ARLINGTON, Texas – Raiders second-round safety Obi Melifonwu was a spectator most of training camp. Injury kept the UConn product sidlelined or extremely limited until recently, when his practice activity ramped up and was finally deemed ready to make his Raiders debut Saturday against Dallas.
Coaches didn’t ease back into action. They put him to work.
Melifonwu played 22 defensive snaps and 13 more on special teams. He played a hybrid linebacker role in first-unit sub packages. He played strong safety with the second team, and was still stealing snaps at the end of the fourth quarter.
This plan’s required. There’s no time to waste. The regular season’s closing in, with but one more exhibition until the games actually count.
Melifonwu was decent in a 24-20 loss at AT&T Stadium. He had two tackles and allowed two receptions for 16 yards on three targets. He had a chance to make a pick, but couldn’t quite get there.
Melifonwu wasn’t the only young player back in action against the Cowboys. Defensive lineman Jihad Ward led his position group with 26 snaps, mostly after the first unit left the field. He had a pair of tackles in his first game back from offseason foot surgery. He was taken off the physically unable to perform list on Monday and revved up quickly. He’ll play again Thursday against Seattle in an attempt to expedite prep and contribute heavily to an interior line rotation.
Melifonwu and Ward must be impactful in the regular season. Head coach Jack Del Rio deemed Saturday’s efforts helpful in that effort.
“Both guys, it was good to have them out there,” Del Rio said. “Ward played hard from what I saw. Obi was involved in some things where he was close and could have made a play. Had a chance, I think, with his range. …It was a good start for both of these young men, to get them back. They’re both talented kids, and they’re working hard.”
Veteran left tackle also saw his first game action on Saturday, though injury didn’t slow him down. Penn missed 26 days of the preseason holding out for a better contract. He reported Wednesday and was deemed ready for action Saturday, working the second and third series for a total of 19 snaps. Penn pushed to play longer, but the Raiders capped his count to avoid injury risk. He said he was rusty but played pretty well, with a clean sheet over 19 snaps.
“We got him in,” Del Rio said. “Obviously he had to take care of himself and come back in shape, which he has done. We wanted to get him involved and up to speed and allow him to play a little bit. That’s what we did tonight. He didn’t play a ton, somewhere around 15 plays. That was the idea. All in all, it was pretty solid. I’m pleased with that.”
Quarterback – Derek Carr 28, Connor Cook 24, EJ Manuel 10
Running back – George Atkinson III 14, DeAndre Washington 14, John Crockett 10, Marshawn Lynch 9, Jalen Richard 7, Elijah Hood 6, Jamize Olawale 3
Wide receiver – Amari Cooper 30, Michael Crabtree 26, Cordarrelle Patterson 24, Johnny Holton 22, Jaydon Mickens 19, Keon Hatcher 19, K.J. Brent 17, Ishmael Zamora 10, Isaac Whitney 2
Tight end – Jared Cook 25, Clive Walford 17, Cooper Helfet 13, Pharaoh Brown 11, Gabe Holmes 7, Ryan O’Malley 7
Offensive line – Jon Feliciano 34, Gabe Jackson 31, Kelechi Osemele 31, Marshall Newhouse 31, David Sharpe 31, Rodney Hudson 28, Ian Silberman 20, Donald Penn 19, Jordan Simmons 18, Oni Omoile 17, Chauncey Briggs 17, Jylan Ware 14, Vadal Alexander 12, Kareem Are 7
Defensive line – Jihad Ward 26, Eddie Vanderdoes 25, James Cowser 24, Khalil Mack 24, Treyvon Hester 23, Denico Autry 23, Mario Edwards Jr. 14, Darius Latham 14, Justin Ellis 9, Paul Boyette 9, Branden Jackson 8, Fadol Brown 1
Linebacker – Nicholas Morrow 31, Jelani Jenkins 30, Tyrell Adams 28, Bruce Irvin 28, Najee Harris 23, Shilique Calhoun 21, Marquel Lee 15, IK Enemkpali 13, LaTroy Lewis 10, Rufus Johnson 7, Brady Sheldon 4
Cornerback – TJ Carrie 34, Sean Smith 32, Dexter McDonald 31, Antonio Hamilton 227 David Amerson 23, Breon Borders 19, Kenneth Durden 10, Chris Humes 1
Safety –Karl Joseph 34, Shalom Luani 33, Reggie Nelson 31, Obi Melifonwu 22, Marcus McWilson 16
Obi Melifonwi 13. Nicholas Morrow 12, Xavier Woodson-Luster 11, Cooper Helfet 11, Shalom Luani 11 Johnny Holton 11, James Cowser 11, Marquette King 9, Jamize Olawale 8, Shilique Calhoun 8, Breon Borders 8, Marquel Lee, 7, LaTroy LewisGiorgio Tavecchio 7, DeAndre Washington 7, Elijah Hood 7, Dexter McDonald 6, John Crockett 6, Antonio Hamilton 6, Kenneth Durden 6, Jalen Richard 5, Jon Condo 5, Rickey Jefferson 5, TJ Carrie, Karl Joseph 5, Jon Feliciano 5, Anthony Cioffi 5, Cordarrelle Patterson 5, Andrew East 4, Justin Ellis 4, Brady Sheldon 4, K.J. Brent 4,Treyvon Hester 4, George Atkinson III 4, Bruce Irvin 3, Jihad Ward 3, Khalil Mack 3, Denico Autry 3, Mario Edwards 3, Gabe Jackson 2, Darius Latham Marshall Newhouse 2, Vadal Alexander 2, Najee Harris 2, Branden Jackson 2, Kelechi Osemele 2, Eddie Vanderdoes 2, David Sharpe 2, Isaac Whitney 2, Ian Silberman 1, Jelani Jenkins 1, Jaydon Mickens 1, Jordan Simmons 1, Jylan Ware, Pharaoh Brown 1, Ryan O’Malley 1, Gabe Holmes 1, Kareem Are 1