A weekly roundup of all the latest news and happenings involving the Oakland Raiders.
What’s good, Raider Nation? It’s been a bit of a hiatus but we’re back with the weekly goods in Oakland Raiders news.
Since the draft, the Raiders have made plenty of moves and have had plenty to do. It’s been a while, so let’s get right to it and check in on…
Shortly after the draft, the Raiders officially signed six players:
- TE – Marcus Baugh, Ohio State
- WR – Saeed Blacknall, Penn State
- LB – Jason Cabinda, Penn State
- C – Alex Officer, Pittsburgh
- K – Eddie Piniero, Florida
- FB – Nick Sharga, Temple*
*Sharga is now cut.
This led to the release of two players. Armonty Bryant’s release isn’t a surprise. He was unlikely to make the roster anyhow.
But Cory James’ release was a bit surprising. At least at first glance. But in reading that he failed a physical it unfortunately tracks. James showed ability as a run defender on the weak side with good speed and instincts, but could never stay healthy. It’s unfortunate to see him go but other players are stepping in. Best of luck to him.
These moves were all to get ready for…
After drafting nine new players and signing 11 more as UDFA, the Raiders had a lot of new faces to check out as rookie camp got underway on May 4. There was plenty of excitement out on the field, and Coach Jon Gruden of course loving it all:
“That was a real exciting day today,” he said. “A lot of Raiders with their first NFL practice. It’s always really neat to see these guys come out and start a new career, but good work today. We’ve got a long way to go, obviously.”
Yes, a long way to go but in spots that are encouraging. The Raiders concentrated on major positions of need in the first three rounds of the draft. One of those positions is offensive tackle.
The jury is out on first-round pick Kolton Miller but early returns from camp are good for the young offensive tackle. He held up well against his fellow rookies. Donald Penn’s age, injury history, recent personal issues and salary make Miller a likely replacement sooner than later – but he has a lot to learn.
The Raiders also drafted Brandon Parker in the third round to compete on the right side and bolster depth.
Ideally these two young men get it early. They acclimate to the big leagues and start as bookends. That’s a lot to ask from a physical specimen in Miller who struggles with technique at times. And of Parker who’s less of a physical specimen but a technically sound player and played lower-level competition in the FBS at North Carolina A&T.
Also needed, badly – pass rushing assistance for Bruce Irvin and defensive boss Khalil Mack.
They got it in the form of second-round pick PJ Hall, 3rd round steal Arden Key and 5th round grand larceny with Maurice Hurst.
While all have looked good in mini-camp, Key has really shined. He’s shown incredible burst off the ball, quickness around the edge – and absurd ability like this:
Look at that body angle. Key is going to keep QB's up at night. pic.twitter.com/uT6Sw9QatE
— Chris Reed (@ChrisReed_NFL) May 15, 2018
How. Do. You. Block. That.
Anyhow, other news from camp revolved around Hurst’s health and Johnny Townsend’s punting ability. Both are getting rave reviews, and Hurst for one wants to move on to actual football talk. He’s repeatedly insisted he himself isn’t concerned, and told the media:
“Just trying to get all that stuff behind me, try to get people to stop talking about it as some sort of issue or all those kinds of things,” Hurst said. “Just try to move past that and focus on playing football and just having fun out there.”
Gruden, as is his way, was a touch more blunt and less diplomatic:
“I’m not going to answer any more health questions on Hurst,” Gruden said. “I realize there are a lot of ghost stories out there about unnamed sources that have their opinion on why we shouldn’t have drafted him. This man played at Michigan. I know the head coach there. They looked after him carefully. We’re happy to have him in any round. He’s a great kid. And I hope you just judge him on the field. He’s been cleared medically, and I’ll just leave it at that.”
Add to the addition of Hall, Hurst and Key the decision of defensive coordinator Paul Guenther to move Bruce Irvin from linebacker to defensive end, and suddenly there’s a lot of speed and anger pouring toward a quarterback on any given snap.
“That was the best news I heard in a minute,” Irvin said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I can drop in coverage. I can do it pretty good. But that’s not what I prefer to do so when I got that news that I was strictly a D-End now, that was music to my ears.”
And to Mack, and the rest of Raider Nation. Al Davis once said – simply but eloquently – “the quarterback must go down. And he must go down hard.” Gruden loved Davis and has remodeled the roster to make sure the quarterback goes down. Often. And hard.
Other news from rookie camp led to some roster bloodshed.
With the addition of all these new pass rushers and defensive linemen, something had to give. That something was Armonty Bryant. With no real chance to make the roster anyway this wasn’t a surprise.
Undrafted rookie running back Chris Warren – son of the former Seahawks RB of the same name – a bruising 6’2, 247 pounds, showed enough power and running ability to get signed after a camp invite. An on-again off-again player at Texas, Warren averaged over 5.5 ypc in his career, can also play fullback and has shown receiving ability. Intriguing movement, footwork and ability to get skinny in the hole at his size. Keep an eye.
This saw 2017 seventh-round pick Elijah Hood on the outs as he was waived by the team on May 7. He’s since been picked up by the Carolina Panthers.
Johnny Townsend is a great punter. From Raiders.com observations of mini-camp day three:
The 23 year old displayed his ability to drop some pinpoint punts deep in enemy territory, and did so with some massive punts that looked as if they hung in the air in slow motion. The hang time was more than enough to allow the gunners to sprint to the returner and keep him from gaining any serious yardage.
That, combined with Townstradamus’ prophetic ability:
— Johnny Townsend (@johnnytownsend1) May 10, 2018
Means Colby Wadman is now out as well. The Raiders released the punter on May 11.
So the Rooks are at it and still getting after it. Lots of things coming out but a few of the following consistent tones:
- Hall, Hurst and Key all have special first steps and burst off the ball which have been evident in action during camp
- Hurst is healthy, cleared and has showed no signs of any issues or cause for concern – Raiders continue to monitor
- Miller is picking up footwork and battling Hall, Hurst and Key very well in the trenches
- Marcell Ateman is attacking route-running and the ball in the air and has special high-point skills
- Townsend can kick the hell out of the football
That’s not all, though. Let’s look into some non-rookie news, such as the offensive tackles. Behaving offensively. Like…
Vadal Alexander Suspended
Not much to see here, folks. Vadal Alexander, a favorite to start at right tackle this season or at least provide stout competition for the job, is suspended. Alexander is suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season for violating the performance-enhancing drug clause in the CBA. He can still work out with the team in the offseason but is ineligible to return to actual practice until Oct 1 and game play until Oct 7 once the season starts.
Alexander isn’t the only Raiders offensive tackle having trouble. Let’s look in to…
Donald Penn’s Situation
Draft weekend was not a good time for Donald Penn. First, he’s going through a divorce with his wife. That’s always stressful, particularly as a public figure.
Second, he watched the Raiders draft not one but two offensive tackles in the first three rounds. That doesn’t bode well for his starting job.
Third, clearly upset and stressed about points one and two, he got into it with his wife the Sunday of draft weekend. While it’s now been reported he will not be charged, it’s not a good look or a good way to behave.
Penn also makes over $8M against the salary cap. He’s been a workhorse, missing his first games ever after a Week 15 foot injury in 2017. But he’s currently recuperating from surgery on that foot, and is no lock to come back 100% healthy after a Lisfranc injury.
Bottom line – Donald Penn is likely not long for the Silver & Black.
If Miller or Parker show anything close to starting ability at tackle by OTA’s and July’s actual camp practices, Penn could find himself out of a job. Honestly, his behavior last season wasn’t great either. He fought with fans in the parking lot – even though he was provoked – held out of training camp and never seemed to be fully in tune with the squad.
Interestingly enough, for different reasons, the same is being said about…
Karl Joseph Being On The Staff’s Watch List
Is Karl Joseph even going to start? Hard to fathom for a former #14 overall pick only in his third season, but Joseph has not lived up to expectations thus far. Has he been used properly though?
But as the article explains, Vic Tafur of The Athletic had this to say on his podcast:
“To me the question mark is Karl Joseph… I’m not sure he’s got the stature to be the guy they want him to be in terms of he can’t really guard big tight ends. He hasn’t been the hard-hitting guy he was advertised in college, doesn’t make a lot of plays. So I just think the new staff is just a little curious about what exactly Karl Joseph does well and how he fits into the system. I have a feeling they’re going to bring in a safety at some point. At this point I think the staff is more curious than positive in terms of what he brings.”
This could mean – brace yourselves – more Reggie Nelson. I know Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro are out there – but they cost money the Raiders don’t have. We can only pray the new staff finds a place and role for Joseph that showcases his talents because as he doesn’t produce the Raiders suffer – and so does his confidence, and it shows.
To Bruce Irvin, Eddie Piniero, Amari Cooper, Gabe Jackson and Jylan Ware for earning your college/university degrees in the past couple of weeks. Just look at how happy Coop is!!
We see you, @AmariCooper9.
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) May 5, 2018
Rich, career in place and still go back to get your degree? That’s how it’s done. Congratulations on your hard work paying off gentlemen.
But with so many intelligent players on the team, who thought THIS was a good idea – or more interestingly, what bet did Brady Sheldon lose?
— Tahir Whitehead (@Big_Tah47) May 10, 2018
Anyway, that’s enough news for now but there’s still plenty happening. Some interesting free agents still out there (with what money though?), and more roster moves to come.