Energetic and vocal Gus Bradley inspiring Raiders defense

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Raiders Football (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Raiders Football (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s voice is unmistakable when he gets fired up during practice.

He has had some competition this year during the first week of training camp at the team’s headquarters.

Boisterous first-year defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is making his presence known, stirring up a unit that certainly needed a jolt after last year’s disastrous campaign.

“Gus is a high-energy coach,” Gruden said “He’s upbeat, positive, philosophical, fun to be around, he makes you laugh — but he also pushes you.”

And that’s a good thing, considering Las Vegas allowed the third-most points in the NFL last season, produced the third-fewest sacks and turnovers, and ranked 30th in third-down defense. It also ranked dead last with its fourth-down defense.

Bradley replaces Paul Guenther, whose defensive units allowed an average of more than 6,000 yards per season under his watch. Since 2018, the Raiders allowed a league second-worst 6.05 yards per play.

It’s safe to say there isn’t any other direction for the Raiders’ stop unit to go other than up, and Bradley has his players believing in themselves behind the camaraderie he has built.

“He just brought a different type of energy, different type of genuineness and love to the team,” second-year defensive back Damon Arnette said. “Everybody is just getting closer. He brought back the brotherhood, for the love of your brother next to you. You definitely feel a different vibe, positive vibe.

"I just see this type of defense excelling.”

Bradley, one of the most respected defensive skippers in the NFL who built the Legion of Boom in Seattle, said he is up to the task of rebuilding a stop unit that squandered three late-game leads last season — with 1:43 remaining against the Kansas City Chiefs, 19 seconds against the Miami Dolphins and in overtime against the Los Angeles Chargers - all during a 2-5 stretch that closed the campaign after a promising 6-3 start.

“These guys have been hungry from the day I walked in, and my understanding is that’s how they were last year, too,” Bradley said. “They want to learn, they want to do well, so it’s been very good. I’ve been very pleased, as well as our staff, on their mindset.”

Bradley’s energy and optimism seems to have carried over, as players have been encouragingly vocal with one another.

“He’s a ball of energy at all times and that’s what you want in a coach,” defensive end Maxx Crosby said. “He’s a big positive influence in this building and I’m looking forward to play under him.”

Many of them also appear to be in preseason shape, not first-of-week-training-camp-shape, with leaner, quicker and stronger bodies vividly reacting during drills.

The biggest difference? Bradley said with the facility being open this summer — as opposed to last year during the pandemic — players have been able to lift weights and condition with one another during the offseason, helping create that chemistry with newcomers and returners.

“Our strength conditioning team has done a great job with those guys,” Bradley said. “They’ve leaned up, some have lost some weight, and good weight to lose. We talked about that fourth-quarter rush. It’s been a little bit of an emphasis with us throughout the offseason and training camp.”

And while offensive coordinator Greg Olson welcomes back plenty of playmakers from a unit that scored the 10th-most points in the NFL last season, and quite possibly has the makings of being even better, the burden of getting the ball in quarterback Derek Carr’s hands falls on Bradley’s shoulders.

“You can definitely feel that urgency and that demand that he’s bringing and they’re taking,” Carr said. “It’s one thing for a coach to bring it, it’s another thing for him to bring it and the players to accept it and say, ‘Yeah, we are going to ride with that guy.’ And they’ve don’t that.”

Said Bradley: “We know we have a job to do, and we know the importance of it. Our job is to get the ball and score, but at least get the ball to our offense and give them opportunities to score.”

NOTES: S Tyree Gillespie was absent for a second straight day, while G Richie Incognito returned to the field after missing Thursday. ... RB Theo Riddick was placed on the reserve/retired list, while RB Kenyan Drake and DT Darius Stills returned to practice from the non-football injury list. ... WR Zay Jones, whom Gruden warned reporters Tuesday not to forget about, hauled in a couple of TD passes from Carr during drills and showed off some midseason celebration skills afterward.

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