OAKLAND -- Yeah, you could say the Raiders' much-maligned (and deservedly so) defense showed up Sunday against Jacksonville.Especially in the second half and overtime of Oakland's 26-23 victory.Consider: the Raiders limited the Jaguars to 54 yards of offense after halftime, and held them to 0-for-8 on third-down conversions in that same timeframe, while getting all three of their sacks."I smelled blood," said cornerback Joselio Hanson, "and we jumped on them."More to the point, Hanson jumped on the ball in overtime when defensive end Lamarr Houston stripped it from Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts III on the third play of overtime."Oh, man, there's linemen down there, there's tight ends, trying to rip it out," Hanson said of the ball. "I was holding it like it was my baby."On the play, the Jaguars were facing a 3rd and 20 from their own 9-yard line when Chad Henne hit Shorts coming across the middle from the left. Houston reached up and ripped the ball out. Call it another "hustle play" for the D-lineman, who ran nearly the length of the field in Denver last month to recover a fumble by Denver's Demaryius Thomas.The Raiders had the ball on the Jacksonville 21-yard line and two plays later, Sebastian Janikowski's 40-yard field goal ended it.But what about that hustle play by Houston again?"Yes, it's guys closing to the ball," Houston said. "The wide receiver wasn't paying attention to me and I was just running like I was coached, and I ended up making a great play."A week earlier, Hanson had the Raiders' first interception of the year in Atlanta."That's film study," Hanson said. "That's just having the will to make a play on that one. The fumble recovery today was running to the ball. We preach that. All 11 people running to the ball. The guy got stripped and I happened to be there and jumped on it."That's how he got that strip. We try to preach that here and be able to do that every game. I think we'll be a real good defense if we continue."The Jaguars lost their star running back after two plays as Maurice Jones-Drew went down with an ankle injury. And quarterback Blaine Gabbert was gone after being hurt when Tommy Kelly drove him into the ground on a sack that was called back by Kelly being offsides in the second quarter.So yeah, you would hope the Raiders defense would step up, right?"We matched up closer on our coverage and let the front four get after them with pressure," said free safety-turned cornerback Michael Huff. "As long as we buy our front four a little bit of time they will get after him. We just played closer in coverage."If we play Raider football for a whole game, we see how good we can be, how well we can play. The main thing is being consistent from start to finish. If we play our game we can be top 10."Beating the one-win Jaguars should be a good enough start, though.
ALAMEDA – Rookies have been immersed in the Raiders system most of this month, but still have a lot to learn before training camp begins this summer.
There’s significant work ahead this spring during OTAs and mid-June’s mandatory minicamp, and young players will do so from the second and third teams. Even the highly touted ones.
First-round draft pick Gareon Conley played slot cornerback with the second unit and outside cornerback on the third during Tuesday’s OTA open to the media. It’s a position the slick, speedy cover man will vacate posthaste, but the Raiders prefer rookies earn their stripes.
“All of our young guys are going to earn their way,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We have a good football team. We’re going to let them earn their way. We’ll let them compete. We’re early in the competition, so we’ll just go through the offseason and continue to get (Conley) involved and get him reps. These guys will ascend and take their positions as they earn it. We’re really happy with the way he’s started.”
The Raiders didn’t feature a single rookie on their first units Tuesday. Second-round safety Obi Melifonwu, fourth-round offensive tackle David Sharpe and middle linebacker Marquel Lee were featured on the second unit.
Here are some other observations from Tuesday’s OTA sessions.
-- Del Rio said Marshall Newhouse had the inside track to be the team’s starting right tackle. The versatile veteran worked there with the first team, joining a front five otherwise intact from a season ago.
-- Second-year pro Connor Cook, who switched from No. 8 to No. 18 this offseason, ran the second offensive unit. E.J. Manuel worked with the third team.
-- Inside linebacker Ben Heeney worked on a side field with a trainer during Tuesday’s practice, as he continues to rehab from surgery to repair an ankle broken early last season. Jelani Jenkins also did side work after practicing on Monday.
Cory James and Tyrell Adams worked with the first unit at inside linebacker.
-- Veteran running back Marshawn Lynch was limited to individual drills for a second straight day as the Raiders ease him back into football activity.
-- Offensive lineman Austin Howard is working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, and only practice during individual drills.
-- Cornerback Sean Smith had offseason surgery, but was a full participant in Tuesday’s session.
-- Third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes remains away from the Raiders complex due to an NFL rule preventing players from schools still in session to work with their teams. He won’t re-join the squad until training camp. Undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow is in a similar spot, but will return next week.
-- Edge rusher Shilique Calhoun played last season at 250 pounds, but looks decidedly bigger now. He told the team website he’s up to 270 pounds.
ALAMEDA -- Todd Downing and Calvin Johnson go way back. The Raiders offensive coordinator got to know the retired Detroit receiver during four seasons coaching Lions quarterbacks, a relationship benefitted current Silver and Black receivers this week.
Johnson is in Alameda as a special guest and advisor for the first week of Raiders OTAs, offering tips and tricks learned during an excellent career.
“(Downing) thought it’d be a great idea for our wide receivers to just pick his brain and have him be around and give us a point here or there,” Del Rio said. “Talk about some of the things that he did so well in his career and how we might be able to have some of our guys learn from that. It’s great to have him out here.”
Amari Cooper gravitated towards Johnson, and has spent significant time picking his brain
“I’ve just been asking him a whole bunch of questions,” Cooper said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “How does he run certain routes? What was his regimen like? And how he was so productive? He’s a really cool guy. He’s been giving me some really great feedback, so he’s nice to have around.”
Johnson’s a unique talent, a difficult cover at 6-foot-5, 236 pounds. Cooper operates in a smaller frame and has different receiving strengths, but still found wisdom in working with Megatron.
“He just gave me some really good tips on like how I can run some of my routes,” Cooper said. “…he’s a different receiver than I am, obviously. But I really admire the way he high-points the ball and that’s something that I try to do as well.”
Cooper does most everything well, and has had a productive start to his NFL career. He’s just the third receiver in NFL history to exceed 70 receptions and 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons – Odell Beckham and Marques Colston are the others – and made the Pro Bowl after both campaigns.
He continues to tinker with his approach and offseason workouts, trying to finish seasons stronger and become an even more dynamic player. Cooper has no problem learning from others, especially the greats.
“I seek advice all the time,” Cooper said. “My rookie year, when I was fortunate enough to go to the Pro Bowl, I asked Adrian Peterson like when did he start working out, how did he go about his offseason. And I tried to pattern after him a little bit.”
Cooper is smarter and working better thanks to information absorbed from others, which he hopes will help him become a deadly weapon.
“I know he’s just scratching the surface of what he wants to accomplish in this league,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Very prideful. Amari has always been very serious about the game and works hard at everything, really. His conditioning level and understanding what he needs to be able to do to play at a high level. Again, talking and having a guy like Calvin here as we’re getting started in these OTAs, to be able to share some of the insight of what he experienced playing that position is very valuable for us.”