Raiders

Just win baby -- Raiders rally to top Texans

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Just win baby -- Raiders rally to top Texans

BOX SCORE
HOUSTON -- Coach Hue Jackson sank to his knees, buried his face in his hands and finally released the emotions he'd been holding back. Up in the visitor's suite at Reliant Stadium, Mark Davis wiped away tears with a paper towel and glanced to the sky.The Oakland Raiders won the day after their maverick owner Al Davis died, beating the Houston Texans 25-20 on Sunday behind Jason Campbell's two touchdown passes.Michael Huff intercepted Matt Schaub's pass in the end zone on the final play, and the Raiders ran to celebrate a bittersweet victory unlike any other in the storied history of the franchise.Al, this one's for you."One thing coach (Davis) always taught me was he said: 'Hue don't believe in plays, believe in players and eventually the players will make plays for you,'" Jackson said. "And that's what I did. I could just hear him saying that to me the whole time. Believe in your players and not the plays."Stadiums around the league observed a moment of silence before the early games to honor Davis, who died at his Oakland home at age 82. His son, Mark, took his place in the owner's box, and the Raiders wore black decals on the backs of their helmets with "AL" written in silver letters.They were statistically dominated by Houston, outgained 473-278 and held to 11 first downs and 94 yards rushing. They still managed to do the only thing that ever mattered to Davis.They just won, baby."We know he's looking down on us right now," Huff said. "This win is for him. I appreciate everything he's done for this organization. He's never gone in our eyes. We'll never let him go. He's with us."Sebastian Janikowski kicked four field goals, and Oakland hung on to improve to 3-2. The Raiders drafted Janikowski in 2000, only the third time a kicker had been taken in the first round."He was looking over us," Janikowski said. "I was feeling good and hitting everything in warmups."Schaub threw for 416 yards and two touchdowns but missed star receiver Andre Johnson, who sat out with a right hamstring injury. The Texans (3-2) still had a chance to win with under a minute left, facing a third-and-23 from the Oakland 39.Schaub scrambled and found tight end Joel Dreessen open at the 5, and Schaub spiked the ball with seven seconds left. Instead of trying to run for the winning score, Schaub lobbed a pass to Jacoby Jones, and Huff stepped in to pick it off."My mobility wasn't limited at the time," Schaub said, "but I'm not necessarily a guy that's going to make a whole lot of guys miss in the open field."For Oakland, a messy victory never felt so good."This is a new beginning for this football team," Jackson said. "We don't care if they're ugly, we don't care if they're pretty. We just don't care. Our No. 1 purpose when we play is to win."We all had coach tied to our hearts today."The Raiders pulled off a fake punt that Davis would've loved to keep momentum in the fourth quarter.After the Texans stopped Darren McFadden on third-and-1, Rock Cartwright took the snap and raced 35 yards to the Houston 25. Janikowski kicked a 42-yard field goal with 10 minutes left for a 25-17 Oakland lead.With no Johnson to target, Schaub threw six consecutive incompletions during one stretch of the final quarter."We've got to do a better job," receiver Kevin Walter said. "We've got to do a better job at making plays when it really counts."Neil Rackers' 40-yard field goal cut Oakland's lead to 25-20 with 2:56 left, and Houston's defense held to give the offense one more chance.The Raiders flew to Houston on Friday, then learned Saturday morning that Davis had died. Jackson gathered his players for an emotional meeting at their hotel.Jackson was surprised how emotional he got after Sunday's game."I thought I had it all out the other day," he said. "Obviously I didn't. I know he's looking down on this team and he's with us every step of the way."It didn't look promising after the Texans scored a touchdown on their opening series for the third straight game.Arian Foster had a 20-yard run against the league's 29th-ranked run defense, and Walter caught a short touchdown pass with 8:15 left in the first quarter.Oakland, meanwhile, needed a turnover and blocked punt to generate early points.Defensive end Lamarr Houston intercepted Schaub's pass, which was deflected, setting up Janikowski for a 54-yard field goal. Oakland got the ball at the Texans 39 after Daryl Blackstock blocked Brett Hartmann's punt, but the Raiders stalled again, and Janikowski kicked a 55-yarder to make it 7-6.Janikowski is 5-for-6 on attempts 50 yards and longer this season, including one from 63 that tied an NFL record.Oakland was lucky to trail only 14-12 at the break after producing only four first downs in the opening half.Notes: Houston DE Mario Williams and FB James Casey left with pectoral muscle injuries. Texans coach Gary Kubiak did not know the severity of either injury. ... Raiders TE Matt Giordano left with a concussion. ... Schaub has thrown a touchdown pass in 13 consecutive games, a franchise record.

Edwards Jr. emerges from Arizona unfazed, with hip injury behind him

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Edwards Jr. emerges from Arizona unfazed, with hip injury behind him

NAPA -- Mario Edwards Jr.’s second season went south in a hurry. The Raiders defensive lineman suffered a hip injury in the 2016 preseason opener that kept him out 14 games and prevented progress after a solid rookie year.

He walked into University of Phoenix Stadium so full of hope, so ready to become a impact player on the inside. He left on crutches, with disappointment etched on his face. Edwards Jr. played thrice in 2016, but never made a real impact.

He’s expected to make one in Year 3. Edwards Jr. is back to full health, without restrictions of any kind. He’s been that way a while now, completely recovered from a hip injury that took forever to heal. He passed standard injury milestones required to overcome a major injury. He regained great shape. He tested the joint several times, and was confident it would provide explosiveness and withstand jarring hits.

One last mental hurdle was cleared Saturday night, when he returned to the crime scene. The Raiders opened this preseason against Arizona, at University of Phoenix Stadium, on the anniversary of his injury.

Flashbacks were unavoidable.

“I definitely thought about it,” he said.

It didn’t consume him. Edwards was played 22 productive snaps and emerged no worse for the wear. That, above all else, was the important thing.

“Going back to where it happened and completing the game, that was important,” Edwards said. “I thank God that I walked off the field the same way I came on it. That boosted my confidence and showed it can hold up. I was happy with that, and happy to have come out of everything just fine.”

Edwards has dealt with significant injuries throughout his career. He had a neck issue late in his rookie year, and a hip problem that stole his 2017 campaign. Edwards is thrilled to say those issues are behind him now.

“I’ve pushed that under the rug,” he said. ”I’m completely done with it. Now I’m focused on moving forward and playing faster.”

There’s no doubt the Raiders are better with Edwards on the line. General manager Reggie McKenzie said so this offseason. Edwards is a versatile, powerful, athletic player capable of playing most every technique from inside out. He played everywhere as a rookie, from stand-up edge rusher to nose tackle.

He’ll be a roving chess piece again this year, Edwards should play end in the base defense, often with Bruce Irvin on his flank. He’ll slide inside to provide a pass rush in a sub packages. Good push from Edwards, Denico Autry, Jihad Ward and Eddie Vanderdoes is vital, especially after struggling to create pressure there in years past. Head coach Jack Del Rio said last season’s effort wasn’t good enough. His players heard that, and are hell-bent on showing better.

“We take what people said about last year’s interior push as a challenge,” Edwards said. “We know we’ll be better, and we’re out to prove that the Raiders interior defensive is pretty good.”

Practice report: Conley locking in mentally while rehabbing injury

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AP

Practice report: Conley locking in mentally while rehabbing injury

NAPA – Gareon Conley ran Sunday for the first time in two months. The Raiders first-round cornerback remains on the physically unable to perform list with a shin injury originally suffered during a June minicamp. He wants to get back on the field. He just isn’t ready yet.

Missing training camp certainly sets back a dynamic cover man, but it doesn’t mean Conley can’t make an instant impact. While he hasn’t been seen on the practice field, the Raiders have been encouraged that Conley’s proving a quick learner and an inquisitive mind.

“We’d love to have him out there right now,” Raiders assistant head coach – defense John Pagano said. “When he’s out there, he’ll be out there. Until then, I think he got the reps he needed in OTAs. His mental game has picked up tremendously. He’s always asking questions, even more. It’s hard for a lot of injured players in this league to stand there on the sidelines and be able to just watch and look out there, but he’s always asking. He’s getting those mental reps.

"When he’s able to come back, he’ll be at a fast level. Injuries are part of the game, you deal with it and you just have to make sure, as a rookie, you’re taking those mental reps.”

Conley has been on the practice field with his position group most days, with a play sheet in hand to follow along. He has also lifted weights the past two days and worked on the JUGS machine Wednesday.

Nearly a month remains until the regular season starts, leaving Conley time to get back in the mix.

QUICK SLANTS

-- Cornerback Sean Smith took some reps with the first unit on Wednesday, though most of them came as an outside corner in the nickel package. TJ Carrie slid inside in those instances, and generally remained outside in the base defense.

Smith had his second straight quality practice, a sign he might be rebounding after a rough week where he practiced with the second unit and didn’t fare well at Arizona. The Raiders hope he can build on good work and be steadier in coverage.

“I think he’s growing every day,” Pagano said. “There’s always highs and lows in this game. You don’t want to make it, as we term, inconsistent. We’re always looking for the consistency. It’s how you build. It’s how you learn. It’s how you come off those things. There’s always room for improvement in the backend, in the front, all across our defense. There’s guys we’re asking them to go out there and make plays. Has he been improving at practice? Yeah. Then our job is to take that practice stuff and take it to the game field and have that consistency and that carry over to those types of games.”

-- Offensive line coach Mike Tice praised Ian Silberman’s play in a position switch to center. He has seen extensive reps there in camp, including a massive amount in the preseason opener at Arizona. Silberman will play some left guard in coming weeks to establish versatility and give him a shot to make the team.

-- Undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow played with the first unit in sub packages, as the Raiders continue searching for coverage options in those personnel groups.

-- Jon Feliciano worked with the first unit on Wednesday at left guard. He will be a primary backup at every interior line spot. He is working back from a knee injury that kept him out until last week.