Ford adding punt-return duties to job description

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Ford adding punt-return duties to job description

NAPA -- Jacoby Ford is already one of the most dynamic kickoff return men in the NFL, as his team-record four returns for touchdowns, in 24 career games, attests.Now, he's looking to add punt-return duties to his resume. Just don't ask him if he sees himself in a Devin Hester-type role with the Raiders."I can see a Jacoby Ford role," he said this week. "I can definitely see my own role when I come in. Im definitely excited about doing punt returns. Thats something Ive been wanting to do for a long time now. But since Ive been here, I just wasnt allowed to. Now that Im going to definitely get the opportunity to do it, Im going to make the best of the opportunity and definitely try to score or just set the offense up to have a short field."In college, Ford returned 49 punts for 494 yards and two touchdowns at Clemson.With the Raiders, Ford will be playing for his third different head coach in as many years under Dennis Allen, having suited up for Tom Cable as a rookie and Hue Jackson last season.Ford was a fourth-round revelation as a rookie, and not just as a kick returner. He also proved to be a game-changer against Kansas City on Nov. 7, 2010, when he complied 306 all-purpose yards, returned a kick 94 yards for a touchdown and caught passes that set up game-tying and game-winning field goals.But injuries -- he suffered a broken hand in training camp, strained a hamstring in the season opener and sprained a foot in Week 10 -- limited him to just eight games last season. Plus, the quarterback in whose wedding he was supposed to stand up in was lost to injury in the sixth game and after Jason Campbell was no longer a factor, Ford seemed to have a hard time clicking with Carson Palmer.Neither health nor chemistry seem to be an issue now."Jacoby and I are really coming together," Palmer said. "It's hard when we have goal-line days and we've done some short-yardage the last couple practices. But when we were doing third downs and putting in the Red Zone a couple days, we were really clicking and firing on all cylinders. Just got to keep grinding, keep going. We're not where we want to be yet but we're coming along."Ford agreed."Just getting that chemistry with Carson going is definitely good," Ford said. "You go out there every day and you work with him. Just to have that camaraderie and that relationship with him makes it easy whenever we do get to the game."Weve definitely been on the same page a lot lately. Weve just kind of taken what we see from the practice film and just bringing it out here to the practice field and correcting any mistakes that we do have. Just kind of being in the right spot for him, especially down in the red zone, because hes just taught to cut it loose. Hes definitely going on trust."And that's exactly what the new regime seems to have in Ford. Especially with him being at the top of the depth chart for both return duties as well as taking first-team offensive snaps at receiver with Denarius Moore nursing a sore hamstring."They just wanted me to do the kickoffs and just kind of wait, kind of work me in," Ford said of previous coaching staffs. "The thing is, they didnt want to burn me out. Thats what our old special teams coach said. Just kind of stuck with kick return at first."Of course, the two returns are completely different."With the kickoff return, you dont have to worry about catching and moving right away (and) you can kind of set up your blocks," Ford said. "But punt return, everything happens a lot faster because you've got to get those good blocks on the outside and the good blocks on the inside, and if somebody does get loose, youre going to have to shake one guy and make him miss. You just have to be prepared for those bullets coming down at you."

McKenzie focuses Raiders' 2017 draft on defense, beefs up secondary

McKenzie focuses Raiders' 2017 draft on defense, beefs up secondary

ALAMEDA – Raiders general manger Reggie McKenzie made nine selections in this weekend’s NFL draft. That was a requirement given the state of his roster, featuring a stacked offense and a Swiss-cheese defense. It has holes.

He spent significant draft capital trying to upgrade the middle of his defense especially, adding three defensive backs, two defensive tackles and a fifth-round pick in Marquel Lee who will compete to start at middle linebacker.

He needs a few immediate impact players on the defensive group headlined by first-round cornerback Gareon Conley and second-round safety Obi Melifonwu.

“How much do I think I can get out of this group? I hope a lot,” McKenzie said Saturday after the NFL draft was complete. “They’re all going to come in and compete. We’re signing guys post-draft also. We’re going to give them all the opportunity to compete with the veterans that we already have on board. We hope that out of it all, the competition part of it, the cream rises and we have a very good 53-man roster.”

McKenzie follows a draft board thoroughly constructed through hundreds of scouting reports and cross checks, and extensive evaluation at combines and pro days. He trusts it. It has certainly treated him well before, which productive hauls in 2014 and 2015 especially.

While he lost out on some likable players taken before his slot, McKenzie believes the Raiders added quality and depth in previously lacking position groups. He stuck with size and athleticism at times over college production and, as always, beefed up both the offensive and defensive lines.

“I think the way it fell, we got a lot of players, at the end of the day, it looks like we needed,” he said. “We felt like we got a lot of good players with high talent levels from top to bottom. Some are going to be more raw than others. We’re going to have to see down the line, more so. I think talking to the board, you said, ‘Job well done.’”

McKenzie also focused on fixing a lackluster pass defense with speed. Conley can be a shutdown cornerback outside or in the slot. Melifonwu is a heavy hitter who can play both safety spots and is expected to contribute as a rookie. The secondary must improve to prevent big plays and help Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin get after the quarterback.

“You have to have speed to play the game the way it’s going now,” McKenzie said. “You have to be able to play in space. You have to be able to match up. We took all of that into consideration when we brought these players in. To the players that you mentioned, Obi and Conley, both of those guys have great range, speed, very athletic. So, they make tackles in space. That’s one of the things that we looked at. Make sure short to medium plays don’t turn into big plays. I think they will help in that scenario.”

Here’s a full list of Raiders draft picks:

Round 1 (No. 24 overall): CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State
Round 2 (No. 56 overall): S Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut
Round 3 (No. 88 overall): DT Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
Round 4 (No. 129 overall): OT David Sharpe, Florida
Round 5 (No. 168 overall): LB Marquel Lee, Wake Forest
Round 7 (No. 221 overall): S Shalom Luani, Washington State
Round 7 (No. 231 overall): OT Jylan Ware, Alabama State
Round 7 (No. 242 overall): RB Elijah Hood, North Carolina
Round 7 (No. 244 overall): DT Treyvon Hester, Toledo

 

Raiders 2017 UDFA tracker: McKenzie adds safeties, mining for more gold

Raiders 2017 UDFA tracker: McKenzie adds safeties, mining for more gold

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have had great success mining gold from undrafted free agency. Jalen Richard and Darius Latham were kings of last year’s crop, which was six strong by season’s end. with Seth Roberts and Denico Autry other examples of undrafted free agents done good in recent years.

Can Raiders scouts find more helpful pieces from those left out of the NFL draft? Time will tell on that one, but finding the right undrafted players is something the team takes seriously. Scouts revel in undrafted players who make it in the league.

“It’s very rewarding,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “If we sign him as a free agent, we may have had him on the board as draftable, but getting guys post draft, that helps you down the road. To maintain a consistent winner, you have to hit on some of those guys. You have to. The way that the contracts are these days, you have to have some of those type players to help you win football games year in and year out.”

The Raiders will search for those players into Saturday evening to fill the 90-man roster. McKenzie secured some of his top targets with four seventh-round picks, though several more have signed with the club. Here’s a list of those who have signed with the team thus far:

-- OL Jordan Simmons, USC: The hulking offensive lineman signed with the Raiders, he announced on social media. Simmons stands 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, and will turn pro after being denied a sixth year of college eligibility. The talented guard had an injury-riddled career.

-- WR Isaac Whitney, USC: Whitney is yet another undrafted Trojan to join the Raiders roster. He announced the signing on social media. He didn’t have many college stats, but is fast with the size the Raiders prefer in outside receivers.

-- WR Keon Hatcher, Arkansas: Hatcher will reportedly join the offseason receiver group in hopes of taking a roster spot. He had 44 catches for 743 yards and eight touchdowns in his final college season. (Houston Chronicle)

-- WR Ishmael Zamora, Baylor: The Bears official website reported that Zamora will sign with the Silver and Black. He had63 catches for 809 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016. He was suspended three games for abusing a dog in an incident that was caught on video. 

-- S Ahmad Thomas, Oklahoma: The Raiders need safety depth, so it was smart of Thomas to sign in Oakland. He was a three-year starter and a team captain. (Houston Chronicle)

-- S Anthony Cioffi, Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights’ official Twitter account reported a four-year starter in college will give the pros a try in Oakland.

-- DT Jordan Wade, Oklahoma: The 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive tackle will join the Raiders. (SoonerScoop.com)

-- TE Pharaoh Brown, Oregon: The Ducks didn’t have a single player drafted, but Brown will join the Silver and Black. The tight end announced a signing on Twitter. He had 33 catches for 426 yards and five touchdown.

Check back for further updates...