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Recapping this week’s OTA session

After letting this week’s OTA session and other moves permeate a bit, I thought I’d weigh in on some thoughts about the recent actions of the team and performance of the players.  If you’d like a recap of what happened, a good one is here.

Player moves:

The team added QB Kyle Newhall-Caballero, an undrafted free agent from Brown.  Newhall-Caballero is 6’3″, 214 lbs.  He threw during the media session on Tuesday and showed a good arm.

Even so, he’d have to really blow the team away to make the squad.  Instead, he’s likely playing for the practice squad as the scout team QB.

Head coach Allen indirectly confirmed that he’s a long shot to make the team saying, “That was the plan all along, to bring in a 4th quarterback. We wanted to bring 4 to camp, to make sure we did have 4 arms and I think Kyle will do a nice job there.”

Newhall-Caballero has selected to wear number 10.

My informal count of the squad is that the Raiders are currently carrying 87 players.  They are allowed up to 90 players.

OTA notes:

Because there is no contact in the practice sessions, most of the more interesting OTA bits come from the interviews afterwards, especially with coach Allen.

In his interview he weighed in on a lot of different topics.  Here were some of the more interesting topics for your consumption:

-The Raiders have practiced in helmets that do not have the Raiders emblem.  When asked about it, Allen stated, “We just started off that way. If anything, we’ll all earn the right to wear that symbol.”

-Rookie Miles Burris will be playing at OLB indefinitely at this point.  Allen has not intention of moving Burris around until he learns the nuances of playing OLB in the NFL.  He said, “I think right now with the learning curve we’re going to keep him outside LB and let him get his feet wet and then we’ll figure where he’s at probably closer to training camp, and even closer to the beginning of the season.”

-If the Raiders are going to cut MLB Rolando McClain due to his suspension, Allen is doing a good job of hiding it.  He went out of his way multiple times to praise McClain’s work ethic and preparation and to make sure the former 1st round draft pick knows that he’s supported by the organization.  Allen said, “I think really right now as we look at it, Rolando’s part of our family, he’s part of our team. We’re going to let the whole process play out before we do anything and once the whole legal proceedings are finished then we’ll determine what if any action we need to take.”

He further added, “I think he’s done a real good job from a leadership standpoint. I think he’s very instinctive. He’s smart out there. He’s taken command of the huddle. Those things I’ve been pleased with. Physically, I think as you look at him, I think what he needs to improve on, and he knows this, is a little bit of the pass coverage aspect.”

Finally, when asked if Rolando was behind due to missing the first OTA session, he responded, “No. he’s not behind at all. He’s actually ahead. He’s really smart. He understands the defense and he’s done a real good job in that regard.”

That doesn’t sound like a coach who is preparing to move on without that player.

-Rookie Juron Criner didn’t put on a show this OTA session the way he did the previous one but he did have at least one great reception where the ball was mis-thrown along the sideline and he batted the ball with one hand into the other and secured it before going out of bounds.

-Another rookie WR who is making an impression – on the media at least – is UDFA Rod Streater.  Streater, an imposing 6’3″, 200 lb WR from Temple, has shown consistently good hands.  At one point during OTAs, the media present were remarking that they didn’t think he had dropped a single pass thrown his way.  Of course, the next pass thrown his way was then a drop but needless to say it has been some time since the Raiders had WRs that had more spectacular receptions than drops.

-The WRs that are stepping forward are, in part, able to do so because there are a lot of injuries at that position.  During the OTA sessions, the Raiders were carrying 12 WRs on the roster.  5 of them were sidelined by injuries.

Allen was dismissive of the injuries being anything serious, calling them soft tissue (i.e. bruises, muscle strains or strains, etc) injuries.  However, it creates a definite lack of depth at the position.

The sidelined wide receivers were UDFAs Thomas Mayo and Brandon Carswell, former practice squad player Eddie McGee, second year player Denarius Moore and veteran Louis Murphy.

-The RB corps looks very strong.  Darren McFadden seems to be fully recovered from his lisfranc injury from last season.  He has always stood out in OTAs – being one of the fastest players on the team in a no contact situation helps – but that he was able to exhibit his great burst helped.  On one play, he was able to fake Tyvon Branch on a move and then breeze past him for what would have been a long reception from Palmer but he couldn’t get under the ball as Palmer had thrown it fairly deep.

Taiwan Jones looks to be the fastest player on the field.  He had worked on bulking up in the offseason but at this point there hasn’t been any close media conversation to see how he looks in comparison to last year.  If he is able to be a bit stronger at the point of contact and get to the open field, he is a touchdown threat every time he touches the ball.

Mike Goodson, aquired via trade from Carolina this off-season, shows good burst to the line.  In my Tale of the Tape review of him, I think that he will work well in the one cut zone blocking scheme.

-There is some growing concern about FB Marcel Reece’s absence from camp as this is when much of the offense is installed to the team.

Recently signed FB Owen Schmitt is one of the only FBs right now as the other FB on the team last season, Manase Tonga, had recent minor knee surgery and won’t be back until mid June at the earliest.

-You’ll notice that there isn’t much on news for the defense.  That’s because there is no contact allowed in OTAs in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  While this was only loosely enforced in the past, all teams are required to film their on the field sessions and archive them so that they have documented evidence of what occurred if there is a Union complaint.

The OTA session ended with a 2 minute drill in which the final play was former 49er Curtis Taylor intercepting a pass from Matt Leinart.  Overall, though, defensive plays are rare which is no indictment of the defense.  They are not allowed to make contact in a pass rush, nor play press coverage nor make tackles to create fumbles.  The rare interception or pass breakup will be the only defensive play during these sessions.

For what it’s worth (almost nothing) the first team corner backs are Ronald Bartell and Shawntae Spencer.  Chekwa and Van Dyke are the second team corner backs.

For more Raiders news and analysis throughout the day, follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews