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Raiders Coach Jon Gruden Crows on the Signing of Former Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson

In a conference call with Raiders season-ticket members, Jon Gruden was asked about the need to improve the middle of the defense.

That’s when Gruden talked about his love of stealing players from the Chiefs, and brought up at least one player whom Kansas City fans still lament getting away, Pete Grathoff of the Kansas City Star reports.

“Well, we feel like we have solidified the middle of our defense big time,” Gruden said. “We added Derrick Johnson, the all-time leading tackler in Kansas City Chief history. He started every game for them last year, they were the division champions.”

“You throw out all the records whenever these teams play. There’s a lot of bad blood in the AFC West. But all we can control is ourselves. We’re not even going to worry about who are the favorites. We’re going to worry about the Oakland Raiders and bringing it every single week.”

Gruden Dismissing Talk About New DL Maurice Hurst Not Being Able to Play Due to Heart Condition

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is dismissing talk that fifth-round defensive lineman Maurice Hurst cannot play in the NFL due to a heart condition according to Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“I’m not going to answer any more health questions on Hurst,” Gruden told Gehlken. “I realize there’s a lot of ghost stories out there about unnamed sources . . . I hope you just judge him on the field. He’s been cleared medically, and I’ll just leave it at that.” Hurst was flagged with the heart condition at the Scouting Combine, leading some teams to remove him from their draft boards altogether and causing a 22-year-old who was considered a first-round talent to slide all the way to the Raiders at No.140. Hurst himself has said that he has “no concerns at all” about playing with the condition.

Hurst was a late bloomer at the University of Michigan, , making only 17 career starts but breaking out as a fifth-year senior for 14.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He projects as a threetechnique pass rusher with exceptional quickness in the mode of reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. If in fact Hurst can get permanently cleared to play football, the Raiders just may have pulled off the steal of the entire draft.

Former Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson Visiting Raiders

Former Chiefs’ standout linebacker Derrick Johnson is visiting today with the Raiders, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports citing a source.

Johnson spent the past 13 years in K.C. after becoming a first-round pick in 2005. The Chiefs decided not to re-sign the 35-year-old linebacker earlier this offseason, making him a free agent. Johnson said he intends to continue his playing career. The Raiders are the first team to come calling.

Johnson’s play has fallen off with age, but he did compile 71 tackles in 15 starts in 2017. The Raiders could be looking to add a veteran voice to their second level — or, more cynically, perhaps using the visit to squeeze NaVorro Bowman to take less money to return.

The possibility of seeing one of their franchise greats wearing a Raiders jersey would make Chiefs’ fans stomachs curdle.

After Kansas City drafted Kahlil McKenzie, son of Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie, Oakland signing Johnson would only add more fuel to the AFC West rivalry.

Video: Raiders LB Bruce Irvin on Being Voted the NFL Network’s 65th Best Overall Player

Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin is at number 65 of the top 100 players in the NFL on NFL Network, and he spoke about it on NFL Network as well as getting to know new coach Jon Gruden.

Raiders OL Vadal Alexander Suspended for the First Four Games of 2018

Raiders’ offensive lineman Vadal Alexander has been suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season without pay for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, Matt Schneidman of Bayareanewsgroup reports.

Alexander is eligible to return to the 53-man roster Monday, Oct. 1, the day after Oakland’s Week 4 game at home against the Cleveland Browns. Alexander is still permitted to participate in all offseason activities and preseason games.

The Raiders took Alexander in the seventh round of the 2016 draft with the 234th overall pick. He started five of the nine games he played in as a rookie, and started four of the 15 games he appeared in last season. Often, he was used as the extra man when the Raiders opted for five-linemen sets.

Police Investigating Domestic Violence Case Involving Raiders LT Donald Penn

Raiders offensive tackle Donald Penn was reported to be a “suspect” in a domestic violence incident by TMZ Sports Monday morning but Penn’s wife is denying that any physical violence took place according to Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area.

According to TMZ, the police were called to Penn’s home in Los Angeles on Sunday evening after an altercation in which he allegedly poured a drink on his wife’s head and grabbed her by the wrist. Penn was allegedly not at the scene when police arrived.

“There was a verbal disagreement, there was no physical altercation,” a rep for the couple said. “The two are in the middle of a divorce and it is a hard time for both parties.” The police will undoubtedly still want to talk to Penn about the incident but it sounds like actual charges are unlikely. Penn underwent Lisfranc surgery in December and is expected to be out of action for another couple of months but all indications are that the 35-year-old will be the starting left tackle for the Raiders in 2018.

Raiders Earn an ‘B’ for Their Draft According to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

The draft grades from ‘Draft Guru’ Mel Kiper Jr. are out, and one team that got a very good grade is that of the Raiders, who according to Kiper got an ‘B’ for their collection of players over the two days.

Here’s what he had to say:

Two things are pretty clear to me in looking at this Raiders draft: they know that if they don’t protect Derek Carr they’re in trouble, and they’re willing to bet that new coach Jon Gruden and his staff can develop some high-ceiling talent that also comes with risk. The Raiders moved down in Round 1 and landed Kolton Miller (pick 15), who reminds me of former Patriot and newly-minted Giants left tackle Nate Solder. This is a great athlete with a huge frame who projects as a good NFL left tackle if you maximize the talent. There’s no guarantee. Third-round pick Brandon Parker (65) is the same in that he’s got the frame, but new O-line coach Tom Cable has his work cut out for him. Protect Carr and you’re competitive, and with Donald Penn now 35, it’s clear that’s the objective.

Arden Key (87) has legit top-10 talent but off-field concerns that had him available late in Round 3. If Gruden and staff can keep Key focused, this could be a home-run pick … but the risk is clear. Maurice Hurst (140) was off the boards of some teams because of a medical condition that arose at the combine. Again, this is a first-round talent at defensive tackle. I like the Raiders’ willingness to place some bets. But I also just listed four players that all come with varying degrees of risk.

Elsewhere, Nick Nelson (110) has a shot to help a secondary that needs bodies, and Johnny Townsend (173), my top-ranked punter, should fill in capably for the departed Marquette King. At the end of the day, this draft might be defined by what Cable is able to do. And if Key is solid off the field, watch out. High risk, high reward.

Round/Pick Name Pos College
1/15 Kolton Miller OT UCLA
3/65 Brandon Parker OT NORTH CAROLINA A&T
3/87 Arden Key DE LSU
4/110 Nick Nelson CB WISCONSIN
5/140 Maurice Hurst DT MICHIGAN
5/173 Johnny Townsend P FLORIDA
6/216 Azeem Victor ILB WASHINGTON
7/228 Marcell Ateman WR OKLAHOMA STATE

Raiders Grab UCLA OL Kolton Miller in Round One of Draft; Deal for Steelers WR Martavis Bryant

Jon Gruden’s first draft back for the Raiders was a very eventful one, as Thursday night the team drafted UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller, and also made a deal for Steelers playmaking wide out Martavis Bryant.

In return for Bryant, the Raiders gave the Steelers their third round pick (75th pick overall).

Here’s a take on the pick of Miller:

“I’m proud and excited,” Miller told The Bee’s Joe Davidson earlier this month. “I’ve worked hard. Work is something my dad instilled into me, and I’m competitive already. I want to be the best, and I push myself. I want to get at least 1 percent better every day.”

Miller is Roseville’s highest NFL draft pick since 1996, when the New England Patriots selected linebacker Tedy Bruschi out of Arizona in the third round.

He’ll join a familiar face in Oakland: The Raiders drafted defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, Miller’s UCLA teammate and an Auburn native, in the third round last year.

Miller – considered by several publications to be the second-best offensive tackle prospect behind Mike McGlinchey, who went to the 49ers with the ninth pick – allowed only two sacks and 16 quarterback pressures in 579 pass blocking snaps last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

“When you’re talking about pass protection and staying in front of your guy, that’s what he does,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “He’s got the length, he’s got the great feet. You talk about getting to the second level and pulling. This guy has a lot of talent. We think in our scheme and coach (Tom Cable) working with him, he’ll flourish.”

As for Bryant, he wanted out of Pittsburgh last season after he fell behind rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster in the lineup.

A frustrated Bryant requested a trade last October after falling behind JuJu Smith-Schuster in the wide-receiver rotation. The former Clemson star fell down the depth chart due to a drug-related suspension that wiped out his entire 2016 season.

At 6-foot-4 with the speed and playmaking ability to take the lid off a defense, Bryant is a throwback to former owner Al Davis’ infamous fetish for dangerous deep threats. Derek Carr will be throwing to an overhauled receiving corps this season, with Bryant and former Packers Pro Bowler Jordy Nelson joining top target Amari Cooper and tight end Jared Cook.

Bryant’s unique combination of size, speed and freakish athleticism once prompted Ben Roethlisberger to suggest it was time for the enigmatic wideout to “become the best in the world.” Prior to the suspension, NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth anointed Bryant “as talented as anybody playing in football right now.”