Raiders ready to mold 'very gifted' versatile chess piece Melifonwu

Raiders ready to mold 'very gifted' versatile chess piece Melifonwu

Obi Melifonwu can cover ground quickly. That was evident Friday during the only Raiders rookie minicamp practice open to the media, when the second-round safety stood out in coverage.

Great range is a trait expected of someone with 4.4 speed and strides from long 6-foot-4 frame. Melifonwu has it. There’s no denying that.

He isn’t just a cover man. He can hit, and is rarely engaged in a disadvantageous matchup.

The Raiders want to use his tools to great effect, and will spend the offseason program determining how to use him best.

“He’s very gifted. He has a good head on his shoulders,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He comes in, and he’s just trying to soak up our system right now. Athletically, he’s very blessed. He has height, weight and speed that you look for. Athleticism, changing direction and then he’ll come up and hit you. We like the tape. We think he’s a good football player and we’re happy to start working with him.”

Melifonwu is a versatile chess piece that can be moved around the board a bit. He primarily played strong safety at Connecticut, but has experience covering deep at free safety. Many believe he can be a safety/linebacker hybrid in sub packages, with the tools required to cover running backs and tight ends.

Covering those positions has been a sore spot in recent years, one the Raiders hope Melifonwu can remedy right away. He joins a position group featuring Pro Bowler Reggie Nelson and 2016 first-round pick Karl Joseph, but the Raiders can get creative with his use even if the aforementioned players retain starting spots.

Melifonwu knows he won’t earn a role on athleticism alone. He must learn the Raiders defensive scheme and his role within it, an important task at Raiders minicamp and after joining the veterans for the offseason program.

“I think at this next level, as a young guy coming in, the quicker you can learn the playbook and the scheme, the quicker you can get on the field and the faster you can play,” Melifonwu said. “Right now I’m just focused on learning the playbook and focused on what I can do to help the team.”

The Raiders spent draft capital trying to improve pass defense in the present and future, using a second-round pick on Melifonwu and a first-rounder on former Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley.

Conley will compete for a starting spot but could play slot cornerback right away and Melifonwu could see significant snaps, meaning two rookies might play important roles in this pass defense.

That point isn’t lost on this highly-touted pair, who were brought together during the Raiders rookie minicamp.

“He’s actually my roommate,” Melifonwu said. “He’s a cool guy, a guy that loves football. We talked a little bit about it yesterday. We’re really excited to play together.”

49ers and Raiders similarities continue with Christian Kirk touchdown


49ers and Raiders similarities continue with Christian Kirk touchdown

The longer this NFL season goes, the more similar the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders' seasons seem to become.

Entering Sunday, the Raiders had one win. The 49ers currently have one win over teams not from Oakland.

Derek Carr connected with Jared Cook for the first score of Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals, marking the seventh time this season the Raiders scored first. The Raiders were 1-5 in the previous six instances, which is tied for the most losses in the NFL when scoring first this season.

Care to guess which team they're tied with?

That would be the one located in Santa Clara, who entered their Week 11 bye sitting at 2-8 on the season, dead last in the NFC West.

In the week prior to defeating the Raiders, the 49ers lost a winnable game at Arizona in which they saw their opening drive lead vanish in the blink of an eye, thanks to a 75-yard touchdown connection between Cardinals' rookie quarterback Josh Rosen and fellow rookie wide receiver Christian Kirk. That score gave Arizona a 7-6 lead, and San Francisco trailed for the remainder of the contest.

Guess what happened on Sunday after the Raiders scored on their opening drive?

After the Cardinals tied the score with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Rosen to reciever Larry Fitzgerald, the 49ers-Raiders similarities continued.

In the final minute of the first quarter, facing a 3rd-and-5 from their own 41-yard line, Rosen found Kirk on a screen pass, who promptly slipped a tackle before breaking free for a 59-yard touchdown reception to give the Cardinals a 14-7 lead.

Now, unlike the 49ers, the Raiders didn't trail for the remainder of the game. A 5-yard touchdown pass from Carr to Brandon LaFell with 8:20 remaining in the first half knotted the score at 14-14.

That remains the score at halftime, as the Raiders currently sit just two quarters away from matching the 49ers win total. Can they avoid a similar fate in Arizona, and overcome a Rosen-Kirk quick strike on their way to victory?

They've got one half to get it done.

Watch Jared Cook score Raiders' first touchdown in three weeks


Watch Jared Cook score Raiders' first touchdown in three weeks

The drought is over. 

The Raiders finally scored their first touchdown in November when quarterback Derek Carr hit tight end Jared Cook in stride for a 23-yard touchdown pass on Oakland's third play from scrimmage Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. 

It was the Raiders' first touchdown since Brandon LaFell scored with 1:01 remaining in the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 28. That was three weeks ago, or 138:25 of game action. 

Additionally, each of the following events happened in between Raiders TDs:

Cook's touchdown meant the Raiders scored two fewer points in Sunday's first quarter (seven) than they had in the previous two weeks combined (nine). 

The Raiders took a 7-0 lead after Cook scored but trailed 14-7 at the end of the first quarter in Arizona. So, good news if you're rooting for draft positioning.