Summary -- Crowds numbering 1,000 fans each for three weekend practices were gone and the Raiders got back to the business of practicing in front of each other. Referees worked the scrimmages for the second day in a row and right off the bat, the defense was called for jumping offsides as Lamarr Houston, Dominique Hamilton and Travis Goethel were all flagged. Cornerback Ron Bartell, meanwhile, got closer to returning to full practice status after missing most of camp with a hamstring issue. He lined up at left corner for drills in helmets and shorts but once hitting began, he had to leave the field.Offensive play of the day -- Rookie receiver Juron Criner, going from right to left about 15 yards downfield, went horizontal for a Terrelle Pryor pass, and scooped the ball in with one hand. Criner rolled over and lost a shoe, but he held onto the ball for the highlight reel reception.Defensive play of the day -- Michael Huff closed in quick on Rod Streater on the right sideline and arrived just as Carson Palmer's pass did to break up the play. It resembled a tip-drill, though, in that fellow safety Matt Giordano, trailing the play, dived for the ball and scooped it out of the air before it hit the ground for an interception.Injury report -- Defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee), linebacker Aaron Curry (knee), punter Shane Lechler (left knee), running back Taiwan Jones (hamstring) and receivers Eddie McGee (hamstring) and Denarius Moore (hamstring) all sat out practice. Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy, meanwhile, appeared to roll his left ankle and did not finish practice.Notable -- Interesting to note that with Bartell on the field, fellow cornerback Shawntae Spencer, who has been victimized at times in camp, had what appeared to be his best practice of camp.Quotable -- "Reggie Roby, baby. That's what I'm talking about. Go and get yourself a job. Just not here." -- Tommy Kelly, to rookie African-American punter Marquette King, after a particularly booming punt.Eye on reps -- Under-the-radar offensive lineman Kevin Haslam, who signed with the Raiders after a pair of injury-marred seasons in Jacksonville, was the left tackle with the second-team offense on Monday.Extra work -- With Lechler and Jones out, the respective work loads for undrafted rookie punter King and offseason acquisition Mike Goodson have gone up dramatically. King, in particular has been putting in a lot of extra work as the only healthy punter in camp. "He's a young dude, man," coach Dennis Allen said with a grin. "He'll be all right."Coaching moment -- For the first time this camp, the Raiders went with live, to-the-ground tackling. "That was the plan all along," Allen said. "It was a short-yardage session where we wanted to see who would come off the ball and knock people back and who was going to play physical." While the offense won the short-yardage drills, the defense dominated in the third-down session.Next practice -- The Raiders return Tuesday with a 2:20 p.m. practice..
Paul Guenther hasn’t been Raiders defensive coordinator long. He has been in Alameda about a week now, interviewing potential position coaches and pouring over last year’s game tape.
He has some initial impressions on the group that struggled at the start and improved throughout the year. Generally speaking, however, Guenther sees talent on the roster.
“I believe there’s a lot of good players here, a lot of good, young players,” Guenther said Wednesday in a conference call. “You’ve got to get them out and develop them and get them to understand your system. But I think there are a lot of good pieces here for a foundation, for sure.”
Guenther’s system, where it came from and why he brought it to Oakland is a story for another day. Thursday morning, to be precise, so stay tuned for that.
Guenther’s early evaluation of key Raiders, however, supports his statement about a strong foundation. He is most excited, as you’d expect, about working with edge rusher Khalil Mack and several others in silver and black.
Here’s what Guenther said about…
-- DE KHALIL MACK: “Having a talent like that and ability of a guy like that, certainly you want to make it the centerpiece of the defense. We have to continue to develop our younger players to bring those guys up to speed and add people as we go through the draft and free agency. He’s a guy that you can really build a foundation through and around. He’s an exciting guy to be able to coach for sure.”
-- CB GAREON CONLEY: “He was my favorite corner coming out. His ability, he’s smooth in the pedal, he’s a good press corner, which we love to have. I’m excited to work with him.”
-- S OBI MELIFONWU: “Obi is a big guy that when you turn on the tape, you’re like, ‘Man, who is this son of a gun?’ He’s playing half the field, he’s down in the box playing the run.”
-- LB NAVORRO BOWMAN: (an impending free agent): “NaVorro is a prototype middle linebacker, really. The thing that impressed me most with NaVorro is that they got him here midseason and by the end of the year, it appeared to me that he was kind of the leader of the unit, making a lot of calls. You can see that on tape. It looks like he is a smart guy that understands the game. I love smart guys that love playing football. Hopefully we can get him back in the fold and keep him a Raider.”
Quarterback Derek Carr’s stage is set for a giant step forward.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson thinks it happened the moment Jon Gruden became Raiders head coach, though not solely due to the mentor and his proven offensive system. It’s also the 10-year contract formally bringing him back. There’s no telling whether Gruden mans his post a full decade, but an extended stretch is guaranteed.
That in itself, Olson, says, is invaluable to a passer entering his fifth season with a fourth head coach and third offensive scheme.
“Probably more so than anything,” Olson said, “this guy has to get some continuity.”
Gruden will provide that, with Olson a link to Carr’s past. Olson was Raiders offensive coordinator from 2013-14, and guided Carr’s rookie campaign. Quarterback and coordinator worked well together a 3-13 season where the Fresno State alum started every game.
They’ll reunite under Gruden and stick together this time. Olson, after all, signed a four-year deal that’s double the industry standard.
“Derek is going to be in a system now,” Olson said Wednesday in a conference call with local media. “He’s going to be coached by a head coach that’s going to be the play caller. That’s the first time Derek will have an offensive head coach that has a quarterback background and will be hands on with him on a day-to-day basis. I just see that growth curve skyrocketing because of that.”
Carr’s trajectory went straight up from his rookie season with Olson through the next two years – he was a legit MVP candidate in 2016 -- though it markedly dipped during a disappointing 6-10 campaign.
Gruden and Olson are generally charged with fixing an offense with talent but little production last year, though their primary objective remains more specific.
Get Carr back on track.
“Everything we do in this building is going to be about the development of Derek Carr,” Olson said. “The way we script practices, the way we are doing drills, everything that we do is all about the development of the quarterback. That will really speed the development of Derek. More so than anything is that there’s somebody here in place that’s going to make everything that we do and that everyone in the building understand that we grow as Derek Carr grows.”
Olson knows first-hand about Carr’s work ethic and acumen. He has seen athleticism, passing accuracy and a quick release turn football smarts into production. He told Gruden all that following the 2014 season, and believes Carr’s presence was an attraction to take the Raiders job.
“We drafted this guy to be that franchise quarterback," Olson said. "We feel like he has the potential to be that guy that can be here and play for 10 more years. It’s up to us to try and get that out of him. We’ll do everything in our power to make sure that that happens."