Van Dyke to get shot at returning punts


Van Dyke to get shot at returning punts

ALAMEDA -- It's no mystery the Raiders' punt return game has struggled mightily in the preseason, with the trio of Jacoby Ford, Bryan McCann and DeAundre Muhammad combining to average a mere 4.4 yards per return.So it was no surprise, then, to see speedy cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke fielding punts following practice Monday. The Raiders have to mix it up, right? Especially with Ford still out with a sore left foot and Muhammad cut earlier in the day."Potentially, (we'll) see how he looks in practice this week," said coach Dennis Allen, when asked if Van Dyke could return punts against Seattle in both teams' exhibition finale Thursday."Obviously we're looking to see who's going to fulfill that role for us. We'll explore whatever's out there."Van Dyke said he last returned punts as a freshman at Miami and, before that, in high school.Doing it in the NFL, albeit in an exhibition game, represents a quantum leap of a difference. And sitting there, waiting for the ball to drop from the sky while an entire team barrels down on you, is completely different from the loneliness of being a cornerback out on the edge with just one receiver to worry about."Imagine 11 angry men, all running down at full speed, trying to take you head off," Van Dyke said with a nervous smile.That is where Van Dyke's speed -- he was the fastest man at the Combine in 2011 -- would come into play, so long as he fields the ball cleanly. And it might even help with his confidence as a cornerback."Having the ball in my hands could help me get going, give me that swagger," he said."It's going to interesting, so I"m pretty excited about Thursday."

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.

They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.

Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.

“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”

While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.

The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.

“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.

"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.

Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.

Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.

“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”

Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.

“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”