ALAMEDA -– The Raiders imported cornerback Sean Smith from Kansas City to help their struggling secondary. If he stays healthy, that will surely happen.
His presence may have an ancillary benefit, one that will help the offense out as well. He’s regularly lined up against young receiver Amari Cooper, and the pair has waged solid battles during the offseason program.
“Sean is a really talented player, and he’s really smart,” Cooper said after Wednesday’s minicamp practice. “It’s like a chess game out there. It’s fun.”
Smith blanketed Cooper in a Tuesday route, where Derek Carr’s pass fell helplessly to the turf. Cooper got him a few times on Wednesday, including a big play downfield, and the pair exchanged information in between plays.
“He asked me what route I was running,” Cooper said. “We definitely help each other.”
The Raiders had another active practice on Wednesday. Here are a few other observations and anecdotes from the team’s latest session.
1. Washington seeing quality time
Running back DeAndre Washington is getting a solid share of reps in first unit packages, and stands out as the frontrunner to be a complimentary back to Latavius Murray. He looks shifty and quick in drills and, at 5-foot-8, easily hides behind the Raiders’ massive offensive line.
2. Injury list unchanged
The Raiders didn’t get any injured players back for the second minicamp practice, nor did they lose anyone from the first session.
Safety Reggie Nelson, running back Roy Helu Jr. and defensive lineman Denico Autry were not present for the practice session. Cornerback Neiko Thorpe, tight end Clive Walford, safety Karl Joseph and linebacker Neiron Ball were present but not active.
3. Backup QB battle
Matt McGloin and rookie Connor Cook are engaged in a battle for the No. 2 spot behind Derek Carr. On this day, McGloin was clearly better. He has experience in the offensive system, but was more accurate than the fourth-round pick. Cook struggled some, though he clearly has NFL-caliber arm strength that could show better when he has a better grasp of the system.
4. Wind aids special teams
Special teams coordinator Brad Seely said the Raiders are working on options to counter the NFL’s new touchback rule, which brings the ball to the 25-yard line over the 20.
It’s been windy in Alameda this week, which allows specialists to work on placing kicks and punts well despite the elements.
“A day like today is great because of all that wind, especially when you’re kicking with it,” Seely said. “It’s easier to kick touchbacks like that, especially considering our guys have good legs. They’re working hard to control the ball and keep it in the field of play without giving up a lot.”
Seely said his units are contemplating how to deal with the new touchback rule, but said the better team will still win the battle for field position.
5. Coach Tice’s sweet ride
Raiders offensive line coach Mike Tice is hobbled by a injury that requires a brace over most of his right leg, so he’s coaching from a golf cart. It has been personalized some, with flames and a nameplate that says “Coach Mike.”
Raiders OL coach Mike Tice isn't terribly mobile dealing w/a leg injury of some kind, so he's got wheels: pic.twitter.com/RLxCjBsySG— Scott Bair (@BairCSN) June 14, 2016
6. More special teams
Seely ran a tackle pursuit drill on Wednesday, pitting one tackler against a ball carrier in a coverage lane. Brynden Trawick flashed some moves with a ball in hand, despite only being allowed one cut.
7. Return battle
The Raiders have included Joe Hansley, Jaydon Mickens and DeAndre Washington in the return game, along with Taiwan Jones and TJ Carrie as they try to settle on primary assets in the return game. The incumbents seem to be first in line there.
8. Ward plays heavily on first unit
Rookie second-round pick Jihad Ward continues to see heavy snaps with the first unit as a defensive end, with Mario Edwards Jr. on the other side and Justin Ellis in the middle. Ward has been impressive thus far, showing solid athleticism for someone his size.
9. Holmes makes big catch
Receiver Andre Holmes is known for making jaw-dropping catches, and used athleticism to make one in the end zone on Wednesday. He cut across the baseline and reached up to snag a touchdown pass before falling hard on the turf.
10. Post-practice fun
The Raiders added some recreation to an intense second day of meetings, practice and walk-thrus, chartering buses to take the team bowling in the East Bay.