NAPA – Raiders receiver Amari Cooper ran free off the line of scrimmage and was at full gallop shortly after. He sprinted down the hash marks at a surprising clip, gaining a step on cornerback DJ Hayden.
Quarterback Derek Carr saw separation and let one fly, throwing a perfect strike for a long touchdown sent the crowd into hysterics.
That was easily the best play in Saturday’s practice, where Carr and Cooper were in complete sync. At this early stage, that isn't always the case. Carr insists that chemistry between the two is still being built, something expected for players with relatively limited reps together.
“There are going to be ups and downs,” Carr said. “We had a few missed opportunities today. Everyone will want to talk about the deep one of course because he ran a great route. He saved his landmark, did all those good things. But then we also missed a couple. That takes us taking extra time after practice to get the timing down to make sure the little details are on point. As long as we keep doing that, it’s going to be just fine.”
Carr is supremely confident that kinks will be worked out before the regular season. The pair have shown flashes of excellent play, and could well have a big-play connection in the works. Continued reps and preseason snaps should improve the rapport with the duo, which the Raiders hope works together for years to come.
Linemen square off: Offensive and defensive linemen engaged in one-on-one pass rushing drills, the most entertaining part of Saturday’s practice. Donald Penn vs. Khalil Mack, Khalif Barnes vs. Mario Edwards Jr. and Rodney Hudson versus Dan Williams were a few of these matchups, where each tandem played a best-of-3 rushing series with a point going to the victor’s unit.
Catch of the day: Cooper’s deep reception was the best of the day, with a touchdown catch Michael Crabtree over a smothering Keith McGill in the corner of the end zone. Kenbrell Thompkins had a nice one-handed grab as well.
Backup quarterbacks struggle: Carr had a solid day, but his backups did not. Christian Ponder continues to throw passes high, and sailed one into the crowd deep downfield. Matt McGloin did the same thing, in addition to an intercepted pass where he threw across his body.
Ponder was signed to be the primary backup, but this seems more like a competition now than it did in the offseason program. Preseason performance will go a long way in determining who is No. 2.
Injury update: Sio Moore started training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list recovering from hip issues, but was healthy enough to join the second full-squad practice. He went strong for six straight practices before being held out on Sunday.
Spencer Hadley spent some time with the first unit linebacker corps with Moore out and Malcolm Smith unable to finish practice. The free agent signing has been limping off the practice field for a few days now.
Fullback Jamize Olawale missed a third straight workout and a leg/foot injury.
Tight end Lee Smith missed his first practice with injury. Defensive end Justin Tuck returned following a day off.
Other notes from Raiders practice:
-- Offensive lineman Jon Feliciano has primarily played second-unit left guard during training camp, a spot that might not get much playing time with Gabe Jackson ahead of him. He’s taken a few snaps at right guard with lower units, but it seems J’Marcus Webb remains the favorite to play that spot.
-- Safety Larry Asante continues to make smart, aggressive plays when the pads come on.
-- Running back Trent Richardson is getting a ton of reps with Michael Dyer and Roy Helu sidelined with injury. He’s had mixed results in padded rushing drills. He was also involved in kickoff return drills.
-- This coaching staff runs a ton of special teams during a training camp practice in an attempt to refine efforts in that area. On Saturday, the Raiders held kickoff return drills with contact, in pads. Fifth-round linebacker Ben Heeney stood out on the coverage team.
-- The battle to be the backup center is being led by Tony Bergstrom at this stage. Feliciano could be a utility player on the inside and is a candidate in the middle as well.
-- Receiver Kris Durham made some nice catches while working with the third unit.
-- Receiver Kenbrell Thompkins is the Raiders’ No. 3 receiver at this stage, and was playing in the slot in first-team, three-receiver sets.
Daily transactions: None
Returned to practice: DE Justin Tuck
Did not practice: LB Sio Moore, TE Clive Walford, RB Roy Helu Jr., RT Menelik Watson, RB Michael Dyer, DE Justin Tuck, FB Jamize Olawale, TE Lee Smith
Non-football illness: WR Rod Streater
Next practice: The Raiders practice in pads on Sunday morning, a session that begins at 10:20 a.m. at the Napa Valley Marriott. It’s family day for the players, who will have a BBQ with loved ones after the practice.