Quarterbacks Connor Cook, Matt McGloin and Derek Carr
The Oakland Raiders completed their fourth through sixth of 10 Organized Team Activities [OTAs] this week at the team's Alameda, Calif., facility.
Here are five things I learned from watching their second week of OTAs.
1. The team is receptive to Jack Del Rio's message
During Tuesday's OTA there were several instances where things got chippy between members of the offensive and defensive line – with one skirmish actually ending in punches being thrown.
Are the dustups anything to worry about going forward? Absolutely not. Tempers rise on the practice field, and as a result, disagreements can occur, but that doesn't mean Head Coach Jack Del Rio is alright with teammates getting after each other during this portion of the Offseason Workout Program.
"I think there was a great opportunity to teach for us today with some of the spats that were going on, that were really not part of what we do," said Del Rio. "Just about every case, it was a new guy that hasn't really… I pretty much take it on myself. I say, OK these guys have not been told, so now is a great opportunity. I laid it out for them, what it looks like here, how we treat each other, what the Raider way looks like. Hopefully we won't waste our time doing things like that. Raiders want to take care of Raiders. We want to compete and play hard. We want to be respectful. We want to understand that having self-control is huge."
Del Rio's message to his team was heard loud and clear as there weren't any other spats during the ensuing two days of on-field work.
2. Gabe Jackson is moving to the right side
Gabe Jackson has spent his entire NFL career playing on the left side of the offensive line, but heading into 2016, Del Rio is experimenting with Jackson on the right side.
The Silver and Black signed Kelechi Osemele at the onset of free agency, and through the first six OTAs, the imposing the guard has been working on the left side next to tackle Donald Penn. If Osemele stays on the left side – which all signs indicate he will – Jackson will be operating on the right side for the first team since high school, but the transition is one that he's welcoming.
"Anytime you have something new there are different growing pains," Jackson explained. "It's different, but at the same time it's fun. I feel like I'm at the starting point of my career and the beginning point of my career and the more you can learn, the better it is. The more you can do, the better it is. I'm glad and anxious about it, and excited to get started."
3. Jihad Ward is making his presence felt
When the Raiders selected defensive lineman Jihad Ward in the second round (No. 44 overall) of this year's NFL Draft, many people looked at the 22-year-old as a project player who wouldn't be able to contribute right away.
However, Del Rio has been pleasantly surprised with what he's seen from the University of Illinois-product.
"He [Ward] is probably a little quicker than I anticipated," Del Rio said. "I see him flash a little more than I anticipated, in terms of having quickness and the ability to find the football. Some defensive linemen are stuck on blocks and they're wrestling the block all the time. Guys will run right by them and they don't have the awareness to see them. You can coach them through that, but really that's been pretty natural. He's pretty natural when it comes to wanting to find the ball carrier and wanting to find the quarterback. That's been a pleasant surprise."
Standing at 6'5" and tipping the scales at 297 pounds, Jihad Ward is hard to miss on the practice field, especially when he's making disruptive plays along the defensive line.
4. OTAs are providing valuable reps for Derek Carr
OTAs are valuable for multiple reasons. Not only do they provide an opportunity for the team to get together and work out, but they also allow players – quarterbacks in particular – to tweak little things about their craft in a non-game setting.
Derek Carr is no different, and through the first six OTAS he's had a chance to experiment with certain throws and routes, which is something he didn't have just just a year ago as he didn't participate in this portion of the Offseason Workout Program while recovering from a hand injury.
"Me and T.D., [quarterbacks] coach [Todd] Downing were talking about that. I was like, 'Man, it's kind of cool how you guys get together like this and practice in the offseason.'" Carr said. "I was sitting out there in a sweatshirt not allowed to. I see how important it is, especially in the same offense, same system, to be able to go out there and get these practices in before the mini-camp shows up, before training camp shows up because we can work and tweak little things. I've been working on throwing the ball on certain routes, like I want to throw it extremely early just to try it, just to test it and see what you can get away with in OTAs because there is nobody out there, games aren't on the line yet. If I think it will make something better, I want to work on it."
Check out the best images from the Raiders second week of Organized Team Activities.
Through his first two seasons, Carr has proven to be a willing pupil, and Phase Three of the Offseason Workout Program has provided a perfect opportunity to continue his on-field education.
5. Joe Hansley had a good week at work
Wide receiver Joe Hansley may have flown under the radar while playing at Colorado State, but one thing's for certain – after the week of practice he put on tape, he's definitely not flying under the radar of the Raiders' coaching staff.
Hansley has been a solid contributor since he arrived for Rookie Minicamp, but he delivered a spectacular day Wednesday, hauling in multiple acrobatic catches and being a consistent weapon out wide for the Silver and Black's offense.
Del Rio said that while the team's top four wide receivers are primarily set, he did acknowledge that there's opportunity on the back end of the position group.
Hansley may not boast prototypical size, but after his production this week, he's shown that he's a player to keep an eye on as the team gears up for Training Camp 2016.