Penn, Raiders offensive line give back in Thanksgiving tradition

Penn, Raiders offensive line give back in Thanksgiving tradition

ALAMEDA – The Raiders made it home from Mexico City in Tuesday morning’s pre-dawn hours. That day was the only chance for players to rest before preparing to face the Carolina Panthers.

Even still, the Raiders offensive line came to the facility.

There was important work to do.

Offensive linemen held an event to give turkeys and all the fixings to needy families, military families and community partners before the Thanksgiving holiday. Players picked up the check for everything given away at an event introduced by left tackle Donald Penn.

Penn started this tradition as a rookie in Tampa Bay, where he and fellow linemen Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood found a way to give back.

“We were looking for a way to impact the community,” Penn said this week. “As an offensive line you’re only as good as the next person, so we wanted to do something as a group.

“It started it then, and tried to feed more families each year. I’m glad they’re still doing it in Tampa and that I could bring it out here with the Raiders.”

It’s become popular in the East Bay, and was appreciated by players new to the tradition.

“It was a great experience,” rookie tackle Vadal Alexander said. “It was gratifying to be able to help families in need and do it as an offensive line. As someone involved with this for the first time, it was really cool.”

Penn was moved by how easy it was to get his teammates to give time and money to this cause.

“There was no hesitation,” Penn said. Everybody was into it and wanted to contribute, which is great that everybody was on board.”

This Thanksgiving tradition has been a fixture throughout Penn’s career, which will hit a major milestone Sunday when he makes his 150th consecutive start.

“I’m blessed,” Penn said. “I started at the bottom (as an undrafted free agent) and worked my way up. I hope people look at it as an example of why you should never count yourself out. I was a low free agent with $5,000 bonus. Hopefully guys look at that and use it as motivation. If they see I did it, that means they can do it, too.”

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.