Raiders camp report: Kicker competition carries on without Tavecchio


Raiders camp report: Kicker competition carries on without Tavecchio

NAPA – The Raiders kicker competition isn’t over. Head coach Jon Gruden made that point clear on Saturday, less than 24 hours after the team waived Giorgio Tavecchio.

He was the underdog in a battle with undrafted rookie Eddy Pineiro, who showed a powerful leg and great accuracy at the University of Florida.

Pineiro is expected to be the team’s regular-season kicker. That was the case before Tavecchio was released and after they added veteran Mike Nugent.

Nugent has worked with special teams coach Rich Bisaccia twice before and will mentor Pineiro, but he came to compete.

He’ll kick for the first time as a Raider on Monday. Pineiro had a strong Saturday, with 5-of-6 conversions. His only miss came from 50 yards, and he nailed his next attempt from the distance.

Pineiro fared better than Tavecchio in the early portions of camp, but the battle was set to continue into preseason games. It was cut short in large part, Gruden says, due to the difficulties of having Pineiro kicking right-footed and Tavecchio using his left.

“The young kid is really kicking the ball well right now,” Gruden said. “It’s hard to get a right-footed kicker and a left-footed kicker and the holder and the whole operation tight enough.”

“Nugent is a guy we have some familiarity with. Having two right-footed kickers will help the operation, including the snap and hold. Tavecchio is a good kicker, and we wanted to give him a catch on with another team. We appreciate Giorgio. He’s a true pro who did a lot of good things ... We have a battle still at the kicking position.”

Injury update

The Raiders should be getting several players back soon.

Right guard Gabe Jackson suffered an undisclosed aliment that kept him out two practices, but should be back Monday. The same goes for safety Erik Harris, who had surgery to repair a fractured index finger on Friday.

Left tackle Donald Penn won’t be back that quickly, but Gruden said he’s making progress. He will have to get going again after he’s taken off PUP, but the team hopes he’ll respond well and find his old form.

Gareon Conley participated in Friday’s walk-through. Gruden was encouraged by that, but didn’t want to alter the defensive back’s two-week recovery timetable. That’s a good sign for the Raiders, who need him well-prepped for the regular season.

This ‘n that

The Raiders sat roughly 17 veterans out of Saturday’s practice to get a better, longer look at some young players. Giving them a day also doubles the down time, considering the Raiders have an off day Sunday. … The Raiders held their annual family day for players and coaches in training camp. The team held a huge BBQ after practice next to the fields, with activities for young children. … This was the team’s first practice completely without pads since they were allowed to put them on Monday. … Receiver Dwayne Harris made a nice one-handed catch on a floating EJ Manuel pass that hung in the air a smidge too long. ... Receiver Marcell Atement continues to make plays down the field. He’s strong picking passes out of the air, but dove to catch one near the ground while well covered. … Gruden praised Jon Feliciano’s work with Jackson out, and likes him as a substitute at all three interior line spots.

Vontaze Burfict's football IQ critical to Raiders’ defense playing fast

Vontaze Burfict's football IQ critical to Raiders’ defense playing fast

The Raiders set out to get faster on defense. That mission was accomplished in every sense.

That’s true by traditional measures, as the Raiders hope their raw speed can keep up with the track stars Kansas City trots out on offense Sunday afternoons.

It’s also true in terms of reading and diagnosing plays. The Raiders installed a faster multi-core processor this offseason, plugging Vontaze Burfict into a defensive network that now runs at warp speed.

Burfict has mastered Paul Guenther’s scheme and knows exactly how to adjust and re-align to best defend a particular offensive play. Burfict is confident in his reads, efficient and clear when dispensing pre-snap information. Being in the right spot, able to anticipate what’s coming, allowing the defense to play faster.

Burfict as Guenther’s field general has been a storyline since the veteran joined the Raiders in March, and his scheme knowledge assisted returners and newcomers alike during the preseason.

That was clear when operating at game speed. Burfict orchestrated the defense well in a Monday night victory over Denver, making individuals better while helping the defense play as a cohesive unit.

“It was awesome,” defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said. “He knows the system inside and out, so he’s able to make checks pretty quickly. He always seems to know what’s coming and gets us aligned fast, so we can just play ball.”

The Raiders must play mentally and physically fast against Kansas City, armed with speed and an offense that will attack using both latitude and longitude.

“They make you defend every inch of grass,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “Laterally with the jet sweeps, you got to defend them sideline to sideline. They can outrun you, outflank you and vertically they can run right by you over the top.”

There’s a buzz word that describes the key to defending this high-powered attack.

“Eye discipline,” linebacker Nicholas Morrow said. “[Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and coach Andy Reid] will try to mess with a defense, to shift people around the formation and put you in a bad spot. They will do all types of things to play with your eyes and make you think you’re seeing one thing when it’s something else. You have to trust your preparation and make the right checks.”

That’s where Burfict comes in, and why he’s so key to the Raiders’ defensive effort on Sunday.

“He obviously knows the system, but Vontaze is very intelligent,” Morrow said. “He processes information quickly and is confident in what he’s doing. That’s what you want from somebody in his position.”

Burfict is the defense’s cerebral cortex, but he isn’t just directing troops while watching them work.

He plays with trademark intensity and didn’t step over the line in his Raiders debut. That’s key moving forward, because the Raiders need him on the field to succeed against Kansas City, a team that doesn’t need freebies to score.

“He’s really fun to play with,” Hurst said. “He’s an aggressive player. He’s going to come downhill and hit everything that moves. It’s awesome playing with someone like that.”

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Burfict fought through some knicks in the opener but didn’t miss a practice snap all week. It’s important for him to stay upright and available, because they need his presence and football smarts on all three downs.

“Those of us returning for a second year with Paul [Guenther] feel pretty fluent in the system,” cornerback Daryl Worley said. “But having a leader like Vontaze in complete command is definitely helpful.”

Chiefs-Raiders odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 2 game

Chiefs-Raiders odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 2 game

An undefeated record is on the line.

It may only be Week 2 but after the Raiders and Chiefs earned victories to open the season, both will look to keep the momentum rolling in Oakland on Sunday afternoon.

The Chiefs are favored by a touchdown and likely would get a few additional points if the game were being played at Arrowhead Stadium.

[RELATED: NFL rumors: Raiders' Johnathan Abram fined for hit causing shoulder injury]


Caesars: KC -7 (-110)
Consensus: KC -7 (-110)
Westgate: KC -7 (-110)
Wynn: KC -7 (-110)

Here’s how NFL writers around the country see the matchup shaking out:

Paul Gutierrez, ESPN: Chiefs 38, Raiders 30
Adam Teicher, ESPN: Chiefs 37, Raiders 31
Gregg Rosenthal, Chiefs 30, Raiders 26
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk: Chiefs 30, Raiders 17
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk: Chiefs 35, Raiders 21
Tadd Haislop, SportingNews: Chiefs 34, Raiders 20
Greg Patuto, Chiefs 37, Raiders 21