ALAMEDA – Tyrell Williams took off downfield, without offering much deception or distraction in his route. The new Raiders receiver simply turned on the afterburners and went.
Quarterback Derek Carr saw a sliver of separation created and launched one deep without hesitation, trusting Williams would make a big play downfield. Sure enough, the high-priced free agent signing jumped over his coverage and snatched the ball from the sky.
Touchdown, Raiders. Smooth and easy.
Having such a prominent deep threat gives Carr ample opportunity to fire his cannon arm.
“Contrary to popular belief, I like throwing it down the field,” Carr said with a smile. “I say that to mess with you guys, but we had fun out there. To see a guy that big, that fast – he reminds me of Andre Holmes – is great. He can run these routes and set people up. He’s a technician, not just a big body. To be able to hit those deep shots, it will help our running backs and offensive line. There’s no doubt we’ve added a lot of speed to the receiver room, and it’s going to be fun. It’s fun for a quarterback.”
Carr’s efficient throwing down the field, even though he didn’t have many opportunities last year with offensive line struggles and a pronounced lack of speed out wide.
Williams’ presence changes all that, though Antonio Brown and J.J. Nelson can make huge plays deep as well, which will, in turn, open up space for short routes and backs in the flat.
“A lot of football today is about stretching a team laterally,” Gruden said. “You also have to stretch the field vertically. When you can do both, you become a much more difficult offense to defend. That’s a goal that we’ve had since we got here.”
Brandon Parker moving around
Brandon Parker was thrown into the fire last year. The small-school third-round pick played almost exclusively on the right despite being a career left tackle, and did so right around 300 pounds.
An apprenticeship behind Donald Penn was expected but taken away after the veteran got hurt, and so Parker had to learn on the job. A bit too often through mistakes.
He won’t be asked to reprise his role as starting right tackle with Trent Brown around and won’t anchor the left with Kolton Miller back. He’s the team’s swing tackle instead and is physically equipped for the vital role following a productive early offseason.
“He spent most of the offseason living with (Gabe Jackson), and I don’t think they were just lifting weights down there,” Gruden said. “I think they were eating a little bit. Parker came back married. He came back stronger and heavier. We’re going to give him an opportunity to get on the field. He may end up being the left guard. Who knows? He may end up starting down the road. He has a tough assignment (at swing tackle). He played left tackle in college and right tackle last year. He does have experience playing both sides.”
Josh Jacobs leaves early, veteran LBs sidelined
The list of Raiders missing the offseason program’s first OTA featured several prominent names.
Brown did not attend the voluntary session. First-round running back Josh Jacobs stretched with the team and then headed back to the locker room, as planned, while dealing with an undisclosed ailment.
Veteran linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall worked on the side with trainers. So did defensive tackle Maurice Hurst. Daryl Worley was limited some during his return from offseason shoulder surgery.
Gruden wasn’t worried about any of those guys, especially at this point in the year.
“We have a lot of guys who are on different programs right now,” he said. “We’re not playing for a while. Jacobs should be back late this week, if not early next week. He’s taking part in the walk-throughs. We’re fast-tracking him to be ready. Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall are on a different program. So is Antonio, right now. We’ll come together as a team here shortly.
Early first unit defense/offense
The Raiders like to fluctuate personnel in their early units during the offseason program, so there’s zero assurance in most positions that first-team work in spring means they’ll be there in a week or three months later in training camp.
That said, let’s take a look at a few early groupings, especially those at (mostly) full health:
Offensive line: LT Kolton Miller, LG Denzelle Good, C Rodney Hudson, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Trent Brown
Defensive line: RE Clelin Ferrell, DT Eddie Vanderdoes, DT Johnathan Hankins, LE Josh Muaro
DBs: CB Gareon Conley, CB Nick Nelson/Daryl Worley, FS Erik Harris, SS Karl Joseph
Again, this is not written in stone. We’ll see who lines up with the top units next week.
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Peterman shows flashes
The Raiders are set with Carr as the starting quarterback and Mike Glennon as the primary backup. Landry Jones is here, as is Nathan Peterman, who had a rough start to his career in Buffalo. He’s trying to get back on the right track with Gruden, and made some good throws in Tuesday’s OTA session. He threw a near-perfect long bomb to Rico Gafford and showed good footwork moving around the pocket and making throws on the run.