NAPA – Raiders linebacker Ben Heeney will have a green dot on his helmet this season. That identifies the helmet with a direct line to defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., who calls plays Heeney will relay to the team in games.
It’s a job typically given to an interior linebacker always in the mix. It signifies a few things beyond the obvious: The Raiders feel comfortable with the 2015 fifth-round pick at middle linebacker, coordinating their effort from the center of the hive.
“It’s been the goal the entire time,” Heeney said after Saturday’s practice. “I’m happy to be there, and I’ll do whatever I can to keep the spot. Coach Norton has confidence in me heading into the second season.”
Heeney feels comfortable in an important role, one he manned all offseason prepping for this camp.
“Last year I was all over the place, not really knowing what I was doing,” Heeney said. “I feel really secure in knowing what to do.”
Heeney is an aggressive playmaker, someone many have said operates like his hair’s on fire. The Raiders like his tenacity and believe continued technical development will help him become a steadying presence alongside Malcolm Smith forming a duo that must tackle well in wide-open space.
“There were times were I was overaggressive last year, and that was one of the knocks on me coming out of college,” Heeney said. “I was supposedly a guy who missed a lot of tackles or whatever. I play aggressive, but I have a bunch of good coaches who have brought me along. I’ve had a lot of help to get me where I am. I’m happy where I’m at right now, and hoping to have a good camp.”
Catch of the day: Matt McGloin threw two interceptions and one of the day’s prettier passes. The backup dropped a perfectly-arched rainbow to Andre Holmes down the left sideline the tall receiver hauled in well.
Hayden’s second pick: Cornerback DJ Hadyen snagged his second interception in as many days on Saturday, stepping in front of a Matt McGloin pass before breaking free for what would’ve been a pick-six. Hayden has fared well in coverage thus far, both as a first-team slot cornerback who moves outside with the second unit.
Heeney pops one free: Ben Heeney got stuck covering Amari Cooper over the middle, a mismatch that clearly favors offense. It was no surprise that Cooper got open and caught the pass, but Heeney stuck with the play. The second-year linebacker jarred the ball loose, recovered his own forced fumble and ran it back to the end zone.
Daily transactions: None
Returned to practice: N/A
Did not practice: No one
Physically unable to perform list: DL Denico Autry, DL Greg Townsend Jr.
Next practice: The Raiders will practice on Sunday morning, and is the first session in pads. That’s always a spirited affair for players who haven’t strapped them on since December.