Today was the second Raiders OTA session open to the media. Here are some thoughts on the main story-lines that emerged from today’s practice:
-LB Kevin Burnett shows up:
Last week, Burnett made news by being the only noticeable absence during the media session of OTAs. His agent later made a statement that he was working out at home. Today, he was at OTAs, although he didn’t practice and may be injured.
Suffice to say, this is a non-story. Burnett is a seasoned veteran. It’s good that he showed up but these OTAs are voluntary. It wouldn’t have even been an issue if he weren’t the only missing face. This brings us to a much more important point, below.
-OTAs have full participation:
Today, all 90 players on the Raiders’ roster were at practice. All but 5 – Burnett, CB DJ Hayden, OG Lucas Nix, RB Latavius Murray and DT Antonio Smith – practiced. The injuries happen and are not a big deal. It’s a good statement that all 90 players showed up for OTAs. Heck, kicker Sebastian Janikowski even came, his second year in a row he’s come to OTAs, something that didn’t happen much or at all in previous years.
-DJ Hayden injury will get the press, Latavius Murray’s is more concerning:
I’ve already seen Twitter be a-buzz with discussion of DJ Hayden wearing a boot – he rolled his ankle, Dennis Allen tells us.
While Hayden needs to get reps and while he will get more attention because he was a first round pick, I’m not too concerned with his injury at this point. He started last year recovering from a very serious injury and he ended his season on injured reserve with a groin injury but there isn’t any indication that the ankle injury is anything serious- hopefully not.
Murray, on the other hand, struggled with ankle injuries all of last season and eventually went on IR due to his ankle pain. I’m much more worried about his ankle roll (again, per Allen).
One final point on the injuries – we cannot rule out any other injury. The Raiders have never been forthcoming about foot injuries – not under Al Davis, not under Mark Davis – and the media typically doesn’t find out that the injury was serious, like a Lisfranc injury, until the player goes on IR for it.
-Juron Criner is much improved:
Two OTA sessions have been open to the media and in both, third year Juron Criner has shined, making difficult catches all around him. Criner stood out in his initial rookie camp but faded since. He is facing a lot of competition this season to make the roster.
It’s possible that that competition has lit a fire under him. It’s also possible that he is one of the receivers that takes the first two years to learn the nuances of the position and that he can bloom in this, his third year.
Criner is battling to make the roster against other options like Greg Little and Brice Butler, both of whom have also looked good in the two open practices.
-The Raiders are very likely to joint-practice with Dallas this year:
I consider this a big positive. It gets players used to playing another team and seeing different looks or a different skill set than they are used to playing. With all of the many limitations that NFL teams have in camp these days, this remains one of the best ways to help train young players before the games that count.
-The Raiders starting OL thus far is LT Donald Penn, LG Khalif Barnes, C Stefan Wizniewski, RG Austin Howard, RT Menelik Watson:
No surprise here, unless you count Barnes at LG. The LG position is the most up-in-the-air on the offensive line with 3rd round pick Gabe Jackson and free agent Kevin Boothe in the mix, too.
I may be in the minority but I prefer Barnes to Boothe. I think Jackson makes a push and gets the starting job at LG by week 1.
-Sio Moore confirms that he is seeing time at weak side linebacker:
This seemed to be the most likely scenario once the team drafted Khalil Mack. Mack projects as a prototypical Strong side linebacker (or Sam), where Moore played last year. Moore showed a lot of promise, though, and so the team would like to try him at the weakside linebacker (or Will) position.
That potentially bumps Kevin Burnett from a starting role, as he was the starting Will last year. He may be in the mix to start at middle linebacker, though, with Nick Roach – last year’s starter at middle linebacker (or Mike) – showing well in coverage but less well against the run.