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Donald Penn’s return and other notes from Raiders first OTA practice

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NFL: Oakland Raiders Offseason Workouts Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Each step of the Raiders offseason is another milestone as we see how Jon Gruden’s team is shaping up. There is still a lot that is in flux, but here is what I observed in Tuesday’s practice

  • Connor Cook was taking the second team reps. This happened last offseason as well, but by the time mandatory minicamps came around, EJ Manuel had clearly outplayed Cook to take the number two spot — a position he didn’t relinquish. Cook appears to be getting an even shot again, so we’ll see if he has made progress from last year.
  • The wide receiver depth chart looks like you might expect based on the skillsets of those on the team now. The starters are Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson. When Martavis Bryant enters the lineup — which should be quite a bit — Cooper will often move inside to play slot. Seth Roberts goes from third to fourth receiver.
  • Donald Penn made his return to the field. He had been rehabbing a foot injury. He isn’t back full yet, so he didn’t participate in team drills, but was the starting left tackle in walk-thrus.
  • In Penn’s stead in team drills at first team left tackle was second year fourth round pick David Sharpe. Behind him was usually Vadal Alexander with Kolton Miller getting some snaps as well.
  • Just as Gruden said in rookie minicamps, Brandon Parker would be setting up at right tackle. The first team right tackle was veteran free agent addition Breno Giacomini with Parker entering with the second team.
  • Where’s Mario? Edwards Jr that is. He was at practice, but I didn’t see him take the field with any of the defensive teams. That would usually suggest he has some kind of injury, though we neglected to ask Gruden about it.
  • Likewise we didn’t see anything from Eddie Vanderdoes who is also rehabbing after his ACL tear in the season finale.
  • Running first team at defensive tackle was somewhat of a rotation of Justin Ellis, Treyvon Hester and rookies Maurice Hurst and PJ Hall. Ellis has always been a rotation guy, Hester showed some promise at the position as a rookie last season, and Hurst and Hall are the two hopeful drafted rookies. The 5th round pick Hurst even saw a good deal of first team reps alongside Ellis.
  • Filling in while Khalil Mack is sitting out awaiting his contract extension at first team defensive end was... Tank Carradine. Then Fadol Brown. Then rookie third round pick Arden Key.
  • So far, with few exceptions, you should be getting the idea that the rookies are not getting first team reps. Even if they figure to ultimately be a starter, most took a backseat to the veterans and incumbents. Gruden said when he drafted Arden Key it was to hopefully be the third pass rusher behind Mack and Bruce Irvin. But he and all the other rookies will have to earn it first.
  • The cornerback rotation looks fairly set right now. Gareon Conley and Rashaad Melvin are the first team corners with Daryl Worley as the nickel. Leon Hall got in a fair amount as well.
  • Gareon Conley is finally healthy and looks quite impressive. He was shadowing receivers all over the field. At one point a cornerbacks coach came over to the defensive backs on the sideline nearby and was raving about what Conley was doing on the field as if to say ‘You see what he did right there? That’s how you do it’ (I’m paraphrasing).
  • The safeties weren’t quite as set, but the first team was usually some combination of Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph, and Marcus Gilchrist. The three were switching back and forth from their safety spots so much, it was tough to get a read on exactly what their respective roles will be. That mixing and matching could even be what the role is. Gruden said very little is settled right now.
  • Obi Melifonwu was at practice, but spent most of it glued to the sideline. It wasn’t until they separated the team sessions into first and second teamers on one side and third and fourth teamers on the other that he took the field. Gruden said after practice that Obi doesn’t look close to being ready to go full in team sessions. That could be just injury or more than that.
  • Hopefully the second OTA next Tuesday will give us some more information.