Paul Guenther took what Mike Mayock said at the start of training camp, and expounded on it following the Oakland Raiders first padded practice of Training Camp 2019.
During his kick off press conference with Head Coach Jon Gruden, Mayock stressed the importance of getting a quality Year Two out of P.J. Hall, Maurice Hurst, and Arden Key, and while a productive year from that trio would result in a net positive for the defense as a whole, the Raiders defensive coordinator is looking for immediate production from the rookie class as well.
"I'm going to say this about our whole draft class, these guys love football," said Guenther Monday. "These guys are into it. They're smart. They take notes. [Clelin] [Ferrell] is an every down end. He's exactly what we thought he was, and Maxx [Crosby] is a guy we got in the fourth round who's long, rangy. He's got good bend. He can play the run, so he's been a pleasant surprise for us, and then Quinton Bell, he's a guy who played receiver at Prairie View. He's a receiver six months ago from Prairie View A&M, but he's got great burst off the edge. He's a guy we have to develop in the short term, but those two other guys have been tremendous for us. Really the whole class."
And for a team that struggled in a big way last year getting after the quarterback, the Silver and Black's defensive front will have to improve across the board – regardless of NFL experience – if the Raiders want to enjoy any type of consistent success in 2019.
"They didn't bring us in here to be no rookie," No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell said. "And I don't mean it from that sense. I just mean from – rookie can kind of get a connotation, you can kind of sit in the back, wait your turn, you don't have to step out in front and really show that you want to play. I consider myself just a first-year player. That's all that it is. But as far as my mindset, I just want to come out and compete and earn everything that we got and to do that in this defense, you have to communicate. You have to be physical. You have to be a guy that sets the tone, sets the standard, and just be able to be held accountable, and do your job. That's really just all it is."
While it remains to be seen what the Raiders will get on the field from Ferrell and the rest of the Raiders rookie class, it's become abundantly clear what they're getting off the field in No. 96 – a leader, a pro-ready player, and a guy who's going to do everything in his power to set the tone on the defensive line.
And although we're just a few days into training camp, that type of behavior is already being noticed by Ferrell's defensive teammates.
"Clelin's been spot on," said Hurst. "I'm really excited to have him here, and there are a lot of guys who are just showing some great things, so it's really exciting."
If all goes to plan, the pairing of Ferrell on the outside and Hurst on the interior will be a tandem that Raider Nation will see for years ahead, but in the here and now, Hurst is focused on getting better each practice and taking full advantage of the oft-discussed Year Two jump.
"It's our time right now" Hurst explained. "Everyone talks about the jump from Year One to Year Two, so just staying true and coming out here and working. That's the biggest thing. We've all been grinding in the offseason, so just to get a chance to finally put the pads on today. We did some good things, but there's also a lot we can work on to get better."
"I'm definitely harsh on myself," Hurst went on to say when asked about his rookie season. "I mean, it definitely wasn't good enough by any standard. We weren't stopping the run. We weren't generating any pass rush, so for me, that was a failed season. It was great to get a lot of experience on the field, and get some time to go against NFL opponents, but overall that was a failed season, and just trying to make sure I remember that, and let that fuel me going forward."
With the types of quarterbacks that hold court in the AFC West, Hurst, Ferrell, and the entire bevy of Raiders defensive linemen will have to impart their will – and in a hurry.
Like Ferrell said, experience aside, the Silver and Black need these young defensive linemen to produce.
-It's just different with the pads on. Monday's session was the first day of padded practice for the Silver and Black, and, man, the increase in energy was palpable. Players and coaches were fired up, and for what it's worth, the pace of practice felt faster than in days past.
-On the injury front, Quinton Bell, Ronald Ollie, Trayon Mullin, and Eddie Vanderdoes didn't practice Monday, and neither did Antonio Brown. That said, Brown was present throughout Monday's session, talking to coaches and teammates, but looks like we're still waiting for him to make his official practice debut.
Take a look as Raider Nation shares photos with their official Nevada Raiders license plates.
-Something completely not football related, the Mayor of Flavortown himself, Guy Fieri, was in the house to watch practice. Unfortunately, there was no sighting of huli huli chicken.
-Alright, back to the good stuff. Today's practice was a lot of fun, as the offense and defense went after each other all morning in pads. Second-year defensive end Arden Key – who we touched on briefly a little earlier – had a nice tackle of Jalen Richard in the backfield during one of the run game periods, and No. 99 made sure his excitement about the big play was known.
-With Keith Smith still unable to practice, rookie Alec Ingold is the only fullback on the Raiders roster. It's hard to get a good gauge of what those guys can do without pads, but there were several moments on Monday where Ingold made his presence felt as a lead blocker. Keep an eye on the rookie, particularly if Smith is sidelined for an extended period of time.
-I tweeted this out earlier, but I'll say it again; if you ever get a chance to come to training camp, do yourself a favor and watch Trent Brown go through his one-on-one reps. The big man was an absolute stone wall Monday morning, and I know we have yet to even begin the preseason, but it sure looks like the Raiders found a good one in The Greatest Underdog.
-After Daniel Carlson did his thing Sunday, the punters took center stage during Monday's special teams period. Both incumbent Johnny Townsend and rookie A.J. Cole split the reps during the session, and while there are some punts that I'm sure both wish they had back, I was impressed with what I saw from Cole. I'm not quite sure we can call this a "competition" yet but seeing how each plays during the preseason will be something to watch.
-I see you, Dallin Leavitt. During one of the punt return drills, the second-year safety handled his assignment to perfection, throwing his man to the ground, much to the delight of his teammates. I say it all the time – special teams is crucial.
-Nathan Peterman had a nice connection to Marcell Ateman during one of the red zone periods, finding the athletic wide receiver in the corner of the end zone.
-All things equal, my favorite thing about the pads coming on is the increase in, shall we say, chirping that occurs during practice. Like I said, padded practices bring out the intensity across the board.
Vontaze Burfict when asked if Johnathan Abram reminds him of a younger version of himself:
"Yes, he does. He talks a little bit more than me though. Sometimes I have to tell him to shut up in the huddle, but other than that, he backs it up. You can talk as much as you want as long as you back it up, and he has to start catching these picks, man. I told him. He said $1,000 for every pick he drops, so right now he has $2,000 in the pot."
Tweet of the Day:
The Raiders are back on the field for another padded practice Tuesday morning, before a league-mandated off day Wednesday.