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Raiders’ Chandler Jones won’t play in season opener

Updated September 8, 2023 - 6:44 pm

As the Raiders continue to weigh their options on how to proceed with Chandler Jones, they officially ruled out their veteran defensive end for Sunday’s season opener at Denver.

Barring any developments between now and game time, Jones will be among the seven players designated as inactive against the Broncos. For now, he still occupies a spot on the 53-man roster.

Jones has been away from the team all week while dealing with what coach Josh McDaniels described as a “personal issue.” The Raiders are mulling options that range from keeping him on the team with the hope the situation gets rectified to releasing him or putting him on the nonfootball injury list.

The latter options were on the table relative to opening a roster spot for running back Josh Jacobs, whose roster exemption expires Saturday. But the shin injury to cornerback Brandon Facyson landed him on the injured reserve list Friday, opening a spot to accommodate Jacobs.

Of more immediate concern is filling Jones’ spot opposite Maxx Crosby. Jones, signed to a three-year, $51 million contract in March 2022, was being counted on to rebound from a dismal first season with the Raiders to provide pass rush pressure off the edge.

“We’ll just try to figure out what the best thing is in terms of how to play the game in general,” McDaniels said. “We’re doing that at multiple positions.”

The two likely candidates to replace Jones are third-year defensive end Malcolm Koonce and rookie Tyree Wilson.

Koonce, a third-round pick out of Buffalo, has yet to deliver on the promise of draft night in 2021. But he delivered a decisive training camp to push himself into contention for more playing time and is now in line to make the first start of his career or get extensive playing time.

“I think I’m ready,” Koonce said Friday.

Koonce said the past two seasons have been a learning process.

“Just working, taking one step at a time and just trying to get 1 percent better every day,” he said. “That’s what I’m focused on.”

Wilson, the No. 7 pick in the April NFL draft, was cleared to begin practicing four weeks ago after spending the previous nine months rehabbing a foot injury. The plan for the former Texas Tech standout was to bring him along at a moderate pace, though that might change given Jones’ unavailability.

Wilson said he feels good physically and is in good football shape.

McDaniels indicated the Raiders have a plan to deal with Wilson’s conditioning. But that’s the case for everyone, as players will be competing in a full game for the first time since January.

“We’ve tried to create the type of conditioning we’ll need to play with 46, 47 guys out there for the entirety of the game,” McDaniels said. “But making the decisions based on the depth that you’re going to need at certain spots, that’s always a little bit of a tricky issue going into the opener.”

The Raiders are likely to dip into their 16-player practice squad to fortify their depth behind Koonce and Wilson. Among the candidates are Isaac Rochell and Janarius Robinson.

McDaniels is counting on a deeper defensive line room to help ease the pain of not having Jones.

“Everybody that’s active is going to have a role in the game and play, and we expect everybody to get out there and hopefully make a positive impact,” he said.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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