The story on the first day of camp was more about who wasn’t here than who was. With Donald Penn holding out over his contract and several others either on NFI or PUP, we got a good look at who the next man up was at each position.
The starters who weren’t here today were Penn, Mario Edwards Jr, Bruce Irvin, and Jihad Ward.
To make up for Penn’s absence, the Raiders put Marshall Newhouse to the left side and put Vadal Alexander at right tackle. Newhouse was signed this offseason to play right tackle. The team released Austin Howard the day before camp with Newhouse as the new starter. Now he’s playing on the left side.
Jack Del Rio tried to look at it positively, in that this early in camp, it gives other players more work.
“This can be valuable time,” said Del Rio. “For a guy maybe to get a few more reps than he would have because of the current situation. We’ll look to utilize that, turn it into a positive and take that time to develop some of these guys and bring them along maybe a little quicker.”
With both Edwards on NFI and Ward on PUP, the starters at the interior defensive line spots were Denico Autry and rookie seventh round pick, Treyvon Hester. And with Irvin on NFI and watching from sideline, Shilique Calhoun got work at the strong side linebacker spot in his stead.
There was over 100 Raiders legends in attendance on the first day of camp including Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, Ted Hendricks, and Jim Otto. The Alumni had a full day planned which included breakfast before practice, attending practice with their families, and an evening gala at an exclusive Napa Valley location.
Jack Del Rio has enjoyed Alumni Day every season as he sees many legends he watched as a Raiders fan growing up. One former player with whom he has a strong connection.
“So many, starting with Jeff Barnes who played at Hayward High before I did,” said Del Rio, “so I watched him and when someone from your high school makes it and makes it to your hometown team, you definitely have affection for him. Actually I played little league baseball with his brother Kim “Pooh Bear”. He was a big left hander first baseman.
“But anyway it’s great having those guys around. There’s so many of them. It’s really an honor. I talk to our guys about paying respect, understanding that they’re here and what they did before us to set the tone for what this franchise is all about. We embrace that and we love having them here and just want to make them proud. Wanna play good football and make them happy.”
- It used to be the first day of camp was rough for the offense. The usual reasoning was ‘shaking the rust off’. That wasn’t the case today. Derek Carr was throwing darts all day. I asked him about that.
“I did not feel rusty and I attribute it to coming early,” said Carr. “It’s very important that we do that pre-camp [warmup] for the fact that practice can run smooth when the veterans get here. We don’t do it selfishly. We do it for when the other guys get here. We don’t want them to run a great route and us just completely miss them. We want to make sure that when they show up, we’ve already been through a week at camp, we’re already thinking football and doing those things. That way, when the quarterbacks are on, practice can be smoother.”
- One particular team session, Carr didn’t miss a throw. And he spread the ball around, connecting with all of his first team receivers -- Amari Cooper (twice), Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts, Jared Cook, and even Lee Smith.
- The question of who would enter camp as the second QB behind Carr was answered. It’s EJ Manuel. Manuel earned his spot on the depth chart with some strong play in the OTA’s and minicamp.
- Manuel continued that strong play today. First it was a gorgeous pass up the right sideline to a streaking Johnny Holton. He connected with Clive Walford on multiple occasions as well as Jaydon Mickens.
- Mickens looked great working out of the slot with the second team. Catching a couple crossing patterns from Manuel and showing off his great speed that had the team keep him around on the practice squad last season.
- It wasn’t all good for Walford. The first pass Manuel threw his way clanked off his hands and was picked off by undrafted rookie Breon Borders. That was the only interception on the day from anyone. Though Sean Smith batted down a pass intended for Michael Crabtree late in practice. So perhaps the rust was on the defense.
- Obi Melifonwu saw some time with the first team in the hybrid LB role and with the second team at safety. It gave him a chance to get beaten by both Jared Cook and Clive Walford within a few plays of each other. Remember, though, Melifonwu didn’t go through the full pre-camp warmup with the other rookies, so he may need a couple days to get back into it.