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.
 

GM McKenzie: Raiders can sustain success, ‘we’ve built this thing to last’

GM McKenzie: Raiders can sustain success, ‘we’ve built this thing to last’

ALAMEDA – Reggie McKenzie doesn’t talk to the media often, maybe a handful of times per year. That’s been the case since he became Raiders general manager in early 2012 and, throughout that time, those interactions come with a common line of questioning.

Everyone wanted to know about his grand plan to return the Raiders to greatness, or a progress report on it. It was a tall order, and McKenzie never said it was going to happen fast.

He had to get right with the salary cap and completely overhaul the roster, actions nearly impossible to do in tandem. He radically deconstructed, then reconstructed in a method that would set the team up for long-term success.

This was not a steady ascent. Poor play was expected early on, though mistakes intensified tough times and muddled his vision to the short sighted.

McKenzie never wavered, trusted his internal compass and steered this pirate ship through a storm. The skies have finally cleared. His Raiders are 9-2 heading into Sunday’s game against Buffalo, armed with a franchise quarterback, elite pass rusher and a respected head coach.

There’s a hulking offensive line, a pair of top receivers and quality cornerbacks secured for the long term.

Those old questions aren't valid anymore. 

Deconstruction is long done. Reconstruction is clearly complete. Now it’s on to the next phase: Sustaining success.

“The key is that your drafted players become your core,” McKenzie said on Thursday in a meeting with local press. “As far as (what's next), you need to know you can sign them and keep them and continue that process.

“That’s where we are right now, and we feel good about where we are. We think we’ve built this thing to last.”

McKenzie has done so with a three-pronged attack.

1. He has drafted extremely well, over the last three years especially, building a young core headlined by Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper, Gabe Jackson and Karl Joseph.

2. McKenzie found a respected head coach in Jack Del Rio guys want to play for, with a staff focused on development.

3. McKenzie has supplemented well in free agency – importing Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson Michael Crabtree and Donald Penn, to name a few -- generally without saddling himself with burdensome contracts.

The Raiders were so flush with cap space a few years ago they were able to fork out huge amounts up front on contracts that become pay-as-you-go deals without dead money later on.

They often use roster bonuses over signing bonuses -- roster bonuses hit the cap all at once; salary bonuses impact the cap over the life of the contract – to help mitigate long-term impact. In short, that gives the Raiders financial flexibility and cap space to play with each year. 

They’ll need it soon. Raiders premier players have come cheap, but the taxman is coming. Carr and Mack are still on rookie deals, but big contract extensions are a fait accompli. The same goes for Cooper when the time comes.

“The premier players will get paid, and we’ll try and keep everything intact as much as we can,” McKenzie said. “But what happens when your talented players play well? Contracts come up at times where they can benefit from it.”

Some teams -- New Orleans, for example -- suffer with a few players consuming significant cap space. Other teams, like New England and Seattle, keep on trucking with a good quarterback, defensive cornerstones and cheaper replacements through the draft or free agency.

“You have to continue to function with some young players,” McKenzie said, “and you have to find some mid-tier veterans who can step in and play well.”

The Raiders have been good mining undrafted free agents – McKenzie takes particular pride in those – to help keep the cupboard stocked.

While the Raiders rise may seem concentrated, from 3-13 in 2014 to 9-2 nearly two completed seasons later, it wasn’t quite so quick. McKenzie’s first two seasons were extremely lean while disposing of bad contracts, with a few hiccups that led many to question his vision.

Owner Mark Davis wasn't one of them. He stuck with McKenzie, a decision that looks pretty darn smart. His GM is certainly thankful for that.

“We were in constant communication the four years leading up to this year,” McKenzie said. “Nobody’s excited about losing seasons, but he did see the promise, and he believed in me. That was enough said. I told him my process, and he knew it wasn’t going to be a quick fix. We could try, but that wasn’t my style. That says a lot, because he was probably getting it from a whole lot of people to hurry up.”