As OTA's start to wind down, the approach of training camp quickly emerges.
The Raiders finish their OTA programs about next week. A few weeks later it is off to their Napa training camp facility.
The off-season buzz has had the Raider fanbase on a whole new level. As a fellow Raider fan, I fully expect that level to rise once Training Camp is in full swing.
However, questions still loom over the franchise as they try to improve their football team to become a winning playoff contender.
Some questions are easier to answer than others but that is a part of the excitement that is training camp.
The Summer heat comes before the Autumn wind as questions come before answers.
Please "comment" on and "like" my article. I really want to get your opinions on the approach of training camp.
Remember today is when the Media gets to take a look at the team during OTAs.
If you have any info you would like to share, please comment.
It was clear that when Rolando McClain was drafted he was ready to learn.
McClain immediately asked his coaches for a playbook and film of the defense as soon as he realized that he would be a Raider.
He hit the ground running as mini camps and OTAs opened and has impressed coaches with his natural athletic ability and lack of mental errors.
But now the pads are on, and what McClain has learned needs to become second nature.
True, he will continue to learn new concepts in training camp, but he will also be asked to be the heart of a defense.
Say what you want about Kirk Morrison's flaws, but his teammates gave him their respect and trust as the MLB.
Now McClain must make them forget about number 52.
I have faith that McClain will do a good job and prove to be an instant impact as the number 8 overall pick.
Its time to not just learn but to also lead a new and hopefully improved defense.
Mario Henderson did stuggle in 2009, but keep in mind that 2009 was his first full season as a starter.
Though he gave up a lot of sacks, he didn't make a whole lot of mental mistakes such as penalties, unlike his Right Tackle partner Cornell Green.
We have'nt heard a lot about Henderson in OTAs which is a good thing for offensive lineman, but the fact is it is hard to judge lineman whose job it is to bang up against the guy across from him during non-contact drills.
Though I think Henderson would be a better RT, it seems that he is penciled on the left side.
With Robert Gallery healthy, I expect Henderson to do a decent job knowing he has better help from his guard.
I'm rooting for you Henderson.
If I were to describe Michael Huff's 2009 season, I would call it much improved.
In 2006 and 2007, Huff was no doubt out of position as Strong Safety. In 2008 he finally got to be where he should have been all along at Free Safety, the problem was that he had to learn the position all over again then had to move to special teams to learn to be a better tackler.
Though in 2009 Huff still had problems in run support, you can't deny his improvement.
Besides Huff's position is to be an impact in the pass defending game, and he definitely has a natural ability to cover.
Now Huff must realize what it takes to become a Ball Hawk. If he can figure that out in 2010 this defense will be that much better.
Branch is a whole lot better in the run game than Huff. He led all NFL safeties in tackles.
His progression must come as a pass coverage safety.
Branch did well in pass coverage in 2009 however you could tell that it wasn't a natural gift to him the way it is for Huff.
If Huff becomes the ball hawk we need and Branch can at least be comfortable in pass coverage and continue to be that force in the run stopping game, that makes this defense one of the better defenses in the NFL. P
Plus, it makes Pro-Bowler Nnamdi Asomugha's job a whole lot easier.
Im not going to spend time giving you the stats of Darrius Heyward-Bey's rookie year.
The fact is they were bad. There is no way that a player taken that high in the draft should have those kinds of stats with at least 12 starts.
But we know that he wasn't working with a good quarterback for the majority of the time and that Heyward-Bey is going to be a project.
Now for the light side of the dark cloud.
The difference going into this off-season than last is that we are hearing praise rather than criticism when it comes to DHB.
Last off-season all you heard was how DHB's hands weren't natural at all.
This year, however, it is being reported that all his catches are clean and crisp.
So my personal question is how is it all of a sudden did he get better hands?
I thought a receiver's hands had to be natural, and you can't teach a person how to catch. So I guess the bigger question is does having a more accurate quarterback help a young wide receiver?
If DHB's problem is catching an inaccurate pass, I'm okay with that. That comes with experience and body control.
But if his natural hands are still an issue then the Raiders are going to have to return to the basics when it comes to DHB.
How are the Raiders going to use Mike Mitchell?
When the Oakland Raiders made Mitchell the second round pick in 2009, I had no problem with that.
I know the media thought it was a random pick but the Raiders had to get him if the Chicago Bears were looking at him as it was speculated.
I liked the pick basically because Safety was still a need for us. Then we as fans all saw the youtube clips of Mitchell killing ever ball carrier that came his way.
I just knew he would be an instant impact.
But he didn't get a lot of work in OTAs then injured his hamstring in training camp, which made it evident that Tyvon Branch was going to be our starter.
No one expected Branch to light up the league the way he did. So now Mitchell is basically starting from scratch.
Some say that the Raiders should move Michael Huff to corner and let Mitchell get time at free safety.
My problem with that is Huff is finally making good strides, lets not retard his hard work because we know as fans, if he struggles his FIRST year at corner we are are going to want his head.
So what do the Raiders have in store for Mike Mitchell?
Only Training Camp will tell.
If any of you have read my past articles, you know that I believe Chaz Schilens is the best Wide Receiver the Oakland Raiders have.
I can give every piece of statistical evidence I have, or tell stories of his reliable performances, but they all get trumped by one basic fact.
Chaz Schilens can not stay healthy.
Every time that is said, I have nothing to come back with. Because the fact is the first two years of Schilens career have been plagued with injury.
It seems the Oakland Raiders have also figured this out.
Though Schilens had off-season surgery and claims to be 100% healthy, Head Coach Tom Cable says he will continue to be cautious with Schilens and sit him down until Training Camp.
So now Training Camp is around the corner, and we have a Quarterback in Campbell that has the Nation jucied.
I'm expecting big things from the two of them.
The only thing getting talked about more than Jason Campbell is the lack of depth on the Raiders defensive line, particularly tackle.
Last preseason an undrafted rookie by the name of Desmond Bryant made a huge impact at defensive tackle. But it was just that, preseason.
In the regular season Bryant was merely a rotational player to give the often winded Gerard Warren a breather.
My biggest issue with Bryant was that he looked more like a defensive end than a tackle.
Then in the NFL Draft the Raiders took the talented Lamarr Houston, a Defensive Tackle out of Texas. However, they made a surprising announcement that Houston will be a defensive end.
Fast forward to the present and it seems Bryant is getting the majority of the first team reps and has a new body more fitting of a defensive tackle.
It is being reported that Bryant has beefed up to 315 lbs. This is exactly what the Raiders need in a defensive tackle from a measurable point of view.
P.S. For those of you expecting a lot from rookie DT Kellen Heard, don't.
I like his attitude, his toughness, his swagger, all of that, but being an undrafted free agent it will be hard for him to climb the depth chart, no matter how slim we are at DT.
Don't set yourself up for disappointment the way we ALL did with MLB Frantz Joseph. Even I was taken by his pre-camp release.
I'm not saying Heard will be cut, but he probably won't have the impact we all, including myself might expect.
Personally, I think he will.
Not just because of all the hype, but because of what his track record in the NFL has been.
He has always been known to be a hard worker. He has never bad mouthed the Washington organization after they clearly wanted him gone for some time now.
And at the end of the day, because of the way the Redskins treated him, he has something to prove.
Combine all those things with a offense that better suits him, a fiery offensive coordinator, and a more experienced receiving corps, and you get a very determined Oakland Raider Quarterback.
When you hear Jason Campbell speak, he sounds like he is always going to take the classy way to answer a question.
But on the inside you can tell there is a passion that is waiting to bust out.
In fact that is how I would describe his time in the Redskins offense.
He tried his hardest to make the smart decision.
He always went for the safe option but when it was time to make a big play he wanted to be the one to make it.
The issue is, Campbell was ready to take over games, not just manage them.
If he gets that opportunity in Oakland it will continue to be the question.