It was business as usual for the Oakland Raiders at Wednesday’s mandatory — except for the drizzly weather.
Rain sprinkled throughout practice as players lost balance and footing on the slippery turf, giving them a rare opportunity to get a glimpse of the elements that will plague them during the season — in June.
Special teams Brad Seely believed it was great to see:
“It’s a good thing for us because at some point during that season you’re going to play in that kind of weather.”
To combat the elements, it’s helps to have a solid ground game. That’s something the Raiders had trouble with last season, as the team was ranked dead last in 2014, averaging 77.5 yards per game.
“Right now Latavius has been running with the lead group, but he knows he’s got to earn that through camp, through the preseason. We’ve added a couple of guys in Trent and Roy and we’ll give them an opportunity as well as with the guys that are here. We’ll sort out our different roles as we get into camp, but we like where we’re headed.”
Del Rio believes it’s a competition including new offseason additions, Roy Helu Jr. and Trent Richardson, as well as Taiwan Jones, switching back from cornerback to his natural running back position, which coach Del Rio said adds explosion to the offense.
Murray believes he can be the team’s “bell cow” this upcoming season and improve on the lead he’s gotten off too. Last year, Murray exploded on the scene with a four-carry, 112-yard rushing explosion against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football:
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I know how important this opportunity is. This is a big year for me, and I know what I need to do to go out there and prove myself. I hold myself to a high standard.”
Murray said the only difference from this year and his first two — even though he’s the No. 1 guy — is that he is fully healthy:
“It’s no big difference. I’m still competing. I know I have along ways to go until the season starts.”
A key to a great running attack is great blockers up front — including tight ends and fullbacks. Del Rio believes the team is prepared, with the additions of rookie tight end Clive Walford and free agents Lee Smith and center Rodney Hudson:
“We feel like we can move people up front from the tight end position and we have big, powerful linemen. We feel like we have a commitment to (running) and having those people in place will give us opportunity.”
Murray also hailed the addition of Hudson, similar to Del Rio who praised the big guy on the first day of minicamp:
“Rodney he’s done a great job at center. He’s a smart guy who’s leading the way for the line. As far as his ability and his call making.”
Special teams was also affected by the weather as the team fielded punts off the ground to get players used to a slippery ball, Seely said:
“We laughed a bit about the weather, because we don’t get much of that around here. We started with our returners catching the balls off the ground because it’s slippery and the balls going to slide. It’s great to take advantage of that.”
Seely hopes to get his young players acclimated to the role of special teams. Most standout players never get a chance to do so in college, and special teams may be their only hope of making a pro squad before they find their stride:
“In a perfect world it’s young guys who learn how to play the game. Pro football is much different from college football. They learn how to play the game and they go from special teams to being core offensive defensive players.”
“I’m just trying to help this team in any way possible. Whatever role the coaches give me I’m just going to run with it and do my best at it.”
Due to weather most receivers struggled, including Amari Cooper. The real standout was Kenbrell Thompkins ,who had two great tiptoeing sideline grabs.
Defensive backs Nate Allen and T.J. Carrie had minimal to no participation at practice. Carrie participated in position warm-ups but received no reps throughout. Allen did not participate.
The absence of the two gave Jonathan Dowling and Neiko Thorpe opportunities to shine. Both had interceptions, as Dowling picked off backup quarterback Christian Ponder, and Thorpe ended practice by picking off Derek Carr in the two-minute drill when Carr over threw Thompkins in the end zone.
“The punter should be the guy. He has the best advantage to get to work with the kicker all practice. It’s hard to take a guy at a different position because you just don’t get as much repetitions in practice. You always hope your punter can be the guy.”