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Raiders report: Young offensive linemen don’t make the grade

Raiders report

All practices at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center, unless noted:

Wednesday — Practice, 10:50 a.m.

Thursday — Practice, 10:50 a.m.

Friday — Practice, 11 a.m.

Saturday — Off

Sunday — at Steelers, Pittsburgh, 10 a.m.

Quote of the day

The excitement over the game-winning touchdown in overtime Monday night was still lingering on Tuesday at the Raiders’ team facility in Henderson even though preparations were already underway for Sunday’s matchup with the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

While the drama of the moment was a major factor, at least part of the extra emotion was due to who scored the touchdown.

Wide receiver Zay Jones is one of the most popular players in the locker room and among the coaching staff.

Player after player on the podium after the victory spoke of how thrilled they were to see Jones get rewarded for all his hard work with the game-winning moment.

Coach Jon Gruden echoed the sentiment.

“I think I lead the league in Zay Jones cheers and chants,” Gruden said. “He’s just such a great kid and such a hard-working player. I have to get him on the field more. It’s a competitive group of receivers, but he’s such an energy source for us. He finishes everything. He’s the first guy in and the last guy to leave. He’s always upbeat and positive.

“I wish I was Zay Jones.”

Jones had two catches for 46 yards, including the 31-yard touchdown to end the game.

Making the grade

One of the biggest questions facing the Raiders’ offense this season was how well the revamped and largely inexperienced offensive line would be able to perform once the games started to count.

According to Pro Football Focus, the answer is not very well.

Rookie first-round pick Alex Leatherwood was ranked 68th out of 68 eligible offensive tackles in Week 1. Center Andre James was No. 32 out of 32 centers whose performance was ranked by the site’s graders.

It wasn’t the start either was hoping for to start the season. They will have to improve quickly, especially with starting right guard Denzelle Good likely out for the season and left guard Richie Incognito still working his way back from a preseason calf injury.

John Simpson, playing in place of Incognito, was 45th out of 65 guards.

The grades weren’t all bad for the Raiders, even on the offensive line. Kolton Miller was the fourth-ranked tackle overall and third-best pass blocker.

Defensively, Maxx Crosby was the second-rated defensive end out of 98 scored. Yannick Ngakoue, who left with an injury, was fourth. Arizona’s Chandler Jones just edged out Crosby for the top spot.

Newcomer Casey Hayward Jr. had a tremendous debut with the Raiders, ranking No. 3 out of 100 cornerbacks.

The biggest leap was made by safety Johnathan Abram, who already appears to be a better fit in the Gus Bradley defense. Abram finished last season ranked 94th out of 94 safeties in the league, largely based on his coverage rating.

After one game in which he was lined up at free safety only once and deployed as more of a box linebacker, Abram showed marked improvement.

He was rated No. 11 out of 67 linebackers in terms of coverage grade alone and 30th out of 84 on overall grade.

“He showed up big time with some range plays and open-field tackling,” Gruden said. “He was in the right spot. He was in a good place emotionally. I liked where his concentration was from a down-to-down standpoint. I think he’s really starting to understand this defense and know what his role is in the defense and unleashing his talent. I thought a lot of things came together for him against a very difficult and unorthodox style of offense. You’re not going to see a lot of teams play offense like that in this league.”

Just kicking it

Kicker Daniel Carlson forced overtime with a booming 55-yard field goal on Monday, and Gruden showed confidence by originally deciding to send him in to try a game-winner on second down in overtime.

Confusion on the sideline led to a delay-of-game penalty before the Raiders eventually won on the Jones touchdown, but Gruden is happy to have such a reliable kicker at his disposal.

“I do have a lot of confidence in him,” Gruden said. “We knew if we got the ball at the 40-yard line, he could make that kick and send it to overtime. He did it to New Orleans last year in similar fashion to make it a two-score game. His kickoffs have been great. His field-goal accuracy has been great. I think he’s a Pro Bowl kicker. He broke (Sebastian) Janikowski’s scoring record last year for a reason. He’s a reliable, clutch kicker, and he’s off to another great start.”

Adam Hill Las Vegas Review-Journal

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