Oakland Raiders camp opened last week and everything in camp and the future practices this week are all running on the high notes from the acquisitions made in the offseason. The Raiders franchise and their fans our tired of being the bottom dwellers of the AFC west and this year general manager Reggie McKenzie did everything in his power to make it work for the upcoming season.
Raiders made a splash at the draft by filling in their needs and picking up a few surprises along the way. Their first pick was the linebacker sensation out of Buffalo Khalil Mack and before you knew a future young quarterback fell in their lap Derek Carr. Right there what more can the team that’s been behind the game for over a decade ask for their future? Adding to that in the draft they selected Gabe Jackson that will add a dimension to the starting offensive line.
In the offseason prior to the draft during free agency the Raiders brought some solid veterans with Championship experience. They began by making a trade to bring in their quarterback and got Matt Schaub from the Texans. Than they added major acquisitions of Antonio Smith, Justin Tuck and Lamar Woodley to the defensive team follow former 49ers Carlos Rodgers and Terrell Brown. The Raiders didn’t stop there they brought in some offensive line protection like former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Donald Penn. And the signings continued as they collected veteran offensive weapons. Like former Packers wide receiver James Jones and former Jaguars running back Maurice Jones Drew. OFFSEASON MOVES
This builds up lots of excitement from all corners of the spectrum from young players and veterans alike that will push each and develop solid team chemistry something that might have been missing the past decade from the Raiders.
At the same time to place this team back on the right foot there will be lots of competition for jobs and playing time resulting in the most important training camp in years. The depth chart at almost every position is still undecided, which the Raiders will have one of the most wide-open and exciting training camps in the entire NFL.
The biggest competition hits at the quarterback where the young Derick Carr looks to challenge the veteran quarterback Matt Schaub. Well back in March when the trade for Schaub was first complete. Head coach Dennis Allen immediately announced he is the Raiders starting quarterback but that was before the draft and the depth chart at that point only included Matt McGloin and Terrell Pryor at the time. The second day of the draft occurred and before the Raiders new their second round draft pick was exactly who they wanted Derick Carr.
But not to say that Carr will be the starter anytime soon but he is in place to place an opposing threat to Schaub this fall. Since Schaub needs to recover from one the worse seasons in his career. For right now heading into the season Schaub’s starting it’s only his to lose and that should not change anytime soon.
07/28 Matt Schaub has another big day completing 18 for 21 passes in training camp throws.
Respectively this continues to be one of the strengths of the Raiders’ offense the running game. Believe or not despite Darren McFadden side injuries that keep him off the field from time to time the team manages to do quite well in this category. But they lost key component to their running game last season Rashard Jennings who left Oakland to head to New York. But the Raiders just might have placed in store something more lethal and every NFL fan needs to pay attention to. Correct, both Jones Drew who the team signed this offseason and McFadden have struggled with injuries, McFadden is younger and remains the more explosive of the two. Given the option, the Raiders will take a healthy McFadden over a healthy Jones-Drew. But combining that two headed monster with they also have a young beast behind them Latvious Murray, who capture our eyes in camp last season before going down don’t sleep on him. I saying that add the dimension of Marcel Reece at full-back by far one of the best in the business this can only evolve in a great thing to come if all of them are able to stay healthy.
A solid signing came earlier in the offseason this year when the raiders signed free agent James Jones and finally having a solid veteran target on the field for the quarterback to work with the young wide-outs. This actually might be what the team needed to get over the hump. Okay maybe they don’t have a true number one wide receiver but when you can package Denrius Moore, Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Juron Crinor and package in veterans like Greg Little and Jones this team may surprise some people.
This position on the Raiders one might think by looking at the roster no-one is a stand out but don’t underestimate these guys. The Raiders may not have a super-star tight-end like a Jimmy Graham or Vernon Davis but they have the right mix of personnel to make opposing defenses think twice. The starters David Ausberry/Mychal Rivera both play different roles on the field and then the Raiders throw their blocking tight-end either Nick Kasa or Brian Leonhardt in the mix. Rivera is the lead receiver of the bunch last season in his rookie year he had six touchdowns expect him to even be more potent with a solid quarterback throwing him the ball and upgraded offensive line.
Speaking about the offensive line, what a change in the offseason a complete turnaround in fact. Yes the Raiders lost a few but it may only to turn out for the better. Coming back and starting center is Stefen Wisniewski, but general manager McKenzie knew his team needed to make some vital changes in free agency he brought into the mix established veteran starters Austin Howard and Donald Penn to begin to strengthen set the one on the line. Howard will be switching position on the line and Penn needs to prove he still got it after coming off a mediocre season.
Then adding to the mix on the line for the Raiders are the two young players Manelik Watson and Gabe Jackson stirs up a great combination of both experience and youth. Behind them fighting for their jobs in camp are two veterans Khalif Barnes and Kevin finally this unit looks bigger, stronger, and more experienced than in quite some time.
Looking at the defensive front during camp it only looks scary. In saying that Raider Nation cannot wait to see this unit get into action. All four starters are well experienced veterans beginning with the free agents brought in Lamar Woodley, Antonio Smith and Justin Tuck to work together with Pat Sims. Just saying those names together teams look like a monster attack to boost their rushing attack in the coming season. Looking at camp Woodley and Tuck will be the defensive ends and Smith and Sims will be in the middle. Followed by a few young guys like Justin Ellis and Jack Crawford. This unit looks exciting heading into the season with something good to look ahead to.
In the 4-3 system the Raiders play to round out the front seven the linebackers are a lethal bunch that look punish the opposing offensive attacks in the AFC west and get in the quarterbacks. Beginning with the leader in the middle Nick Roach along the sides in the upcoming young linebacker Sio Moore and on the opposite end is the rookie sensation Khalil Mack that hope to set impression not only in camp but heading into the NFL season.
The secondary actually tends to be the groups only weak spot in camp but that could only improve the group is spotlighted by returning veterans Charles Woodson and Tavon Branch but Woodson isn’t getting any young and Branch is coming off a season that plagued him with an injury. Last years’ first round draft pick DJ Hayden continues to sit out and still hasn’t got a through a full camp now entering his second season. But the team brought into exciting veterans into the mix from the other side of the bay Terrell Thomas and Carlos Rodgers each last season came from the 49ers and now look to lead the group into battle but it will not be easy task with both Usuma Young and Keith McGill already headed to the PUP list as the bench in the cornerback position seems a little banged up headed into the season to say the least.
Camp News and Notes
There are several positions still up for grabs at Raiders camp and heading into the preseason no one job is secure. The new regime led by GM McKenzie and head coach Allen now need to take a major step to fix the puzzle that has not been place together in over a decade. Everyone knew no success would come overnight but they are now headed into their third year together and failure is not an option.
Dennis Allen on the sixth day of training camp,
Lot better practice today,” said Head Coach Dennis Allen. “I thought the guys came back and we challenged them a little bit, I thought they responded. That’s what you expect out of a group like this with some veteran players. I thought they came out and responded. I think there are still some things where we’ve got to get some things cleaned up. We’ve got to be able to finish some plays when we have some opportunities. But, overall I thought both sides of the ball did some good things and I think we got better as a football team.”
All this chitter and chatter about where the team may play in the future has not stop the players nor staff to getting their goals on track. All of Raider Nation from Oakland and beyond wish great success this coming year and into the future.
Observation in camp so far has the quarterbacks continue to make strides with Schaub being the mentor and leader he been consistent.
The receivers and tight-ends are working on the same page as Schuab and getting to know how he throws the ball. Backs McFadden and Jones-Drew are a little rusty but they will snap out of it.
Oakland has talented yet inconsistent offensive line that can excel in pass blocking, run blocking and zone blocking. Penn and Weisnewski were the guys that stood out and are ready to make the offensive line better. Austin Howard attempted to open things up for a struggling running game, but fought against Lamar Woodley in the one on one drills and as you know that’s not an easy task.
The talented pass rushers Khalil Mack and Woodley wreaked havoc on the right side of the Raiders offensive line this was first demonstrated on the opening day of camp and continued through the week.
Oakland’s front seven did well, but the secondary needs lots of work but is coming together and improving as a unit the past few days.
In the end of the day lots emphasis is on special teams to see who will make the 53 men roster. And now is the time for veterans and rookies alike to prove they can not only make the team but also set the tone, culture and build the character for the Raiders for the season that lies ahead.
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