NAPA -- So how did Dennis Allen's first training camp as a head coach go for the Raiders' rookie head man?"I thought it was good work," Allen said after breaking camp with Thursday's practice. "I thought it was good work. I thought we had a chance to get better. Our guys worked extremely hard. We still have a long way to go and a lot of things we have to continue to improve on, but I thought it was a good foundation to build on."Mere coach-speak? Maybe, but what would you expect Allen to say?After all, incomingreturning offensive coordinator Greg Knaap compared the task at hand to a "start-up" company. And, with a new coach, new general manager, new schemes on both offense and defense and, well, a fresh philosophy trickling throughout the organization, you could make a good argument that the Raiders are the equivalent of an expansion franchise...with quality front-line players.And besides, the Raiders had a fairly uneventful camp in Wine Country -- transactions-wise, they only waived nose tackle Travis Ivey, signed linebacker Korey Bosworth and placed linebacker Mario Kurn and receiver Duke Calhoun on injured reserve. And the depth chart chart essentially stayed the same.Of course, there was the scary sight of Mike Goodson being strapped to a gurney, his facemask removed, and being loaded into an ambulance, but in 19 practices the Raiders simply worked. And worked some more."Grueling but fair," defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said of Allen's first camp. "It's been tough, probably the hardest camp I ever did, but I'm in good shape so I don't have no complaints."Especially not with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which did away with two-a-day practices. Allen and his staff still maximized the time available."He found time to make us bust the whole time," Kelly said."It is different. Everything is detailed. Everything's got a plan to it. It ain't just, wait a minute and we'll find out. You know everything. You know what you've got to do, down to the second."And for a team known as being as undisciplined as the Raiders were last year in setting league records for penalties (163) and penalty yards (1,358), accountability in camp is huge."If you want to be a good football team, theres got to be attention to detail," said 12th-year veteran defensive tackle Richard Seymour. "The coaching staff, theyve made it fun, but I...kind of relay it back to the safety belt. Its one of the things that you need (even if) you might not always want to do it. But its one of the things that you have to do if you want to be safe in a car, or take care of business and at the end of the day, winning football games."Seymour said Wednesday night's rookie talent show was the best he's seen since arriving in Oakland in 2009, "which isn't saying a whole lot," he said with a laugh.Details are sparse, though video cameras and a yellow security jacket were utilized...with smiles, of course."I'm excited about where we're headed as a team," Seymour said. "We had some good work, we bonded well."I look at training camp as one of the necessary evils. It's one of those things you have to go through, but at the end of the day, you'll be better for it."Now, we'll see if Oakland can carry that forward as the Raiders prepare for Saturday's preseason gameregular season dress rehearsal against Detroit."I enjoyed it," Allen said. "I think we have a great situation here in Napa. This is, as far as the setup, is the best training camp Ive ever been a part of from that standpoint. The weathers been great, the hotel has been outstanding. Thats been good. I think our work has been good. I was pleased with what we did here in training camp."
The Raiders are razor thin at cornerback, without many bodies or talent they can trust. They were down to three healthy career cornerbacks heading into Sunday’s game against New England, with TJ Carrie, Sean Smith and Dexter McDonald available.
Head coach Jack Del Rio added a new name to the mix. He started second-round safety Obi Melifonwu at cornerback against the high-flying Patriots, an experiment that didn’t work out well.
Melifonwu played 26 snaps at cornerback, where he had been working some in practice since becoming eligible to return off injured reserve. He spent the early season on IR after having arthroscopic knee surgery.
Melifonwu was put in a tough spot, and struggled as a result. He allowed two receptions for 69 yards on four targets, including a 64-yard touchdown to Brandin Cooks where he had his eyes in the backfield when the Patriots speedster blew right by.
This position switch came in Melifonwu’s second NFL game, with just seven defensive snaps under his belt.
Head coach Jack Del Rio admitted it was a move made out of desperation.
“Yeah, a little bit,” Del Rio said after Sunday’s 33-8 loss to New England at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. “We need more production (at cornerback). We're willing to try just about anything and we talked about being lean there and needing more production from that spot.
“(Melifonwu’s) a talented kid and it was probably asking a little too much, but we are going to roll those guys, we rolled our guys in the secondary tonight, and we're going to do that. We have got to do that until somebody starts playing well enough to stay in there full-time.”
The Raiders are in a bind at cornerback with Gareon Conley on injured reserve and David Amerson out three straight games with a foot injury. Demetrius McCray and Antonio Hamilton are also on season-ending injured reserve.
Carrie was a mainstay on Sunday, playing all 60 defensive snaps. Smith took over early, when the Melifonwu experiment wasn’t working out. He played 43 snaps, allowing three catches for 34 yards on five targets. McDonald played just eight snaps.
The Raiders are hoping someone can improve and settle into a full-time spot. The secondary has been thin for some time, but the personnel department has declined to sign anyone new off the street for depth.
That means Del Rio’s staff is still searching for answers at that position from a small pool.
“We're not playing really well on the back end and we have to find a way,” Del Rio said. “And we're going to make it competitive and let guys challenge for it and challenge for time and the guys that play the best are going to play the most.”
Quarterback – Derek Carr 74
Running back – DeAndre Washington 24, Marshawn Lynch 21, Jamize Olawale 14, Jalen Richard 11,
Wide receiver – Amari Cooper 67, Seth Roberts 59, Michael Crabtree 58, Cordarelle Patterson 25, Johnny Holton 13
Tight end – Jared Cook 54, Clive Walford 14, Lee Smith 10
Offensive line – Kelechi Osemele 74, Rodney Hudson 74, Donald Penn 74, Gabe Jackson 74, Vadal Alexander 74
Defensive line – Khalil Mack 53, Mario Edwards 44, Justin Ellis 38, Eddie Vanderdoes 34, Denico Autry 31, Treyvon Hester 24, James Cowser 14
Linebacker – NaVorro Bowman 51, Bruce Irvin 46, Cory James 44, Nicholas Morrow 15, Marquel Lee 9
Cornerback – TJ Carrie 60, Sean Smith 43, Obi Melifonwu 26, Dexter McDonald 8
Safety – Reggie Nelson 60, Karl Joseph 51, Shalom Luani 9
Nicholas Morrow 18, James Cowser 18, Marquel Lee 15, Erik Harris 15, Xavier Woodson-Luster 15, Keith McGill 15, Jamize Olawale 15, Cordarrelle Patterson 13, Dexter McDonald 12, DeAndre Washington 11, Jalen Richard 9, Shalom Luani 9, Lee Smith 7, Khalil Mack 7, Mario Edwards 7, Eddie Vanderdoes 7, Denico Autry 7, Treyvon Hester 7, Jon Feliciano 7, Johnny Holton 6, TJ Carrie 6, Jon Condo 4, Marquette King 4, Karl Joseph 2, Cory James 2, Obi Melifonwu 2, Giorgio Tavecchio 2
DID NOT PLAY
QB EJ Manuel, OT David Sharpe
QB Connor Cook, OT Jylan Ware, DL Jihad Ward, CB David Amerson, LB Shilique Calhoun, RT Marshall Newhouse, DT Darius Latham
Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley will have surgery to repair his injured shin on Monday, a week after he was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
This year’s No. 24 overall pick announced that news in an Instagram post, accompanied by a picture of his young son.
Surgery was always a likely outcome after heading to IR, though the team never formally stated that would occur.
The Raiders believe Conley will return completely healthy for the 2018 campaign, and have high hopes for him as a lock down cover man.
They could certainly use him this season. He was expected to contribute heavily as a rookie, but a shin injury suffered in a June minicamp prevented that from happening. He missed training camp and the entire preseason slate, but eventually made his NFL debut in Week 2. He suffered a setback in a Week 3 game at Washington, and was shut down indefinitely on Oct. 6.
Conley was re-evaluated early last week, and the Raiders didn’t see enough progress to keep him on the 2017 roster.
The Raiders are lacking at cornerback with Conley down and David Amerson dealing with a foot injury.
Head coach Jack Del Rio will speak to the media Monday afternoon, and provide an update on Conley’s procedure.