With the music blaring, and energy and enthusiasm high, confidence abounded Tuesday as Head Coach Jack Del Rio and the Oakland Raiders held their first Organized Team Activity [OTA] of 2016.
For the first time this offseason, all available members of the Raiders' roster strapped on their helmets and went to work at practice, participating in the 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills that weren't allowed during Phase Two of the Offseason Workout Program.
As the team went through the day's work, one thing was apparent – the 2016 Raiders are a confident bunch, and that's something that hasn't escaped the gaze of Head Coach Del Rio.
"Yeah, there's no question," said Head Coach Del Rio when asked if this year's group is more confident than last year's. "We're gaining in confidence because of the work we're putting in. I think that's where it starts. There are a lot of things that are said – this time of the year talk is cheap. I don't really spend a whole lot of time worrying about what it is said, but I do pay a lot of attention to what is being done and the work that is being put in, and the commitment level, and to me that's where my focus is."
After a marked improvement in 2015 – combined with the additions to the roster that General Manager Reggie McKenzie made via free agency and the draft – it's understandable why the team is brimming with confidence. Newly-signed outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, who himself was one of those aforementioned additions, isn't shying away from the heady expectations.
"Talent is cool, but when you have a group of guys who can work and want to get better, it's scary, man," Irvin explained. "Being in Seattle, I know the formula. I know what it is to be on the No. 1 defense. I know the grind of a 16-game season. I know when you get in the playoffs, it's way harder. I tell you this, when you get a bunch of guys believing in one thing, putting each other before they put themselves, it's scary."
The Raiders return to the field tomorrow and Thursday for their second and third of 10 OTAs.
- After rupturing his Achilles during the 2015 preseason, tackle Menelik Watson was back on the field Tuesday, spending a majority of his time on the right side of the offensive line.
- During the team's stretching period, defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., came up to Bruce Irvin and chatted with him for several minutes, exchanging a handshake and showing off a few quick dance moves before practice officially got underway.
- Second-round draft pick defensive lineman Jihad Ward has continued to impress, producing one of the highlights of the day Tuesday, bursting through the offensive line forcing an errant throw from Derek Carr that was intercepted by now-safety Keith McGill. Had the team been going live, Ward would have sacked Carr before the quarterback had a chance to throw the football.
- Another player who stood out Tuesday was undrafted wide receiver Joe Hansley who impressively elevated over a defensive back to haul in a pass from Connor Cook along the sideline. Hansley had a good day at work and made a handful of plays during his time on the field.
You Can Say That Again:
"They didn't bring me here to be a follower. I'm a very outspoken guy. You guys will learn that about me. I'm coming in to be a leader. I'm not stepping on any toes, but if I have something to say, I'm going to say it." – outside linebacker Bruce Irvin
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