NAPA – Dan Williams was the Raiders primary nose tackle last season. The high-priced veteran was an effective run stopper in the base defense, either as the man in the middle or paired with Justin Ellis.
The Raiders have often run sets with a nose tackle, and Ellis has manned that spot with the first unit. Williams has primarily taken reps on the second team.
Jack Del Rio issued an appropriate reminder when asked about that competition at this stage, that the depth chart’s lightly written in pencil this early in camp.
“Thus far, we as a staff think that (Ellis) is ahead of Dan, but we’re a long way from lining it up in September,” Del Rio said. “‘Jelly’ is off to a great start. Dan’s a good football player. Competition brings out the best. Right now as we’re stacking up our practices, ‘Jelly’ is a little bit ahead of Dan. Like I said, it’s way too early to be worrying about where it ends up.”
Williams missed some practices in the offseason program, and Ellis has continue to show promise. The 2014 fourth-round draft pick was hampered last year some by a calf injury, but is a strong, massive individual capable of plugging gaps on the interior.
Williams has a track record of success playing inside in the base alignment. While one may start over the other, Del Rio pointed out that both players are essential to the team’s interior defense.
“It’s just a matter of who gets to trot out first, but they’re all going to play,” Del Rio said. “We’re going to use all of our guys. We’re going to use all of the talent we have and we like to play all of our guys. Keep them fresh. We’re going to count on both of those guys to play big for us this year and play a lot for us this year, but who rolls out first, we’ll see. It’s competitive.”
Holton continues to shine: Undrafted receiver Johnny Holton has made several impressive catches early in this camp, including a few that drew big reaction from the crowd. He has stood out in a pack of undrafted free agent receivers all fighting for one roster spot at the fifth receiver.
More practice and preseason games will form a hierarchy, but Holton has made a mark early on.
“Not only what you see out here, but then we go in to tape and talk about it as a staff, you find out maybe he’s doing a little extra, find out he’s spending extra time in meetings,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s doing everything right in the weight room; all the different factors that add up. Usually you start getting a lot of positive feedback from your staff, throughout the building and those are the kind of guys that end up finding a way to stick.”
Minor scuffles on second day in pads: As is expected in training camp sessions with increased contact, some extra-circular activity occurs after the play. Bruce Irvin exchanged minor shoves with Taiwan Jones and Lee Smith at separate times. Johnny Holton and Kenneth Durden also kept jostling after a whistle, though the incidents were minor.
Catch of the day: Undrafted receiver K.J. Brent had a nice touchdown catch during a red zone drill, where he gain dominant position over Neiko Thorpe and wrestle in a contested pass for six points.
Other notes from Raiders practice
-- The Raiders worked on kickoffs Monday, and had Taiwan Jones, Joe Hansley, Jaydon Mickens and Jalen Richard doing return work. Jones is the clear frontrunner to return kicks, even if the Raiders spread reps around during preseason games.
-- WR Seth Roberts had a solid receiving day in the slot, regularly finding himself open for passes from QB Derek Carr.
-- RB Jalen Richard continues to impress with pads, especially on a spin move around LB Ben Heeney after catching a pass in the flat.
-- CB DJ Hayden continues to have a strong start to camp, and has taken most every snap at first-team slot cornerback thus far.
-- The NHRA hosted an event at nearby Sonoma Raceway this past weekend, and drivers Leah Pritchett and Cruz Pedregon were guests of the Raiders at training camp. They player drag race timing video games with Raiders players after practice.
Daily transactions: None
Returned to practice: OL Kelechi Osemele, QB Connor Cook
Did not practice: None
Physically unable to perform list: DL Denico Autry, DL Greg Townsend Jr.
Next practice: The Raiders have a day off on Tuesday, their first of this training camp. They will practice again on Wednesday morning in another session in pads.