It didn’t take long for Damarious Randall to start bonding with his fellow projected starter at safety upon signing a free-agent deal with the Raiders in April. Randall and Johnathan Abram stayed together for part of the summer.
“We actually became very, very close friends,” Randall said after practice Thursday at the team facility in Henderson.
They are expected to hold down the back line of the defense to start the season, with Abram at strong safety and Randall at free safety.
Randall, a first-round pick of the Packers in 2015 who spent the past two seasons with the Browns, is excited to see the relationship build on the field.
“I mean the sky is definitely the limit for him,” Randall said. “I feel like he can do it all: be in the box, covering the middle of the field. He’s definitely a physical tackler. Just kind of looking forward to seeing him in live action.”
Randall is fairly versatile himself. A college safety at Arizona State, Green Bay selected him to play cornerback. He spent most of his three seasons there at that position before the Browns moved him back to safety after trading for him in 2018.
Raiders general manager Mike Mayock had Randall ranked as the No. 1 safety in the 2015 draft and pursued him in free agency.
“This defense kind of needed a guy in the middle of the field that could roam sideline-to-sideline making plays,” Randall said. “I feel like I can bring that.”
Randall has 14 interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, and 47 passes defended in a career that has seen him start 56 of the 65 games he has played.
He believes the time spent playing corner has helped him thrive as a safety.
The 27-year-old Florida native feels he is able to quickly recognize spots where the corner might need help over the top or to the inside. He can also offer advice, which could be a helpful attribute for a team loaded with young talent.
“I pride myself on making my teammates better. That’s the one thing I’ve been working on since I’ve been here,” he said. “I kind of started training early with Abram, with Trayvon Mullen, with Keisean Nixon. I wanted to start to jell with the guys that I’m going to be out there with.”
Making an impression
Former UNLV linebacker Javin White has clearly made his presence felt in his short time with the Raiders since signing as an undrafted free agent.
A week after White received unsolicited praise from head coach Jon Gruden, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was asked about the early performances of White and third-round pick Tanner Muse, who could both be in the mix to start at weakside linebacker.
After discussing how Muse is figuring things out as he adjusts from playing safety in college to linebacker in the NFL, Guenther heaped praise on the more unheralded of the two.
“White has been a pleasant surprise,” Guenther said. “We made a living in Cincinnati getting undrafted linebackers to come in and be a big part of what we do. This guy, to me, is as good of a prospect from a college free agent that I’ve seen in a long time. He communicates. He can run. He’s really understanding the defense. Once we get the pads on and he gets in the briar patch, we’ll see what he can do.”
Running back Josh Jacobs and right tackle Trent Brown were once again absent from Thursday’s practice, another session players went through without pads.
Gruden explained Wednesday it was just a matter of managing the workload of two players who were banged up quite a bit last year.
Jason Witten, a 38-year-old tight end, also sat out Thursday.
The Raiders practice again on Friday and are expected to take Saturday off.
Players can be in pads starting Monday, which coincides with Gruden’s 57th birthday.