The Oakland Raiders returned to their Napa, Calif. practice field without pads for their first practice after having the day off on Wednesday.
Many of the players injured during the last week have yet to return to the field, with the exception of defensive tackle Vance Walker who was back on Thursday. Joining the injury list was defensive back Brandian Ross and defensive end Lamarr Houston. Head coach Dennis Allen says these injuries occur but stressed the importance to get his team healthy and back practicing.
“It’s part of training camp,” Allen said of the injuries. “But anytime you have injuries there’s a concern because this is the time that you develop your football team. So, we need these guys out here and we need them to get rehabbed and get out here as soon as possible.”
Tight end David Ausberry continues to have a nice camp and has been able to create separation on a variety of defenders. The third-year tight end used a nice double move on veteran safety Charles Woodson to get separation and haul in a deep pass that was placed nicely by Terrelle Pryor.
Another tight end that impressed today was rookie tight end Mychal Rivera. Rivera used a nice move on a deep post route that shook safety Usama Young and left him wide open for the deep reception. When drafting him, Allen knew Rivera could catch but the second-year coach has been pleased with what he has seen in the blocking game thus far.
“Rivera’s one guy as a rookie that’s come in and done a nice job,” Allen said. “He’s got a great feel for the passing game. One of the question marks of him coming in is ‘how well is he going to do as a blocker?’ and he’s really responded and done a nice job as far as that’s concerned.”
After losing Brandon Myers in the offseason, Allen is looking for a new starting tight and knows the team is better off when a player can haul in passes and block at the position.
“The more versatile they can be, the better off we’re going to be,” Allen said. “The tight end position is one of those which you’re part offensive lineman and you’re part wide receiver. So, they’re ability to be versatile for us when we need to run the ball and when we need them in pass protection they’ve got to be able to step up and do their job. And when we get a chance to throw the ball down the field to them, they’ve got to go make plays for us.”
Just a day after Allen stated that the team didn’t have any clear-cut number one receiver, Denarius Moore had a great practice, catching everything thrown his way. Moore made a great play leaping up and attacking the ball at the highest point to haul in a ball by Matt Flynn over Woodson and cornerback Tracy Porter. Allen had previously said that this is one thing he would like to see from Moore.
“I thought Denarius Moore made a great play down at the boundary,” Allen said of the play. “Those are the types fo plays that we expect out of him. I think he’s responding to the challenge.”
The Raiders would like to see Moore return to the play he provided at the beginning of last season before having a rough second half.
Though it is early in camp and his team hasn’t hit the field for even an exhibition game, Allen likes the way his team is developing.
“I said it before: I like this team,” Allen said. “I like their mindset. I like their mentality – they way they go about their business. We’re going to be a tough, physical football team and we’re going to be a mentally-tough team. That’s the challenge I’ve put forth to this team and they’ve responded.”
A couple things of note:
- Taiwan Jones, who was converted from running back to cornerback in the offseason, had a nice practice with a couple of solid defensive plays. The speedster was able to keep up with Greg Jenkins every step down the right sideline and stayed on his hip to force Matt McGloin’s throw long and out of Jenkins’ reach. A couple of plays later, Jones made a nice dive to defend a pass thrown by Pryor to rookie wide receiver Brice Butler.
- Jack Crawford has been relatively quiet for much of camp but had consecutive plays today in which it appeared he would have had the sack if they were allowed to tackle. The Raiders could use all of the pass rush they can get after finishing 31st in the league last season with just 25 tackles.
- Coach once again stated that it would be a “doctor’s decision” on when rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden would be able to remove the red jersey and return to full-contact drills.
- New middle linebacker Nick Roach had a couple of nice plays, maintaining his gap and making the running back bounce outside and limiting the gain. He later made a nice play and almost intercepted a ball by Matt Flynn to Moore, which shouldn’t have been thrown.
- Rookie linebacker Sio Moore made a nice defensive play by defending a pass to fullback Jon Hoese. Moore shook his head in a “Dikembe Mutombo” like manner. A couple of plays later, coaches matched him up against star running back Darren McFadden who beat him easily for the reception.
- An quote from Dennis Allen that some may find interesting: “No, I think [Stefen Wisniewski] done a nice job at the center position. Everything at this point that we’re working on is Wiz as our starting center and he’s done a nice job there.” Many asked if it would be possible to put newly-acquired Andre Gurode at center and move Wiz back to left guard, where he played his rookie year. It does not appear that is going to be the case, as of now at least.
- Former Raiders offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy was in attendance watching practice on Thursday. Kennedy took some time after practice to talk technique with current Raiders offensive linemen including Jared Veldheer, Khalif Barnes and rookie Menelik Watson.
The Raiders return to the practice field on Friday at 9:20 a.m.
You can listen to Dennis Allen’s full press conference below: