For the first time since the pads came on Monday, the Oakland Raiders decided to take the pads off Saturday, but the energy at practice was still electric.
The Silver and Black will have their first preseason action of the 2019 season next Saturday when they host the Los Angeles Rams at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, but prior to that, the team will host the Rams in Napa, Calif., for two days of joint practice beginning Wednesday.
Saturday's practice without pads could've been in preparation for the week ahead, and Derek Carr shared during his media availability following practice the importance of going toe-to-toe with another team in scrimmage.
"Again, it's good to go against a different scheme," the Raiders signal-caller said. "I really enjoy it and especially when it's two really professional teams that aren't trying to prove their manhood or prove their toughness to each other. Obviously, football is a physical game, but when there is just fights and brawls, I think that's pointless, but when you can get good, physical, hard, fast work against a different scheme that kind of stuff is invaluable, honestly.
He added, "I think it's more valuable than a preseason game if I am just going to be honest. Doing these joint things, you get different situations. A third-down situation, you get some of [defensive coordinator] Coach [Wade] Phillips' stuff. You get first-and-10 versus this personnel and you get this look and that look, different blitz patterns and things like that. You are getting more reps and it's way more valuable than a preseason game to me."
Head Coach Jon Gruden also shared a similar sentiment during his press conference Friday.
"Yeah, probably, because the starters will get a lot of work where they won't in the first preseason game, so we'll be able to see our young corners against some great receivers and vice versa," Gruden said Friday when asked whether the joint practice is more important than preseason. "And we'll see how we stack up against the NFC champs and it will be a great challenge for us."
Not only will Carr go up against defensive guru Wade Phillips, but he'll face the best defensive tackle in the league, Aaron Donald. Sure, neither team will be going full speed, but Donald will be the best test for the Raiders improved line. Donald can line up anywhere on the line, but he primarily works inside, so it'll be fun to watch Gabe Jackson and Trent Brown, or Richie Incognito and Kolton Miller matchup with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
If you recall, the Silver and Black hosted the Rams last season during Week 1 for a primetime bout on Monday Night Football, and while it ended in a Raiders defeat, the team put up a fight in the first half limiting much of the Rams offense, and went into the locker room reading 13-10.
It was the first time Gruden faced off against his former pupil, and now-Rams Head Coach, Sean McVay. The two have a long history together and to watch them reunite in Napa will be exciting — I'm sure the duo will find a way to break bread at some point too.
The upcoming week will be an important one for the Raiders, and Saturday's day without pads was a probably much needed day of recuperation for the players.
-Raiders superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown didn't participate in practice Saturday as he continues to recover from a foot injury. AB wasn't the only player to miss practice Saturday though, as both tight ends Darren Waller and Paul Butler weren't out on the field.
-The pads might not have been on, but second-year defensive tackle Maurice Hurst Jr. showed active hands during the one-on-one pass rushing drills — I expect big things from him in 2019.
-This has been Hunter Renfrow's camp. I'm not sure the rookie has dropped a pass yet and he continues to be the talk of Napa. Carr's connection with the former Clemson Tiger has been on full display.
-Solid back-to-back plays by the defense during 11-on-11. The rush and coverage worked well in tandem, and the QBs had nowhere to go with the ball.
-Also during 11-on11, Glennon dropped back and connected with Rico Gafford in stride so he could pick up a good amount of YAC.
-Karl Joseph came on a blitz, also during 11-on-11, and burst through the hole. Had it occurred during a real game, the play would have resulted in a sack.
-Attention fantasy football players: Josh Jacobs will be worth drafting this season. The Raiders first-round pick has been as advertised during training camp, and is showcasing his ability to be a factor in the passing game. Saturday — in one-on-one coverage — Jacobs hit linebacker Tahir Whitehead with a hesitation move, and then made a sharp turn into the flat, hauling in a one-handed grab. He's made a lot of things look way too easy.
-Rookie A.J. Cole continues to make the punter competition interesting by consistently booming punts down the field. Johnny Townsend is the established holder, but Cole is making this closer than most probably anticipated.
-The team welcomed a pair of special guests Saturday, as Victoria's Secret model Josephine Skriver and singer/songwriter Alex Deleon — aka Bohnes — came to support their favorite football team. The two are just the latest celebrities to touch down in Napa, with G-Eazy and Guy Fieri making appearances also this past week.
Derek Carr shared why he's been impressed with the rookie corners in camp:
"You know who has impressed me is those two young corners that we drafted, Isaiah [Johnson] and Trayvon [Mullen], they are really impressive. Usually when you get young corners, I'm like, 'Okay. It's routes on air and I'm just going to pick on them all day kind of a thing.' And those guys have been competitive. They ask me questions. One of my favorite pictures is actually there is a picture of me and Trayvon sitting over here, and he takes five minutes and he's like, 'Hey man. Talk to me about this route. What you are thinking? What you are seeing?' And that doesn't happen very often, so those guys have been very impressive.
The Oakland Raiders will take the practice field once more Sunday before having an off day on Monday.
Hope to see you out there in the stands, Raider Nation.