Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.
After 10 sessions, the Oakland Raiders wrapped up their final Organized Team Activity [OTA] Thursday afternoon at the team's Alameda, Calif., facility.
Here are five things I noticed from their final day on the field before Mandatory Minicamp.
1. The Helmets Came Back On
After going through Wednesday's work in just hats, the players had helmets back on Thursday afternoon as the team went through its 10th OTA.
With its weekend on the horizon, the team put together a quality day on the field, working with purpose and going crisply from drill to drill.
Defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. was his usual energetic self, and it looks like Wednesday's dialed-down day of work paid dividends for the group as it looked sharp going through its two-hour session.
2. Shilique Calhoun Brings The Energy
Shilique Calhoun was fired up Thursday afternoon.
The rookie linebacker had a noticeable pep in his step going from drill to drill, and even broke into a little dance while waiting for his turn to go in one of the team's fundamental periods.
Calhoun has delivered consistent days of work throughout OTAs, and has shown that he has the ability to be multiple in where he lines up along Norton's defense.
Headed into 2016, the Silver and Black will not have a shortage of players who can get after the quarterback, and Calhoun – with his length and bendability – will certainly be an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on.
Calhoun –as well as defensive lineman Jihad Ward – has impressed Khalil Mack thus far, and it's easy to see why; he's an exciting prospect and one that Raider Nation should be looking forward to seeing hit the field.
3. George Atkinson III Flashes His Speed
The Raiders have built an impressive stable of running backs, and with players like Latavius Murray and newcomer DeAndré Washington in the mix, there are still options lower on the depth chart that should not be forgotten.
George Atkinson III made sure he wasn't forgotten Thursday, as the speedy back took two routine handoffs in quick succession and turned them into big plays.
On the first, Atkinson took the handoff, bided his time and then bounced out to the right side. He made the first defender miss and proceeded to run down the right sideline untouched. On the second, he took the handoff, changed directions, and then beat the defender to the edge and was able to turn the corner for a positive gain.
Since 2014 Atkinson has appeared in five games for the Raiders, and it'll be interesting to see if he can use that speed to earn a permanent spot on the roster this season.
4. Daren Bates Comes Down With An Interception
Linebacker Daren Bates has primarily made his name in the NFL by being a key contributor on special teams, but on Thursday, one of the more impressive defensive plays of the day belonged to the former Auburn Tiger.
During of the team's 11-on-11 periods, Bates intercepted a tipped ball that popped into the air and returned it to the other end zone for a touchdown.
Ask any coach and they'll say the same thing – depth on the roster is absolutely vital to finding success in the NFL.
While Bates most likely won't begin the season as one of the team's starting linebackers, having a serviceable player who can fill in defensively if need be can be invaluable for a team, particularly in the latter stages of the season.
5. The Defense Ends OTAs On Top
Per usual, the team ended its day with a competitive 11-on-11 session, and Thursday, the defense came out on top.
Quarterback Derek Carr found wide receiver Michael Crabtree on an impressive touchdown pass that was called back because of a penalty, but outside of that, the defense was able to hold pat and keep the offense out of the end zone.
After each defensive stop, linebacker Bruce Irvin audibly encouraged his defensive teammates, and following the completion of the period, the offensive players and coaches hit the ground to do their punishment pushups.
As they say, iron sharpens iron, and that is definitely the case with the 2016 Raiders, as each side of the football has continuously pushed each other through Phase III of the Offseason Workout Program.