The parking lot at 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway was a little emptier this morning, as the Oakland Raiders players are now officially on summer break following the conclusion of the team’s three-day Mandatory Minicamp.
The team will regroup late next month in Napa for the start of Training Camp 2018, and while that’s the when we’ll really get a sense of what the Silver and Black will look like this year, here are six takeaways from minicamp.
1. Khalil Mack was not in the house
Alright, let’s get this out of the way at the top; the main thing everyone was looking for come Tuesday afternoon was whether or not Khalil Mack reported for minicamp after missing the voluntary portion of the Offseason Workout Program.
Well, No. 52 was not in attendance for the three-day minicamp this week, so now our focus shift to late-July to see if/when he arrives in Napa.
Mack is obviously one of the best defensive players in the game, and while it’s hard to replicate his presence on the field during Minicamp, Head Coach Jon Gruden was pleased with what he saw from that side of the ball throughout the week.
“I feel pretty good everywhere,” said Gruden. “I’d feel a lot better if No. 52 was walking around here right now. He’s the man. He’s the guy we have to figure out how to get back in here. Progress has been made. I think when we get everybody together a couple weeks into training camp we can better answer these questions because it is just shorts.”
2. There’s no need to worry about Gareon Conley
Gareon Conley appeared in just two games as a rookie, but if the Raiders want to right the ship in the secondary this year, they’re going to need a lot more from the talented defensive back.
The former Ohio State Buckeye – who’s now wearing No. 21, by the way – wasn’t a full participant in all three days of minicamp, but don’t worry, he’ll be fully ready to rock come training camp.
“He tweaked his groin,” Gruden explained when asked about Conley. “He could have obviously been out there today. He’ll be ready to go for training camp, but just a mild strain.”
And that’s good news for a team that needs the former first-round draft pick to take a big step in 2018.
3. The rookie tackles are holding their own
Understandably so, there were a plethora of eyes on the Silver and Black’s two rookie tackles, Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker throughout this offseason, and while we’re still a long ways away from Week 1, the pair have made a positive impression thus far.
They’ll likely have their fair share of rookie mistakes this year, it’s also become quite clear that the duo has the physical traits to play in the NFL.
“Smart kids,” center Rodney Hudson said when asked about Miller and Parker. “They listen. They’re learning and working and asking questions, which I think is always important for young guys. To ask questions about where they can do better, and both of those guys do that.”
Also, kind of unrelated, but shout-out to Brandon Parker, who got in a scrap with defensive end Fadol Brown on Wednesday, but held his own against the Ole Miss-product.
The Raiders have high hopes for both Miller and Parker, and I’m looking forward to watching them develop over the next few months.
4. The kicking competition is going to be a fun one
It’s been nearly two decades, but the Raiders will once again have a kicking competition during training camp.
While Giorgio Tavecchio handled the kicking duties in all 16 games for the Raiders last year, he’s now going to have to fight for his job after the team signed Eddy Piñeiro as an undrafted free agent.
As of late, Tavecchio and Piñeiro have alternated days that they’ve kicked, presumably to help punter Johnny Townsend out since they kick from different sides, and this battle is going to be a drawn out one.
“I think the rookie out of Florida is a capable guy,” Gruden explained. “He’s a capable guy. And I also think [Giorgio] Tavecchio, he’s not going to relinquish that job. But it’s going to be competitive, we’re going to try to stage some competitive drills, not only at the kicking position, but some of these young players they might get their eyes opened the first few days of pads.”
And while the Tavecchio/Piñeiro battle is going to wage throughout the preseason, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’ll be the most polite battle in the NFL.
5. Players are already making a name for themselves
Is the Offseason Workout Program long? Yes.
At times does it feel like it drags? Sure, but the one great thing about this time of the year is that with 90 guys on the roster, it seems like each day a new guy is making a highlight play.
Look, we all know what to expect from the guys like Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Bruce Irvin, but what I was really encouraged by during Minicamp was seeing dudes with a little less name recognition make some plays.
Here are two guys to keep an eye on once training camp arrives: Erik Harris and Dallin Leavitt; both have made some impressive interceptions throughout the offseason program, and I’m excited to see if they keep that positive momentum rolling.
Oh, and Gruden had some pretty high praise for No. 25 too…
“The guy that’s really been stunning for us is Erik Harris,” Gruden said. “I’m doing my research on this guy. Who is this cat? This guy has played really good football for us. I don’t care what round they are coming from. This kid is really rising to the top right now.”
6. The players aren’t the only ones who will be mending this summer
This time of the year is great for a lot of reasons; people go on vacation, they get married, they spend time with their loved ones, but one of the biggest things that happens during the summer break is that guys get a chance to heal.
Well, the 90 players on the roster won’t be the only ones on the mend; Head Coach Jon Gruden is having elbow surgery to fix a lingering issue that’s been bothering him.
“I had elbow surgery from Warren King the last time I was coaching the Raiders and I had a relapse,” Gruden explained. “I can’t straighten my right arm anymore and It’s been sore the last few years. Mo Collins, one of my old offensive guards knocked me sideways and I landed on my elbow, so I had to get surgery. Long story short, it’s bothered me really bad. I can hardly throw and I can’t golf. So, hopefully in a couple weeks I’ll be 100 percent.”
All kidding aside, the Offseason Workout Program was a successful one for the Silver and Black; the players and coaches will assuredly enjoy their time off, but we’ll be back in Napa before we know it.