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Raiders training camp day nine report: Depleted secondary has Obi Melifonwu take first team reps

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NFL: Oakland Raiders Rookie Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If you had day nine as the first time Raiders second year safety Obi Melifonwu would get work with the first team in your office pool, congrats on your winnings. Though there may be a few people who claim it’s not a legit win because he didn’t exactly fight his way up the depth chart. The chart forfeited to him.

Coming off a day away, there were as many safeties injured as on the field. Erik Harris didn’t return to practice today from his finger surgery as Gruden had hoped and he was joined by Marcus Gilchrist (foot), Karl Joseph (groin), and Tevin Mitchell. And of course there is also Gareon Conley (hip) not practicing at the corner spot either.

This left just four safeties able to practice: Obi along with Reggie Nelson, Shalom Luani, and Dallin Leavitt.

“It’s tough. It’s very tough,” Gruden said of fielding just four safeties. “In some ways, it helps somebody else get some opportunities. Their versatility is what we’re looking for with the third, fourth and fifth safety. It happens during the season and unfortunately for us, it happened to us in training camp a little too soon.”

That opportunity came for Melifonwu. For once as a Raider, he was among the last men standing when injuries hit. Last season he spent all but five games on the shelf and was placed on injured reserve twice. He got one start and it was at cornerback against the Patriots, so technically speaking, today was the first time in his career he has been the Raiders’ first team safety.

It was the former second round pick Melifonwu and the veteran Nelson who lined up first team with last year’s 7th round pick Luani and rookie Leavitt working second team. Gruden was non-committal about what he saw from Melifonwu.

“I have to look at the film first,” Gruden said of his young safety. “We had a lot of communication, a lot of pre-snap communication. He’s got to recognize formations. He’s got to help talk to the other DB’s, make sure everyone is on the same page. Then he’s got to go out and execute and make some plays. We’re happy to see him healthy number one. To be out there getting a lot of reps, number two. The evaluation process is going to be pretty intense when we go inside.”

What I saw from Obi was a mixed bag, but he did some good things. He has a pass interference on Jared Cook in one-on-ones that drew the ire of his DB coach, who gave him an earful. Then Obi seemed to walk gingerly to the side and lean on his knees. It could be he’s still working through being banged up. He had a play in Saturday’s practice in which he seemed to come up limp a bit, but didn’t leave the field.

In team sessions, he came up to cover Jordy Nelson when Derek Carr was looking that way and Carr threw the ball away. The next play he made the tackle on Jared Cook on a short catch out right.

Obi’s time with the first team is probably short-lived. Like, one day short-lived. Gruden seems to think Gilchrist’s foot injury and Joseph’s groin issue are minor and the two will return Tuesday when the team scrimmages against the Lions. He also said he expects Harris back on the field — all of whom have played ahead of Melifonwu throughout camp.

Either way, Melifonwu should get a good amount of work in the first preseason game on Friday along with many of the depth players as the starters figure to see very little work.

Practice notes:

Other injuries (besides above): Donald Penn (PUP foot), Eddie Vanderdoes (PUP knee), Gabe Jackson (“banged up”), Breno Giacomini (undisclosed), and Brandon Parker (ankle).

DeAndre Washington was not at practice for personal reasons.

New addition: Oakland native cornerback Raysean Pringle joins the team. Shaquille Richardson was cut as well.

Recap:

Arden Key had another great day of camp. Today he did something he’s done several times before and something he had never done. Read more about that here (the twitter reactions are worth it).

Others who got some pressure were Tank Carradine on David Sharpe, Mario Edwards Jr on Cameron Hunt, Shakir Soto on James Stone, Treyvon Hester on Cameron Hunt, and Maurice Hurst splitting a double team between Jordan Simmons and Ian Silberman.

Denver Kirkland held his own in rushes against Hurst and Frostee Rucker. As did Jon Feliciano facing Soto and Justin Ellis.

There were three drops in one-on-ones by Martavis Bryant, Marcell Ateman, and Johnny Holton. The first two just bounced off their hands while Holton’s was a deep ball up the sideline that went right through his hands.

Jordy Nelson caught both his passes in one-on-ones. The first over the middle with Dexter McDonald covering. The other up the right sideline vs Rashaan Melvin in which he put on a vicious dig route to gain a good five yards of separation from Melvin who kept moving upfield. Melvin complained to the official, claiming Nelson pushed off. He may have gave Melvin a nudge, but it looked within rules to me. At very least it wouldn’t be called on the field.

Jared Cook caught both his passes in one-on-ones. The first one Obi was flagged for pass interference and Cook still caught it. Second was on a slant vs Reggie Nelson.

Nick Nelson had a nice play in which he stuck to Ryan Switzer like glue despite Switzer putting on a series of moves and the pass would fall incomplete. That was easily Nelson’s best play as the rookie gave up catch to Griff Whalen on a cross and was flagged for holding on Dwayne Harris.

Isaac Whitney had a good series in one-on-ones. Shareece Wright was called for interference on him and he may have aided in that call being made by driving into him to ensure contact continued after five yards. Later he had a catch on the new guy Raysean Pringle.

Daryl Worley gave up catches on both his chances in one-on-ones. First to Amari Cooper on a slant and then to Saeed Blacknall.

Antonio Hamilton also gave up catches on both his reps, first to Keon Hatcher on a comeback route, and later to Martavis Bryant up the left side.

Tomorrow the Lions are in town for two days of scrimmages before they face each other in the first game of the preseason on Friday. With the game coming, the Raiders released their first depth chart. Check that out here.