NAPA – The Raiders have a new-look receiving corps. Amari Cooper might be the only mainstay getting steady snaps, with newcomers taking on significant responsibility right away.
Jordy Nelson will start opposite Cooper. Martavis Bryant's in the mix, offering rare height and speed in the pattern. Ryan Switzer is the favored man in the slot, a shifty pass catcher working on the interior.
Quarterback Derek Carr calls the position group the deepest since he arrived in 2014. Cooper believes the group is complete because each guy brings different talents to the table.
"I think we have a variation of receivers," Cooper said. "We have speed guys, we have guys who have really strong hands – possession guys. Whatever you want in a receiver, we have it."
Even guys battling for a roster spots, like Marcell Ateman, Griff Whalen, Keon Hatcher, and Isaac Whitney have had their moments.
They certainly had some during Monday's padded practice.
The position group proved unreliable last season, with far too many drops and missed opportunities.
The Raiders need better from their receivers this season, and should get it with the top four guys. The battle for a fifth spot will be fierce between Seth Roberts, Johnny Holton, Ateman, Dwyane Harris -- he has return ability -- and others.
Cooper, however, will remain the primary option. That's a role he welcomes.
"That's what you want as a wide receiver," Cooper said. "That's what you want as a playmaker. You want the ball in those crucial situations. You want to be depended on, you want to be counted on when it's time to make a big play."
Vadal on the way out
The Raiders are expected to part ways with offensive lineman Vadal Alexander, Gruden said in his Monday press conference.
This comes after a strange run for the LSU product and former swing tackle. He was suspended four regular-season games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing drugs in May, an action that didn't impact his preseason availability.
Then he didn't show up for training camp and was placed on the reserve-did not report list last week. It doesn't seem like he'll return to the team, though Gruden didn't give a reason for his absence.
Rookie pass catchers stand out
Undrafted tight end Paul Butler had a strong day, with an acrobatic catch in individual drills and two more solid plays in team sessions. A roster spot will be tough to come by at his position, but a strong summer could help him land a spot on the practice squad.
Seventh-round receiver Marcell Ateman has been solid the last few days, getting behind his man to make a nice catch from Derek Carr. Gruden said Carr changed the play at the line of scrimmage and called the rookie's number based on coverage, and it worked out well.
Richard should be back soon
Raiders running back Jalen Richard suffered a calf strain on Sunday, but won't miss much time. Gruden said he could be back as soon as Wednesday. That's a relief to a player in a competition for carries behind Marshawn Lynch.
Undrafted rookie running back Chris Warren is out – he was seen with a wrap on his right quad/hamstring and calf – but could be back soon.
The Raiders signed former University of Iowa running back James Butler, who was thrown into the mix right away and fared relatively well.
This ‘n that
Cornerback Daryl Worley has played well with Conley out. Gruden said he's working his way up the depth chart. He also likened rookie cornerback Nick Nelson to T.J. Carrie, someone able to be physical covering from the slot… Several veterans were held out from team drills in a physical padded practice, including Marshawn Lynch, Jordy Nelson and Breno Giacomini. Bruce Irvin and Reggie Nelson had a smaller workload than normal… Primarily a guard and center, Ian Silberman got a long look at right tackle, often working there with the first unit… Gruden praised reserve quarterback Connor Cook's improvement in scheme knowledge and execution, saying the backup quarterback competition should be fierce… Kicker Eddy Pineiro had another strong day, and made several deep kicks through skinny uprights. Gruden said the kicker competition will play out through the preseason… Monday's practice was physical with lot of good work running the ball… Arden Key had another solid day in one-on-one pass rushing drills.