The Oakland Raiders have big expectations for their tight end Clive Walford this season. The second-year man out of Miami has set a high-standard for himself as well going into training camp.
Walford, a third round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, was questionable heading into training camp with a knee injury he sustained while riding an ATV in May. The knee injury was worse than Walford initially thought, but he said he’s healthy and ready to go for camp:
“Believe it or not, when the accident first happened, I didn’t realize how serious it was until I got to the hospital. I thought I would just need some stitches. I told them I was going to be out for a while, so I had to inform the team.”
Walford has dealt with a slew of injuries early on in his NFL career. Last season he missed almost all of training camp due to injury, but he said he’s using this camp to develop chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr:
“I’m building chemistry with (Carr). It was a great opportunity to play with him last year…I think the chemistry is still there, I just have to get back into football shape.”
Carr spoke highly of the tight end:
“Really important (to have Walford back) because he is such a weapon. The little that he played he was very productive. He made big plays, had explosive gains down the middle against Kansas City. Against the Vikings he ran a nice corner route against a good corner back in Xavier Rhodes and caught a touchdown. So we’ve seen glimpses, and that’s what you want to see.”
In his rookie season, Walford snagged three touchdown passes and caught for 329 yards. He flashed potential, but was inconsistent with his hands and route running.
The Raiders are hoping for Walford to continue to grow and develop, and show off the skill set he exhibited in college. Walford played four years for the Miami Hurricanes, and in that time he caught for 1,753 yards and 14 touchdowns. He had seven touchdown catches his senior year at Miami.
Walford has a tremendous combination of size and speed. At 6-foot-4, 258 pounds, he presents a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He ran a 4.79 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, so he is able to run past linebackers and he’s too big for safeties to cover.
“With those two great receivers we have, they are going to draw a lot of attention. You can’t double team one or the other, and that leaves a lot of one-on-one matchups.”
The importance of having a healthy Walford wasn’t lost on offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, who stressed the magnitude of Walford’s presence:
“It’s crucial (to have Walford back) because we’ve missed a lot of time with (Walford) over the past number of months. Even this time last year he was on the shelf, so it’s good to have him out there again for Derek and the other quarterbacks to have a feel for how he runs his routes. It’s great to have him out there. He has a lot of ability, so were looking for him to be a big part of what we do.”
Cook and McGloin shaky – Both backup quarterbacks struggled considerably on Saturday. Each threw an interception during practice. Cook in particular was late on a lot of throws, and the ball looked wobbly coming out of his hand on numerous occasions.
Heeney ballin’ – Ben Heeney was all over the practice field. He recovered an Amari Cooper fumble and returned it all the way for a touchdown. He was also very active in coverage, blanketing both receivers and running backs.
Amerson tight in coverage – David Amerson was fantastic in coverage throughout practice. He batted down several balls, and kept wide receiver Michael Crabtree shut down for most of the day.