ALAMEDA – Raiders first-round receiver Amari Cooper has shown flashes of excellent play during the offseason program, and has received high praise for his route running, hands and deceptive speed.
The Raiders might use those talents as a return man. Maybe. Most likely not. They’re considering it, at least, during this period of experimentation
Cooper has caught some punts during the offseason program, including this week’s mandatory minicamp. Cooper didn’t return in college, but has some explosive return experience in high school. Cooper is one of several options to return.
“Amari Cooper is another guy we’re working back there,” special teams coordinator Brad Seely said. “It depends on, you know, what exactly his role is on this football team if he’s going to do some of that stuff. He could because he’s got a lot of talent. At this time of the year, you’re really just trying to evaluate as many guys as you can.”
The Raiders are purely in evaluation mode in this regard. And, if Cooper becomes the heavily used receiving option most expect him to be, exposing him to injury in the return game might be too high a risk.
He could be an emergency option if people get hurt, as Charles Woodson was returning a few in-game punts last season.
“What we’ll always do and always have done is, ‘Hey, here’s what the guy can do for us (on special teams),’ and you’ve got to weigh what that does for you (on offense),” Seely said. “Is he that kind of player that can change a game in that aspect for you? What we’re trying to do every Sunday is what we can do to win the game. If the guy is fantastically talented at one thing that he can help you win the football game, you’ve got to look at it. Then you’ve got to be smart as well.”
The Raiders had high hopes for seventh-round pick Andre Debose, but he’s out for the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon. The Raiders recently signed veteran Trindon Holliday. Austin Willis and Taiwan Jones are also being looked at. George Atkinson III will get some reps when healthy as the team tries to find a return.
Here are some other observations from Day 2 of Raiders minicamp:
-- The Raiders’ second minicamp practice was conducted in a light drizzle, which was a positive and rare opportunity to practice with slick fields and footballs.
-- Defense won the day, with several interceptions during 11-on-11 drills, though conditions could’ve have something to do with it. Safety Brandian Ross has a pair of interceptions, including a pick 6. Quarterback Christian Ponder threw a few interceptions, including one inaccurate pass to safety Jonathan Dowling.
-- The Raiders remain relatively healthy during this stage of the offseason program, though two previously healthy defenders missed Wednesday’s work. Safety Nate Allen skipped the entire workout, and cornerback TJ Carrie missed most of the session.
Ross and Dowling took first-team reps for Allen. Without Carrie, DJ Hayden, Neiko Thorpe and Keith McGill handled first-team cornerback reps.
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-- Defensive tackle Dan Williams was a heavy participant in practice after missing most of the offseason program with an undisclosed injury. He took several first-team reps on defense.
-- Receiver Kenbrell Thompkins made some nice plays during practice, including a diving catch where he touched a toe before going out of bounds. He also caught a deep pass with plenty of room to run after the catch. Rod Streater has also looked better over the last few days.
-- Special teams coordinator Brad Seely said that, in a perfect world, his punter would double as the holder. That means Marquette King is the first option, despite being replaced by then-backup quarterback Matt Schaub last season.