Training Camp Notebook: Gruden and Raiders prepare for joint practices against Rams

Let's face it, we're in the midst of the dog days of August here in Napa.

The Oakland Raiders rookie class – as well as the quarterbacks – reported to training camp two weeks ago, with the veteran players just a few days behind them, and since that time, it has been nothing but a constant cycle of practice then meetings, then practice again for the 90 guys on the Raiders roster.

I don't care who you are, the monotony and constant repetition of camp can get to anyone, but thankfully for the Silver and Black, they'll get a break in the action beginning tomorrow when they welcome in the Los Angeles Rams for a pair of joint practices.

"I think they're excited," said Head Coach Jon Gruden when asked about how his team felt about squaring off against the Rams. "I think anybody would be excited to break the monotony a little bit. Hit somebody else, see a different scheme and play some situations, see what we've learned."

After having a pair of successful joint practices with the Detroit Lions in Napa a year ago, Coach Gruden and his staff elected to run it back this year, holding a pair of back-to-back sessions with Sean McVay's team before ultimately opening up the preseason against them Saturday night.

And in addition to getting some looks at some fresh faces beginning Wednesday, the two sessions against the Rams will provide the Raiders coaching staff a chance to evaluate where they are in their preparation for Week 1.

"Well, you get a chance to see a great team, number one, and you get a chance to take a look at your young corners against talented, veteran receivers," Gruden explained. "You get a chance to look at different aspects of your football, your red zone offense, your red zone defense. We already talked about two-minute. We are going to take a look at our pass protection. Have we improved it? Or have we not? Tomorrow will be a great gauge because they are loaded up front."

"We just want to see who's ready to play," added safety Lamarcus Joyner, who spent the first five seasons of his career with the Rams organization. "Coach Gruden started something new around here. He's trying to bring back the Silver and Black dread, and starting tomorrow, we want to see who's willing to play, and who's worthy of wearing that Silver and Black jersey."

The score of Saturday's tilt at the OACC obviously won't count, and while there technically won't be a winner or loser from the joint sessions over the next 48 hours, the competitive juices will be flowing for both teams, and two weeks into camp, we could all collectively benefit from that injection of energy.

"You just got to come out with a mindset... it's an opportunity," wide receiver Marcell Ateman said. "For me, it's never certain. I don't know what's going to happen, so I just come out here with a mindset of just coming out here and competing. We bring the energy, the older guys like Tyrell [Williams], Ryan Grant, and J.J. [Nelson] tell us to get the day started."


-Following the team's league-mandated off day Monday, the boys were back in pads Tuesday morning, and they had new blood that joined them. Rookie defensive end Quinton Bell was back after a week on the mend, as was tight end Paul Butler. Jalen Richard was able to participate more than he had in session's previous, but that said, there was still no sign of Mr. Big Chest, Antonio Brown.

-Well, ladies and gentlemen, we officially have a punting competition on our hands. Tuesday was A.J. Cole's day to handle the kicking duties, and the undrafted rookie really had a nice day at work. If tradition is to be believed, Johnny Townsend will punt Wednesday, but regardless of how he does, make no mistake about it, we now have a legit competition that will play out through the preseason.

"This A.J. Cole came out again today and has really put himself in position to win the job," Coach Gruden said. "And I'm not saying he's in the lead or he's going to win the job, but he's putting himself in position for one hell of a battle here in the next couple games."

-Since the team arrived in Napa, I've really been impressed by the play of the offensive line, the interior line in particular. Tuesday's session showed more of the same, as Rodney Hudson was his usual dominant self in the trenches, dominating his one-on-one reps. Richie Incognito also enjoyed a quality one-on-one set, and with the veteran guard set to serve a two-game suspension, I'm excited to see what he looks like during the preseason.

-The defensive line made sure they got theirs too, as Maurice Hurst and Arden Key also had quality reps during the one-on-one session.

-We had a Mack Brown sighing Tuesday, and, no, not the former head coach of the Texas Longhorns. The running back – who the Raiders signed just three days ago – made a nice cut during an 11-on-11 period, then turned up and galloped down the field. With a stacked running backs room, the former Florida Gator will have to make the most of his limited touches if he wants to stay on the roster for long.

-The Silver and Black worked on goal line situations towards the end of Tuesday's practice, with both offense and defense enjoying some success. Early on, rookie running back Josh Jacobs dove over the goal line for a would-be touchdown, but defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's group got even shortly after, as safety Erik Harris burst through the line and took down the running back DeAndré Washington behind the line of scrimmage.


Hard Knock premieres Tuesday night, but don't expect Coach Gruden to tune in:

"Maybe some guys will put it on, I don't even know what it's called where you can record it and watch it whenever you can, but we are not going to be eating crackerjacks and peanuts and watching it. We got meetings, we got the Rams coming in here and I know players I'm sure are excited to see the show and they've done a good job, the Hard Knocks people, putting together. I'm not going to say anything further because I'll be in a meeting."

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Bring on the Rams.

Sean McVay and Co. arrive in Northern California Tuesday night, and then will hit the practice field with the Silver and Black for two padded practices beginning Wednesday.

The two squads will then open up the preseason against one another Saturday evening at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.