Raiders ready to mold 'very gifted' versatile chess piece Melifonwu

Raiders ready to mold 'very gifted' versatile chess piece Melifonwu

Obi Melifonwu can cover ground quickly. That was evident Friday during the only Raiders rookie minicamp practice open to the media, when the second-round safety stood out in coverage.

Great range is a trait expected of someone with 4.4 speed and strides from long 6-foot-4 frame. Melifonwu has it. There’s no denying that.

He isn’t just a cover man. He can hit, and is rarely engaged in a disadvantageous matchup.

The Raiders want to use his tools to great effect, and will spend the offseason program determining how to use him best.

“He’s very gifted. He has a good head on his shoulders,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He comes in, and he’s just trying to soak up our system right now. Athletically, he’s very blessed. He has height, weight and speed that you look for. Athleticism, changing direction and then he’ll come up and hit you. We like the tape. We think he’s a good football player and we’re happy to start working with him.”

Melifonwu is a versatile chess piece that can be moved around the board a bit. He primarily played strong safety at Connecticut, but has experience covering deep at free safety. Many believe he can be a safety/linebacker hybrid in sub packages, with the tools required to cover running backs and tight ends.

Covering those positions has been a sore spot in recent years, one the Raiders hope Melifonwu can remedy right away. He joins a position group featuring Pro Bowler Reggie Nelson and 2016 first-round pick Karl Joseph, but the Raiders can get creative with his use even if the aforementioned players retain starting spots.

Melifonwu knows he won’t earn a role on athleticism alone. He must learn the Raiders defensive scheme and his role within it, an important task at Raiders minicamp and after joining the veterans for the offseason program.

“I think at this next level, as a young guy coming in, the quicker you can learn the playbook and the scheme, the quicker you can get on the field and the faster you can play,” Melifonwu said. “Right now I’m just focused on learning the playbook and focused on what I can do to help the team.”

The Raiders spent draft capital trying to improve pass defense in the present and future, using a second-round pick on Melifonwu and a first-rounder on former Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley.

Conley will compete for a starting spot but could play slot cornerback right away and Melifonwu could see significant snaps, meaning two rookies might play important roles in this pass defense.

That point isn’t lost on this highly-touted pair, who were brought together during the Raiders rookie minicamp.

“He’s actually my roommate,” Melifonwu said. “He’s a cool guy, a guy that loves football. We talked a little bit about it yesterday. We’re really excited to play together.”

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.