SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — There was one player who was a bit out of place for the Las Vegas Raiders’ preseason finale based on his pedigree.
While coach Jon Gruden kept nearly all his big-name players at home to focus on decisions at the bottom of the roster, six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy got extensive playing time in his first action since the 2019 season during Sunday’ 34-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
“I needed it,” McCoy said. “I didn’t realize, I read it this morning, I hadn’t played a game in 20 months. It’s taken it two years. I didn’t realize that. I knew it had been a while, so I needed the reps, because I haven’t practiced really. I haven’t really done anything. So, I was like, if I’m going to be ready for the season, I’ve got to play today. I don’t care how many snaps it is, who’s out there, I got to go.”
McCoy played 37 snaps in the game after ramping it up during the week in practice as he works back from a torn quadriceps last summer that ended his season in Dallas before it started.
He had no tackles and one quarterback pressure but showed some signs of resembling the player he was preinjury. That could help him make the roster when the initial 53-man unit is announced Tuesday. It also could help him earn a new number, with Gruden saying before the game that McCoy can change from No. 61 if he plays as well he practiced last week.
“It was just great to see him out there,” Gruden said. “He had a tough injury, did not play last year, but we’ve been smart with him. I thought this was a really good step in the right direction for him and really positive results I think.”
The 33-year-old McCoy brings an impressive resume to the Raiders that Gruden knows well having lived in Tampa for most of McCoy’s career. McCoy was originally drafted third overall by the Buccaneers in 2010.
He spent his first nine seasons with the Buccaneers before playing for Carolina in 2019 and signing with Dallas last season.
McCoy has made six Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro in 2013. He has 59 1/2 sacks with 79 tackles for loss, 24 passes defensed, six forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in 139 career games.
He was one of nine players with at least five sacks every season from 2012-19 but didn’t get to play in 2020 because of the injury.
“Today was my first real reps,” McCoy said after the game. “I took a few of my first practice reps this week, and been getting reps here and there, but today it was just like, throw him in the fire and it felt great. My legs felt great, no pain in the knee. Knocking the rust off felt really good. I was just back in my element, and after a while, instead of thinking about it, after a while, I was just like, all right, let’s go.”
The Raiders are hoping McCoy can provide a boost to a defense that has struggled to generate much pass rush or to be stout against the run in recent years.
He provides depth behind nose tackle Johnathan Hankins and can also provide a pass-rushing presence in certain situations.
Gruden has also praised McCoy’s leadership and teaching skills for the younger players on the line.
McCoy thinks there is a chance for a group that features Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby on the outside and more depth inside to be much improved.
“The thing about this group that I love the most is the competition,” he said. “They compete at everything. … Guys are competing like, ‘Let me see if I can be first in this.’ Guys are making sure that if we say we’re going to lift, even if it’s an optional lift, if somebody doesn’t come to the optional lift, we give them a hard time. It’s always competition and all it is, is pushing everybody to be great. And with this group, with the talent that they already have, when you have that type of drive, man, the sky’s the limit.”
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