As it always does, Mailbag Wednesday has arrived once again.
With the matchup against the Green Bay Packers rapidly approaching, we've finally crossed the halfway point of the preseason, which is a huge blessing for all of us counting down until the night of September 10.
Anyways, we went to Facebook this week to solicit questions from you all; thanks as always for your submissions, both football and non-football related.
And we're off!
From Vincent Macias: Do PJ Hall and Mo Hurst have the opportunity to make the biggest impact as rookies, or do you see it being another pick or UFA?
EP: Yup, I think you hit that one right on the head. Both Hall and Hurst have each enjoyed strong starts to the preseason – each of them has a sack already – and I fully expect those guys to keep it rolling once the regular season arrives.
We've heard over and over again about the importance of having a solid interior rush this year for the Silver and Black, and with those rookies, along with big Justin "Jelly" Ellis clogging up space in the middle, I think the interior rush is going to be much improved from a year ago. That said, I think the Raiders will get production from a handful of rookies in 2018, but those two in particular I think are guys who will thrive.
From Ricky Juarez: What is the deal with Eddie Vanderdoes?
EP: Well, we don't have much to report on the "EV4" front as of now. After suffering an ACL injury in the 2017 regular season finale, No. 94 has remained on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list since the team opened training camp, and according to Head Coach Jon Gruden, the former UCLA Bruin is likely to start the season the PUP list.
"It's getting to look that way," said Gruden when asked about the likelihood Vanderdoes beginning the season PUP. "I mean I don't want to say right now, but he's had no offseason work and hasn't had one day of practice yet. He's getting better, but it's been a slow process."
From Josh Meade: What has been the key difference between years past and now, defensively and why?
EP: I mentioned it briefly above, but I think it's going to be the improved interior rush. Over the past few seasons, the Silver and Black have been fortunate enough to enjoy elite edge rushing, but for whatever reason, the interior rush just hasn't gotten its footing. That said, with the trio of big fellas in the middle now, I think the entire defense as a whole is going to benefit immensely.
Time and time again we've heard that the rush and coverage work in concert in good defenses, and if all goes to plan, that's exactly what we'll see in 2018. The dudes in the middle of the defensive line might not put up the gaudiest stats, but make no mistake about it, they're absolutely vital to the defense, and I think they'll be a huge reason why this group makes big strides in 2018.
From Gabe Brewer: How is our secondary performing so far with the addition of Melvin, and Conley being healthy again?
EP: So far so good in practice, now we'll have to wait to see what the group looks like in a game.
While we haven't gotten an extended in-game look at Melvin, Conley and the boys just yet, what we've seen in practice has indeed been promising, with tight coverage, small passing lanes, and physicality being the name of the game.
Now, practice and games are two, wildly-different beasts, but putting together good days in practice is certainly a step in the right direction. I've been pretty bullish all offseason saying the defense as whole is going to be a lot better this year, and I still believe that, now it's just a matter of fine-tuning the details between now and September 10.