Under a cool Tuesday morning in Napa, the Raiders took to the practice field for their 13th time this training camp. Among a team filled with huge athletes, it was the little guy that stood out.
One of the surprises from the Raiders preseason opener against the Lions was receiver Griff Whalen taking snaps with the starters while Ryan Switzer played with the second-string offense. That continued Tuesday morning as Whalen was the starting slot receiver with Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper on the outside.
After practice, Derek Carr spoke highly of the veteran receiver.
“I love Griff Whalen,” Carr said. “Every time he makes a catch, I’m hooting and hollering, man I love him. He’s smart, he thinks the same way I do as a quarterback. He will come to me and say, ‘hey I know that this is this signal but what if we did it like this to make it look like this?’ I love this guy, like yes please keep bringing these ideas to me.”
After spending four years with the Colts, Whalen has jumped around the past two seasons appearing in games with both the Chargers and Ravens. He has the physical attributes to be an impact player from the slot, but it is his mental understanding of the game that has impressed Carr.
“He’s someone that can not only do it physically, but from the mental side of things he sees things,” Carr continued. “I made a check on one route yesterday to Jordy (Nelson), and we never went over it but he (Whalen) knew what I was thinking and that he shouldn’t run over there because of the route. Just little things that he does, it’s like wow this guy, he obviously went to Stanford.”
With a similar skill set as Switzer including experience as a returner, Whalen seems to be making a push for the starting job in the slot.
Here are some other notes I took away from practice, with the highlight being Donald Penn’s return from PUP and his transition to right tackle.
- One day after taking a pay cut, Donald Penn returned to the practice field, only at right tackle instead of his usual position on the left side of the offensive line. With 2018 first round pick Kolton Miller as the Raiders left tackle of the future, Gruden does not want to confuse the rookie through a position switch, instead opting to move the veteran Penn to the right side. It will be an interesting storyline to follow as to whether Penn’s move remains permanent.
- For the entirety of team session, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther used Rashaan Melvin exclusively at left cornerback, while Gareon Conley patrolled the right sideline. Both cornerbacks have experience moving across the field during lock-down assignments so perhaps the situation could change based on the opponent, but for now it seems Guenther is keeping each defensive back on one side of the field.
- After an impressive performance Friday night against the Lions, Connor Cook remains the backup quarterback for the time being. Cook took second string snaps, with E.J. Manuel running with the third team.
- Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur snatched an interception from Connor Cook and returned it ten yards for the touchdown. Rookie Nick Nelson also had a great break on a receiver screen and should have intercepted Connor Cook for an easy touchdown except he dropped the pass. Still, it was a nice play by the fourth round pick who is proving to be a potential steal.
- It is clear the Raiders running backs will be much more active in the passing offense, even splitting out at receiver at times. Each of them have showed the ability to effectively catch the ball, giving the offense another dimension and extra versatility.
- After colliding with Rashaan Melvin during Monday’s practice, cornerback Daryl Worley was missing from practice. However, he was spotted in the weight room which is a good sign for the defensive back.
- Also missing was wide receiver Martavis Bryant and second-year safety Obi Melifonwu
- Eddie Vanderdoes, Marcus Gilchrist, Seth Roberts, Jordan Simmons, and Fadol Brown all missed practice and were working on the side of the field working with trainers.