Season review -- Raiders RBs


Season review -- Raiders RBs

The identity of the Raiders' running game switched as soon as the "mid-foot sprain" in Darren McFadden's right foot set in on Oakland's first drive against Kansas City on Oct. 23. The Raiders wanted to "build a bully" with a diverse running attack, one built on McFadden's speed and versatility and supported by Michael Bush's closing power style. And it workedfor six games. The Raiders were 4-2. Then McFadden went down and Bush became the feature back, eliciting a shift in offensive philosophy. But the injuries did not stop there. Consider: Bush was the only Raiders running back to play all 16 games. Bully, indeed. Especially when you consider the Raiders ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing, averaging 131.9 yards.
Grade: C-RUNNING BACKSMichael Bush -- One of the true injustices of the season was Bush falling 23 yards short of hitting that 1,000-yard milestone. Still, he picked a great time to have a breakout year, what with him slated to become an unrestricted free agent and his picking up the slack for the injured Darren McFadden in rushing for 977 yards on the season and becoming the every down back when DMC went down in Week 7. Bush averaged 4.2 yards per carry after McFadden limped off the field, 2.0 yards as his backup. And he had his signature game at San Diego on Nov. 10 in a primetime affair with 242 all-purpose yards against the Chargers, the most by a Raiders player since 1963. No, Bush is not the home run threat that is McFadden -- then again, neither is McFadden when he's injured -- but Bush plowed forward and deserved to be a Pro Bowl alternate. But does he deserve big bucks from the Raiders to return, or will another team make him their featured back? In any event, he carried the Raiders' running game the second half of the season and should be commended.Darren McFadden -- Where oh where to start with the artist formerly known as Run DMC who has been more Limp DMC? Entering Week 7, McFadden was the most explosive back in the NFL, leading the league with 610 rushing yards while a threat to go the distance every time he touched the ball, via handoff or reception. But two carries and a catch into the eventual 28-0 loss to Kansas City, his right foot failed not only him, but the Raiders as a team. He never returned, despite assurances from coach Hue Jackson that McFadden was closer to playing than not. When he's right, he's one of the most complete backs in the NFL. But he's rarely so. He has already missed 19 of 64 games (29.7 percent) due to injury in his four-year career and been hurt in numerous others. How much trust should the Raiders place in him going forward?Taiwan Jones -- The Raiders had high hopes for the speedy rookie, who was selected in the fourth round of the draft. He was seen as McFadden-light and, many thought, Jones was the fastest guy on the team. But he took a while to get his legs under himself, especially with a healthy McFadden and Bush getting the majority of the carries early. And when McFadden went down, Jones would have been the perfect change-of-pace back to complement Bush. Instead, Jones' hamstring betrayed him and he did not play again after Nov. 20, rushing for 73 yards on 16 carries in 10 games.Rock Cartwright -- He's more a special teams ace and emotional team leader than a force at running back but Cartwright did have four carries for 45 yards. The two-time Commitment to Excellence Award winner's most memorable play of the season came in Week 5 at Houston, when he took a direct snap in a punt formation and rumbled 35 yards. A nagging calf injury ensued and Cartwright missed one game as a result.Marcel Reece -- A matchup nightmare at fullback, Reece can line up as a blocking back, a tailback, a tight end and out wide as a receiver. And do every job well. But a sprained ankle in the home opener against the New York Jets caused him to miss four games. Yet he still caught 27 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns and carried the ball 17 times for 112 yards. But the playbook went away from him late in the season and he was not able to make such an impact. Then again, defenses actually started gameplanning for him, a rarity for a fullback. He picked up a pair of All-Pro votes a year after getting one.Manase Tonga -- Signed off the practice squad on Oct. 8, Tonga was the quintessential blocking fullback and the staff liked his blocking so much he stayed on the roster the remainder of the season. He had one carry, a memorable 12-yard burst against Cleveland, and caught three passes for 18 yards.

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.”