Although yesterday was an off-day for the boys in Silver & Black, I thought I’d update on how Days 2 & 3 went in Napa Valley, the Raiders transitioning from drills to pads over those days. I will include a few photos throughout, kindly provided from the Raiders.com photo gallery and were all taken by wonderful team photographer, Tony Gonzales. Even though not living in California and being able to attend these training camp practices myself isn’t beneficial to me, Tony makes it feel like I was there live every day.
Day 2 (07/31):
All offense seemed to be the major focus on Day 1, but on Tuesday Dennis Allen’s priority shifted to the defense, the side of the ball that struggled the most in 2011. The Raiders hit the field at 8:50am PST again, and you could say it was the right timeline Allen had in mind: the pads were about to go on the day after and the defense takes the majority of the pummeling throughout the season. The two players that stood out the most, from what I had read and saw was tweeted about the most, were second-year CB DeMarcus Van Dyke and SS Mike Mitchell, both making defensive plays of the day.
Before I get to some comments about those two, a recap on the injury situation first. The same players sitting out on Day 1 also sat out on Day 2: Lechler, Bartell, Ivey and Curry. On Day 2, Lechler and Bartell were actually added to the active NFI list, which is the equivalent to the PUP list that Curry is on right now.
But during and after Tuesday’s practice, two more injuries were reported. @VicTafur from the San Francisco Chronicle explained:
Doesn’t sound like anything major for either player, but it is important to note, being only about a month away from the regular season. It will continue to be watched closely, I’m sure.
Regarding DeMarcus Van Dyke (as I’m going to refer to as “DVD” from here on out), his performance in training camp thus far seems to be blossoming, a good sign for Raiders fans after watching him falter in 2011. In the four starts he had before being phased out of the defensive scheme last year, DVD struggled a lot with dropping and maintaining clear interceptions – so far, it sounds as though DVD has been making huge strides towards improvement.
The following is a quote about DVD from a Bleacher Report article Chris Hansen wrote about the Raiders D yesterday. Chris is the owner of RaidersBlog.com, AFC West Lead Blogger on Bleacher Report. He’s one of my favourite Raiders bloggers in general. Hansen does not report professionally, but has been in attendance and live-tweeted since training camp started on Monday. I highly respect his writing talent and the love/knowledge he has for the game of football – you will definitely see his name again on my blog in the future. From the outside looking in, he knows football and knows this team. Follow him: @RaidersBlog. And yes, this is a shameless plug.
The new defense is helping Van Dyke make the most of his opportunity with the starters. Van Dyke has been breaking on the ball and has broken up several pass breakups in coverage, with his only failure being a dropped interception opportunity on Day 1. Van Dyke has been blanketing receivers and tight ends in coverage for two days and receptions have been hard to come by against Van Dyke, which could explain the quiet start to camp from Denarius Moore.
Also, DVD’s progression in real-time at practice on Tuesday (remember to read from the bottom up):
A quick blurb about Mike Mitchell now, since not a whole lot has been said/reported about him. A lot of fans believe that Mitchell’s SS position on first-team defense is in jeopardy, but not if he keeps doing this:
By the sounds of things, it looks like he is making improvements, which is what Coach Allen has said on numerous occasions that he is looking to see throughout camp. Again, it was only Day 2, but that is a statement play. Criner has been highlighted, starred, asterisked (whatever you’d like to call it) since being drafted in April, and if he can hang with this fast ball of rookie fury, I’d say it’s a plus.
Important to note (and what I find worth mentioning) from Day 2 on special teams: Rookie P Marquette King launches a bomb with 5.2 seconds worth of hang-time. Also, veteran K Sebastian Janikowski shows off what he does best:
Day 3 (08/01):
Right off the bat, the first tweets I saw were regarding second-year WR Denarius Moore, who was sitting out of practice. Apparently Moore has a hamstring strain that has been lingering since mini-camp back in June, and due to soreness and as a precaution, he was held back on Wednesday. After fellow WR Jacoby Ford had a scare with his left knee the first day on Monday, I’m sure seeing the lack of participation by Moore made a few people wince. Up to this point, Moore has been impressing in camp and the coaches made the right call on this, I believe – better not to test it, just rest it.
What Raiders fans alike were talking about today, though, involved RB Darren McFadden “welcoming” rookie LB Miles Burris into the NFL. I cannot be sure if the picture I’ve posted here of McFadden taking a hand-off was previous to him slamming straight through Burris or not, but everyone’s reaction seemed to be the same: it was a wake-up call. According to Paul Gutierrez’s recap of Day 3 in training camp, Burris was asked what he thought of the contact and called McFadden a “specimen”. Nothing like opening up a rookie’s eyes to how physical and fast the NFL really is than by getting your bell rung. I wish I had seen this in person!
In other news, what fan goes into training camp without wagering on who gets into the first fight? I was thinking it might have been a defensive lineman vs. an offensive lineman, like Little Wiz vs. Tommy Kelly for instance, but I didn’t expect it to be these two players that got the media whispering.
I didn’t get any details on what the scuffle was about, but apparently SS Tyvon Branch and WR Thomas Mayo had a few shoves for one another after a play. Reportedly, a punch was thrown! Branch was asked after practice what it was about, but dismissed any negative connotations, “Just a little camp squabble. Nothing major” he told the media.
In the Raiders’ photo gallery, you will also find a beauty of a catch Mayo is in the midst of plucking out of thin air, S Chaz Powell in toe. Nothing negative has been said about the WR thus far, that I have read anyway. I can appreciate, however, Powell playing close man-to-man, something I thought was severely lacking in certain situations last season.
As for honourable mentions on this hard day of work: Rookie DE Jack Crawford turned heads with how fast he blew through the offensive line a few times. A couple of sacks would have been chalked up if tackling were permitted, according to on-lookers. Also, Mike Goodson returned to the field after coming off in Day 2 with a tweaked hamstring – seems fine now.
Again, before I wrap this up, I’d like to mention again how refreshing it is to hear about Dennis Allen’s coaching style, in which he is commanding the respect of both the coaching staff and players. In an interview with Vic Tafur for the San Francisco Chronicle, veteran DT Tommy Kelly was asked if there was any comparison between the work ethic expected this year under a new reign than in previous years:
TK: By faaaaaarrrrr. He ain’t wasting no time cracking the whip. I came into camp in good shape so I’m fine; it’s just that going from the shirts and skins to pads is a different animal. But I came out pretty good today so I am fine.
(We believe you, Tommy)
VT: New defense is coming along fine?
TK: Yeah, Coach Tarver and DA are good at explaining (stuff) and they make sure that before we leave the room that everybody is on the same page. Ain’t no gray area, ain’t no “we’ll get there,” no; it’s make sure before we leave this room that everybody knows exactly what you’re supposed to be doing on every check, on every read, anything. They are very, very, very detailed.
Hmm, a coach that cracks the whip? Oakland hasn’t seen this from a head coach in quite some time, probably since Jon Gruden off the top of my head. Dennis Allen may look like a skinny harmless guy, but I’m happy to know that it’s only the cover of a hard-ass, slave-driving book filled with expectation. I can’t even recall the last coach to say that he had expectations or had actually addressed and fixed any concerns on either side of the ball, so I’m all for this and wherever it is leading.
Now, I shall leave you with some goofy pictures that made me smile from Day 3.
The Raiders will resume with training at 2:20pm PST today.