Vanderdoes in great shape, ready to take game 'to the next level'

Vanderdoes in great shape, ready to take game 'to the next level'

Eddie Vanderdoes stepped on a scale before last weekend’s Raiders rookie minicamp practices. The read out proved a welcome sight.

301 pounds.

The Raiders were pleased. So was their third-round pick. That’s his fighting weight.

The Auburn native and UCLA product played the 2016 season in the 340s, and wasn’t the dominant force he was as an underclassman. An ACL tear killed his 2015 season, and series of ankle injuries and poor diet torpedoed 2016.

Vanderdoes wasn’t happy with his final collegiate campaign, and didn’t want to slog his way into the NFL. He lost roughly 40 pounds and regained his signature agility, explosion and power. That was clear at the Senior Bowl and throughout the pre-draft process.

That effort wasn’t just about getting a job. Vanderdoes seems motivated to realize vast potential in the NFL. He reported to minicamp in great shape, hoping to make a solid first impression on his new team.

“I’m in good shape and where I want to be,” Vanderdoes said. “Now, it’s just learning the playbook, learning the technique and taking it to the next level.”

The Raiders would love to see Vanderdoes flourish at a position of need. He could help the Raiders on all three-downs, especially in the base package. The Raiders need better interior run defense and consistent push into the pocket, issues Vanderdoes could help correct even as a rookie.

He isn’t looking that far ahead.

“I’m just taking it day by day, trying to get better, trying to work on my technique,” Vanderdoes said, “trying to get used to the playbook and what the coaches ask me to do.”

Vanderdoes was trying to adjust to his new team during Raiders rookie minicamp, knowing full well he’ll miss a portion of the Raiders offseason program. He won’t be back until June, after UCLA graduates, due to a quirk in the NFL rules.

There’s little concern about time away from the Raiders. He isn’t putting the weight back on. He said the weight wasn’t hard to lose. He has established a new, disciplined diet thanks to his time at the EXOS training facility. Raiders head strength and conditioning coach Joe Gomes worked there before taking his current post, and has implemented many EXOS practices in Alameda.

“I know what they are going to expect out of me,” Vanderdoes said. “They have the same stations for protein supplements that EXOS has. I’m able to thrive in this strength and conditioning program and excited to get to work.”

His friends and family will have a chance to watch him work every home Sunday. Auburn is just northeast of Sacramento, and his hometown is excited to see Vanderdoes play so close to home.

“It’s been a whirlwind in Auburn,” Vanderdoes said. “Most of Auburn is Raiders fans and if they’re not Raiders fans they just became one last week. I’m happy to make my community proud and it’s great that they support me 100 percent. It’s nice that I’m local. Couldn’t be in a better situation than I am right now.”

Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain


Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Raiders are remarkably healthy heading into Sunday night’s game against the Washington football club.

The entire 53-man roster practiced fully on Friday, before heading to the nation’s capital.

That includes veteran cornerback Sean Smith, who missed the previous game with a neck injury. A shoulder ailment cropped up during the week, which prompted the Raiders to label him questionable heading into Week 3. Smith’s the only Raider on the injury report, and even he’s in decent shape.

“I mean we put it on there because there’s still a little bit of a question,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “You don’t have probable’s anymore. Given the choices, I just left him that way.”

That means the Raiders are going to have some healthy scratches a week after Smith was the only injured player sitting out.

Washington has some impact players on the mend. That included tight end Jordan Reed, who is questionable with a rib/sternum injury. He stands 6-foot-2, 246 pounds and is the type of receiving tight end that gives the Raiders fits. He has 1,638 yards 17 touchdowns the last two seasons, using good hands and a large frame to create mismatches in the secondary.

It’ll be key for the Raiders to defend him well if he’s active, with Nicholas Morrow as a primary coverage option.

“We’re prepared to face him,” Del Rio said. “We think he’s a good player. We’ll approach it that way and adjust if he doesn’t go.”

Washington also lists starting inside linebacker Mason Foster and running back Rob Kelley as questionable.

Raiders Injury Report
CB Sean Smith (neck/shoulder)

Washington Injury Report

TE Jordan Reed (rib/sternum), LB Mason Foster (shoulder), RB Rob Kelley (rib), S Monate Nicholson (shoulder), CB Josh Norman (shoulder)

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Raiders safety Karl Joseph notched his first career forced fumble in Week 2’s blowout victory over the New York Jets. It came on his first sack, where he bent around a tackle into the pocket and devoured his pray.

Joseph recovered the ball, and the Raiders quickly scored a touchdown. The second-year pro enjoyed that moment, but left the game with regrets.

"I should have definitely had more sacks than I did,” Joseph said. “I feel like I should have had three.”

Joseph had quarterback Josh McCown in the crosshairs three times, and feels like he should’ve finished each one. The game plan provided opportunity. Joseph blitzed six times – fellow safety Reggie Nelson attacked thrice – and pressured the quarterback four times.

It was a relatively new responsibility, considering he blitzed nine times all last year. Joseph will be first to say he was a different player then. He was less explosive, more tentative and a smidge less confident, lingering effects from an ACL tear during his final college season. Joseph was cleared to play as a rookie but wasn’t all the way back, doubly hampered by missing an offseason program where rookies grow quick.

"I wasn’t completely myself,” Joseph said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California. “I feel a lot more like myself this year. I obviously feel better physically, and the year of experience in the system has definitely helped. So has adjusting to the NFL life. That’s been an easier transition for me.”

Joseph is playing more like his highlight reel from West Virginia, where he proved a heavy hitter and a solid cover man worthy of last year’s No. 14 overall draft pick. The Jets game isn’t the only evidence of that.

Joseph had an excellent training camp, flashing an aggressive style and solid timing making plays in practice. That translated to the regular-season opener at Tennessee, when he saved a touchdown on consecutive plays. The first came on an open-field tackle. The second was a leaping pass breakup in the end zone, proof positive that Joseph was ready to make a big impact.

"He’s really good close to the line of scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. "He’s a really good tackler in the open field. He also plays well on the back end. I think his development is right on time right now.”

The Raiders recognize that, and are using him like a queen on the chessboard. He can move back or forward, as an attacker or the last line of defense. He’s a rover at times, with an ability to create havoc at all levels of the defense.

Joseph is an excellent fit for the defensive scheme, bring a tone-setting physicality to the secondary. He is learning, as part of his development, that the nuclear option isn’t always best. There are times when it is, and Joseph enters those scenarios without fear.

"You can’t play worried about getting hurt. That’s not the way I play,” Joseph said. “It’s about being smart. I had to adjust my game coming into the NFL. Every hit can’t be a big hit. Sometimes you have to be smart and just wrap people up, but you can’t ever play scared.”

He isn’t afraid to take risks or attack when asked, and is already making a major impact on this year’s defense. That isn’t a surprise. It’s expected of first-round picks.

"That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s supposed to make plays,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a guy we selected because we thought he’d be a guy that could come in and impact on our defense. In the first two games of this year he’s played well. There are still things, like I tell you all the time, that have cleaning up to do, work to do, things to improve on, but he’s off to a good start and obviously it follows up from a good offseason. Healthy, a lot of good work and confidence that he’s gaining as we go.”