As seen on Bleacher Report.
Owner Mark Davis and general manager Reggie McKenzie were in Napa, Calif. to watch the first practice under new head coach Dennis Allen. The new era of Raiders football got underway on a beautiful sunny day in wine country and finished on a positive note for the defense when rookie defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi picked off a Terrelle Pryor screen pass and returned it for a touchdown.
Allen believed the Raiders had a pretty good day of practice, but there was plenty of room for improvement. Once Allen goes back to watch the video of practice, he will see a few players that really helped themselves on Monday and a few who didn’t.
Not only did McGee make a few nice catches, including a long grab from Carson Palmer over veteran cornerback Shawntae Spencer, but McGee was coming in with Ford with the No.2 unit ahead of standout rookies Juron Criner and Rod Streater.
It’s a sign that McGee is very much still in the mix to make the team, particularly because he made the most of the opportunities that were given to him.
DaMarcus Van Dyke
Van Dyke broke up a pair of passes during practice while playing with the first-team defense. One of the two break ups was nearly intercepted and it fired up a few of his teammates on defense temporarily.
Veteran cornerback Ron Bartell missed practice with a hamstring injury which opened the door for Van Dyke to get playing time with the starters. It’s worth noting Van Dyke played behind Spencer during OTAs and minicamp with Chekwa getting the reps behind Bartell, but it was Van Dyke that had that duty today.
The Raiders need both Van Dyke and Chekwa to become solid NFL players in 2012 and it’s possible Van Dyke could push for a starting role if he keeps performing like he did on the first day of training camp.
The depth of the secondary in Oakland is very much a question mark in 2012 and Lee is just one of the many players McKenzie brought in to solidify the position. Lee is a known commodity on special teams, but will probably need to prove himself to be a quality reserve to make the roster.
Lee made one of the best defensive plays of the day when he got a hand on a pass over the middle and tipping it up in the air where Chimdi Chekwa was easily able to intercept it. It’s the type of play that is likely to get Lee noticed when the coaches re-watch practice on video.
Ford took an end around to the left, planted to go up field and crumpled to the ground holding his left knee. It was scare for the speedy receiver, but after walking it off and a little work from the trainer, Ford jogged into position with Denarius Moore and the punt return unit.
Moments later Ford was jumping up and down on his left leg as if to tell the media and his teammates that he was okay. Ford reiterated that he was fine after practice, “I think it just scared me more than anything.”
Ford may be something of a special package player in 2012 and he might end up returning both punts and kicks to save Moore. Ford also received reps with the No.2 offense and in the three-receiver set. He’s a winner for coming out of the practice healthy.
Streater made two more nice catches in practice including one deep pass and one fluttering pass he grabbed between two defenders. Had the defenders been wearing pads, Streater may have gotten a good pop from the defender and been lucky to come down with the ball, but he showed he’s willing to elevate and make a play.
If you were to describe Streater, it would be sneaky fast and fluid. At this point, it would be hard to find a reason Streater wouldn’t make the final 53-man roster.
The offense didn’t do much deep passing and all the quarterbacks were checking down to the fullbacks. Reece was targeted many times in the flat and underneath linebackers and if this is part of the new offense, it will suit Reece and veteran running back Darren McFadden.
Curry was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list with a knee issue and did not participate in practice. The PUP designation may indicate that he might be the furthest away from returning to practice of the four players that didn’t participate on Monday.
Miles Burris took his place with the starting defense. Curry needs to get back quickly before Burris gets adjusted to the pro game and turns the outside linebacker spot into a camp competition.
Criner got reps with the No. 3 offense, but didn’t make any noteworthy catches on Monday. After all the noise Criner made during OTAs and minicamp, it was a disappointment that he didn’t get much action.
Part of this could just be opportunity as the offense practiced a lot of short passes and only occasionally tried a deep pass and any opportunity to impress in drills would have been on the far-side of the field away from the critical eyes of the media.
Matt Leinart is clearly the backup quarterback and it’s not even a competition right now. While Pryor’s arm strength is good, he lacked confidence throwing over the middle, fumbled a snap and threw an interception at the close of practice after stumbling on his drop back.
Pryor’s passes didn’t hit the receivers in stride and too many passes came out of his hand wobbly. Pryor’s asset is his legs, but the quarterbacks weren’t asked to use them much on Monday.
Getting beat deep by McGee sticks out, but otherwise he didn’t make much of an impact. If Van Dyke continues to play like he did Monday and Bartell comes back full strength, Spencer might find himself as a backup.
Aaron Curry (Knee): Physically unable to perform
Shane Lechler (Knee): Present, but no participation
Ron Bartell (Hamstring): Did solo work on separate field only
Travis Ivey (Conditioning): Ran on the treadmill for most of practice.
Mike Mitchell (Knee): Full participation
Stefan Wisniewski (Shoulder): Full participation
The Raiders have a non-padded practice tomorrow at 2:50 p.m. Follow @Raidersblog on Twitter for practice updates.