ALAMEDA -- The Raiders won’t play another color for months. The Los Angeles Rams are up first on the preseason slate, but that game isn’t coming until Aug. 10.
It’s all silver on black until then.
Raiders secondary coach Jim O’Neil is prepping his position groups to play well together in this scheme, with progress reports coming against a dynamic receiver corps featuring Antonio Brown.
Slowing the four-time All-Pro is a badge of honor, by far the toughest assignment in the pattern.
Gold stars should also go to those who stop Tyrell Williams, though few are being given out early in the Raiders offseason program. Williams was known commodity after quality time with the L.A. Chargers. He’s a big body at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds adept plucking receptions from the sky, but there are other facets of his game Raiders defensive backs are learning about the hard way during OTAs.
That was clear in a conversation between O’Neil and Williams, recorded by the team website and released on social media.
“All the DBs went, ‘Man. No. 16 can run,’” said O’Neil, who was mic’d up during Thursday’s OTA session. “I said, ‘yeah. You’d better get your hands on him.’”
“Yeah,” Williams said. “Everybody thinks I can’t run.”
Folks must have forgotten he ran a 4.42 40-yard dash during the 2015 pre-draft process, or that his downfield prowess comes from size over speed.
Early routes had dispelled that notion. Williams and Carr have already flashed a deep connection due to speed-created separation and some solid route running.
“That was a good route you ran the other day on my guy,” O’Neil told Williams. “You sold the ‘jet,’ he took his yes off you and he started hauling a— across field.”
That exact play’s tough to place, considering how little of the offseason program is open to the press. Media saw Williams torch coverage deep on Tuesday, and make some smart catches underneath as Williams continues to prove a trustworthy target working with more than just size and speed.
“It’s kind of nice having something like that, but he can run these routes and set people up,” Carr said. “He’s a technician also. He’s just not a big, raw body.”
Carr and Williams have developed an early rapport from private throwing sessions with Antonio Brown and officially-sanctioned offseason program work. They’re taking another step during OTAs, where they can finally work against coverage.
Williams knows that trust comes from repetition, something he’s trying to build with touch catches against teammates when nobody’s watching.
“It’s just catching everything and if it’s a 50-50 ball make sure that if you don’t catch it, that nobody catches it and it’s not an interception, and he can trust that throws into a tight coverage either you catch it or nobody catches it,” Williams said. “I feel like I’m a bigger guy and have a lot of room I can separate for and be able to catch a lot of those balls that may not be perfect, so I think that’s a big thing from me.”
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Williams knows he will be a secondary concern with Brown running routes, and that’s something he hopes to take advantage of with the traits many realize and others often overlooked to have a big season. He has exceeded 1,000 yards once, in 2016 when the Chargers had a rash of receiver injuries. Working opposite Brown could make him a feature target with winnable matchups that could lead to another big year working in a system that can play to his strengths.
“It’s vertical,” Williams said. “We like to go down the field and I feel like that’s one of my strong points, taking it and stretching the field. I think that will be big for me being able to get a lot of [focus] go to ‘AB,’ so I feel like I’ll get a lot of one-on-one coverage down the field. It’ll be big for me.”