Raiders camp report: Martavis Bryant makes big plays in last joint practice with Lions


Raiders camp report: Martavis Bryant makes big plays in last joint practice with Lions

NAPA – Martavis Bryant took some heat from his head coach a few days back. Jon Gruden demanded more from the lightning quick receiver, saying he had to show more versatility and consistency in training camp.

Bryant’s a big-play maker who was pretty quiet in recent weeks. He had an excellent showing in Wednesday’s joint practice against the Detroit Lions, with several quality receptions showcasing speed and hands.

He barely got a finger on a floating ball his way, but controlled it long enough to secure the catch and a long gain. He ran away from coverage later in the day, dusting coverage to reel in a long pass from Connor Cook.

Bryant needs more of those moments working in a competitive position group. Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson will see action and Ryan Switzer has found a home in the slot.

The former Pittsburgh Steeler has been working primarily with the second team, though it’s expected he’ll have an important offensive role by the fall.

“Martavis is not a good talent, he’s a great talent and we’re going to continue to work him into our offense,” Gruden said. “Today showed, I think, what he’s capable of doing. … We have big plans for him.”

Gruden’s mild critique may have promoted better from Bryant, who looked good against the Lions Wednesday.

“You can definitely tell that he has a sense of urgency for him to pick things up and learn them,” Derek Carr said. “He wants to do right, he really does. To see that in him, to see him continue, he always practices hard, that’s never a question. He’s going to practice hard. And usually that’s the hardest part to get someone to practice hard, but he is. No problem practicing hard and going hard. In the film room and in the playbook is where he’s really working hard and he’s gotten a lot better.”

Cooper vs. Slay and TEs shine

Amari Cooper and All-Pro Detroit cornerback Darius Slay matched up several times over the course of two days, with each player getting the best of the battle at times.

The video below shows just how competitive things got between the two while playing excellent football.

That was from Tuesday, but carried over to the following session. Cooper beat him for a touchdown on one play, and Slay broke up the next pass his way.

The Lions struggled to cover Raiders tight ends on Wednesday, with Jared Cook and Derek Carrier each making nice catches across the field.

“We wanted to feature the tight ends the last couple days,” Gruden said. “Honestly, we think that Jared Cook is a rare receiving tight and we think Carrier is interesting. I think he’s been under the radar. He played wide receiver in college. We acquired him from the Rams. We think he’s an intriguing mismatch problem for some teams.”

Two joint practice days, one scuffle

Scuffles are common in joint practices. It was rare the Raiders and Lions made it through Tuesday without incident. Push came to shove early Wednesday, however, when Raiders guard Jon Feliciano mixed it up with Lions defensive end Anthony Zettel, which attracted other members of these opposing lines.

In general, however, the teams were respectful and competed hard without getting too emotional.

“I thought other than the one incident earlier, I thought the teams did a great job showcasing professionalism and etiquette,” Gruden said. “I think we got a lot more out of these two days than we ever could have, had we not done this.”

Melifonwu back on shelf

Oft-injured Raiders safety Obi Melifonwu is banged up again, missing both joint practice dates with the Lions. Last year’s second-round pick has a lower-body injury that has kept out following a Monday practice filled with extensive work thanks to three other safeties then hampered by injury. He hasn’t practiced since, a setback in his quest for a roster spot.

In other injury news, right guard Gabe Jackson was back with the first team after a limited Tuesday practice. He missed the previous two days with an undisclosed injury.

Safety Marcus Gilchrist remained out with a foot injury. Receiver Seth Roberts and linebacker Nicholas Morrow were not seen at practice. Arden Key was not around in the latter portions of practice, though it’s uncertain whether he missed the entire workout.

This ‘n that

Former Lions WLB Tahir Whitehead had two strong practices against his old team, but saved his best play for the last day. He made a diving stab at a Matt Stafford pass, slapping it away before it reached the tight end. …QB Connor Cook might’ve had his best day at practice, with two excellent throws where only his guy could catch it. He found Griff Whalen on a slant through the middle and Martavis Bryant streaking down the sideline. …Left tackle Kolton Miller held up well against foreign opposition. He wasn’t perfect but responded to mistakes well, as he has done throughout camp. …Safety Erik Harris had two passes defensed on deep balls, and nearly intercepted one pass.

NFL rumors: Chiefs will be 'primary suitor' for Jalen Ramsey trade

NFL rumors: Chiefs will be 'primary suitor' for Jalen Ramsey trade

The Kansas City Chiefs probably aren't done giving the Raiders headaches this season, and they might do it on defense when they meet again on Dec. 1. 

Many NFL general managers believe Kansas City "will emerge as a primary suitor" for disgruntled Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora tweeted Tuesday. 

Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill didn't wait long to start recruiting Ramsey on Twitter that morning.

The Raiders saw firsthand what the Chiefs offense could do in Sunday's 28-10 loss at the Coliseum, but Kansas City's defense hasn't been as strong in the nascent Patrick Mahomes era. The Chiefs allowed the second-most passing yards (4,374) last season, and have given up the 13th-most through two games in 2019. Kansas City revamped its defensive line and added Tyrann Mathieu to its secondary in order to address those defensive deficiencies, but Ramsey's arrival could send the Chiefs defense into another stratosphere. 

The 25-year-old is -- at least -- one of the five-best cornerbacks in the NFL, with more than enough game to back up his constant trash talk. Pro Football Focus found that, since 2016, only four corners have allowed a lower completion percentage (53.8 percent) than Ramsey. 

[RELATED: Why Raiders DB Joyner is encouraged by team's mindset]

Sunday proved that the Raiders won't be competing with the Chiefs for AFC West supremacy this season, but Ramsey's arrival would widen the gap between the two franchises even further -- at least in the immediate future. Given Ramsey's stated desire to play in Las Vegas, such a move would hurt the Silver and Black beyond the franchise's final game at Oakland Coliseum. Ramsey can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2020 season, and the Chiefs can afford him since Mahomes, the reigning NFL MVP, still is playing on his rookie deal. 

Acquiring star receiver Antonio Brown blew up in the Raiders' collective faces, but seeing another superstar in Ramsey suit up for a division rival -- that already is a juggernaut -- could sting the Raiders even more. 

Why Lamarcus Joyner was encouraged by Raiders' response to Chiefs loss

Why Lamarcus Joyner was encouraged by Raiders' response to Chiefs loss

The Raiders didn’t spent much time sulking after Sunday’s loss to Kansas City. The secondary in particular was engaged in spirited dialogue following a game decided by big plays, all in a short span.

Veteran slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner spoke to several before leaving the locker room, including Trayvon Mullen, Curtis Riley and Keisean Nixon about where things went awry against the NFL’s scariest offense.

The team captain’s antennae have been up since the loss became official, curious to see how the Raiders would respond to the season’s first on-field setback. He knows you can learn a lot about team character and chemistry after things don’t go right.

Joyner was happy to see the group processing the loss in the locker room, not wallowing in an emotional reaction. That continued as the night wore on.

“The guys that I called up last night were already watching the film,” Joyner said. “Guys are excited. They are encouraged despite the loss that we suffered. I think it shows how good of a team we are to say that we had some success against the best offense in the league and look at it as a positive.

"When you can honestly say that you defeated yourself, that’s always encouraging.”

The Raiders are skewing younger, with impact rookies across the depth chart. The team’s leadership will have to help this group working through disappointments without losing sight of the need to steadily progress.

“They have to assume a huge leadership role right now and I know they will,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “I plan on us having a heck of a week of practice. We have a great challenge, it doesn’t get any easier.”

The Raiders start a prolonged road trip Sunday in Minnesota, a playoff contender in the NFC North. They’ll have to recover quickly to compete with the Vikings, and Joyner has an idea how to do that.

He believes the Raiders functioned well in man coverage, and that his fellow defensive backs are ready for the challenge of covering receivers straight up.

“Me and my guys are running a mile every day after practice, man,” Joyner said. “We are going to get our cardio together and we’re going to go get after people.”

The Raiders are trying to solve problems, attempting to tighten up pass defense as they have in the run game.

“That young defensive line and out linebackers do a good job of getting to the ball,” Joyner said. “That’s good and we as a secondary know that we have to master our technique knowing we can hang our hat on the guys up front stopping the run. Now the games are going to be on us.”

That may be an exaggeration. The Chiefs exposed a few problem spots, even in a game where the Raiders weren't expected to win. They need better from the passing attack and receivers not named Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller. The pass rush has to get better, and the secondary must shore up the back.

The early response to Sunday’s setback has been encouraging in its business-like approach.

[RELATED: Why Raiders should trade for Jalen Ramsey]

“Everyone is positive, and I love it,” Joyner said. “That’s what you need. You have to have a short-term memory, especially as a defensive back. My job is to get right back at it, even after you give up a catch or a big play. The mindset we have in moving forward quickly, learning from our mistakes while preparing for the Minnesota Vikings is a good sign.

"That has been phenomenal.”