Raiders, Cardinals look for success against each other
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Two teams apparently headed nowhere this season meet at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday when the Arizona Cardinals face the Oakland Raiders.
The Cardinals (2-7) are coming off a 26-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Keeping that game close and the performance by running back David Johnson give Arizona hope that things will get better in the first season under head coach Steve Wilks.
It was the revival of Johnson as the two-pronged primary threat of an offense that's gone missing for most of this season.
Johnson set season highs in rushing yards (98) and receiving yards (85) against Kansas City. He also tied his season high with two touchdowns.
"It felt good. It made me feel like it was back to two years ago -- the 2016 offense," he said. "We got some momentum going as an offense running the ball. We got some confidence going as well."
It was the first time this season that Johnson resembled the back he was in 2016, when he was named All-Pro after rushing for 1,239 yards and catching 80 passes for 879 yards.
He missed all but one game last year with a severe wrist injury, but he seemed to come alive under new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who seems intent on stressing the running game while utilizing Johnson's skills.
"As long as David is getting yardage and he's getting in the end zone," Wilks said, "I don't care what it feels like."
Johnson should have success against a Raiders defense that ranks 30th in the NFL against the run.
It should also take some of the pressure off rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, who threw two interceptions and was sacked five times in the loss to Kansas City. For the season, Rosen has more interceptions (eight) than touchdown passes (six), and that kind of ratio seldom produces success.
His Raiders counterpart, Derek Carr, was sacked four times in last week's 20-6 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Although he is completing 71.5 percent of his passes, Carr has not been productive. The Raiders (1-8) have lost five games in a row and did not score a touchdown in either of their past two games.
Adding to his problems is the fact that two wide receivers -- Martavis Bryant (knee) and Jordy Nelson (knee) -- may not play. And the Raiders traded Amari Cooper to Dallas three weeks ago.
Running back Doug Martin has had some success in place of injured Marshawn Lynch, rushing for 61 yards against the Chargers and averaging 4.3 yards for the season.
Martin might make some headway against the Chargers, who rank 29th in the NFL against the run and lost run-stopping inside linebacker Denzel Perryman for the season because of a knee injury.
Otherwise, the Raiders have been a serious disappointment in Jon Gruden's first year in his return as head coach to Oakland.
Raiders owner Mark Davis is taking much of the blame.
"The buck stops with me," Davis told ESPN's Paul Gutierrez. "Where this team is right now is my fault."
But he stands behind Gruden's 10-year, $100 million contract.
"I understood it was going to be a lot of work, but Jon has a 10-year contract," Davis said. "I know how hard Jon Gruden works. I know how much he wants to win. And how much days like today are killing him. Having Jon Gruden here was the endgame for me. Jon's going to be the stability here. Jon's going nowhere. That's just the way it is."
Davis added that Gruden wanted to keep Khalil Mack, who was traded to Chicago in early September.
"Everybody thinks that Jon's the one who wanted to get rid of him," Davis said. "Jon wanted him badly. Why wouldn't you want this guy? (General manager) Reggie (McKenzie) wanted him badly. And I wanted him badly, too. But, if in fact we were going to give the type of money that we were going to give to him, and we had Derek on that type of a (contract), how were we going to go ahead and build this football team, with all the holes that we had?"
Gruden expects the bad days of today to spawn good days down the line.
"This will be the foundation this organization leans on: mental toughness, physical toughness," Gruden said. "I know it sounds corny to some people, but that's the grit and toughness this organization was built on, and that is what we'll continue to strive for.
"We're going to keep working hard, keep preparing as hard as we can, keep developing the players that are here, and hopefully that translates into some wins. We have seven weeks to spend with these players. The future is something we'll talk about later."
The Raiders and Cardinals have not met since 2014, and the Cardinals won that game 24-13. The Raiders last visited the desert for a regular-season contest in 2010, a game also won by the Cardinals 24-23.
Updated November 15, 2018
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Published: 2015-05-28 13:51:00
Updated: 2016-07-13 10:41:59
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