With training camp looming, the Oakland Raiders have dusted off the cobwebs & put together a string of good practices to wrap up OTA’s. The club has shown a more lackadaisical/relaxed approach during the last leg of OTA’s; but ended with a strong enthusiastic atmosphere. Not only does Head Coach Jack Del Rio coach the team, host press conferences & speak highly of his team to media; he has now joined twitter. This may seem like an obsolete move but I for one can appreciate our head coach joining twitter. It’s just another attempt to bring awareness to the world about the new & improved Oakland Raiders. This organization is filled with rich tradition & glorified history but lacks BIG TIME in relevancy & is dead last in terms of “GETTING WITH THE PROGRAM”. The buzz around the team this year is electric and this only adds more juice for the fans & #RaiderNation.
Offense: Three weeks in, we conclude OTA’s with many high points from new and veteran players. Chemistry seems to be the one word that is often said when describing the offensive unit this offseason. From the meeting room to the field, the offensive unit seems to be gelling well despite adding some new pieces that will be asked to contribute this year. QB Derek Carr has made a few headlines this offseason but his humble attitude won’t allow him to fall into the hype train that people are boarding. That’s what we like to see. Our 3rd year leader is continuing to pursue greatness by performing the basics while showing the vets & rookies that he is the same old guy. Carr is repeatedly the first to enter the facility & last to leave.
WR Amari Cooper is letting his true self come out of its shell in his 2nd year. The pro bowl WR is looking to build on his 1,070 receiving yards this year with a more cheery approach. Just looking at Cooper last year you saw a focused WR but also a shy quiet one as well & maybe that was due to being a rookie. Starting week 1 being a number 1 draft pick; a lot of unwanted pressure is on you & although he delivered…you can clearly see this off season he is having more fun while remaining just as focused. Veterans like WR Michael Crabtree & FB/RB Marcel Reece have also seen a different cooper this year. Crabtree stated “I can’t wait to get out there with him in games and do our thing.”
RB Latavius Murray is quietly putting together a good camp thus far & quiet seems to be the way Murray likes it. He quietly ran for over 1,000 yards last season & he is ninja like in his progression in his 4th year. Back-up RB Taiwan Jones seems to be getting back into form after his late injury last year but with the draft pick of rookie RB Deandre Washington; he could be making his case for immediate playing time as a third down back; maybe even more. Competition is the best thing for any team and there is plenty of that within the skill positions.
LT Donald Penn is the rock for the offensive line. He may play Left Tackle but he is the leader of the whole offensive line. He is teaching the young players, showing the raider way to the new coming veterans and filling that leadership role left by Justin tuck & Charles Woodson.
Defense: With the addition of LB Bruce Irvin and CB Sean Smith, it adds experience plus a super bowl level of intensity. LB Irvin won a Super Bowl while he played for the Seattle Seahawks & he knows what it takes to get back there. Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr. expressed “Just having them on the campus, having other players look at them, we are already better right now than we were when we finished.
CB Sean Smith & CB David Amerson were connected at the hip for majority of OTA’s. Learning off of each other & making each other better. With these two more than likely the starters opening day, it’s a great sign to see them pushing each other every day. S Karl Joseph is still recovering from his ACL tear but the coaching staff is still going over his college tape & seeing him flash all over the field. They can’t wait to see him healthy once again.
DE Khalil Mack is stepping up his leadership role. From breaking the huddle in drills to being more active in the media, Mack is poised to show the league that he isn’t going nowhere. Although the fans just want to see stats…Stats…Stats; the coaching staff wants to see Mack do what all great players do. MAKE YOUR TEAMMATES BETTER! DC Norton implied; “We expect him to play at that level all the time. The really good players know how to make players around them better. It can’t just be Khalil. Khalil has to learn how to bring everybody with him.” Early signs show that he is doing just that. Rookie DE Jihad Ward & rookie DE/LB Shalique Calhoun are making an impact by showcasing their burst of energy & are receiving high praise from Mack and the coaching staff in the early going.
One thing I can say about the team thus far is that they know what is at stake. They know the pressure is mounting and expectations are high. This team as do I feel like the window of opportunity is open for a playoff push. Windows in the NFL don’t stay open for long but the Oakland Raiders are putting in the work to be better every day; and that’s all you can ask for. The commitment to excellence is real & so are the Oakland Raiders.