Written for Salute Magazine; original here
The first two weeks of training camp have come to an end for the Oakland Raiders as they prepare for their first preseason game on Saturday. Here’s a quick rundown of the latest news regarding the team.
The Raiders can’t seem to shake the injury bug. While some of the players from last week have returned to action, a select few remain out of commission. On the plus side, Mario Edwards, Bruce Irvin, Jelani Jenkins and David Sharpe are all back to practice activities, and should be available for Saturday’s night game versus the Arizona Cardinals. Jon Feliciano has additionally come off the physically unable to perform list.
However, Amari Cooper hasn’t practiced since last week due to his calf injury, Ben Heeney, Jihad Ward and Cooper Helfet have all continued to miss time on the non-football injury list, first round rookie Gareon Conley remains sidelined from shin splints (or lack thereof) and second round rookie Obi Melifonwu is still dealing with his mystery injury. Alarmingly, Khalil Mack has joined them with an undisclosed injury. If there’s any silver lining, the only definite long term injury has been Keith McGill, who suffered a broken foot earlier in the week and is expected to be out for the first month of the regular season.
SEAN SMITH RETURNS TO FIRST TEAM
It was a shock to see veteran cornerback Sean Smith be demoted to second team late last week. Considering the amount of money the team spent to lure Smith away from the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason, the idea of benching him seemed farfetched. However, Smith had an up-and-down first season with the Raiders, and there were questions about his conditioning coming into camp.
Thankfully, Smith was back with the first team by Thursday, though he split time with the second team as well. SB Nation’s Levi Damien noted that Smith saw plenty of time in a hybrid slot linebacker role as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the Raiders utilize him during his limited preseason reps. Speaking of…
BACKUPS EXPECTED TO HANDLE CARDINALS
The last two days of training camp saw the second and third teams receive the majority of practice time, with some starters like Derek Carr taking a backseat to their immediate backups, signalling how the Raiders will divvy it out playing time on Saturday. On the subject of the quarterbacks, the competition for the #2 job between EJ Manuel and Connor Cook should become more clear during the game.