There has been a bit of an outcry for coverage of the Raiders' first OTA practice. The reason being that most of the Bay Area media was posted up in San Francisco for the owners meetings. But I was on the right(hand) side of the Bay and being that there weren't any real bombshells, I kinda dropped the ball.
Even still, there were a few things learned from it, so with the second OTA practice coming up on Tuesday, here are my notes from last week.
Upon arrival, again the first thing of note was the construction that was happening. At rookie minicamp earlier this month, they had dozed out field number one, leaving fields two and three intact, with the team practicing on field three. This time the work extended to field number two, which was their astroturf field. Now all that remained was field three and the side areas for the team to practice on.
Those players who were on the printed roster but not practicing were Derek Carr, Curtis Lofton, Dan Williams, Tevin McDonald, Terrell Pinson, and Mitch Bell. Sio Moore was in attendance but very limited with his surgically repaired hip.
Of those, Carr, Lofton, and Moore were the only ones in attendance. Williams was likely in the training room with an undisclosed injury. Only the Carr injury was later revealed and indications are that it is not a serious injury, though it could keep him out all of OTA's and potentially minicamp as well.
As for the three undrafted players, Tevin McDonald is not allowed to attend due to school obligations at Eastern Washington, Terrell Pinson we found out had been released that day to make room for the team to bring back Chimdi Chekwa, and Mitch Bell's situation said he had school obligations as well and would be joining the team this week.
The first team offense began with Matt McGloin at quarterback and switch back and forth with Christian Ponder. The first team offensive line was LT Donald Penn, LG Gabe Jackson, C Rodney Hudson, RG Khalif Barnes, and RT Austin Howard.
Behind Hudson at center with the second team was Lamar Mady who is the only player on the team with a good amount of center experience. Through rookie minicamps the Raiders had put fourth round pick Jon Feliciano there as he was the only one who had lined up at center at all. In the first OTA he was lined up at right guard behind Barnes.
Taiwan Jones was back at running back after having switched to cornerback last season. He was a bit rusty going through footwork drills and could have a hard time seeing time on offense with a crowded backfield. As before, his place on this team is on special teams as a gunner and possible return man.
Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree lined up as the first team wide receivers, though there was also a lot of switching out there as well.
Cooper came as advertised, just as he had in rookie minicamps. He does well fighting to get open and once the ball is in his hand, he can pick up speed quickly and leave his defender in the dust. One particular catch, he came back to pull it in, faked inside, and went outside and streaked up the right sideline.
Crabtree showed the hands we all know he has, catching balls across the middle. He also brought that "style" he said he brings to the team as he was sporting some stylish grey camo leggings (he was the only one wearing these).
There were a lot of people hoping to see the first connections between Derek Carr and his former Fresno State receiver, Josh Harper. Though Carr was out, Harper still caught some nice balls. One in particular came on a perfect pass from undrafted rookie Cody Fajardo along the left sideline. Fajardo put it over Harper's shoulder where only he could get it and Harper pulled it in, tapped his toes inbounds for a very nice grab.
Overall, Christian Ponder looked very polished. That's not unexpected. He has all the physical tools and makes it look rather effortless in a non-contact practice environment.
The one interception on the day came from Neiko Thorpe who made a nice play on a Matt McGloin pass. Thorpe, as you may recall, showed up big in training camp last year and earned his spot on the squad. He doesn't get mentioned a lot and didn't see the field much last season. I see him as a real sleeper for this secondary this season.
Despite previous reports of Khalil Mack perhaps playing more defensive end, he appeared from what I could tell to play his usual strongside linebacker spot as he had last season.
Behind starting safeties Charles Woodson and Nate Allen, it was returning players Larry Asante at strong safety and Brandian Ross at free safety.
Though there haven't been a lot of practices for the new coaching staff to gauge their new players, Jack Del Rio pointed out Ray Ray Armstrong as a player with whom he's been impressed. Armstrong joined the Raiders last season after being cut by the Rams. He is very athletic and shows flashes of talent, but lacks discipline and commits a lot of penalties because of it. Something to watch, I suppose.
Justin Tuck added that he didn't see any of the criticisms of rookie second round pick Mario Edwards Jr show up in his observations. He said he was "Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" in meetings and always giving full effort on the field. It could be a good thing for Edwards to always know he has that criticism hanging over him and to never let up for a second to, as he said, "Prove his naysayers" wrong and remember he's "no longer on scholarship" as his dad told him.
So, that's what we learned from the Raiders' first OTA's. Sorry it took nearly a week to report it, but I took a bit of time out of my Memorial Day to get caught up.