ALAMEDA — Martavis Bryant stayed in the Bay Area even while he was a free agent, caring for his growing son and confiding in his girlfriend, mother, grandmother and godmother. The talented receiver cleared waivers after the Raiders released him on cutdown day amid reports he was facing his third drug-related suspension in four years, even if Jon Gruden insists the recently waived Keon Hatcher simply beat Bryant for a spot on the initial 53-man roster.
Bryant didn’t watch Monday’s Raiders-Rams game even as his reps talked with the team and the possibility he returned to the Raiders remained realistic.
“When I got suspended two years ago and stuff, I told guys, ‘Once I’m away from football I try to take myself away from it so I don’t get distracted or overly frustrated with myself and end up doing something stupid,’” Bryant said. “I just stay away from it … talk to my family.”
The Raiders re-signed Bryant on Wednesday, 11 days after waiving him, and almost five months after trading a third-round pick for him during the draft. He’ll likely play Sunday in Denver, and insists he’s ready to go if the coaches want to use him. Asked if he has any clue where he stands with the league with reports of possible suspensions circulating for the past several months, Bryant said he knows nothing. He’s just happy to be playing football.
“As far as that stuff, I’ll let that process take car of itself,” Bryant said, speaking with reporters for the first time since April. ” … I’m gonna be ready to go. We’ve got a couple more days of practice here and I’m gonna go out and put hard work in with the guys. If coach needs me to go on Sunday, I’ll be ready.”
If Bryant is disciplined again, the banishment period would likely be indefinite. Right now it seems the Raiders are taking a week-by-week approach, hoping Bryant can first play on Sunday and going from there. Gruden, too, isn’t allowed to comment on Bryant’s standing, so he remained mum when asked about the NFL’s discipline process on Wednesday.
Martavis Bryant talking for the first time since April. Here he is on what the last couple months have been like for him: pic.twitter.com/xL1kJB4TGP
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) September 13, 2018
Less than a month ago, Gruden called Bryant the “White Tiger” because of how infrequently he lived up to the hype that surrounds him as a big, fast vertical threat. Bryant missed several days of training camp with illness and migraines, and Gruden joked that he saw Bryant as often as he saw the white tiger come out of its cave at the Tamp Zoo. The comment was certainly backhanded, but Bryant claims he didn’t take offense.
“I don’t take comments in a negative way,” Bryant said. “I take it as a motivational factor, so he just wants me to be the best player. I thank him for that. You need tough love to be the best. I got a lot of work to do and he’s going to continue to push me.”
It remains to be seen how much Bryant will play against the Broncos or how long he’ll even play for the Raiders. Who knows when or if a suspension will fall. But after a rocky offseason for the receiver filled with untapped potential, this week provides a first step to getting back on track.
Johnathan Hankins will have to contribute on short notice
Hankins, a defensive tackle, arrives just in time for a Raiders team depleted by injuries at his position.
Veteran nose tackle and starter Justin Ellis (foot) was placed on injured reserve Thursday. Rookie starter P.J. Hall (ankle) wore a protective boot on his left foot Wednesday and hasn’t practiced this week after suffering his injury early in Monday’s game.
Enter Hankins, who signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Colts in April 2017 but was released by them in March after starting all 15 games in which he appeared last season. The Raiders, who shifted defensive end Frostee Rucker inside against the Rams, need Hankins right away.
“Hankins, I followed his career at New York and in Indy. He’s a big guy in there,” Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “He’s athletic for a big guy. He fits our nose spot to a tee … Hankins plays nose in a similar defense that we’ve been in. So, it’s not like it’s a receiver that has to learn a bunch of plays. Some of the stuff he’ll have to know as far as the blitzes and some of that stuff goes, but I think he’ll fit in quick.”
Hankins said he’s never played in high altitude since being drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft by the Giants, but he’ll give it a go on Sunday since the Raiders have such a pressing need on the interior of the defensive line.
“I’ll definitely go out there and perform the best that I can. It’ll be my first game back, so I’m sure I’m going to be a little rusty but I’m going to go out and do the best that I can and help the team out,” Hankins said. “I definitely feel like I can go out there and play. I know they’re going to be careful on when I’m out there. They’re going to have a nice rotation. I’m definitely going to be a little gassed, but that’s football. This being my first game, I don’t feel like they’re just going to leave me out there dying or anything.”
Hankins knew finding a landing spot would take some time, in part because salaries aren’t guaranteed to vested veterans if they’re added after the regular season starts. He talked with “a lot” of teams and determined the Raiders to be the best fit. Their 4-3 scheme is similar to ones he ran with the Giants and Colts, though adjusting to Guenther’s terminology poses a challenge on such short notice.
Hankins watched the first half of Raiders-Rams before falling asleep in Columbus, Ohio. He’s obviously heard about the second-half defensive breakdown, and emphasized the Raiders can’t allow that to happen in Denver. He’ll be one of the defensive linemen tasked with making sure they don’t, however much he actually plays.
Paul Guenther comes to Reggie Nelson’s defense, or something like that
Nelson played 100% of the defensive snaps against the Rams and recorded a 48.3 overall grade, ranking 72nd of 80 qualifying safeties, per Pro Football Focus. Nelson’s 29.3 run defense grade was the lowest for any safety in the NFL Week 1.
So why, after a sub-par 2017 and now a rough start to 2018, is Nelson still held in such high regard by the coaching staff?
For one, he knows Guenther’s system inside and out from his time in Cincinnati. He’s a captain, too, and a respected voice in a young secondary.
But after Monday’s debacle, what did Guenther’s film study really show about the 34-year-old safety?
“Nothing. I mean, I’ve seen what I’ve seen all along,” Guenther said. “You guys like to beat up Reggie a lot around here, I see. I think that he understands what’s going on. He understands what we’re looking for in the big picture. I don’t think Reggie stuck out any other guy on Monday night. He’s going to continue to progress and like I said, utilize everybody back there.”
There’s a silver lining to Amari Cooper having minuscule numbers
Cooper probably won’t have only one catch for nine yards in another game this season. But Monday’s 20-point loss, if anything, showed that other Raiders can put up massive numbers even if Cooper is held in check.
Jared Cook runs like a receiver, and he did so to the tune of nine catches for 180 yards (tied for the NFL lead) against the Rams. Even if Cooper found open space on his routes, Cook’s matchup against young Rams linebackers in the middle of the field might’ve been more favorable.
“He’s a guy, you saw him out there at the single wide receiver spot. He will also be inside as a tight end,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. ” … We are really happy with Jared Cook. We have been since we got here. Again, we went into that game knowing that the real favorable matchups in that game were going to be the tight end and the running back. It’s good to see those guys step up.”
If opponents view Cooper as the Raiders’ No. 1 receiving threat and Jordy Nelson No. 2, that will more often than not afford Cook mismatches he can take advantage of.
Cook was the Raiders’ leading receiver last year amid Cooper’s injury plagued down year. The Raiders probably don’t want that again since it would mean Cooper isn’t producing as he should, but at least they saw Cook still has it in Year 2 with the Raiders after an impressive debut campaign in 2017.
Johnny Holton switching to secondary
Holton caught three touchdowns for the Raiders last season, two of them spanning 44 and 64 yards. He established himself as one of Derek Carr’s best deep threats and a reliable special teams gunner.
The Raiders waived Holton to make room for wide receiver Brandon LaFell, then re-signed him to the practice squad. Now Holton is listed as a defensive back, and Olson provided an explanation.
“He’s just a valuable football player. He’s very valuable on special teams but we wanted to find a spot for him on the roster,” Olson said. “We managed to put him there where we got, I wouldn’t say a log jam at wide receiver, but we got a full room there. We had a roster spot available and we are looking for help in all areas but certainly special teams is a big area we put a big premise on. He’s helped us there in the past and we just wanted to get him back on the roster.”
Holton said he’s never played cornerback and that Thursday’s practice was his first at the position.
The common saying goes, “Cornerbacks are just receivers who can’t catch,” so what does that make Holton as a receiver who can catch playing cornerback?
“I plan on having a lot of interceptions,” he said.
Source : https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/09/13/raiders-report-5-things-we-learned-on-thursday/