McCoy, Bills run game to 'throw the gauntlet' at Raiders defensive front

McCoy, Bills run game to 'throw the gauntlet' at Raiders defensive front

ALAMEDA – Rex Ryan coined the phrase “ground and pound” when he was head coach of the New York Jets, reflected his desire to run often and run vertically with power. He’s with a different team, but the term traveled with him.

Ryan like to control on the ground. 

It’s no surprise Ryan’s Buffalo Bills are the NFL’s best rushing attack. They average 157.4 yards per game on the ground, a massive total led by lead back LeSean McCoy and speedy quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The Bills average 5.3 yards per carry and run a ton, nearly 30 times per game. That’s second only to Dallas. And, to top it all off, they’ve only fumbled twice running the football.

The numbers are awesome, but the ground and pound may not fit. The Buffalo Bills do it all running the football, meaning the Raiders defense must be ready for anything during Sunday’s game at Oakland Coliseum.

“They really do everything that I can think of that I’ve ever seen in the run game, they have it one form or fashion,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “They basically throw the gauntlet at you. They’ve got a formation thing and they see how you want to play it. Then they’ve got a series of plays they get to and they’re very good at it. No. 1 in the league, and that’s saying something.”

They have a feature back in McCoy, who revived his career in Buffalo. He has 819 yards and nine touchdowns through 11 games, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He has exceeded 100 yards seven times over two seasons in Buffalo. In those games, the Bills are 7-0.

That might spell trouble for the Raiders. They rank 26th with 116.9 rushing yards allowed per game, and have given up a triple digit total in five of the last six games. While those totals aren’t great, the Raiders have won five straight.

That’s all that matters, though the Bills rushing ways might impact the final result. The Raiders have fallen victim to misdirection and schematic quirks, especially off the edge. They’ve been better in those areas lately, though chunk plays are still a problem. They’ve given up seven plays of 20-plus yards and three of 40 or more.

Stopping the run will be harder without Stacy McGee and Darius Latham in the interior rotation. That puts an onus on Dan Williams, Denico Autry and Justin Ellis to take more snaps and plug gaps in the middle. Stopping the run always involves discipline and sure tackling.

Doing that will be important, considering the Bills rank dead last in passing offense. That makes slowing the run imperative.

Taylor is the team’s second-leading rusher, with 639 yards on 6.3 yards per carry. That led Khalil Mack to say they have “two rushers in the backfield.”

Even so, it all starts with stopping Shady.

“McCoy is a type of runner, he can start to the right and he could end up on the left,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “It kind of reminds you of the old days, Barry Sanders. He could be anywhere. It’s important each player who’s involved in the defense and in charge of the gap, you have to be solid, you have to sound and you have to be disciplined and understand that we’re all connected. Everybody plays together. Not one guy tackles him. The whole unit is responsible for the running game.”

Injury report: Raiders interior D-line ailing; Amerson says he's ready

Injury report: Raiders interior D-line ailing; Amerson says he's ready

ALAMEDA – The Raiders interior defensive line is ailing, with tackles Darius Latham and Stacy McGee ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills.

They were formally designated unavailable Friday on the team’s official injury report.

The timing isn’t great from a Raiders perspective. They’re facing the NFL’s best rushing attack, and will need others to play more snaps and stop Buffalo’s run game effectively.

Dan Williams and Justin Ellis are effective run stoppers and must carry an increased workload. Jihad Ward and Denico Autry will also work extensively in the middle.

While a significant hamstring injury will forced the Raiders to place DJ Hayden on injured reserve, David Amerson expects to be back after missing last game with a knee injury.

He was limited in practice all week and is considered questionable, but feels good enough to go.

“I feel good, man,” Amerson said. “I'm ready to get back out there and compete.”

They’ll need him and Sean Smith to anchor on the outside, with TJ Carrie now stepping into the slot role.

The Raiders will also be without reserve edge rusher Shilique Calhoun, out a second game after having a procedure on his knee.

Starting interior linebackers Perry Riley and Malcolm Smith are considered questionable with hamstring strains.

Quarterback Derek Carr was a full participant every practice this week and was taken off the injury report. He threw a second straight day without a glove.

Bills head coach Rex Ryan said receiver Sammy Watkins will play on Sunday against the Raiders despite a broken foot. Local reporters have suggested his snap count may be down.

Buffalo will miss cornerback Ronald Darby and receivers Percy Harvin and Robert Woods, who were ruled out with injury.

Bills Injury Report
Out

WR Robert Woods (knee), CB Ronald Darby (concussion), WR Percy Harvin (illness)
Questionable
OLB Lorenzo Alexander (ankle), OT Cordy Glenn (back), S James Ihedigbo (ankle), WR Sammy Watkins (foot), TE Charles Clay (knee), G Richie Incognito (neck), DT Marcell Dareus (abdominal), RB Mike Gillislee (hamstring), S Sergio Brown (wrist), G John Miller (shoulder), WR Marquise Goodwin (wrist)

Raiders Injury Report
Out
LB Shilique Calhoun (knee), DT Stacy McGee (ankle), DT Darius Latham (ankle)
Questionable
CB David Amerson (knee), WR Michael Crabtree (ankle), C Rodney Hudson (knee), RB Latavius Murray (ankle), OL Kelechi Osemele (knee), LB Perry Riley Jr. (hamstring), LB Malcolm Smith (hamstring)

Raiders to place DJ Hayden on injured reserve: 'A big blow'

Raiders to place DJ Hayden on injured reserve: 'A big blow'

ALAMEDA – Raiders cornerback DJ Hayden was a productive member of the Raiders secondary this season. He found a role in the slot and filled it well, playing with aggressiveness and confidence as the team’s third corner.

This was a positive step after injuries and effectiveness plagued the 2013 first round pick early in his NFL tenure. During Sunday’s victory over Carolina, his career took another cruel twist.

He got tangled up with receiver Kelvin Benjamin early in the fourth quarter, landed awkwardly and suffered a hamstring injury that ended his season early.

The Raiders will place Hayden on injured reserve before their home game against Buffalo, head coach Jack Del Rio announced on Friday afternoon.

"He has a substantial hamstring injury, and won’t be returning this year for us,” Del Rio said. “That was a big blow. It’s unfortunate. He was playing well.”

Hayden has played his last down of the season. He might’ve played his last down as a Raider as well. He was not offered a fifth-year team option afforded to first-round picks, and is set to be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

The Raiders locked up David Amerson and Sean Smith to long-term contracts this offseason.

If Hayden walks, it would mark a disappointing end for Reggie McKenzie’s initial first-round pick. Hayden battled with injuries early in his career. He was drafted No. 12 overall despite having a heart issue stemming from a practice incident at the University of Houston. He played eight games as a rookie and landed on IR with a groin strain.

Hayden missed the first six games of 2016 with a foot issue, but rebounded well and played 37 consecutive games before hurting his hamstring against Carolina.

“It's tough,” Amerson said. “It's the way the league goes, man. It sucks individually for DJ and for us as a DB unit because he was an important piece.”

TJ Carrie will become the Raiders’ slot cornerback, a position he held as a rookie. He started 14 games last season, but has taken a backseat with Amerson and Smith established on the outside.

“He’s been a pro all year,” Del Rio said. “He’s really been good for us. He played a lot bigger role last year, and has been prepared at all times to go in. We have a lot of confidence in TJ.”

Carrie has stepped in a lot lately, with Smith and Amerson missing time with injury in November. Rookie Antonio Hamilton now sits behind him as the No. 4 cornerback.