinson expects it to be overwhelmingly positive. The Pro Football Hall of Fame running back said so this week on NFL Network, predicting Jacobs would win offensive rookie of the year honors.

“I think he’s going to have the opportunities to do so,” Tomlinson said on NFLN’s “Total Access.” “There’s nobody in that backfield, and he can do it all.”

The former San Diego Chargers great compared Jacobs’ early NFL opportunity to one Jon Gruden gave Cadillac Williams in Tampa Bay.

Gruden ran the Buccaneers when they selected Williams No. 5 overall and then gave him 310 touches as a rookie in 2005. He turned that sum into 1,259 yards total offense and six touchdowns. He got 225 touches the following year and totaled 994 yards and a score.

Jacobs should do better than both of those output sums in this offense – Gruden will give Jacobs similar opportunities -- loaded with weapons at the skill positions. Assuming, of course, that he stays healthy.

Tomlinson then used highlights to show why Jacobs should be effective, including plays made as a runner, receiver and pass protector.

Jacobs saw that Tomlinson video clip on Twitter and gave a motivated response.

Tomlinson is widely considered among the greatest all-around running backs, with a career Jacobs should aspire to and one Raiders fans would be thrilled for him to have in silver and black.

The pair have met, and Tomlinson came away impressed.

“That kid is ready to play,” Tomlinson said. “That kid is going to have a huge impact. He might be the rookie of the year."