Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden listens to questions during a news conference at the end of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. Kansas City won the game 28-10. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden stands on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. Kansas City won the game 28-10. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Minnesota Vikings' Kirk Cousins throws during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Minnesota Vikings' Kirk Cousins throws as he falls during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
Minnesota Vikings' Kirk Cousins fumbles as he is hit during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) During his nine-year hiatus from the NFL sideline, Jon Gruden evaluated players like he was still a coach, drawing particular attention as an analyst for ESPN for his one-on-one film breakdowns with quarterback prospects entering the draft.
Kirk Cousins was one of those pupils. Though only a fourth-round pick by Washington in 2012, the eighth player selected at his position that spring, Cousins made a clear impression on Gruden with his attention to detail and ability to communicate. Gruden even remarked at the end of that episode that perhaps he'd get back in the game to coach him.
Well, this week, Gruden and the Oakland Raiders have been scheming against Cousins, who will try to bounce back for the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday from one of the worst performances as a pro.
''He works hard at football. He's had a lot of production,'' said Gruden, who took over as coach of the Raiders last season. ''Hopefully we can find a way to slow him down and win a football game.''
That's what Green Bay did last weekend, when Cousins posted the second-worst completion percentage of his career and committed three turnovers in a 21-16 defeat. The comeback bid was waylaid by a first-and-goal interception in the end zone, an off-balance throw he said afterward he should've sent to the seats. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer expressed anew the team's confidence in Cousins, who's in the second season of a three-year, $84 million, fully guaranteed contract.
''You've got to play well to earn peoples' confidence, so if he's saying that, it's because he's seen practice reps, he's seen game reps, he's seen what we're capable of as an offense throwing the football,'' Cousins said. ''So you've got to go out and earn it. Believe me, I'm not going to be playing quarterback here if I go out and play the way I did this past Sunday for much longer. So I understand that, and I look forward to getting out there and playing at a much higher level.''
Here are some other angles to follow on Sunday:
The Raiders (1-1) have begun this week a whopping 48-day stretch without a game at the Oakland Coliseum. After visiting the Vikings, the Raiders will travel to Indianapolis, then London for a ''home'' game against Chicago. After their bye week, they go back on the road to play Green Bay and Houston. The Raiders won't play in Oakland again until Nov. 3 against Detroit.
''We're still trying to understand how that happened, but we're going to have to deal with it,'' said Gruden, whose team went 1-7 on the road last year. ''We've just got to showcase our mental toughness and deal with it. It's uncommon, maybe unprecedented, maybe unrealistic that this should ever happen in pro football. I'm not excited about it, but we'll adapt and do it the best we can.''
The Raiders will get a boost on the offensive line this week when left guard Richie Incognito makes his debut for the team. The four-time Pro Bowl pick missed the first two games, while suspended for violating the NFL personal conduct policy. He's eager as ever to see the field for the first time since a Jan. 7, 2018, playoff game with Buffalo. Incognito did not play at all last season.
''All the negative stuff is behind me. Just eyes forward, staying positive,'' he said. ''Relishing the opportunity, enjoying every day in here because you don't know how many more you're going to have.''
Another talented veteran with a troubled past who joined the Raiders this year, linebacker Vontaze Burfict, is well-known to Zimmer, who was the defensive coordinator for Cincinnati during his first three NFL seasons. Burfict has been repeatedly fined and suspended by the league throughout his career for late, violent hits.
''He knows the defense as well as anybody, probably as well as I do. He's very instinctive. He's very athletic. He reads things extremely quick, and he's a thumper,'' Zimmer said. ''We better make sure the officials know he has to play clean.''
Gruden wasn't having that.
''Burfict's played for us for two games. He hasn't had any penalties. So I don't know about all that,'' Gruden said. ''He's had a bulls-eye on him in his career in Cincinnati, and I'm sure the referees are looking out for him. I don't think the refs need any more help than they already have.''
The Vikings, though, were prepared to keep their head on a swivel when catching a pass in traffic.
''We've all lost our emotions at times, or what have you, so I think he's learned from that stuff, and I think he's been a pretty clean football player recently,'' wide receiver Adam Thielen said.
FAST START, SLOW FINISH
The Raiders have made a bad habit in one-plus season under Gruden of stalling by the offense after fast starts. They're tied for fifth in the NFL with an average of 2.83 points per drive on their first possession since the start of 2018, but that production has dropped to barely half of that over the rest of the game, with an average of 1.46 points per drive following their opening possession. Last week against Kansas City, Oakland had 10 points after two drives but didn't score the rest of the game.
''We've always been able to start fast, which is good, and hopefully we can do that again this week but then maintain it and then cut out the penalties,'' quarterback Derek Carr said.
The Vikings, with Dalvin Cook leading the NFL in rushing, aren't the only team in this pass-favored league that's content to keep the ball on the ground. Rookie Josh Jacobs, one of three first-round draft picks by the Raiders, has 184 rushing yards, fourth in the NFL.
''He runs hard, for sure,'' Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen said. ''He has the quickness to get the ball outside and cut it outside quick. He's a downhill runner, and he can make the big play.''
Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota will be replaced by backup Ryan Tannehill Sunday, Oct. 20, for the Week 7 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers, sources told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero.
Fantasy Spin: Mariota should be kept in dynasty leagues, as the former No. 2 overall pick will surely get a look elsewhere is the Titans choose to part ways, but his time in Tennessee appears to be done. He can be dropped in all redraft formats and all but the deepest of keeper leagues.
New York Jets DB Bennett Jackson was signed by the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Philadelphia Eagles CB Jalen Mills (hamstring) returned to practice Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill was informed Tuesday, Oct. 15, he'll get the Week 7 start against the Los Angeles Chargers, sources told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero.
Fantasy Spin: Tannehill becomes nothing more than a low-end QB2 even in an adequate matchup. He can be scooped up in deeper two-quarterback leagues, but he shouldn't be started this week unless there are no other available options.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Dare Ogunbowale led the backfield with 46 offensive snaps played in the Week 6 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Peyton Barber played 19 snaps and Ronald Jones saw just 13.
Fantasy Spin: Ogunbowale was rarely used when on the field, rushing just once for a three-yard touchdown while catching three of five passes for 22 yards. The Bucs trailed by large amounts for much of the game so this one-game sample shouldn't be worth much. Jones remains the most appealing of the three.
Pittsburgh Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt (pectoral) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Los Angeles Rams CB Jalen Ramsey was acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars Tuesday, Oct. 15, in exchange for a 2020 first-round draft pick, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick, the Jaguars announced.
New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara (ankle) is dealing with a high-ankle type issue that will limit him in practice through the week, a source told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero Tuesday, Oct. 15. Kamara believes he still has a shot to play against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Oct. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Latavius Murray becomes a hot commodity on waiver wires wherever he's available. He doesn't possess Kamara-level abilities in the passing game, but he'll see the necessary volume on the ground even in a difficult matchup. Dwayne Washington is the only other RB on the roster.
Baltimore Ravens CB Marcus Peters will make his debut with the team Sunday, Oct. 20, against the Seattle Seahawks, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Denver Broncos QB Drew Lock (thumb), RB Theo Riddick (shoulder), TE Jake Butt (knee) and WR Tim Patrick (hand) are likely to return to practice next week, according to Mike Klis of 9News Tuesday, Oct. 15. Only two of the four will be able to be activated at that time.
Washington Redskins QB Alex Smith (leg) was spotted on the practice field Monday, Oct. 14, by Ben Standig of The Athletic. Smith is 11 months removed from the leg injury which ended his 2018 season and threatens his career. The veteran was throwing a variety of routes with two team officials and was later seen with a compression sleeve on his leg.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers DE Jason Pierre-Paul (neck) participated in practice Tuesday, Oct. 15, opening the 21-day window for him to be activated to the 53-man roster. Pierre-Paul has spent all season on the Non-Football Injury list following an offseason car accident.
Denver Broncos CB Bryce Callahan (foot) was listed as a non-participant in practice Tuesday, Oct. 15, while CB Duke Dawson (foot), OT Ja'Wuan James (knee) and DE Derek Wolfe (hip) were limited. DE Shelby Harris (ribs), OG Ronald Leary (shoulder), NT Mike Purcell (knee), WR Emmanuel Sanders (knee) and S Will Parks (wrist) were listed as full participants. All of Tuesday's listings were estimates, as Denver held a walk-through as opposed to a formal practice.
Kansas City Chiefs OT Eric Fisher (groin), CB Kendall Fuller (thumb), DT Chris Jones (groin) and OG Andrew Wylie (ankle) did not practice Tuesday, Oct. 15. WR Sammy Watkins (hamstring) was limited. OT Cameron Erving (groin), LB Anthony Hitchens (groin), DT Derrick Nnadi (elbow), LB Dorian O'Daniel (hamstring), OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (ankle), WR Tyreek Hill (shoulder), QB Patrick Mahomes (ankle) and FB Anthony Sherman (shoulder) fully participated in practice.
New England Patriots QB Cody Kessler was released Tuesday, Oct. 15.
New Orleans Saints CB P.J. Williams was suspended for two games on Tuesday, Oct. 15, for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He is eligible to return in Week 8 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Washington Redskins TE Jerome Cunningham (undisclosed) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 15. FB Michael Burton was signed to fill his spot on the roster.
Los Angeles Rams CB Marcus Peters was traded to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for LB Kenny Young and an undisclosed 2020 draft pick on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Free-agent RB Josh Ferguson worked out for the Washington Redskins on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Washington Redskins RB Chris Thompson (toe) was diagnosed with a mild case of turf toe and his availability for Week 7 is 'in some doubt,' according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Spin: It couldn't be much worse timing for fantasy owners or the Redskins, as they are about ready to start a three-game stretch leading into the team's Week 10 in which Thompson figured to be quite busy. Wendell Smallwood is the most likely candidate to pick up the majority of snaps in the passing game if Thompson can't go, and he would be worth a flex play for however long Thompson needs to recover if that ends up being the case.