New battles emerge at Raiders camp

839245.jpg

New battles emerge at Raiders camp

Programming note: Tune in tonight at 9 p.m. to watch Raiders safety Michael Huff on Chronicle Live, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

NAPA -- A new and just-as-intriguing training camp battle has emerged in the wake of nose tackle Travis Ivey getting cut over the weekend.Yes, Tommy Kelly is listed at the starting nose tackle in a 4-3 defense on the Raiders' depth chart, but he is followed by a practice squad refugee in Jamie Cumbie and an undrafted rookie free agent in Dominique Hamilton. And sixth-round draft pick Christo Bilukidi is listed as third at defensive tackle behind Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant."I think there's opportunities there," said coach Dennis Allen. "We're looking for who's going to step up and take that role as the fourth interior defensive tackle. Cumbie, Hamilton, Bilukidi, we're looking for one of those guys to kind of step up and take that position."That will be interesting to see, how that plays out through preseason games."Of course, it would seem that Bilukidi has the upper hand in an apparent three-man race for one position, given that he is the only one drafted, meaning the Raiders already have a vested interest in him. But that does not mean the competition is wrapped up after just eight training camp practices.Far from it."Definitely a little added pressure because you know he was drafted," said the 6-foot-5, 313-pound Hamilton, who played at Missouri. "But I just feel like I'm going to go out there and work my butt off no matter what. And when I get the few snaps that I do get, then I'm just going to go out there and give it my all."Said the 6-7, 291-pound Cumbie: "You know, it is tough and I understand him being a drafted guy there's a preference for his spot, but I know how to work and I show up and I know what I'm capable of and I know myself and I watch film, just like everybody else does. To see yourself improve daily and to not make the same mistakes twice, it's all I can do.
RELATED: More Raiders camp battles
"And I feel like with this staff here we've got this year, they're not playing favorites. I think people are going to do the job, they're going to see it so my mentality is to show up, work hard, not make mistakes and it will play out itself."Both players have found a mentor, of sorts, in Kelly, who refers to Hamilton as "sasquatch" and Cumbie as, well, "some things I shouldn't say," Cumbie said with a laugh.Of course, playing nose tackle in a 4-3 defense is much different from doing it in a 3-4, when you line up more traditionally directly over the center."You can just feel the difference," Hamilton said. "I played in both in college in my senior year and there was definitely a huge difference. You can do it. It's definitely possible. It's doable for me. They can have T.K. in the middle; they can have anybody in the middle. It's doable for anybody. You've just got to go up there and dominate every time you're up there."Which, of course, is any player's plan when they're on the field, right?"Obviously, there's a difference as far as what gaps you have and whatnot, but I feel if you get off the ball with good pad level, you get off the ball first with good steps, it's going to play out itself," Cumbie said. "You play out of technique, 3-4, you play backside, head up, but it starts with the get-off and that's what we work and that's what we preach and that's what I've been working on -- get off pad-level hands. The rest plays off by itself.'It's always a constant battle with pad level being 6-(foot)-7, obviously, but it is what it is, and I'll do anything. I'm willing to work and I'm just blessed to be a part of this opportunity and this organization so there's just good things to come."But for which player?

Vanderdoes out to 'prove people wrong,' show Raiders his very best

Vanderdoes out to 'prove people wrong,' show Raiders his very best

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.”

Del Rio: Marshawn showed 'authentic passion' joining hometown Raiders

Del Rio: Marshawn showed 'authentic passion' joining hometown Raiders

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.”