Defensive Lineman Jihad Ward
The Raiders' rookies returned to the practice field Saturday, taking part in the second day of Rookie Minicamp at the team's Alameda, Calif., facility.
"I tell you these rookies are looking fantastic," said defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. "They're playing hard. These coaches are working their butts off and we're putting it together, and we're doing things the Raider way. We really like them. They're doing a fantastic job. Everything we thought they were on film and in college, they're doing exactly what they're doing here. We're very, very happy with our draft picks."
Here are a few things that stood out as I watched them work.
1. Saturday was a cleaner day at the office
Day One of Rookie Minicamp very much looked just like that. Head Coach Jack Del Rio said as much during his press conference Friday afternoon.
However, there was a marked improvement Saturday as the rookies went to work, cutting down on some of the mental mistakes that were evident Friday.
The routes looked crisper, there weren't as many miscommunications at the line of scrimmage, and overall everyone seemed to have their legs under them a little bit more.
Did it look like a typical practice you would see during the regular season? No, but at this point of the offseason you just want to see improvement from the players on the field, and that's precisely what you saw Saturday.
2. Class was in session with Professor Franklin
During one of the special teams periods, defensive line coach Jethro Franklin pulled aside defensive tackle Darius Latham – an undrafted rookie from Indiana – and was working one-on-one with him, on a variety of moves, including swim moves and other techniques at the line of scrimmage.
Head Coach Jack Del Rio has continually stressed that he's built a coaching staff of teachers, and that was evident Saturday as Franklin spent 10 minutes drilling the fundamentals home with one of the Raiders' hopefuls.
3. Energy, energy, energy
Ken Norton, Jr., is all energy all the time, that's no secret, and he was in mid-season form Saturday.
During one of the 11-on-11 sessions, Norton lit up his defensive unit after one of the tryout players made an impressive catch in double coverage between two members of the secondary.
"That's unacceptable," Norton scolded. "Unacceptable."
While Norton is quick to praise his players after making an impressive play, he's also not afraid to chide them after they deliver an effort that's not up to his standards.
4. Jihad Ward had a little pep in his step
Jihad Ward has been impressive during the first two days of Rookie Minicamp.
The imposing lineman is a disruptive force and has made his presence felt along the defensive line since the players hit the field, but Saturday he seemed to have a little extra pep in his step going from drill to drill, even jumping up and clicking his heels after an impressive rep.
The Silver and Black have high hopes for their second-round draft pick, and so far, he certainly looks the part. It's going to be exciting to see how he looks when the team puts the pads on, but so far so good for the University of Illinois-product.
5. Don't sleep on James Cowser
If there's one thing that James Cowser did in college, it was produce.
During his four seasons at Southern Utah, Cowser set the NCAA FCS record with 43.5 sacks and also posted double-digit sack totals in three of his four seasons as a Thunderbird.
Through two days of Rookie Minicamp, the hybrid defensive lineman/linebacker has been a disruptive force on the defense and constantly seems to be around the ball.
While he may not be a finished product as of now, Cowser has definitely been one of the players that has stood out to me on the defensive side of the football; every rep he takes, his speed and burst are evident.