The stage is set for Trayvon Mullen
The second-year cornerback has begun to really come into his own this season and prove that he can be the shutdown cornerback the Raiders thought he could be coming out of Clemson.
With injuries and setbacks to the Raiders secondary this season, Mullen has been the constant glue that has kept things together. He has showcased good technique and authentic ability throughout the season that has made him shine among the secondary, and he's still in the process of putting his name in the bucket of elite cornerbacks in the league.
Mullen will have the daunting task of going up against possibly the fastest receiver trio in the league in Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins set to return from injury. Gruden is confident that No. 27 is once again up for the challenge, as the young cornerback continues to progress.
"He's just more experienced," said Coach Gruden. "He has some starts under his belt; he's acclimated to the speed of the game, and I think working against our receivers and Derek Carr in training camp helped him too."
Death, Taxes... and the Chiefs coming off their bye
For the fourth time in the past five seasons, the Las Vegas Raiders will have the task of going up against the Chiefs coming out of their bye week. With the Raiders having a hectic week of practice missing several key players on defense, the Super Bowl champions have had two weeks to prepare for a rematch with the team that handed them their only defeat this season. Andy Reid historically has not wasted many opportunities coming out of bye, owning an 18-3 regular-season record following a bye in his head coaching career.
"I'm sure that's just a coincidence," Coach Gruden joked to the media Monday. "I'm sure that's a coincidence. I don't know. I don't think about it. The schedule is the schedule. You have to adapt to it and that's what we'll do."
'Killa Trav' rolling through Vegas
Arguably the most dangerous weapon Patrick Mahomes has at his disposal is his tight end.
Travis Kelce has been on a tear this season for the Chiefs, leading most receiving categories for tight ends this season. He's also had success against the Silver and Black in the past, catching 535 yards and four touchdowns across his previous five games against the Raiders.
"With Kelce, obviously he's a great route runner; he can catch the ball; he's really good against zone and can find open spots in zone," said linebacker Nicholas Morrow.
Expect for Paul Guenther to throw as many matchups and coverages as he possibly can against Kelce, including Nicholas Morrow, Trayvon Mullen, Nick Kwiatkoski and Johnathan Abram, if cleared to play Sunday (COVID-19/Reserve)
The rise of Arden Key
Last Sunday against the Broncos, Key looked extremely explosive and played some of his most efficient football since entering the league.
The defensive lineman out of LSU was able to be dominant in pass rushing against the Broncos offensive line, getting after Drew Lock most of the game. Key has had some injury issues in the past, as well as trying to become comfortable in the system, however Sunday's performance may be Key turning a corner.
"He had to get stronger, number one, and stay healthy," said Coach Gruden. "Two things that obviously are important at that position. And I think he's totally bought into the 'Marinelli Madness,' the effort, down-to-down consistency, and hopefully he continues to show it."
Silver and Black's 1-2 punch in the backfield
The combination of Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker paired in the backfield has equated to great success for the Raiders recently.
The duo has seen more than 35 carries in two of their three previous games and are coming off their most dominant performance against the Broncos: Jacobs finished with 112 yards on 21 carries with Booker adding 81 yards on 16 carries. Both backs also rushed for a pair of touchdowns as well.
"We liked Booker coming out of Utah. A lot of teams did," said Coach Gruden to the media Wednesday. "Sometimes a change of scenery can be the right thing. This is the Raiders. We've rejuvenated some players from some other teams before. We like to take pride in doing that again. I think he's in a great role for him. He's a complementary back to Josh Jacobs. Our offensive line is playing good, and our quarterback is playing great also, so that helps anybody thrive."
The Raiders defense's uphill battle
The week started out with a blow to the defensive line, as second-year defensive end Clelin Ferrell was placed on the Reserve/COVID list. Ferrell's positive test led to a slew of other defensive players, including three starters, being temporarily sidelined after close-contact tracing.
If those close-contact players continue to test negative going into Sunday, they will be cleared to play. Lamarcus Joyner, who was placed on the list Monday with Ferrell, returned to practice Friday. However, the defensive unit still may have a difficult time against such a high-powered offense, as the Chiefs are coming off a week of practice many players missed.
"Yeah, it's tough," said Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther. "It's tough enough when you have a full allotment of guys at practice. You have to get them on the Zoom. It's just not the same when you're not taking the reps. It'll be a big challenge for us either way, whoever can play, whenever they can get here to play, to get them caught up on the plan of those things. But we're not going to gear back as far as that goes."
Get a close-up view of the Silver and Black's practice at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center as they prepare for the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11.