On an overcast, rainy May day, the Oakland Raiders held the first of their ten Organized Team Activities (OTAs) Tuesday afternoon.
The Silver and Black will be back on the field Wednesday and Thursday, before resting Friday, but here are seven observations from their time on the field Tuesday.
1. David Shaw was in the house
The Stanford Cardinal’s Head Coach was in town handling some recruiting business, and since he was in the neighborhood, he took in the Raiders first OTA of the offseason.
Gruden and David Shaw have long been close; not only did they both serve under Head Coach Ray Rhodes in Philadelphia in 1997, but Shaw was also the Silver and Black’s quarterbacks coach with Gruden in 2001.
That year, Rich Gannon – the team’s starter – threw for 27 touchdowns, and just nine interceptions.
There have been a lot of friendly faces coming back around 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway as of late, and it was good to see another one in the fold Tuesday.
2. Donald Penn hit the field
The night before the start of OTAs, the Raiders veteran tackle to give an update on where he was health-wise.
Tuesday afternoon, No. 72 was on the field, and while he didn’t go through every period of the two-hour practice, it was a welcome sight to see Penn lining up once again on the left side of the offensive line.
Penn missed the final two games of 2016, but if I know one thing, it’s never to count out Donald Penn.
Training camp this year is going to be fun.
3. Speaking of returns…
Gareon Conley – who quick reminder is rocking No. 21 now – was on the field, and went through the full, two-hour session with the rest of his teammates.
After appearing in just two games in 2017, the expectations for the second-year cornerback are much higher in 2018, and he started off OTAs on the right foot Monday.
“It’s great to see Conley out there,” said Coach Gruden. “We’re counting on him. We need him. But to see Rashaan Melvin and Conley and [Daryl] Worley competing is really exciting. Conley is special. He’s a top pick in this draft  for a reason. I think from a confidence standpoint, he needs to get some work in out here.”
If 2018 is indeed going to be a big year for Conley, a good offseason would be a great place to start for him.
4. Doug Martin showed a little something
Doug Martin had a good day at the office.
The 29-year-old running back returned to Northern California to suit up for his hometown team in the hopes of not only spelling Marshawn Lynch, but breathing new life into his own career as well.
While Martin has indeed rushed for over 1,400 yards in a season twice before, the past two seasons haven’t been the easiest for the former Boise State Bronco, but the veteran back is off to a good start in Silver and Black.
Yes, I know it’s just OTAs, but Martin did have a little pep in his step during the first OTA.
Not only does he look trim, but No. 28 was running with a purpose Monday, hitting the hole hard, and showing off a little bit of the physical running style he was heralded for during his days in Tampa Bay.
Jon Gruden wants to run the ball, and dominate the line of scrimmage, and the more guys on the roster that can do that, the better.
5. Coach Bisaccia was strictly business
Throughout the entire Offseason Workout Program, one thing that has really stood out to me, is just how business-like everything is surrounding the Silver and Black.
With Coach Gruden’s staff, there is no wasted time, there is a business-like air to everything the team does, and Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia certainly embodied that during the Raiders’ first OTA.
Even though it was a practice in late-May, Bisaccia was locked in, and made sure that during the special teams portions of practice, guys were focused, and handling what they needed to.
Bisaccia isn’t afraid to yell a little bit, and dig into guys when something needs to be better, and personally, I love that.
6. Bruce Irvin was going forward
One thing that we’ve heard time and time again this offseason, is that Bruce Irvin was going to play with his hand in the dirt a lot more in 2017.
After being asked to do a variety of things under previous regimes – like drop in coverage – Gruden and Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther, along with Irvin himself, have all said that come 2018, the rangy defensive end is going to be just that, a defensive end.
While that complete shift in job responsibilities won’t be fully evident until Week 1, it was certainly clear that No. 51 was putting his hand in the dirt more often than not on Tuesday, and according to Irvin, that’s fine with him.
“The transition from linebacker to end has been very smooth,” Irvin explained. “Seemed like defensive end is more natural to me. A lot of going forward and reacting instead of me dropping in coverage and knowing receiver routes. I think defensive end is a more natural fit. It gets me going and reacting more instead of thinking and covering people.”
7. Carr and Nelson showed some sparks
If all goes to plan, “Carr to Nelson” is a phrase that you’re going to hear a lot in 2018, and we got a sneak peak of the connection a little bit in OTA No. 1.
It’s no secret that Carr likes to get all of his guys involved offensively, and he certainly made sure to connect with No. 82 a fair amount on Tuesday.
Nelson is regarded as one of the best, pure route runners in the game, and while he can for sure turn a DB around at the start of his route, it was good to see him show off the burners a little bit as well.
With so much attention understandably paid to Amari Cooper, Nelson will no doubt get his looks, and I’m fired up to see what he does with them.