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Five Observations From Day One Of Rookie Minicamp


Tight End Ryan O'Malley, Quarterback Connor Cook and Guard Vadal Alexander

On an overcast Friday afternoon in Alameda, the Raiders' draft class – along with 17 undrafted free agents and approximately 20 tryout players – hit the field to kick off Rookie Minicamp at the team's facility.

"Always good to get started, get out there with the rookie class and host the tryout players that are here for the weekend," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio. "Looking for them to make a good impression, make a case for themselves as to why we should have them going forward with us as we put together our football team. A lot of eagerness, a lot of nervous energy out there."

Here are five things I noticed from the rookies' time on the field:

1. It looked like Day One of Rookie Minicamp

For the most part, a majority of the players on the field Friday had never played football together, and unsurprisingly, there were moments where it showed.

From dropped passes, to miscommunications at the line of scrimmage and bobbled snaps, it was evident Friday that this was certainly the first day of Rookie Minicamp.

Is this cause for concern or anything out of the norm? Absolutely not.

Del Rio said that there was a lot of nervous energy out on the field Friday afternoon, and at times it certainly showed.

One would assume that as the weekend wears on, all the players on the field will get their legs under them a little bit, and the mistakes will be less apparent.

2. Excluding Karl Joseph, the Raiders' Draft Class had perfect attendance

It was no secret that Karl Joseph wouldn't be participating in Rookie Minicamp, however, there was some speculation about whether or not the rest of the draft class would be on the field – particularly second-round draft pick Jihad Ward.

Ward suffered a knee injury last season while playing for the Illinois Fighting Illini, but Friday afternoon he was out on the field, moving without reservation, along with the rest of the rookies.

"He [Ward] looked pretty good right? Don't trust all those reports out there," Del Rio quipped to the media after practice. "We felt pretty good about our reports. He looks terrific. He's very athletic."

Although it's only been one practice, so far so good on participation from the Raiders' rookies expected to be on the field.

3. Jihad Ward certainly looks the part

Jihad Ward is listed at 6'5" and 296 pounds, and the explosive lineman definitely looks to be all of that and some.

While Ward did see a slight dip in his production in 2015, there's no question that he possesses the prototypical size and length that Del Rio and his staff have routinely said they covet. All the intangibles in the world don't mean anything if you don't have the technique to back it up, and Ward has demonstrated early on that he's a willing pupil.

"I'm ready, but I still need coaches just to help me," Ward said. "You have to learn from the greats. I'm learning from all these coaches. [Defensive coordinator] Coach [Ken] Norton, [defensive line] Coach [Jethro] Franklin, even Coach Del Rio. You can't be great if you don't learn from coaches."

4. For Shilique Calhoun, versatility is the name of the game

Shilique Calhoun is listed as a defensive end on the roster, but even after watching just one practice, it's evident that one of his strengths moving forward will be his versatility.

Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr., consistently says he likes his players to be multiple, and Calhoun certainly fits the bill. The third-round draft pick moved along the defensive line during Friday's on-field work, but he wasn't strictly operating with his hand in the dirt – he even briefly lined up out wide covering a tight end.

"It's not too far off honestly from what I've done in college," Calhoun said when asked about his role on the defense. "Other than maybe dropping a little bit more, it's pretty much the same basis, just being that rush end."

5. For what it's worth, Connor Cook sounds like a quarterback

It's fair to assume that Connor Cook will compete with Matt McGloin for the right to be the No. 2 quarterback on the Raiders' depth chart in 2016.

While he's only been on the field for one practice, and it will take time and repetitions for him to grow familiar with Bill Musgrave's offense, one thing is certain, Cook certainly has the poise and calm demeanor with the media one would expect from a quarterback.

"This is the longest I've gone without going up against a defense and seeing live action, especially at that kind of speed so everyone's shaking off the rust a little bit, but it feels good to be back out there," Cook explained. "The concepts that we run here are pretty similar to the concepts that we ran at Michigan State, just a different language. They might call it a glock route, we might call it a glance, or we might call it a comeback, they might call it a Mars, whatever it is. Certain words are mixed up a little bit, other than that, I think I've been picking it [the offense] up pretty well."

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