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.
- There are high expectations for safety Tyree Gillespie. The rookie is expected to compete early. There was some consternation with his injury. Something Jon Gruden put to bed quickly today. "He's doing fine. He'll probably be back in the next day or two. He just has a mild soft tissue problem."
- Tackle Sam Young retired today. That was a guy we thought would make the final 53-man roster. It also says a lot about the depth of this team, and how much things have changed since the 2020 season ended.
- Today was the first day in pads, and as I reported to you, rookie tackle Alex Leatherwood shined.
- One member of the Raider family said it best to me: "He looks like a fifth-year All Pro."
- The 2019 NFL Draft class for the Raiders is entering year two now, and they are starting to take over the leadership of this team. Something that impresses their coach.
- "I hope so. I mean they're the oldest guys on our team now, the third-year veterans. Maxx Crosby and [Clelin] Ferrell and [Johnathan] Abram, we had great press conferences when they got here, and now is there time. We need them to all step up and not only play good but be leaders on this team. I'm encouraged by what they're saying. I'll be more encouraged when I see what they do."
- I have written previously about the emergence of linebacker Tanner Muse. He is getting plenty of reps with the ones and is healthy and finally able to show people the God-given skills that got him drafted. Jon Gruden discussed his play in camp.
- "Well, he's showing up in the base right now because he's showing up in the lineup. He hasn't won that spot yet. He's getting a good look. His speed and athleticism are what we think is conducive to that position, the OTTO position. So, he's doing some good things. We aren't in enough base to really see him yet, but that will continue to emerge as the next couple weeks unfold."
- There is a lot of concern around the league right now about the vaccine. The NFL is pushing for players to get it very hard.
- Many players are pushing back.
- I spoke with a current NFL player last night who told me: "I won't get it. It is experimental, I am not a guinea pig. My people have been used as that before."
- Now, this article is not political nor an attempt to sway anyone in any direction.
- But Raiders GM Mike Mayock has been vaccinated and still got COVID, something that Jon Gruden finds very concerning.
- "I think it's alarming to me because we have a vaccine, and you have the vaccine and get the COVID. You got a lot of people out there with expert analysis; the reality is you're never safe from this thing, so be careful and God bless Mike. When I talked to him, he seems to be doing pretty good. We sure miss him around here, his enthusiasm and his vibe is contagious in the building."
- Another player having a great camp is wide receiver, Hunter Renfrow. He is so consistent and makes it look so easy. Don't be concerned about him; he remains Derek Carr's safety blanket.
- Josh Jacobs, in his first two years in the league, has sent a message. In year three, he looks to go from the best young running back in the National Football League to THE BEST back in the National Football League.
- Gruden sees it the same way.
- "I think so, if he stays healthy. He got hurt on the second play of the game in Atlanta last year, missed the Jets game. Missed four games his rookie year, really. But if he can stay healthy and we continue to improve, we think so. We think we've got the makings of a good line, but we have that to prove also. Jacobs is the strength of this team, and we'll certainly keep relying on him."
- The Derek Carr to Henry Ruggs' connection continues to wow people.
- Henry Ruggs' speed is well documented, but with time to understand what Derek Carr wants, he is getting there, and Carr delivers the ball.
- Those two are going to have some memorable plays this year. Gruden raved about their connection.
- "Well, they made big plays last year in big moments. Kansas City, the Jets. At the end of the New Orleans game, the pass interference call won us that game. So, they're getting better. I think the big thing with Henry is he's out here, he's practicing, and he knows the offense. He anticipates what's going to be called now instead of reacting to what's called as he's lining up. We're seeing really good things from Ruggs and [Bryan] Edwards, really proud of them so far. And with [Darren] Waller out today, we changed the script a little bit and I was encouraged."
- On a side note, please remember all of the media who criticized Derek Carr for "a lack of arm strength," in the past. Just save this nugget.
- Gruden has been preaching "All or Nothing," to his players since last year ended. He was asked today to define what that means.
- "Same message as last year and every year. You got to go all out. I'm not going to get too deep and philosophical after the first day of pads, but we all got to be on the same page. We've got a great group of guys. The energy level is extreme, and we've got good veteran leadership on this team. I like the culture here better than any of the teams I've had in a long time or been a part of."
- Last week we reported how offensive coordinator Greg Olson had raved about the strength and conditioning of the Silver and Black. Gruden went even further today when bragging about the men that his staff sculpted for the 2021 Raiders.
- "Yeah. I think this facility, you give Mark Davis and the Raiders the credit. This is a facility we have not had and being in Las Vegas it's encouraging players, not that Oakland wasn't a place people wanted to live, but the tax situation is different. We've attracted more players to our offseason program. And A.J. Neibel, I wouldn't trade him for anybody. He and his staff, they do a great job. They service quarterbacks a lot differently than kickers, and kickers differently than guards. But to your point, if you don't see unbelievable gains in Foster Moreau and John Simpson, some of these guys; you haven't been studying them. They're really stronger, they're more athletic and they're more durable, and they can finish. They've got better stamina."
- There have only been two interceptions thrown in camp. Both of them by Marcus Mariota, and both of the picks were made by Nick Kwiatkoski.
- So coach, has Nick become a ballhawk?
- "Well, Marcus [Mariota], the only two interceptions we've thrown here. I think Marcus and Nick are roommates, I don't know what the deal is. Mariota was off to a great start yesterday and he looks like the galloping ghost out there, and then today he throws four incredible passes, and I think he and Nick are probably having a beer down at the Caesars Palace right now. I don't know what the hell that's all about. Nick is an instinctive player. When you're in zone coverage you are reading the quarterback and he telegraphed both of those throws, and it's really kept him away from having one helluva a camp. And he is having a good camp, but he could be having an outstanding camp had it not been for a couple of interceptions."
- I reported earlier this year: "I do not expect Maxx Crosby to be a captain this year. But, before is career is over, I expect him to be a multi-season captain for the Raiders."
- I have also reported that I expect him to have a monster year, now that teams must account for Yannick Ngakoue.
- Gruden earlier today discussed the maturation of Crosby. "Well, he leads our team in effort. He does. You are talking about a guy that's here in the offseason. I think he lived in the facility. My car is here, his car is here. I drive by the facility and his car is still here. He gets Ricky [Ng], our food expert, our nutritionist, helps him with his diet. He's incredible. He's in incredible shape. He can go all day, and I tried to wear him out today with a fourth quarter pass rush in the last drill and he's ready for the 15th round. He wants to keep fighting. I love him. I love the way he's working, and guys look up to him. And [Yannick] Ngakoue, that's his whole deal. He's a highly-conditioned freak; and I think Maxx and Yannick want to be there for four quarters."
- I just got off the phone with someone, and I asked them their initial impression of Alex Leatherwood.
- Their answer may shock you. "Speed, he is a very big human being and he can really move."
- As stated, Raider Nation did not hold the media accountable for who trashed the pick of tackle Kolton Miller. Please do the right thing and remember those who decried the selection of Leatherwood. Thank you.
- Lastly, many Raider alumni were back in town for practice today. Having many former greats back meant a lot to Gruden, the organization, and the players.
- Gruden said of having the former greats back: "Yeah, we wish we could interact with them more, but we don't clearly understand how much interaction we're allowed to have. I saw Charlie Garner for the first time in a long time. I had him in Philly, I had him in Oakland, and I had him in Tampa. One of my favorite players of all time. I haven't seen him since 2002 or whatever, but I don't know how much close interaction we can have. In the past we've had them in our meetings, we'd have them talk to our team. I don't believe we could go to that extent right now, but we'll try to honor them tonight in a function down at the stadium."
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