Stopping the run has been an issue around these parts for almost as long as the penalties problem. That’s going to end, Raiders coach Hue Jackson said Wednesday afternoon.
The Raiders enter Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans as the fourth-worst team against the run, at an average of 136 yards per game. Worse, they are last, by far, at an average of 5.9 yards per carry.
Just as he promised to rein in the penalties before long, even if it takes all season, Jackson said the run-stopping issue is going to be resolved come hell or heads rolling.
“I know this: we ain’t solved it, and that’s the bottom line,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, we’re still getting the ball run at us, OK? We have to get that solved. It’s not going to go on for 16 games, I promise you that.”
Jackson said it’s no secret what the Texans intend to do Sunday when they play the Raiders.
“I’m running the ball,” Jackson said, if he were coaching the Texans. “I’m running the ball until I can get them to make me stop running the ball. With that back and that offensive line, in their stadium, I would. Wouldn’t you?”
The Texans are second in the AFC in rushing at an average of 148.5 yards — the Raiders are first in the league at 178.5 — and fourth in the league.
The Texans might be even higher in the rushing stats were it not for lead back Arian Foster missing all of two games and a large chunk of another with a hamstring injury.
Foster is back at full strength and fresh from a 155-yard effort against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday.
Defensive end Jarvis Moss said the Raiders have the players to be successful against the run.
“It’s about everybody being on one beat,” Moss said. “I feel like everybody knows what to do and where to fit but in the midst of chaos and full speed on Sunday, it’s about being one heartbeat. And that’s just going to come as the weeks go along, if we keep working at it in practice.”
Jackson said he is aware of the problems the Raiders have had against the run the past eight seasons. He is more intent upon worrying about what’s taking place this season.
Desire isn’t an issue, Jackson said. The cause lies elsewhere.
“I’m not going to say our players don’t have desire, because I know they do,” Jackson said. “I don’t think any player on our team wants the ball being run at them like that, and I’m not going to tell you it’s scheme. You’re going to take out of it what you want.
“Here’s the deal. You got to get it solved. We got to get it stopped. That’s what we’ve got to do. We must quit letting people run the ball at us like people have.”
When Jackson talks, his players listen.
Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said Jackson isn’t sugarcoating his disdain for how the lack of success against the run through four games.
“He goes straight to the point,” Kelly said. “He tells us how we messed up. You really don’t want to get on Hue’s bad side, you know what I’m saying? You try to keep him happy as much as possible. You can’t keep him happy 100 percent, but if I can keep him happy 80-85 (percent), I’m good.”
MURPHY BACK IN THE MIX
Wide receiver Louis Murphy is back on the field with the rest of his teammates for the first time in more than two months.
Now it’s a matter of seeing how quickly he can get back into the swing of things in terms of playing in games. He has yet to play in a game of any kind this season.
Jackson said he is eager to find ways to use all of his receivers. If Murphy plays Sunday, it will be the first time he has had all six of his receivers at his disposal this season.
“Now that we’re getting our guys back, there are quite a few things that I would like to do,” Jackson said. “Once I can get all these Lamborghinis and Mercedes Benzes out here, and get them moving around as a unit and playing together and playing off each other, we can start to explore and do more things.”
Murphy was Oakland’s most productive wide receiver each of the past two seasons. Campbell is well aware of that, and he is thrilled to see the No. 18 jersey in the huddle.
“It’s been a long road for him, and he’s definitely excited to get back out there and contribute to the team,” Campbell said. “It feels good to have all the guys back.”
Jackson said that the return of Ford last week and Murphy this week will not cut in to the playing time of rookie Denarius Moore.
HEYWARD-BEY GROWING BY LEAPS AND BOUNDS
Third-year receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is fresh from a career-best 115 yards receiving. Most impressive, he made an over-the-shoulder, 58-yard reception, in double coverage against the New England Patriots.
That one play is further evidence that Heyward-Bey is making progress toward developing into a consistent performer, Campbell said.
“(That) and the one he caught on the sideline, with a safety bee-lining straight at him, and he didn’t take his focus off or worry about getting hit,” Campbell said. “He just went up and caught the ball. Darrius has grown into that. It’s all about concentration and focus.”
Another sign of Heyward-Bey’s maturation into a reliable receiver is the way he catches the ball these days, Campbell said. It is becoming more natural.
“He’s getting better at locating the ball with his hands and eyes,” Campbell said. “That’s the most important thing as a receiver, the location of the ball and being able to react. So, he’s reacting quicker to catching the ball and that’s where it’s coming from.”
CAMPBELL NO SAD SACK
Campbell has been sacked only twice in four games. More impressive, one of those sacks came as a result of him getting his feet tangled with McFadden.
This is the best four-game stretch during Campbell’s career, he said, in terms of pass protection.
“This is the best it’s been,” Campbell said. “A lot of it has to do with the offensive line taking a lot of pride in protecting the quarterback and running backs. They do an outstanding job. The other part of it is, our receivers create separation, and me getting the ball out of my hands.”
Left offensive tackle Jared Veldheer said he and his linemates realize the importance of protecting Campbell and that the reward comes in the form of big plays.
“We know we just want to keep him up because we know if we keep him up, give him time, we’ve got plenty of playmakers down the field that can do great things,” Veldheer said. “And we’ve all just bought into that.”
NO WHINING HERE
Now that the Raiders have six healthy wide receivers, it’s going to be difficult for all of them to get as much playing time as they desire.
Fortunately for the Raiders, none of the six has a history of complaining about playing time and balls thrown his way. That makes Campbell’s job much easier, he said.
“That’s big,” Campbell said. “You have a bunch of guys that’s not complaining about who gets the ball and who’s this, it’s huge for our team. Unselfishness is what helps you win games. At the end of the year, when you look back on it, a lot of guys will be where they thought they should be.”
Jackson said free safety Michael Huff (concussion) is doing better and getting closer to playing in a game. Huff sat out the Patriots game as a result of lingering symptoms from the concussion he suffered against the New York Jets.
Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy missed practice Wednesday. However, Jackson isn’t ruling out Shaughnessy for the Texans game.
“We’ll see,” Jackson said.
RAIDERS FILL OUT PRACTICE SQUAD
The Raiders signed running back Nic Grigsby and added him to their practice squad Wednesday. That gives them the full complement of eight players on the practice squad.
Grigsby, 5-feet-11 and 200 pounds, played at the Universiy of Arizona. He was with the Miami Dolphins training camp and later signed to their practice squad. He said he was cut by the Dolphins on Monday.
He rushed for 533 yards and eight touchdowns his senior season at Arizona. Overall, he amassed 2,957 yards and 28 touchdowns during his four-year career with the Wildcats.
In a strange twist, Grigsby worked out with Foster during the offseason and envisions following the path Foster blazed.
“His story is ridiculous,” Grigsby said. “It’s the same thing. He was undrafted, too, and was on the practice squad for a whole year. Through injury, he got his shot and didn’t let it go. He told me to keep practicing, keep trying. I know what my ability is. I can play with my ability in the NFL.”
MOSS MUM ON CHAT WITH MR. DAVIS
Moss said via Twitter on Tuesday that he received an out-of-the-blue phone call from managing general partner Al Davis.
Moss labeled the call as a humbling experience. On Wednesday, he declined to discuss the details of the conversation.
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