Seth Roberts 'creating separation' with consistent approach


Seth Roberts 'creating separation' with consistent approach

Seth Roberts has high standards, especially for himself. The Raiders receiver doesn’t approve when they aren’t met, even when dips aren’t apparent to the naked eye.

That’s why his minicamp ended in disappointment. The second-year player didn’t make obvious blunders during the three-practice session, but didn’t think he had proper focus during the offseason program’s final act.

“These last two days I wasn’t into it like I should be,” Roberts said after minicamp's end. “My focus was the main part I lacked, but I’m going to take some time and get back into it.”

Roberts achieved success with confidence and a sharp edge that slashed expectation and helped him advance from junior college to West Alabama, from an undrafted free agent to the practice squad to a defined role with an NFL team.

Roberts has thrived without guarantees, moving up ranks with consistent focus, technique and execution.

Roberts doesn’t say much, but he takes pride in being reliable every practice and every game.

He doesn’t take sessions off, even in the offseason program. That’s why last month’s minicamp was deemed unsatisfactory, even with months before games count. Talent must be maximized at all times.

He’s a grinder still trying to prove he belongs, and that will continue during the darkest portion of the NFL calendar. He plans to work out at Cal-Berkeley heading towards training camp in Napa, his first with real job security.

“This year I feel like I took care of my body a lot better,” Roberts said. “Physically, I feel rested. The mental part of the game was a lot easier this offseason because of the continuity we have on offense.

“I can’t wait to work on getting that that touch and feel with the quarterback. It’s a little easier this time because you know what to expect.”

Roberts knows his role and how to thrive in it. He's expected to be the Raiders slot receiver in 2016, a role earned last year and kept with a solid campaign that featured 32 receptions 480 yards, five touchdowns and several clutch catches.

Who could forget the game-winning touchdowns caught against Baltimore and Tennessee? He was a red zone target, clearly trusted by Derek Carr to make big plays even with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree on the pitch.

Big plays didn’t build chemistry with his quarterback. Consistency was the key there.

“I always go back and study last year’s film, one thing I continued to see over and over again is when he was man-to-man, he won his route,” Carr said. “That is huge. And he’s not just winning, he’s creating separation.”

That’s a compliment of the highest order, one Roberts appreciates and hopes to validate by taking advantage of attention paid to higher-profile receivers.

“We don’t number our receivers but when he comes in, he’s the third guy in,” Carr said. “When you have that and the third corner guarding him or a safety coming down guarding him and have that guy consistently winning, it just opens up so many things. … It just takes pressure off of everybody. His role is huge, then you put a guy like (Andre Holmes), knowing the big play ability he has and you put Seth next to him, now safeties and defensive coaches have to make decisions because Seth continues to win on his routes.”

Raiders training camp battles: Several combinations possible at safety

Raiders training camp battles: Several combinations possible at safety

Editor’s note: We’ll take a look at several Raiders training camp battles leading up to the first full-squad practice on Saturday, and then we’ll update their progress throughout the preseason. Let’s get into the second one, focusing on safeties.

The Raiders have taken a safety in the first round of the NFL draft two of the last four years. They still paid a veteran top dollar to join the mix as a safety and slot corner. They extended a special teams player with some starts to his credit, too.

In short: the Raiders have options at safety, lots of them good.

That position will shake out in training camp, which starts this week in Napa.

This year’s No. 27 overall draft pick is already there. Johnathan Abram reported to camp Tuesday with the Raiders rookies, already in good position to snag a starting spot. Coaches love the Mississippi State alum, who joined the first unit later in the offseason program. He carries unshakable confidence and skill into his work as a do-everything safety that seems pro ready.

He paired with 2016 first-rounder Karl Joseph during the offseason program, who should still be a factor despite the team declining his fifth-year option. The team came away impressed by his recovery from injury and a slow start, when he found his footing in a role tailored to his strengths.

Erik Harris evolved into a defensive role last season, with the size and length to play free safety. He clearly has assumed a vocal leadership role in the back, and will fight for a job either on every down or obvious passing situations. He might end up being a super sub capable of playing anywhere, a valuable commodity in the secondary.

Lamarcus Joyner is the x-factor in all this. He’s clearly the team’s best free safety, but the high-priced free-agent signing has focused on slot cornerback to this point. That could change during training camp. Time will tell on that front. Coaches could split his focus -- he’s fully capable of switching between free safety and slot corner -- right away or bring him back to safety at times should one of the aforementioned contenders flop.

[RELATED: Why Carr should be primed to have a huge season this year]

Curtis Riley and Jordan Richards are also veterans in the mix, though they’re firmly on the roster bubble.

Early edge: Abram and Joseph at safety, with Joyner primarily at slot CB.

Raiders camp questions: Can Vontaze Burfict give stability at linebacker?

Raiders camp questions: Can Vontaze Burfict give stability at linebacker?

The Raiders have searched long and hard for stability at middle linebacker. They haven’t had much luck recently, no matter who has been picking players.

Let’s call it the curse of Rolando McClain, a wasted first-round pick that exemplifies the team’s issues filling an important position. Only Perry Riley and NaVorro Bowman offered partial-season respites during this middle linebacker drought, and neither player re-signed with the club.

Nick Roach, Curtis Lofton, Ben Heeney, Miles Burris and Derrick Johnson all have tried and failed to stabilize the position. Still-developing Marquel Lee, a rare linebacker drafted to play the middle, was thrust into a starting role but didn't stick and has been used on the strong side. The Raiders haven’t selected a middle linebacker before the fourth round since McClain, choosing largely to go the veteran route inside.

Vontaze Burfict enters as this year’s attempt to get the middle linebacker spot right. Brandon Marshall also is in town and capable of playing inside and out, as the Raiders hope to establish veteran leadership running Paul Guenther’s defense.

Burfict has spent most of his career as Guenther’s field general, and having him here should open previously closed chapters of an extensive playbook. Burfict was helpful running practice reps and meetings during the offseason program, already proving to be a valuable resource to his new team.

He must remain available and productive to stay that way. Burfict has struggled with injuries in recent seasons, which has hampered his effectiveness. Will he be a three-down player inside? Even two would be helpful, considering Tahir Whitehead’s lineup regularity and comfort with the defense.

Marshall also can fill the middle, proving a solid Plan B if Burfict struggles. Having veteran options playing in front of a developing corps including Jason Cabinda, Lee and Nicholas Morrow should be better than previous seasons, where the Raiders never seemed to have a backup plan.

[RELATED: Five incredibly bold predictions for upcoming Raiders season]

Burfict has been impactful already, but we haven’t seen much of Marshall. The former Bronco missed most offseason practices with an undisclosed injury.

These older veterans have been producers in the league but skepticism is fair until they show old form during the regular season. Can Burfict and/or Marshall succeed where previous players have struggled?

It’s worth keeping a keen eye on the middle linebacker spot and the position group as a whole, which must improve for the Raiders' defense to run well this regular season.