Raiders

Richard has become mentor to Raiders undrafted crop: 'Make them keep looking'

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AP

Richard has become mentor to Raiders undrafted crop: 'Make them keep looking'

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Raiders invited Jalen Richard to tryout for the team last offseason, and bought him a round-trip ticket. One segment brought him to Oakland before rookie minicamp. The other was set to take the running back home to New Orleans after the three-day practice session.

That’s common for teams looking to sign players off the street, but Richard didn’t care. The Southern Mississippi product found new motivation. No way, no how were the Raiders sending him back home.

Sure enough, that flight to Crescent City had an open seat.

Richard earned an offseason roster spot, then a place on the 53-man and finally, consistent carries on a playoff team.

This unknown talent’s now a proven commodity. There’s security in that status, but he’s never truly comfortable. Richard likes it that way. That round-trip ticket has been saved in his phone as a reminder of last year’s crazy ride.

Not like he’s allowed to forget it. Richard relives it regularly, both in talking to the press and undrafted teammates hoping to follow a similar path. Richard has become a mentor to those guys, who ask what it takes to stand out in a dense crowd.

“I grabbed that position since the first day I got here,” Richard said. “Guys have come up and talked to me on their own asking me about my situation coming in undrafted. They’re trying to figure out if there’s a spot and not getting many reps in practice can be aggravating, and I sit there and talk to them and tell them I went through the same things last year. Every opportunity you do get, try to be seen and make them keep looking.

“I learned quickly that, as long as you can make plays, you’ll have a job. They’re looking for playmakers who fly around. If you do that, you force their hand. I took on that (advisory) role as soon as I got here.”

The Raiders are adept finding diamonds in the rough. They had eight undrafted players contribute to last year’s squad, with other finds in previous years. Part of that comes from scouting. Another comes from Jack Del Rio’s disregard for draft status or paycheck size when creating a depth chart.

“How you get here doesn’t matter,” Del Rio said. “To me, that’s where it starts. That’s how we feel. You have to give (general manger Reggie McKenzie and the scouting a lot of credit for bringing those guys in and knowing that they would have a legitimate shot to make our team and to compete. It’s a kind of unified effort, we’re going to attack it that way. That’s what we do and once they get here, show us what you got.”

Showing well in practice is one thing. Producing in Saturday’s preseason opener at Arizona is another.

“That first game is the biggest opportunity now that they’ve had so far,” Del Rio said. “Practice up to this point tells you a certain amount. Now how they respond in game conditions is huge and definitely a big part of it. We’ll see. Typically, a guy or two will stand out in a game like this and we’ll know more about him.”

Some guys have stood out on this year’s squad, hoping to someday tell their version of Richard’s story.

Count cornerback Breon Borders among them. The Duke product climbed the ladder this offseason and is currently the first-unit nickel back. He’s trying to prove he belongs at this level and is worthy of a 53-man roster spot in a competitive position group.

“That’s 100 percent my focus,” Borders said. “I want to make the team, and make the team better. And as an undrafted guy, you have to make sure you get to know the special teams coach. You go 100 percent on every rep. That’s how you get noticed.”

That drive is strong, and can overwhelm. It’s important, Richard says, to keep a cool head.

“You can get out there and overdo it,” Richard said. “The key is having confidence in your ability to play at this level. The biggest obstacle is believing in yourself and that you can compete with guys you’ve watched on TV. You can get caught staring at the lights, but you can only do that so long. You have to remember that it’s just football, something we’ve been doing since we were five years old. You just have to go play.”

Snap count: Raiders LBs Jenkins, Morrow receive long look inside

Snap count: Raiders LBs Jenkins, Morrow receive long look inside

OAKLAND – Raiders second-year pro Cory James seems set to play most every down at weakside linebacker. He doesn’t yet have a running mate on the inside.

Tyrell Adams was his wingman during the offseason program. Marquel Lee was his primary partner during training camp and in the exhibition opener. The fifth-round middle linebacker started Saturday’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams but didn’t last long.

He was removed after opening series, which left an opening for veteran Jelani Jenkins to earn more snaps.

Jenkins played two series with the first unit – he was anchored to the second team in camp -- and played 34 defensive snaps in all. He had six tackles, including two for a loss.

“I think Jelani Jenkins went in there and played pretty well in the second or third series and played the rest of the first half,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I thought he was pretty solid.”

Del Rio has used a platoon in the middle, with Lee in the base package and other options playing in sub packages. The Raiders have used several players in a hybrid coverage linebacker role, one originally set for second-round safety Obi Melifonwu. He missed most of training camp with an undisclosed injury, and the Raiders have experimented with Sean Smith, Keith McGill before he got hurt, and now undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow in that spot.

Morrow took a turn with the first unit, and completed his 26 defensive snaps in the second half.

“Nick, those young guys we gave them an opportunity to compete. He finds the ball a little bit,” Del Rio said. “...Nick, at the end of the game, had a nice breakup. Almost got a pick. Would’ve ended it. Would’ve been nice.”

Morrow finished with two tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass defensed. He was targeted three times in coverage and allowed one catch for five yards.

Playing close to the line of scrimmage is relatively new for Morrow, who played farther back at Greenville College.

“It was an adjustment because I’m used to playing outside of the box,” Morrow said. “I started watching film with some of the vets, and I’m definitely feeling a lot more comfortable in there.”

While Lee had 40 defensive snaps in the exhibition opener, he only had 11 in the second game. He allowed one 24-yard catch on the opening series and made one tackle, but Del Rio focused on positives for the young linebacker learning on the fly.

“I think he’s actually done some pretty solid things,” Del Rio said. “He’s not the first linebacker to ever get exposed in man coverage, which happened last week. So, I think he’s actually been pretty solid. We have a pretty solid run front and he’s part of that.”

OFFENSE
Quarterback – Connor Cook 25, Derek Carr 17, EJ Manuel 17
Running back – Elijah Hood 13, George Atkinson III 12, DeAndre Washington 12, John Crockett 10, Jalen Richard 7, Marshawn Lynch 4, Jamize Olawale 1
Wide receiver – Johnny Holton 29, Isaac Whitney 24, Jaydon Mickens 22, K.J. Brent 21, Keon Hatcher 18, Amari Cooper 17, Michael Crabtree 16, Cordarrelle Patterson 13, Ishmael Zamora 6
Tight end – Clive Walford 15, Jared Cook 15, Gabe Holmes 11, Pharaoh Brown 11, Lee Smith 10, Ryan O’Malley 8
Offensive line – David Sharpe 38, Jylan Ware 35, Jordan Simmons 35, Ian Silberman 25, Oni Omoile 41, Vadal Alexander 24, Gabe Jackson 24, Kelechi Osemele 24, Rodney Hudson 24, Kareem Are 22, Marshall Newhouse 15, Oni Omoile 13, Jon Feliciano 10, Chauncey Briggs 6

DEFENSE
Defensive line –
James Cowser 33, Eddie Vanderdoes 30, Mario Edwards Jr. 30, Treyvon Hester 28, Denico Autry 27, Khalil Mack 20, Darius Latham 19, Branden Jackson 16, Paul Boyette 11, Justin Ellis 11, Jimmy Bean 4, Fadol Brown 3
Linebacker – Cory James 37, Tyrell Adams 36, Jelani Jenkins 34, Nicholas Morrow 26, Shilique Calhoun 23, Bruce Irvin 20, LaTroy Lewis 14, Marquel Lee 11, Rufus Johnson 11, IK Enemkpali 10, Brady Sheldon 6
Cornerback – TJ Carrie 37, David Amerson 37, Antonio Hamilton 26, Kenneth Durden 26, Sean Smith 26, Dexter McDonald 20, Chris Humes 16, Breon Borders 8
Safety – Karl Joseph 37, Reggie Nelson 37, Shalom Luani 20, Marcus McWilson 20, Anthony Cioffi 16, Rickey Jefferson 16

SPECIAL TEAMS
Tyrell Adams 14, Shalom Luani 13, Shilique Calhoun 11, James Cowser 12, Elijah Hood 10, Nicholas Morrow 10, Jamize Olawale 10, Dexter McDonald 9, DeAndre Washington 9, Xavier Woodson-Luster 9, Marquette King 8, K.J. Brent 8, Isaac Whitney 8, Antonio Hamilton 8, Anthony Cioffi 7, Rickey Jefferson 7, Karl Joseph 6, Jelani Jenkins 6, Clive Walford 5, John Crockett 5, Sebastian Janikowski 5, Andrew East 5, Jalen Richard 5, Breon Borders 5, Marcus McWilson 4, Jaydon Mickens 4, Chris Humes 4, Ryan O’Malley 4, TJ Carrie 4, Darius Latham 3, Gabe Holmes 3, George Atkinson III 3, Eddie Vanderdoes 3, Mario Edwards 3, Treyvon Hester 3, Justin Ellis 3 Denico Autry 3, Jon Condo 3, Jon Feliciano 3, Lee Smith 3, Marshall Newhouse 2, Khalil Mack 2, Bruce Irvin 2, Giorgio Tavecchio 2, Cordarrelle Patterson 2, Vadal Alexander 2, Gabe Jackson 2, Kelechi Osemele 2, David Sharpe 2, Jylan Ware 1, Chauncey Briggs 1, Cory James 1, Oni Omoile 1, Kareem Are 1, Jordan Simmons 1, Ian Silberman 1, Branden Jackson 1, Brady Sheldon 1, Paul Boyette 1

DID NOT PLAY
WR Seth Roberts, CB Gareon Conley, S Obi Melifonwu, DB Keith McGill, OL Denver Kirkland, DL Jihad Ward

Raiders' Carr, Mack promote unity, racial harmony during national anthem

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USATSI

Raiders' Carr, Mack promote unity, racial harmony during national anthem

OAKLAND – All eyes shifted to the Raiders sideline Saturday night when the national anthem played.

Yep, Marshawn Lynch took a seat. No shocker there. He did the same thing last week, and while he hasn’t addressed it specifically, the action is linked with other anthem protests bringing attention to mistreatment of minorities in the United States.

Bruce Irvin stood with his brethren but raised his fist, as he did several times last year.

Derek Carr stood right on the sideline, and put his arm on Khalil Mack’s left shoulder. That gesture wasn't happenstance. It carried a message. It wasn’t, Carr insists, meant to protest anything.

“We’re not doing anything like that,” Carr said after a 24-21 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Coliseum. “We wanted to show the kids that look up to me, look up to him, white kids, black kids, brown kids, blue, green, it doesn’t matter -- all be loving to each other. We’re best friends and we’re loving to one another.

“The only reason we did that was to unify the people that look up to us because obviously you see what’s going on in the world. Obviously everyone pays attention to the national anthem nowadays. We just said that obviously this was the best time to do it while still honoring this country because I love this country. We’re free to live here and play this game but we’re also free to show that we love one another.”

Mack isn’t one to rock the boat. He and Carr wanted to make a statement without ruffling feathers, something that would remain positive while addressing racial issues prevalent in the news today.

“It’s discussed a lot,” Mack said. “It’s one of the things I feel passionately about but I just don’t like the tension that comes with it. But at the same time, just using our platform for positivity is what’s important to me.”

Offensive coordinator Todd Downing put an arm on fullback Jamize Olawale and echoed the Carr-Mack message. We’ve seen similar signs of unity across the league. Philadelphia defensive end Chris Long, son of former Raiders pass rusher Howie Long, put an arm around Malcolm Jenkins while he protested. Seattle center Justin Britt put an hand on Michael Bennett’s shoulder while he sat for the national anthem.

Those actions drew attention. Carr and Mack do the same.

Their star power increases the volume of their message. Carr’s an MVP candidate and the league’s highest-paid player. Mack is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. When they do something, people pay attention. That was their hope on Saturday, when the cameras would be aimed at them.

Carr and Mack are good friends off the field, and want to be an example of unity despite different races and backgrounds.

“I think that’s the message, the only message we were trying to get out,” Carr said. “Any kid, any family, any adult that follows us and looks up to us we knew their eyes would be on us and we wanted to show them for a white kid and black kid that grew up in different neighborhoods can grow up and love one another and be best friends.”