We are officially one week into training camp and now just hours away from the first preseason game against the Detroit Lions. Raider Nation is extremely excited to see the team take the field after what was a very eventful and enlightening first week of camp.
Training camp practices are certainly important, but in the end, the most important factor will be game performance. Keep that in mind as we look at five key takeaways from the first week of training camp.
Jon Gruden Really Does Worry NFL Coaches
One of the most interesting quotes to come from this week’s practices came from Lions’ head coach Matt Patricia. As the defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, he had long conversations with Gruden during pre-production meetings on the run-up to Monday Night Football games. These meetings were in-depth enough to prompt him to say the following:
“…in some of the meetings that we’ve had and the games that he’s done and being able to just come in and talk football. He loves football, love to talk football. It was always good fro me to go into those meeting- he’s gonna have a little bit of an advantage on me here- going into those meetings and breaking down defense in particular when I was at New England.” – (Matt Schneidman of Bay Area News Group).
This was a hotly contested point during the off-season, whether or not Gruden’s time as a commentator would help or hurt him. In this case, it’s clear to me that coaches spoke to him on a very deep level about what they were doing on the field. If this is the case then Gruden could very well have developed a very modern approach to his basic fundamental beliefs on football.
Arden Key Could Be The Next Dwight Freeney
For those who remember those Peyton Manning-led Colt teams of the forgotten early 2000s, Dwight Freeney was a dominant edge rusher that made tackles look foolish. His primary weapon of choice was a wicked spin move in space. We see spin moves in the NFL especially when the pass rusher is engaged with the offensive lineman, but Freeney’s spin started before the blocker got his hands on him.
Arden Key has been using a very similar style of spin move and has been making guys look foolish. His list of victims includes Kolton Miller, Brandon Parker, and most notably Keleche Osemele. Key fell to round three due to his off-field issues but his talent was never under dispute. He has had several quotes this off-season discussing how he has changed his life while Bruce Irvin has seemingly taken him under his wing. If this is the case and Key keeps himself on track, the Raiders could have seriously hit the jackpot.
Chris Warren Is The Sneaky Pick for RB # 3
Jarrad Davis, the middle linebacker for the Detroit Lions, got turned into a human helicopter by Chris Warren. The undrafted running back from Texas was in with the first-team offense during 11 v 11 drills. His first play in he got taken down quickly and received an ear full by coach Gruden for keeping his pads too high. On the very next play he got low as he entered the hole just as Jarrad Davis did, and Davis went flying.
This entire roster has clear prototypes at each position. Running back was one of the harder positions to define because of the smaller players drafted by Reggie McKenzie in past years. With the addition of Warren, we can see him as a clear backup to Marshawn Lynch since they are so similar. By default, this would make Doug Martin the change of pace back. To compare it to past Gruden models, this would be the Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley backfield inverted.
Reggie Nelson Is Getting Passed Up At Safety
Early camp depth charts are usually nonsense. That said, the Raiders released their first depth chart which had several oddities. Going beyond the lack of labeling nickel defenders which will be on the field more than a third linebacker, or identifying slot receivers, this depth chart labeled Marcus Gilchrist as a starting safety.
Yes, Gilchrist has been practicing as the primary slot defender when in nickel and in recent practices there have been some injuries at safety. This allowed for Obi Melifonwu to see some starting reps at safety which ended up turning some heads. Sadly he saw his hip injury flare up which caused him to miss the last two practices. In his stead, Erik Harris who was getting reps with the starters before Melifonwu, had back to back fantastic showings and is earning real buzz as the starting strong safety.
As disappointing as it would be for Melifonwu to not be the starting strong safety if Harris is in that spot this team is much better off than with Nelson. Moreover, with Harris as the starter, one can see the physical stature and skill set that Guenther desires from the position. Rather than have an ideal fit as a starter and a not ideal backup, the Raiders would have consistency in both their starter and their backup.
KISS for Martavis
Gruden has had a habit this offseason of calling out different players. First, it was second-year players Conley and Melifonwu, and now it has been Martavis Bryant. During the 2018 NFL draft, the Raiders traded a third-round pick for the often troubled receiver which seemingly changed his life. This off-season he had been making impressive one-handed catches and impressing with his athleticism.
Recently Gruden stated that Bryant is not learning the playbook fast enough even though he has a “great” skill set. Bryant is not the kind of wide receiver that will make his mark running a bunch of routes. He should be running four routes and focus on the threat of the deep play. That alone opens up huge spaces for more precise route runners such as Cooper, Nelson, and Switzer. This very well could be an old-school technique to motivate the players he has high expectations for, but for the betterment of everyone just KISS for Martavis. KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.
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