Cooper seeks counsel from former All-Pro Lions WR, Raiders guest

Cooper seeks counsel from former All-Pro Lions WR, Raiders guest

ALAMEDA -- Todd Downing and Calvin Johnson go way back. The Raiders offensive coordinator got to know the retired Detroit receiver during four seasons coaching Lions quarterbacks, a relationship benefitted current Silver and Black receivers this week.

Johnson is in Alameda as a special guest and advisor for the first week of Raiders OTAs, offering tips and tricks learned during an excellent career.

“(Downing) thought it’d be a great idea for our wide receivers to just pick his brain and have him be around and give us a point here or there,” Del Rio said. “Talk about some of the things that he did so well in his career and how we might be able to have some of our guys learn from that. It’s great to have him out here.”

Amari Cooper gravitated towards Johnson, and has spent significant time picking his brain

“I’ve just been asking him a whole bunch of questions,” Cooper said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “How does he run certain routes? What was his regimen like? And how he was so productive? He’s a really cool guy. He’s been giving me some really great feedback, so he’s nice to have around.”

Johnson’s a unique talent, a difficult cover at 6-foot-5, 236 pounds. Cooper operates in a smaller frame and has different receiving strengths, but still found wisdom in working with Megatron.

“He just gave me some really good tips on like how I can run some of my routes,” Cooper said. “…he’s a different receiver than I am, obviously. But I really admire the way he high-points the ball and that’s something that I try to do as well.”

Cooper does most everything well, and has had a productive start to his NFL career. He’s just the third receiver in NFL history to exceed 70 receptions and 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons – Odell Beckham and Marques Colston are the others – and made the Pro Bowl after both campaigns.

He continues to tinker with his approach and offseason workouts, trying to finish seasons stronger and become an even more dynamic player. Cooper has no problem learning from others, especially the greats.

“I seek advice all the time,” Cooper said. “My rookie year, when I was fortunate enough to go to the Pro Bowl, I asked Adrian Peterson like when did he start working out, how did he go about his offseason. And I tried to pattern after him a little bit.”

Cooper is smarter and working better thanks to information absorbed from others, which he hopes will help him become a deadly weapon.

“I know he’s just scratching the surface of what he wants to accomplish in this league,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Very prideful. Amari has always been very serious about the game and works hard at everything, really. His conditioning level and understanding what he needs to be able to do to play at a high level. Again, talking and having a guy like Calvin here as we’re getting started in these OTAs, to be able to share some of the insight of what he experienced playing that position is very valuable for us.”


Raiders notebook: Arden Key must build off professional debut


Raiders notebook: Arden Key must build off professional debut

ALAMEDA – Arden Key made his professional debut Saturday against the L.A. Rams. Okay, let’s call it a cameo.

The rookie edge rusher played nine snaps, eight of them rushing the passer. That could mimic his regular-season role with Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack -- whenever he joins the team -- primarily rushing off the edge.

He’ll provide depth the Raiders have been lacking in recent seasons, with dynamic athleticism and bend that helps him disrupt passing attacks. He didn’t have a pressure to speak of – again, small sample size – and that left defensive coordinator Paul Guenther wanting a bit more from the LSU product.

He’ll have time to improve after his first NFL game, with more snaps coming Friday against Green Bay and likely in the preseason finale in Seattle.

Guenther wants Key to build on his first foray.

“He did okay,” Guenther said. “I think he was a little disappointed in a couple of his rushes, but it was his first NFL game. I told him to just, ‘relax and do what you do.’ You don’t want to over-coach those guys. Arden is special rushing the quarterback. He’ll get some more snaps (Friday) and we’ll get him ready for the (regular season).”

Gilchrist back in action

Veteran defensive back Marcus Gilchrist missed roughly two weeks with a foot injury, but returned to practice Monday with roughly a fortnight to get ready for the regular season. That’s plenty of time for Gilchrist to fit in with what should be a versatile role that includes work at safety and slot cornerback.

Gilchrist was gone a while, as long as active Raiders this preseason, but doesn’t feel behind.

“I’m feeling good. I wasn’t practicing, but I was taking mental notes, mental reps,” Gilchrist said. “I feel good from that aspect.

“…That’s something we do a great job of here with this coaching staff, is getting ready. If you’re healthy or hurt, you’re mentally engaged in meetings and practice.”

Still looking for consistency from Bryant

There’s little doubting Martavis Bryant’s pure athleticism and skill. The guy is a playmaker.

Raiders coaches want more from the speedy receiver, a refrain that has carried throughout this preseason. They acknowledge his penchant for the spectacular, but want fewer downhill slides in practice and play.

“Everywhere, from the meeting room to practice to the games, you need consistent performance,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “That starts with preparation and carries over to the game. We’re trying to eliminate some of the dips in play. There are going to be some mistakes along the way but, the less that curve goes down, the better off we’ll be.”

Another new cornerback

The Raiders have cycled through defensive backs some this preseason, and added a third new face since the start of training camp. They claimed Antwuan Davis off waivers from Detroit on Tuesday afternoon. They got a close look at him during joint practices with the Lions in Napa and the subsequent exhibition game.

Tevin Mitchel was waived injured in a corresponding move.

The Raiders have also added cornerback Reysean Pringle and safety Quincy Mauger during the preseason.

Injury update

Second-round defensive tackle P.J. missed Tuesday’s practice for an undisclosed reason, his first workout missed since being activated off the physically unable to perform list early in camp.

Running back DeAndre Washington didn’t play against the Rams, and hasn’t practiced since dealing with an ailment.

Kicker Eddy Piñeiro continues to miss time with a groin injury suffered in training camp’s final days. Breno Giacomini has missed an extended stretch with a knee injury. Dexter McDonald was out Tuesday, and Obi Melifonwu hasn’t been seen a long time dealing with what Jon Gruden called a lower body injury.

Donald Penn has looked 'very natural' in week after position switch

Donald Penn has looked 'very natural' in week after position switch

ALAMEDA – Donald Penn has been a right tackle for a week now, longer than any other point in his professional career.

The two-time Pro Bowler has anchored the left side for a successful career, but was asked to make the position switch after being activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 14.

That came after restructuring his contract, and Penn went along with the switch when he could’ve been militant about it. The Raiders prefer to leave first-round pick Kolton Miller on the left side, to continue developing the young talent at his preferred spot.

That left Penn to make the switch, as he did in the 2016 regular-season opener while playing the only 24 snaps at right tackle in his NFL career.

Going from left to right isn’t easy, but Penn has fared well in the early going.

“He has had a good week,” Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “He really looked very natural from the first day we put him out there. That was extremely encouraging because he hasn’t played that position much throughout his career. I think we still have to get him in shape. He’s working after practice and the conditioning staff has done a good job with that.”

Penn hasn’t played a game since the switch, meaning it remains in the experimental stage and that could continue into the early regular season. His debut will come on Friday against Green Bay, when he’ll get acclimated to the position at full speed.

Penn’s working to learn new footwork and free himself from instincts and routines built over a career on the left side. He’s also working back into shape following Dec. 2017 Lisfranc foot surgery. That’s a tough two-step, but Penn has a few weeks to show he can play right tackle when the games count.

“It’s about getting game ready,” Olson said. “It’s been a long time since Donald has played in a game, and it’s been a long time since he has gone through full practice. He is having to play himself into shape. … As far as playing the position, he has looked very comfortable there.”

Penn’s trying to help Miller gain comfort playing at the professional level. He didn’t play last week’s preseason game at the L.A. Rams – most offensive starters sat – and has little experience to rely upon. Enter Penn, who has been helped Miller along the way, willingly passing on tricks of the trade.

“It’s a credit to Donald Penn for how he has approached this chance,” Olson said. “We talked with him about it, and has been on board with it since the move was made. It says a lot about the man and the player.”