Oakland Raiders

Raiders get early test from Rams and show improvement from last season

Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden watches quarterback Nathan Peterman during practice with the Rams on Wednesday.
Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden watches quarterback Nathan Peterman during practice with the Rams on Wednesday. AP

All that was missing were three rings, juggling clowns and a certain wide receiver who has yet to put his best foot forward.

They held a circus behind the Napa Valley Marriott Wednesday and a football practice broke out.

The Raiders hosted the Rams in a joint practice session which was probably the most heavily attended by season ticket holders and invited guests of any training camp practice held on the grounds of Redwood Middle School.

The NFL Network was there, going live. So was ESPN. Former Raiders who are now members of the media included Rich Gannon, Kirk Morrison and Maurice Jones-Drew. Marshawn Lynch even put in an appearance, with Oakland Athletic League schools paying a visit.

The Rams looked like what they are – the defending NFC champions. The Raiders? Definitely more talented than a year ago, with the Rams providing a barometer of how far they still have to go.

“These are better than a preseason game because we get blitz work, third down work, second-and-long work, different situations and we get to see a different defense,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “When the scheme is different, that right there is so valuable. I’d rather do this any day. This is good work.”

Rams quarterback Jared Goff had more success in the passing game against the Raiders defense than Carr did against the Rams. Goff had ample time — the Raiders pass rush didn’t mount a lot of pressure — and hit targets in stride.

Other than one sideline strike to Cooper Kupp when it was hard to tell exactly who was supposed to be responsible for coverage, Raiders defenders were more competitive than they were for the most part in 2018 when receivers broke free clean and easy.

“I feel like today we did a pretty good job,” safety Johnathan Abram said. “One of the best offenses in the league, you know. They went to the Super Bowl last year. We’re doing a pretty good job of covering receivers, having the eyes in the right spots. We competed well.”

After practice began at 9:50 a.m., the Raiders and Rams went through warmups and drills on separate fields before going against each other.

On the Raiders first snap from scrimmage, Carr dropped back and let fly a post pattern to wide receiver Tyrell Williams, who has been a camp standout. Rams cornerback Aqib Talib, however, showed good makeup speed and rallied to the ball for an interception at the goal line.

“We jacked the ball up just to kind of really set the tone, and you hope you come down with it, and they made a play,” Carr said. “That kind of stuff is going to happen. It’s not alarming to anyone in the meeting room or anything like that, but there is a need to correct off the film and things that we could do better.”

Later in the practice, Carr unleashed what might have best throw of training camp. It was to Williams again, who had gotten behind Nickell Robey-Coleman. It led Williams perfectly. Williams dropped it.

“I missed probably the easiest throw of my career today – an out route where it was like, `Really?,’ ” Carr said. “I’m sure (Williams) feels the same way about that one. But we definitely look at it as a positive because we trust Tyrell and know he’s made that play a whole bunch of times.”

It wasn’t all bad for Williams. Carr hit him in the back of the end zone during the first play of a red zone session.

As for short tempers with players finally getting to beat on someone else for a change, there was barely any pushing and shoving. Raiders coach Jon Gruden and Sean McVay worked together in Tampa Bay. McVay considers Gruden a mentor.

Both coaches made it clear that post-whistle activity would be frowned upon. It was similar to last year’s dual workout with the Detroit Lions, and nothing like the free-for-all in Oxnard with the Dallas Cowboys in 2014.

“That falls solely on the head coaches and their leadership and how they coach and how they teach,” Carr said.

When practice concluded, players and coaches mixed and mingled and even shared the temporary field house weight room in cramped quarters.

More notes and observations from the Raiders’ from the 10th of 16 practices during the Napa session of training camp:

No sign of Antonio Brown, who reportedly is dealing with frostbitten feet after acryotherapy session.

“He’s somebody that changes the way defenses play. He’s someone that changes what coach will call for him and things like that, so you definitely wish he was out there,” Carr said. “But we’ve had a lot of time on task . . . we know when he is healthy and we get him back we’ll be rolling.”

Said McVay: “I would have loved to have gotten some work in against him. That’s a bummer for all of us.”

Slot corner Lamarcus Joyner, who played the last five seasons with the Rams, had one of the best defensive plays for the Raiders when he ranged to the sideline and broke up a Goff pass intended for Brandin Cooks.

“Watching the way Lamarcus Joyner competes every snap is what you love about him,” McVay said.

Former Rams tackle Ethan Westbrook had a nice short-yardage stop against Justin Davis.

Cornerback Gareon Conley showed off his athletic skill with a leaping deflection of a pass intended for Tyler Higbee.

Tight end Darren Waller (shoulder) sat out of practice as expected. Rookie fourth-round pick Foster Moreau continues to look like a solid candidate to be paired with Waller in two tight-end sets.

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