Eight Organized Team Activities (OTAs) down; two to go.
The Silver and Black continued Phase III of the Offseason Workout Program Tuesday afternoon at the team’s Alameda, Calif., facility, and are now rapidly approaching the start of Mandatory Mini-Camp next week.
Let’s not look too far down the road though; here are six observations from Tuesday’s on-field session.
1. Tom Cable is always coaching
Head Coach Jon Gruden is always categorized as a man with boundless energy, but I think Offensive Line Coach Tom Cable might be able to match him.
Cable –a former head coach of the Raiders in his own right – is highly regarded as one of the best o-line coaches in the game, and while he no doubt has a certain expertise in coaching up the big fellas up front, it’s also become abundantly clear that he does so with a bit of flare.
Cable was once again vocal with his group Tuesday afternoon, and with a nice mix of both veterans and young players on the offensive line, I’m excited to see how he balances those personalities going forward.
I know it sounds kind of silly to say, but it’s been really encouraging to see the Raiders coaching staff actually coach throughout OTAs and the Offseason Workout Program.
2. EJ Manuel showed off his arm
I’ve said it time and time again; depth is key to success in the NFL, especially at the quarterback position.
If everything goes to plan in 2018, Derek Carr will take 99 percent of the Raiders offensive snaps in 2018, but if for some, unforeseen reason, No. 4 is sidelined, Jon Gruden and Co. will need a capable backup to step in and keep the ship afloat.
While the battle between Manuel and Connor Cook will extend through training camp, and most likely the preseason as well, the former Florida State Seminole showed off his arm during Tuesday’s session, connecting on a few, real nice deep passes.
I’ve long maintained that Manuel throws a pretty pass, and it was nice to see that manifest itself a little bit on Tuesday.
D.C. is easily that dude for the Silver and Black, but I’m excited to see Manuel and Cook battle it out once the team regroups in July.
3. Dallin Leavitt had a nice day at the office
Yes, you read that correctly, the rookie safety from Utah State made his presence known Tuesday, getting his hands on some passes, and being active defensively all afternoon.
That’s the beauty of this time of the year; it seems like there’s a new guy making an impact each day, regardless of where they came from, or how long they’ve been on the team.
Now, these successes in June don’t necessarily equate to making plays in October – I remember a few years back when Joe Hansley ran with the first unit for much of OTAs – but nevertheless, it’s cool to see somewhat under-the-radar guys make an impact.
Tuesday’s was Dallin Leavitt’s day, so shout-out to him.
4. In general, the defensive backs were locked in
Each day, somebody wins, and somebody loses, that’s the way it works, and Tuesday the Raiders DBs came away with a big “W.”
It seemed like regardless of which quarterback was under center, the Silver and Black’s defensive backs made life difficult for him and the team’s wide outs, and Derrick Ansley’s groups boasted the results to back it up too.
The Raiders cornerbacks secured a pair of interceptions Tuesday afternoon, one from Marcus Gilchrist and one from Daryl Worley as well.
One of the big things that has stood out for me this offseason has been the play of the team’s secondary, and Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther has been pleased with what he’s seen thus far as well.
“We made a big emphasis on turning the ball over,” explained Guenther. “Obviously, it’s a big part of what we talk about in our meeting rooms, turning the ball over, getting it back to our offense, and we’ve had some opportunities. You see the guys are getting excited about [it], so it’s good to see them all running down there, chasing the guy after he intercepts the ball. It’s been good. We’ve got our hands on a lot of balls, we just have to catch more of them.”
5. Friends helping friends…
We hear it all the time, the importance of the pass rush and coverage working together for the betterment of the defense as a whole, and we saw a firsthand example of that Tuesday afternoon.
Rookie defensive tackle P.J. Hall burst through the offensive line, and forced the quarterback out of the pocket, after the signal-caller was on the run, he threw an ill-advised pass that Worley snatched out of midair, and eventually ran back up field for what would have been a pick six.
Defensively, that play was the perfect embodiment of what the Raiders would like to do defensively, and man, did it look pretty.
6. Derrick Johnson is starting to get comfortable
If you spent 13 years anywhere, it’s going to take a little time to find your footing in a new home.
Such is the situation that veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson found himself in recently, as he joined the Raiders after spending over a decade with the division rival Kansas City Chiefs.
Well, it’s been almost a month since Johnson put on the Silver and Black, and No. 56 is starting to find his footing with his new team.
“A lot of young, talented players on this defense, and this team, and it’s exciting,” Johnson said. “It’s my first time, not being around new players of course, being in [Kansas City] that long, but just being in atmosphere that’s very new to me, just facility, coaches, everybody, but the Raiders have really taken me in, taken a young man, I would say, in, with open arms, and it’s going good right now.
Jon Gruden and General Manager Reggie McKenzie signed Johnson to be the calming influence in the middle of the defense, and I’m optimistic that he can be just that in 2018.