NAPA -- It wasn't that Jack Crawford was invisible or disappointing during rookie minicamp, three weeks of OTAs or a three-day minicamp. It's just that he did not stand out, so to speak.That changed Wednesday for the Raiders rookie defensive end. That it occurred on the first day the team wore pads should bode well for the fifth-round draft pick from Penn State, especially since many scouts see him as a project.Twice in the span of three snaps, Crawford broke clean through the line and, if the players were allowed to hit the quarterback, he would have had a pair of sacks. Again, in pads."You know, I felt good about today," Crawford said. "Theres always that feeling of getting in pads, how much thats going to change. Ive never played at this level before, so coming into this practice, I didnt know how it was going to be with putting the pads on. I didnt know what the step up was going to be from having no pads to putting them on. I just feel like after this practice, I feel good. I feel like I had a pretty decent practice, so I know I can compete, so now its just about getting better."Of course, as a backup, he was excelling against other backups, even third-stringers who will not be on the team come September. Still, success breeds success, right?"After practice I got a couple reps with the first-string offensive tackles and that stuff helps, just talking to them helps because they can critique me and help me get better as I move forward," Crawford said. "Its just the little things. So playing against the second stringers definitely helps because most of them have been in this league for a year or two."Just being able to elevate it to when I am going against the first string and being able to help out during the season. Thats my goal, making that 53-man roster and then making a difference to this team."The 6-foot-5, 274-pound Crawford, who grew up in England, only began playing football as a high school junior in New Jersey, hence the project label."Im pleased with Jack," coach Dennis Allen said. "Jack, obviously hes a young player so hes still learning the game, but hes a big guy thats got athleticism, and he wants to be good. And I think if you have athleticism and some football instincts and youre willing to work to get there, then hell, at some point, be a player for us."When I say that, what Im saying is hes willing to do the things that are necessary to be good. And I think in my experiences, some guys are willing to go that extra to really be good and some guys are looking for some shortcuts to take. They want to be good but theyre not willing to pay the price to be good. And hes one of those thats willing to pay the price to be good."It's a work ethic he's had since grade school, one that was fostered at Penn State, which is why he's conflicted with the developments at Happy Valley in the past year.Crawford, though, was far less outspoken than former college teammate-turned-Raiders center Stefen Wisniewski was earlier this week when he blasted the NCAA for the penalties the sports' governing body slapped on the Nittany Lions' football program."You know what, I couldnt say the same thing," Crawford said. "Its hard because I love Penn State, its a great atmosphere up there, some of the greatest fans in the country, theyre very loyal. I could understand it was hard, I know it from my former teammates it was definitely hard because theres so much media around. It was something that happened when I wasnt there, and now Ive moved on and Im thinking about the future."I keep in touch with all my friends from Penn State and I feel for everyone back there but personally, I have my mind set on different goals now. I offer my condolences to everyone whos been affected, especially all the victims but I cant say it affects me so much."
ALAMEDA – Eddie Vanderdoes knows his UCLA game tape is inconsistent. The powerful defensive tackle admits he wasn’t always at his best, especially after tearing his ACL in 2015. Before that, he was difficult to stop. Afterward, he wasn’t the same player. He doesn’t blame the knee.
He struggled with ankle injuries and weight issues in 2016, a lackluster campaign by his own standard. Since that season ended, Vanderdoes has returned to 100 percent. His ankles are fine. His knee is great. And he lost 40 pounds heading into the NFL scouting combine, preparing for a return to his old self.
The Raiders see great potential in the former Bruin and made him their third-round pick on Friday evening. The Auburn native was excited by the prospect, and believes the Raiders will get his absolute best. His voice was passionate, his determination clear even on a conference call with local press.
“I am going to be the player I was earlier in my career,” Vanderdoes said. “I had a bad season. That wasn’t me. That’s not the person that I am. That’s not the character that I hold. I’m definitely going to bring that to the Raiders’ defensive line. I’m going to bring that energy and I’m really happy to be an Oakland Raider.”
The Raiders will be thrilled if that’s true. They liked what he showed at the Senior Bowl and the NFL scouting combine, where he showed traits that should translate to NFL production.
“I am definitely back 100 percent, very confident with the combine, the Senior Bowl,” Vanderdoes said. “I got my explosiveness back. I got my speed back, my athleticism back. I am definitely at the top of shape right now, so I’m ready to get back to work and show them the player that they saw on the film and the player that they wanted to draft and I’m also looking to turn even more heads and do things that some people might expect that I couldn’t do.”
That includes rushing the passer, being a consistent three-down tackle in the Raiders scheme. He might be a rotational player first, filling the void created when Stacy McGee left in free agency.
“He’s a good, active defensive lineman that we think his best football is in front of him,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He had an ACL (injury) a couple of years ago. His weight has been up and down. We expect him to come in here and be a real professional and work hard with (head strength and conditioning coach) Joe Gomes and the strength staff and get himself ready to roll. He needs to come in here and add depth to our defensive line and give us a little interior push.”
Vanderdoes believes he can do more than that if he does things right. If his weight stays down, strength stays up and he learns the system well, he wants to compete for a significant role as a rookie.
“I’m coming in expecting to contribute and play right away,” Vanderdoes said. “That’s the mindset that I’ve always had. I’ve came with that mindset that I need to be the guy to step in and do what I do and dominate. I definitely think people slept on me a little bit this past offseason.
“I love the fact that (the NFL) slept on me, I think that’s what motivated me every morning waking up, knowing that I get to prove people wrong. I think I’ve done a good job so far of that, and I’m going to keep doing as well being an Oakland Raider because I know I’m at the bottom again. I have to work my way back up.”
ALAMEDA – The Raiders have been focused on the NFL Draft the last few days, and rightfully so. Friday night, however, was the right time to ask about what happened just before.
The Raiders acquired power running back and Oakland native Marshawn Lynch. If he’s close to top form after a year away from the NFL, the Raiders offense will be tough to stop.
He’s a big physical rusher the Raiders were looking for. The Raiders were the team Lynch wants to finish his career representing. The Oakland Tech High grad and Cal alum might be the town’s most popular citizen, someone who consistently gives back to the city he loves.
Lynch was downright giddy after formally signing with the Raiders, greeting everyone in the building with child-like enthusiasm. He got fitted in his Raiders helmet and refused to take it off, wearing it out of the building and the car ride home.
Del Rio loved the energy Lynch brought to the team’s complex, and believes that will carry on while he represents the Silver and Black.
“Authentic passion. That’s what I see,” Del Rio said Friday night. “He’s a homegrown guy. He’s extremely excited about joining this football team and being a part of the Raider Nation. We’re excited to have him.”
Lynch is a bruiser of the highest order, though some may wonder how effective he can be at 31, a year removed from professional football.
“There will be questions about how much is left in his tank, and we’re going to find out,” Del Rio said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone else be more excited, more pleased to be joining a team, my team, our team.”
Del Rio understands where Lynch is coming from. The Hayward native longed to be a Raider at some point in his career, but never got the chance.
I told him he was lucky, because I didn’t get a chance to do that as player. I wanted to finish here as a player too. He’s getting that chance and he’s fired up about it.
“He’s a big man, and he plays with the violence that we like and appreciate. I think he’ll look forward to running behind (the Raiders offensive line) and those guys up front.”