Obi Melifonwu

Raiders place Melifonwu on reserve/injured list; sign safety and linebacker

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USATSI

Raiders place Melifonwu on reserve/injured list; sign safety and linebacker

ALAMEDA – The Raiders hoped second-round draft pick Obi Melifonwu would make an immediate impact. That won’t happen now.

For the season’s first half at least.

The safety was placed on injured reserve Tuesday afternoon, meaning he can’t return until Week 9 at the earliest.

Melifonwu had knee surgery last week, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, which forced the Raiders to put him on the shelf. He was sidelined most of training camp with an ankle injury, but was deemed healthy enough to play the third exhibition game at Dallas. That was the last game he played. Meifonwu wasn’t present for the exhibition finale against Seattle.

Meifonwu can practice after six weeks on IR and can play after eight weeks. Any layoff is a setback for the Raiders defense, which was counting on Melifonwu to at least be a hybrid safety/linebacker in the dime package. He was drafted primarily to help cover tight ends and running backs, areas of weakness the past few seasons. That role could fall to undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow, who played Melifonwu's spot while the UConn product was out in training camp. They could also stick with a linebacker there, using Tyrell Adams in the sub package. 

In added roster news, the Raiders also placed offensive lineman Denver Kirkland on injured reserve. The tackle/guard had foot surgery after the first preseason game, and expects to return this season. 

Thed Raiders signed safety Erik Harris and linebacker Xavier Woodson-Luster to the 53-man roster in corresponding moves.

Harris joins the Raiders after spending the 2016 season with New Orleans. He played action in four games. Prior to signing with New Orleans, Harris played three seasons in Canada with the Hamilton Tiger Cats. Woodson-Luster was with the Raiders during the preseason, and flashed in the exhibition finale versus Seattle. 

Snap count: Ward, Melifonwu off to 'good start' in Raiders season debut

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USATSI

Snap count: Ward, Melifonwu off to 'good start' in Raiders season debut

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.”

OFFENSE
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

DEFENSE
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

SPECIAL TEAMS
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

Five Raiders draft picks sidelined with injuries: 'Looked like a veteran rest day'

Five Raiders draft picks sidelined with injuries: 'Looked like a veteran rest day'

NAPA – The Raiders need several rookies to make an instant impact this season. They can’t do so from the sideline. That’s where five members of the 2017 draft class were anchored during Tuesday’s practice, the first action after an off day.

“It looked like a veteran rest day except it was mostly rookies,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “It was not by design. We’re making progress.”

First-round cornerback Gareon Conley hasn’t practiced this camp with shin splints. Second-round safety Obi Melifonwu and fourth-round offensive tackle David Sharpe have missed several days now. Third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes and seventh-round offensive tackle Jylan Ware were new absentees following minor ailments suffered Sunday.

Del Rio said these injuries aren’t long term. Even shorter absences aren’t ideal during camp days completely filled with football, especially with the first preseason game but a few days away. It’s uncertain how many will play in Saturday’s exhibition at Arizona, but every rep is vital for rookies expected to play important snaps.

Conley should be the slot corner, if not a starter outside in the base defense. Melifonwu seemed set as a hybrid safety/linebacker in sub packages. Vanderdoes should be part of the interior defensive line rotation, if not a feature player.

This isn’t the end of the world if players can get active soon. The problem will compound with extended time missed. Camp is invaluable to young players trying to learn a new system, adjust to the pro game and eventually have an influence on fortunes that will be reliant on some rookies.

Del Rio said the Raiders are making do with their current predicament.

“My feeling on it is that we cherish every rep that we get,” Del Rio said. “We’re going to work our butts off to get them out there whenever we can. Ultimately, it comes down to the player being ready to go. We’re doing everything we can to do the right things by our guys.”

QUICK SLANTS

-- Strong safety Karl Joseph stripped the ball from Marshawn Lynch a few practices back, but the veteran rusher bested him Tuesday. Lynch stiff-armed Joseph and broke a long run downfield.

Lynch doesn’t take many reps but has been effective with the ball in hand and generates fan excitement at every turn. It’s doubtful he sees many, if any preseason game reps in an effort to keep him healthy. The Raiders are driven to get him to the regular season with as little wear as possible.

DeAndre Washington especially has seen an increased workload in camp, and has been effectiveness working in different units.

-- Del Rio said the backup quarterback battle rages on despite EJ Manuel currently having a grip on the No. 2 job over Connor Cook.

“We’re sharing the work,” Del Rio said. “I think EJ has had some good moments, maybe a few more up to this point. But, we haven’t even played a game a snap in a game yet. So, we’re not in a hurry. We’re not rushing to make some of those decisions.”

-- Receiver Seth Roberts had a red-zone touchdown catch in this practice, working against Karl Joseph. He has quietly had a solid camp.

-- Cornerback Sean Smith continued working with the second unit base defense in team drills, and also played as a hybrid safety/linebacker in certain sub packages.

-- Edge rusher Khalil Mack didn’t participate on Tuesday, though it seems like a veteran rest day. Amari Cooper remains out with a left leg injury. Keith McGill, LaTroy Lewis, Jihad Ward and Jon Feliciano remained out. Edge rusher Shilique Calhoun returned after a one practice absence.