Hitting the practice field for the final time before live game action, the Raiders were padded up and the intensity was up. This time the stands featured several members of Bay Area high school football teams in the crowd and they were excited to see some of their football idols take the field on another gorgeous Napa day.
Injury updates: Joining the list of players not practicing today was Brandian Ross. He was seen working on the side along with Rod Streater (Non-Football Illness list), Roy Helu Jr, Jamize Olawale, and Lee Smith. Also still out was Sio Moore, though he was not working on the side.
Menelik Watson and Clive Walford were both on their second day back and saw their workload increase. Watson returned to working with the first team offensive line after Austin Howard had worked there in his absence. Both Walford and Watson saw action in team sessions after sitting them out yesterday.
The defense stepped up in a big way today with plays from a lot of different players. In 11 on 11 sessions, there were only a handful of fine offensive plays worth mentioning. The defense was also playing through the whistle while the offensive players seemed to get complacent.
As a result, there were several mistakes, including a couple of fumbles. Amari Cooper fumbled the ball when McGill hit him right after the catch that Malcolm Smith scooped up and returned for a touchdown. Later Michael Dyer shot through a nice sized hole in the line for about a ten yard gain only to have the ball punched out by Neiko Thorpe who then recovered it and returned it back to around the original line of scrimmage.
Jack Del Rio has taken to having the players either drop for pushups or to up-downs when they make mental mistakes. The defense had to do pushups on an offsides penalty and the offense had to do up-downs after Lamar Mady snapped the ball well over Christian Ponder's head for a big loss of yards.
"Yeah, there are things that'll get you beat," Del Rio said of these mistakes. "And we'll make sure we provide plenty of incentive to eliminate that."
Catch of the day: Kris Durham pluck
Now and then you see some of the intriguing talent that had Kris Durham as a fourth round pick four seasons ago. The catch he made today is the kind that will make a quarterback salivate. He ran up the right sideline and got behind Tevin McDonald who was in tight coverage, but wasn't turned around to see the ball. Matt McGloin threw for Durham who went over the top of McDonald and pulled in the pass just inbounds for a long catch. Durham has the talent, he just has a penchant for drops that have his quarterbacks lose trust in him to consistently catch passes like that. He reminds me a lot of Andre Holmes.
Ground attack: Latavius running away with it
Since camp started, all Latavius Murray has done is distance himself from the rest of the running backs as the runaway feature back. Certainly it hasn't helped Roy Helu or Trent Richardson that they have been out large portions of camp, but even when on the field, Murray is head and shoulders the best running back on the field. Today he took a handoff, went left, momentarily surveyed the line, saw his crease open through the left guard gap (of course) and shot through it for a good 15 yards before anyone had a shot to tackle him. These kinds of runs happen probably every practice for Murray.
Meanwhile, Trent Richardson, who is supposed to be his primary competition, still can't seem to get more than a couple yards past the line of scrimmage, Helu isn't practicing, and Michael Dyer and Taiwan Jones are battling for the remaining running back spot.
Premium rush: Justin Tuck says 'Welcome back, Menelik'
With Menelik Watson returning to full practice reps today after missing several practices, Justin Tuck made sure to greet him the best he knows how. In blocking drills, Tuck and Watson matched up on three-straight snaps. The first snap, Tuck drove Watson back, then pulled a spin move to rush the quarterback. The second play, Menelik blocked him, and the third play Tuck put on the same drive and spin move with the same result. Tuck is a great defensive end, but between Watson and Austin Howard, the Raiders should be very concerned about the right tackle position right now.
Pick of the litter: Ben Heeney with light summer reading
Earlier this week, Heeney was highlighted for showed off his run stopping abilities. Today he is recognized for his coverage abilities. He was lined up in zone and protecting the middle of the field, watching Christian Ponder's eyes. When he saw Gabe Holmes come across the formation and read Ponder's eyes, he stepped right in front of the pass for the interception and got a big return out of it. It was a textbook play by Heeney who has been quite impressive thus far in camp.
Gotta step up: DJ Hayden
Making a return appearance in this category is DJ Hayden, who was matched up on rookie Amari Cooper most of the day and Amari made catch after catch on Hayden. The first pass thrown to Cooper with Hayden in coverage, Hayden misread completely, stopping when the ball was in the air, only to watch it sail over his head. Lucky for him, Carr led Cooper a bit too much or Cooper would have had an easy touchdown. With Hayden giving Cooper a sizable cushion all day, it was easy pickins for Cooper. He would just sprint up field about seven or eight yards, stop short of Hayden on a curl and the ball would be there when he turned around. The final connection from Carr to Cooper with Hayden covering was probably the easiest of all. The Raiders were in red zone drills at the five-yard line. Hayden didn't protect the goal line to try and stop Amari from getting behind him, so Amari ran a simple crossing route and Carr hit him for the touchdown uncontested.
The next time the Raiders hit the field in uniform will be their game uniforms at O.co for their preseason match-up with the St Louis Rams. For this last practice, Jack Del Rio said what he wanted to see from his players.
"We're looking, really, to flatten it out, to have a few less of the ups and downs," said Del Rio. "And have the ups and getting better and being consistent. So, we're really trying to flatten out our performance and make sure it just stays at a high level and that we remain consistent in what we're doing."
The first real test will come on Friday.