Some spots on the Raiders roster are secure. At wide receiver it’s Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and a host of hopefuls looking to prove to Derek Carr that they are worthy of a roster spot.
Hunter Renfrow seems to have the favor of Jon Gruden. He sees most of the first team reps in the slot. Dwayne Harris is a receiver by title, but he makes this roster for his outstanding special teams work as a gunner and return man. That leaves several receivers on the roster battling for a couple open spots.
Three of them in particular had impressive days today. With Antonio Brown still not practicing, some of their work is with the first team which means many of the throws that come their way are from Derek Carr.
First up was undrafted rookie Keelan Doss. Carr saw found him a couple times today. One time Doss went on a corner route and Carr put the ball in a tight window in the zone. Doss made the correction to reach back to get the ball. It’s plays like as well as a long leaping catch he made a couple days that which figure to earn Doss more attention from Carr.
“From his perspective he’s been here a long time and he’s seen receivers obviously come and go, so for me it’s just trying to leave my mark, try to stick here and gain his confidence that I’m here to stay and that starts with coming out here and making plays.”
Next up was last year’s 7th round pick Marcell Ateman. He went on a post pattern, fooling Isaiah Johnson just enough on a double move to get open. Carr was looking his way the whole time and found him for the 25-yard score. He had a couple other nice catches today as well. Gruden had just been talking up the second year receiver the day before.
“We are starting to see others like Marcell Ateman make some plays and my young friend from the Arizona Cardinals, J.J. Nelson, is starting to make some plays in many different situations, so that’s good,” said Gruden.
Nelson is perhaps turning the most heads of the three. The former Cardinals receiver has been making some tough catches and today was no exception. Carr threw a pass behind him on a ball that probably should have been picked off and Nelson snagged it anyway to pick up good yardage.
Perhaps more so than any other receiver on this team, Nelson has gained a lot of reps in the absence of Brown. He has made good use of those reps as well.
“They’re two different players, but one thing you can’t coach is that speed. I think we’ve all seen JJ, man that guy. I’ll never forget the first go ball I threw him. I thought I overthrew it and I left it short about three yards and I was like ‘My Gosh!’ This guy, everyone says he’s fast, but every day that’s a legit 4.2. Watching him run, not only go routes, but I was really not shocked, but surprised with how well his route running was short and intermediate. Usually those fast guys with longer strides, those short routes are kind of harder for them, those quick bursts and turns, which is a lot of coach Gruden’s offense, you’ve got to be a good short area route runner. And he’s been able to do it great . . . not only be that fast guy on the team, but just play receiver and just with the added bonus of his speed.”
Nelson has always been known as a speed guy and he’s been trying to prove that he’s more than that.
“Coach told me he was proud of me during OTA’s because this playbook is, you know, it can be a lot,” said Nelson. “But you can be anywhere, any time, any moment, so I’m out here running routes that I haven’t ran since high school and college. I feel like I’m going pretty good about it.”
With probably just two receiver spots open, these three have been distinguishing themselves, making for probably a tough cut when that time comes.
Catch of the day
It came early. One of the first long passes Derek Carr threw, he found Tyrell Williams at the pylon. Williams had Trayvon Mullen all over him — even drew a flag from the official — but Williams jumped in the air and hauled in the pass, just tapping his toes inbounds for the touchdown.
Defensive play of the day
The two cover linebackers on this team are Brandon Marshall and Nicholas Morrow. Marshall is the first team guy, while Morrow is the team’s nickel linebacker. At the end of the first team session, they ran two plays, both one-on-ones. The first was DeAndre Washington on Marshall. Washington made a move and froze Marshall on the outside, while he made the catch inside and was gone free and clear. The second was Josh Jacobs who tried to fake out Morrow, but Nick didn’t bite. He stayed with Jacobs as he went deep and the pass fell incomplete. Advantage Morrow.
It was AJ Cole’s day to punt again — his third of camp. He and Townsend have been switching off days as the one who gets the bulk of the punting work. Cole had four punts. His first was a high shot that landed just inside the left pylon and kept the ball from going out of bounds or into the end zone. Then he lined up and had an almost identical punt and down from Cole to Harris. Next punt landed inside the five, but bounced into the end zone. The last one was a high punt that was fair caught inside the ten. Cole is in a competition with Townsend for the punting job and he has made a strong push thus far.
The team signed running back Mack Brown and waived offensive lineman Lukayus McNeil.
Antonio Brown is seeing a foot specialist. The Raiders figured he would be back by now, and especially had high hopes for his quick return when he passed his physical and came off of NFI on day two of camp. But thus far he’s only made it past warmups once and missed five days entirely. And with this news, who knows how much longer he will be out.
Tight end Darren Waller did not practice today. Neither did tight end Paul Butler for the second day. That had the Raiders down to three tight ends — Luke Willson, Foster Moreau, and Derek Carrier.
Gabe Wright “tweaked his knee” last week and is still not practicing. Eddie Vanderdoees suffered a concussion on the second day of camp and has yet to return. Quinton Bell has been out just as long but his injury is unknown at this time. And of course Denzelle Good (back) is on PUP and Keith Smith (knee) is still on NFI.