New battles emerge at Raiders camp


New battles emerge at Raiders camp

Programming note: Tune in tonight at 9 p.m. to watch Raiders safety Michael Huff on Chronicle Live, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

NAPA -- A new and just-as-intriguing training camp battle has emerged in the wake of nose tackle Travis Ivey getting cut over the weekend.Yes, Tommy Kelly is listed at the starting nose tackle in a 4-3 defense on the Raiders' depth chart, but he is followed by a practice squad refugee in Jamie Cumbie and an undrafted rookie free agent in Dominique Hamilton. And sixth-round draft pick Christo Bilukidi is listed as third at defensive tackle behind Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant."I think there's opportunities there," said coach Dennis Allen. "We're looking for who's going to step up and take that role as the fourth interior defensive tackle. Cumbie, Hamilton, Bilukidi, we're looking for one of those guys to kind of step up and take that position."That will be interesting to see, how that plays out through preseason games."Of course, it would seem that Bilukidi has the upper hand in an apparent three-man race for one position, given that he is the only one drafted, meaning the Raiders already have a vested interest in him. But that does not mean the competition is wrapped up after just eight training camp practices.Far from it."Definitely a little added pressure because you know he was drafted," said the 6-foot-5, 313-pound Hamilton, who played at Missouri. "But I just feel like I'm going to go out there and work my butt off no matter what. And when I get the few snaps that I do get, then I'm just going to go out there and give it my all."Said the 6-7, 291-pound Cumbie: "You know, it is tough and I understand him being a drafted guy there's a preference for his spot, but I know how to work and I show up and I know what I'm capable of and I know myself and I watch film, just like everybody else does. To see yourself improve daily and to not make the same mistakes twice, it's all I can do.
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"And I feel like with this staff here we've got this year, they're not playing favorites. I think people are going to do the job, they're going to see it so my mentality is to show up, work hard, not make mistakes and it will play out itself."Both players have found a mentor, of sorts, in Kelly, who refers to Hamilton as "sasquatch" and Cumbie as, well, "some things I shouldn't say," Cumbie said with a laugh.Of course, playing nose tackle in a 4-3 defense is much different from doing it in a 3-4, when you line up more traditionally directly over the center."You can just feel the difference," Hamilton said. "I played in both in college in my senior year and there was definitely a huge difference. You can do it. It's definitely possible. It's doable for me. They can have T.K. in the middle; they can have anybody in the middle. It's doable for anybody. You've just got to go up there and dominate every time you're up there."Which, of course, is any player's plan when they're on the field, right?"Obviously, there's a difference as far as what gaps you have and whatnot, but I feel if you get off the ball with good pad level, you get off the ball first with good steps, it's going to play out itself," Cumbie said. "You play out of technique, 3-4, you play backside, head up, but it starts with the get-off and that's what we work and that's what we preach and that's what I've been working on -- get off pad-level hands. The rest plays off by itself.'It's always a constant battle with pad level being 6-(foot)-7, obviously, but it is what it is, and I'll do anything. I'm willing to work and I'm just blessed to be a part of this opportunity and this organization so there's just good things to come."But for which player?

Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'


Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'

Jon Gruden has been interviewed several times since becoming Raiders head coach. Quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t listened to most of those sessions, and certainly doesn’t seek them out.

One landed in Carr’s inbox recently, and something Gruden said really resonated.

Gruden’s message, paraphrased: If Derek Carr is not successful, then I’ve failed as a coach.

There are two comments in that one. Gruden considers Carr extremely talented, and he’s taking responsibility for unlocking the quarterback's vast potential.

Gruden will be hands on in Carr’s development, with all the coaching intensity and fire and eyebrow raises that have become Gruden’s signature.

“He’s going to demand of me. He’s going to push me,” Carr said on this week’s episode of the Raiders Insider Podcast, which will drop Tuesday morning (Subcribe right here). “He’s going to make me be the best version of myself.”

Carr had a direct answer to skeptics wondering aloud whether he can thrive under Gruden’s particular coaching style.

“I want him to be tough on me,” Carr said. “For anyone who thinks I want him to be a different way has no clue about me or how I play football or how I prepare to play this game. I don’t need to tell stories about how I prepare or manage myself.

“(Jon) and I are going to get along great. I hope that he demands of me. I hope he’s hard on me. I don’t need to know he loves me. He has already told me that about 20 times. I appreciate that and we’ll be friends forever, but I know he’ll be demanding and tell me what I need to do. Let’s go fix problems that I have and let’s do what I need to do to win championships. Hopefully that will give people some insight and hopefully that’s the story that gets out, because that’s the truth.”

Carr met his new head coach briefly before his introductory press conference, but has known Gruden since filming the Gruden QB Camp segment back in 2014. They got along great then, and in each interaction since.

“We have so much more in common that people realize,” Carr said. “I think it would blow some people’s minds. Him and I are very similar in the way we go about our business and how we carry ourselves. It’s an exciting time.”

Carr’s excited to have some stability in his football life. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback will start his fifth NFL season with his fourth head coach, fourth go-round with an offensive coordinator and third offensive scheme. Gruden signed a 10-year contract. OC Greg Olson signed a four-year pact. They’ll be here a while, and Carr’s excited about that.

“It’s going to be really nice,” Carr said. “To know Jon signed on for a 10 years and (Olson) signed on for a long time shows me a couple of things. No. 1: that they believe in me. I don’t think Coach Gruden would’ve quit his day job, which I’m thankful he did. To get (Olson) out of a good spot in L.A (with the Rams), shows that they believe in me and that’s awesome. And, No. 2: I’m going to have two people I can talk to in a different language for years to come. We can grow within the relationship, and hopefully we’ll all ride off together. It’s set up that way right now, and we have a lot of work to do to reach that point.”

Raiders QB Derek Carr named to third straight Pro Bowl


Raiders QB Derek Carr named to third straight Pro Bowl

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is headed to his third consecutive Pro Bowl. He became eligible once New England qualified for the Super Bowl and Tom Brady was out of the running for next week’s NFL all-star game in Orlando.

Carr was the next alternate up, and accepted the invitation to represent the Silver and Black. Khalil Mack, Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn were named to the original roster, though Penn has bowed out with injury.

Carr will join his teammates in Florida for game-week festivities, followed by the inter-conference clash on Sunday at noon at Camping World Stadium. The game can be seen on ABC.

He joins Rich Gannon and Ken Stabler as Raiders quarterbacks with at least three Pro Bowl selections. Carr had a down year relative to his previous two, but still posted standout numbers. He had 3,496 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and an 86.4 passer rating.

The Raiders finished a disappointing 6-10, and head coach Jack Del Rio was fired in favor of Jon Gruden.

“It was not the year we wanted, but to still be recognized by you, Raider Nation and fans everywhere, and the players and coaches you go against is an extremely high honor I will always be thankful for!” Carr wrote in a note posted on Twitter. “Although I am extremely blessed to be thought of in such a way by my peers, I understand there is more work to do. There is more to achieve and more to accomplish and I will now ret until we get there, Raider Nation!”