Raiders looking for new leadership core on special teams


Raiders looking for new leadership core on special teams

NAPA – The Raiders were solid on special teams last season, with several core veterans anchoring that effort. Brynden Trawick, Darren Bates, Andre Holmes, Nate Allen and Taiwan Jones were chief among them.

That quintet has been disassembled. The first four left in unrestricted free agency, and Jones was cut just before training camp’s start. Trawick and Bates are in Tennessee. Holmes and Jones are in Buffalo. Allen’s in Miami.

Raiders special teams have gone through a youth movement, and a leadership shift towards remains veterans who understand the importance of the kicking game.

“I think you have to go to the other guys who have been here, like Jamize Olawale. There’s a really solid person. Keith McGill [II], another guy that’s a real solid person,” special teams coordinator Brad Seely said. “You have to look at our specialists, the kicker, the punter and the snapper. Those guys have been around a long time, so we ask those guys to be leaders. I think we’ll find out more. That, to me, is one of the things we’ll find out in these (preseason) games. Which guys will step up when there’s adversity, when something bad happens or when something good happens and how do they react to those things?”

Seely said that before news broke that his coverage teams sustained another blow. McGill suffered a foot injury in practice, according to a source. He’ll see a specialist, and could require surgery. That puts a greater onus on Olawale and young players like Cory James, Shalom Luani, Tyrell Adams and Marquel Lee. Johnny Holton will fill an important role as a gunner and use speed to be first on the scene covering kickoffs.

“Special teams is also about effort,” Holton said. “You have to be committed and determined to play well in the kicking game. It’s an area where I know I’ll be counted on. I’m ready for that.”

The Raiders have weapons on special teams, including All-Pro kickoff returner Cordarrelle Patterson. He’ll make a great impact on the battle for field position – he averages 30.4 yards per return – and is a scoring threat on every return. Patterson has five return touchdowns in his career.

He’s also an excellent gunner. He and Holton should be impactful on the outside. While Patterson is a veteran who understands the value of special teams, he isn’t much of a vocal leader.

“I think he’s a guy that, he leads by example because he’s a good worker,” Seely said. “He doesn’t have to be a rah-rah guy. He’ll speak up when there’s a time to speak up. I think we haven’t had any of those times yet. I’m excited about having him on our team because I just think he’s a pro.”


-- Cornerback Sean Smith worked with the second unit for the second straight practice. TJ Carrie took reps in his starting spot and made a few nice plays, including a diving deflection in the corner of the end zone. It’s uncertain how long Smith will work with the second string. He hasn’t looked comfortable or consistent working with either unit during the early days of camp. Both Smith and Carrie will be pushed by first-round pick Gareon Conley when he’s physically cleared to practice.

-- Receiver Amari Cooper stretched with the team, but didn’t participate in individual or team drills for the third time in four practices with an undisclosed injury. He has been wearing a compression sleeve on his left leg. K.J. Brent filled in for Cooper with the starting group, and was effective at times. He caught a beautiful deep ball from Derek Carr in heavy traffic as a highlight of the day.

Michael Crabtree took it easy during a practice not conducted in pads, and was largely held out of team drills.

-- Safety Obi Melifonwu, offensive tackle David Sharpe and defensive end Fadol Brown were out with injury. Gareon Conley, Jon Feliciano and Jihad Ward are still on the physically unable to perform list.

-- Quarterback Connor Cook had his best day of training camp on Saturday, with some precise throws to move the chains. He is still behind in the backup quarterback battle and hasn’t seen second-unit reps in training camp.

-- The defensive front seven was active for a third straight day, with simulated sacks from Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin and solid interior pressure from rookie Eddie Vanderdoes.

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


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
CB Sean Smith (neck/shoulder)

Washington Injury Report

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.”