Seen and Heard: Brandon Parker beats Arden Key, makes Raiders' defense run

Seen and Heard: Brandon Parker beats Arden Key, makes Raiders' defense run

NAPA -- Raiders offensive and defensive linemen have been going after each other since the pads came on. They’ll square off in rushing drills, passing situations and, at times, they’ll go heads up one-on-one.

Those battles are a camp highlight, where physicality and technique merge. Guys typically match up against each other over and again in camp, including Kolton Miller vs. Clelin Ferrell and Trent Brown vs. Maxx Crosby and Benson Mayowa off the edge.

Arden Key and Brandon Parker have paired up a few times and, on Tuesday afternoon, head coach Jon Gruden raised the stakes.

Key and Parker would go at it, and whoever won a best-of-three pass-rush series would force the other unit to run.

Parker cast Key aside the first go-round, with Key slipping inside and into the pocket the second time. Key went inside on the grudge match, but Parker pushed him down to win the series.

The offense cheered and watched while defensive players did extra post-practice running.

AB’s back (mostly, anyway)

Star receiver Antonio Brown came off the non-football injury list on Sunday, but Tuesday’s padded practice produced his first extensive action of training camp.

Brown participated in a bit more than half of Tuesday’s work, but had pads off and was playing with his kids during team portions of practice.

Brown was his typical, dynamic self when working, sliding by Gareon Conley and Trayvon Mullen and Keisean Nixon for big plays. Lamarcus Joyner broke up a deep pass aimed for Brown, but he showed no signs of an undisclosed injury that put him on NFI in the first place.

The Raiders have an off day Wednesday, and head coach Jon Gruden believes Brown’s activity could increase after that.

He’s getting close and hopefully after the day off tomorrow he will get closer, but we need him on the grass,” Gruden said. “We need him to get going and he’s chomping at the bit. He’s not a real patient guy and hopefully, it’ll be sooner than later.”

Gruden, Raiders give back to local football programs

Gruden spent some time with players and coaches from five East Bay school after Tuesday’s training camp practice. The pep talk also came with a $25,000 check, split evenly between Oakland High, Skyline, Castlemont, Madison Park Academy and Danville Monte Vista football programs. The donation came from Dick’s Sporting Goods, with Gruden and Raiders coaches and players also providing contributions. Gruden is passionate about the importance of youth sports and its life lessons. He has worked with Dick’s Sporting Goods in the past to provide funds for proper coaching and participation for young people.

“People are trying to cancel youth football. They are trying to cancel youth sports, boys and girls sports,” Gruden said. “There are a lot of geniuses out there that believe youth sports should be canceled. I’m not one of them, so we are trying to support these coaches. Every year they get paid less, their budget gets reduced and the expectations on them become higher, so a credit to our coaches and players and Dick’s Sporting Goods for trying to give five high school programs a lift because these kids want to play and they deserve to play.”

On-field action

-- Darren Waller had the catch of team drills, adjusting to the ball in the air and plucking it out of tight coverage for a big gain. He does that at least once a practice and continues to be a highlight of Raiders training camp.

-- The Raiders have a fourth passer on the roster, even if he doesn’t technically play quarterback. Tight end Paul Butler can sling it, a point clear during receiver drills early in Tuesday’s practice. The Raiders only have three quarterbacks but had four receivers in the pattern, so Butler threw the last ball out. Most of the time it was a tight, accurate spiral.

-- Travyon Mullen showed he can match to NFL speed, making a leaping pass breakup on a deep ball intended for sprinter J.J. Nelson

-- The Raiders switched sides for positional drills, with defenders working on ball security offensive players working to track back and bat down passes. The effort went a step further in team drills when Mike Glennon purposely threw interceptions and fumbled so the defense could get change-of-direction work.

-- Linebackers Tahir Whitehead and Kyle Wilber both used physicality to pop the ball free and ruin clean receptions in team drills.

Injury updates

-- Defensive tackle Gabe Wright suffered an apparent knee/leg injury late in Tuesday’s practice. He was unstable trying to walk on his own and needed assistance off the field. Gruden didn’t have an immediate update, but the situation seemed initially dire.

-- Gruden wouldn’t disclose the injury keeping rookie defensive end Quinton Bell out of action, but said the outlook was better than the team initially feared. The seventh-round draft pick could be back in the next week or so.

Bell’s a great athlete but raw playing defense, so any time missed is tough. He’s viewed as a developmental prospect who might need a year on the practice squad (or stashed on injured reserve) before a contribution can be expected.

[RELATED: Raiders finding value covering AB in camp]

-- Mullen (wrist) returned after a one-practice absence. Defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes (concussion), guard Jonathan Cooper and Bell all missed practice Tuesday’s practice.

-- DT Ronald Ollie was injured on Saturday and waived on Tuesday after the team signed versatile veteran defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks. Tight end Erik Swoope was also cut, leaving the Raiders roster at 89 and foreshadowing another signing.

NFL Draft 2020: Six receiver prospects Raiders should target on Day 2

NFL Draft 2020: Six receiver prospects Raiders should target on Day 2

An offense without weapons at wide receiver is like a great white shark without rows of razor-sharp teeth. It doesn't pose nearly as much of a threat.

That's what the Raiders' offense had to deal with in 2019. While Hunter Renfrow was a revelation in the slot and Darren Waller blossomed at tight end, the lack of weapons at receiver put a ceiling on Jon Gruden's offense.

Tyrell Williams will be back as the team transitions to Las Vegas, and the Raiders hope the plantar fascitis that hampered him last season is a thing of the past. The Raiders signed Nelson Agholor and hope to get more out of Zay Jones, but they need to add dynamic playmakers if they plan to take the next step.

The Raiders should add an elite receiver with one of their two first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, but one isn't enough. Make no mistake, adding either CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs would make the offense worlds more dangerous, but more help is needed. No, the Raiders won't use both first-round picks on receivers, they have too many other needs to focus just on the hole out wide.

But they have three third-round picks, a fourth-round pick and fifth-round selection to play with, and this draft class is loaded at receiver, giving the Raiders several Day 2 and Day 3 options to look at.

K.J. Hamler, Penn State

I'm going to start here. Hamler is a household name and he'll likely be off the board in Round 2, but the electric Penn State receiver has the explosiveness and big-play ability the Raiders sorely lacked in 2019.

He has the route-running and hands to make him a high-target slot receiver in the NFL and his ability to make defenders miss and turn a 9-yard gain into a huge chunk play is something that should have Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock salivating. Hamler isn't any sort of hidden gem. His ability and break-neck speed are well-documented and the Raiders no doubt will have their eye on him.

Exhibit A:

Chase Claypool, Notre Dame

There were questions about Claypool's positional fit before the NFL Scouting Combine. Some teams asked the 6-foot-4, 238-pound receiver to workout at tight end. That doesn't matter now.

After running a 4.42 40-yard dash and recording a 40.5-inch vertical at the combine, it's clear that Claypool's size and freakish athleticism will allow him to find a home in the NFL.

Only two wide receivers since 2005 have recorded a sub 4.45 40 while measuring 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds. Claypool and Calvin Johnson.

He can be a vertical threat on the outside or operate in the slot as a possession receiver to move the sticks. His versatility will make him a coveted Day 2 pick. Claypool likely won't be available in Round 3, but with a class this deep and versatile it's hard to tell who will go where after the first four receivers are off the board.

Contested-catch ability? Check.

K.J. Hill, Ohio State

As shown by last year's draft class, Mayock and Gruden put a premium on production and culture fit. Look no further than Ohio State's K.J. Hill.

No player has caught more passes in Ohio State history than Hill, and that includes the likes of Cris Carter and Michael Thomas.

At 6-foot, Hill comes with some physical limitations -- so did Renfrow -- but he's a silky route-runner with elite separation skills, good hands and natural run-after-the-catch ability. The Buckeye star should be available in Round 3, and it's easy to see Gruden selecting Hill after an adding outside threat in Round 1.

Michael Pittman Jr., USC

The Raiders really struggled in the red zone last season. A healthy Williams should give them a boost, but they'll need more to capitalize on scoring opportunities.

Introducing, USC's Michael Pittman Jr.

The 6-foot-4 receiver is long, strong, has huge hands and a massive catch radius. He is great at winning on nine routes, comebacks, quick outs and slants. His big frame and physicality give him the ability to win on contested catches.

Pittman isn't the fleetest of foot and can struggle to create separation but the physical tools will be hard to pass up.

Devin Duvernay, Texas

If the Raiders have learned one thing from going against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, it's that deadly speed is something you need to have lots of and it can't be taught. That's why I opened this with Hamler, despite him not being a "hidden gem," and that's why we now arrive at Devin Duvernay.

The 5-foot-11 Texas slot receiver can burn it up. Speed, hands and physicality are what you need to know about his game. When the ball is in his hands he's as dangerous as anyone. His lack of separation agility has some people questioning his fit, but he has skills you just can't teach and could be a dynamic weapon for the Silver and Black. Oh, and he had zero career dropped passes in the red zone during his four years in Austin.

[RELATED: DTs Raiders could look to draft in Round 1]

Van Jefferson, Florida

I'll end this with a high-floor prospect who is a likely Day 3 selection.

Florida's Van Jefferson is a nuanced route-runner with good ball skills. While the hands are good and the routes are clean, Jefferson will be 24 when he takes an NFL snap and has an average athletic profile.

He can play both outside and in the slot. He thrives in the middle of the field and should have a productive NFL career as a second target.

Raiders set to use rest of Khalil Mack trade assets in 2020 NFL Draft

Raiders set to use rest of Khalil Mack trade assets in 2020 NFL Draft

The Raiders traded Khalil Mack just before the 2018 regular season and didn’t get anything in return to help that year’s roster. That was a main reason why that season went up in smoke and put the Raiders’ decision under fire.

Jon Gruden in particular became a punching bag the trade's detractors, without evidence of the trade's return coming for a year or more. 

The Raiders head coach is about to get a fat dividend check. 

The Mack trade will start looking a bit different next month, because the bulk of assets exchanged will be used either to acquire NFL draftees or as trade chips.

As a reminder, the Raiders traded Mack, a 2020 second-round draft pick -- coughing up that selection remains an eybrow raiser, but it got the deal done -- and a conditional 2020 fifth-round draft pick that is now a seventh-round draft pick to Chicago for first-round draft picks in 2019 and 2020, with a 2020 third-round draft pick and a 2019 sixth-round draft pick.

The Raiders used the Bears’ 2019 first-round pick to acquire running back Josh Jacobs. That’s not a bad deal even as a straight swap, but there’s a lot more to account for when evaluating this deal.

Following where the 2019 sixth-round pick would require heading down a rabbit hole leading to Wonderland, so let’s just say it was traded to the Jets along with Kelechi Osemele for an asset that started a series of 2019 in-draft trades that helped acquire several members of an excellent draft class, including Trayvon Mullen and Hunter Renfrow.

Here’s what the Raiders have yet to use from the Mack trade:
2020 first-round draft pick (No. 19 overall)
2020 third-round draft pick (No. 81 overall)

Here’s what the Bears have yet to use from the Mack trade:
2020 second-round draft pick (No. 43 overall)
2020 seventh-round draft pick (No. 223 overall)

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Using those selections will give us a clearer picture of what the trade looks like, even though it’s imprudent to evaluate draft picks until they’ve played a few NFL seasons.

Raiders fans should have some level of confident coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock will do the right thing with extra assets considering how well last year’s draft went, the Jacobs pick in particular.

This year’s No. 19 overall draft pick is an important one, likely producing the other headline name in a deal that will be remembered alongside shipping Mack to Chicago and the Jacobs pick.

[RELATED: Mack makes All-Decade Team, largely for work with Raiders]

Our latest NBC Sports Bay Area mock draft has the Raiders taking Alabama safety Xavier McKinney at No. 19, while Gruden and Mayock could be looking for a cornerback or a defensive tackle at that spot. It’s also a trade chip that could get the Raiders into the second round, where they currently don’t have a selection.

The Jacobs pick made fans feel a lot better about the Mack trade, especially with 2019 fourth-round draft pick Maxx Crosby proving a formidable edge rusher with 10 sacks as a rookie. Using their assets correctly might even make the Raiders come out ahead, or darn close to it, with young players on the roster and money Mack would’ve demanded spread out among several other veteran free agents who are good but not at Mack’s elite level.