Defensive Tackle Justin Ellis
Joining a new team is never easy.
Joining a new team midway through training camp? Well, that's even harder, but that's the situation IK Enemkpali found himself in Friday after signing with the Oakland Raiders as a free agent.
However, upon his arrival to the team's Napa Valley Training Complex, the linebacker/defensive end was greeted by a familiar face, college teammate Justin "Jelly" Ellis.
"We have the same agent, and my agent told me that [the Raiders] were going to work him out, and I know what type of player he is," said Ellis who played with Enemkpali at Louisiana Tech. "I know his knee is healthy; they worked him out, and I knew they would like him."
General Manager Reggie McKenzie and his staff did indeed like the former Louisiana Tech Bulldog enough to sign him to the team's 90-man roster, even though Enemkpali missed the entire 2016 season because of the aforementioned knee injury.
As far as the time away from actually strapping on the pads goes, Ellis believes that his fellow Bulldog made the best out of a less-than-ideal situation last year.
"It can either hurt you or help you," Ellis explained. "It depends on how you take care of yourself during that year, within that year. I know for sure that he's been taking care of himself, so I think it's going to help him, and the way he hurt his knee, this is just how football is sometimes. Like I said, he's been taking care of his body, so I think it's going to help him."
Ellis described Enemkpali as a player who can get after the quarterback, which is a valuable skillset for a team that at times last year struggled to bring down the opposing signal-caller behind the line of scrimmage.
"They're going to get a hard worker," Ellis said. "He's physical, he's real physical, and whatever role he's got, he's going to do it to his max ability. Whatever it is, that's what he's going to do."
Just a day into his tenure as a Raider that role has understandably yet to be defined, but if all goes to plan, Enemkpali will add depth along the defensive line, hopefully filling a myriad roles along the front.
Regardless of where he lines up though, Ellis is hopeful that collectively the group will find more success bringing down the quarterback in 2017 than it did in 2016.
While the Raiders 25 total sacks last season might not necessarily jump off the page, Ellis knows that the defense certainly left some tackles for loss out on the field. He also knows that the NFL is a production-based business, and that in 2017, if the Silver and Black want to be a dominant defense; that number has to be higher.
"We had some good rushes that we left out there," Ellis said. "That's our thing; we're trying to capitalize on the rushes this year."
He's also hopeful that his old friend IK Enemkpali can capitalize on the opportunity he now has in Silver and Black, harkening back to the success the pair found as undergrads in Ruston, LA.
"He's right beside me, so we've been talking like old times," Ellis said. "We always talk anyways on the phone, so now we're right besides each other."
-In addition to IK Enemkpali, the Raiders also signed linebacker/defensive end Rufus Johnson. In a corresponding move, the Raiders waived defensive end Chris Casher.
-Once again, the Silver and Black's first-round pick, cornerback Gareon Conley was a spectator for practice, unable to strap on the pads and get to work with the rest of his defensive teammates.
-Undrafted safety Anthony Cioffi made a few plays throughout the Friday afternoon session. During one of the team's special teams periods, the former Rutgers Scarlet Knight sprinted down the field, and made an impressive would-be tackle on the return man. He also delivered a strong tackle in the open field once the team went 11-on-11. For a young player like Cioffi, he needs to show his value on special teams, so seeing him make some noise in coverage was a welcome sight indeed.
-Wide receiver Michael Crabtree has quietly gone his business all throughout training camp, but Friday he really showed why he's such a valuable asset to the Raiders offense. In the span of about three reps during a seven-on-session session, "King Crab" found the end zone twice, boisterously celebrating both – much to the delight of Raider Nation. He might not be the flashiest of players, but make no mistake about it, No. 15 is still a legitimate playmaker.
-Connor Cook and Isaac Whitney combined for a pretty play during a seven-on-seven period, with Whitney extending nicely to haul in the pass from No. 18 in the end zone.
-While most of the attention in the Raiders run game has understandably gone to Marshawn Lynch, Jalen Richard, and DeAndré Washington, don't sleep on rookie Elijah Hood. The former North Carolina Tar Heel showed off his explosiveness Friday, taking a routine handoff before bursting through the offensive line, and galloping downfield into the end zone.
-Safety Reggie Nelson secured another interception on Friday as well, hauling in a free ball that deflected off the hands of a wide receiver.
-K.J. Brent had another good day at the office Friday. The athletic wide receiver, has looked good following the team's off day, and once again he was a focal point in the Raiders offense, routinely making plays throughout the two-and-a-half hour session.
Song Of The Day:
"California Love" – 2Pac Feat. Dr. Dre, Roger Troutman
"Win a Super Bowl, and not just one but multiple. That's not just for me, that is for our city, for our fans, for my teammates, these coaches, all of us that are away from our family in this silly, little hotel for weeks on end. The hours that we put in, there is so much that I could get into that I want to win that so badly for everybody else because there's nothing like… I'll never forget when we won that game my rookie year versus Kansas City. We won one game, we were 1-10, and to sit there and watch everybody celebrate, there's nothing like it."
-Quarterback Derek Carr discusses his personal goals.
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