Training Camp Report: Day Nine

Sports Illustrated's Raider Maven takes you inside the Las Vegas Raiders training camp with the latest inside information from the NFL's elite franchise.

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.

  • The 2019 NFL Draft class for the Raiders is truly shining this camp.
  • The 2021 NFL Draft class is standing out. There are going to be several players who wear Silver and Black for a long time.
  • Safety Trevon Moehrig is already playing like a seasoned veteran.
  • To have picked Moehrig in the second round was a complete steal.
  • Tackle Alex Leatherwood already is playing like a seasoned vet.
  • Moehrig and Leatherwood have superstar written all over them.
  • Derek Carr likes what he sees from his offensive line. "They've been really good," Carr said. "They are going to get tested. Obviously, people are going to test our rookie out and they are going to try to do those things, but we're all about competing and we're all about the next play. So, obviously, he's a rookie. Obviously, there's some new guys. If they mess up one rep, they are so awesome that the next play they'll go maul somebody, and that's football, though. So, as long as we can keep that mentality and just keep getting better. It's so cliché, but like you watch the film, you know what you have to do the next day better. As long as we keep doing that and they keep doing that, I can't wait to see what it turns in to."
  • Carr specifically addressed what he has seen from his line now that the pads are on.
  • "It's very physical. [Defensive line] coach [Rod] Marinelli and [offensive line] coach [Tom] Cable sat down and were like, 'Hey man, we're going to make this thing physical. We're going to grind and it's going to suck.' That's what training camp is about, it should suck a little bit. You should have to make that decision to have to grind it out. You can definitely feel that energy in the pocket. You can definitely feel it. It's a live rush until they're about a step away from me and then they back off. They are moving. I even had a guy run into me and I thought [Head] Coach [Jon] Gruden was going to lose his mind. What that tells me is those guys are competing. Those pockets I'm having to move and play football, and that's good for everybody. You have to be able to throw balls when you're moving and all that. That shows me that everyone is getting after it. When you watch film, it's never, maybe 80 percent of the time, you have to move a little bit. The footwork is a little different. It's not just 7-on-7 every time. They're competing their tails off, but they're doing better. Obviously, there's always little details and mistakes, but that's everybody, that's me included. You learn from it. You're like, 'OK, next time I get that rep, I pass it off like this, or this step. Or I stay on his inside shoulder pad, whatever.' From what I've seen so far, they've looked very good."
  • Many people forget that while serving as the quarterback, Derek Carr is also the captain. While facing rookie Trevon Moehrig is difficult because of his talent, Carr is thrilled to have him on defense.
  • "I think the impressive thing with a rookie safety, usually you can just throw whatever route you want. I usually call them I-whatever number they are. I-25, Interstate 25. Pick whatever route you want. And this guy can actually cover, so it's impressive. Especially Hunter [Renfrow], that guy doesn't get covered. God bless Moehrig, the next day we go out there and he has to cover Hunter. He doesn't like to get beaten twice. So, when he lines up and accepts that challenge, that's a mismatch for the defense. A safety on a slot receiver, but he lined up and accepted that challenge and made the play. Like that's in the back of the end zone and I tried to put it out there, and he said. 'No. not this time.' And that excites me as a quarterback because I want him to do that to [Patrick] Mahomes. I want him to break passes up and I think that will be a good thing for everybody."
  • Carr has had to run some this camp.
  • Is that because the defense is improved, Derek? "Absolutely. It's competitive now. These are live game reps, so I'm trying to give credit to what they are doing. These are tough reps. Every rep is a mental gymnastics. Every rep is tight coverage. It's competitive, and so that's only making us better as an offense. And it's definitely making the defense better with all the weapons we have. We roll the ones out there; we got these weapons. We roll our twos out there, we roll our threes out there, there are still guys who have caught touchdowns in the NFL, caught balls from me in games in the threes. So, it's super competitive. Guys like Casey Hayward, Yannick [Ngakoue]; those guys that we added, even [Nick] Kwiatkoski we added last year, you see these veterans leading and pushing that competitiveness and it's really a beautiful thing man. It excites me. I'm trying to stay here, but it's exciting to watch."
  • We have reported before about Jon Gruden's 2021 mantra of "All or Nothing." So what does that mean to Carr? "The demand for us, no matter what he says right here, there has been one demand and that's holding up that Lombardi Trophy. Period. That's all I care about, is holding that trophy up, and holding that trophy up here. I think we can all agree it will be a special, special thing to do here. Bringing that thing back here, we've seen the three trophies every time we walk in, and I stare at them all the time. I can't imagine anything cooler than that in football. And so, the demand is excellence that we would hold that trophy up, period. And to do that we have to every day do the hard work and grind and push. Effort, it's not just 10 yards effort. You see our receivers, now you are seeing guys catch the ball and dudes on the backside finish with them. And you're like: 'Yes, that's championship level effort.' And it's not just from the receivers; I watched [Johnathan] Hankins the other day, I handed a ball off and I turned around and Hankins stopped, put his foot in the ground and beat two guys to the football. That's the biggest man on our team, and I told him, 'That right there is going to win us a Super Bowl.' And I think it's that day-to-day grind that gets us to that end goal of what he expects."
  • While it has drawn some intense criticism, I stand by my comments that the Raiders have the most profound set of wide receivers in the National Football League. Carr is blessed with a fantastic diversity of talent, and it makes the Raiders signal-caller better.
  • "So, then you put in all the different kinds of receivers, it's like Gruden is going to get what Gruden wants. He wanted guys at the skill positions that when he thinks of a play, that's the guy that who can do that. And he's got exactly what he wants so then he can freely call plays and I can freely just read them out. I'm never just going to say, 'Here's [Darren] Waller, I'm going to jam this in.' If it's not the look, or not the match-up, then I'm not going to do that; and it allows me to freely play quarterback. It's that amount of versatility, but they're all unselfish. I understand and I've been around where guys are like getting mad at coaches, 'Give me the ball,' because they think if it's in their hands they can win. And that's a hard way to play quarterback, honestly. We talk about it all the time, that's hard because you're like, 'Man, I want to force it to him,' and then that's when mistakes happen. So, these guys are all unselfish. Darren Waller is the most unselfish superstar I've ever been around and I'm very excited about that for the other guys because he doesn't demand anything. He's going to run the route full speed regardless, whether he's a clear out or getting the ball. He wants Hunter [Renfrow] to have eight catches. He wants Kenyan to get 12 catches for 150 (yards) because then the next game they have to account for that and he's going to be open. So, I'm just really impressed, like you said in the versatility, but more impressed by the unselfishness that I can play quarterback and freely read plays out how they are designed to be read."
  • Carr loves his receivers, but he also likes the passing attack with all of his guys that join him in the backfield. "Can't forget about Jalen [Richard], he's caught about 50 choice routes for us. Josh [Jacobs] out of the backfield, you get the ball in that guy's hands anytime. There are so many check-downs that I throw to him that turn into 16-yard gains. Now you get Kenyan [Drake], he was a receiver. He can run those routes. And Alec Ingold, he's making plays down the field and things like that."
  • Wide receiver Henry Ruggs has been a different player this training camp. He and fellow wide receiver Bryan Edwards did not have good rookie seasons, but for excellent reasons.
  • Many of the routes are based on timing for receivers in a west-coast system like the Raiders run.
  • Ruggs and Edwards got no OTAs or mini-camps last year and a very limited preseason. Their struggles were germane when you actually understand football and the Raiders system.
  • People who are perennially unhappy like to point to other rookie wide-receivers who had good years show their football ignorance when they don't understand those players played in entirely different systems.
  • Carr is thrilled with Ruggs and what he is getting out of his second-year Alabama teammate. "I have a perfect example for you, great conversation. Last year it was like, he's a very good receiver at communicating. He always comes to me. Even if he doesn't get the ball, he's like, 'Hey, they played this route like this, I think I can.' He's good like that now. Last year it was more like, 'Hey, what'd you think?' He was trying to get my opinion because he's new and he's young, those things. I'd tell him like, 'Yeah, release like this,' all that kind of stuff. Now, yesterday, he's like, he comes up to me and is like, 'Hey, next time you give me that look, I'm going to set him up. Throw him by, snap across his face and I'll be there for you.' And as a quarterback you're like, 'Yes.' So now when I drop back, I got that look today actually, got that look and he did exactly what he said. It was a big play. When he's doing that, it shows me one, that he's confident, shows me too that mentally he understands what the coverage is because our defense is really tough. They show the same look and play something else. For him to understand, 'Oh, here it is. This is that look,' and do the right thing, it shows me that he's getting it. It's good."
  • Despite the foolish click-bait nation media ignorance, Carr is comfortable in his own skin now. He has a boss in Gruden, and he knows what he wants.
  • For Carr, this isn't about him; it's about his beloved Raiders.
  • He said of growing into his comfort zone, "I remember waking up, like the night before every practice I'd be stressed out. Because in my head I'm just so hard on myself. I'm just thinking about everything like, 'I got to do that right. I'm checking my notes, got to do that. I wrote this down, got to fix that.' Now, it's just so free. I have young guys calling me OG and I'm like, 'Dude, I'm only 30 years old.' But I forget we have a young team and I've been here a while. I think now, just the demand of excellence. It's been four years, which is crazy that it's gone that fast, but it's been four years of him (Coach Gruden) just demanding, demanding, demanding to where I wake up every morning and I just expect it. We missed one ball yesterday and I honestly felt like I missed eight. I went home and I was like, 'Golly, I can't stop replaying that play.' But the stress isn't there when I wake up in the morning, the anxiety. That's also different too because back then you were trying to make an impression. With all the coaching changes that we've had, it was always trying to impress the next staff. Trying to impress the new guys and all those kinds of things. Once I got away from trying to impress everybody else and I just got comfortable with being me, honestly, that's when I've played my best. Hopefully I can play better this year and it'll work out that way, too."
  • One of Carr's unique things is that he may be the biggest Marcus Mariota fan on the Raiders team. He wants to win, and if finding creative ways to use his Hawaiian counterpart helps that goal, he is all in.
  • "Yeah, he's so fast. Like you saw with [Drew] Brees and Taysom [Hill], when you have weapons like that then once he touches the field once, people have to put that on a card and practice against it among the thousand of other things that we do. Trust me, I've been begging to put him out there so I can catch a touchdown. Me and Marcus, every time he goes out there and I go to receiver I'll tell Marcus, 'Bro. Just one time throw it to me. Don't worry about Gru, I'll talk to him.' But I love it, and I love Marcus. He's awesome. Like I said, I told him the other day, I said, 'I think you run a 4.3 now.' Like, I think he's faster than what he was after he broke his ankle, which we did the same day. But I love it, the guy works his tail off. He's been one of the best teammates I've ever had and like when he went in that game and played so well, I gave him a hug and I told him how happy I was for him because obviously we knew what he went through the year before. So, anytime we can score touchdowns, I don't care how we do it. Trust me; I'm just trying to hold that trophy up."
  • The Raiders have had three players retire this camp. A lot of people are trying to make something of it. There isn't. Sam Young Theo Riddick and James Onwualu have retired. Young was the only one I had projected to make the 53-man roster. While that is a lot of guys, the Raiders are considerably more talented this year.
  • Some are making a big deal of it because the Raiders have lost a bevy of front office/management folks. Again, not a very big deal.
  • Please keep it on the field, don't get distracted. I had reported previously that I had heard of changes were coming after the draft, and we are seeing that.

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