Originally published on SBReport.net on May 15, 2012
The Oakland Raiders held their first Organized Team Activity on Tuesday at their practice facility in Alameda, Calif.
Only four players missed the practice: Mike Mitchell (knee), Richard Seymour (excused absence), Rolando McClain (legal issue) and Marcel Reece (hasn’t signed tender).
Players participated in both individual and team drills throughout the practice.
One player that stood out was fifth-round draft pick Juron Criner. The 6’3” wide receiver proved to be too much for the defense to handle, consistently making plays against the secondary.
After making a tough catch on a ball thrown behind him from quarterback Terrelle Pryor, Criner beat the first-team defense down the left side and out-jumped safety Tyvon Branch and cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke to come down with the 50-yard touchdown catch that drew chatter from the rest of the team.
Later in the practice, Criner hauled in another deep pass, this time from Pryor down the right hand sideline for a long completion.
Criner seems to be building a repertoire with Palmer, as he was seen talking to him as they walked off the field following practice.
“‘That right there set the standards,’” Criner said of the advice Palmer gave him following practice. “‘you expect nothing less from yourself and if you go a practice without making a play you should be mad at yourself, because you’re expected to do that day in and day out.’”
Head coach Dennis Allen likes what he has seen out of Criner so far, but knows it is still early.
“It’s been a learning process for him,” Allen said of Criner. “I think every day he gets a little bit better and he learning more what to do, so I was pleased with the way he practiced today. It’s not a whole lot different than what he saw from him on tape in college, so it’s what we expect out of him.”
Running back Darren McFadden returned to the field for the first time since being injured midseason last year and appeared to be healthy while making quick cuts. Allen likes what he sees in his star running back’s health.
“I thought he looked pretty good. He’s out here running around and looks like he’s running full speed so I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen so far,” Allen said.
Having had to gameplan against him before, Allen knows just how dangerous McFadden can be and how important it is to have him healthy and incorporated into the Raiders offense.
“Explosive homerun hitter on any given down and those are guys that are tough to deal with because you might bottle them up for a while but all it takes is one play and he hits a homerun and ends up beating you,” Allen said of McFadden. “He’s an exciting player and he’s working out here to get better, to learn the system, make sure he knows what to do and how to do it, and make sure he can execute it under pressure.”
Quarterback Carson Palmer looked solid, connecting on deep passes along with shorter passes to the outside. Palmer was picked off once when tight end David Ausberry
bobbled a pass that ricocheted off about five players before being caught by linebacker Aaron Curry, who took it back to the end zone.
The Raiders lined up Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore as their primary receivers on offense, with Jacoby Ford as the third receiver.
All three receivers ran crisp routes and looked comfortable running the routes asked of them, with all of them hauling in nice receptions from Palmer.
“I liked our effort. I think our guys are flying around, they’re working hard,” Allen said. “They’re doing what we preach: ‘get a little better everyday,’ and that’s what they’re doing so I’ve been real pleased.”
On defense, the Raiders primarily lined up in the 4-3 as coach Allen said he can’t throw everything at the players at once.
Even while running a 4-3, the defense was able to get a solid push on the offensive line and get some simulated sacks on Palmer, while also getting to the ball carrier quickly on rushing plays.
Raiders second-year cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke appears to be playing much better than last year, looking to be much more instinctive in the secondary and turning his head to find the ball, two things he didn’t do well last season.
Veteran and likely starting cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer looked to be solid in both the pass and the rush game, quickly getting to wherever the ball was.
With Seymour absent, the starting defensive line had Tommy Kelly and Desmond Bryant in the middle with Lamarr Houston in the left defensive end position, along with Matt Shaughnessy and Dave Tollefson splitting time at the right defensive end position.
The Raiders will meet for another OTA session on May 22 in Alameda with SBReport.net in attendance to take down observations.