Despite missing Raiders workouts, Vanderdoes staying involved

Despite missing Raiders workouts, Vanderdoes staying involved

The Raiders roster came together on Monday, with rookies joining veterans for the first time during this offseason program. The union will remain all spring and summer, as a massive roster trims to 53.

It is not 90 strong at this point.

The puzzle’s missing two pieces, including one highly-touted member of this year’s draft class. Third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes can’t participate in OTAs and the team’s June minicamp, as NBC Sports California reported last week, due to an NFL rule that prohibits players from working until their school’s academic year concludes.

UCLA’s spring quarter wraps June 16, meaning Vanderdoes can’t practice with the team until training camp. Undrafted linebacker Nicholas Morrow is in a similar circumstance due to a late May finals week at Greenville College, but he’ll be involved in some workouts.

Vanderdoes will miss them all, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t staying involved. The Auburn native has to practice from long distance, but he's doing everything the Raiders do. He's taking on-field reps. He’s watching all the practice and game film his teammates watch.

Technology makes that possible.

“I have a team iPad with me, so I have literally everything you can imagine right here with me,” Vanderdoes said Tuesday in an interview with NBC Sports California. “I have all the practice installs and play installs. I can watch film of whatever game or practice they’re looking at that day.

“Right now, they’re doing individual workouts (in position groups). I’m able to see what drills they’re doing and am able to emulate those at UCLA. I can set up the equipment the exact same way and do everything they’re doing. I’m not there, but I’m still doing the same things that they are. I wouldn’t consider myself behind, and I won’t have to catch up when I come back.”

Vanderdoes can speak with defensive line coach Jethro Franklin any time to fill gaps, so he’ll stay up-to-speed on schematics and terminology. Vanderdoes can share film of his workouts to make sure he’s doing everything right.

Doing everything right would be Vanderdoes’ goal if he were in Alameda. It’s the same in Los Angeles, where he trains at Proactive Sports Performance and UCLA’s campus.

Being productive while missing a rookie offseason program is mandatory for UCLA products, who must adjust to the school’s late academic calendar whether they were enrolled for the spring quarter or not.

Fellow former UCLA defensive tackle and Kenny Clark went through the experience a year ago. Green Bay’s 2016 first-round pick had some simple, yet sage advice for his good friend.

“Get into that playbook, learn the plays and be patient,” Vanderdoes said. “You have to re-earn respect from your teammates and coaches and the organization. I’m coming in, starting from ground zero and working my way up.”

Being consistent and detail oriented on the practice field and in the meeting room is key to earning stripes. Vanderdoes understands that, and is completely devoted to realizing vast potential.

“My whole mentality is about taking it to the next level as a professional,” Vanderdoes said. “That involves everything, from the way I take notes, to how I’m learning and putting in extra work away from the facility. I want to show I’m a next-level professional. That’s my mindset right now, to learn the playbook and techniques they want you to master. Everything will fall into place if I do that.”

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”

Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini


Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini

The Raiders need help at right tackle, the lone vacancy along their offensive line. They signed a veteran presence on Thursday afternoon, adding 32-year old Breno Giacomini as the frontrunner to join the starting five.

He has 86 starts in 94 career games, and has been a full-time starter three of the last four years. Giacomini spent 2017 in Houston and the previous three seasons with the New York Jets.

He was a Seattle Seahawk before that, working with Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable for three of his four years there. Cable gave Giacomini his first chance to start in the second half of 2011, and held the post through 2012.

The bond between the two is clearly strong, considering what Giacomini tweeted shortly after Cable got fired in Seattle.

Coach and player will reunite, hoping to provide steadiness on the right side of the Raiders offensive line.

He’ll compete for a starting spot with Vadal Alexander, second-year pros David Sharpe and Jylan Ware and possibly a drafted player. Giacomini should be considered the favorite unless the Raiders use an early pick on an offensive lineman.

Giacomini has plenty of starts, but his Pro Football Focus numbers aren’t pretty. The analytics says he allowed nine sacks, eight quarterback hits and 64 pressures with Houston last year. He had some decent years under Cable, and a return to that form might push him into the starting lineup for good. Time will tell on that front.