The Las Vegas Raiders are taking a day off from the training camp practice grind on Monday after four days of early camp instruction in the desert heat.
They are back at it Tuesday and will get into the padded-practice portion of training camp on Wednesday, just eight days before they begin the preseason game slate Aug. 4 against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.
While the first days of training camp has focused on individual instruction, first-year Las Vegas coach Josh McDaniels is very pleased with how the team has responded to him and his staff’s approach.
“I like the way we’re working. I think schematically, again, we have a long way to go before we can really say we are good at this,” McDaniels said. “We are going to try to get good at a lot of things, but multiple tight ends, receivers, are we going to be in slot formations, pro formations, empty formations? I think there is a lot still to be done and the most important part of this is how are we going to implement the physical portion of the running game, pass protection, and those are huge things that without those two things there really isn’t much to sit there and say we’re going to be this type of team.
“We are going to have to figure out how well we can run the football, which is obviously a huge challenge in our division. And how well we can protect the passer, so to me fundamentally those are the most important things. Whether we use two or three receivers, four receivers, two tight ends, one tight end, three tight ends, two backs in the game at the same time, fullback in the game; a lot of those things are kind of dependent on the game plan and who we are playing and what advantages we may be able to have.”
With the team adjusting to a new staff, McDaniels said the pre-padded practice have been extremely important to set the tone for the season.
“Communication definitely,” McDaniels said of the priority of the first training camp practices. “There’s an element of pre snap communication, there’s an element of post snap assignments that really is the most important parts of this. We spend the entire first half of the practice teaching the techniques and the fundamentals we’d like to see show up in the team drills. So, you can evaluate the communication, you can see that they know their assignment and you can see that they are trying to use the techniques and fundamentals that we’re teaching. And really there is not many good plays in football that happen without good communication and fundamentals, and that’s really a huge focus for us right now while the physical part is on hold for a few more days.”
Once the Raiders do start working in pads on Wednesday, McDaniels made it clear the work will be done the smart way and the team won’t be overly physical in practices for health reasons.
“We probably will not tackle to the ground ever just because again nothing is more important than the health of the team,” McDaniels said. “But look, physical is part of this game. It’s a contact sport and we have to prepare our bodies for a long season, which there is a fine line between doing too much and doing not enough.
“So, we only have limited opportunities to do it in the month of August and a couple times in July, and we’ll take full advantage of the opportunities in pads in practice and the preseason games that we can so we can work on the things fundamentally that require us to be physical. Run blocking, defending the run, defeating blockers, pass protection, pass rush, all those things that include some element of physicality or else you’re really not working on them.”
McDaniels has also been impressed how the roster is handling the sweltering Las Vegas heat during the early days of training camp.
“Yeah, it’s tough. Yesterday, we got a gift from the Gods it seemed like how it felt like I was in October back east or something,” McDaniel said. “But it’s difficult, I mean I think they guys have done a great job of hydrating. And our training staff and our strength and conditioning staff have done a great job of getting our guys in condition and making sure that we are doing all the right things to recover every day, which is an important part of it, and we are all hydrated and ready to go every day which is a huge part of being able to play day after day in this weather.”