The Raiders are 2-0 on the season with quarterback Derek Carr leading a potent offense with a league-high 817 passing yards.
But running back Kenyan Drake says the team hasn’t even hit its stride.
“The young guys that are learning on the fly are really doing their job on a high level.” Drake said. “I don’t think we’ve played our best brand of ball yet as a whole offense. As we continue to mold into that role and identify, I feel we’ll continue to get better.”
The “young guys” Drake was talking about were the players who have come in to fill in for an offensive line that has been decimated by injury.
Guard Ritchie Incognito hasn’t played a game this season and is still listed as “did not participate” in practice. Rookie Alex Leatherwood missed most of last week’s game against the Steelers with a back injury and guard Denzelle Good was lost for the season with a knee injury on opening night.
“I’m very impressed (with the offensive line play).” Drake said. “We’re missing a key cog in Ritchie Incognito. Whenever he comes back that will just bolster that offensive line.”
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said injuries are part of every team’s challenge and they just have to take a “next man up” philosophy.
“There’s a lot of respect that they have for one another,” Olson said. “And again, when a new player comes in, our expectations don’t change, and I think that the players resonate that throughout the locker room.
“I think it’s easy for people to look at a problem and say, ‘Boy, they got problems there.’ But we’re in the business of finding solutions and we’ll continue to try and find solutions when those problems occur.”
Besides the offensive line injuries, star running back Josh Jacobs has also been sidelined with an ankle injury. The “next man up” in this case is Drake, who is facing the team that traded him away in 2019.
Drake is plug and play in potent offense
Drake said his preparation without Jacobs available is that he and Payton Barber get more practice time.
“Right now it’s just me and Peyton,” Drake said. “More reps gives me more opportunity to see different defenses, different looks. Better cardio, since I get more reps in the run game.”
Drake said he’s learned through his five years in the league to be patient, even though he has a lot of speed in his game. He said he learned from former teammate Frank Gore to stay within the framework of the play when he used to want to deviate from the script in hopes of breaking a big play.
“It’s something I’ve learned through my entire careers, starting even at Bama,” he said. “I wasn’t the bell cow back and I would just get the ball and try and make the most of it, which would be a detriment sometimes because I wouldn’t always follow the script.”
He said Gore gave him advice to stay patient and have a starter’s mentality, even when playing part-time.
“The defense gets paid to make plays too,” Drake said. “They’re gonna be in position to make tackles. My job is to make someone miss within the scheme.”
Dolphins lacking potent offense without starting QB
The Raiders are missing a few starters from their offense going into Sunday’s game, but at least they have their quarterback. Derek Carr, who had been dinged up last week against the Steelers, has been a full participant in practice the last two days.
The same can’t be said for Dolphins starter Tua Tagovailoa, who suffered broken ribs last week against the Bills and is out for the matchup with the Raiders. Jacoby Brissett will take his place. Without Tagovailoa, the Dolphins were shut out by the Bills, losing 35-0.
“Each quarterback presents his own challenges, but you can just tell he’s a very confident player,” said Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. “I’ll just say it again, the team is going to rally around him. He’s that type of personality and we’ll see what happens. With our rush, we always have a rush plan. We talked about as a matter of fact today, how can we affect him? What’s our rush plan with the style that he is? We looked at a lot of clips on him today and kind of his mannerisms and his style.”