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.

NFL mock draft 2019: Raiders can rebuild with three first-round picks

NFL mock draft 2019: Raiders can rebuild with three first-round picks

The Raiders can take their first steps into the future beginning Thursday.

That's because they'll have three selections in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The Silver and Black finished 4-12 a season ago, and have plenty of holes to fill on their roster.

They'll have the opportunity to do so early in Mike Mayock's first draft as Raiders general manager, as they currently have more first-round picks than any other team in the league. That's the upside of trading former first-round picks Khalil Mack (Chicago Bears) and Amari Cooper (Dallas Cowboys), making the bitter pill of seeing both play instrumental roles as in their new teams' respective playoff pushes.

[RELATED: Top draft prospects enjoyed meeting Raiders staff on visits]

The Raiders need plenty of help on both sides of the ball, but where do they begin in the second draft of the second Jon Gruden era? Here's what experts from around the country are projecting in their mock drafts, starting with our own Scott Bair and Matt Maiocco.

Scott Bair and Matt Maiocco, NBC Sports Bay Area
No. 4: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
No. 24: Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
No. 27: Rock Ya-sin, CB, Temple

What Bair said on Oliver: "This likely becomes a trade-down scenario for the Silver and Black, but they should be content to take a versatile, dynamic defensive lineman with interior pass-rush ability that teams covet. Oliver has drawn Aaron Donald comparisons, and the Raiders would be thrilled to add a talent who can create havoc from several different techniques up front even if he doesn’t reach Donald-like heights."

What Bair said on Jacobs: "Jacobs is the best running back in this draft, a do-it-all talent who should fit well in Jon Gruden’s offense. He’s a solid interior runner and receiver, with a willingness to protect the passer."

What Bair said on Ya-sin: "He’s physical, competitive as heck and makes plays on the ball. That’s a fit for what the Raiders want in the secondary."

Peter King, NBC Sports
No. 4 overall: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
No. 21 overall (Oakland trades Nos. 24 and 106 to Seattle): Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
No. 27 overall: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia

What King said on Williams: "Since the Raiders have a crying need at tackle—their top-rated DT was not in the top 50 of the 2018 Pro Football Focus DT rankings—Jon Gruden, who has ultimate say in Oakland, will greenlight this pick, and GM Mike Mayock gladly will take Williams here as the first pick of his NFL GM career."

What King said on Jacobs: "The Raiders would have to move only three spots ahead to make it happen, and probably wouldn’t have to denude its mid-round picks to do so. ... I met with Jacobs last week, by the way. Delightful fellow. Hungry to be a great NFL player, and he’s a versatile back too. Jon Gruden could turn him into a 1,700-total-yard back as a rookie."

What King said on Baker: "Touchdowns allowed in coverage over his last two college seasons: zero. He might drive defensive coordinator Paul Guenther crazy with his practice habits, but his game production, at least in college, made up for that."

The Washington Post
No. 4: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
No. 24: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
No. 27: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

What they said on Oliver: "The Raiders could opt to take Josh Allen to improve their edge rush, but Oliver is too intriguing as an Aaron Donald-like disruptive force in the middle of their defensive line."

What they said on: "Jon Gruden would be able to allow Haskins some time to adjust to the NFL, given the presence of incumbent starter Derek Carr."

What they said on Fant: "They need a tight end to replace Pro Bowl selection Jared Cook, and the combination of Ed Oliver, Dwayne Haskins and Fant would represent an A-plus first round for Oakland."
No. 4: Ed Oliver, Houston, DT
No. 24: Josh Jacobs, Alabama, RB
No. 27: Darryl Savage, Maryland, S

What they're saying on Oliver: "It wouldn't shock me if [Ohio State quarterback] Dwayne Haskins is the pick, but the Raiders are desperate for pass-rush help and Oliver can help them in that area."

What they're saying on Jacobs: "The question is, do they take Jacobs here or do they wait and find a back in the middle rounds, where there's still value?"

What they're saying on Savage: "There are a bunch of teams picking late in the first round that are looking at safeties, and I think Savage will find his home in this range."

Miami Herald
No. 4: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
No. 24: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
No. 27: Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State

What they're saying on Quinnen Williams: "Jon Gruden’s D produced a meager 13 sacks last season (next lowest team total was 30), and in Williams they get a guy who could be the next Aaron Donald."

What they're saying on Greedy Williams: "The one knock on Williams is he likes to avoid contact. But you know Jon “Chucky” Gruden thinks he can coach toughness into somebody, right?"

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What they're saying on Campbell: "Oakland’s third first-round pick was gotten from Dallas in the Amari Cooper trade. Fittingly, they target that same position here with a guy whose sprinter’s speed, big-play potential and return ability make him a sleeper prize."

NFL Draft: Josh Jacobs could replace Marshawn Lynch on Raiders

NFL Draft: Josh Jacobs could replace Marshawn Lynch on Raiders

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Marshawn Lynch's reported retirement was something that caught the attention of the top running back in the NFL draft.

“That’s crazy,” Alabama running back Josh Jacobs said on Wednesday. “He’s a legend. He's someone I definitely look up to, on and off the field.”

If the Raiders running back steps away for good, his career will end with 10,379 yards and 84 touchdowns rushing. He added another 2,214 yards of total offense with his receiving numbers, which includes nine touchdowns during his 11-season career.

“I like the effort he put into the game,” Jacobs said. “He runs like it means more than just football. He’s not complacent with just being in the league. He wants to go down as one of the greatest ever, and he brings that attitude to the game. Also, he keeps it fun.”

It is not out of the question the Raiders could tab Jacobs to replace Lynch. In addition to the No. 4 overall pick, the Raiders also have first-round selections at Nos. 24 and 27 – a fact with which Jacobs was already familiar.

“I don’t really think about it too much, I just let it play out," Jacobs said of the possibility of the Raiders selecting him on Thursday in the first round.

Jacobs (5-foot-10, 220 pounds) averaged 5.9 yards per rushing attempt during his three seasons at Alabama while sharing the duties with a talented group of backs during his time in college. Last season, Jacobs rushed for 640 yards and 11 touchdowns while adding 20 receptions for 247 yards and three touchdowns.

Although he did not make a pre-draft visit to Alameda, Jacobs said he had a lot of contact over the past couple months with coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock. He met with them at the NFL Scouting Combine, and has been in regular contact via phone.

[RELATED: Raiders watch Jacobs at Alabama Pro Day]

Jacobs said he can envision himself fitting into the Raiders’ offense, going along with quarterback Derek Carr and an improved group of wide receivers, which now includes Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams.

“They already have a great quarterback and, obviously, they’ve added some great additions at receiver,” Jacobs said. “So it’s about putting those little pieces together. It’s about fine-tuning things at this point. I feel like they’re a couple of games away from being great. They’re definitely going to make that step this year.”