Training camp is just a couple of weeks away for the Oakland Raiders. Rookies will report on July 23rd and veterans will come in shortly after on July 26th. This is going to be a big training camp for the team as they have many rookies and new veterans that are calling Oakland home. This could also mark the last time the team will be calling California home during training camp as a move to Las Vegas may also mean that the team won’t hold camp in Napa anymore.
Unlike some teams, the Raiders will not be allowing fans at any practices during training camp. This is likely due to the fact that HBO will be in town filming Hard Knocks. Fans should get a much more in-depth look at the team thanks to them being on the show and we will be aware of many of the inner workings of the team by the end. Below we’re going to go through some of the top storylines to keep an eye out for during Raiders training camp.
Which Rookies Will Solidify Starting Spots?
The Raiders had holes all over the offense and defense in 2018. While they did address a couple needs in free agency, they added a lot of NFL-ready talent in this year’s draft. The team had three picks in the first round and each of those players drafted is likely to start. The first player the Raiders took was defensive end Clelin Ferrell, who should help breathe life into a pass rush that only mustered 13 sacks a year ago. While second-year defensive end Arden Key is looking to improve in 2019 and will likely start, there doesn’t seem to be anybody in front of Ferrell who could start in the second spot. Ferrell may have been considered a reach when he was drafted, but there’s no doubt that he’s a mature and productive player that should be an instant contributor for the Raiders.
Another first-round rookie poised to make some noise is the running back out of Alabama, Josh Jacobs. It’s no secret that Jon Gruden likes to work his running backs. Carnell Williams, in his rookie year under Jon Gruden, carried the ball 290 times. Don’t expect anything different from Jacobs. Also a receiving threat, Jacobs’ usage rate will probably be very high from week one. He is just a rookie, but it’s hard to imagine he’s not the week one starter. Doug Martin and Jalen Richard aren’t bad players, but they don’t have nearly the upside that Jacobs does. It’s hard for a running back to shine in non-contact drills during the offseason, but Jacobs will get his chance to solidify himself as the starter once he straps on pads in training camp.
Safety Johnathan Abram was the last of the Raiders’ first-round draft picks and he seems to be the favorite to start opposite Karl Joseph. Abram is a vocal player and should be an instant leader for the young defense. He’s already been taking first-team reps for the team during minicamps and it seems unlikely that will change. Abram will impress with his strength, toughness and leadership ability during training camp.
The first-round guys seem to be the only draft picks that are almost locked into starting spots, but there are a couple of later picks that could sneak their way into the starting lineup. The most obvious candidate would be wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. He’s already been impressing coaches and seems to be a perfect fit in the slot as the third receiver behind Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams. Another guy who could surprise some people is defensive end Maxx Crosby. Crosby is extremely athletic, but raw. If he can prove that he’s more than a freak athlete, he could pass up Arden Key. The Raiders need help at pass rush, so they’ll roll with whoever looks best in camp.
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Will Hard Knocks Be That Big of a Distraction?
Before the announcement was made that the Raiders would be the team featured on this year’s Hard Knocks, speculation that the show would bring an unnecessary distraction was aplenty. While having unnecessary cameras following the Raiders during their practices isn’t ideal, it seems like the worries were overblown. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is a veteran of Hard Knocks, having appeared on it twice while a member of the Cincinnati Bengals staff. He doesn’t think that having the film crew there is a big deal:
“I really don’t think [so]. They do a really good job of staying out of your way. You can see, kind of, what’s going to be on the show. I think the positive thing is you find out a lot about your team and the coaches on the staff that, ‘Hey, when the camera is on you are you going to be a different guy or a different player or if you’re not.’ Because really after the third day, you don’t notice, you’re so used to having them around that you just go about your business. I don’t really pay attention to where the cameras are in the building. You just go about and coach the guys how you know how to coach them and that’s all you know how to do.”
The should be Raiders should be just fine having cameras around. Since the show first aired in 2001, 6 of 13 teams that were featured finished the season with more wins than they did the previous season. The only thing that should worry the Raiders is that if Antonio Brown decides to start drama with his old team again and the cameras are there following him. Those optics wouldn’t be great, but that seems unlikely to happen at this point.
Which Big Named Veterans Could Get Cut?
With the additions of so many new players, there are bound to be some surprising cuts of big-name veterans. The most obvious candidate would be the recently suspended offensive lineman Richie Incognito. While the Raiders were aware that Incognito could face suspension when they signed him, he has never demonstrated that he can stay out of trouble. If you don’t hear a peep about Incognito before his two-game suspension is up, that bodes well for his chances, but the team shouldn’t hesitate to cut him if he starts causing drama.
The Raiders have a crowded backfield heading into training camp. Josh Jacobs isn’t going anywhere, but the number two spot is up for grabs. Doug Martin is probably the favorite there, but Jalen Richard could also steal it away. Chris Warren III could also surprise people if he stays healthy. The odd man out seems to be DeAndre Washington, who hasn’t made much of an impact since getting drafted by the Raiders. With training camp closing in, we’re poised to learn a lot more about this Raiders squad. Expect lots of news in the coming weeks.