ALAMEDA — Jihad Ward is back and with a bit of an edge. A polite one, anyway.
The second-year defensive tackle went through a walkthrough and then donned pads for the first time since last December Tuesday as the Raiders embarked on their first practice at their home facility since training camp closed in Napa.
At one point during practices in Napa, Ward, nearing full health, sent a directed at “clown haters.” He quickly removed it, although it was captured on a screen shot long enough for a reporter to good-naturedly remind him of it as he stood at the podium.
“There will be critics everywhere,” Ward said. “People are going to hate, regardless. “People are going to hate on y’all for doing this. It is what it is.”
Ward’s rookie season was big on playing time but small on production. The man known as “Hoddie” to coaches and teammates didn’t record a sack and had 31 tackles in 16 games with 13 starts and one recovered fumble.
Coach Jack Del Rio praised Ward’s off-season, which was interrupted by a foot injury during organized team activities that required surgery.
“I felt like I had something, a little tweak,” Ward said. “I told the trainers that I had something going on and to check it out. I feel good now. That’s in the past.”
Ward, at 6-foot-5, 295 pounds, was considered a bit of a reach by some draft analysts but general manager Reggie McKenzie and Del Rio liked his power and athleticism.
“He’s a good, young player that had a really strong offseason,” Del Rio said. “We’re excited a bout letting him compete and letting him show us what we can do. I know he’s a big, strong, athletic guy. Great to have him back and work and to continue to develop him.”
Ward, along with Mario Edwards Jr. and Denico Autry, gives the Raiders three imposing players capable of playing as a base end or sliding inside to tackle. Even with the break following surgery, Ward feels light years ahead of where he was as a rookie.
“Your first year coming here, you’re thinking too much,” Ward said. “Now it’s like, `OK, I get it now.’ That’s how it is for all rookies. They just have to learn what’s going on. Everything is easier now. It’s my second year. It’s regular.”
Ward is buying in to the all-for-one mentality Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. are attempting to instill.
“If we do what we have to do, learn from our mistakes and keep moving, I think we are going to be a great defense,” Ward said. “We have to do it together, there is no selfish acting. We all need each other . . . people have a habit of thinking one man can do it all.
“For instance, Khalil Mack, he’s a good player. He’s the defensive player of the year and all that, but he still needs us. We’re all we’ve got, and that’s all we need.”
— The Raiders are simulating a game-week mode, so for purposes of planning, Tuesday was approached like an in-season Wednesday (accounting for the actual game being played on Saturday instead of Sunday).
Del Rio called it a “typical in-season routine. How we get our information, how we study our opponent, kind of the processes we go through. It’s still preseason. We still have a large roster with decisions to make, but in terms of we go through the week, the structure is very much like in season.”
Not that the Raiders will be going to great lengths to open their playbook in preparation for Dallas, an opponent that will visit the Coliseum on Dec. 17.
“They’re going to be basic, we’re going to be basic, because you play each other in the regular season,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Everyone knows that. It’s not a secret. You compete your tail off, try to win, but at the same time you’re more focused on playing them in the regular season than you are in the preseason.”
— Wide receiver Amari Cooper, whose leaping 31-yard reception against double coverage helped in a scoring drive, believes it’s the type of play that enhances his on-field rapport with Carr.
“It’s always good to make a big play, and it’s always good to have your quarterback believe in you to throw it with three defenders over there knowing that you’ll come down wiwth it — or at least you won’t let the defense come down with it,” Cooper said. “That’s the type of plays I hope to make.”
Cooper added some muscle in the off-season and in Year 3 hopes to be more aggressive and physical after seeing his numbers tail off late in the season in each of his first two years.
— Cornerback Gareon Conley is the lone player on the Physically Unable to Perform list, with tight end Cooper Helfet activated along with Ward.
Conley still does not appear to be doing much since being sidelined with a shin injury more than eight weeks ago. If the Raiders were to consider having their first-round pick open the season on the regular-season PUP, he would miss a minimum of six games before being eligible to be activated.
— Wide receiver Seth Roberts was a late scratch from the Rams game because of illness, according to Del Rio.
This News Credit Goes To >> Source link