Raiders

Raiders receiver Tyrell Williams already showing promise as deep threat

Raiders receiver Tyrell Williams already showing promise as deep threat

ALAMEDA – Tyrell Williams took off downfield, without offering much deception or distraction in his route. The new Raiders receiver simply turned on the afterburners and went.

Quarterback Derek Carr saw a sliver of separation created and launched one deep without hesitation, trusting Williams would make a big play downfield. Sure enough, the high-priced free agent signing jumped over his coverage and snatched the ball from the sky.

Touchdown, Raiders. Smooth and easy.

Having such a prominent deep threat gives Carr ample opportunity to fire his cannon arm.

“Contrary to popular belief, I like throwing it down the field,” Carr said with a smile. “I say that to mess with you guys, but we had fun out there. To see a guy that big, that fast – he reminds me of Andre Holmes – is great. He can run these routes and set people up. He’s a technician, not just a big body. To be able to hit those deep shots, it will help our running backs and offensive line. There’s no doubt we’ve added a lot of speed to the receiver room, and it’s going to be fun. It’s fun for a quarterback.”

Carr’s efficient throwing down the field, even though he didn’t have many opportunities last year with offensive line struggles and a pronounced lack of speed out wide.

Williams’ presence changes all that, though Antonio Brown and J.J. Nelson can make huge plays deep as well, which will, in turn, open up space for short routes and backs in the flat.

“A lot of football today is about stretching a team laterally,” Gruden said. “You also have to stretch the field vertically. When you can do both, you become a much more difficult offense to defend. That’s a goal that we’ve had since we got here.”

Brandon Parker moving around

Brandon Parker was thrown into the fire last year. The small-school third-round pick played almost exclusively on the right despite being a career left tackle, and did so right around 300 pounds.

An apprenticeship behind Donald Penn was expected but taken away after the veteran got hurt, and so Parker had to learn on the job. A bit too often through mistakes.

He won’t be asked to reprise his role as starting right tackle with Trent Brown around and won’t anchor the left with Kolton Miller back. He’s the team’s swing tackle instead and is physically equipped for the vital role following a productive early offseason.

“He spent most of the offseason living with (Gabe Jackson), and I don’t think they were just lifting weights down there,” Gruden said. “I think they were eating a little bit. Parker came back married. He came back stronger and heavier. We’re going to give him an opportunity to get on the field. He may end up being the left guard. Who knows? He may end up starting down the road. He has a tough assignment (at swing tackle). He played left tackle in college and right tackle last year. He does have experience playing both sides.”

Josh Jacobs leaves early, veteran LBs sidelined

The list of Raiders missing the offseason program’s first OTA featured several prominent names.

Brown did not attend the voluntary session. First-round running back Josh Jacobs stretched with the team and then headed back to the locker room, as planned, while dealing with an undisclosed ailment.

Veteran linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall worked on the side with trainers. So did defensive tackle Maurice Hurst. Daryl Worley was limited some during his return from offseason shoulder surgery.

Gruden wasn’t worried about any of those guys, especially at this point in the year.

“We have a lot of guys who are on different programs right now,” he said. “We’re not playing for a while. Jacobs should be back late this week, if not early next week. He’s taking part in the walk-throughs. We’re fast-tracking him to be ready. Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall are on a different program. So is Antonio, right now. We’ll come together as a team here shortly.

Early first unit defense/offense

The Raiders like to fluctuate personnel in their early units during the offseason program, so there’s zero assurance in most positions that first-team work in spring means they’ll be there in a week or three months later in training camp.

That said, let’s take a look at a few early groupings, especially those at (mostly) full health:

Offensive line: LT Kolton Miller, LG Denzelle Good, C Rodney Hudson, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Trent Brown
Defensive line: RE Clelin Ferrell, DT Eddie Vanderdoes, DT Johnathan Hankins, LE Josh Muaro
DBs: CB Gareon Conley, CB Nick Nelson/Daryl Worley, FS Erik Harris, SS Karl Joseph

Again, this is not written in stone. We’ll see who lines up with the top units next week.

[RELATED: Gruden not worried about relationships despite Brown's absence]

Peterman shows flashes

The Raiders are set with Carr as the starting quarterback and Mike Glennon as the primary backup. Landry Jones is here, as is Nathan Peterman, who had a rough start to his career in Buffalo. He’s trying to get back on the right track with Gruden, and made some good throws in Tuesday’s OTA session. He threw a near-perfect long bomb to Rico Gafford and showed good footwork moving around the pocket and making throws on the run.

Foster Moreau defends Raiders' 2019 rookie class, claps back on Twitter

Foster Moreau defends Raiders' 2019 rookie class, claps back on Twitter

Oh, the disrespect. 

The Raiders' 2019 draft class was one of the best in recent seasons, in all of the NFL. Running back Josh Jacobs was an Offensive Rookie of the Year finalist, and defensive end Maxx Crosby was up for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Apparently that doesn't mean much to NFL.com's Gennaro Filice and Nick Shook. 

The duo of writers gave the Silver and Black's rookie class an A- grade, but ranked them as just the seventh-best in the NFL. That didn't sit well with Raiders rookie tight end Foster Moreau. 

As Moreau's tweet shows, the Raiders' rookie class finished first in rushing yards, first in receptions, first in yards from scrimmage, first in scrimmage TDs and first in sacks. Case closed. 

Moreau himself had 21 receptions for 174 yards and caught five TDs in 13 games. The fourth-round draft pick's rookie year was cut short with a knee injury. Before his injury, he impressed coaches as a run blocker, pass protector and receiver.

On offense, Jacobs led the way. Many believe he was snubbed as Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray was voted as Offensive Rookie of the Year. Jacobs broke almost every Raiders rookie rushing record, most of which were previously held by Marcus Allen. The Alabama product averaged 4.8 yards per carry and had 1,1150 rushing yards despite missing three of the last four games with a fractured shoulder.

Hunter Renfrow, selected in the fifth round of the draft, had the second-most receiving yards by a Raiders receiver this season, despite also missing three games to injury. Renfrow finished the 2019 season with 49 receptions for 605 yards and four touchdowns. 

Crosby, a steal out of the fourth round, totaled 10 sacks -- the second-most by any rookie throughout the league. He led the Raiders in sacks and tackles for loss (19), 9.5 more than fellow rookie teammate Clelin Ferrell. 

[RELATED: How Raiders' 2019 rookies are laying bedrock for success]

Ferrell, the No. 4 pick in last year's draft, vowed to return a completely different player. Safety Johnathan Abram, the No. 27 pick from last year, will be back and healthy in 2020.

The Raiders had a three-win improvement this past season. With a great rookie season behind them, the 2019 draft class can take the Raiders to new heights as they move to Las Vegas.

Why reported Darius Slay trade from Lions makes sense for Raiders

Why reported Darius Slay trade from Lions makes sense for Raiders

The Raiders were on the verge of the playoffs this past season, but their passing game took yet another step back. Besides the emergence of rookie Trayvon Mullen, the Silver and Black have plenty of question marks at cornerback as they move to Las Vegas. 

There could be help available, though. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday that the Detroit Lions have talked to multiple teams regarding a trade for their Pro Bowl cornerback, Darius Slay. 

Between need, their slew of draft picks and available cap space, the Raiders could be a perfect fit for a trade with the Lions. Let's start with how Slay would fit in the defense. 

Mullen is expected to man one side of the defensive backfield at cornerback, while the other side is a bit of a mystery. Daryl Worley is a free agent this offseason, but Nevin Lawson, Nick Nelson, Keisean Nixon and Isaiah Johnson all are options. None are Slay, though. Not even close. 

Slay, 29, made his third straight Pro Bowl this last season. He also was a First Team All-Pro in 2017 when he led the NFL with eight interceptions and 26 passes defensed. Since 2014, Slay has recorded at least two interceptions and 13 passes defensed every season. 

Per advanced analytics site Pro Football Focus, Slay has been the fifth-best cornerback in the game since 2014. 

The Raiders also have the draft picks to get a deal done. They own two first-round picks -- Nos. 12 and 19 -- this April, as well as three in the third round, one in the fourth and one in the seventh. They have plenty of leverage to make a move. 

Las Vegas also lands right in the middle of current available salary-cap space going into next season. According to Spotrac, the Raiders have slightly over $51.5 million in salary-cap space. Slay, who has a $13.4 million cap hit in 2020, wants a new contract as he's set to hit free agency after this upcoming season. 

[RELATED: Ex-Raider Nnamdi Asomugha talks about his life on Broadway]

He likely would cost more than a few extra pennies, but it's clear Slay still can be a solid corner in a division where everyone is chasing QB Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. 

The Raiders could target a cornerback early in the draft. That's not out of the question at all. If the Lions are taking calls on Slay like Schefter reported, Raiders general manager Mike Mayock would be wise to listen.