NAPA – Martavis Bryant took some heat from his head coach a few days back. Jon Gruden demanded more from the lightning quick receiver, saying he had to show more versatility and consistency in training camp.
Bryant's a big-play maker who was pretty quiet in recent weeks. He had an excellent showing in Wednesday's joint practice against the Detroit Lions, with several quality receptions showcasing speed and hands.
He barely got a finger on a floating ball his way, but controlled it long enough to secure the catch and a long gain. He ran away from coverage later in the day, dusting coverage to reel in a long pass from Connor Cook.
Bryant needs more of those moments working in a competitive position group. Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson will see action and Ryan Switzer has found a home in the slot.
The former Pittsburgh Steeler has been working primarily with the second team, though it's expected he'll have an important offensive role by the fall.
"Martavis is not a good talent, he's a great talent and we're going to continue to work him into our offense," Gruden said. "Today showed, I think, what he's capable of doing. … We have big plans for him."
Gruden's mild critique may have promoted better from Bryant, who looked good against the Lions Wednesday.
"You can definitely tell that he has a sense of urgency for him to pick things up and learn them," Derek Carr said. "He wants to do right, he really does. To see that in him, to see him continue, he always practices hard, that's never a question. He's going to practice hard. And usually that's the hardest part to get someone to practice hard, but he is. No problem practicing hard and going hard. In the film room and in the playbook is where he's really working hard and he's gotten a lot better."
Cooper vs. Slay and TEs shine
Amari Cooper and All-Pro Detroit cornerback Darius Slay matched up several times over the course of two days, with each player getting the best of the battle at times.
The video below shows just how competitive things got between the two while playing excellent football.
Good work @AmariCooper9 ✊🏽 https://t.co/bNFCNwn7pQ— Darius Slay (@_bigplayslay23) August 8, 2018
That was from Tuesday, but carried over to the following session. Cooper beat him for a touchdown on one play, and Slay broke up the next pass his way.
The Lions struggled to cover Raiders tight ends on Wednesday, with Jared Cook and Derek Carrier each making nice catches across the field.
"We wanted to feature the tight ends the last couple days," Gruden said. "Honestly, we think that Jared Cook is a rare receiving tight and we think Carrier is interesting. I think he's been under the radar. He played wide receiver in college. We acquired him from the Rams. We think he's an intriguing mismatch problem for some teams."
Two joint practice days, one scuffle
Scuffles are common in joint practices. It was rare the Raiders and Lions made it through Tuesday without incident. Push came to shove early Wednesday, however, when Raiders guard Jon Feliciano mixed it up with Lions defensive end Anthony Zettel, which attracted other members of these opposing lines.
In general, however, the teams were respectful and competed hard without getting too emotional.
"I thought other than the one incident earlier, I thought the teams did a great job showcasing professionalism and etiquette," Gruden said. "I think we got a lot more out of these two days than we ever could have, had we not done this."
Melifonwu back on shelf
Oft-injured Raiders safety Obi Melifonwu is banged up again, missing both joint practice dates with the Lions. Last year's second-round pick has a lower-body injury that has kept out following a Monday practice filled with extensive work thanks to three other safeties then hampered by injury. He hasn't practiced since, a setback in his quest for a roster spot.
In other injury news, right guard Gabe Jackson was back with the first team after a limited Tuesday practice. He missed the previous two days with an undisclosed injury.
Safety Marcus Gilchrist remained out with a foot injury. Receiver Seth Roberts and linebacker Nicholas Morrow were not seen at practice. Arden Key was not around in the latter portions of practice, though it's uncertain whether he missed the entire workout.
This ‘n that
Former Lions WLB Tahir Whitehead had two strong practices against his old team, but saved his best play for the last day. He made a diving stab at a Matt Stafford pass, slapping it away before it reached the tight end. …QB Connor Cook might've had his best day at practice, with two excellent throws where only his guy could catch it. He found Griff Whalen on a slant through the middle and Martavis Bryant streaking down the sideline. …Left tackle Kolton Miller held up well against foreign opposition. He wasn't perfect but responded to mistakes well, as he has done throughout camp. …Safety Erik Harris had two passes defensed on deep balls, and nearly intercepted one pass.