Raiders

Vanderdoes in great shape, ready to take game 'to the next level'

Vanderdoes in great shape, ready to take game 'to the next level'

Eddie Vanderdoes stepped on a scale before last weekend’s Raiders rookie minicamp practices. The read out proved a welcome sight.

301 pounds.

The Raiders were pleased. So was their third-round pick. That’s his fighting weight.

The Auburn native and UCLA product played the 2016 season in the 340s, and wasn’t the dominant force he was as an underclassman. An ACL tear killed his 2015 season, and series of ankle injuries and poor diet torpedoed 2016.

Vanderdoes wasn’t happy with his final collegiate campaign, and didn’t want to slog his way into the NFL. He lost roughly 40 pounds and regained his signature agility, explosion and power. That was clear at the Senior Bowl and throughout the pre-draft process.

That effort wasn’t just about getting a job. Vanderdoes seems motivated to realize vast potential in the NFL. He reported to minicamp in great shape, hoping to make a solid first impression on his new team.

“I’m in good shape and where I want to be,” Vanderdoes said. “Now, it’s just learning the playbook, learning the technique and taking it to the next level.”

The Raiders would love to see Vanderdoes flourish at a position of need. He could help the Raiders on all three-downs, especially in the base package. The Raiders need better interior run defense and consistent push into the pocket, issues Vanderdoes could help correct even as a rookie.

He isn’t looking that far ahead.

“I’m just taking it day by day, trying to get better, trying to work on my technique,” Vanderdoes said, “trying to get used to the playbook and what the coaches ask me to do.”

Vanderdoes was trying to adjust to his new team during Raiders rookie minicamp, knowing full well he’ll miss a portion of the Raiders offseason program. He won’t be back until June, after UCLA graduates, due to a quirk in the NFL rules.

There’s little concern about time away from the Raiders. He isn’t putting the weight back on. He said the weight wasn’t hard to lose. He has established a new, disciplined diet thanks to his time at the EXOS training facility. Raiders head strength and conditioning coach Joe Gomes worked there before taking his current post, and has implemented many EXOS practices in Alameda.

“I know what they are going to expect out of me,” Vanderdoes said. “They have the same stations for protein supplements that EXOS has. I’m able to thrive in this strength and conditioning program and excited to get to work.”

His friends and family will have a chance to watch him work every home Sunday. Auburn is just northeast of Sacramento, and his hometown is excited to see Vanderdoes play so close to home.

“It’s been a whirlwind in Auburn,” Vanderdoes said. “Most of Auburn is Raiders fans and if they’re not Raiders fans they just became one last week. I’m happy to make my community proud and it’s great that they support me 100 percent. It’s nice that I’m local. Couldn’t be in a better situation than I am right now.”

Snap count: Raiders' Melifonwu experiment at cornerback backfires

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USATSI

Snap count: Raiders' Melifonwu experiment at cornerback backfires

The Raiders are razor thin at cornerback, without many bodies or talent they can trust. They were down to three healthy career cornerbacks heading into Sunday’s game against New England, with TJ Carrie, Sean Smith and Dexter McDonald available.

Head coach Jack Del Rio added a new name to the mix. He started second-round safety Obi Melifonwu at cornerback against the high-flying Patriots, an experiment that didn’t work out well.

Melifonwu played 26 snaps at cornerback, where he had been working some in practice since becoming eligible to return off injured reserve. He spent the early season on IR after having arthroscopic knee surgery.

Melifonwu was put in a tough spot, and struggled as a result. He allowed two receptions for 69 yards on four targets, including a 64-yard touchdown to Brandin Cooks where he had his eyes in the backfield when the Patriots speedster blew right by.

This position switch came in Melifonwu’s second NFL game, with just seven defensive snaps under his belt. 

Head coach Jack Del Rio admitted it was a move made out of desperation.

“Yeah, a little bit,” Del Rio said after Sunday’s 33-8 loss to New England at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. “We need more production (at cornerback). We're willing to try just about anything and we talked about being lean there and needing more production from that spot.

“(Melifonwu’s) a talented kid and it was probably asking a little too much, but we are going to roll those guys, we rolled our guys in the secondary tonight, and we're going to do that. We have got to do that until somebody starts playing well enough to stay in there full-time.”

The Raiders are in a bind at cornerback with Gareon Conley on injured reserve and David Amerson out three straight games with a foot injury. Demetrius McCray and Antonio Hamilton are also on season-ending injured reserve.

Carrie was a mainstay on Sunday, playing all 60 defensive snaps. Smith took over early, when the Melifonwu experiment wasn’t working out. He played 43 snaps, allowing three catches for 34 yards on five targets. McDonald played just eight snaps.

The Raiders are hoping someone can improve and settle into a full-time spot. The secondary has been thin for some time, but the personnel department has declined to sign anyone new off the street for depth.

That means Del Rio’s staff is still searching for answers at that position from a small pool.

“We're not playing really well on the back end and we have to find a way,” Del Rio said. “And we're going to make it competitive and let guys challenge for it and challenge for time and the guys that play the best are going to play the most.”

OFFENSE
Quarterback – Derek Carr 74
Running back – DeAndre Washington 24, Marshawn Lynch 21, Jamize Olawale 14, Jalen Richard 11,
Wide receiver – Amari Cooper 67, Seth Roberts 59, Michael Crabtree 58, Cordarelle Patterson 25, Johnny Holton 13
Tight end – Jared Cook 54, Clive Walford 14, Lee Smith 10
Offensive line – Kelechi Osemele 74, Rodney Hudson 74, Donald Penn 74, Gabe Jackson 74, Vadal Alexander 74

DEFENSE
Defensive line –
Khalil Mack 53, Mario Edwards 44, Justin Ellis 38, Eddie Vanderdoes 34, Denico Autry 31, Treyvon Hester 24, James Cowser 14
Linebacker – NaVorro Bowman 51, Bruce Irvin 46, Cory James 44, Nicholas Morrow 15, Marquel Lee 9
Cornerback – TJ Carrie 60, Sean Smith 43, Obi Melifonwu 26, Dexter McDonald 8
Safety – Reggie Nelson 60, Karl Joseph 51, Shalom Luani 9

SPECIAL TEAMS
Nicholas Morrow 18, James Cowser 18, Marquel Lee 15, Erik Harris 15, Xavier Woodson-Luster 15, Keith McGill 15, Jamize Olawale 15, Cordarrelle Patterson 13, Dexter McDonald 12, DeAndre Washington 11, Jalen Richard 9, Shalom Luani 9, Lee Smith 7, Khalil Mack 7, Mario Edwards 7, Eddie Vanderdoes 7, Denico Autry 7, Treyvon Hester 7, Jon Feliciano 7, Johnny Holton 6, TJ Carrie 6, Jon Condo 4, Marquette King 4, Karl Joseph 2, Cory James 2, Obi Melifonwu 2, Giorgio Tavecchio 2

DID NOT PLAY
QB EJ Manuel, OT David Sharpe

INACTIVE
QB Connor Cook, OT Jylan Ware, DL Jihad Ward, CB David Amerson, LB Shilique Calhoun, RT Marshall Newhouse, DT Darius Latham

Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley having surgery

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USATSI

Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley having surgery

Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley will have surgery to repair his injured shin on Monday, a week after he was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

This year’s No. 24 overall pick announced that news in an Instagram post, accompanied by a picture of his young son.

Surgery was always a likely outcome after heading to IR, though the team never formally stated that would occur.

The Raiders believe Conley will return completely healthy for the 2018 campaign, and have high hopes for him as a lock down cover man.

They could certainly use him this season. He was expected to contribute heavily as a rookie, but a shin injury suffered in a June minicamp prevented that from happening. He missed training camp and the entire preseason slate, but eventually made his NFL debut in Week 2. He suffered a setback in a Week 3 game at Washington, and was shut down indefinitely on Oct. 6.

Conley was re-evaluated early last week, and the Raiders didn’t see enough progress to keep him on the 2017 roster.

The Raiders are lacking at cornerback with Conley down and David Amerson dealing with a foot injury.

Head coach Jack Del Rio will speak to the media Monday afternoon, and provide an update on Conley’s procedure.