Raiders

Lynch 'seems fresh, energized' ready to start first Raiders campaign

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AP

Lynch 'seems fresh, energized' ready to start first Raiders campaign

ALAMEDA – Marshawn Lynch didn’t miss playing football last year. Not one bit. He made that point clear during his last meeting with the media.

The veteran running back said several times he returned to represent Oakland, the hometown he champions at every turn. When the Raiders were approved to relocate, Lynch wanted to give the East Bay something to cheer for and admire.

Lynch’s return from retirement wasn’t a half measure. He returned after a year away in great shape, worked well and smart during the preseason and is prepped for games that actually count. He’s excited to represent the Oakland Raiders, formally starting Sunday at Tennessee.

He’s motivated and looks like his old self, in practice anyway. There’s another observation Derek Carr recently made, one vital to a 31-year old playing a young man’s game.

“I see someone who is fresh,” the Raiders quarterback said. “I think anybody with a year off from football would bode well. It’s hard on your body, especially the way that he plays, and he plays running back. We talk about it all the time – I think running back, physically, is one of the most demanding positions in all of sports; the pounding it takes, the speed you have to run with, the knowledge you have to have, your job and assignments.

“I think a year off did him well, to be honest. He seems fresh, energized. He’s really excited, I can tell you. We’ve had a couple of walk-throughs now, and he’s already almost going full speed, so it’ll be fun to see him turn it on.”

Lynch’s talent is clear, and it’s more than just raw power. He has excellent balance and burst, with aggressiveness in his decision-making. The remaining question: how will Lynch hold up over a full season? An abdominal injury ravaged his final year with the Seahawks, but he’s healthy and ready to start the year. The opposition, the first one anyway, expects vintage Marshawn this fall.

“I’m not going to be caught off guard with him,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “He’s a very big, physical back. Obviously, he’s rested. (laughter) So, we’re well aware of what he can do. I don’t think there will be any slow-down in his game. He’s got that mentality that he can’t be stopped and that’s the biggest part of playing at this level. If you don’t think they can stop you, it’s hard to. So, we’ll be prepared for him."

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.”