Raiders

Raiders unleash grand plans for 'real weapon' Cordarrelle Patterson

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USATSI

Raiders unleash grand plans for 'real weapon' Cordarrelle Patterson

The Raiders offense set up with three receivers bunched right, one wide left and a tight end on the line. Quarterback Derek Carr was alone in the backfield, at least until he invited a friend.

Cordarrelle Patterson motioned alongside him. It wasn’t to protect Carr. The fifth-year receiver’s number got called … as a running back.

The New York Jets weren’t flat-footed on this change of pace late in Sunday’s third quarter. They had linebackers standing ready to choke off the interior. Rodney Hudson and Kelechi Osemele blazed a trail anyway.

Patterson followed that lead, made a safety miss and hit warp speed. Nobody can catch Patterson at that pace. He slowed down near the goal line, needing one final burst and Seth Roberts to hold a block to secure the 43-yard score.

Patterson didn’t stop there. He headed straight for the Black Hole to celebrate with hardcore fans.

“I jumped up in the crowd, but they tried to steal the football from me,” Patterson said after a 45-20 victory at Oakland Coliseum. “I held on tight, and focused on ball security so they wouldn’t take it. I brought it back with me, and have it right here in my locker.”

Patterson wants a souvenir collection. That’s the main reason he signed with Oakland this offseason. Everyone wants an All-Pro kick returner. 

Patterson wanted to be more than that. The Raiders promised more offensive involvement. 

“We sold him on some of the things we’d be excited about doing,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Showed him specific examples of plays being run that we’d utilize him in, ideas we had to utilize him with. When he got here we started working on it.”

Getting involved in unorthodox ways meant Patterson really had to hit the books. He learned most every receiver position, in case he had to step in for Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree or even slot man Seth Roberts. Then there were gadget plays and rushing opportunities to be mastered.

That touchdown run was an example of extensive practice paying off. The Raiders believed a touchdown could come from an empty backfield formation leading to a run behind excellent blockers. Executing it right was key.

That will be important for new wrinkles featuring Patterson thrown in to game plans throughout the season.

“We’ve got some things that we’re going to do with him. We’re excited,” Del Rio said. “We think he’s a real weapon, we think he’s a strong, physical, fast guy. We look to get him involved. I think it’s gone beautifully the way it’s developed. He’s had to work at it. There’s a lot of learning on his part, to understand how to be in different positions, how to line up, how to get the play call, how to know what the responsibility is. He’s involved in all phases, touching the ball a bunch of different ways, blocking a lot of different ways, running routes a lot of different ways, so a lot of responsibility on his part as well. For us to develop him, for him to embrace and grow in those areas and he’s done a great job of it. I credit him and I credit the staff working hard with him.”

Patterson is comfortable as a Swiss Army Knife, a gadget player, or whatever you want to call him. He remains a receiver by trade, despite finishing Sunday’s win with three carries for 57 yards and a touchdown, with but just a six-yard catch to his name.

Rushing certainly works for the 6-foot-2, 220-pound track star. He has five touchdowns in 35 career rushes with an 11.3-yard average. He might not be a conventional back but he’ll burn you from time to time.

Patterson, for his part, doesn’t care how he gains possession.

“I want the ball in my hands. It makes no difference how I get it,” he said. “I always think I’m going to score. It’s no different if I catch it, return it or it gets handed to me. I believe I’m going to make something happen.”

Gruden addresses Conley, Melifonwu and Worley, Carr stays in touch with Mack

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AP

Gruden addresses Conley, Melifonwu and Worley, Carr stays in touch with Mack

ALAMEDA – Top 2017 draft picks Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu haven’t been fully cleared to practice during the Raiders offseason program.

Head coach Jon Gruden said Tuesday the defensive backs are nearing a return, though they didn’t participate much during the start of this week’s voluntary minicamp.

Conley, a cornerback drafted No. 24 overall, is recovering from shin surgery last winter. Melifonwu, a second-round safety, is on the mend after hip surgery.

“They participated in the morning session, the walk-through,” Gruden said. “They did some of the individual work this afternoon. They’re real close, but for obvious reasons, we’re being careful with them this early in the process.”

Conley is being counted on to start at outside cornerback, while Melifonwu must earn a role in a crowded safety group featuring Karl Joseph, Marcus Gilchrist and Reggie Nelson.

Raiders comfortable signing Worley

Cornerback Daryl Worley was practicing Tuesday, a day after signing with the Raiders. The Eagles released him following an April incident that resulted in charged of DUI, weapons possession and resisting arrest, among other things. That happened shortly after acquiring him in trade from Carolina.

The 2016 draft pick and West Virginia alum has started 25 games in two professional seasons, and could contribute if his off-field troubles don’t result in criminal punishment or an NFL suspension.

Gruden said the Raiders were comfortable bringing him aboard.

“Well we looked into it, and obviously it was an unfortunate matter,” Gruden said. “We have a lot of intel on Worley with Karl Joseph here who was his teammate at West Virginia. Bruce Irvin played at West Virginia. We have a lot of insight in him. Talked to some of his previous coaches. We think he deserves another chance. We’re happy to give him one. I think he’s learned his lesson. He has to prove that. And he can help us if he’s right.”

Mack stays away

Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack was absent from Tuesday’s practice, and isn’t expected to show up in Alameda until a big-money contract extension is complete. Gruden didn’t have an update on Mack, focusing instead on players in Alameda.

Quarterback Derek Carr has been in regular contact with Mack and understands from his own contract extension last year what his friend is going through waiting to secure his future.

“I know the feelings. I know the emotions, while still getting ready for a season,” Carr said. “I’ve been in contact with him to make sure his emotions are good, making sure he’s good, that we’re here and we love him. I don’t want him to be worried about any of that.”

Jon Gruden's presence felt during first practice back with Raiders

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AP

Jon Gruden's presence felt during first practice back with Raiders

ALAMEDA – Raiders practices have a soundtrack. Hip-hop typically blared during on-field sessions run by Jack Del Rio, with music designed to sustain intensity.

The backbeat faded once Del Rio left town, but there’s a new sound stimulating work rates.

Jon Gruden’s voice.

That was clear Tuesday afternoon, during his first practice since taking over (a second time) as Raiders head coach. He doesn’t speak nonstop, but can be clearly heard across the field when sending out instructions, critiques or motivational salvos.

Gruden revved up as practice began, just telling his offense how he wants to huddle. It took off from there, but not just with volume. There was substance and purpose, even in a brief window open to the press.

“The energy level he brings is amazing, and somehow he’s consistent with it day in and day out,” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “That’s impressive. It’s fun, and I think we’ll feed off of that. That’s part of the reason why we were successful today and our tempo was good. He’s bringing the energy, and it feeds down to us.”

Motivation isn’t the only goal. He’s often testing his charges, as he did to quarterback Derek Carr on Tuesday.

“We tried to give him some audibles and different situations on the very first day,” Gruden said. “He was all over it…Derek didn’t blink.”

Carr has only possessed Gruden’s playbook a few weeks now, but Gruden was testing his field general to see how much he learned and retained.

“He tried to get me, to see if I was listening to him in the meetings,” Carr said. “We had a lot of fun out there. It’s fun to accept his challenge, do well and then wink at him or something like that. We have fun together because we know we have the same goal in mind. We’re putting the ship in the water and then we want to hit this thing running.”

Carr passed with flying colors. Count Gruden among the impressed.

“I got really excited out there. You can have a really creative imagination out there with that guy as your quarterback,” Gruden said. “He can make every throw. The ball comes out fast, and he’s accurate. He’s mobile. He’s sharp. He’s a great leader.”

The first of three minicamp practices was a pop quiz of sorts. He wanted things run at a moderate pace, to see how players reacted under some stress.

Gruden’s volume and intensity wasn’t the only new addition. The Raiders have added to large video boards to the practice field, allowing players to review practice reps right after they happen. Gruden said he took the idea from Jim Harbaugh, who uses video boards at the University Michigan. The Miami Dolphins took them from the Wolverines, and Gruden saw them while broadcasting for ESPN. That’s an example of how Gruden’s recent past shapes how he’ll coach nine years after his previous stint.

It had been a long time since Gruden ran a practice, and the moment, however insignificant in the grand scheme, was not lost on him.

“I came back to coach,” Gruden said. “I’m excited to be here. I take it as a serious responsibility, and the practice field has always been a laboratory for a coach. That’s where we earn our pay. We have to develop this team. We have to learn a lot about them quickly. We have a lot of things to teach, and a lot of areas to improve. It was fun to be out there, but I don’t want to get too deep or philosophical about it. I might start crying.

Laughter followed that last line, which he has used in various forms since his last coaching stint. Gruden was comfortable back in his element, excited to be coaching the Raiders again with his own unique style.