Defensive End Jihad Ward
The Oakland Raiders were back at practice Thursday, just not at their home facility. The team has been preparing for this Sunday's game at the IMG Academy, and rookie defensive end Jihad Ward shared his thoughts on the team's preparation so far. The Raiders will square off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, and Ward believes that he can continue to help the team get better.
Here are the quick hits from his time at the podium:
**Ward talked about how he thinks he can enhance his game and grow as a player.
"Just taking it to the next step, keep learning and learning and getting better. This isn't the first time that, you know what I mean, I have learning to do. I feel like a little robot, you know what I'm saying? It just takes time. Everything takes time."
The rookie shared that he's been ready to contribute since being drafted, but knows there's more that he can do.
"I mean, it's not going to be a surprise, you just have to get ready quicker. I've been effective all of the plays, I've been making some plays, but I can make more plays. So, coach [defensive coordinator Ken] Norton, [Jr.] and those guys are just telling me to go, just go ahead and do it."
He's been communicating with coaches and players to try and improve, and broke down what he thinks can do better.
"Just setting the edge, not just me, just the whole D-linemen. They just want us to get off the ball and set the vertical edge. Just penetrate to the line of scrimmage. We're really focused on that, that's the goal, just getting off the ball and getting vertical."
**Ward discussed where the team is being successful and how they can continue getting better in other areas.
"Yeah, and that's the whole mindset – getting more vertical and we need more pressure in the inside to help Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin and Shilique [Calhoun] and all of them guys that set us out. So, we just have to put pressure in the middle. I'm happy that Mario's coming back, Denico's [Autry] doing a hell of a job penetrating with, but I just need the other guy because you know, who knows? I just feel like we need more pressure in the middle and I've been preaching about that ever since. It's just all of us, we just have to discuss that. It's not just me, we just got to communicate and just go, just go."
Almost halfway through the year, Ward is happy to be 5-2, but knows the team can develop more as a unit.
"The season is long, so we're 5-2 and we're still trying to figure stuff out and that's a good thing. Because, once we get it, it's going to come back strong and that's why I'm saying greatness takes time. I was really worried about it, worried about myself doing what I have to do, doing my job, but I can only control myself right now to be honest with you all. But, I can do my part and I can help the team better."