There’s a lot of uncertainty at the cornerback position right now for the Raiders. Sean Smith is hasn’t seen first team action the past three practices and Gareon Conley hasn’t seen the field this camp. The only constant has been David Amerson as one of the two starters. After that it gets interesting.
Smith came onto the field either with the dime defense or the second team. He was seen covering the tight end a few times as well. Not exactly what you want from your supposed top corner.
Even with the shakeup, there’s little chance Smith gets cut. He represents $9.5 million in dead money if he’s let go, so y’all can get those thoughts out of your head right now.
Since Smith has been demoted, it has been TJ Carrie in his place with undrafted rookie Breon Borders as the slot corner in the nickel. Toss Conley into the mix once he eventually returns and suddenly you have five corners on a team that at most will keep six corners this season.
Del Rio likes Borders’s “serious no nonsense” approach, but pointed out that the cornerback rotations is “far from settled”.
Borders is part of a battle that includes several other corners who have stepped up this camp. The others who have stood out are Dexter McDonald, Antonio Hamilton, and Kenneth Durden. Four corners battling for two spots. And all have at times shown themselves worthy.
“I’m a big believer in you get what you earn,” Del Rio said of the cornerback group.
“We’re gonna have a competitive camp. I told the guys when we opened; I don’t care how you got here. It doesn’t really matter. You’re undrafted, you’re a high pick, a low pick, or if you weren’t picked, or if you’re a veteran.”
Through the first part of camp, it was mostly Borders and McDonald who were making plays. Today it was the Hamilton and Durden show.
Hamilton was on Seth Roberts’ hip up the left sideline to knock down a Derek Carr pass. A bit later, he picked off a Derek Carr pass over the middle intended for Jaydon Mickens. It was the only interception of the day.
Durden D’d up on Michael Crabtree on two straight plays, one he was all over him all the way up the right sideline and the other, Crabtree ran a post and Durden undercut it to swat the pass down. Both passes were from Derek Carr. Later Durden blanketed Johnny Holton on an out to knock the ball down.
Performances like Hamilton and Durden had today were proof of why they held onto them last year and it makes the battle this camp that much more difficult when the time comes to decide which corners in this group stick around and which do not.
No good news in the injury front. While no one returned from injury today, there were two newly sidelined players. Keith McGill is out and is expected to be out for a while with a foot injury. Shilique Calhoun was also not practicing today.
Donald Penn is still holding out over his contract.
Still on PUP is CB Gareon Conley, C Jon Feliciano, and DE Jihad Ward.
Still on NFI is LB Ben Heeney and TE Cooper Helfet.
Others still out were WR Amari Cooper, S Obi Melifonwu, OT David Sharpe, and DL Fadol Brown.
Jack Del Rio said none of the injuries are significant and he expects all of them to be back. Though one would assume some of these players may not be back until during the season. Especially Keith McGill.
Catch of the day: Crabtree may have been handing his lunch money over to Durden today, but he did have a nice long touchdown catch up the right sideline on TJ Carrie. Crabtree added a tuck and roll at the end.
For what it’s worth, Carrie got his a bit later, with a long pass defended on a similar pass on the left side of the field. Crabtree wasn’t happy about it and stayed on the ground afterward. Reggie Nelson went over to offer him some help up, but Crabtree just say there looking up at him, refusing his assistance until Gabe Jackson came over and offered his hand.
Best defensive play: With Durden and Hamilton getting their mentions above, we’re gonna go with Karl Joseph ripping the ball out of Marshawn Lynch’s arms on a run. Joseph also beat Lynch to recover the fumble afterward.
It was family day at camp, so Kinders BBQ was here and the players and coaches had their families in attendance. At the end of practice Del Rio lined the entire team up on the sideline and had them run sprints in front of them. What seemed like a punishment of some kind, Del Rio said was not.
“A little extra conditioning before they ate the barbecue,” said Del Rio. “Nothing punitive, it’s ok, they’re gonna have barbecue, they’re off tomorrow, they’re lifting their legs right now so it was a good way to finish up, get a little extra conditioning, work their legs now then they get tonight and tomorrow off and be back at it Tuesday.”
Out of bounds:
Prior to practice there was a Navy re-enlistment ceremony held for 18-year Chief Petty Officer Matt Martinez.
As an Aviation Electronics Technician he repairs, maintains, and launches F/A-18 Super Hornet Aircraft in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Now a Technical Instructor, he trains the “Elite of the Fleet” in highly skilled aircraft repairs. Martinez was accompanied by his wife Hannah, two sons Matt Jr and Conrad, two fellow Aviation tech Chiefs and his re-enlistment officer also stationed at the Naval Air Station in Lemoore.
“It was time to re-enlist so I talked to the wife and she was like ‘what’s your dream place that you want to do it and I said ‘I want to re-enlist in front of the Raiders.’ It’s my team, it’s always been my team since I was a kid. That was my first choice, so she reached out to a news broadcast company locally and after that she got in contact with the Raiders organization from Tommy Tran over at ABC 30. From there they worked it out and they made it happen for me.”
Martinez grew up a Raiders fan in Madera California and said his experience having his re-enlistment ceremony at Raiders camp was a dream come true for him.
“I couldn’t have imagined it happening and even if it when it did happen, I didn’t expect what would happen today to happen. I mean to be on the field that the Raiders were about to practice on and actually do my re-enlistment up here was just amazing.”
After practice, many of the Raiders players stopped to shake their hands, sign autographs and pose for pictures.
Congrats, Chief Martinez on your re-enlistment and Go Navy.