Raiders minicamp observations: Luani shows playmaking ability

Raiders minicamp observations: Luani shows playmaking ability

ALAMEDA – Shalom Luani has a nose for the football. That was his calling card at Washington State, and certainly an attraction when the Raiders drafted him early in the seventh round.

“That guy is a playmaker,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said shortly after the draft, a statement supported twice in Wednesday’s minicamp practice.

He had an athletic interception of Connor Cook that could’ve been returned for a touchdown in a game situation. He was on the second-unit defense later in the practice going against the first unit when he came out of nowhere and broke up Derek Carr’s long, lofted pass.

“That was just me knowing my assignment and knowing what to do on the field,” Luani, who played at Community College of San Francisco. “You have to show the coaches that you’re picking up the system and that you can make plays.”

Luani had eight interceptions, 11 passes defensed and three forced fumbles in two seasons at Washington State. Attacking the football comes naturally to the young player.

“It’s instincts and knowing exactly where to be,” Luani said. “I can sense when a play can be made based upon how the quarterbacks react before the snap.”

That works on defense Luani will be counted on to make plays special teams as a rookie. Later-round picks generally earn stripes as a reserve and in the kicking game. That will be true for a safety working behind Pro Bowler Reggie Nelson, 2016 first-round pick Karl Joseph and second-rounder Obi Melifonwu.

Luani is ready for that challenge, to contribute heavily in the kicking game.

“Those kind of guys, what you do in the kicking game, and get noticed there, is a key way onto the roster,” special teams contributor Brad Seely said. “Then, hopefully you rise up and you play for us in the kicking game for one or two years and then you become a defensive starter or somehow, you just find a role for yourself and that's what he's trying to do right now. He's one of those guys that's really hungry, he's coachable and I'm really happy he's on our roster.”

Here are some other observations from Raiders minicamp:

-- First-round cornerback Gareon Conley was a spectator during Wednesday’s practice. He observed from the sideline without a helmet or shells, though he showed no signs of ailment. The Raiders are generally conservative with participation in the offseason program, preferring to sit players with minor ailments.

-- Punter Marquette King was flagged a few times last season for antics after his punts, something special teams coordinator Brad Seely doesn't love. 

"We’re not real thrilled with that, and he understands that," Seely said. "We had a stat the other day that there was five or six celebration penalties in the league, and two of them were on our punter. We can’t have that, and he knows that.

"We like guys to be themselves. Everybody has a mindset playing the game. Some are tight and others are loose. He fits well playing his way, but he has to stay within some parameters."

-- Head coach Jack Del Rio cancelled afternoon meetings and a post-practice weightlifting session in favor of taking his team to a bowling alley. This comes a week after the team went to a go-kart track. The rookie class has also been to the bowling alley once before during this offseason program. 

-- Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson had an excellent day playing with the first and second units. He had three touchdowns in practice and a few more catches working downfield.

-- The Raiders mixed up personnel groupings after they generally remained static during OTAs. Quarterback EJ Manuel ran the second team after being the No. 3 signal caller in previous workouts. He swapped units with Connor Cook. Cook threw two interceptions on the day.

-- Running back Marshawn Lynch was involved in several team drills on Wednesday, including interior runs where he showed characteristic burst and shiftiness.

-- Tight end Jared Cook continues to be a frequent target for Derek Carr this offseason, as that pair continues building chemistry.

-- In addition to Conley, offensive linemen Jon Feliciano, Austin Howard and Marshall Newhouse, defensive linemen Fadol Brown, Jihad Ward, Eddie Vanderdoes and Darius Latham missed practice.

Arden Key signs, entire Raiders 2018 draft class now under contract


Arden Key signs, entire Raiders 2018 draft class now under contract

The Raiders drafted nine players back in April. Now they’re all under contract.

Third-round edge rusher Arden Key was the last to ink his rookie deal, putting pen to paper on a four-year rookie deal Friday morning.

Key will make an estimated $3.57 million over the league of the deal with a $834k signing bonus, per athletic salary site

The current collective bargaining agreement and its rookie wage scale makes signing draft picks far easier, with little wiggle room to negotiate deals.

The Raiders locked up their last rookie the day after the offseason program’s conclusion. NFL teams largely go quiet during this time, until training camps begin in late July.

The Raiders are excited about Key’s potential. The LSU product believes he’s a first-round talent who dropped due to off-field concerns and a drop in his 2017 production over the previous year.

Key has flashed great athleticism, quickness and bend. He could make an immediate impact as a third edge rusher behind Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.

“Arden Key,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said, “has got some special pass-rush ability.”

Reports: Raiders WR Martavis Bryant's standing with NFL in question

Reports: Raiders WR Martavis Bryant's standing with NFL in question

The Raiders gave up significant draft capital to acquire receiver Martavis Bryant. The trade cost a third-round pick, something the Silver and Black were willing to sacrifice for a game-breaking talent missing from their arsenal.

They might've traded for a player who will be unavailable. The Las Vegas Review Journal reported Thursday night that the Raiders are concerned the NFL will discipline Bryant. The report also states discipline is believed to stem from poor standing with the substance abuse policy.

That would be news to Bryant. As of late Friday morning, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area, the NFL had not notified Bryant about issues with his standing with the league.

An NFL spokesman declined comment when asked if the league was considering discipline for Bryant.

Bryant violated the NFL substance abuse policy multiple times while playing in Pittsburgh. The Clemson product has been suspended twice over failed drug tests, and missed the entire 2016 season as a repeat offender of the substance abuse policy.

He was conditionally reinstated prior to the 2017 campaign. The receiver must now follow stringent guidelines, including tests and meetings, to remain compliant with the substance abuse policy. In short, more than a failed drug test can get a player in some trouble.

The NFL Network reports the league has identified an issue with Bryant, but that it is not clear if it will result in a delay in his availability – he was held out for the start of training camp last year with Pittsburgh – if the issue can be simply remedied clerically or if it will result in a suspension. NFL Network also reports Bryant met with the league at its New York office in late April, and was in good standing at that time.

Bryant did not participate in Thursday’s Raiders minicamp practice, the last session of their offseason program.

Bryant has not spoken to the press since April 27, when he said the Raiders trade offered a “clean slate” he planned to maximize.

“I’ve had my difficulties in my past, but I’ve come a long way from that,” Bryant said. “It’s all about keeping the right resources around me and continuing to stay on the right path. I’m going to make sure I get that done.”

Bryant has one season left on his contract, originally signed with Pittsburgh. He has looked good in practices open to the press, flashing great speed and an ability to use his 6-foot, 5-inch frame well.