Head Coach Jon Gruden has long been lauded for his attention to detail.
Whether it was during his first go round as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, or his impressive stint as a broadcaster on Monday Night Football, Gruden’s dedication to the “little things” has consistently been brought up as one of his best characteristics.
Well, now that he’s back roaming the sidelines for the Silver and Black, he’s leaving no football stone unturned, putting his team through every situation imaginable that they could possibly encounter on game day.
From getting in position to kick a “game-winning field goal,” or running the clock out at the end of regulation, Gruden is using the opening days of training camp to simulate as many situations as he can.
Each week in the NFL it seems that we see a unique situation that we’ve never seen before, and if all goes to plan, come Sundays this week, the Silver and Black will be well prepared for anything that comes their way, as unlikely as they may be.
“Well, there’s so many situations and there’s so little time to work on them,” said Coach Gruden after Monday's practice. “We try to jam a lot of them into every practice. Whether it be shorts or pads. Today we covered a couple of them that only come up once in a while. We are trying to teach everybody the situation, to have respect for it and when it arises, hopefully we’re prepared for it.”
Since returning to the sidelines, Gruden has made it clear that he’s going to test every player on the roster, both in the classroom, and on the field, and through the early goings, it appears quarterback Derek Carr is passing those tests.
“Derek looks like a completely different person in my eyes, just from the way he’s attacking the game,” tight end Jared Cook said. “From the way he’s attacking the challenges that Gruden has been giving to him. Every time that Gruden asks him a question, he gets it right, no hesitation. Every time Gruden asks him to get up in front of a meeting room and call out a play, run a play, get to the right check, get to the right audible, he does it every time. That’s a responsibility that Derek never had last year. You see a totally different player out of him. He’s attacking the game differently mentally and he has a totally different attitude going in to this year.”
While statistically speaking, 2017 might not have been D.C.’s best year as a pro, let’s not forget that just a year previous, Carr threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, en route to leading the team back to the postseason for the first time since 2002.
If the Raiders’ offense wants to return to the form they enjoyed in 2016, Carr’s play will be a big reason why, and so far, he’s taken the appropriate steps to make sure he bounces back in a big way in 2018.
“He’s always had really great preparation, always one of the first guys up in the morning studying, in the weight room and what not,” wide receiver Amari Cooper explained. “The only thing that I would say has probably changed is he is more seasoned. He can see the defenses and he’ll be better at that.”
Once again, no update from the trio of players currently on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list, although Coach Gruden did say that Eddie Vanderdoes and P.J. Hall should return sooner than later.
Joining the guys on the PUP list getting work on the side was Jalen Richard, Chris Warren III, and cornerback Gareon Conley.
When asked about Conley, Gruden said he anticipated the second-year cornerback would be out for a few weeks recovering from a hip injury.
-Prior to the start of Monday’s session, the Silver and Black announced that they had signed running back James Butler. Butler, who finished his college career at Iowa, joined his new teammates for his first day as a Raider, and even had a few nice runs too. With his addition, the Raiders are now maxed out at 90 men on their roster.
-In addition to the usual media outlets that covers a Raiders’ practice, NFL Network was also in the house Monday. Ian Rapoport, Colleen Wolfe, Michael Robinson, and Derek Carr’s brother David were all broadcasting remotely from the team’s Napa Valley Training Complex, and Coach Gruden, as well as a handful of players stopped by their set to chat.
-I’m not sure if it was the proximity to the off day or what, but Amari Cooper was in an outstanding mood Monday. From joking with his teammates, to dancing to Snoop Dogg’s classic West Coast anthem “Gin and Juice,” No. 89 was enjoying every moment of being on the field this afternoon.
-With Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, and Martavis Bryant in the mix, it’s possible that you could forget about Jared Cook, but the physical tight end made sure he got his Monday afternoon. During a seven-on-seven session, No. 87 showed off his hands, hauling in an acrobatic catch from Derek Carr.
-I see you, Marcell Ateman. The rookie wide out had another nice day Monday, coming down with a really impressive, sideline, toe-tap catch during one of the final periods of the day. Gruden said after practice he’s been impressed with No. 88 thus far, so be sure to keep an eye on him as we inch closer to the preseason opener against the Detroit Lions.
-The Raiders finished the day with a little red zone work, and EJ Manuel was locked in during the period, throwing a pair of touchdowns, one to Griff Whalen, and another to Ryan Switzer.
“[Strength and conditioning coordinator] Tom Shaw has done a great job and his staff. These guys had to go home for a month. We’re not allowed to talk to these guys. I don’t even know if you’re allowed to email these guys or Snapchat them either.” -Head Coach Jon Gruden on how players got in shape prior to training camp.
Just FYI, the thought of Coach Gruden using Snapchat really makes me chuckle.
The Lighter Side:
While Donald Penn might be recovering from injury, the veteran left tackle still made sure to show love to the members of Raider Nation during practice, signing autographs for a few minutes before heading into the locker room.
The Raiders will enjoy a well-deserved day off tomorrow, but will then get back to work at the team’s Napa Valley Training Complex Wednesday morning.