After three days of morning practices, the Raiders switched things up and went with the afternoon practice. On the fourth day, second day in pads, with the sun offering no breaks, Gruden gave some of his veterans a little rest.
It wasn’t a case where they didn’t suit up, so not your standard ‘veteran day off’ situation. They just saw very little work in team sessions while some of the depth guys got more work.
“We have a plan for everybody,” said Gruden of the veterans seeing less work. “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime, if we take the edge off of somebody, it’s a great opportunity for somebody else to take the script and run with it. I saw some guys do that today. But we are going to be very aware of all the reps of all the players and we’re going to take the veteran player into consideration during training camp.”
There are quite a few veterans on the team, so there are quite a few who can use the rest. By the same token, there are a few young players who are hungry to get noticed and either break onto the roster or climb the depth chart.
Among the receiving corps, the top three appear to be set. Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, and Martavis Bryant have those spots. After that there is competition to grab the final 2-3 spots.
If Ryan Switzer wins the slot receiver spot — he is the favorite — that could leave just one roster spot up for grabs.
One young hopeful has shown some impressive ability to go up and grab the ball — rookie seventh round pick Marcel Ateman.
He had a tremendous catch today. It was a back shoulder catch over the top of Dexter McDonald. It was arguably the best catch thus far in camp.
Jon Gruden says Ateman’s been making plays like that every day, though none of stood out like that from my vantage point.
“Ateman makes plays every day,” said Gruden. “What was most impressive about that play was Carr saw him. It was man-to-man, we had a different play called. He saw Marcel in press coverage and he changed the play and he went to him. He knew he had press coverage and he liked the match-up. That’s rare. Where a veteran quarterback calls a rookie’s number with the media here. So, the kid makes a play. Three days in a row he’s gotten behind people and adjusted on a back shoulder, so that’s why we brought him here. He did it at Oklahoma State too.”
That’s definitely Ateman’s game. At 6-4, 216 pounds, he’s a big target. He was drafted to replace Andre Holmes in the role of the towering red zone target. It’s a role the Raiders need filled and there may not be another receiver on the team who can fill it. Thus far, Ateman appears to have a higher ceiling than Holmes (so to speak). He has soft hands and can high point the ball better than Holmes.
Injuries: Jalen Richard joined the walking wounded with a calf strain. Others working on the side were the PUP trio of Donald Penn (foot), Eddie Vanderdoes (knee), and PJ Hall (pec) as well as Cameron Hunt (undisclosed), and Chris Warren III (undisclosed). Gareon Conley (hip) is still out and not expected for a couple weeks.
New addition: Joining the team was undrafted rookie James Butler out of Iowa. He is a Jalen Richard clone, so it makes sense he would be replacing him.
Seeing time at right tackle was Ian Silberman. He has bounced around to every single line position (yes, even center) since he first joined the Raiders last year. Lately, it has been David Sharpe who was the second team right tackle, but while Breno Giacomini was getting some rest with the other veterans, it was Silberman who stepped in while Sharpe remained second team.
The tight ends were working today. From the starters to the hopefuls.
Jared Cook had a couple really nice plays. He made a catch with time running out and and wisely got out of bounds and later reached back to pull in a Connor Cook pass that was behind him on a crossing route.
Derek Carrier and Paul Butler each had a diving catch in drills. Later Butler made a great catch with Emmanuel Lamur all over him. It was a nice pass by Derek Carr which took some great concentration by Butler to pull it in.
Connor Cook had an up and down day. That’s an improvement over his previous days which were mostly a lot of down. He had a perfect throw on an pass in the left flat to Amari Cooper, then followed it up by overthrowing DeAndre Washington on a screen. Later he threw behind Jared Cook and then fit a ball in nicely to tight end Pharaoh Brown.
EJ Manuel still consistently looks like the better quarterback all around. He hit Dwayne Harris with Dexter McDonald all over him and closed practice connecting with Keon Hatcher who was mismatched with linebacker Jason Cabinda.
Several times both quarterbacks tried to get the ball to Johnny Holton and couldn’t do it. Twice on deep routes and both times the ball was a bit too far for him to catch up to it. Haven’t seen much from Holton this camp. He’s going to need to start showing something soon if he is going to distinguish himself in this group.
Big hit of the day came from Shalom Luani who came up to pop new running back James Butler as he came up the gut. Marquel Lee also nailed Derek Carrier on a catch attempt out right. Hit him hard enough, Carrier didn’t get right back up. He laid there for a bit before being helped up by a trainer and walking to the side.
There was a little scuffle today. A couple shoves in pass rush drills between Shakir Soto and Jon Feliciano. First scuffle of any kind I’ve seen this camp. But camp is still young.
Speaking of pass rush, Arden Key got the inside on a spin move on Brandon Parker. Later, in team sessions, Mario Edwards Jr got a sack and Shilique Calhoun even got in for a sack, getting past David Sharpe on an inside move.
Day off tomorrow. The players could use it. I could use it. Gruden said he hopes when the team returns Wednesday, a few of the injured players like Eddie Vanderdoes, PJ Hall, and Jalen Richard will return. We’ll see.