Sharp Raiders exuding camp confidence
NAPA — Coming off a day of rest, the Oakland Raiders showed some rust that coach Dennis Allen wasn’t fond of. But that didn’t overshadow the many positives.
Though it’s only the second week of camp and the third day of padded practice, the Raiders displayed signs of life that aren’t typical of teams with just eight wins over two seasons.
Most notably, veteran additions Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley and others have rejuvenated the team on both sides of the ball.
Matt Schaub took every bit of control you’d expect of a 10-year NFL veteran, and Woodley might as well roast marshmallows in the backfield after making it his home for the day.
Woodley was certainly the day’s MVP, exploding past tackle and guard, almost like the infamous Jadaveon Clowney hit.
Woodley did not make full contact with the runner — who had the ball for less than one second when he tagged him down — but that’s certainly a good thing.
Woodley is a mammoth human being. There are not many other ways to describe him well, and television cameras and his 6-foot-2 listed height don’t do him justice.
According to him, he’s the same size as when he left the Pittsburgh Steelers, though he was bigger than they would have liked.
Woodley explained that the size fit better for a defensive end, not the outside linebacker position that he played in Mike Tomlin’s defense:
“Everything is the same to me. Just in this defense, I don’t drop back as much. Playing defensive end, you rush more. Playing outside linebacker, everything was the same as far as playing against the run, rushing the quarterback, gap responsibility. But you were asked to cover receivers and tight ends and get into the flat a little bit more.”
The versatility should come in handy for the team, particularly against the run. Woodley, while extremely large, has agility not common at the end position.
He can burst outside into the flat, the area adjacent to either side of the quarterback, and either play man against a running back, or hold a more mobile quarterback in the pocket. His game tape holds that to be true, as does his practices thus far.
Woodley, though, contends that defensive end plays to his strengths more than outside linebacker. Every Raiders fan in attendance for Wednesday’s practice would certainly agree.
But he wasn’t the only one out there dictating the tempo.
Schaub, or “Schaubie,” as he’s quickly becoming known, saw every open route and threw to the receiver with the best positioning to gain extra yardage.
It’s becoming evident with every passing day that Schaub may be the quarterback that the Raiders have needed for the last 10 years. Practice, though, is just that. It’s not a game scenario, and fewer bullets are flying.
Game action is still the ultimate test, and the coaching staff remains fervent that Schaub is their man. He’s the player the coaches have been willing to commit to as an opening day starter.
Receiver Brice Butler is one of several 2013 Raiders who is fighting for a roster spot this season. The common theme among these players is that they’re supportive of the coaches’ decision to ramp up competition, but that they’re also just competing against themselves.
“We got a little more competition in the receiver group this year, so for me, every day is just come out here and go to work. There’s no lazy days because we have a really good group of guys.”
Butler is one of the players who talked about competing against his self, and after being a seventh-round pick, he’s used to having to do a little more to stay with the team.
Some bigger names, though, seem far from locks to make the team.
Cornerback Carlos Rogers continues to look inconsistent and just plain out-matched. After showing up to organized team activities with a noticeable belly, he has failed to keep pace with the younger, bigger, and more agile receivers on Oakland’s roster.
The Raiders were one of the only teams who inquired about Rogers’ services, and he may be participating in his final practices.
Rookie guard Gabe Jackson and second year offensive tackle Menelik Watson have been underwhelming, though neither are in danger of being cut. Neither will be cut, in fact.
Jackson and Watson were two players responsible for letting Woodley loose in the backfield, though it might just be a testament to Woodley’s incredible strength.
When going one-on-one with rookie linebacker Khalil Mack, Watson held his own just fine, and the scrimmage plays went for positive yards.
The receiver group is the deepest it has been in years. James Jones, Rod Streater and Denarius Moore are the only ones who appear safe. That’s not saying anything bad about others, though, which has got to be nice for Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie.
Players who began practice but did not finish are tackle Austin Howard and defensive tackle Antonio Smith. Wide receiver Greg Little did not practice, and defensive tackle Stacy McGee, along with defensive end C.J. Wilson remain on the physically unable to perform list.