Training Camp Report: Day Two
Henderson, Nev.--People are hungry for information on their beloved Las Vegas Raiders, and I am here with a smorgasbord of food. Let's dig right into the latest on your beloved Silver and Black.
I get a lot of nuggets and information that alone are not big enough for a story. When I have a few that I can assemble, I will. So, welcome to The Black Hole:
I can tell you this: Raider Nation has a ton to be excited about. This article is already long, or I could give you many more reasons and players to be excited about. Keep your eyes out for the next "Black Hole," and please tell your friends about it by sharing it on social media.
Gus Bradley is on a mission to get his best players on the field. Don’t be shocked if Clelin Ferrell, who was never going to be a significant sack guy, gets some reps on the inside.
I am NOT saying this is a permanent position move; I am just saying look for some of that.
This team is fired up. The 2021 Raiders are emotional and on the attack.
There is a sense of anger among the defense, tired of the criticism Gus Bradley has laid down an edict: “If you don’t like the criticism, do something about it.”
They have embraced the challenge.
Derek Carr loved Rodney Hudson. They were close, but that doesn’t mean Carr isn’t excited about Andre James, his new center. He is fired up about his new bodyguard.
Carr said of James, “Yes. Andre, someone who has been around for a few years now. So, a lot of practice reps with him when Rodney (Hudson) wouldn’t practice on a Wednesday, or things like that. Yes, he’s a new starting center, but I feel like I’ve got a couple thousand reps with him if that makes sense, through the practice years. He started the Detroit game for us a while back and did a great job, showed flashes of someone with great understanding and things like that, and toughness, and all the kind of traits that you need at that spot. Obviously, we had Rodney, who everyone would say he’s one of, if not the best, center in the whole league. And it’s hard for a guy like Andre to play in front of that guy, so now that Rodney is gone, Andre can step in and fill that spot, and I feel super confident that he’s going to do a great job. I’m not going to compare him to anybody, but we haven’t put pads on yet. We haven’t played any games yet, so I don’t want to put any expectations out there for him. But I’m excited for him because he’s super smart and I believe he’s a good football player. So, our relationship is super close. Inviting him to the house, inviting me to come eat some steaks. The steaks they cook over at the O-line place are a little different than the ones I eat, but it’s been a great relationship so far.”
There is nobody in Raider Nation more excited about the arrival of Gus Bradley than Derek Carr.
The Raiders were 8-8 last year, but what many forget is that the defense lost three games at the end when Derek Carr had the Silver and Black poised for a win.
Carr raved about Bradley and what he is doing for the patched attacking defense.
“Coach Gus Bradley, who I was around for the Senior Bowl and now have competed against for seven now going on eight years is again, the same, super smart. The presence that Coach Gus carries to the field, you can feel that. There is one voice. When he talks all 11 sets of eyes on that defense are looking at him and that’s impressive. When you go to their defensive meeting room you know who has the attention. I think it’s good, I think it makes are guys excited. They are tired of talking about all of this stuff just like I am. I’ve gotten older and wiser just to get away from it. Just get away from that stuff, but some of these guys are young and it’s the first time they are going through that in their life and they’re sick of it. You can definitely feel that urgency and that demand that he’s bringing and they’re taking. It’s one thing for a coach to bring it, it’s another thing for him to bring it and the players to accept it and say: ‘Yeah, we are going to ride with that guy.’ And they’ve don’t that, so I’m excited for them, but we got a tough challenge in this division. Gus knows that but we are very optimistic, very excited and you can definitely feel a difference, and the more you guys are around Coach Bradley, you’ll hear him. I mean it’s literally every play. He’s on someone about something, whether it’s their step or how they fit on a tackle. I mean just the detail is unbelievable. It’s like Gruden, the amount of detail that we go into, same thing that he’s doing, it’s impressive.”
Derek Carr has the deepest wide receiver room, in my opinion, in the NFL.
Last year, as mentioned above, the Raiders offense had this team in a position to be 11-5 and in the playoffs.
Carr had his offense rated as 10th in the league. So he knows how special his wide receivers are, and he has a special relationship with them.
“One thing, it’s been nice because we’ve had some carry over in the last couple years to where not only is it a new guy and running new routes when you’re adding people like ‘Smoke’ (John Brown). Not only is he coming in and he’s a new guy, I got to learn how he cuts on certain routes. They all cut differently, and they all want to run a route certainly different, but you’re teaching them a system too. Well, we don’t have a whole lot of guys like that. It’s really him, Willie (Snead IV), some of the young guys. But Hunter (Renfrow) has played, Zay (Jones) has played. Bryan (Edwards) has played in this offense. Henry (Ruggs III) has played in this offense. And it helps the relationship part going forward. You’ve played games with these guys, so when I’m like: ‘Hey, remember such and such play in Denver?’ ‘Hey, third third-down in a game I need you to run it like this, more like this,’ and they have recall of that. Whereas with a whole bunch of new guys, it makes it harder because you don’t have that. You are just kind of talking through it, watching it on a TV screen and then: ‘Alright, now I need you to go do it physically.’ So, having only a few of those guys it helps because you’re not having to kind of teach a guy: ‘Hey, can you do it like this? I know you did it like that, but I just feel comfortable if you do it like this.’ And kind of mixing those worlds and really with these guys we spend so much time together. I would challenge these guys in the offseason just to see what they would say. It’s our off time and we don’t have anything we have to do, but they would be like, ‘Hey, let’s throw.’ ‘I’m like perfect, see you at 5:45 a.m.’ And they’d be like ‘deal.’ Every one of them to the man was like: ‘Yeah, see you there.’ And I was just kind of testing them. I just wanted to see if they’d be like, ‘Well, can we go at 8 a.m.?’ I just wanted to see what they would say, and they were like ‘deal.’ So, I was like dang, I got to wake up. But it was impressive because when you do something like that you grow a certain bond with guys, and I think our relationships are super strong, so I’m excited about it.”
I am fond of reminding fans that Derek Carr has a boss.
He alluded to that rather bluntly when asked about being more aggressive in 2021, like he was at times last year. I added emphasis to his quote: “One, you have to have the personnel to do it, and that doesn’t just mean the receivers, that means everyone up front, too. As Coach Gruden will say, ‘I want completions. I don’t care what they are, I want completions. When I wake up I’m thinking, his voice, completions.”
But you can’t blame Jon Gruden for at times applying pressure to the brakes; know his defense couldn’t stop anyone.
In 2021, look for Gruden to be more aggressive. He trusts Carr, and he has a bevy of weapons around him. Something that excites Carr.
“Last year we brought (Nelson Agholor) and we drafted Henry (Ruggs III), Zay can fly, we got guys that can go, Waller, obviously we know that. And then the o-line. There’s a certain time, I know based off our relationship now, we’re (he and Coach Gruden) going on four years, so I know when he calls a certain play and when he calls the certain play what he is expecting, where he expects that ball to go verses certain coverages. So, early on it was hard, but now it’s…I can’t say it’s easy, there’s nothing in this game that’s easy, but it’s easier because I know what’s expected. I know what he wants and I’ve told you guys 100 times, I’m just trying to do exactly what he wants every single time. I don’t do it perfect every time, but that fine line of if he expects the ball to go there, then now he expects that receiver to make the play or win. And like he’ll say: ‘If he can’t win, we’ll find another guy who can. If you can’t throw it there, we’ll find another guy that can throw it there.’ That’s just how Coach coaches.”
Again I added the emphasis in the above quote, but Carr is echoing what I have been reporting for the last year.
If you don’t like the way Carr runs Gruden’s offense, that is on Gruden. Carr runs it masterfully.
Don’t believe that? If he weren’t, the Raiders would have a different quarterback in year four of the Gruden regime.
Carr went into more details about the Gruden offensive mindset. A lot more.
“So, the demand is there and the knowing of the offense and what he wants. Again, offenses I have been in in the past were like this and with Coach Gruden it hasn’t stopped yet – in four years we’re still adding. We’re still going, we’re still pushing that envelope. So, having an understanding of what he wants and what’s expected has helped that. And two, another thing I learned watching…we had the guys and we were letting them go and we were calling those things to send it deep, one thing I did was holding the ball and fumbling. Watching and studying, why? Why was it on those plays? Was I drifting in my drop, was it this or that? So, it was good to have that film, because now I think we’ll be better at, hopefully, limiting turnovers on those plays.”
Many people forget that Derek Carr is not just the quarterback, but he is also the captain. That captainship forces him to look at the entire team, not just his offense.
That is why his excitement about how far the 2021 rookie class came in OTAs and minicamps tells us a lot.
Carr said: “Yes, yes, absolutely. I think that if you could stand up here and give that answer yourself, you answered it perfectly. The OTAs and all of that, they’re definitely ahead because of the fact that they actually get to go on the field and do it with coaches and with the demand and with the veterans there with them and all of that kind of stuff. I absolutely think this class is ahead. That doesn’t say that they (last year’s class) wasn’t doing a good job, but I think it’s across the whole NFL that as a whole, the NFL rookies this year are going to be more ahead than the rookies last year. That’s exciting for us because a lot of those guys we’re going to count on to make big plays for us.”
Sports Illustrated’s Raider Maven has said that we expect every 2021 NFL Draft pick to make this team, and we stand by it.
Speaking of captains, it won’t happen in 2021, but I am laying it out here on the record right now. Maxx Crosby WILL BE a captain of the Raiders one day, and not just for one season.
One of the most honest moments of day two was when Carr said about Darren Waller what every person feels.
The Raiders unquestioned leader said of Waller: “We have a guy in Darren Waller. If you’re calling the plays, it’s hard to not call his number every time.”
Last year with the COVID restrictions, Carr wasn’t able to develop chemistry with Henry Ruggs. That is changing, and Carr can’t hide his excitement for his sophomore speedster from Alabama.
“It’s exciting. I think everyone has seen him, he looks bigger. Hopefully I get him to roll his sleeves up a little bit and show his guns off. You can tell the mindset was I’m going to go work to be better at what I think I need to be better at. When he showed back up, the violence in which he was running his routes with, the speed he was coming off the ball with made you go: ‘OK!’ You could feel it, as Mr. Mayock would say, you can feel his speed. You could feel his presence. I think the more he gets comfortable in this offense. He’s definitely comfortable around me. He’s comfortable around the rest of the team. He’s hugging them, joking with them. Those are all good signs. I wish everyone could catch 100 balls, I really do. But again, it’s hard to take some away from Darren when he’s been so productive and good for us. If Darren had ‘WR’ next to his name in the depth chart, no one would care. The fact that it’s a tight end it’s:, ‘Well why don’t we…’ It just is what it is. If Henry can show when we put the pads on and all of that, which I’m fully confident that he will, then yeah, absolutely. I can see that happening.”
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