Less than one full practice into his return to the Raiders, running back Josh Jacobs saw what new safety Marcus Epps is capable of bringing to the defense.
Epps, as he has done on multiple occasions in his first training camp with the Raiders, astutely read where the ball was going on a pass play, made a decisive break toward the action and came up with an interception.
Jacobs just marveled.
“Damn,” he said. “He got from one side of the field to the other and made a play that we thought was a touchdown.”
It’s one of the multiple reasons why the Raiders targeted Epps in free agency and quickly signed the former Eagles defender to a two-year contract in March.
Epps was coming off a season in which he led the NFC champions in defensive snaps and embodied Philadelphia’s attention-to-detail culture and ball-hawking mentality. And almost from the moment he arrived in Las Vegas, he has spread that message to a defensive group that needs a handful of youngsters to turn the corner this year.
Players like Tre’von Moehrig, a second-round pick in 2021 who faces a pivotal season to show the Raiders he is capable of being a dependable and productive starting safety.
“He’s got the skill set you need for a safety in this league. He can do it all,” Epps said. “So, I really like where he’s at and how much he’s grown, and I’m expecting some big things out of him.”
Epps’ influence seems to be paying off.
“That’s my dawg,” Moehrig said. “Ever since we came in the first day we’ve been talking, just picking his brain about what he knows.”
The Raiders’ defenders struggled to build a solid connection among each other last season and lacked a veteran’s understanding of how to play NFL defense at a high level.
Epps is part of a trio of veterans the Raiders added to address that, along with linebacker Robert Spillane and cornerback Marcus Peters. All three have immediately become the leaders of their position rooms.
Epps was part of a turnaround in Philadelphia that saw the Eagles rise from a 4-11-1 finish in 2020 to playing in the Super Bowl last season. He started every game and made 94 tackles in the regular season.
Epps said he is a firm believer that commitment can play a big role in success.
“I’m huge on just trusting your process, not panicking when things hit the fan,” he said. “And you’ve really got to just — if you believe in something — you’ve got to stick to it, approach it day by day and trust and have faith that if you put that work in, it’s going to work out in the end and you’ve got to stick it out.”
Epps played a big role in that process in Philadelphia. He is optimistic he is seeing some of the same traits with the Raiders.
“I like where we’re at. I like the guys that we have on our team. I like the group we have in the secondary,” Epps said. “Got a lot of trust in those guys, and I see what we’ve been bringing to the table every day in terms of work ethic and coming to work, and I like that about our group. I feel like we’ve just got to keep at it and keep growing and getting better every day.”
Who: Raiders at Broncos
When: 1:25 p.m. Sunday
Where: Empower Field at Mile High, Denver
Radio: KRLV-AM (920), KOMP-FM (92.3)
Line: Broncos -3½, total 44