Updated August 12, 2022 - 2:39 pm
It was bound to happen that there would be differences in how Raiders practices are run under Josh McDaniels compared to Jon Gruden.
But almost every day during training camp, a new wrinkle emerges to remind everyone things are being done differently with McDaniels in charge.
The common thread is the emphasis McDaniels puts on what players will encounter in real games. From reducing 11-on-11 work to five-on-five segments in which tight ends, a slot receiver and a running back are operating strictly against linebackers and safeties in a pass-game drill to a running back pass-blocking against a blitzing linebacker, McDaniels is always trying to create practical in-game matchups.
“Coach does a really good job of teaching situational football,” said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. “That’s the National Football League. A lot of situations come up, and he teaches the heck out of them. When we drill it, he makes it as hard as possible.”
The teaching isn’t exclusive to players, either. On Thursday, for instance, the Raiders replicated an old-school scrimmage in which offensive players and coaches assumed one sideline and their defensive counterparts the other. Over the next half hour, the offense and defense squared off in an unscripted segment in which an actual game was replicated. It covered a first and second quarter, a two-minute drill and an end-of-game sequence.
During that time, the coaches had to react and adjust to what was happening in real time just as much as the players. Nothing was planned. Nothing was predetermined. It was coaches and players having to operate and respond to whatever situation was created by the outcome of the preceding play.
That meant McDaniels calling plays to fit down and distance, and defensive coaches doing the same from their perspective.
“It’s one thing to sit there and read off a script in practice and say, this is the next personnel grouping, this is the next play and everybody knows what’s going on,” McDaniels said. “But that’s not real life. Real life you just react to what you see.”
During the period, coaches on both sides of the ball communicated with each other on the sidelines just as they would a real game, barking out down and distance information and personnel groupings to assist coordinators as they contemplated their next play call.
Again, the point of the exercise was to put stress on both the players and coaches to make real-time decisions.
Just as they are expected to do in actual games.
“He makes it as hard as he can out there, so when the games come, you’re used to the situation,” Carr said. “And it may hopefully be easier in that moment.”
Carr is known as one of the most brightest players in the game. To say he’s been impressed by how deep McDaniels drills to better prepare his team would be an understatement.
“Josh doesn’t miss anything with anyone on the team, not just offense,” Carr said. “The footwork, the fundamentals, the way he shows the drills, all that kind of stuff. The details and the depth that he goes into, he’s fully submersed in football. And not just on the quarterback, not just on the receivers, not just on the offense, but the whole team – special teams. He knows every detail of everything being said in our building. And I think that’s special.”
Right down to simulating an actual game on Thursday.
“I thought we learned a lot about ourselves, learned about some things we need to do better as a staff,” McDaniels said. “And our team, I thought, really had the right approach to yesterday in terms of what they can learn from.”