NAPA -– The Raiders were in the midst of a tough training camp stretch, with six straight practices in pads over seven days.
Monday’s off day would be the only respite. Or so the players thought . . .
Head coach Jack Del Rio surprised his players and downshifted on Friday afternoon, working without pads.
“It was planned. They didn’t know it,” Del Rio said with a smile. “Yeah, we’re going to be five days in a row and didn’t want to be five days in a row banging. We got plenty of work out there today. Worked all the situations -– a lot of situational work. Just freshened it up a little bit from the hitting standpoint.”
The situational passing game became a focal point, and the offense redeemed itself after a rough Thursday effort. Quarterback Derek Carr was far more accurate, and all Raiders signal callers threw touchdowns.
There were a few mishaps, including a low throw from Carr that resulted in a Keith McGill interception on a two-point conversion. Carr found Latavius Murray the play before for a red-zone score.
Receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree continue to impress, and Marcel Reece is making an imprint as a receiving option.
Catch of the day: Cooper really showed dynamic playmaking ability early in Friday’s practice with a jaw-dropping run after the catch. He caught a 15-yard pass from Carr on an out route, stopped on a dime, turned inside and sailed through a hole in coverage for what would’ve been a long touchdown.
Cooper has shown tremendous footwork and deceptive speed that kicks in at the right time. While Crabtree has stolen headlines early in camp, Cooper has looked polished and ready to contribute right away in his rookie season.
Injury update: Receiver Rod Streater missed seven training camp practices while on the active/non-football injury list, but finally took a step forward with some side work on Friday morning.
It’s the first time Streater’s been seen performing physical activity during this camp, though he’s been spotted leaving the training room. He is expected to be the team’s No. 3 receiver this season.
Running backs Roy Helu Jr. and Michael Dyer, right tackle Menelik Watson and tight end Clive Walford also did side work with Streater.
Defensive end Justin Tuck and fullback Jamize Olawale also missed work.
Other notes from Raiders practice:
-- Backup quarterback Christian Ponder has struggled some this training camp, and has had passes sail high on him. He made a few poor throws on Friday, including one into double coverage that was nearly intercepted. He throw a pair of touchdowns in late red-zone drills.
-- Rookie defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. took extra first-team reps with Tuck sidelined.
-- Running back Taiwan Jones, who could be used at multiple spots this season, was split wide, ran a go route and caught a deep pass from Matt McGloin.
-- Undrafted free agent receiver Josh Harper, a Fresno State alum seemingly capable of making the team, caught a touchdown pass from McGloin in a red-zone drill. That was a good sign, but Harper hadn’t wowed much in the early going.
-- Kenbrell Thompkins was a full participant at Friday’s practice, a day after landing awkwardly on his right knee and needing to be helped off the field. He returned to work on Thursday, and was ready to go again Friday. The Raiders caught a break there because Thompkins has been good thus far.
-- Fullback Marcel Reece was active in the passing game, though he primarily worked with lower units as a receiving options.
-- The offense did more up-downs after fumbling a snap. There have been some problems with handoff exchanges in this camp as well.
Daily transactions: None
Returned to practice: DT Stacy McGee
Did not practice: TE Clive Walford, RB Roy Helu Jr., RT Menelik Watson, RB Michael Dyer, DE Justin Tuck, FB Jamize Olawale
Non-football illness: WR Rod Streater
Next practice: The Raiders practice in pads on Saturday afternoon, a session that begins at 4:25 p.m. at the Napa Valley Marriott.