No more OTAs, training camp or preseason, it’s time for the real freaking thing baby! The Las Vegas Raiders take on the Denver Broncos in Week 1 of the NFL season and this week proved that there’s never a dull moment when it comes to the Raiders.
With Chandler Jones’ status for Sunday’s game in doubt, I got a lot of questions about what rookie Tyree Wilson’s role will be in his first real NFL game, so why don’t we kick off this week’s mailbag there?
Q: How much playing time do you think Tyree gets now on Sunday? Do you think he’ll be the full-time starter for now or is it more of a 50/50 split with him and Koonce? Maybe they put Byrong Young and/or Bilal Nichols on the edge a little?
A: I definitely think Wilson will be the “starter” against the Broncos as he’s the next in line, but how quickly the coaching staff is willing to take the training wheels off of him will obviously play a factor in how big his role is. I could see him splitting some time with Malcolm Koonce, but Koonce’s struggles as a run defender might keep him on the field just for passing situations.
Even with Jones in the lineup, it was expected that the rookie would take some snaps as an interior pass-rusher on third downs, so that wouldn’t be much of a change from what was planned if Koonce lines up at end and Wilson slides inside.
I like where your head is at with the idea that the Raiders could slide a defensive tackle out on the edge to take some of the load off Wilson’s and Koonce’s shoulders. However, I think that role would most likely go to Jerry Tillery as Tillery did take some snaps at defensive end during training camp. He’s not a good interior run defender, but who knows, maybe he can hold up better on the outside where he won’t see as many double teams.
Q: How do you think this Jones saga ends? Reconciliation, release, or last-minute trade? The last 2 options would mean ~$12m dead cap this year and next.
A: I don't think a trade happens because I’d be surprised if the Raiders could even find a partner given how the entire situation has publically unfolded. And to be honest, I’m not really comfortable making a call on what will happen with Jones given how fresh and sensitive the situation is.
This is one of those instances where I’m not really worried about the football part of the equation as, to me, it seems like he might be struggling with his mental health. So, I’d like to make sure Chandler is doing okay and gets the help he may or may not need before discussing his future with the Raiders.
Q: Why do the Raiders get so many weird drama stories so often? Why????
A: Part of it is the organization has never been shy about bringing in players who have checkered pasts and their drama follows them. So, that’s a little bit of the give-and-take of making those types of signings. I’m also a believer in luck and am convinced the Raiders are cursed but again, there’s a risk involved with how they operate.
Q: Any trades? Free agent pick-ups?
A: Unless a significant injury happens on gameday, I think Josh McDaniels is going to roll with the guys he’s got. If they were looking to make a significant move or thought someone who was obtainable was an upgrade over a player on their roster, the Raiders likely would have pounced around or shortly after cutdown day. It’d be tough to bring someone up to speed during a game week.
A: Per the team’s website, Daryl Nelson is the Raiders’ Director of Team Growth Development, and they list his responsibilities as “[overseeing] and [supporting] the personal and professional development programming for players, coaches, and support staff. These areas include staff development, spiritual wellness, player engagement, mental skills, and behavioral health.”
So, they don’t have a ‘Team Chaplin’ per se, but they do have someone to help with these types of situations.
A: The situation is still too fresh and the organization hasn’t said much of anything about Jones, other than they have some things to work out, as the only reason this has even come to light is because of Jones’ social media posts. So, to answer your question; no, I haven’t heard anything about them bringing in another defensive end.
If they do end up moving on from Jones or putting him on leave, then Jordan Willis would be the easy solution seeing as he knows the playbook and has been a quality player in the past. Willis is still a free agent and, from what I can see, no other team has even kicked the tires on him, meaning he’d be there for the Raiders’ taking if they want him.
Las Vegas does have Isaac Rochell and Janarius Robinson on the practice squad as a couple of other options as well.
Q: How is Brandon Bolden still on this team? With JJ back there is no need to carry a 4th RB. Is this just proof of McDaniels’ arrogance, in that because Bolden “knows his system” he is somehow still useful at 33 years old?
A: Special teams more than anything as Bolden participated on every special teams unit last year except for field goal blocks and kicks, which are typically reserved for the defense that’s on the field and offensive linemen, respectively. Also, about half the teams in the league carry four running backs (not including fullbacks), so that’s not uncommon and the Raiders are going to have to lighten Josh Jacobs’ load this year. They’re just asking for him to get hurt if they give him nearly 400 touches again.
That’ll do it for this week’s mailbag. Thank you all for submitting questions and, as your weekly reminder, if you’d like to have your questions answered in a future column, tweet them at me, @MHolder95, email them to SBPQuestions1@gmail.com or look for our weekly call for questions on the site. The latter will publish on Thursdays throughout the season.