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Halfway Through Organized Team Activities, Here Are Five Things We've Learned So Far

Day Five of the Oakland Raiders Organized Team Activities is in the bag, which means the team is halfway done with OTAs, and over the last five days of practice we’ve seen quite a bit from Head Coach Jon Gruden and his group.

Unfortunately, we won’t hear from Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther until Tuesday, but we have heard from a handful of players and coaches already who’ve commented on their progress throughout the offseason workout program.

We’re still about two weeks away from the start of Mandatory Mini-Camp, but let’s recap some highlights from the first five days of OTAs.

Donald Penn is back on the field

The Raiders two-time Pro Bowl tackle has been an anchor on the left side of the offensive line for four seasons now, but in 2017 No. 72 didn’t start all 16 games for the first time since his rookie season (he started 12). Penn dealt with some injuries towards the end of the season, and through part of the offseason, but the big man has his helmet back on.

Motivated to return to his Pro Bowl form, Penn is working with Offensive Line Coach Tom Cable daily to achieve his goal. It’s a pleasant sight to see him lining up next to guard Kelechi Osemele once again.

Doug Martin is making an impact

The former First-Team All-Pro has been electric during the early goings of OTAs, showing off the talent that made him a first-round pick back in 2012. I know it’s OTAs and you should never get overly excited about things that take place in May; however, the effort from Martin has been impressive. That same effort has caught the attention of his teammates, and is setting a positive example for the younger players.

“You see why he’s an All-Pro,” Derek Carr said Tuesday. “You see why he’s a 1,500-yard back. His work ethic is unbelievable. He finished a run to the end zone today and didn’t stop until he got there and then he ran back to make sure he’s getting even more in shape. It’s little things like that that show young guys, ‘Hey man, that’s how you do it.’”

Never a bad thing to gain the approval of your quarterback.

The coaching staff has been vocal

There’s been no shortage of intensity on the field, just ask any of the players.

“He [Gruden] brings the intensity, he brings the energy even in the meeting rooms,” tight end Jared Cook said Tuesday. “The meetings aren’t just sitting here and going over plays, talking through the plays, talking about the plays. He demands reaction from you, he wants to hear from you what is your assignment. So he asks you a lot of questions in these meetings. There’s no shortage of energy at all, he brings it every day and he expects it from us as well.”

Whether it’s been Gruden or Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia, the coaching staff has brought their passion for the game of football on a daily basis. Players have defined the coaching style as a breath of fresh air, and after a disappointing 2017 season, they appear to feel rejuvenated under the current regime.

Carr and Nelson are building chemistry

When the Raiders acquired former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson I was fired up for a number of reasons: he’s consistent, his impact will stretch further than on the field, and I believe he can still play at a high level.

Nelson has totaled 550 receptions, 7,848 receiving yards, and 69 touchdowns during his nine seasons in the league.

Amari Cooper has already stated how beneficial it’s been having Nelson in the wide receivers meeting room, and the insights he’s been able to share could take Coop’s game to the next level. In addition to his wisdom, Nelson has showed a connection with his new QB, and if the two can fully get on the same page they’ll make quite the dynamic duo.

Younger players are stepping up

We talk about Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Khalil Mack, and Marshawn Lynch all the time, but some of the players who don’t receive as much recognition are stepping up. Defensive end Fadol Brown was on the practice squad last year, but showcased his power off the edge through the first five days of camp – I imagine he’s been watching a lot of Mack’s tape.

Wide receiver Griff Whalen has put his speed on full display also, and even making some noteworthy catches on the sideline. Gruden is looking for competition from his team, and that’s exactly what’s happened through five days of OTAs.

The Raiders will wrap up OTAs a week from today, and will kick off Mandatory Mini-Camp June 12.

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