Notes: Raiders 'getting close' to being a stout run defense

Notes: Raiders 'getting close' to being a stout run defense

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t run much on Sunday, but were certainly effective when they did.

They churned out 105 yards on just 16 attempts, a 6.6 yards per carry average that would make any defensive mind cringe. Had the Jaguars run more before the Raiders took control late in the first half, a 33-16 result might’ve been closer at the end.

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio’s glass was half full Monday afternoon despite that showing, and he focused on the positives gleaned from analyzing game tape.

His biggest takeaway: The Raiders are oh, so close to being stout against the run.

“I think it’s really coming together and getting close to being really, really good,” Del Rio said during his press conference at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, where the Raiders will prep for next week’s game at Tampa Bay. “I don’t like to see any runs go through us. We’ll continue to work where we need to. The attention to detail, the physicality of the guys in the trenches, we have the right people to be really good up front.”

The Raiders are near the bottom in run defense, allowing 128.3 yards per game and seven rushing touchdowns through seven contests. They were gashed for 180-plus yards by Kansas City and Tennessee thus far, and have given up triple digits five times thus far.

Del Rio sees improvement stopping the run, which will be aided by players maintaining gaps and operating as 11 players working together as one unit.

Several players were encourage by greater cohesion against Jacksonville, something that hurt the Raiders in previous games.

“What I keep saying is the work is there, is being put in,” Del Rio said. “The care is there. I mean, our guys care. We’re staying together, I really see it. Throughout the staff, with the players, everybody is hanging onto the rope. Everybody is pulling the rope in the same direction. We’re going to make improvements with that approach. We’ve got good people that care. If you have good people that care to stick together, then good things are going to happen.”

Good things are starting to happen for the Raiders pass rush. They flustered Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles most of the day and, while the only had one sack, Bortles was hit seven times and pressured on 11 other occasions.

The pass rush is starting to crank up, but Del Rio still wants more in the middle.

“We feel like we’ve got a couple guys that can really get there,” Del Rio said. “We’re still looking for a little more interior push and I think as we get that, I think it’ll make the entire rush look at a lot better. But, we’re getting good energy, good effort from those guys.”

Edwards Jr. headed for Sunshine State: Raiders defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. has spent the season on injured reserve, but was eligible to start practicing last week for a Week 9 return. That hasn’t happened yet, though Edwards Jr. will join the team in Florida this week and is expected to start side work that would be a precursor of a return to practice.

The delayed start might mean he won’t be ready to face Denver when eligible and that he might return later in the season, though that remains undetermined.

Riley-Smith combo works well inside: The Raiders inserted veteran linebacker Perry Riley into the starting lineup over rookie Cory James, a move that paid immediate dividends. He worked well with Malcolm Smith on the inside, and formed a solid duo against the run and pass the Raiders will stick with in the immediate future.

“Those guys have a lot of skins on the wall, so to speak,” Del Rio said. “They’ve been through a lot of battles. So the experience is there. We really like Cory. Cory is a good, young player, but to have those two guys and the experience that they have and the number of battles that they’ve been in, they communicated well together. The idea going into the game was we’re going to play all three, but the way we started, we started well and those two guys played well. We just basically left them (out there), let them go.

This ‘n’ that: Stacy McGee suffered an ankle injury in Sunday’s game, and Del Rio didn’t provide an update on his status. Kelechi Osemele tweaked his knee against Jacksonville, but was able to return to the game and should be fine. ...Michael Crabtree was flagged for a throat slash after his Sunday touchdown despite the fact he’s paying homage to the HBO character Kenny Powers with his fingers. Del Rio said Crabtree and the Raiders must be smarter about avoiding unnecessary penalties. The Raiders were flagged 11 times for 117 yards on Sunday.

Raiders snap count: Riley over James; Murray a feature back

Raiders snap count: Riley over James; Murray a feature back

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Malcolm Smith was fully recovered from a quadriceps strain, ready to assume his typically extensive workload at weakside linebacker.

That allowed the Raiders to make a personnel change in the middle. They started relative newcomer Perry Riley at middle linebacker over rookie sixth-round pick Cory James, a young player forced into action due to Ben Heeney’s ineffectiveness and health.

Riley has six seasons and 72 starts to his name, given the Raiders experience at a position expected to make reads and checks and communicate information to teammates before the snap.

Riley fared well in that spot in Sunday’s 33-16 victory over Jacksonville, with a pair of tackles in 100 percent of the defensive snaps. He was Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated Raiders defensive player, with positive marks against the run and pass.

It was uncertain how much Latavius Murray would play in his return from turf toe, but the Raiders did not attach a short leash. Murray played 42 snaps and had 20 touches in this game.

He was the feature back in this one, a new approach after the Raiders used a near-even split with DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. That wasn’t the case this time. Washington got the start but played just 13 snaps and six touches. Richard only had two touches in limited action.

Murray sparked the Raiders run game, with 18 carries for 59 yards and two touchdowns. The work left him no worse for the wear, a positive sign for a team that needs Murray running strong.

Let’s take a look at the entire Raiders snap count:

72 – OL Donald Penn, OL Gabe Jackson, OL Austin Howard, OL Rodney Hudson, QB Derek Carr
71 – OL Kelechi Osemele
68 – WR Amari Cooper
50 – WR Michael Crabtree
49 – TE Clive Walford
47 – WR Seth Roberts
42 – RB Latavius Murray
25 – FB Jamize Olawale
17 – WR Andre Holmes, Mychal Rivera
13 – RB DeAndre Washington
12 – OL Matt McCants
11 – OL Denver Kirkland
5 – WR Johnny Holton
4 – RB Jalen Richard
1 – OL Jon Feliciano

67 – CB Sean Smith, S Reggie Nelson, CB David Amerson, LB Perry Riley
66 – S Karl Joseph
63 – LB Malcolm Smith
60 – DE Khalil Mack
57 – LB Bruce Irvin
52 – CB DJ Hayden
42 – DL Denico Autry
34 – DL Jihad Ward
21 – LB Shilique Calhoun, DL Justin Ellis
20 – DL DL Darius Latham, DL Dan WIlliams
7 -- DL Stacy McGee
4 – S Keith McGill
2 – CB TJ Carrie

29 – Darren Bates, Nate Allen
25 – Andre Holmes, Jamize Olawale
24 – Shilique Calhoun
23 – Johnny Holton, Mychal Rivera
16 – Cory James, Sebastian Janikowski
14 – Antonio Hamilton
13 – Jon Condo, Marquette King
12 – Clive Walford
11 – Jon Feliciano
10 – Jalen Richard
9 – DJ Hayden, Karl Joseph
7 – Matt McCants, Denver Krikland, Gabe Jackson, Kelechi Osemele
6 – RB DeAndre Washington, Donald Penn
4 – TJ Carrie, Dan Williams, Darius Latham, Denico Autry, Bruce Irvin, Khalil Mack
3 – Justin Ellis
1 – Jihad Ward, Amari Cooper, Austin Howard
NOTE: Snap counts taken from official NFL game book

Notes: 'Carr to Crabtree was special' in Raiders' win over Jaguars

Notes: 'Carr to Crabtree was special' in Raiders' win over Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree was a non-factor in last week’s loss to Kansas City, an aberration of the highest order this season.

It proved to be just a one-game lull.

Crabtree was an offensive catalyst yet again Sunday in a 33-16 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He had eight receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown, including a long bomb that changed the game.

Quarterback Derek Carr went big on 3rd-and-5 late in the second quarter, sending a perfectly-arched ball down the right sideline that Crabtree caught over his shoulder at full gallop for a 56-yard gain that set up the Raiders’ second touchdown in five minutes.

Crabtree got it, again on third down, using a quick slant just beyond the goal line.

He refused to speak with the media again, but those around him were again wowed by his impact on the game, especially when Jaguars corner shadowed and largely shut Amari Cooper down.

“Michael Crabtree made some incredible plays today for us,” Del Rio said. “…Throughout the game he came up big for us and I thought he play really, really well for us. Obviously our quarterback is a good player. He did a good job for us hooking up with different receivers, but today Carr to Crabtree was special.”

King shows speed: Raiders punter Marquette King doesn’t have to run much. Players at his position usually don’t, except as a last resort when chasing a return.

King ran forward this time, prompted by a uncharacteristically poor Jon Condo snap. He didn’t have room to punt so he took off running, converting a 4th-and-24 with a 27-yard run down the sideline. It was a move that showed great athleticism, one he

“I just picked the ball up and started running,” King said. “After I passed the orange sticks, I got a little light-headed and realized ‘I’m really running the ball right now.’ It’s been since high school that I ran from the punting formation. I came in as a wide receiver for Fort Valley State and was really good at punting so they stuck with me.”

King ran out without getting hit – a plus in the coaches minds – and extended a drive that ended with a game-icing touchdown from Latavius Murray.

Too many field goals: Sebastian Janikowski had four field goals on Sunday night, which isn’t always a positive sign for the Raiders offense. They let too many touchdown-scoring chances escape, which bothered offensive players despite the fact they scored 33 points.

“When we’re in the red zone, we want points,” Murray said. “That’s most important, but we need touchdowns over field goals. We have a lot of work to do and we’ll keep striving to get seven points over three.”

Winning turnover battle: The Raiders forced three turnovers against Jacksonville and didn’t give up any.

David Amerson had an interception. So did Reggie Nelson. Andre Holmes recovered a punt muffed by Rashad Greene. That’s a recipe for success, something that’s become common for this Raiders team.

They’ve forced three turnovers without coughing it up three times this season. They’ve ended up with a plus turnover ratio six times in seven games.

Notes: Raiders LB Bruce Irvin recorded his fourth forced fumble of the season against Jacksonville, which are the most by a Raiders since Nick Roach equaled that total in 2013. …DE Khalil Mack had his second sack in as many games, and now leads the team with three. … Nelson nabbed his second interception this year and has 32 since 2007, a total that leads all active safeties. …RB Latavius Murray has five touchdowns in seven games, the highest total in that span since 2005. … The Raiders are 4-0 on the road, a mark that hasn’t been matched since 2000.