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Raiders defense dominates against Rams in joint practice

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Almost from the moment the Raiders pulled up to the Los Angeles Rams’ practice facility Wednesday, two things were abundantly clear.

First, the cool, misty, overcast weather was an extreme departure from what the Raiders are used to in Las Vegas. Second, the Raiders showed up ready to compete in the first of two joint practices against the Rams.

Derek Carr and the Raiders’ offense was sharp, breaking off a number of big plays, including long pass completions to Hunter Renfrow and Henry Ruggs. But the defense owned the day by pushing the Rams around and coming up with four interceptions against quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“I feel like we got after it,” Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby said. “Our mindset was right the second we got off the bus.”

Rookie safety Tre’von Moehrig had two interceptions, and linebacker Cory Littleton and cornerback Rasul Douglas had one each, setting the tone for an impressive day in which the Raiders created pass-rush pressure, made plays behind the line of scrimmage in run support and secured the back end.

Between the defense getting after the Rams at all three levels, the offense coming up with several splash plays and the willingness to mix it up in a spirited practice during which a handful of skirmishes broke out, it was pretty much exactly what coach Jon Gruden wanted to accomplish.

And with most of the starters facing little or no playing time Saturday when the Rams host the Raiders at SoFi Stadium, the two joint workouts are being treated as de facto games.

“Our mindset last night was getting to bed early, waking up this morning and treating it like a game-day mentality,” Carr said.

That has been a constant theme throughout camp, with the sense of work ethic and accountability heightened this year compared to recent seasons. Especially on defense, a unit that seems to be heeding the message of new coordinator Gus Bradley and benefiting from the additions of newcomers Yannick Ngakoue, Quinton Jefferson and Casey Hayward.

And the improvement of holdovers has been noticeable.

“We were just trying to have the same carryover from what it’s been in Vegas,” Jefferson said. “We wanted to show them how we practice and how we get after it. … It’s exciting because it was a change of scenery, but we still came out the same.”

It started when Moehrig intercepted Stafford on the second play of team drills. It was a strong day for the Texas Christian product, who is settling in as the starting free safety.

“Tre’von has done a great job since he’s been here,” Crosby said. “Just seeing what he does every day, that’s what you want. Somebody who’s consistent.”

The offense was on the opposite field of the defense, but word was circulating that the defense was having a strong day.

“They have a good sense of what they want to accomplish,” Renfrow said. “Coach Bradley has done a great job of building a culture and camaraderie, and kind of a theme to rally around.”

That the performance came against one of the NFL’s most talented offenses was even more encouraging.

“To hear our defense was making plays against those guys, that’s exciting,” Carr said. “Stafford rolled into Napa (where the Raiders used to train) one year and was throwing laser beams everywhere.”

Carr is trying to remain cautiously optimistic about the defense, but it’s getting harder to contain his excitement.

“Everyone can see, offensively and defensively, we have something cooking that, hopefully, we can be consistent and win some more football games,” he said.

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