Raiders

Downing: Carr will have increased influence on Raiders game plan

Downing: Carr will have increased influence on Raiders game plan

Derek Carr and Todd Downing are tight. A strong friendship was forged between the Raiders’ franchise quarterback and his position coach these past two seasons, one that should help the Raiders now that Downing will call plays.

The Raiders new offensive coordinator will use his young signal caller as a resource formulating a game plan. Carr has a bright offensive mind – he called his own plays in high school and in college at times – and Downing plans to use it to put his quarterback in positions to succeed.

Carr’s influence in preparation will expand over previous seasons under coordinator Bill Musgrave.

“Where I see him needing a little bit more command is just being able to share his thoughts of game plans,” Downing said Wednesday in a conference call. “Being a student of the game, as he already is, but vocalize what he likes and doesn’t like. I think my relationship with him is something that’s going to give him the opportunity to voice his opinions. I look forward to him really taking charge of expressing his thoughts on the offense.”

Carr has always had freedom to adjust at the line of scrimmage, but that could increase with Downing in charge. Derek Carr’s brother Davis Carr told 95.7 The Game as much a few weeks ago, a topic Downing addressed on Wednesday.

“There’s been a lot made about his command at the line of scrimmage,” Downing said. “There’s certainly going to be opportunities for Derek to do that. That’s not something I feel we’ll even have to get into until we’re much further into this offseason and into training camp.”

Downing had opportunities to interview with other teams this offseason, but head coach Jack Del Rio wanted to pair Downing and Carr together. The young duo have similar personalities and a strong working relationship based on a love of the game.

“My relationship with Derek starts there,” Downing said in Wednesday interview on 95.7-FM. “We both love coming to work each day and respect the heck out of each other. When you have that kind of relationship with any coach, you’re taking a step in the right direction. Derek’s the leader of our franchise. In my opinion, he’s the best young quarterback in football. We’re fortunate to have him. Why wouldn’t I be in a good mood every time I am around him?”

Carr made great progress working with Downing the past two years, and was an MVP candidate in 2016. Downing sees continued room for growth and refinement as next season approaches.

“I think Derek made big strides in 2016, just in terms of his command of the offense, being the field general, being able to get through progressions more efficiently,” Downing said. “His footwork took big strides. I certainly want him to remain focused on all of those attributes. You don’t want to feel like you’ve arrived in a certain area of your game and then have it go backwards when the next season starts. Certainly, I want him focused on all of those.”

Practice report: Conley locking in mentally while rehabbing injury

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AP

Practice report: Conley locking in mentally while rehabbing injury

NAPA – Gareon Conley ran Sunday for the first time in two months. The Raiders first-round cornerback remains on the physically unable to perform list with a shin injury originally suffered during a June minicamp. He wants to get back on the field. He just isn’t ready yet.

Missing training camp certainly sets back a dynamic cover man, but it doesn’t mean Conley can’t make an instant impact. While he hasn’t been seen on the practice field, the Raiders have been encouraged that Conley’s proving a quick learner and an inquisitive mind.

“We’d love to have him out there right now,” Raiders assistant head coach – defense John Pagano said. “When he’s out there, he’ll be out there. Until then, I think he got the reps he needed in OTAs. His mental game has picked up tremendously. He’s always asking questions, even more. It’s hard for a lot of injured players in this league to stand there on the sidelines and be able to just watch and look out there, but he’s always asking. He’s getting those mental reps.

"When he’s able to come back, he’ll be at a fast level. Injuries are part of the game, you deal with it and you just have to make sure, as a rookie, you’re taking those mental reps.”

Conley has been on the practice field with his position group most days, with a play sheet in hand to follow along. He has also lifted weights the past two days and worked on the JUGS machine Wednesday.

Nearly a month remains until the regular season starts, leaving Conley time to get back in the mix.

QUICK SLANTS

-- Cornerback Sean Smith took some reps with the first unit on Wednesday, though most of them came as an outside corner in the nickel package. TJ Carrie slid inside in those instances, and generally remained outside in the base defense.

Smith had his second straight quality practice, a sign he might be rebounding after a rough week where he practiced with the second unit and didn’t fare well at Arizona. The Raiders hope he can build on good work and be steadier in coverage.

“I think he’s growing every day,” Pagano said. “There’s always highs and lows in this game. You don’t want to make it, as we term, inconsistent. We’re always looking for the consistency. It’s how you build. It’s how you learn. It’s how you come off those things. There’s always room for improvement in the backend, in the front, all across our defense. There’s guys we’re asking them to go out there and make plays. Has he been improving at practice? Yeah. Then our job is to take that practice stuff and take it to the game field and have that consistency and that carry over to those types of games.”

-- Offensive line coach Mike Tice praised Ian Silberman’s play in a position switch to center. He has seen extensive reps there in camp, including a massive amount in the preseason opener at Arizona. Silberman will play some left guard in coming weeks to establish versatility and give him a shot to make the team.

-- Undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow played with the first unit in sub packages, as the Raiders continue searching for coverage options in those personnel groups.

-- Jon Feliciano worked with the first unit on Wednesday at left guard. He will be a primary backup at every interior line spot. He is working back from a knee injury that kept him out until last week.

Tice finds silver lining on Raiders' offensive line as Penn's holdout drags on

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Tice finds silver lining on Raiders' offensive line as Penn's holdout drags on

NAPA – Donald Penn won’t step foot in the Napa Valley Marriott this year. Unless something truly shocking happens, the Raiders will break training camp Thursday afternoon without seeing the Pro Bowl left tackle on the practice field.

Penn wants a new contract, one worth more than the $5.8 million base salary he was scheduled to make under his current deal. Penn has outperformed that pact, and is willing to wait for a new one.

It’s been 20 days with no movement.

That has forced offensive line coach Mike Tice to make other plans. He has to move on with the players he had in camp, even with the virtual certainty Penn will return before the regular season starts.

Marshall Newhouse is the Raiders left tackle. Vadal Alexander is on the right. That’s who Tice has to work with. He has to prep them for the regular season opener Sept. 10.

“Where I’m at right now is I have to get us ready to go out and beat Tennessee,” Tice said after Wednesday’s practice. “So right now, I have Marshall on the left and I have Vadal on the right and I have David doing a little bit more each day, playing both sides. That’s what we have. I can’t sit here and wonder when DP is going to come back. Right now I’ve moved forward with Marshall is on the left and Vadal is on the right and David is swinging.

"That’s reality right now. I can’t think that there’s going to be something else there until it’s there.”

When Penn eventually shows up to work at the Raiders complex in Alameda, Tice will add him to the mix. The Raiders have now had plenty of time to prepare for an instance in which their Pro Bowl tackle is not physically able to perform. 

“Injuries happen during the season and you have to have a plan to have a player ready to play at each position and sometimes multiple players ready at the same position,” Tice said. “With Donald not here yet, we’re able to have Marshall over there. He’s done a nice job. He’s gotten better. The challenge you have with a veteran guy that comes in, he’s been coached by other coaches to do things a different way and it takes time for a veteran to learn the ways to do things the way that we want to do them as Raiders. That’s probably the biggest challenge.”

Penn isn’t the only offensive lineman to miss time. David Sharpe and Jylan Ware have missed some time with injury. Kelechi Osemele has taken some time off this camp. Jon Feliciano only returned from the physically unable to perform list last week. Tice has mixed and matched just to get through practice.

“We’ve had some days where we’ve had to make it happen with 10 or 11,” Tice said. “When you have that, you get the ability, you have the ability, you have the opportunity to develop your depth. In the long run, it’s actually a good thing.”