Training Camp Notebook: Coach Gruden impressed with Griff Whalen as camp nears completion

Much of football – and really life in general – is about making the most of your opportunities.

Well, as Training Camp 2018 comes to an end, count wide receiver Griff Whalen as one of those players who has no doubt made sure to take full advantage of the reps he's been afforded in Napa.

After playing college ball down the road at Stanford, Whalen began his pro career with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, followed by a stop with the San Diego Chargers, and most recently the Baltimore Ravens where he appeared in two games last year, hauling in four passes.

Now, when the Silver and Black signed Whalen back in March, I'm not sure if there was an imminent feeling that Whalen would come in and be an integral part of the offense, but give the man credit, he's certainly carved himself out a role over the past month.

"He's just been steady since he's been here," Head Coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday when asked about Whalen. "Seth Roberts is out. Has been out for a little over a week. Hasn't been able to go in the slot much. Martavis [Bryant] has been out. Whalen has stepped up. He earned that right. He's doing some great things."

As Gruden alluded, without the services of Seth Roberts, and with Martavis Bryant sidelined for portions of camp dealing with recurring headaches, Whalen has found himself as the beneficiary of some extra reps he possibly wouldn't have had otherwise.

And while he's been good in practice, the former Stanford Cardinal has also taken full advantage of his reps in the first preseason game, running with the first group in the team's win over the Detroit Lions.

Like many of the Raiders' presumed starters, Whalen played sparingly against the Lions – just 14 offensive snaps – but he was effective during his limited run, hauling in one pass for seven yards, but working extensively as a returner, bringing back two kicks, as well as four punts before his night came to a close.

Behind Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson, the situation at wide receiver is a very competitive one, and as it stands now, Whalen and Ryan Switzer are battling it out for the right to serve as the Raiders' slot receiver.

"Well it's very competitive situation," Gruden explained. "They're neck-and-neck. As you said, special teams will have a big part of that, but also sheer production. You have to be able to go in there and make plays. You have to be able to go in there and block linebackers sometimes and big safeties. You have to know a lot of assignments because Derek [Carr] is going to change the play at the last second. It's neck and neck with those guys. When Seth Roberts gets back, it's a very competitive position at the slot."

While this competition won't be decided this weekend, I'll be looking forward to seeing how the offensive reps are distributed Saturday afternoon at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Injury Report:

With the Silver and Black forgoing pads for Wednesday's session, there were a handful of Raiders who were unable to hit the field, including Jared Cook, Jon Feliciano, Breno Giacomini, Marcus Gilchrist, Dexter McDonald, and Eddy Piñeiro.

On a positive note, both Martavis Bryant and Seth Roberts retuned to the field after missing some time as of late.

No updates on the Physically/Unable to Perform list either, as Eddie Vanderdoes is the only player currently with that designation on the roster.

Notable:

-Following Wednesday's practice, the Raiders placed defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin on the Reserve/Injured list, and then claimed defensive tackle Gabe Wright via waivers from the Miami Dolphins.

-Per usual, Bruce Irvin was his vocal, energetic self Wednesday. The athletic defensive end has had a really strong start to the 2018 campaign, and I can't wait to see how he looks come Week 1.

-Coach Gruden has said time and again that he wants the Raiders' trio of quarterbacks to be prepared for any and all situations, and he certainly threw a lot at third-year signal caller Connor Cook today, forcing No. 18 to rattle off a bevy of audibles based off the defense and situation Gruden presented to him.

-Speaking of Connor Cook, the former Michigan State Spartan had a nice connection with wide receiver Keon Hatcher, finding him in stride during one of the team's seven-on-seven sessions.

-As we've seen a handful of times this training camp, the Raiders spent some time at the end of practice working on situational football – getting the ball in position for a last-second field goal, to be exact. I've really been impressed how the coaching staff has left no stone unturned over the past few weeks putting the team in every imaginable situation they could possibly see on gameday.

Quotable:

"We're calling Martavis the white tiger. I used to go to Busch Gardens in Tampa. We call Galloway the white tiger in Tampa. You go to Busch Gardens and they've got a white tiger. You go 12 times or 13 times, the white tiger was always in his cage. But the white tiger came out today. Bryant came out. I don't know if you get that analogy but sometimes he comes out to play and sometimes he doesn't. It's good to see him because he's really special, like the white tiger." – Head Coach Jon Gruden discussing Martavis Bryant.

Not much I feel like I can really add on this one, it just made me laugh.

The Lighter Side:

Before he officially started his press conference, Coach Gruden was asked about the classic rock played at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum before the team's preseason opener against the Lions.

Gruden played coy and laughed when asked if he had anything to do with it.

Hey Coach, nothing wrong with a little classic rock in my book, let's keep it rolling, brother.

Up Next:

I can't believe it, but the Silver and Black break camp tomorrow afternoon.

Following camp's conclusion, they'll fly to Los Angeles Friday in advance of their game against the Rams.

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