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Raiders training camp day 5 wrap: Mario Edwards back ‘ready to play’, defense finally steps up

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After a day off from training camp practices, the Raiders were back at it today. Often times after days off, players return from injuries. And right away, there were several pieces of good news for the Raiders with Mario Edwards Jr and Bruce Irvin coming off the NFL list, and Amari Cooper returning after missing Tuesday’s practice.

Edwards’s absence has been especially disappointing considering the high hopes the team has that hinge on him providing some interior pass rush and run support. It’s also disappointing because of all the injury problems Edwards has had over his young NFL career.

“Staying healthy is pretty big for me,” said Edwards. “But I’m back so I’m ready to play.”

Despite this missed time, Edwards says he was never very frustrated by not being out there, adding that the main thing he missed was the comradery with his teammates.

“Not too frustrating,” Edwards continued. “I knew I wasn’t going before I got here. So, I was just going with the process and doing what I need to do to get back 100% ready.”

He and Irvin returning is key to the team preparing for the season from here on out.

We’ve been waiting for the defense as whole to show up and make some plays in Raiders camp. Through the first four days, it had been mostly the offense doing its thing while the defense would only make a few plays here and there. That wait ended today with the defense finally showing its teeth a little bit.

“Training camp, you’re gonna have one side or the other [step up],” Del Rio said after practice. “The Raiders are going to be good either way, we’ve got an offense that’s probably ahead of cohesiveness and healthy players out there, but I think our defense is gonna be pretty good this year. I think you’re seeing some of those signs. A lot of positive in between.”

There were early signs the defense was going to show up more than they had the first few days. On the first play in team drills, cornerback TJ Carrie beat Johnny Holton to his spot on his route deep down the left sideline, forcing Holton to turn defender and bat the ball down to keep it from being picked.

There were a couple picks on the day — both thrown by Derek Carr. The first was Carr throwing for Michael Crabtree over the middle, but Amerson cut off the route and Carr threw it right into his gut. Later a deep shot from Carr to the back right corner of the end zone saw Dexter McDonald sky for the interception.

Notes:

  • Edwards, Irvin, and Cooper were the only returning players. Though getting three key starters back is no small thing.
  • Not practicing today for the first time was linebacker Jelani Jenkins. Still not practicing was defensive end Fadol Brown.
  • Still on NFI are LB Ben Heeney and TE Cooper Helfet.
  • Still on PUP are CB Gareon Conley, C Jon Feliciano, and DE Jihad Ward.
  • Catch of the Day: What started as a nice diving pass defended by linebacker Nicholas Morrow on an EJ Manuel pass, turned into a great catch by Jaydon Mickens. The speedy slot receiver showed great concentration and awareness to catch the ball off the deflection and shoot upfield.
  • Defensive play of the day: That Dexter McDonald interception was impressive. He climbed the ladder on the Derek Carr deep ball in the back right corner of the end zone. Dex has looked pretty good overall this camp. The 2015 7th round pick is definitely making a case to stick around again this year.
  • It was also the first day of blocking/pass rush drills (my favorite). The next few notes are from those drills:
  • Khalil Mack baited Vadal Alexander outside then put a nasty swim move on him cut inside. He has set Alexander up for that on the previous rush. Every rush from Mack is like watching a master class.
  • After Gabe Jackson stonewalled Eddie Vanderdoes twice, Vanderdoes put on his favorite spin move (the same one from this video) on Jackson and it worked to get Jackson turned around. Though I don’t foresee that move working on Jackson again now that he knows it’s coming.
  • Others to get pressure were James Cowser on David Sharpe (though Sharpe had gotten hurt a bit earlier and was still a bit gimpy from it), Chris Casher on Jylan Ware, and Paul Boyette on Denver Kirkland.
  • Trench hero: Rodney Hudson. He was blocking Justin Ellis up the middle. The first time he locked him up on the bull rush. The second time Hudson used Ellis’s weight and momentum against him and pancaked him right onto his face.
  • Derek Carr wasn’t as sharp today as he has been. The two interceptions are certainly evidence of that. But he did have a couple nice throws.
  • Jamize Olawale took a wheel route out right and left Xavier Woodson-Luster in the dust. Carr saw him as he was breaking open and threw him the ball and he trotted in for the long touchdown.
  • Amari Cooper was back and suffering no ill effects from being banged up earlier this week. He ran a cross all the way from right to left, getting separation on David Amerson.
  • There were a few drops. Tight ends Gabe Holmes and Ryan O’Malley both had drops one right after the other. KJ Brent had a drop on a Manuel pass and Marshawn Lynch had a concentration drop on a dump pass, taking his eyes off the ball before it got there.