NAPA – Ej Manuel gave Bruce Irvin a present Friday afternoon to open Raiders training camp. The backup quarterback threw a pass right to the veteran edge rusher, who picked it and quickly charged the other way.
One problem: Defenders not involved in that practice rep obstructed his way. They scattered quickly and Irvin found a path to the end zone, diving across the goal line with a mob chasing behind.
Raiders defenders have been told to celebrate practice success. Irvin gave them another opportunity to do so, stripping a fumble from super-secure Marshawn Lynch a few plays later.
This was one practice in July without pads, so let's not take that to mean much. It did, however, set the defensive tone for this training camp.
The Raiders had four takeaways in teams drills – another pick in 7-on-7s – and was productive breaking up plays.
The Raiders defense is going to be aggressive, intense and loud. Irvin personifies those traits.
"Bruce is a great player, he's one of the best, I think, in the league," Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. "We've talked about our division pass rushers all the time, but to see that every day…And then Bruce, he's awesome. I remember when he was a free agent I was begging them, ‘Please get this guy. Please. He is awesome.' They asked me of my opinion of him, I was a huge fan of his even since West Virginia. So, I love Bruce, I think he's a great player and going to have a great year."
Irvin's the lone Slash Brother in Napa, with Khalil Mack holding out in search of a big (well-deserved) payday. Mack's the strong silent type in that duo. Irvin, by contrast, as a vicious bark and bite.
"He's playing defensive end, we know that," Gruden said. "And for Bruce to do that, it's scary for opponents."
Irvin spent his first two Raiders seasons in Silver and Black playing strongside linebacker, dropping into coverage more than he'd prefer. He's attacking most every play now, which should increase his impact in the backfield.
Irvin is one of the defensive leaders, helping rookie Arden Key develop into a quality reserve. On Friday he set a proper defensive tone the team hopes will carry through the summer.
Catch of the day
Keon Hatcher snagged a deep ball from Manuel, lofting high in the air to bring down the reception in double coverage. Hatcher was draped by rookie cornerback Nick Nelson, with Leon Hall coming over the top. Nelson mistimed his jump and Hall was a smidge late, creating a window for Hatcher to high point the ball and come down with an excellent catch.
Mack not the only one skipping start of camp
Edge rusher Khalil Mack wasn't the only Raider to not report on Thursday or practice the following day.
Offensive lineman Vadal Alexander was a surprise no-show this week and, like Mack, was placed on the reserve/did not report list. They don't count against the 90-man roster.
It's uncertain why Alexander isn't here. He was suspended earlier this offseason for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, but his four-game ban doesn't prevent him from participating in the preseason.
Gruden updates Penn, Hall injuries
Gruden said left tackle Donald Penn is nearing a return from foot surgery, but hasn't been cleared just yet. He's doing side work with a trainer, but the staff needs to see more before he's ready to go.
"He's working independently with trainers right now but he's getting close," Gruden said. "He still has to prove that he can change directions explosively and wake up the next day and do it again and again."
Rookie defensive tackle PJ Hall has a pectoral strain.
"We're going to keep him where he is for a couple days," Gruden said. "…We'll take him through some rehab and make sure he's ready to go before we cut him loose."
Quote of the day
"We want him back, but I don't step into (the business side). He came over to the house and we didn't talk about it one time. We played pool basketball and I dunked on him." – QB Derek Carr on keeping business out of his friendship with Khalil Mack
This ‘n that
Second-year middle linebacker Marquel Lee took first team reps over Derrick Johnson in the base defense on Friday, with Johnson in the nickel. Johnson also ran the second-team base defense. Tahir Whitehead and Emmanuel Lamur occupied the first-team linebacker spots. …Tank Carradine took most first team reps in Khalil Mack's reps, with the All-Pro edge rusher in a contract holdout. …Maurice Hurst and Justin Ellis were first-team defensive tackles, with Irvin and Carradine on the flank. …First-round pick Kolton Miller took first-team reps at left tackle, and will continue to do so with Donald Penn on PUP. …The Raiders will move versatile defensive back Marcus Gilchrist around. They had the safety in the slot at times on Friday, with Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph playing back.