ALAMEDA – Right tackle ranked atop the rather short list of position battles heading into Raiders training camp. It pitted Menelik Watson against Austin Howard, an athletic young player against a savvy veteran.
Both players were recovering from injury, with Watson recovering from an Achilles’ tendon tear that cost the 2015 season and Howard working back from offseason knee surgery.
The preseason schedule’s half over now and training camp’s in the rearview, but a starter hasn’t been formally named. Watson’s the frontrunner, taking most snaps with the first unit in practice and games. Howard has mixed in occasionally, including in Monday’s practice at the team’s Alameda complex.
“Both guys have had good camps, staying healthy,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We’re happy about that.
“I think it’s great to have Menelik back. He brings a little temperament, little athleticism to the position. Obviously, Austin filled in and did a great job for us last year. That’s been a good competition.”
Last day of “camp”: The Raiders formally broke training camp on Tuesday, following the team’s final practice at the Napa Valley Marriott. Saturday’s workout was conducted in a camp style – reporters could still watch the entire practice – but that will change next week.
The third preseason game comes Saturday and Del Rio wants it to feel like a regular-season game week. Most teams do that leading up to a game where starters typically play the most.
Exactly how much starters will play remains in greater doubt because of the opponent. The Raiders play Tennessee on Saturday, an opponent they face again in Week 3. The entire week is an important one for a Raiders team still growing as the preseason rolls on.
“It should be a good opportunity for us to continue to grow as a football team and continue to work on some of the things that we need to work on,” Del Rio said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
Catch of the day: Amari Cooper stole this award easily, with an awesome touchdown grab during a two-minute drill at the end of practice. Cooper ran a fade route and turned around for the ball, adjusted midair and hauled in the pass with one hand.
Other notes from Raiders practice:
-- Raiders FS Reggie Nelson was a limited participant in Saturday’s practice for undisclosed reasons. He skipped team drills, with Nate Allen working in his place.
-- WR Seth Roberts had a strong receiving day, primarily working in the slot as usual.
-- MLB Cory James took some first-team reps over Ben Heeney, though both players were heavily involved.
-- Each unit ran a two-minute drill at the end of practice. The first-team offense scored on Cooper’s catch, and QB Derek Carr found WR Seth Roberts for the 2-point conversion. The second unit couldn’t reach field goal range, and the third team suffered a similar fate.
-- RB Jalen Richard, an impressive undrafted rookie out over a week with a knee injury, did side work for the first time during a session open to the press.
Daily transactions: None
Returned to practice: None
Did not practice: DL Mario Edwards Jr., TE Gabe Holmes, RB Jalen Richard
Next practice: The Raiders have Sunday and Monday off before returning to work on Tuesday. They have three sessions prior to Saturday’s exhibition against Tennessee.