Raiders stay focused on Denver amidst controversy

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Raiders coach Josh McDaniels downplayed Chandler Jones' Instagram post, saying his team is focused on Sunday's opener.

LAS VEGAS — It wouldn’t be a week with the Raiders without a little controversy, right?

Nonetheless, one day after veteran defensive end Chandler Jones said on his Instagram story that he didn’t want to play for the Raiders as long as Josh McDaniels was the coach and Dave Ziegler was general manager, the situation was downplayed.

“That’s kind of a personal situation,” McDaniels said. “We’ve never really gone into those kinds of things, so I’m going to steer away from that. It’s a private matter, and if there’s something to report on it, then we’ll do that.”

McDaniels went on to say Jones wasn’t at the facility Wednesday, and his staff would take his status day by day as the Raiders prepare for Sunday’s season opener in Denver.

“The team’s getting ready to play a game,” McDaniels said. “We’ll deal with different things throughout the course of the year, whether it’s injuries or other adversity. So, I think the guys are focused on trying to control the things that they can control and get ready to play the best game we can play on Sunday.”

Starting with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who ushers in a new era after Derek Carr had been the face of the franchise for nine seasons.

Call it Jimmy-Josh Part II, as Garoppolo credits McDaniels with teaching him how to be an NFL quarterback from their days in New England. Now a bit of a seasoned veteran, the pressure may be on both of them, considering the offseason moves that have been made, and the Patriots-like complexion the team has taken on since McDaniels’ arrival.

Garoppolo’s new teammates seem to have taken a liking to him, as he was voted as one of the team’s captains, along with Kolton Miller, Josh Jacobs, Davante Adams, Maxx Crosby, Robert Spillane and Marcus Epps.

“It’s a privilege, it really is,” Garoppolo said of his captainship. “I don’t take it very lightly. I’ve been a captain before but to come to a new team and get that honor, it’s pretty cool. I mean, we have a good locker room, a very tight-knit group, guys who are willing to work and that’s what it takes here.

“You have to be able to work every day, day in and day out. And it’s just a fun group to be with. I’m honored to be a captain.”

Garoppolo said he’s been anticipating his first regular-season game with Adams, largely considered the league’s best receiver.

“Been waiting a long time for it,” Garoppolo said. “Feel like we’re still working on some things, but very confident with where we’re at. Tae is a dog out there. It’s fun having a guy like that. You’ve just got to put it up there and give him a chance really, let it touch his hands, and he’ll take care of the rest. So, he’s making my job a lot easier.”

Adams concurred, saying there isn’t much adjustment other than a new person throwing the football to him. Of course, much was made when he arrived prior to last season, finally being able to join his former college teammate and best friend, Carr.

What’s helped ease his transition into his second year with the Raiders is the familiarity with the coaching staff.

“We got some personal coaches,” Adams said. “Definitely some guys that are interested in learning about the person, which is a vital piece of connecting and doing well as a team is understanding the people that you’re working with.”

“We’ve got some guys that preach communication and just openness and kind of not going into anything with any surprises … open communication and I appreciate that from them.”

BACK TO NORMAL – Now that Jacobs has his contract, and he’s back in the building, the vibe has been much better, per Adams.

“I mean, I’ve noticed it in my mood, other guys’ moods – just having a key piece of your football team around, it’s going to naturally boost everybody’s mood, their willingness to come to work,” Adams said. “Everybody’s been coming to work and it’s been the same as it was last year, but it’s a little bit more fire when you get one of your guys back and get a guy like Josh back who is a captain, a leader of this football team. It kind of, like I said, gives the team a little extra juice.”

As it should, considering Jacobs is the reigning rushing king after finishing with an NFL-leading 1,653 yards. His 97.2 yards per game also led the league while he tied for fifth in the league with 12 rushing touchdowns.

Garoppolo said he’s felt comfortable with his process of getting in sync with Jacobs in such a short amount of time.

“It’s just about getting the reps in,” Garoppolo said. “Josh knows all this stuff already being here last year and everything. But just getting on the same page with him, a couple of swing routes, check down routes, things like that. We’re trying to get on the same page. With the run game, I mean he’s as good as they come, so it makes my job pretty easy.”

COACHING REVIVAL – With Sean Payton returning to the sidelines, now in charge of the Broncos, it’ll be a clash of offensive minds on Sunday.

And both coaches said there’s something to be said about knowing tendencies from their previous tenures when Payton was in New Orleans and McDaniels was winning Super Bowls in New England.

But, McDaniels added, coaches can overthink the situation and will find themselves “chasing ghosts.”

“Sean has had a long history in this league of success everywhere he’s been, and obviously in New Orleans,” McDaniels said. “He’s a great coach, his teams are always well-prepared. They play physical and tough, they’re disciplined. They’ve taken care of the ball. They don’t beat themselves. They’re really good in situational football. That’s what I’m expecting, so I think the biggest thing for us regardless of how far back we’ve gone, is what are we going to do, and how comfortable are we with what we’re going to do in each phase of the game.”

Payton said he and his staff have always studied McDaniels and looked at him the same.

“They have always had a great two-back presence,” Payton said. “I like that because I think we try to do the same thing. Some teams don’t have a fullback. It may be a tight end, but they have always had a good two-back running back and play-action passing game. They are aggressive down the field, and I think their numbers from a year ago dictate that when you look at their explosive plays.”

INJURY REPORT – Raiders wide receiver DeAndre Carter (knee) was limited in practice, while cornerback Brandon Facyson (shin) and Jones (NIR-personal) did not participate.

Broncos wideout Jerry Jeudy (hamstring), tight end Chris Manhertz (chest) and cornerback Riley Moss (abdomen) were all limited in practice. Tight end Greg Dulcich (NIR-personal) did not participate.