It's been 309 days since defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes saw a regular season snap, but that's about to change soon.
On December 31, 2017, the former UCLA Bruin tore his ACL against the Los Angeles Chargers, and he's been rehabbing with Raiders trainer Scott Touchet ever since. The road back to full health has been a long one, but Vanderdoes has put in the time, and he's used his time on the sideline to further his understanding of Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther's system. With him, and fellow defensive tackle Justin Ellis missing from the interior defensive line, the unit has struggled to rush the passer, and stop the run for that matter as well.
Head Coach Jon Gruden has said multiple times in the last two weeks or so that the team is eager to get the pair of big men back in the fold, and his vote of confidence has been encouraging for the 24-year-old.
"He's brought me up the last couple weeks, it's obviously cool knowing he believes in me, and wants me out there," Vanderdoes said Monday. "I'm excited to be back out there."
Vanderdoes played in all 16 games last season, and started in 13 of them, totaling 18 tackles, two tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits. No. 94 was unable to register the first sack of his career during his rookie campaign, but he knows that needs to change when he returns.
"I hope we get some sacks, I need some," he said with a chuckle. "I for sure need sacks. We got a young D-line, so we just got to keep getting better every week. I know times are rough around here, but honestly screw it, we got to keep going forward."
Rehabbing has allowed Vanderdoes to focus more on the details of the game, and he's learned a lot from defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, but perhaps the best mentor has been veteran pass rusher Frostee Rucker. Before he was drafted in the fourth-round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Raiders, the Auburn, Calif., native visited with the Arizona Cardinals (Rucker's former team), and met with members of the coaching staff. While there, the Cardinals asked Rucker to sit in a film session with Vanderdoes, and the two formed a connection that's continued to grow as teammates in Oakland.
Head out to the practice fields in Alameda as the Raiders prepare for a Week 10 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.
"Frostee – I sit next to Frostee [in meeting rooms] – having him next to me is like having another coach," Vanderdoes explained. "He's always got something to say to me, whether it's him getting on my nerves, or him coaching me up on something that'll help me out, it's been cool. Me and Frostee go way back to when I was in the whole draft process. I visited Arizona and sat next to him in Arizona's film meeting, and I've known him since then, so we've had a good relationship."
The two have yet to play together, but they will soon enough, and it's a day Rucker is excited for.
"He was unique," Rucker said when asked about meeting Vanderdoes for the first time. "Like he said, in the draft process coach [Bruce Arians] brought me in – because obviously he was a highly-touted guy – to watch film with him, and pick his brain about what he's seeing on film. The things if they had possibly drafted him what we would've wanted him to do, he has a high football IQ He went to a big time school, so his football knowledge of everything is good. Watching him at training camp fight back from the injury, being in that space before, coming off an injury, I knew how key it was going to be for a veteran to make sure his mental was okay going through that. We've built a lot of chemistry, we sit next to each other during meetings, and I'll be really excited when he finally gets on the field and helps us out."
As Vanderdoes prepares for his eventual return to the field, he knows that the team has to play better as a whole, and he's hopeful he can make an impact in his second year. If he gets the nod this Sunday, he'll be taking the field against the same team he faced when he tore his ACL. As the week progresses we'll have a better idea of Vanderdoes' status, but in his mind, he's ready to go.