Upbeat First Day at Raiders OTAs

The Oakland Raiders took to the field as an entire unit for the first time in 2018 for some needed work before the long break before training camp begins in July.

There’s never a doubt where Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden stands. He pretty much tells it like it is, and, at the conclusion of the team’s first day of OTAs, Gruden was mostly smiles and even took some shots at the NFL’s rules regarding preseason practices.

This was our first practice. We’ve been working against garbage cans, robots and mannequins — that’s what we’ve been allowed to practice against. – Jon Gruden on the start of OTAs

With the team making the offensive line a focal point in the draft — selecting Kolton Miller in the first round and Brandon Parker in the third — Gruden was asked about his new linemen.

“We like what we see, we like it a lot,” he said. “We changed plays 30 times today, went with a no-huddle offense 16 times, ran numerous gap-blocking plays, zone-blocking plays, different protections. The mental part of it is what is exciting. We already know these guys can handle a lot of system football and that’s impressive.”

Jon Gruden OTAs Oakland Raiders

Jon Gruden was all smiles at the team’s first OTA in Alameda, Calif.

Gruden continued to show his admiration forĀ first-round draft pick Miller. When asked if the team was also trying to put some weight on the offensive lineman, Gruden said it wasn’t about gaining sizet for the former UCLA standout.

“It’s not so much weight as it is strength,” Gruden said. “He’s one of the most athletic tackles I’ve ever seen. We don’t want to take away from any of his athleticism, but he’s an underclassman, so we want to increase his strength without taking anything away from that athleticism.”

But how is the team overall?

“We don’t know what we have right now,” Gruden said. “This was our first practice. We’ve been working against garbage cans, robots and mannequins — that’s what we’ve been allowed to practice against. It’s the starting line and guys are jockeying for position, guys are trying to formulate our depth chart. We can make predictions and put a bunch of names on a depth chart right now, but over the next nine or 10 OTA practices, we’ll have a good idea who’s dialed in mentally and who can physically make the plays and who’s going to be No. 1, 2 or 3.”

Gruden was also asked several players’ status, including those coming off injuries, such as 2017 first-round pick Gareon Conley and safety Obi Melifonwu.

“Great to see Conley out there. We’re counting on him. We need him,” Gruden said. “Conley’s special, and a top pick in the draft for a reason. From a confidence standpoint, he needs to get some work in out here.”

Gruden said Melifonwu, hasn’t been healthy enough to be on the field yet.

“Obi doesn’t seem 100 percent,” Gruden said. “I haven’t seen him much, except in the training room.”

With Gruden installing a more open and complex offense, Gruden assessed wide receiver Amari Cooper and what it would take for the talented receiver to reach his potential.

“He’s got to stay healthy,” he said. “He’s got a little twinge in his hamstring.”