Linebacker Marquel Lee
After arriving at the Oakland Raiders facility Thursday, the team's rookie class – including 19 undrafted free agents [UDFAs], a slew of tryout players, and a few other eligible players – hit the field for the first time late Friday morning, officially kicking off Rookie Mini-Camp.
The rookies will remain on the field through the weekend, but with the first day officially in the books, let's look back at five observations from Friday's session.
1. Attendance was high
From cornerback Gareon Conley, to defensive tackle Treyvon Hester and the seven players in between, the entirety of the Raiders nine-man draft class was suited up and on the field for Friday's on-field session.
"We're looking for men that are locked in to doing the right things and guys that can help us win," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio. "Regardless of how you got here, you have a shot. So we had a good start, 24 hours with these guys and getting them in the building and going to the physicals and the meetings and getting out for the first practice. A lot of life out there, I know you saw it. We're just happy to be getting started."
While it's tough to get an accurate gauge on how these players will translate to the professional level after one practice, it's encouraging that all nine draft picks were able to get through the day's work.
Head Coach Del Rio always likes to say that the best ability is availability, and unlike last season, when safety Karl Joseph was unable to partake in rookie mini-camp as he recovered from injury, this year, the entire draft class will be available to go through the ever-important Offseason Workout Program.
2. It wasn't just the rookies who went to work
Yes, this weekend's events are technically classified as "Rookie Mini-Camp," but that doesn't mean that only rookies are eligible to be in attendance.
As stated earlier, the nine drafted rookies and the UDFAs weren't the only ones on the field Friday; players who were on the Raiders roster in 2016 – but had not yet accrued a full season of experience – were also allowed to take part in the day's work, and will do so throughout the weekend.
Those players are as follows: kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, wide receiver Jaydon Mickens, cornerback Kenneth Durden, linebacker Dwayne Norman, guard Oni Omoile, wide receiver K.J. Brent, and defensive end Jimmy Bean.
3. Jaydon Mickens had a nice day at the office
Wide receiver Jaydon Mickens may be just 23 years old, but with a full season on the practice squad, he's one of the most-experienced players at the Raiders Rookie Mini-Camp this weekend.
Mickens looked noticeably confident going through the day's drills, and during portions of the day he even coached up some of his fellow wide receivers on the little details of running strong routes.
Not only was Mickens a sounding board for the rookies, but he also had a strong day on the field, in fact, he might have had the highlight of the day, hauling in a tough catch in double coverage to convert a first down.
4. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., appears to be in mid-season form
Ken Norton, Jr., is consistent.
Regardless of the time of day, point in the season, practice or a game, the Raiders defensive coordinator is consistently a ball of energy, cheering his players on from the moment they hit the field.
Friday's session was no exception to that rule, as Norton was his usual, fiery self from the moment the players ran out of the locker room, consistently cheering them on, but also making sure that any necessary changes in the defensive formation were made, quickly.
Personally, my favorite Norton moment of the day came on the very last play of practice, when the defense made a critical third down stop, ending the day's work, and forcing the offense to drop down and do push-ups as punishment.
Following the pass breakup, Norton – with defensive line coach Jethro Franklin in hot pursuit – sprinted to the defense, leading the cheers for his group as they basked in the warm glow of victory.
5. It's all in the details
Football, like many things in life, comes down to execution, and a focus on the details.
Special teams coordinator Brad Seely undoubtedly subscribes to this theory, and during Friday's special teams periods, he made sure that each player was exactly where he was supposed to be, doing what he was supposed to do.
It was abundantly clear Friday afternoon that not only was Seely supremely interested in making sure the special teams portions of practice went off without a hitch, but that he also wanted to coach up all the players going through the session.
Rookie Mini-Camp is an interesting time of the offseason, simply because of how many players are on the field, the majority of whom have never played together, so give Seely credit for still holding his group to a high standard right out of the gates.