Most rookies come in as developmental projects. It’s no crime for a rookie to get his ass handed to him a few times. Hell, it’s expected. What we want to see is how he responds and what that motivates him to do. It’s a little bit troublesome to see a player end the season as pretty much the same player he was at the beginning.
Arguably the biggest single moment by a Raiders rookie so far this season was made by Eddie Vanderdoes (Gareon Conley’s double-tap pass defense was pretty awesome, also). In Week 1 against the Titans, Vanderdoes unloaded on Titans’ All Pro right tackle Jack Conklin and hurled him onto his backside.
That moment stands out for Vanderdoes, but it wasn’t his only impressive moment. He spent a great deal of time that day showing off his Hulkish strength and manhandling Titans’ linemen, flashing talent and skills that made Raider Nation perk up and take notice. ‘Oh, I guess THAT’S what Reggie McKenzie saw in him!’
Here Titans’ right guard Josh Kline tries to block him and gets knocked sideways for his trouble.
On the other hand, on several of Vanderdoes’s week 1 plays, we saw indications of his inexperience. Too often he was overly focused on attacking and beating the man in front of him and lost track of where the ball was actually going. In the above play, notice that after the Eddie beats Kline, and then looks around to try to find the ball.
Against the Titans, the third round rookie had exclusively single blocks. The Jets took notice of his tape and made some adjustments for their week two match-up.
In his home debut in week two the Northern California native would face numerous double teams, particularly when the Jets decided to run from 11 Personnel groups (3 WR’s). Vanderdoes did not fare well at all.
It was a long and difficult day for him. He certainly has the frame and enough power to hold up against NFL double teams, but he just was not prepared and/or aware of how to deal with them.
What a difference a couple of weeks makes.
One of the bright spots of the Denver game was seeing this from the young defensive tackle:
That’s Ron Leary formerly of the Dallas Cowboys stout group who is a big and powerful man and a very good center in Matt Paradis. Vanderdoes comes off the ball and instead of letting the double team come to him, he attacks and strikes out at them, gets great hand placement and a nice lift on Leary.
Eddie takes on the double, keeps his linebackers clean, and establishes a hard line of scrimmage. It’s a beautiful move and even moreso because we see that this was a direct result of his effort to improve.
He also showed improvement in another area :
In week 1, Vanderdoes lost track of the ball, but on this play he plays the runner the entire time.
He stacks Ron Leary while eyeing the runner. When the runner approaches, Vanderdoes sheds Leary by rag-dolling him aside. Marquel Lee shoots the gap and makes the tackle, but Eddie was there also, ready for a TFL.
It’s only been 4 weeks and by no means is Vanderdoes finished growing up. But what we have seen is that he is taking to coaching, putting in the work, and the results are showing up on film. It’s exciting to see and bodes well for the future.
Keep an eye on this young man and watch how he grows. He has a chance to be a disruptive mainstay on the interior.