ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio entered this offseason program with several goals in mind. He wanted to show new guys how his teams operate. He wanted to build on scheme continuity, to experiment and refine the playbook to suit player strength, to play fast with physical and mental speed.
He was able to check each box on that list.
He also wanted to see leaders emerge after losing some to retirement. Thanks to the emergence of younger players and respect quickly gained by new one, that structure is solid.
“The veterans have done a great job stepping up in leadership (roles),” Del Rio said after Thursday’s minicamp practice brought an end to the offseason program. “That’s was a question we had coming into the offseason. Who was going to replace (Charles Woodson) and Justin Tuck? We had guys stepping forward.
“Khalil Mack and Derek Carr are two guys taking that responsibility, but guys like Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith and Rodney (Hudson) have stepped up to fill that void and are doing a great job.”
Thursday’s practice was shorter that previous sessions during this week’s minicamp, but here are a few observations from the final day.
1. ‘Speed showing up’
Del Rio wants his players identifying plays and making correct decisions and angles on the practice field, using more than team speed to play fast football. He saw that during this minicamp.
when you look at our team right now, what I’m liking is how fast we’re playing. I feel like we’ve added team speed but we’re playing fast. We’re playing with more confidence and that’s critical. So, something we’re looking to develop, to play faster and faster, play smart and under control, be tough. But, that speed is really showing up.”
2. Gior-gio! Gior-gio!
Reserve kicker and Cal product Giorgio Tavecchio end practice nearly a half hour early after converting a field goal from 50-plus yards out through skinny uprights. Extra work was on the line, and Tavecchio nailed it, prompting the team to chant his first name as they left the practice field.
3. Hayden joins injury list
Cornerback DJ Hayden joined an otherwise static list of non-participants during Thursday’s practice. Hayden seemed to injure himself the day before, but it wasn’t anything particularly troublesome.
In addition to Hayden, tight end Clive Walford, linebacker Neiron Ball, cornerback Neiko Thorpe and safety Karl Joseph were present but inactive. Safety Reggie Nelson, defensive lineman Denico Autry and running back Roy Helu Jr. were absent during the session.
Del Rio said earlier this week the latter trio was in camp and involved in walk-thrus and meetings.
4. O-Line shuffle
The Raiders shuffled some personnel on the offensive line on Thursday, working different players together. Left tackle Donald Penn, who suffered what seemed to be an extremely minor strain on Wednesday, was replaced by Matt McCants on the first team in most team drills. Reserve center Jon Feliciano filled in some for Rodney Hudson and Austin Howard continued exchanging top unit reps with Menelik Watson.
5. Joseph on the side
The Raiders first-round pick continued doing side work during the offseason program, and showed explosiveness in drills. He ran through a cone drill with power and speed, work that suggests his expectation to return by training camp could be correct.
6. Calhoun shines
Third-round pick Shilique Calhoun thrived in stretches on Thursday, with pass-rush moves that got him into the backfield while working as an edge rusher on the second unit. Calhoun had a productive minicamp and showed flashes getting after the quarterback. He must continue to do so, as the Raiders hope he can be a rotational pass rusher behind Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.