There is a fine line between blind optimism and reality, especially when it comes to the preseason in the National Football League. The Oakland Raiders have made headlines this offseason by staying out of the news for a change.
With the exception of trading for Jason Campbell, Quentin Groves, and Kamerion Wimbley the Raiders have made very few personnel moves and managed to steer clear of signing the perennial underachieving, aging veteran with nothing left in the tank.
The draft was widely regarded as a complete success, and things have been looking up for the Silver and Black. Organized Team Activities saw an increase in participation and a disappearing act of the negativity that perpetuated itself throughout the locker room for the past seven years.
Training camp kicked off with Richard Seymour riding the bus into camp with the rookies, and making it clear that this year is going to be different.
Coach Cable's soft approach to the beginning of training camp has kept his players happy, and healthier than in years past. Apparently, somewhere along the line, the coaching staff decided to carry this past the first few days of two-a-days and implement a more "injury-friendly" format for fine-tuning this year's squad. Cable has frequently rested veteran players, and rookies alike, leaving some wondering whether the Raiders new approach will prepare them for the grueling 17 week regular season.
Even with the drastic reduction in contact during this year's training camp, the nucleus of the Raider offense cannot seem to stay on the field. Chaz Schillens has been held out of over 50 percent of the practices, and is clearly not ready to go.
Where will the Raiders passing game be ranked this year?
Darren McFadden is once again showing that he cannot stay away from the training room on a consistent basis and is in eminent danger of losing his starting job to Michael Bush. The Raiders are hopeful that he can have a breakout year and better utilize his dynamic skill set as a weapon in Hue Jackson’s offense.
Darrius Heyward-Bey is being held out of practice for fatigue, and sources close to the organization say that the "fatigue" is actually the return of the nagging hamstring injury that sidelined him in 2009. Of course the organization is mum on the speedster's injury status, but the tape around his upper leg would point to the obvious.
Louis Murphy's suffered a concussion at the beginning of camp, and has since been on the field and semi-productive.
If the Raiders are going to make a run at the division, they are going to need to find a way to keep this already thin group of receivers healthy.
The Raiders look to be drastically improved in the passing game, but still are a long way from presenting a formidable attack. Receivers have continued to drop far too many passes and this poses a legitimate reason to be concerned. The receiving corps must learn to attack the football and run crisper routes. If Coach Cable doesn't start making his players practice through fatigue and minor injury, the receiver will struggle to get on the same page as Jason Campbell.
The defensive line looked stellar in the first preseason game and it was nice to see. The Raider run defense has seemingly been addressed, but the linebackers were seemingly exposed in pass coverage.
During the Dallas game, nickel corner back Stanford Routt was victimized, and that has to leave you wondering how a sixth year player of his caliber warranted a first and third round tender during the free agency period. Tom Cable has nothing but positive things to say about Routt's work ethic, but must be delusional if he is actually considering letting Routt start over Chris Johnson.
The bottom line is: This team is close to being a contender in the AFC West. The lack of depth and proven production from the wide receiving corps could be a stumbling block, but if Cable's rest 'em, don't ruin 'em philosophy pays off this team will give it's steadfast fan base plenty to be excited about.