Mack: Players shouldn't waste 'lottery ticket' during Raiders summer break

Mack: Players shouldn't waste 'lottery ticket' during Raiders summer break

ALAMEDA – The Raiders are officially on summer break. Their offseason program wrapped with a Thursday afternoon minicamp practice, an easier affair where top units rarely left the sideline.

Reserves got extra work. Healthy starters remained that way.

The Raiders concluded nine solid weeks of strength and conditioning, positional work, OTAs and a three-day mandatory minicamp.

Head coach Jack Del Rio believes his team made great strides this spring. Now he doesn’t want any setbacks. He told them so Thursday before setting them free until training camp in late July.

His message, as relayed in a post-practice press conference: “You have to take ownership of this time in the next five weeks to do the right things. Getting ready, get your body ready. Recharge your batteries a little bit. But two, stay out of trouble. Be safe. Make good decisions. That’s what we expect of our guys all the time, but just a reminder. This time of year, more occurrences than ever happen this time of year. Just don’t take any liberties. Don’t take any chances. Don’t take anything for granted. Appreciate where we are and the opportunity that we have and remember that it’s all about the team.”

The general issued clear, direct instructions. His defensive captain reinforced it.

Khalil Mack applied some peer pressure, making sure his guys understood the importance of being responsible.

“When you think about it you have a lottery ticket in your hand,” Mack said. “I tell all the defensive guys that, I take all of the defensive line that. You have a lottery ticket in your hand. You can’t trick it off on doing something stupid in the town messing with this and that. It’s all about being focused and remembering that lottery ticket that you got in your hand is that opportunity that you have to play and do great things and represent your last name.”

Raiders players have done a good job of that in recent years. They haven’t had an arrest since Kory Sheets in 2013. Another clean sheet would help carry positive momentum toward the offseason.

Continues health would also do that. The Raiders have a few players on the shelf. Marshall Newhouse, Austin Howard, Jihad Ward, Darius Latham, Jon Feliciano and Gareon Conley have missed practice recently, but Del Rio didn’t hopes to have the entire roster healthy for the start of training camp.

“Hopefully, yeah,” Del Rio said. “If we have a productive next five weeks, I think that’d be the case.”

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”

Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini


Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini

The Raiders need help at right tackle, the lone vacancy along their offensive line. They signed a veteran presence on Thursday afternoon, adding 32-year old Breno Giacomini as the frontrunner to join the starting five.

He has 86 starts in 94 career games, and has been a full-time starter three of the last four years. Giacomini spent 2017 in Houston and the previous three seasons with the New York Jets.

He was a Seattle Seahawk before that, working with Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable for three of his four years there. Cable gave Giacomini his first chance to start in the second half of 2011, and held the post through 2012.

The bond between the two is clearly strong, considering what Giacomini tweeted shortly after Cable got fired in Seattle.

Coach and player will reunite, hoping to provide steadiness on the right side of the Raiders offensive line.

He’ll compete for a starting spot with Vadal Alexander, second-year pros David Sharpe and Jylan Ware and possibly a drafted player. Giacomini should be considered the favorite unless the Raiders use an early pick on an offensive lineman.

Giacomini has plenty of starts, but his Pro Football Focus numbers aren’t pretty. The analytics says he allowed nine sacks, eight quarterback hits and 64 pressures with Houston last year. He had some decent years under Cable, and a return to that form might push him into the starting lineup for good. Time will tell on that front.