Raiders now blitzing like never before

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Raiders now blitzing like never before

ALAMEDA -- The Silver and Black elephant in the room is starting to get noticed. And, some might say, poked.There's no doubt the late Al Davis eschewed blitzing. He wanted straight man-to-man defense with his cornerbacks playing bump-and-run and the front seven dominating enough to apply pressure without any gadget plays.Even when blitzing worked, as it did with aplomb two years ago against Philadelphia and a confounded Donovan McNabb, there were rumblings that not everyone in the building was happy. Imagine the reaction if it had backfired.

Even departed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha questioned the Raiders' defensive scheme ... after signing a big-money deal to play man defense.Blitzing was an anomaly, a crutch, of sorts, was the thinking upstairs. And while the team might install such packages during a game week, rarely did it ever surface in a game.That philosophy, though, has changed within the past two weeks, it seems.Consider this from STATS LLC: including run plays, the Raiders blitzed an average of 8 12 times per game through their first four games this season. In their last two games, against Houston and Cleveland, the Raiders blitzed an average of 28 12 times per game.Shocking, right? As if the numbers didn't speak for themselves, first-year coach Hue Jackson added some spice."I think it's been pretty vanilla here in the past," Jackson said, "and I think (opponents) have kind of known how to attack us."Some might see that as a shot at the old Xs and Os mantra in Silver and Blackdom. Others might see it as a long-awaited evolution.Just win by any scheme necessary, baby?"We're definitely more colorful now that we're not as vanilla, we're not as predictable as we've been in years past," cornerback Stanford Routt said. "That's the main thing, try to confuse the quarterback and get him to make decisions and reads in the actual play, rather than already being able to make a pre-snap read and determination where he wants to go with the ball."Football is a game of chess not checkers. Anytime you're out there being predictable or playing into the other team's hands, as far as what they can expect from you, you're not putting yourself in the best chance to win the game. Any time you can go and throw a wrinkle in there, obviously you want to do that. Because if I know what you're going to do before you do it, your chances to win are not that good. Obviously it's a good thing to do."It might not be fair to say previous defensive coordinators were hamstrung by the Davis Doctrine. And it might be uncouth or even blasphemous to say there is a certain freedom in defensive play-calling now.So what about that Silver and Black elephant again? Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan is center ring with it, flipping it some peanuts."We have a very aggressive d-coordinator," safety Mike Mitchell said. "He likes to get after it and apply pressure. When you look at the way our team is built, we have the athletes to play so much man and we have the biggest, fastest linebackers in the league, so why not send them? It puts pressure on the quarterback and we have the athletes to cover. I think it goes hand in hand."For years, teams knew how to scout the Raiders because they would play a certain base defense and little else. And while it drew derision in many corners in recent years, it also drew praise for sticking to the brashness of the whole, 'You know what we run, so beat us.'Now?"Last week you had Colt McCoy come up to us and say, 'Man, I thought you guys were going to play more man,'" Mitchell said of the Browns' signal caller. "It's good when the quarterback says that because we are known for so much man coverage. But when we can throw wrinkles with some of our fire zone and other things, it gives them different looks."They're not going to know what to expect. I honestly, truly believe we have the best athletes in the league. We have the capability to do everything our d-coordinator wants us to do. As long as we continue to mix up our looks, we'll give quarterbacks a lot of trouble."On the third play of the Cleveland game, safety Matt Giordano picked up the first sack of his seven-year career when he dropped McCoy for a 10-yard loss on third-and-nine. On a blitz."I look forward to it, whenever I get the chance to blitz," Giordano said. "I love blitzing."Especially when you have the freedom to do so, and it works.

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.