The Oakland Raiders have completed another week of work, as the team prepared for its off day Sunday with one final practice Saturday night. It was a productive week here in Napa, Calif., as the team has seen its fair share of NFL legends, media personalities, and more, all descend to watch Head Coach Jon Gruden and the Raiders get ready for the upcoming season.
Last Sunday, the Silver and Black threw the pads on for the first time, and unleashed some aggression on one another after waiting months to practice in pads. The difference from shorts to pads is noticeable for a few reasons: pads help the offensive and defensive lines work on their pad level, it's easier to determine a successful run from the running backs as they hit the gaps, and the overall mobility from the players is different than when they are just in jerseys and shorts. With that being said, what we expected to see from the team's trio of rookie defensive linemen (Maurice Hurst, Arden Key, and P.J. Hall) has lived up to expectations.
The trio is demonstrating their raw power, explosion off the line, and understanding of the game in the early stages of camp, which has brought a smile to the face of of their Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther.
"He's a talented rusher as we know," Guenther said in regards to Key. "That's why we drafted him. He's doing a good job of playing the runs how we want him to play the runs. We know he can rush. He's special that way. Obviously, we came out here in pads today, he showed the same thing he did in shorts. It's exciting to have him out there."
Defensive end Bruce Irvin has been a guiding voice and a mentor since joining the team two years ago, but it seems like he's taken it to another level this year. Not only has Irvin been active at camp, registering an interception and a forced fumble, but he's imparting as much wisdom as he can on the younger players.
"Mo Hurst is going to be good," Irvin said. "He's a very athletic guy. He's like Kolton, he takes coaching. P.J. [Hall], I like P.J. Arden Key is a hell of a player, too. The rookies in our room are really going to help us. They really have no choice, we need them. Those guys are picking it up good and learning. They're coming out here and working their butts off. They're doing really good with their rookie duties. We need them and those guys are doing good."
On the offensive side of the ball, Derek Carr and Co., have been stringing together a series of impressive days, as he continues building a rapport with his new set of wide receivers, and Amari Cooper. Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson have been as advertised, showing off their speed, route running, and athletic abilities here at camp. Thursday, NFL legends Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson stopped by to come survey the group, and even coached up some of the players.
Peyton Manning may have won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos, but that didn't stop him from sharing his knowledge with Carr. The two were seen side-by-side the majority of the day, with No. 4 not hesitating to ask questions; take a listen below.
Gruden has invited several influential members of the NFL community to come watch practice in an effort to help his team take the next step this season. It may be his first season back with the Raiders, but as we know, Gruden is the ultimate competitor, and has high expectations for this team. Saturday, he reflected on what it's been like bringing such storied and talented former players to camp to mentor some of his players.
"I just like their presence," Gruden said. "Mike Scifres is a great punter — of the [San Diego] Chargers — [he] was here for the last few days. They're just great resources. There's a lot of free time, a lot of free time in the hotel. And sometimes the mental approach to the game, getting on a schedule, a professional schedule during the season sometimes you can tweak your schedule and get a little bit better, but they're as good as players as there is at their positions, and to have them as resources is a great thing. I've always tried to do that."
Before departing for the off day, players and coaches celebrated family day in Napa, enjoying some barbecue dinner, and chatted with one another as the sun began to set — one of the many cool ways the Raiders integrate their family values into the organization.
When the team comes back from the off day on Monday, they'll have one more day of normal practice before locking horns with the Detroit Lions on August 7. The two will practice each other for two days, and face off on the gridiron in a preseason bout at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum August 10.
Defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes and tackle Donald Penn are still on the Active/Physically Unable to perform list. Cornerback Gareon Conley is still mending from a hip strain, but will continue rehabbing to get back on the field.
Earlier today, the team waived kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, and signed kicker Mike Nugent. During his one season as the Raider placekicker, Tavecchio converted 16-of-21 field goal attempts, and went 33-of-34 on PATs.