NAPA – The Raiders are in full training-camp mode, paying little attention to what’s happening outside the Napa Valley Marriott. Players certainly aren’t reading every word written about them, but defensive line coach Brentson Buckner peruses the clips package.
He pays particular attention to stories predicting his position group will set the Raiders back, and displays them for all to see.
“There are articles that ‘Buck’ brings up about our D-line being a weakness on the team,” rookie edge rusher Maxx Crosby said. “That’s something that we take serious, and we take it as an insult. We have a lot of new guys, and a lot of guys entering their second year. We’re ready to go out there and show people what we can do.”
The defensive line definitely fought against that popular narrative during Friday’s practice, pushing back against an offensive front that has owned the line of scrimmage throughout camp.
They regularly were in the offensive backfield during team periods, including a stretch of three straight plays ending in pseudo-sacks.
Johnathan Hankins and Clelin Ferrell got home first in that sequence. Then came Arden Key’s disruption, followed by Maurice Hurst breathing down a quarterback’s neck.
There is legitimate concern over the pass rush's ability to bring regular pressure, but there’s talent and depth up front to vastly improve upon last year’s 13-sack showing.
Rookies Ferrell and Crosby will help. Key and Hurst and P.J. Hall are set to make a performance jump in their second NFL season. Josh Mauro, Hankins and a healthy Justin Ellis will positively impact the run defense, setting up more opportunities to rush the passer.
That line could still get stonewalled often in practice, considering the offensive line should rank among the league’s best this season.
Regularly getting past them Friday is a sign of progress, though it must happen more often as camp progresses.
G-Eazy stops by Raiders practice
Popular rapper G-Eazy was at Raiders practice on Friday, followed most everywhere by HBO’s “Hard Knocks” cameras. He met coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock on the sideline, and caught up with assistant strength coach Deuce Gruden after the workout.
Gruden dreaming about ‘Hard Knocks’ cameras
NFL Films crews follow Jon Gruden everywhere while filming “Hard Knocks” content, for obvious reasons. Gruden will be the show’s leading man, he is a quote machine on the practice field and in meeting rooms.
Boom microphone operators are always with him, even in his sleep.
Jon Gruden, referring to the Hard Knocks boom mike overhead: “I had a nightmare last night that thing was in my room.” pic.twitter.com/jWZb09g86a— Scott Bair (@BairNBCS) August 2, 2019
-- Fullback Alec Ingold continues to impress, and should be considered a challenger to Keith Smith’s roster spot. The undrafted rookie has shined as a run blocker and pass protector while his position-mate is recovering from knee surgery.
-- Receiver J.J. Nelson shows a knack adjust to passes while in the air, and an ability that helped him make a great one-handed catch down the left sideline. It’s clear that quarterback Derek Carr trusts him already, a good sign for his chances of making the roster. He has speed to spare, and can make plays all over the field.
-- Undrafted rookie Keelan Doss went horizontal to haul in a deep pass from Mike Glennon, by far his best effort of training camp. He needs more of those plays to land a roster spot in an ultra-competitive position group.
-- Darren Waller dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball from Carr in passing drills, but came right back and caught a pass in stride streaking over the middle while linebacker Brandon Marshall was in coverage. Putting linebackers on Waller is a major mismatch the Raiders can take advantage of during the season.
-- Johnny Townsend conducted a punt period Friday, and fared far better than his Tuesday outing. He pinned one deep and launched a deep punt with solid hang time. He wasn’t perfect, but improvement was required now that he’s locked in a position battle with undrafted rookie A.J. Cole.
-- Trent Brown has been awesome to start camp, but had his worst day relative to his own high standards. Ferrell bested him once, and Brown also struggled some in running drills.
-- Defensive tackle Gabe Wright tweaked his knee on Tuesday, and Gruden said said he will miss a week or so. Gruden said Eddie Vanderdoes (concussion) is on a similar schedule.
-- Guard Denver Kirkland was carted off the field late in practice, but he should be okay. He left the practice area with a slight limp, walking without crutches.
-- Antonio Brown missed another practice day dealing with foot issues the Raiders hope resolve themselves soon.