Raiders key matchup No. 1: Run defense vs. Jamaal Charles

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Raiders key matchup No. 1: Run defense vs. Jamaal Charles

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the final part in a series that spotlighted three Raiders-Chiefs matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m. (CBS), at the O.co Coliseum

Raiders defense vs. Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles

Tale of the tape
Raiders run defense: Ranked No. 28 against the run
Jamaal Charles (25): 5-foot-11, 199 pounds, fifth season, Texas

ALAMEDA -- Perhaps the biggest mystery to emerge from the Raiders' 26-16 victory at Kansas City on Oct. 28 was this -- why did Jamaal Charles only carry the ball five times for the Chiefs that day?

Don't bet on that same question being asked after Sunday's rematch.

"Jamaal, he's a guy, when he touches the ball, he's a threat to go all the way," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel told Bay Area reporters on a conference call this week. "He's had two more-than-80-yard touchdown runs this season which has definitely helped us. He's been the consistent guy in the running game. If we can get him the ball, get him a seam and get him to the second level, then he has a chance for a big play."

In his past five games, Charles has averaged 117.2 rushing yards per game. His 1,220 rushing yards lead the AFC and is fifth in the NFL and Charles is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, second only to Adrian Peterson's 6.0-yards average among backs with at least 200 carries.

"His ability to make those plays also helps the mindset of the whole team because they feel good about what he's able to do, feel good about changing field position and feel good about putting points on the board," Crennel added. "The defense feels good about all those things as well. Having him on the team and coming back off the injury is a positive for us."

The Raiders run defense, which has been an Achilles' heel for the better part of a decade, ranks 28th in the NFL. And by the Raiders' definition of an explosive play -- one which gains at least 16 yards via pass or 12 yards by run -- they have surrendered 34 such explosive runs, including seven touchdowns on those plays.

Kansas City had four explosive runs in the last meeting, though none by Charles, who had only four yards that day.

Of course, the Raiders want to keep him bottled up.

"We want him to turn back into the mouth of our defense," said strong safety Tyvon Branch, "and get some hits on him."

Added rookie defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi: "We don't want to find out how fast he is, we want to find out how tough he is."

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.

They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.

Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.

“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”

While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.

The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.

“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.

"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.

Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.

Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.

“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”

Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.

“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”