Carr throwing dimes, defensive takeaways keep coming during Day 2 of Raiders minicamp

Carr throwing dimes, defensive takeaways keep coming during Day 2 of Raiders minicamp

ALAMEDA – The Raiders defense loves to celebrate every takeaway. Even if the play doesn’t end in a return for touchdown, defenders congregate around their thieves to honor a turnover created.

That has been happening all offseason, and the offense responded several times during Wednesday’s minicamp practice, boisterously celebrating touchdowns.

There was plenty of cause for celebration on both sides in this practice, and a sign that competition has ramped up between units as Jon Gruden and staff would like.

The Raiders have one more practice set for Thursday morning, before the offseason program comes to a close. Here are some observations from the Silver and Black’s penultimate practice.

-- Quarterback Derek Carr was on target during Wednesday’s practice, with a few excellent throws both deep and short. The Raiders’ signal caller has responded well to the curveballs Gruden has thrown his way, and has found favorable matchups before delivering the ball.

Gruden singled out the first unit on Tuesday, with more evidence of improved cohesion Wednesday afternoon.

Carr found Ryan Switzer for a touchdown strike, and Martavis Bryant and Amari Cooper deep on a few occasions. He worked the ball into tight spots, and used tight ends and fullbacks well. Another strong day and Carr can end offseason program on a high note.

-- Coordinator Paul Guenther has his players focused on creating takeaways this offseason, and his charges have done so regularly during practices open to the media. The defense got three on Wednesday, with interceptions from Erik Harris and Dallin Leavitt and a fumble recovery by Leon Hall.

The aforementioned damage was done with reserve quarterback Connor Cook on the field, as the third-year pro continued to struggle some. Fellow backup EJ Manuel wasn’t perfect either, with two fumbled snaps.

-- Bryant is plain fast. And plays to his 6-foot-5 frame. Raiders defensive backs had a tough time covering him, especially downfield. Timing between him and Carr remains a work in progress, as the quarterback tries to maximize Bryant’s straight-line speed.

-- Cornerback Gareon Conley missed Wednesday practice after apparently getting hurt the day before. The Ohio State product started Tuesday’s work but didn’t participate in many team drills.

Gruden said after Tuesday’s work he thought Conley was okay.

Daryl Worley replaced Conley in the first-team secondary.

-- Left tackle Donald Penn was limited to individual drills in practice, as he has been all offseason. Kolton Miller and David Sharpe split time with the first unit.

Penn was seen working with bands and doing backwards blocking movements with strength and conditioning staff in practice.

Also, cornerback Nick Nelson (knee) and Eddie Vanderdoes (knee) ran on the side during practice. Right tackle Breno Giacomini (undisclosed injury) missed practice, with Ian Silberman working as the first-team right tackle.

-- The Raiders are admittedly throwing a ton at Miller this offseason, trying to prepare him mentally for the rigors of this scheme. He missed an assignment on Wednesday that allowed Arden Key to earn an easy simulated sack, and offensive line coach Tom Cable used it as a teaching moment. He didn’t yell, but corrected the mistake before moving on.

“We like Kolton Miller a lot,” Gruden said Tuesday. “What we’re doing with him right now with all the audibles, all the check-with-me’s, the different speeds we’re playing with, it’s taxing on a young guy. He’s an underclassman out of UCLA and hasn’t really been in a huddle very often. He is a great athlete. He’s done a hell of a job for us.”

-- James Cowser, a reserve edge rusher in past seasons, moved to linebacker this offseason.

-- Fullback Keith Smith showed solid receiving skill on a few receptions from Carr, adjusting to passes well and in stride. That will be important in Gruden’s fullback-friendly offensive scheme.

Arden Key signs, entire Raiders 2018 draft class now under contract


Arden Key signs, entire Raiders 2018 draft class now under contract

The Raiders drafted nine players back in April. Now they’re all under contract.

Third-round edge rusher Arden Key was the last to ink his rookie deal, putting pen to paper on a four-year rookie deal Friday morning.

Key will make an estimated $3.57 million over the league of the deal with a $834k signing bonus, per athletic salary site

The current collective bargaining agreement and its rookie wage scale makes signing draft picks far easier, with little wiggle room to negotiate deals.

The Raiders locked up their last rookie the day after the offseason program’s conclusion. NFL teams largely go quiet during this time, until training camps begin in late July.

The Raiders are excited about Key’s potential. The LSU product believes he’s a first-round talent who dropped due to off-field concerns and a drop in his 2017 production over the previous year.

Key has flashed great athleticism, quickness and bend. He could make an immediate impact as a third edge rusher behind Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.

“Arden Key,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said, “has got some special pass-rush ability.”

Reports: Raiders WR Martavis Bryant's standing with NFL in question

Reports: Raiders WR Martavis Bryant's standing with NFL in question

The Raiders gave up significant draft capital to acquire receiver Martavis Bryant. The trade cost a third-round pick, something the Silver and Black were willing to sacrifice for a game-breaking talent missing from their arsenal.

They might've traded for a player who will be unavailable. The Las Vegas Review Journal reported Thursday night that the Raiders are concerned the NFL will discipline Bryant. The report also states discipline is believed to stem from poor standing with the substance abuse policy.

That would be news to Bryant. As of late Friday morning, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area, the NFL had not notified Bryant about issues with his standing with the league.

An NFL spokesman declined comment when asked if the league was considering discipline for Bryant.

Bryant violated the NFL substance abuse policy multiple times while playing in Pittsburgh. The Clemson product has been suspended twice over failed drug tests, and missed the entire 2016 season as a repeat offender of the substance abuse policy.

He was conditionally reinstated prior to the 2017 campaign. The receiver must now follow stringent guidelines, including tests and meetings, to remain compliant with the substance abuse policy. In short, more than a failed drug test can get a player in some trouble.

The NFL Network reports the league has identified an issue with Bryant, but that it is not clear if it will result in a delay in his availability – he was held out for the start of training camp last year with Pittsburgh – if the issue can be simply remedied clerically or if it will result in a suspension. NFL Network also reports Bryant met with the league at its New York office in late April, and was in good standing at that time.

Bryant did not participate in Thursday’s Raiders minicamp practice, the last session of their offseason program.

Bryant has not spoken to the press since April 27, when he said the Raiders trade offered a “clean slate” he planned to maximize.

“I’ve had my difficulties in my past, but I’ve come a long way from that,” Bryant said. “It’s all about keeping the right resources around me and continuing to stay on the right path. I’m going to make sure I get that done.”

Bryant has one season left on his contract, originally signed with Pittsburgh. He has looked good in practices open to the press, flashing great speed and an ability to use his 6-foot, 5-inch frame well.