Typically when someone uses the term “Rookie wall” it’s referring to that point in the season when the rookies, who are used to a 12-13 game season, start to wear down in the long NFL season. But several of the Raiders’ drafted rookies are hitting a bit of a wall a week in to camp.
Top pick Gareon Conley hasn’t suited up yet this training camp. He was injured in minicamp and has been a bystander over the first six practices. Today he was joined by second round pick safety Obi Melifonwu and fourth round pick offensive tackle David Sharpe.
Melifonwu’s absence was a surprise. Sharpe was slow to get up in Thursday’s practice and walked off slowly.
The entire secondary saw a shakeup today. Most notable was Sean Smith receiving a demotion to second team.
That’s significant considering Smith was signed last offseason to a big 4-year, $40 million contract. He’s supposed to be this team’s best corner. A ten million dollar man is working with the backups. It could just be the coaches trying to send a message. Let’s hope he gets that message.
Early in practice, Smith and Shalom got their lines crossed, leaving Johnny Holton wide open out left for a long touchdown.
The first team corners were David Amerson and TJ Carrie on the outside with undrafted rookie Breon Borders in the slot. Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph manned the safety spots as per usual.
With Carrie lining up across Michael Crabtree, we had our first full on training camp fight. The two of them got into it and went to the ground scrapping before they were separated.
Carrie has been acting like he’s looking for a fight all camp. He pulled Seth Roberts’s hair a few practices ago and then when Roberts took exception, Carrie became the aggressor again.
Second team defensive backfield was Sean Smith and Dexter McDonald at the corner spots and Keith McGill and Shalom Luani at the safety spots.
These spots weren’t random. Borders, McDonald, and Luani have been the best looking young players at their positions. They all earn their reps. Though Borders working first team was still a surprise.
Back on the sideline was Amari Cooper. He had missed Tuesday’s practice but returned on Wednesday. He watched practice wearing a light wrap on his left leg.
Returning to practice was linebacker Jelani Jenkins.
Defensive end Fadol Brown remains out. He was lost in the first camp practice.
Still on PUP is Conley, Jon Feliciano, and Jihad Ward. Feliciano was on the field watching the other offensive linemen in drills.
Still on NFI is Ben Heeney and Cooper Helfet.
Catch of the day: Jared Cook made the catch of the day again. Mainly because it was a near identical replay of his ESPY-winning sliding sideline catch in last year’s playoffs to helped send the Packers to the NFC Championship game.
Best run: 7th round rookie Elijah Hood took a handoff up the middle, made a couple jukes to evade linebackers and broke free for an 80-yard run. Nicholas Morrow gave chase just to ensure Hood didn’t slow up, but never caught him.
Defensive play of the day: Bruce Irvin returned just yesterday and he was BACK today. Dude was running around like his hair was on fire. He and Mack teamed up for a run stop and were literally barking afterward. A bit later, he burst around Marshall Newhouse on the left edge to sack Derek Carr.
Gotta step it up: It was a brutal day for Pharaoh Brown. He had two open catches and flat out clanked both off his hands. The first he was open, standing in the back of the end zone. The other, he got a step on his defender on a nice route and EJ Manuel hit him in stride and it simply bounced off his hands again. As an undrafted rookie, he won’t be here long with play like that.
Crabtree had a couple nice plays on the day. Both with Amerson in coverage. One in which he put a great fake on Amerson inside and turned outside where he was wide open in the right side of the end zone. The other he ran an out route right at the goal line to catch a touchdown just inside the pylon.
EJ Manuel and Cordarrelle Patterson were at it again with their chemistry. The two hooked up on for a goal line touchdown on a laser pass from Manuel that Patterson went down to get. Later Manuel used Patterson’s height to connect on a sideline grab out right with a toe tap inbounds.
Dexter McDonald had no shot at defending that sideline pass, but he did get up to swat down a fade pass from Manuel to Patterson in the back right corner of the end zone. He has done well defending those fade passes. He picked off Derek Carr on one in Thursday’s practice.