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Raiders training camp day three report: Pass rushers show off some skills in absence of Khalil Mack

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NFL: Oakland Raiders Rookie Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the highlights — at least for me — about the first day in pads is pass rush/blocking drills. With the Raiders top pass rusher not here, it was up to the remaining pass rushers to still give the offensive linemen plenty to fear.

That fear was struck by the team’s top present pass rusher Bruce Irvin as well as their top drafted pass rusher, third round pick Arden Key.

Both of them went against rookie top pick tackle, Kolton Miller a good portion of the time. This is as much about Miller facing the toughest competition possible as it is for Irvin and Key to sharpen their skills.

First up was Irvin. Miller was able to keep him back on his first block attempt, but later when they faced off again, Irvin put on a spin move to get the inside and put pressure on the QB. Another time, it took a double team to keep him at bay.

Irvin understands what the rookie tackle is going through right now being thrust into first team work and trying to catch up to the speed and talent level at the NFL level.

“He’s going to be good. He’s just young,” Irvin said of Miller. “He’s a big guy. He’s very athletic. Takes coaching. What else can you ask for in a kid? He’s our first-round pick so he’s coming in with a lot of expectations. He’s doing a great job. We battle every day. I tell him that we’re going to go at it every day because we’re in the AFC-West and he has to go against Von [Miller], Bradley Chubb, those dudes in KC, so we have to get him ready. We need him. He’s going to be a really good player.”

This pass rush performance from Irvin comes on the heels of his two turnovers on the first day — a forced fumble and an interception returned for a touchdown. The pick six hasn’t changed Irvin’s mind about not wanting to drop into coverage as a linebacker anymore, adding “I’d rather have a sack than a pick-six any day.”

That’s just plain silly, to be honest. Ask Khalil Mack whether he would take a sack over that game clinching pick six on Cam Newton and I think the answer would be the pick six all day.

But we can’t ask Mack. He isn’t in camp. In his absence Irvin is the leader and the other pass rushers must step up to fill the void.

“If Khalil was here, we’d be leading the same way,” Irvin said. “We can’t worry about who isn’t here. Khalil gets tired, so when Khalil goes out of the game, the guys here have to go in the game and play while he’s tired. He rarely gets tired (laughs), but when he does those guys have to be ready. We’re trying to focus on getting these young guys ready. Those things will take care of themselves.”

That message is mostly directed at rookie Arden Key, who the team drafted with the expressed purpose of adding pass rush to supplement and spell Mack and/or Irvin. The 6-5, 240-pounder looked really good today.

Key first got around fellow rookie Brandon Parker who was taken earlier in the same round of the draft. Later Key got Miller on his heels and drove him into the backfield to collapse the pocket.

“He’s a talented rusher as we know,” Guenther said of Key. “That’s why we drafted him. He’s doing a good job of playing the runs how we want him to play the runs. We know he can rush. He’s special that way. Obviously, we came out here in pads today, he showed the same thing he did in shorts. It’s exciting to have him out there.”

Having two rookie tackles in there is time to eat for the pass rushers. And they ate the first chance they got. Tank Carradine wasn’t making much noise going against Breno Giacomini on the other side.

Other than that, the offensive line held up against the Raiders defensive linemen. Nobody was getting past the interior trio and Rodney Hudson especially seemed to make Justin Ellis look silly, even pancaking him on one play. Keep in mind, though, pass rushing is not what Ellis does. He’s a lane clogger.

Practice notes

Injuries: Gareon Conley was absent for a second straight day. His injury was revealed to be a hip strain. First step is usually to begin work with trainers on the side, and we have yet to see him out there. Chris Warren III joined those working on the side along with Donald Penn, Eddie Vanderdoes, and PJ Hall who are all on the PUP list. Jalen Richard left practice with a calf strain, so you figure he will miss some time. Offensive lineman Cameron Hunt was also not out there.

Lineup changes:

Brandon Parker was lining up at left tackle with the second team. Most likely this is because the team likes David Sharpe as that second team right tackle and wants to get Parker some reps to see what he can do as a swing tackle.

With Conley out, Daryl Worley continues to be the first team cornerback. Coming in to play nickel corner with the first team is Marcus Gilchrist.

EJ Manuel and Connor Cook continue to switch off between second and third team reps, but Manuel would appear to be the favorite.

Recap:

They started off with running the ball in team drills. On the first couple plays, the runner was stopped in the backfield. The first time it was Erik Harris slicing into the backfield, the second time it was linebacker Jason Cabinda who shed a block to stop the runner. Keep in mind, it’s easier to commit to stopping the run in those instances knowing that’s what’s coming.

That being said, a few plays in, Carr handed it to Marshawn who faked inside, then followed Kelechi Osemele on a pull block around the right side, got another block from Jared Cook and took off for a good run. So, you can’t always commit to plugging those inside lanes or you can end up sacrificing the edge.

Tahir Whitehead, Derrick Johnson, and Emmanuel Lamur each got good sticks up the middle for short gains as well.

Connor Cook started off his day looking pretty smooth. That’s notable because he has looked anything but smooth up to this point. He wasn’t asked to make any big passes — they were all short passes to running backs and tight ends about five yards off the line — but he was accurate with them. Then he fumbled a snap right after getting some individual instruction from Gruden. He was pulled and EJ Manuel came in.

Play of the day: Shortly after coming in for Cook, Manuel threw an absolute laser of a pass. It went right over the outstretched leap of Dexter McDonald and into the arms of Saeed Blacknall for a big gain.

Derek Carr also had a nice looking touchdown pass in the red zone. Isaac Whitney came across the defense from right to left, getting a step on Nick Nelson and Carr put the ball right on him perfectly in stride for the score. He had a similar pass from left to right to Jared Cook who got a step on Marcus Gilchrist.