The Oakland Raiders held their rookie mini-camp this weekend and media was invited to attend Saturday’s practice to get their first look at this year’s draft class and un-drafted rookies that were signed afterwards.
Players split up into their respective groupings for individual drills prior to partaking in team activities on the main field.
One player that stuck out on the field today was cornerback and 12th-overall draft pick D.J. Hayden. Hayden continued to use exceptional footwork to keep up with the receiver in and out of their breaks. Hayden made a nice break on a ball along the sideline for a nice pass defensed, but still felt as if he should have done more.
“It helped put me at ease because it’s just production. As long as I keep making production I feel like I can get better and just make plays,” the 22-year-old cornerback said. “When I made the little play, I was happy, but I should’ve caught it. You know, there’s always room for improvement.”
After suffering a near-death injury suffered in practice last season, Hayden feels right back at home back on the gridiron and doesn’t think about the freak accident that occurred.
“It feels so great just to get back out there and put the helmet back on and just actually be on the field in practice. It felt good, real good,” Hayden said.
With the veterans not yet in camp, fourth round draft pick quarterback Tyler Wilson saw plenty of time on the field and looked to have a strong arm and put plenty of zip on the ball. Wilson found wide receiver Brice Butler on a couple of occasions, who used his hands nicely on receptions.
“We’re learning all these new plays, this new lingo. It’s tough,” the 23-year-old quarterback out of Arkansas said. “I think the first day and a half we’ve been out here, getting in and out of the huddle has probably been the biggest thing. It’s not throwing and catching, that’s pretty easy, but it’s just learning everything and piecing everything together.”
Wilson recognizes that the Raiders present him with a chance to earn the starting quarterback position, though he still has plenty of work ahead of him.
“It’s an opportunity and obviously there’s a lot I have to learn,” Wilson said. “It’s one of the things you to dive in and really attack and I’ve got a lot of work to do to get up to speed because there’s been veteran guys that’ve been here and are way ahead of me right now. So I’m playing catch up. I do think I can bring some things to the table skills set wise, but again, I’m playing catchup at this point. I’m going to use this opportunity to compete like heck.”
Linebacker Sio Moore, out of the University of Connecticut, has quickly become a favorite Raider Nation after stating that the team just drafted the best linebacker in the draft and that nobody would outwork him. Moore was drafted in the third round by Reggie McKenzie.
Head coach Dennis Allen has liked what he has seen from Moore after seeing him lined up at a variety of positions throughout practices, including with his hand down on third downs trying to get at the quarterback with his speed on the edge.
“We let him rush a little bit today. He’s played the WILL linebacker, we’ve played him at the SAM linebacker. His ability to understand multiple positions has been good,” Allen said of Moore’s versatility. “He’s a guy, like I said after we drafted him: he loves football. He loves football. He wants to work; he wants to get better. He’s a guy that I just think is going to get better as he gets comfortable with the scheme.”
Moore relishes the idea of being moved around the field and being asked to perform multiple duties, but knows he has to work on getting the details right every time.
“Man, I love it. I love it,” Moore said of Jason Tarver’s defensive scheme. “They give me an opportunity to do a little bit of everything and right now it’s just learning it all and really being exact and that’s the thing I’ve picked up the most: everything is about being exact and perfect.”
Moore also mentioned that he received advice from fellow former UConn Husky and now Raiders safety Tyvon Branch Friday.
“I talked to Tyvon yesterday and he just told me the same thing: stick to your playbook and work, when the veterans come out here, the stuff that we’re learning now is going to be like the back of your hand so as rookies we need to try and take it all in and try to be close to where they’re at,” Moore said.
Much of Raider Nation and media alike didn’t know much about running back Latavius Murray when the Raiders selected him in the sixth round, but he may quickly make a name for himself.
With an injury-prone Darren McFadden ahead of him, Murray has an opportunity to earn some playing time as a rookie. Murray runs upright much like McFadden and has surprising speed for his 6-foot-two, 223-pound frame. Also like McFadden, he has tremendous hands and looked like a natural catching the ball out of the backfield, including a tremendous one-handed catch on a screen play during practice.
“It’s just kind of a bonus that I bring to the table, a strength of mine,” Murray said of his pass-catching abilities. “I just got to make sure I go out there and make sure it’s something I’m comfortable doing – which it is – and just bring it to the field everyday.”
But Murray knows he he can’t get comfortable and that there is always a part of his game that he can work on improving.
“Overall, I just got to get better as a player,” Murray said. “I have to come out here and get better every day and work on the little things. I think there’s always room to improve, so that’s my focus everyday.”
The rookies have one more practice on Sunday before the veterans come to camp. The media will have their next day during the team’s Organized Team Activities next weekend, on May 20.