It’s been a wild offseason for the Oakland Raiders and just when things started to seem like they were going to calm down, the team announced that they are going to be featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks. The Raiders’ training camp was already going to be interesting. While the Raiders on Hard Knocks will certainly make for good TV, it’s not the only thing that will be notable about training camp. The Raiders have loads of young talent and new faces on the team looking to breakout or make a name for themselves. Below we’re going to go through some of the players that are worth watching at Raiders training camp.
Second-year defensive end Arden Key turned heads earlier in the offseason when he told reporters that he underwent shoulder surgery and gained 15 pounds of muscle in just a few weeks. Key’s rookie season was marred by missed opportunities and the inability to finish plays.
“Coach [Brenston Buckner] had a whole clip of my almost 13 sacks,” said Key in a media session during OTAs. “It was very nerve-racking because I could’ve had a better first year, but we all learn from those mistakes.”
Brenston Buckner is the new defensive line coach for the Raiders and if he could help Key turn those missed sacks into actual sacks, he could be in for a big sophomore season. Even though he put on weight, Key says he hasn’t lost any of his explosiveness. It’ll be interesting to see if he still has the same burst off the line once training camp rolls around. It’s also worth keeping an eye on his shoulder situation to see if it’s affecting his play. This will be an important training camp for Key as the Raiders added a couple draft picks that play the same position as him. If he still demonstrates that he can’t bring the quarterback down, the coaching staff will likely give other guys chances to do so.
2018 fifth round pick Maurice Hurst seems to be a complete steal for the Raiders. Hurst was supposed to be a first-round pick in last year’s draft, but a rare heart condition revealed before the draft derailed those hope. The Raiders took a chance on him and he’s ready to ascend to pro bowl level player in 2019 for the silver and black. Hurst will still need to get yearly checkups on his heart to make sure he’s okay to play, but there hasn’t been any news on that front so far. Hurst should use this training camp to state his claim as a starter in the middle of the defensive line. A small ankle injury kept him out of a couple games in 2018. He seems to have healed from that as he was a participant in most of the offseason workout programs for the Raiders. The 2018 sack leader for the Raiders looks to improve in year two and he’ll likely increase that sack total now that he has more talent around him. His ankle and heart condition makes it worth keeping an eye on him in training camp, but everything seems to be good for him healthwise.
Clelin Ferrell hasn’t even suited up for one game and he’s already getting respect as a leader.
“He’s a rookie, but I swear he’s been here like five years,” said new Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
The drafting of Ferrell with the fourth overall pick was met with much scrutiny because it was considered too high for the former Clemson defensive end. However, the Raiders need to add stability on their defensive line and that’s exactly what Ferrell brings. He may not be the flashiest player to come out of the 2019 draft, but if he can get 10 sacks a year for the next decade, that’s a huge win for the Raiders. Look for him to solidify himself as a starter and potential team captain during training camp.
Not much has been said about the rookie cornerback out of Clemson in the offseason. The Raiders have a loaded wide receiving corps, so Trayvon Mullen will get his chances to stand out during training camp. Gareon Conley figures to be one of the starters at cornerback and LaMarcus Joyner is set to play in the slot. That leaves the second cornerback spot seemingly open. Second-year Raider Daryl Worley seems to be the favorite at this juncture, but Mullen could easily steal that from him. Mullen didn’t give up a single touchdown while in college and was the defensive MVP for Clemson’s most recent championship run. That defense was loaded with NFL talent, including the aforementioned Clelin Ferrell. Look for Mullen to start making a little more noise in training camp. If he can somehow put the clamps on Antonio Brown or Tyrell Williams, he’s going to making headlines really fast.
It’s difficult for a running back to standout during non-contact practices in the offseason. First-round pick Josh Jacobs will finally get his chance to strap on the pads and show off once training camp gets here. Jacobs’ ability to run and catch will give him ample opportunity to light up the defense during training camp. There’s talk that he will even see time as a receiver in the Raiders’ offense. While he’s mostly been turning down movie producers and accumulating shoes in the offseason so far, training camp will be his time to shine. He’ll likely start off working with the first team and he probably won’t give that up anytime soon.