Both voluntary and mandatory minicamps have now concluded for the Oakland Raiders, and although they present what is probably the slowest news period of the year, there are still some important items to take away from this time.
By now, we know which players are playing where and what positional competitions will be the most interesting to watching throughout training camp and the preseason.
In this past week’s mandatory camp, thanks in large part to some extra media availability from the coaches, we were able to gather additional information on just how the team is coming together thus far.
Most of it is fairly positive news in regard to the progress of what is certainly a rebuilding franchise. Here is a roundup of the latest offseason buzz surrounding the Oakland Raiders.
Much was made about the slow start the Raiders quarterbacks had to minicamp action this past week.
As CSN Bay Area’s Nate Stuhlbarg reported in his wrap-up of Thursday’s practice, the Raiders were able to conclude the three-day mandatory camp with a much more crisp effort overall, and especially so on the part of the quarterbacks.
Normally, not much should be made of how players look in these OTA sessions that see them wearing shorts in favor of pads, but when a passing offense struggles as much as the Raiders seem to have, the concern is somewhat warranted.
For the play to have improved greatly over a three-day period is a good sign. While great athletes should always look great in shorts, we should all remember just how new this entire offense really is.
With some new quarterbacks, new coaches and an entirely new offensive scheme, there will be bumps in the road. Team staff and fans will agree—it is much better to have those bumps ironed out now than to still be doing so later.
After a solid final day to the mandatory minicamp, it is quite likely that far too much was made about the slow start the quarterbacks had early on.
Taking a look at the Raiders’ roster heading into the 2013 season, it is clear that the wide receiver position provides many more questions than it does answers.
For the offense to have success, this relatively young and inexperienced group needs at least one player to step up and establish himself as a No. 1 target, and head coach Dennis Allen expects that to be third-year receiver Denarius Moore.
After what was a great rookie campaign, Moore seemed to regress some in 2012. Like so many other things on the offensive side of the ball, it wouldn’t be out of the question to attribute that to an extremely poor scheme fit as well.
When Moore was making his biggest impact in Hue Jackson’s offense in 2011, he was either getting the ball close to the line of scrimmage in space or being used as a vertical threat downfield.
In 2013, the Raiders need to make a point of using Moore similar to that once again, putting him in the best position possible to make plays.
If they can do just that, and avoid having him run patterns that more so work against his skill set, Moore should have no trouble recapturing his form of 2011, and thus the Raiders’ No. 1 receiver role in the process.
Although the Raiders had a talented group of players on offense in 2012, their potential production was essentially washed out but what was an awful schematic fit overall.
Now, with Greg Olson taking over the reins at offensive coordinator, the offense should see some clear improvement right away.
In his media availability following the Raiders’ third day of mandatory minicamp, Olson had this to say about his ability and necessity to shape the offense around the players on the team. Via Jerry McDonald and Contra Costa Times:
So I’ve been exposed to a number of different systems and if there’s one thing that I’ve learned, you’d better adapt to the players you have on your team. You’d better not pigeon-hole yourself as in, `This is my system and this is what we’re going to do’ because that personnel may not match that system.
Of course, the desired strategy needs to at some point translate into on-field success to be worth anything. However, given the product the Raiders offense put on the field last season, this has to be exactly what fans want to hear.
With highly skilled offensive players like Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece, Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford to name a few, the Raiders must employ this strategy, finding any way possible to use each to the best of his abilities.
If they can do just that, the Raiders offense will be much more productive throughout this season, and it will go a long way toward speeding up the team’s rebuilding process overall.
This may seem like a rather unworthy news piece from offseason minicamps, but given the extensively negative reviews throughout the football world of the talent level on the Raiders’ roster, it bears significance.
First of all, I’ll just say this was a good camp. I thought OTAs, I thought we improved, I thought we got better. I like this football team. I like their mentality, I like where we’re at, I like the way they’re working. Obviously we’re going to give them some time off before we go to training camp, but I think we’re all anxious to get there, get the pads on and really see what we’ve got.
Of course, at this point in the offseason, coaches around the NFL will constantly speak to how happy they have been with their teams thus far.
At the same time, we must remember the constant focus that Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie have placed upon having the right players on this team throughout the rebuild process.
Despite the now-seemingly common trend to label the Raiders’ roster and/or roster groups among the worst in the NFL, this organization is laying its foundation with players it believes it can build around.
Yes, plain talent plays possibly the most significant part in a team’s success. While the Raiders have certainly put together an underrated group by all accounts, bringing in the kind of players the organization wants and knows will put in the necessary work is a positive start at the very least.
While the Raiders had relatively good participation numbers throughout offseason OTAs, there were several key players who were either not yet ready to go, or suffered minor injuries during practice.
As Allen said in his media availability after the final minicamp practice, via CSN Bay Area, he anticipates everyone being ready to go for the start of training camp.
Of course, in football, injuries can happen at any time and are a virtual certainty to happen throughout the course of a season.
Regardless, it is important for this team, given the mass amount of roster turnover, to be fully healthy heading into training camp. This will allow everyone to be on the same page and all positional competition to be relatively even.
With a completely new offense being installed, and a defensive system that is sure to open up with various positional upgrades throughout, that importance heightens even more so. Having all players able to participate will help this team be in the best position possible for Week 1 of the regular season.
Dan Wilkins is an Oakland Raiders Featured Columnist. You can follow him on Twitter here.