ALAMEDA -– While some Raiders have returned from an extended stretch on the sideline, rookie tight end Clive Walford remains out. He missed the first nine full-squad practices with a hamstring strain, returned for two sessions and the exhibition opener versus St. Louis.
Then injury put him back on the shelf. The third-round pick from Miami has been out nearly three weeks now, and is falling further and further behind. Head coach Jack Del Rio said last week that coaches would be able to get him up to speed in time, but time to do so is growing short.
Del Rio also offered pointed remarks about running back Roy Helu and linebacker Sio Moore having to earn a role after missing so much time.
The same might be said for Walford, who missed yet another practice on Thursday.
Walford was expected to make an immediate contribution to this team, but injuries may have dampened those thoughts somewhat. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said it’s “hard to answer” questions about that topic.
Whether it will or not, the time out has hindered the talented player’s progress.
“Well, missing Clive is significant for our team, for him personally,” Musgrave said. “It’s given more opportunities for Brian (Leonhardt) and Gabe (Holmes). The tight end position is doing a nice job for us. They are the glue that holds us together. They’ve got to do it all, pass protect, run block and catch balls. Both Mychal (Rivera) and Lee (Smith), we know we can count on.”
Edwards Jr. making strides
Rookie defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. didn’t have a great showing in his first preseason game. Edwards got blocked easily and could shed resistance, leading to a negative evaluation of that opening salvo.
Edwards played much better in the second game, with a half sack that led to a Raiders turnover. He was consistenly in the backfield while playing the defensive end spot, and played much faster than the week before. That’s an encouraging sign for a second-round pick with high expectations entering his rookie year.
“I think he’s progressing very nicely,” Del Rio said. “He had a much-improved week of practice, a much-improved outing in the game and definitely trending the way we want to see it go. Again, just want to see more, want to see continued effort and energy the way he provided it last week.”
Other notes from Raiders practice
-- Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said the Raiders have used Benson Mayowa at strongside linebacker and the LEO position in addition to standard defensive end.
-- Defensive end Justin Tuck, receiver Andre Holmes, safety Jimmy Hall and fullback Jamize Olawale remain out with injury.
-- Musgrave likes the options given by running back Roy Helu Jr., who is finally healthy after missing three weeks with a hamstring strain. He should be the team’s third-down back, but could compete for the backup running back job behind Latavius Murray.
“If he stays healthy and available, we’re very willing to give him his opportunities,” Musgrave said.
-- Rod Streater has been back practicing for a week-plus, and didn’t make much of an impact in his first game back. He is slowly returning to old form.
“He’s probably feeling more comfortable each day,” Musgrave said. “Things are coming back to him both physically and mentally, but very glad to have Rod back. We definitely missed him.”
-- Musgrave was disappointed in the number of penalties incurred against Minnesota, and said progress can only be judged in points score.