Oakland Raiders' Winners and Losers from Training Camp
The Oakland Raiders broke training camp and are headed back to their Alameda, California headquarters to resume preparing for the regular season.
Training camp is a time of intense player evaluation for each team and there were starting jobs, roster spots and specific roles that had to be filled in Oakland. Head coach Dennis Allen and his coaching staff were also installing and refining their offensive and defensive schemes.
With the sun setting on the Raiders' 2012 training camp, it's time to examine which players produced and which players didn't live up to expectations.
That's not to say those who didn't won't be key players this season or even that they produced horribly; it's just that they did not produce as expected. There were certain players that produced that were expected to produce, like linebacker Philip Wheeler and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly that you won't find on this list.
Christopher is the lead AFC West writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisHansenNFL
Winner: Richard Gordon
Coming into training camp, no one was talking about Richard Gordon. The tight end competition was between Brandon Myers and David Ausberry, and Gordon was on the bubble as a blocking tight end.
Safety Mike Mitchell inadvertently injured Brandon Myers, who had been declared the front runner by head coach Dennis Alle. This presented an opportunity for Gordon to get reps with the No. 1 offense.
Gordon can also thank former offensive coordinator and current tight end specialist Al Saunders for his development during training camp. The Raiders retained Saunders and gave him the task of developing the Raiders tight ends, and that decision is reaping rewards.
Gordon still needs to show that he can be a weapon in the passing game, but he’s done enough to steal snaps from Myers. His blocking ability will also be put to good use in the regular season.
Loser: David Ausberry
All the talk about the tight end position revolved around the development of David Ausberry coming into training camp. The former wide receiver added weight in hopes of becoming a better blocker. Instead, Ausberry has been stuck on the depth chart behind Brandon Myers and Richard Gordon.
Ausberry has gotten work with the No. 1 offense when the team utilizes a two tight end set, so not all hope is lost. Ausberry also had a nice block to spring McFadden against the Cardinals.
For a guy that many thought would develop into the starter, he hasn’t done enough in camp to deserve a bigger role. It’s likely the Raiders will use all three tight ends because none of them have developed into a clear-cut No. 1 option.
Winner: Shawntae Spencer
It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. That could be Shawntae Spencer’s motto after starting training camp a little slow, but then really coming on strong the last couple weeks.
Spencer is a veteran, and that’s not a bad thing. The Raiders need smart players in the secondary, and when the younger players were getting tired, Spencer was getting stronger. Spencer and Ron Bartell combined to stifle the first-team offense at times.
Spencer’s slow start and DeMarcus Van Dyke’s fast start had some wondering if Spencer might become the slot receiver, with Van Dyke starting on the outside. That thought proved to be a folly, and Spencer is at no risk of being replaced by Van Dyke right now.
Loser: Jacoby Ford
With Denarius Moore nursing a sore hamstring, Ford got a lot of reps as the starting outside receiver. Ford flashed his speed at times and made a few plays, but he could hardly be described as a training camp performer.
For a stretch of days Ford was almost completely limited by cornerback Shawntae Spencer. Ford lost his starting job on the outside last year to Moore and wasn't doing much to win it back when given the opportunity.
Then, in the preseason loss to the Cardinals, Ford hurt his foot. It's a mystery how long he'll be out, and he's currently in a walking boot, according the Contra Costa Times.
The Raiders dealt with injuries to Ford and Moore last season and neither have proven that they can stay healthy for the long haul. With Rod Streater rising, it wouldn't be surprising to see Ford become a return man and gadget player more than an outside wide receiver in the future.
Winner: Rod Streater
No player has helped himself more in Napa than rookie undrafted receiver Rod Streater. Streater impressed coaches in OTAs and mini-camp, but few could have imagined a player that will start at wide receiver in the somewhat important third preseason game.
Streater has been impressive in training camp practices and he’s carried it over into preseason games. He’s no ordinary undrafted rookie.
Streater was given more opportunity because Denarius Moore has missed nearly all of training camp with a hamstring injury, and he’s about to get even more responsibilities with Jacoby Ford sidelined with a foot injury.
He’s been impressive enough that the Raiders might have trouble sending him to the bench when and if Moore and Ford are healthy at the same time.
Loser: Juron Criner
There was one player during organized team activities and minicamp that was the media’s unanimous choice for potential training camp and regular season star. That player was rookie fifth-round draft pick Juron Criner.
Criner was drawing comparisons to Denarius Moore from a year ago and was making spectacular catch after spectacular catch. That disappeared in Napa. Criner wasn’t getting the same volume of targets, but he also wasn’t finding himself open.
Criner’s quiet training camp bled over into the preseason games, and he dropped an easy Matt Leinart pass. Criner was running with the No. 2 offense in training camp while Eddie McGee missed time with a hamstring injury, but didn’t hold onto his No. 2 spot when McGee returned and was forced to share reps.
There are still two weeks before the start of the regular season and the team returns to the practice fields in Alameda, California were Criner was previously making a lot of noise.
Winner: Miles Burris
With Aaron Curry on the PUP list, rookie Miles Burris has been getting every snap with the No. 1 defense. Getting that many reps is a golden opportunity for a rookie, and for the most part, he hasn’t wasted it.
Burris has seemed to improve every day of training camp and was not only getting better against the run, but starting to develop in pass coverage as well.
Unfortunately Burris' most extensive action in a game came against the Cardinals and he didn’t carry over his practice performance into the game. At the moment, Burris is still the best the team has at weakside linebacker.
Burris is going to have to learn on the fly, but he looks like he’s capable of growing quickly and he’ll always give a 100 percent effort. It’s hard to ask for more from the rookie.
Losers: Denarius Moore/Aaron Curry/Taiwan Jones
Denarius Moore, Aaron Curry and Taiwan Jones all missed a large portion of training camp. There is very little risk of any of the three losing their position on the depth chart, but missing camp is like missing class and showing up for the test. Sure, you can read the book, but do you understand the material?
There is a difference between mental reps and real reps, and the Raiders have new offensive and defensive schemes. Missing so much time means there will be some rust once the players get on the field, but more importantly, the players aren’t developing chemistry with their teammates.
Chemistry is sort of a dirty word in sports, but it's very real. Carson Palmer has to get his timing down with Moore, the offensive line and Taiwan Jones need to get a feel for how long the blocks will take to develop, and Curry’s teammates will need to trust him in the new defensive scheme.
It’s not the end of the world for these guys to be out, but the Raiders would sure like to have them healthy and in sync with what the team is doing before the regular season starts.
Winner: Mike Mitchell
Coming into training camp, many were writing off Mitchell. The reasoning was sound—Mitchell hadn’t been healthy and hadn’t even been a weapon covering tight ends for over a year.
Mitchell was the type of player that many considered a symbol of the previous regime. The thought in Oakland was that any player that hadn’t conformed to the new regime’s way of doing things would be cut.
Mitchell still has a hard time ratcheting back his love of contact and was responsible for injuring Brandon Myers, but he’s made a few plays in training camp and he’s healthy for the first time in a long time. Plus, Mitchell loves the new defensive scheme and really seems to be buying into what the new regime is selling.
Mitchell even spent a day with the No. 1 defense on a day Tyvon Branch got a rest, and it appears that he will remain a vital reserve for the Raiders in 2012.
Mike Goodson/DeMarcus Van Dyke
Mike Goodson and DeMarcus Van Dyke can only be described as training camp performers and preseason duds.
Goodson looked fast and explosive in practices and had no trouble with ball security. Against the Cardinals, Goodson looked like a walking fumble and couldn’t gain anything on the ground.
The fumbling is more concerning than the rushing yardage. The yardage will come with better blocking, but the fumbling is on Goodson to correct, and he’s not going to see the field much or become McFadden’s primary back up if he can’t secure the ball.
Van Dyke was the star of the first week of training camp. He looked aggressive and was breaking up every pass thrown his way. Van Dyke was running with the No. 1 defense in place of Ron Bartell and it seemed like he was starting material.
Ron Bartell returned to practice and a switch flipped for Van Dyke. He wasn’t as aggressive, and although he wasn’t making any bad plays in practice, he also wasn’t making the same good plays as he was the first week of camp. Van Dyke’s passivity carried over into the preseason game against the Cardinals, leading defensive coordinator Jason Tarver to say to the media that he hopes Van Dyke can take his solid play during practice into the game.
Goodson and Van Dyke need good performances in the third preseason game to validate their training camp performances.
Winner: Carl Ihenacho
There wasn’t much buzz for Carl Ihenacho coming into camp. He was just a guy, one of many vying for a backup job at the linebacker position.
Ihenacho separated himself from the undrafted rookies and ran with the No. 2 defense for virtually all of training camp. Ihenacho was a quiet performer during training camp and never made a play big enough to get mentioned by the media.
Ihenacho’s quiet camp may have had something to do with a quiet camp from backup linebackers overall. The focus has been on Philip Wheeler, Rolando McClain and Miles Burris.
Ihenacho had a sack in the second preseason game against the Cardinals and validated his hard work. He’s put himself in a position to make the team and has a very good chance to stick around longer if the Raiders don't find a better player after roster cuts.
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