ALAMEDA – Safety Johnathan Abram started the Raiders' offseason program working with lower units, as rookies often do. It seemed only a matter of time before the No. 27 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft found his way onto the top squad, as he was during a Tuesday OTA session open to the media.
Abram worked with 2016 first-round pick Karl Joseph in the back, a place given to Erik Harris in recent weeks. There’s a long way to go before solidifying lineups, but those two could well be the primary safeties with coaches focusing Lamarcus Joyner on slot cornerback.
The Raiders love Abram and have for some time, which is why the prestigious No. 24 jersey was given to him as a rookie.
“He has big expectations, big shoes to fill,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “Hopefully he can do that.”
Abram can be seen and heard well on the practice field, an aggressive and confident player unafraid to play at this level. The Raiders need that from their young players, who will play major roles in 2019.
“(Abram), I’m always going back and forth a lot. He likes to talk, and I love it,” linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. “He’s a young guy coming in showing how confident he is. I love that. We can build off of that. We need more guys with belief in their skill set and bringing that attitude to the entire team. That’s going to take us a long way.”
Joyner playing a lot in the slot
Joyner primarily played free safety last year with the L.A. Rams, but he has extensive experience playing slot cornerback. It’s certainly possible that he could consistently move back and forth – Raiders coaches love experimenting with lineups during the offseason program – but he has primarily played cornerback in OTA session open to the press.
Guenther believes Joyner can be a real asset there.
“I was always impressed with him at the nickel spot,” Guenther said. “When he was available for us to go in there as a cover guy who can understand the run fits and become a blitzer, it was great. He’s vocal guy, a leader and a great guy to have on the team all-around. He’s a perfect fit for me for the nickel spot, and that’s what he has been working on.”
Raiders vertical game looking strong
Raiders receivers repeatedly tested and bested cornerbacks deep on Tuesday, especially with newcomers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams.
They connected on two of three chances in one particular 7-on-7 drill, with Nathan Peterman finding Antonio Brown open downfield versus Daryl Worley. Derek Carr caught Tyrell Williams in stride after he beat Nevin Lawson.
Brown set the tone getting several step separation on Worley with pure speed, but Carr just overthrew him downfield. Brown and Williams are both vertical threats, which should allow the Raiders to go yard a bit more using Derek Carr’s arm strength to create big plays.
Who’s in, who’s out
Brandon Marshall hasn’t yet participated in three OTA sessions open to the press. That included Tuesday’s practice, where he was seen working with a strength coach in the team’s performance center. It’s uncertain exactly why Marshall is missing out, though injury’s the overwhelming favorite to keep a famously hard worker away from the field.
He wasn’t the only Raider missing on Tuesday. Right tackle Trent Brown wasn’t seen at the workout, and Denzelle Good was missing for a second straight session.
Brandon Parker took Brown’s spot on the first team, and Richie Incognito continued to man the left guard spot.
Rookie cornerback Isaiah Johnson wasn’t working. Neither were sophomore defensive linemen Arden Key and P.J. Hall.
Clelin Ferrell worked with the first unit on Tuesday with Key out. The No. 4 overall pick is expected to be a three-down player in his first NFL season.
This ‘n that
Rookie defensive end Maxx Crosby showed quickness and pass-rush ability on Tuesday, including one pass batted when he was well into the backfield battling left tackle Kolton Miller. “He’s a Cadillac coming off the edge,” Guenther said. “He’s long and loose and quick off the ball. I think he’s going to make big jumps in his first year.” … Fellow rookie end Quinton Bell’s speed jumps out in OTAs, though blockers at the line can swallow him up. That’s to be expected somewhat from a developmental prospect off the edge. … Peterman was the second-unit quarterback, with Mike Glennon behind him on Tuesday. Carr made several good throws but there were a few he’d surely like back in this offseason session. … Linebacker Tahir Whitehead had an interception fall into his hands after tight end Erik Swoope bobbled a pass. Linebacker Nicholas Morrow extended well to break up a pass intended for Antonio Brown in the end zone during a red-zone drill. The first-unit offense failed to score on the top defensive in that session. … Benson Mayowa had a strong day creating pressure against young offensive linemen.