Saturday’s training camp practice was the first time since the Raiders selected Eddie Vanderdoes in the third round of the draft that he was able to take the field with the Raiders veterans. Prior to that the only contact he had was the rookie minicamp and the pre-camp warmup.
That’s because of NFL rules that state seniors must finish their studies before they can join their squads. And with UCLA on a quarter system, those studies didn’t complete until mid-June which was when the Raiders’ offseason practices ended.
This was something Vanderdoes was prepared for. He spoke with several of his former UCLA teammates who had gone through the same thing and took it in stride.
Even still, can you imagine the excitement of being drafted into the NFL and then having to watch from afar as you were unable to join that squad for nearly three months?
“I was chomping at the bit to get out there with the guys,” said Vanderdoes after his second training camp practice, “and seeing the media with all the pictures of the guys and stuff, like some of the videos and stuff and yeah of course I want to be out there. Obviously you want to be out there, get your comradery with the vets and all that.”
Aside from just the urge to join his new teammates, there’s the issue of getting off and running and acclimated to the NFL. The rest of the Raiders rookies had the advantage of going through 3 sets of OTA’s and minicamp. So Vanderdoes had to soak up what he could, however he could to help prepare for the real thing.
“I made the most of it,” he said. “Everything’s there. You just sync the information for each practice so I was able to watch the drills that they were doing, able to watch the practice they were doing, I was able to see the installs for that day, so I was able to look at the plays a little bit to get used to seeing it and now I’m here now and it’s just getting used to the terminology and the meaning and why things are a certain way as far ‘why are we doing this, why are we doing that.’”
Over the first two days of camp, even with Mario Edwards Jr and Jihad Ward not practicing, it has been fellow rookie 7th round pick Treyvon Hester who has worked with the first team alongside third year defensive lineman Denico Autry. Vanderdoes has worked primarily with the second and third team as he gets up to speed from the missed time.
With the Raiders, Vanderdoes has the reigning Defensive Player of the Year from which to learn. And he isn’t about to squander that opportunity.
“I’m not scared to ask,” Vanderdoes said of seeking advice from Khalil Mack. “I know I’m a rookie by I’m not a shy person. If I feel like I have a question and I see him doing something or him teaching something, I’ll go up and I’ll be like ‘hey, can you watch me on this play’ and we’ll just talk about it, he’ll show me how he does it. I mean it should be a crime not to get information from guys like Khalil and Bruce Irvin. They’ve done it. Irvin’s done it for 6-7 years, Khalil obviously going into his fourth year, so they’re obviously doing something right, so I just try to use their advice.”
It’s in everyone’s best interest for Mack to spread his knowledge around and become better pass rushing team. Even if it’s far easier said than done.
“That’s the mindset,” said Mack of mentoring the young players. “That’s the most important thing they need to kind of understand. It’s everybody. It’s all four guys rushing the passer. It’s everybody being on the same page and everybody understanding rush lanes and all the different moves that you can use based on different scenarios and different situations. That’s what I feel like this year is going to be different for us, that inside pressure and yeah, we’re going to be screaming on the outside, me and Bruce, and it’s going to be special. I can’t wait.”
Vanderdoes was the first real attempt the Raiders made this offseason to upgrade the interior pass rush. The lack of it was the primary reason the Raiders had the fewest total sacks last season (25.0) in the league, despite getting 18.0 sacks from Mack and Irvin.
How much a part of that Vanderdoes is not yet known. Right now he’s playing catch up.