Guard Gabe Jackson, Center Rodney Hudson, and Running Back Marshawn Lynch
2017 will be a year of firsts for Todd Downing.
In January he was promoted from Quarterbacks Coach to Offensive Coordinator – the first time he's held a coordinator job in his career – in just over two weeks, he'll call his first preseason game, and come September 10, he'll be looked at to lead one of the most-dynamic offenses in the NFL.
It's been quite the ride for Downing, who just three seasons ago was the quarterbacks coach for the Buffalo Bills, but throughout his time in Silver and Black there has been one consistent factor – and an important one at that – his relationship with quarterback Derek Carr.
A tight relationship between quarterback and offensive coordinator is crucial, and the one between Carr and Downing appears to be even tighter than most.
"So we were saying things and we've done it about four or five times already just in Day 1 install where he's like, 'Okay now, if we get this look…' And I finish his sentence," said Carr Saturday. "You want me to go to this, and he's like, 'Yep.' (laughing) He was actually joking about that today. I think that that is the part that's helping us grow."
Once again in lockstep, further demonstrating their rapport, Downing shared a nearly identical sentiment Sunday afternoon when asked about Carr.
"I tell ya, we've had so many opportunities here in camp, talking about adjustments, in-game adjustments, how we'll do things on the sideline, how we'll game plan, and it's almost eerie sometimes how he and I can finish each other's sentences," Downing explained. "And that's something that's really comfortable to have your first time around as a coordinator."
While his familiarity with Carr will no doubt pay dividends for Downing and the offense in general come the regular season, the presence of No. 4 is two pronged; not only is he a tremendous quarterback, he can also act as another coach on the field.
"You don't always have to be the one to say, 'hey, this is the way we're going to do things, or 'hey, this is the way I want to see this," Downing said of Carr. "When you get to share that with your trigger man, that's a pretty special thing, so I don't take that for anything less than the blessing that it is."
And while Carr is no doubt the man under center for the Silver and Black for the foreseeable future, there's a pretty good competition going on between Connor Cook and EJ Manuel for the right to be his backup, and at this point, Downing says it's too close to call.
"I think it is even and I think there's a little bit of ebb and flow to that situation," he said. "Some days one guy might have a better day than the other. We're not going to adjust the reps accordingly and try to play that back and forth game. I like guys to develop some consistency in their pattern. That's why you see the rotation the way it was the last couple of days. We'll switch it the next couple of days. It's going to be a very fluid situation for quite a while here in the preseason."
The Raiders will be back on the field Monday for their third practice of Training Camp 2017.
-Even though he currently isn't practicing, rookie cornerback Gareon Conley was on the field Sunday afternoon, sporting a new number as he watched practice. Instead of wearing No. 2, the rookie is now officially rocking No. 22.
-There was a Hall of Fame feeling in the air as well, as Raiders legend Jim Otto was in Napa for the day, watching the Silver and Black go to work from the sidelines. The 12-time Pro Bowler was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980.
Oakland Raiders players and coaches on the field for the second day of training camp.
-Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., is a ball of energy wrapped in another ball of energy; we all know that. He was in top form Sunday as well, getting his players hyped up in the early stages of practicing, yelling, "We have to move! We have to finish!"
-There might not be a Raiders player with more eyes on him than running back Marshawn Lynch. The Oakland-native's decision to come out of retirement has generated a plethora of buzz around the league, and so far "Beast Mode" hasn't disappointed. During one of the opening periods of the day, he took back-to-back handoffs from Carr, turning up-field, and securing big gains, much to the delight of the members of Raider Nation in attendance.
-In other running backs news, after being claimed via waivers from the Cleveland Browns on Saturday, George Atkinson III was back in Napa as a full participant at practice Sunday. He's now wearing No. 45.
-Wide receiver Amari Cooper has enjoyed a strong start to his third training camp as a Raider. Like the offense in general, there are big expectations for Cooper in 2017, and through two practices he's certainly looked the part of a Pro Bowl wide receiver, routinely running crisp routes and coming down with big catches.
-Cornerback Kenneth Durden also made another highlight play Saturday, securing another interception in one of the team's final 11-on-11 periods of the afternoon.
Song Of The Day:
"Buy Me A Boat" - Chris Janson
A little country music on a beautiful day in Napa never hurt anybody…
"First of all, he's a great teammate. A wonderful veteran. He's a great blocker. He works hard at everything that we ask him to do. He actually has really good hands. He's more than just a blocking tight end."
-Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing discusses tight end Lee Smith
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