Raiders

Can McFadden thrive with zone-blocking scheme?

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Can McFadden thrive with zone-blocking scheme?

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The first time in Darren McFadden's NFL career the Raiders employed a zone-blocking scheme, the not-yet all-everything running back was being fitted for the bust label.So now, two games into the Raiders' return to the ZBS and a West Coast offense under offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, McFadden has all of 54 rushing yards, after going for 22 yards on 11 carries in a 35-13 loss to Miami on Sunday.Small sample size, to be sure, but it sure looks like McFadden is anything but comfortable in this scheme, doesn't it?Well, no way, no how was McFadden going to rip his returning O.C., so he said the politically correct thing when I asked him about his comfort level in it."I'm very comfortable in this scheme," McFadden said. "I just feel like we have to get going. Like I say, you hit one or two runs here, three-yard runs here, and eventually it's going to start popping."But when? There are already questions about McFadden's durability -- he is coming off a Lisfranc injury to his right foot that limited him to six-plus games last year -- and the way San Diego crashed down on him in the Raiders' opener and the manner in which the Dolphins' snuffed out the run Sunday, you have to scratch your head, no? Especially with the Raiders running for a combined -1 yard in the second half against the Dolphins.Which makes you wonder if the Raiders abandoned the run too soon in a game in which they ran it eight times, for 24 yards, in the first half but 15 times after halftime, for that combined one-yard loss."I don't know what we averaged a run but we kept trying to get it going and kept trying to get it going because that's really what kind of dictates what gets our offense going, in the play-action game, especially," said quarterback Carson Palmer."We stuck with it and stuck with it and stuck with it and unfortunately, (Miami) just did a really good job with it up front and didn't let us get any big runs and the explosive run gains that we wanted."The Raiders averaged 1.6 yards per rush, and the longest run McFadden had against the Dolphins was for four yards."You can't look at those stats and say, 'Well, O.K., we're not going to run the ball anymore,'" Palmer said. "We're going to continue to run the ball. Where the big plays in this offense come from is off the running game, and Darren's a guy that can score from anywhere on the field. We realize that and defenses realize that so we're not going to abandon it whatsoever."We're going to continue to work at it, we're going to continue to get better at it, and he's going to get his chances because he's obviously a special talent and we're going to get him his opportunities."Maybe it's not merely McFadden's relative lack of success in the ZBS. Maybe it has something to do with the opponent. After all, in three games against the Dolphins, McFadden has carried the ball 22 times for 37 yards.Even when he had a clear path to the end zone Sunday, he dropped a pass that hit him between the numbers at the goal line. This after he missed a series following his getting poked in the left eye and having a protective visor put on his helmet.Bad matchup? Whatever the case, the Raiders had to throw the ball 48 times and became too predictable, allowing the Dolphins to simply pin their ears back and rush Palmer, as the Chargers did six days prior."We've been doing a great job moving the ball, passing the ball, but once we get the run and the pass back (together) there," McFadden said, "we'll be one of the elite offenses in the league."Coach Dennis Allen did not think the Raiders abandoned the run too soon, not with the score getting out of hand."I think we were being effective throwing the football," Allen said. "I think you're got to go with what the game dictates. I'm not going to second guess. We did what we had to do to try to win the football game and it didn't work out."So despite the relative lack of success in the ZBS, does Allen still have confidence in it?"Absolutely," he said. "Absolutely. I've seen it work. Believe in it."

Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

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Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Raiders are remarkably healthy heading into Sunday night’s game against the Washington football club.

The entire 53-man roster practiced fully on Friday, before heading to the nation’s capital.

That includes veteran cornerback Sean Smith, who missed the previous game with a neck injury. A shoulder ailment cropped up during the week, which prompted the Raiders to label him questionable heading into Week 3. Smith’s the only Raider on the injury report, and even he’s in decent shape.

“I mean we put it on there because there’s still a little bit of a question,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “You don’t have probable’s anymore. Given the choices, I just left him that way.”

That means the Raiders are going to have some healthy scratches a week after Smith was the only injured player sitting out.

Washington has some impact players on the mend. That included tight end Jordan Reed, who is questionable with a rib/sternum injury. He stands 6-foot-2, 246 pounds and is the type of receiving tight end that gives the Raiders fits. He has 1,638 yards 17 touchdowns the last two seasons, using good hands and a large frame to create mismatches in the secondary.

It’ll be key for the Raiders to defend him well if he’s active, with Nicholas Morrow as a primary coverage option.

“We’re prepared to face him,” Del Rio said. “We think he’s a good player. We’ll approach it that way and adjust if he doesn’t go.”

Washington also lists starting inside linebacker Mason Foster and running back Rob Kelley as questionable.

Raiders Injury Report
Questionable
CB Sean Smith (neck/shoulder)

Washington Injury Report
Questionable

TE Jordan Reed (rib/sternum), LB Mason Foster (shoulder), RB Rob Kelley (rib), S Monate Nicholson (shoulder), CB Josh Norman (shoulder)

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Raiders safety Karl Joseph notched his first career forced fumble in Week 2’s blowout victory over the New York Jets. It came on his first sack, where he bent around a tackle into the pocket and devoured his pray.

Joseph recovered the ball, and the Raiders quickly scored a touchdown. The second-year pro enjoyed that moment, but left the game with regrets.

"I should have definitely had more sacks than I did,” Joseph said. “I feel like I should have had three.”

Joseph had quarterback Josh McCown in the crosshairs three times, and feels like he should’ve finished each one. The game plan provided opportunity. Joseph blitzed six times – fellow safety Reggie Nelson attacked thrice – and pressured the quarterback four times.

It was a relatively new responsibility, considering he blitzed nine times all last year. Joseph will be first to say he was a different player then. He was less explosive, more tentative and a smidge less confident, lingering effects from an ACL tear during his final college season. Joseph was cleared to play as a rookie but wasn’t all the way back, doubly hampered by missing an offseason program where rookies grow quick.

"I wasn’t completely myself,” Joseph said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California. “I feel a lot more like myself this year. I obviously feel better physically, and the year of experience in the system has definitely helped. So has adjusting to the NFL life. That’s been an easier transition for me.”

Joseph is playing more like his highlight reel from West Virginia, where he proved a heavy hitter and a solid cover man worthy of last year’s No. 14 overall draft pick. The Jets game isn’t the only evidence of that.

Joseph had an excellent training camp, flashing an aggressive style and solid timing making plays in practice. That translated to the regular-season opener at Tennessee, when he saved a touchdown on consecutive plays. The first came on an open-field tackle. The second was a leaping pass breakup in the end zone, proof positive that Joseph was ready to make a big impact.

"He’s really good close to the line of scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. "He’s a really good tackler in the open field. He also plays well on the back end. I think his development is right on time right now.”

The Raiders recognize that, and are using him like a queen on the chessboard. He can move back or forward, as an attacker or the last line of defense. He’s a rover at times, with an ability to create havoc at all levels of the defense.

Joseph is an excellent fit for the defensive scheme, bring a tone-setting physicality to the secondary. He is learning, as part of his development, that the nuclear option isn’t always best. There are times when it is, and Joseph enters those scenarios without fear.

"You can’t play worried about getting hurt. That’s not the way I play,” Joseph said. “It’s about being smart. I had to adjust my game coming into the NFL. Every hit can’t be a big hit. Sometimes you have to be smart and just wrap people up, but you can’t ever play scared.”

He isn’t afraid to take risks or attack when asked, and is already making a major impact on this year’s defense. That isn’t a surprise. It’s expected of first-round picks.

"That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s supposed to make plays,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a guy we selected because we thought he’d be a guy that could come in and impact on our defense. In the first two games of this year he’s played well. There are still things, like I tell you all the time, that have cleaning up to do, work to do, things to improve on, but he’s off to a good start and obviously it follows up from a good offseason. Healthy, a lot of good work and confidence that he’s gaining as we go.”