I was able to go to Raiders training camp for the first time on Thursday in beautiful Napa Valley. It’s long been a dream of mine to be able to see NFL action up close and watch the Raiders in the formative stage and it did not disappoint. First off, I got to meet a lot of the Raiders media guys and I want to take the time to thank and acknowledge them:
Vic Tafur– Vic got me access and he retweeted one of the first blogs that I wrote a couple of years ago. It really helped to get me started, as I had less than a 100 followers at the time. Really cool guy to hang with too.
Scott Bair- Scott also retweeted me in the early stages of my writing career and has been very supportive, and gracious with answering questions I have. Very friendly in real life and works his butt off to get everyone full coverage of the Raiders.
Levi Damien- Levi featured some of my first articles on http://www.silverandblackpride.com and gave me a chance as a contributor. He has a passion for car door handles and I’m glad to report that he is OK despite almost being put on IR after being ran over by a wheelchair.
"The Nation" hats have been SOLD OUT in less than 24 hours. Back orders are avialable for next re-stock. https://t.co/2Z9BGaY5by
— Ted Nguyen (@RaidersAnalysis) July 31, 2017
One of the biggest take aways from camp is how valuable repetitions are for young players. They don’t get a lot of chances to make an impression. Some guys only get five repetitions in drills or scrimmages and if they don’t impress, they could get cut.
Derek Carr’s Performance:
Carr was very sharp in 7 on 7. He threw a touchdown pass on a switch verticals concept to full back, Jamize Olawale. It looked exactly like this:
Vertical receiving threat pic.twitter.com/AIY24aSdwF
— Ted Nguyen (@RaidersAnalysis) April 24, 2017
When the team went 11 on 11, Carr completed a few long passes, but it seemed like it was difficult getting into a rhythm, especially with the constant switching to ensure that the second and third team got work. Also, coaches were mixing guys in that aren’t normally on the first team so that might have something to do with it too. Carr threw two interceptions in 11 on 11’s. One on a bullet to David Amerson and one got picked on an end zone fade.
The defense played some tight coverage and the offense had a hard time getting the run game going as well. It was difficult to tell if it was because of the return of Mario Edwards Jr. from my vantage point but I suspect he had something to do with it.
There wasn’t much running room for Lynch. The defense wasn’t bringing guys to the ground but on one play Lynch ran full speed into a few defenders and kept his legs pumping to drag them for a few extra yards.
I spoke with a Raider source that had this to say about Carr’s performance that day, “I know you said you thought DC had a down day, but he actually was on fire until the pick in the red zone. Great with protections, timing, etc.”
This is a good reminder that so much of playing quarterback in the NFL has to do with the mental side of football and in the pre-snap phase. Carr is absolutely elite in the pre-snap phase of the game and looks to take his overall game to the next level this year.
Ware, the seventh round pick left tackle is only true left tackle on the roster besides Donald Penn. I was surprised with how much thicker he was than in college. He put on weight. He has always had remarkable athletic ability but the knock on coming out of college was his wiry frame.
The Raiders source confirmed this.
“Ware has been getting better every day. Super talented, just hasn’t played a lot of ball. He’s put on weight and we’re higher on him than we were say… a month ago”, he said.
Ware looked a little uncomfortable playing right tackle and lost the first rep in a 1 on 1 pass rush drill by giving up the inside to a pass rusher because of shoddy footwork. He recovered and had dominant reps at right and left tackle though. He had some trouble finishing and sustaining run blocks in 11 on 11. Overall, Ware looks like he has the potential to be a very good player, but is still a project.
Fourth round draft pick, David Sharpe left practice early with an injury. As of right now, the injury does not appear serious. Though the Raiders drafted him to potentially play left tackle, they love his potential as a right tackle. He moves like Kelichi Osemele, but most importantly he has Osemele-like nastiness. I was able to hear the impact from one of his down blocks from across the field. Still has work to do from a technical standpoint, but he could push for playing time this year.
It was difficult to see the defensive linemen in 11 on 11 from the media vantage point, but Vanderdoes is currently playing on the first team.
In 1 on 1 drills, Vanderdoes hit a nice spin move on second-year interior linemen, Oni Omoile for what looked like a sack. In his college tape, his spin move looked like it was in slow motion. But it looked much quicker with his new and improved body.
Tafur also tweeted this today about his performance in Friday’s practice:
Been watching Vanderdoes closely today and Gabe Jackson is not taking his lunch money. That’s pretty good for a rookie
— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) August 4, 2017
Obi Melifonwu Update
Everyone is eager to hear how Melifonwu is playing. When I was there, Reggie Nelson was getting most of the first team reps with Obi switching in and out. He played a lot of free safety so I didn’t get to see him match up with tight ends as much I wanted to.
You’ve heard this before but he certainly looks the part- big, tall, and the fastest moving object on the field.
The sources said, “Obi has been super impressive. He hasn’t made a lot of big times plays but he’s been really sound and solid. He’s like a Swiss Army knife for the defense and he’s a lot tougher than I thought he’d be. He will never blow anyone up but he’s not going to miss many tackles. He’s going to be a good one.”
Per @PFF_Steve Obi Melifonwu has only missed 26 of 284 tackle attempts in his 3 years at UConn.
— Ted Nguyen (@RaidersAnalysis) May 1, 2017
Obi will be fine. He looks like he is thinking too much sometimes. Once, he gets more acclimated and plays more free, he’ll start flashing. It helps that he’s getting reps against a very good tight end in Jared Cook as well.
Everyone has been talking about the tight ends getting more involved with the offense this year and all indications in training camp seems to confirm this.
During a drill in camp, the quarterbacks and tight ends looked they were working on Y-option routes, which is something we didn’t see much of last year.
Carr and Cook working some option routes. Coach had inside leverage so Cool broke outside. pic.twitter.com/5mqQBpN4Ux
— Ted Nguyen (@RaidersAnalysis) August 3, 2017
A coach would line up with different alignments vs. the tight ends and they would run different routes based on the coach’s leverage.
If they could implement these option routes in a game, it would give the offense another tool to pick up solid yardage to stay on schedule.
Is Jaydon Mickens a fit in the Raiders Offense?
I love Mickens’ game. The explosive route runner could help the offense against heavy man to man teams because he’s such a tough cover and could win quick. He needs to work on learning the nuances of disciplined, smart route running though.
The more I watch him, the more I wonder if he is a fit in the Raiders offense. The Raiders focus on getting the ball to their explosive receivers on the outside and don’t have an array of slot option concepts like the New England Patriots do.
I’m rooting for the Raiders to create a role out for him and for him to make the team as the fifth receiver. If he doesn’t make the team, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team like the New England pick him up.
One huge difference from last year’s defense and this year’s defense is all of the pre-snap movement. Pagano said he’s going to emphasize communication and disguising and so far he has. The defense spent a lot of time walking through their responsibilities in different blitzes and coverages.
In 11 on 11, the safeties are very active in moving around to try to confuse quarterbacks. “It’s great to see in camp! The disguising stuff is great cause it helps the QBs and OL get practice reading other keys.” said the Raiders source.
Smith took some reps at slot corner. This could be in preparation for Conley to take speed match-ups on the outside if need be. Though Smith isn’t the fastest corner, he would match up well with big slots and could play zone from that position.
Overall, Smith had a solid day. He gave up catches to Cooper, but it was mostly because Cooper is one of the best route runners in the NFL and the timing between Cooper and Carr is on point right now. There were a couple of catches where Carr threw the ball well before Cooper got his head around. Smith was right there but the ball was just placed too well for him to rip the ball out.
Cooper also didn’t test Smith deep. If the Raiders could get a lead and play with more two-safety looks that would give Smith deep help, he could menacing with his physicality on underneath and intermediate routes.
It was pretty amazing seeing the speed and physicality of the NFL upfront. Everything happened so fast, and I had a typo in almost everyone one of my Twitter updates. Thanks for sticking with me and I hope to make one more camp before it ends!