Each day throughout the Las Vegas Raiders training camp in 2021, we’ll bring you the latest news and happenings from Henderson, Nev., as the team gets set for the new season. Writers from Vegas Sports Today will bring you the latest from camp – who’s hot, who’s not, and surprises to keep you up to date.
Aug. 16th – Day 21: Las Vegas Raiders prepare to cut roster size down to 85
After a win against the Seattle Seahawks in the first week of preseason, the Las Vegas Raiders are now undefeated on the 2021 season. As a whole the players that got into the game looked solid and they managed to beat the Seahawks quite easily.
For some of the players that got minutes on Saturday, they were playing as a tryout. With the first roster reduction happening tomorrow, the Raiders are going to be cutting players until their roster size reaches 85.
This roster reduction will be followed by another one next Tuesday when the Raiders cut down to 80 players. All this is in preparation for finding the final 53 guys that will make up the team on August 31st.
Raiders fans get first look at Alex Leatherwood
Saturday’s game against the Seahawks offered Raiders fans their first opportunity to see what first-round pick Alex Leatherwood looked like in a game situation.
While he didn’t amaze, Leatherwood played solid and did a lot of the things expected of him. The weakest part of his game is pass protection, this was no secret heading into the draft, and it was one area where he struggled a bit in this game.
His PFF pass-blocking grade was just a 52.5 but as far as a first game goes, Leatherwood looked like he could be a key cog in the future of his unit.
Trey Ragas impresses in start
Trey Ragas got to play the majority of the game at running back and he impressed everyone. With Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake already at the position, there isn’t much room for Ragas to show off during normal games.
Saying that, Ragas adds to the depth at running back and gives the Raiders an embarrassment of riches at the position. He caught passes as well as had many good runs and will be ready to go if anything changes.
Overall, he was one of the most impressive Raiders players on Saturday.
Submitted by Noah Strang
Aug. 12 – Day 17: Youthful roster prepares for first game reps as Las Vegas Raiders training camp nears end
The Las Vegas Raiders training camp is one where a young team with many depth chart positions is filled by rookies or players with just a few years of NFL experience. As a team that hopes to contend for the playoffs this season, they’re going to need those young kids to step up and play with poise.
For head coach Jon Gruden, this training camp and subsequent preseason games are the perfect opportunities for these young players to get their reps in and prepare for the regular season.
“We’ve got some young players that are competing for jobs that need to play a lot, so we are going to look at them,” commented Gruden when asked about the upcoming preseason game, “A couple of veteran guys won’t play, but you’ll see our first-round draft choice and you’ll see our young center.”
The offensive line has completely rebuilt this offseason as the Raiders shed some older players with larger salaries to get younger and cheaper. Alex Leatherwood, the first-round choice that Gruden mentioned above, is a crucial addition.
There will be plenty of people keeping a close eye on Leatherwood as the preseason continues as he was widely considered a reach at his draft position. A mauler that played at Alabama, Leatherwood will be on a mission to prove his critics wrong. He’s been performing well during Las Vegas Raiders training camp but his coaches aren’t going out of their way to call the young man out.
Casey Hayward Jr. making an impact on and off the field
Signing Casey Hayward Jr. this offseason was one of the larger moves that the Raiders made to address their secondary. The group had it rough last season as opponents routinely moved the ball through the air with ease.
Hayward Jr. is a veteran that has experience with the system that incoming defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is looking to implement. He’s also a valuable resource for all the younger players in the secondary. It’s been very clear throughout Las Vegas Raiders training camp that his addition has already made a difference.
“To have a guy in there that’s been on a great defense, that knows the inner workings of all the things that are going to happen, it’s a huge asset for us,” said Gruden when asked about Hayward Jr.
Hopefully, Hayward Jr.’s experience will help the secondary mesh together quickly and thrive under new coaching in a new scheme. If how he’s performed on the field is any indication during Las Vegas Raiders training camp, he’s going to make a huge difference for Gus Bradley and the team.
Las Vegas Raiders Traning Camp Report: Defense turning up the energy
Over the last few days of Las Vegas Raiders training camp, it’s been the defense that has been showing energy that has been lacking from that side of the ball in recent years.
They’ve been forcing turnovers and the rotation of pass rushers is among some of the better in the league. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby were both singled out by coach Gruden as leaders for the team.
While the defense’s success means that the offense has been sputtering at times, it’s a nice change of pace for a Raiders team that has been much better offensively than defensively in recent years.
Keeping that same energy going when the actual games get underway is going to be crucial.
The feeling throughout Las Vegas Raiders training camp in 2021 has been one of optimism and rising confidence. Whether that translates to the field of play is the big question.
Submitted by Noah Strang
Aug. 11 – Day 16: Alec Ingold provides versatility to offense and shines during Las Vegas Raiders training camp
The art of the fullback in today’s game is not what it used to be with power running backs taking over the NFL. Some teams are still utilizing fullbacks, including the Raiders with Alec Ingold.
The fullback gives the offense another blocker to the running back and the quarterback as well as another option to throw to.
Having that versatility – especially from Ingold – is key to the nuances of the Raiders offense.
Ingold, who is in the final year of his three-year contract, said his mentality as a fullback is to solely make plays for his teammates.
“I have to master the fundamentals of my role,” Ingold said. “My role on this team is making a four-yard run into six yards, a three-yard catch into a five-yard catch, giving Derek Carr a half of a second longer. So, when I’m on the field, I’m trying to make everyone else look better, I’m trying to help people.”
Carr said having a player like Ingold in that particular position is critical because he has to understand defensive coverages, listen and communicate with running backs, such as Josh Jacobs.
“Probably the most thankless job, but from the outside looking in, a fullback just blocks the guy,” Carr said. “You have no idea what goes into it. He has to see and hear the call standing behind me with his hand in the ground and he has to know the fronts, he has to know where the safeties are, he has to know so much to hit the right gap so that Josh can hit the right gap.”
The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback said Ingold is not any fullback that primarily does fullback work.
“Alec reminds me of (someone) who has that speed,” Carr said. “When we train, he runs all the routes. He doesn’t run fullback stuff. He runs slants, go-routes, digs and all those things. He has that ability, but he has that old school, Lorenzo Neal-feel to him too.”
Lorenzo Neal and Carr go way back as both are Fresno State alum.
Carr said Ingold continues to maximize his responsibilities every day in order to be ready in case the unthinkable happens.
“He’s very vital to us and not only that, but he’s extending his role,” Carr said. “He’s trying to play running back. Just in case someone’s hurt, he can go play running back. He knows all of the assignments. He goes and plays tight end. Some days he’ll go with the tight ends and run all the routes and know the protections.
“A guy like that is so valuable to your team. You see guys like (New Orleans Saints’ Taysom Hill) playing different positions – quarterback, tight end, receiver – Alec can do all those things now. We have a lot of guys, so he may not need to, but he definitely can.”
Ingold was recruited as a quarterback and Carr can’t wait to catch a ball in the end zone, no matter who it is from, even fellow quarterback Marcus Mariota.
“Him or Marcus, I’ll take either one,” Carr said.
Raiders add Cookus to QB room
On Tuesday, the quarterback room got one more addition as the team signed free agent Case Cookus.
In 2020, the New York Giants signed Cookus as an undrafted free agent and also played with the Minnesota Vikings and AFC West foe Denver Broncos.
Prior to his signing with the Giants last year, Cookus was a four-year player at Northern Arizona University from 2015-2019 and threw for more than 3,000 yards in three of those seasons, highlighted by throwing for 4,114 yards his senior season in 2019.
Carr said this gives Cookus another opportunity as a second-year player.
“I remember (head coach John Gruden) always talking, ‘At this rookie mini-camp, man we had this guy, really smart, you’d love him,’” Carr said. “Gru told me a couple of weeks ago, they might bring him in and get him around Marcus, (Nathan Peterman) and I and just help him out. Let him get some film out there, play and compete.
“…When I get someone new at my position, I just want help them and give every bit of knowledge that I can about the offense, what I’ve seen in my eight years. He’s been a great kid, super nice. He’s fit in right to the room, joking around, messing around with people. It’s good. I’m going to help him as much as I can to further his career.”
Submitted by Breven Honda
Aug. 10 – Day 15: McCoy brings experience to defensive line group
When the Raiders signed Gerald McCoy this week, they were hoping to add some veteran depth with a six-time Pro Bowl player who missed all of last season due to injury. Adding the veteran to the Las Vegas Raiders training camp roster means more depth and a massive upside.
What they’ve gotten, so far, has been another coach.
“I will be on the field at some point, and whatever reps they give me, I will give this team everything I have,” he said. “But right now, since I’m not practicing, I’m kind being a coach right now. Then when I start getting reps, then I’m a player coach.”
McCoy, 33, hasn’t been cleared to practice just yet, but around his own drills he’s been very impressed with the team so far.
“I believe that this team is going to catch a lot of people off guard,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in this locker room.”
It’s talent that McCoy hopes, through his experience, he can help mold into a winning unit, the same way players such as Dalvin Joseph, Tommy Harris and Warren Sapp help when he was a young player.
“There’s so much ‘want to,’ very explosive players,” he said. “Guys that need to just fine tune some things. If you saw how that d-line was rushing today, getting after the offense.”
A year away from the game has really helped McCoy appreciate the game. Not just game days, but also the more mundane aspects of the game … such as team meetings.
“Just knowing that a game is coming up and that I’m going to be on the team is excellent,” he said. “I’m just so blessed to be here. Even meetings, everything that involves preseason. I’m loving all of it. I’ve never taken this game for granted.”
Koonce takes reps at linebacker
The Raiders drafted Malcolm Koonce this year in the third round as as edge rusher. But that can come as either a defensive end or a linebacker. At Tuesday’s practice, Koonce spent some time at linebacker.
“I’m gonna get in where I can fit in,” he said. “Wherever Gus (Bradley) or the coaches think I can help the team the most, I will play.”
Koonce is working on adjusting to the professional game. He’s had to work on dealing with quality offensive linemen that are bigger, stronger and quicker than those he faced in college.
“A lot of them move like heavyset basketball players,” he said. “They have good feet and good hands, and they’re strong.”
Raiders add QB Cookus
The Raiders have signed free agent QB Case Cookus, the club announced Tuesday.
Cookus originally entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the New York Giants in 2020, spending the offseason with the club. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound quarterback made stops this past offseason with the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings.
A native of Thousand Oaks, California, Cookus played four seasons (2015-19) at Northern Arizona, appearing in 41 games. Cookus recorded 12,082 passing yards on 892-of-1,431 attempts (62.3 percent) with 105 touchdowns and 21 interceptions during his collegiate career.
In a corresponding move, the Raiders waived/injured WR Trey Quinn.
Come back each day for an update from Las Vegas Raiders training camp.