Marshawn Lynch has been a Raider for less than two months. Before that he was enjoying his retirement. The word upon his return was that he was in great shape, but being in great shape and being in football shape are two very different things.
At 31, Lynch was in attendance since the start of OTA practices, despite them being voluntary. But his participation was limited, only seeing team sessions in the final week of OTA’s.
Tuesday, he was in attendance for minicamp as expected, but he was very much a part of the action, looking like he was close to full go and in training camp, putting him right on schedule.
“I think he’s done a great job doing the things we’ve asked him to do and preparing himself just like everybody else,” Del Rio said of Lynch.
“We’ve got a plan. We’re executing our plan in regards to the entire team. Obviously, at the conclusion of this week and this mini-camp then there will be a break and there will be a certain amount of responsibility that our guys have to take care of business during that time off to make sure that they recharge, but to make sure that they come back with the level of conditioning so that we can attack training camp. Not survive training camp, but really take advantage of that opportunity to grow and to develop as a football team.”
Lynch worked with the first team throughout practice, starting with walk-thrus and continuing through team sessions. He took hand-offs and short passes out of the backfield, looking as agile and explosive as the Raiders hope he will be.
On another schedule entirely is Amari Cooper who looked downright dominant in practice. Derek Carr hooked up with him a couple times on deep passes. The first, he beat Sean Smith over the top for a long touchdown.
“Yeah, it’s something that we want to continue to grow at because you hit on those deep balls,” said Carr. There are a couple of times we hit them early in games and it gets in not only the player’s head that’s guarding him, but the coach’s head. Do you want to leave him on that island? What do you want to do? When you do, are they going to play hard over the top? And then you get everything else working for you, so working on that deep ball is always important. Me and ‘Coop,’ it’s something that we work very hard at. We want to continue to hit a lot of those during the games.”
One thing you notice about Cooper is just how much muscle he has put on this offseason. He looks like a different player. He almost has a running back build. Often times the worry with receivers bulking up like that is a loss of speed, flexibility, or ability to climb the ladder. So far there are no indications of those concerns.
“That’s crazy, right?,” said Carr, who is amazed at the development of his top receiver entering his third season.
“I think that with him, that just dog in him is coming out. That thing that you saw at Alabama where he’ll just take things over, and not to say that he hasn’t because he has, but I just think that’s it’s not just becoming a thing of what game it’s going to be, it’s becoming a thing where that’s who he is. DB’s better know that he’s really taking it serious that he’s trying to go attack them this year. He’s not going to let them come to him anymore, and I think that just comes with age and seeing him do it out here, we were just laughing, man. The guy has been going off all camp, all offseason. We were kind of just laughing at how impressed we were.”
Overall the offense looked much more in sync than it had a couple weeks ago. The defense was winning the day early and the balance has shifted.
The shift really showed up in the 2-minute drills to end practice. The first team got down field quickly with Carr’s second long ball to Cooper who high pointed the ball to pull down a leaping grab. Carr took another shot a couple plays later, but this time Amerson was ready for it to break up the pass. So, the offense found the end zone with a pass over the middle from Carr to Jared Cook just out of the reach of a diving Karl Joseph.
The second team got moving in much the same way, with Connor Cook connecting with Johnny Holton on a go route of the left sideline. A high pass in the end zone to KJ Brent was incomplete off his hands and a couple runs later, Cook went to Jaydon Mickens on a tight slant for the 2-yard score.
EJ Manuel moved the offense past midfield but time expired before he had a shot at the end zone.
Not practicing were OT Austin Howard, OT Marshall Newhouse, C Jon Feliciano, LB Neiron Ball, DL Jihad Ward, DT Darius Latham, and DE Fadol Brown.
Vadal Alexander got reps as the first team right tackle with Howard and Newhouse both out. Rookie David Sharpe worked with the second and third team.
Rookie seventh round defensive lineman Treyvon Hester was working with the first team defensive line with Jihad Ward not practicing. Jack Del Rio said of Hester “It looks like he has a natural ability to rush inside, interior push.”
Jaydon Mickens is working as the second team slot receiver behind Seth Roberts. Others such as Cordarrelle Patterson, Johnny Holton, and KJ Brent spend most of their reps on the outside.
There were a couple tryout players, both wearing number 60. One an offensive lineman, the other a defensive lineman. The Raiders don’t release the names of players in for tryouts. If they do, we should have an indication of why based on what we see in minicamp. The Raiders don’t have any available roster spots so signing one of these players would mean they must cut someone else.