Somewhere in between the NFL Network set, the Hard Knocks cameras, and the Oakland Raiders fans in the stands, a practice broke out Wednesday morning in Napa Valley.
The Silver and Black welcomed in Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams for the first of two joint practices today – before ultimately opening up the preseason against them Saturday night at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum – and in addition to breaking up the monotony of training camp, Wednesday's session gave the Raiders a chance to see where they stack up against one of the best teams in the league.
And for rookie Jonathan Abram, he liked what he saw from Paul Guenther's defense.
"Pretty much that we could play with anybody," said Abram when asked what he learned after the first of two joint practices. "That's one thing, I'll say we can play with anybody. We can go against one of the best offenses in the league and go out there and compete the way that we did, then we can compete with anybody."
Competition was truly the theme of the day as the two squads went at each other for about two-and-a-half hours, essentially going through a normal practice, just with the benefit of having another team to spar with, and while both teams had their moments in the sun, overall, Abram was pleased with how the Raiders defense handled themselves.
"I feel like today we did a pretty good job," he explained. "First day seeing this offense, one of the best offenses in the league. They went to the Super Bowl last year. We did a pretty good job covering the receivers, having our eyes in the right spot. We competed well."
Offensively, Derek Carr and the Raiders enjoyed a few highlight moments throughout the morning as well, and while things definitely weren't perfect – the final team period was highlighted by a should-have-been touchdown to Tyrell Williams – overall, No. 4 liked the work his group accomplished on Day 1 of the joint sessions.
"We treat these as games, and competitive," Carr explained. "We want to compete against each other and things like that, all the while, no one is scheming each other, so you just try – like I said – your best to come out here and compete your tail off, and then just say, if they're going to play that, we'll probably get to this, or we'll probably check to this, or things like that, but at the end of the day, you just come out here and compete against somebody else, and you get more out of it then just a preseason game."
With Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib both on the roster, the Rams boast one of the best secondaries in the NFL, and being able to go toe-to-toe against that group – even in a practice – provided Carr and Co., a great opportunity, in addition to breaking up the repetition of camp.
Throw in the fact that the Raiders starters – on both sides of the football – probably won't see a ton of action Saturday night, and Wednesday and Thursday's work becomes all the more important.
"Being able to see some different coverages, different looks, it really makes you rely on your rules," Carr said. "It makes you rely on your scheme, and these things are really good, especially for the young guys, and myself included, where you get into a situation, and you don't panic, you just go back to your rules. Hey, make that guy, that guy's open, making sure you're throwing it to the right spot. We can work on technique, and things like that later, but making sure we're doing the right things mentally, and then you come back the next day and want to be cleaner, or crisper on what you messed up the day before, because you had a day of going against the guys. You had a day of seeing certain things."
The Silver and Black will have an evening walk thru, then meetings Wednesday night before getting into the proverbial octagon with the Rams once again Thursday morning.
-Who wasn't at the Raiders/Rams joint practice Wednesday? In addition to the aforementioned folks from NFL Network and Hard Knocks, numerous ESPN personalities, including former Raider Louis Riddick, were in the house, as was David Shaw and much of the Stanford Cardinal coaching staff.
Oh, and how could I forget? Marshawn Lynch and Josh Johnson also blessed the fields in Napa today with an appearance. With all those folks, plus 180 players on the field, things were pretty packed out at practice Wednesday morning.
-Chalk up another good day for the Raiders offensive line. The big fellas up front have looked good all camp, but even against the formidable Rams defense line, Rodney Hudson and Co., held up pretty well. In particular, I've been very pleased with the play of the right side of the line, and I'm excited to see the type of performance they deliver Thursday.
-Jalen Richard has been back in the mix the past few days, and it was good to see "The Rocket" flex a little bit against the Rams, showing some nice burst through the middle of the Los Angeles defensive line, en route to a quality gain.
-The Carr/Hunter Renfrow connection was once again on display Wednesday, as DC found the rookie wideout during one of the 11-on-11 sessions. With time in the pocket, Carr placed the ball only where only Renfrow could go get it, and No. 13 did just that, sliding and hauling in the pass.
-I wrote Ryan Grant's name down in the notebook today after the explosive wide receiver hauled in a gorgeous catch off the arm of Mike Glennon. Grant has been quiet throughout portions of camp, but I expect we'll see plenty of him over the next four weeks.
-While things were certainly physical during the morning session, both squads did a great job of making sure that there were no extracurricular activities after the whistle. That said, there were undoubtedly a few chippy moments, one of which belonged to Nevin Lawson who wasn't too pleased with a pair of Rams during one of the special teams portions of practice. A simple slap to the helmet though, and Mr. Lawson went on his way.
-We also had an Isaiah Johnson appearance today at practice, as the rookie cornerback made a quality break on a ball, batting down the pass during one of the day's 11-on-11 sessions.
Center Rodney Hudson on why he didn't watch the premier of Hard Knocks:
"That isn't my thing, reality TV."
Tweet of the Day:
Today was fun, so let's do it all again tomorrow.
The Raiders and Rams will lock horns – pardon the pun – once again Thursday morning in Napa Valley.
Coach Gruden's team will then have a morning walk-thru Friday morning before opening the preseason Saturday evening back in the friendly confines of the OACC.