Raiders minicamp observations: Del Rio's pop quiz adds pressure to practice

Raiders minicamp observations: Del Rio's pop quiz adds pressure to practice

ALAMEDA – The Raiders are nearing the end of their offseason program, with but a few practices left before they break until training camp. New guys and returners have worked to build chemistry and play faster within the schemes.

Head coach Jack Del Rio gave his charges a pop quiz to conclude Tuesday’s practice, the first of a three-day mandatory minicamp. He gave offensive players less than two minutes. A touchdown was required. May the best unit win.

The first-team offense face some resistance, but a long bomb to Amari Cooper brought the ball downfield and allowed Derek Carr to find Jared Cook with a quick strike in the end zone.

The second unit used similar methods of transport, with Johnny Holton hauling in a deep shot that helped eventually put backup Connor Cook in position to throw a short touchdown pass to Jaydon Mickens. The third unit reached the red zone but couldn’t cross the goal line before time expired.

Del Rio likes creating competition in practices. He also wanted to see how his players and coaches reacted at this stage of the offseason when pressure was turned on.

“We’ll choreograph many of these situations we want to put our team in,” Del Rio said. “Today was an example of that…To be able to simulate as best we can the mental work for the players and coaches as well with communication coming in from the sideline, that’s all vitally important. It’s a step in the process of developing a team and preparing your team to thrive in those situations.”

The Raiders were pretty good under pressure on both sides of the football last seasons. Carr had seven fourth-quarter comebacks, several of which the defense saved with clutch play down the stretch.

Here are some other notes from Tuesday’s minicamp practice:

-- The Raiders need more of an internal pass rush this season. The Raiders are hoping seventh-round rookie Treyvon Hester might help with that. The defensive tackle from Toledo received from first-team reps on Tuesday as coaches see how he fared against better competition. There’s much more left to evaluate as pads come on in training camp and exhibitions increase competition, but Del Rio sees potential in Hester.

“He’s done a good job,” Del Rio said. “For all the big guys, it’s more about what we do when we get the pads on. It looks like he has a natural ability to rush inside, interior push. Look forward to seeing that with pads.”

-- Amari Cooper made a pair of excellent deep catches on Tuesday, with one against Sean Smith and the other versus David Amerson. Johnny Holton caught a pair of long passes with the second unit.

-- Tyrell Adams and Cory James continue taking first-team reps at inside linebacker spots. Marquel Lee and Jelani Jenkins manned the second team.

-- CB TJ Carrie was the first-team slot cornerback, with Gareon Conley continuing that work on the second team.

-- Fourth-round rookie David Sharpe continues to see significant snaps at right tackle, especially with Austin Howard and Marshall Newhouse sidelined with injury.

-- Offensive guard/center Jon Feliciano continues to miss time after suffering an apparent knee injury in an OTA session last week. Defensive linemen Darius Latham, Jihad Ward and Fadol Brown missed Tuesday’s session.

Report: Raiders bring Reggie Nelson back


Report: Raiders bring Reggie Nelson back

Reggie Nelson has been on a reunion tour since signing with the Raiders. He first worked under Jack Del Rio, his head coach in Jacksonville and someone who choose to make him 2007’s No. 21 overall draft pick.

That link held for two years. Then Del Rio got run out in favor of Jon Gruden and Nelson hit the free-agent market. The 34-year old – he’ll be 35 in September – wasn’t expected back after a down year in 2017.

Another blast from the past created a road back to Oakland, where he reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Raiders. NFL Network reported news of Nelson’s pact.

Nelson thrived, with 23 interceptions and 62 passes defensed during six seasons in Cincinnati. New Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was linebackers coach and then Bengals DC (for two years) during Nelson’s time in the Queen City.

Nelson had five picks in 2016, his first year with Oakland, but seemed to slow down some last season. He had 60 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception in 2017.

Nelson will help teach a system familiar to him but foreign to most Raiders, but will certainly angle for steady snaps despite increased competition at his spot. 

He’ll compete for snaps at safety despite last week’s signing of Marcus Gilchrist, expected to take his spot, though it might be an uphilll climb. Gilchrist and Joseph should still be expected to start next season. The Raiders also have Obi Melifonwu at that position, though the second-year pro must earn a role in this defense. The other three have starter’s experience and will compete for that opportunity. Gilchrist also has experience covering the slot, which could help the secondary if a career cornerback isn't found to fill that role. 

Aldon Smith back in custody after police say he violated restraining order


Aldon Smith back in custody after police say he violated restraining order

SAN FRANCISCO — Former Oakland Raiders player Aldon Smith surrendered to police Friday on charges he violated a domestic violence restraining order.

San Francisco police said the 28-year-old Smith turned himself and was booked on three misdemeanor charges of violating a court order to stay away from a domestic violence victim.

Earlier this month, Smith pleaded not guilty to domestic violence and other charges and a judge issued a protective order prohibiting him from contacting the victim.

Police said Smith violated the restraining order earlier this week.

Smith’s attorney, Joshua Bentley, did not return a voicemail message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The Raiders released the linebacker days after his arrest on the domestic violence charges.

He had been on the suspended list since late 2015 for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse.