AFC West: Oakland Raiders

Raiders' Camp Report: Day 16

August, 17, 2014
Aug 17
10:15
PM ET
ALAMEDA, Calif . – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Oakland Raiders' training camp.
  • Yes, the Raiders already technicaly broke camp in Napa last week before traveling to Southern California for a pair of joint practices with the Dallas Cowboys and Friday’s home exhibition opener against the Detroit Lions. But Sunday was treated as the final camp practice of the preseason at the Raiders' compound, with it open to reporters throughout. Starting Monday, practice is open to the media for only the first 30 minutes.
  • Rookie quarterback Derek Carr did not practice after being diagnosed with a concussion following a blow to his ribs against the Lions. Third-stringer Matt McGloin took Carr’s spot at No. 2 while Trent Edwards had the most snaps he has had all camp.
  • Matt Schaub had a few nice passes and was also picked off by strong safety Tyvon Branch , who was practicing after suffering an ankle injury Friday. “There are still some things that we’re trying to work on in the passing game,” said coach Dennis Allen. “There were some really good plays and then there some plays that weren’t quite as good. So, we’re going to continue to work and we’re going to continue to get better. Matt Schaub is our starting quarterback. I think he’s doing a good job for us and I think he will do a good job for us.”
  • Safety Usama Young (quad) was taken off the Physically Unable to Perform list and practiced for the first time while cornerback Neiko Thorpe (unknown) practiced for the first time since early in camp.
  • In the wake of second-year tight end Nick Kasa suffering a potential season-ending knee injury last week in Oxnard, and with presumptive starter David Ausberry still recovering from a procedure on his left knee 10 days earlier, the Raiders signed tight end Kyle Auffray on Sunday. The 6-feet-5, 254-pound Auffray, who was originally signed by Arizona as an undrafted free agent out of New Hampshire in 2013, has also been with New England and Cleveland, though has yet to play in an NFL game. He began his college career as a quarterback at Mississippi State before transferring to New Hampshire and playing tight end and punter. In the corresponding roster move, the Raiders waived kicker Kevin Goessling and have yet to make a roster move with Kasa.
  • Cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa (knee) and Taiwan Jones (banged up) sat out practice, as did receiver Juron Criner (hip). Defensive tackle Justin Ellis (concussion), guard Lamar Mady (ankle) and Ausberry (knee) were also out. Cornerback DJ Hayden (foot) and guard Lucas Nix (knee) remain on the PUP list. Fullback Marcel Reece came out of practice with a sore foot.
  • Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie got into the ALS ice-bucket fray by accepting Denver Broncos president John Elway’s challenge.
  • The Raiders practice Monday at 11:50 a.m. PT.
OXNARD, Calif. -- Sure, there were brawls, five of them, in fact, big enough to stop the action of the two joint practices here. And there was the fan who swung a replica helmet at Dallas Cowboys cornerback B.W. Webb, plus the numerous scuffles throughout.

But you’d have a hard time finding anyone from either Oakland or Dallas who did not consider the joint effort a rousing success. So successful, in fact, Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen hopes the Cowboys come to Napa, California, next summer for the, ahem, rematch.

[+] EnlargeTyvon Branch
AP Photo/Jae C. HongScuffles didn't take away from the productivity of joint practices with the Cowboys, Raiders coach Dennis Allen said.
“I don’t know if that’s 100 percent determined,” Allen said after Wednesday’s practice. “I think there have been some preliminary discussions and we’d like to be able to do it. But again, it’s probably too early to say for sure.”

But what gave this week’s workout an added oomph might not be possible on the grounds of Napa’s Redwood Middle School -- an overflow of fans. The Cowboys announced a crowd of 8,326 for Tuesday’s opening practice, with Raiders fans sequestered to one side and Cowboys fans on the other, funneled into their areas through fences that resembled cages and/or European soccer-style fan seating.

The Raiders played host to fans for 12 of their 13 practices in Napa and there was no separation, save for a painted yellow line on the grass and waist-high tape between posts, between the fans and the field. Capacity was about 1,000.

In Oxnard, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett called the opening practice “as electric an atmosphere as I’ve ever been around on a practice field, really in my life.”

A visibly pumped-up Allen said, “What a hell of an atmosphere to practice football in. That’s what Raider Nation is really all about, man. That was awesome to see those [fans] come out and support us like that. It almost felt like, at times, that I had to quiet the crowd down just so we could get some plays off. It was a great atmosphere.”

And while it’s hard to imagine a joint practice being held in front of fans at the Raiders’ current training camp facility in Wine Country, Allen sees bigger benefits from a pure football standpoint.

“Absolutely,” Allen said, “I like doing this. I think it does nothing but help your football team.

“Again, any time you get in these competitive environments, I think it increases the sense of urgency of your football team. I thought we got better over these last couple of days.”

Injury update: cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (knee) was not the only Raiders player unable to finish Wednesday’s practice as receiver Juron Criner was also sidelined. “I think Criner had a groin injury or a hip, so he wasn’t able to go,” Allen said.
“He tried to go out here through individual [drills] and wasn’t able to go.”

The Raiders’ home exhibition opener against the Detroit Lions Friday night at 7 p.m. PT will be broadcast live locally on KTVU 2.
NAPA, Calif. -- Late last season, Pat Sims sat at his stall in the Oakland Raiders' locker room and seemed resigned that his time with the team was coming to an end.

He was about to play the final game under his one-year deal and while the defensive tackle would play in a career-high 16 games, starting all of them, the workload wore on him, as did a slow start due to injury.

Still, there was that electric game at San Diego on Dec. 22 in which he had 13 tackles, eight solo, with a sack.

[+] EnlargePat Sims
AP Photo/Jim MonePat Sims is excited about the outlook for the upcoming season.
“Hey, man, you can’t predict the future,” Sims said with a laugh recently. “We started something last year. I just wanted to finish it. We brought some new people in here and they wanted me to be a part of it so I said, ‘Why not come back and finish it?’”

The 6-foot-2, 310-pound Sims signed a one-year, $1.45 million contract to return. And he has been a steady presence on the interior, whether at a tackle or on the nose.

“I think it was important to be able to get Pat Sims back," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "I thought at times he played really well last year and there were some games that he was dominant in the games.

"I've seen a different demeanor out of Pat Sims this year, maybe a little bit different focus. He’s come in and really competed hard and he’s playing well for us right now, so we’re excited about Pat Sims."

Part of that may be because while Sims enjoyed playing in a career-high number of snaps and games, it was also uncharted territory for him. Yes, he would get gassed. The 693 plays were nearly 150 more than in any of Sims’ previous five seasons.

Now? The Raiders have fortified the defense with the likes of Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith up front while drafting Justin “Jelly” Ellis to play down low -- “Jelly’s big, quick, strong, kind of like me, know what I’m saying?” Sims said. “Man, he’s going to be a great player ... he ain’t quicker than me, though.” -- and linebacker Khalil Mack -- “Best rookie in the draft,” Sims said. “Period.” -- to help clean things up.

“It was good, but now I don’t have to take all those snaps,” Sims said. “We’ve got depth this year, something we didn’t have last year. Some packages last year, we only had a first team and we didn’t have anybody to come in after us. It’s great to have somebody to come in and give you a breather here and there.”

In Tuck and Woodley, the Raiders imported two guys with Super Bowl rings.

“It’s a hell of a lot of fun,” Sims said, “just the opportunity to play with these guys, knowing what they’ve accomplished and are trying to accomplish again. It’s great.”

Plus, there’s versatility with the likes of C.J. Wilson and Stacy McGee, both of whom can also play tackle or end.

And as any defensive player worth his salt would tell you, Sims is of the mind that the play of the defense will tell the team’s tale.

“I don’t give a care how good the offense is or how bad the offense is, defense is always going to be the identity,” he said. “That’s our goal. ... If we’ve got the best defense, it really doesn’t matter what kind of offense you have.

“Well, it does but, hey, Baltimore did it.”

Raiders Camp Report: Day 15

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
5:05
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Oakland Raiders training camp:
  • The temperature was warmer and the tensions just as high for the second of two joint practices with the Dallas Cowboys here at the Cowboys’ training camp home. Again, Raiders fans outnumbered Cowboys fans and there was an increased police presence on the Raiders fan side of the complex after Tuesday’s incident in which a fan swung a replica Raiders helmet at Cowboys cornerback B.W. Webb during a brawl. Three more skirmishes erupted Wednesday, though none involved fans. The atmosphere, Raiders coach Dennis Allen acknowledged, increased his team’s sense of urgency. “We got better the past few days.”
  • The first fight was between Raiders safety Larry Asante and Cowboys receiver Devin Street, with Oakland linebacker Kaluka Maiava playing a guest-starring role. (Maiava was all over the field making plays Wednesday.) Fight No. 2 was between Raiders center Jarrod Shaw and Cowboys safety Johnny Thomas while the third scuffle happened when Darren McFadden was taken down by Cowboys linebacker Cameron Lawrence. In two days of practices, five brawls big enough to stop practice occurred. And, yes, Allen said there have been preliminary discussions about the Cowboys coming to Napa next summer.
  • I mostly stayed on the side of the field where the Raiders' defense practiced against the Cowboys' offense (I watched the Raiders' offense on Tuesday). Impression No. 1: the Raiders' cornerbacks are going to have trouble with the bigger elite receivers in the league. They had no answer for Dez Bryant, who took turns beating Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chance Casey. Still, the defense did have two interceptions, both on tipped passes. The first when Jonathan Dowling got a hand on a Tony Romo pass that Nick Roach picked off, and the second on a Ryan Robinson tip of a Brandon Weeden throw that Jeremy Deering intercepted.
  • Other highlights: Jack Crawford breaking through to block a Cowboys punt in the end zone; TJ Carrie breaking up a long bomb in the end zone on a pass from Romo to Terrance Williams; Kory Sheets showing open-field shiftiness in breaking off a true to-the-house untouched TD run from midfield; Denarius Moore closing out the practice with a pretty leaping catch in the back of the end zone from Matt Schaub to beat Ryan Smith. (To be fair, the Cowboys' offense also scored on the other field a few minutes earlier.)
  • Quote of the two days in Oxnard: “Hey, we kicked ass down here.” – Raiders right tackle Menelik Watson.
  • On a somber note, Allen said “preliminary” results showed second-year tight end Nick Kasa suffered an ACL injury in his left knee on Tuesday. In a one-one-one drill with Cowboys safety Ryan Smith, Kasa went down in a heap after trying to plant and cut. If it is indeed a torn ACL, that “probably means he’s done for the year,” Allen said. Which means the Raiders are officially in the market for another tight end, with no timetable set for presumptive starting tight end David Ausberry’s return from last week’s procedure on his left knee.
  • Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (sore knee) started practice but did not finish. Meanwhile, the same injured players sat out: defensive tackle Justin Ellis (concussion), guard Lamar Mady (ankle), cornerback Neiko Thorpe (unknown) and Ausberry. Cornerback DJ Hayden (foot), safety Usama Young (quad) and guard Lucas Nix (knee) remain on the PUP list.
  • The Raiders are off Thursday and play their home exhibition opener Friday at 7 p.m. PT against the Detroit Lions.

Raiders Camp Report: Day 14

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
11:15
PM ET
OXNARD, Calif. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Oakland Raiders training camp:
  • The tension was palpable as the Raiders played the role of unruly, but thankful guest for the first of two joint practices at the Dallas Cowboys’ facility. Raiders fans were on one side of the two-field complex; Cowboys fans on the other. And yes, Raiders fans outnumbered Cowboys fans. Per the Cowboys, attendance was 8,326. “What a hell of an atmosphere to practice football in,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “That’s what Raider Nation is really all about, man. That was awesome to see those (fans) come out and support us like that. It almost felt like, at times, that I had to quiet the crowd down just so we could get some plays off. It was a great atmosphere.” Raiders owner Mark Davis agreed. “The Raider Nation is big,” Davis said. “I didn’t expect it. I’m kind of surprised it was 3-to-1 Raider fans to Cowboy fans ... good stuff. Good for the team.”
  • A pair of brawls erupted, the first after Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne took a late shot at Raiders tight end Mychal Rivera and fullback Marcel Reece came to the rescue. Both the Raiders’ offense and the Cowboys’ defense jumped into the fray, in which a camera captured a fan swinging a Raiders helmet at a Cowboys player. Later, on the other field, a scrum between Raiders linebacker Justin Cole and Cowboys backup fullback J.C. Copeland erupted, with Copeland losing his helmet in the fracas. Before that, there was a mini-skirmish between Raiders right guard Austin Howard and Cowboys defensive tackle Davon Coleman. “I’m proud of every one of my guys,” Reece said. “It’s not about fighting; it’s about us having each other’s backs, taking care of each other, playing the game the right way.”
  • The Raiders suffered a pretty big loss early in practice when second-year tight end Nick Kasa went down in a heap in a one-on-one drill against safety Ryan Smith. Kasa immediately grabbed his left knee and screamed in pain. Allen did not have an update, simply saying, “It didn’t look good.”
  • I stayed on the side of the field where the Raiders offense practiced against the Cowboys defense all day (I’ll watch the Raiders defense on Wednesday), so the prettiest play of the day came when Kory Sheets treated Oxnard like some CFL wasteland and broke off a long run to the house off right tackle. The most almost-there play? Greg Little blowing through the Dallas secondary and not having anyone with 10 yards of him ... before strong-armed Derek Carr overthrew him.
  • Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa sat out the proceedings with a sore knee, but Allen said he hoped Chekwa would suit up on Wednesday. Defensive tackle Justin Ellis (concussion), guard Lamar Mady (ankle), cornerback Neiko Thorpe (unknown) and tight end David Ausberry (knee) sat out practice with cornerback DJ Hayden (foot), safety Usama Young (quad) and guard Lucas Nix (knee) still on the PUP list. Ausberry had his left knee wrapped, rather than wearing a cumbersome brace. So that’s a good sign, no.
  • The Raiders’ second of two joint practices with the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard starts Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. PT.

Raiders Camp Report: Day 13

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
3:30
PM ET
NAPA, Calif. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Oakland Raiders training camp:
  • The Raiders broke camp in Napa after just 13 practices. "We got a lot of good work done here," said coach Dennis Allen. "I like where we’re at. We’re still in training-camp mode going down to Oxnard and practicing against the Cowboys for a couple days. I think that will be great for our football team. Get a chance to go against somebody else for a change ... we’ve gotten a lot accomplished. We still have a lot of things that we have to get better at, but I like the direction we’re headed."
  • The last time new Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck participated in a joint practice? His rookie season with the New York Giants in 2005, and it erupted into a major brawl with the New York Jets. "The one time we did it," he said, "we went over the top." But can you get in good work without it escalating into a fight, or two? "Sure you can," Tuck said. "It’s good to go and face some people that don’t wear the same colors as you and see different schemes. Dallas, especially their O-line, is a really, really good O-line (so) it’s going to be a challenge for us. Looking forward to it." So what’s the message Allen hopes to impart to his guys? "The message is that we have to treat it like a game and go out there and compete," Allen said. "There won’t be tackling live to the ground or anything like that. We’re going there to compete and try to get better as a football team."
  • Allen said Sunday that he wanted to see how second-year cornerback DJ Hayden, who worked out with a trainer on a side field that morning for the first time since having surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot in late June, responded to said workout on Monday. Hayden was just an observer again for the final camp practice in Napa. Every missed practice makes him a more likely candidate to begin the season on the Physically Unable to Perform List.
  • The prettiest play of the day comes courtesy of rookie quarterback Derek Carr, who hit a wide open Juron Criner on a bomb down the middle of the field. The most eye-opening play? That would be rookie linebacker Khalil Mack, who had a tough time reacting to the ball in the Raiders’ preseason opener at Minnesota, showing quick-twitch skills in breaking up a pass to fullback Marcel Reece in the flat.
  • With cornerback Chimdi Chekwa nursing a sore knee, rookie Keith McGill took first-team snaps at a corner in the Raiders’ nickel defense package. "That was an opportunity for Keith to get in there in nickel situations and work with the 'ones' some," Allen said. "We haven’t had an opportunity to see a lot of him. So, he’s a guy that obviously we felt highly of coming out in the draft and wanted to get an opportunity to look at him."
  • Defensive tackle Justin Ellis (concussion), guard Lamar Mady (ankle), cornerback Neiko Thorpe (unknown) and tight end David Ausberry (knee) sat out practice, and linebacker Justin Cole (unknown) returned. Hayden, safety Usama Young (quad) and guard Lucas Nix (knee) remain on the PUP list.
  • The Raiders’ first of two joint practices with the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard starts at 3:45 p.m PT on Tuesday.

No nerves for Carr in NFL debut

August, 10, 2014
Aug 10
11:00
AM ET
What, Derek Carr worry?

 The Oakland Raiders’ future franchise quarterback has been around the NFL since he was a pre-teen, going over game film with his older brother David, the No. 1 pick in the 2002 draft. So yeah, even if the rookie was making his NFL debut in the Raiders’ exhibition opener Friday night in Minnesota, the younger Carr insisted there was no anxiety.

“It was everything I thought it would be,” Carr said after the Raiders’ 10-6 loss, in which he releieved starter Matt Schaub in Oakland’s fourth series. “It was a lot of fun.

“Oh no, there weren’t any nerves. The nerves stopped a long time ago.”

Carr, the Raiders’ second-round pick, played five series. He completed 10 of 16 passes for 74 yards and was picked off once. His roll-out pass to the left was thrown a bit too hard off the tip of fullback Jamize Olawale’s outstretched fingertips and into the arms of safety Kurt Coleman. Carr’s passer rating was 47.4, compared to the 56.2 authored by Minnesota rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, who was taken four picks ahead of Carr and also relieved his team’s starter.

“I just try to challenge myself a lot, too,” Carr said. “I want to continue to get better at those little things. Those things matter. The quicker you can get in and out of the huddle, the more time you have on the clock to see what’s going on.

“Like I said, I have a lot to work on, but from that aspect, I liked what we did, and I just got to keep growing and getting better at it.”

And in case you were wondering if the Raiders had any designs on getting Carr some reps with the first-team offense in any of the three remaining exhibition games, coach Dennis Allen had a sobering answer.

“Yeah, it’s not really part of the plan right now,” Allen said. “We’ll obviously evaluate everything as we move along, but the plan is to work Matt Schaub as the starting quarterback, and I think he’s done a good job in doing that.”
Matt Schaub’s calling card in his NFL career has been accuracy, as evidenced by his career completion percentage of 64.0 percent, which ranks ninth in league history. But in his preseason debut in the Oakland Raiders' 10-6 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Schaub completed just 3 of 7 passes for 21 yards in three series.

Granted, there were some drops, but Schaub did not look entirely accurate, either.

“We will have to look at it,” Schaub said after the game when asked about the drops, per Raiders.com. “We will have to talk to guys. It might have been. I can’t answer that individually.

Schaub
Schaub
“It let guys know, 'Hey, we’re not on the practice field anymore. The lights are on, we need to go out and play. This is the first opportunity for us to form our identity for the season.' ”

So how did that go?

“We went out and we didn’t play near to our expectations or our standard,” Schaub said. “We need to go back and figure out how to play that way next week.”

The Raiders’ first-team offense was 0 for 3 on third-down conversions and Oakland was 4 of 13 for the game.

The first-team offense also was responsible for three of the Raiders’ 13 penalties.

“Overall, we were sloppy,” Schaub said. “We hurt ourselves with a lot of penalties, put ourselves in long-yardage situations, and it’s tough to win that way. We have to really look hard at the mistakes and clean those up because they are things that we can control, especially pre-snap issues.

“We need to iron those out if we want to be the type of team we want to be.”
NAPA, Calif. – The moment Shane Lechler left the Oakland Raiders for the Houston Texans last year, long snapper Jon Condo knew Sebastian Janikowski would have a “down” season.

Even if he was coming off his best season.

The only holder Janikowski had known since entering the NFL as a first-round draft pick in 2000 was headed to the Houston Texans, and the place-kicker known as "SeaBass" had not handled change well in his career. As least, that’s what Condo found.

[+] EnlargeSebastian Janikowski, Marquette King
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsSebastian Janikowski and Marquette King are developing better chemistry after a rocky 2013.
Condo took note that in two of Janikowski’s worst field-goal kicking seasons in terms of misses, the Raiders’ all-time leading scorer dealt with foreign territory. Janikowski missed 10 field-goal attempts in his rookie season and nine in 2007, Condo’s first year as the long snapper.

So with his security blanket gone to Houston and a newbie taking over Lechler’s holding duties in Marquette King, it made sense that Janikowski would struggle again.

Indeed, a year after converting a career-high 91.2 percent (31 of 34, with misses coming from 51, 61 and 64 yards), Janikowski missed nine field-goal attempts in 2013.

“Bass, he’s mentally tough and all that,” Condo said, “but it’s a comfort thing and it’s a trust thing.”

Janikowski, who signed a four-year contract extension last summer, still has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, and much of the blame last season fell on King, who grew weary of the talk. Even a few weeks back, on the day the Raiders reported to training camp, King said he could “not really remember” when asked about the purported issues between himself and Janikowski.

Janikowski made just 70 percent (21 of 30) of his field goals in his first year with King as his holder after converting 89.9 percent (62 of 69) in his previous two seasons with Lechler holding. The left-footed Janikowski even missed two attempts from inside 40 yards last season, a distance from which he had only missed one kick since 2007.

The way Condo put it, all it would take to send his kicker down a doubtful path would be just one bad hold from King. Even if everything else went perfect the rest of the game.

Condo’s advice? “Trust yourself,” he said was his counsel to Janikowski. “Trust your steps.”

To the surprise of many at 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway, Janikowski showed up two months early this offseason to get in extra work with King. Two weeks into training camp, and before the Raiders’ exhibition opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night, the two seem to be connecting.

“Timing,” Janikowski told Associated Press, when asked what the issue was with King in 2013. “Our timing was off. Marquette, me and Condo, we hadn’t worked much … just timing, the confidence. Just the trust.

“You stay with the same guy for (13) years, the trust is there. You don’t have to think about it going on the field.”

And now?

“It’s much better,” Janikowski said. “Marquette’s been working his (behind) off. He’s holding every day -- 50, 100 times -- so hopefully it shows up on the field.”

New assistant special teams coach Chris Boniol, himself a former NFL kicker, has helped bridge the gap between kicker and holder.

“Chris has a way of being able to relate to those guys and talk to them on a level where they can understand what he’s trying to get accomplished,” said coach Dennis Allen. “To (Janikowski’s) credit, he’s taken to all of that and done everything that we’ve asked him to do.”

Janikowski, 36, also holds personal goals.

He is within striking distance of the NFL record for most field goals of at least 50 yards -- Jason Hanson had 52 for the Detroit Lions from 1992 through 2012; Janikowski has 45.

And after tying the record for longest field goal with that 63-yarder in Denver in 2011, the Broncos’ Matt Prater booted a 64-yarder last season to set a new standard.

“It’s a challenge,” Janikowski said.

Though maybe not as challenging as King attempting to truly break into the inner sanctum of Janikowski, who has twin girls, and Condo, who became a father seven months ago.

“Hey, you want to hang out?” Condo said he told King. “You’ve got to have a kid.”

The 25-year-old King’s response, per Condo: “What if I just got a dog?”

Condo laughed.

“The relationship is starting to develop a little bit,” he said. “The trust factor, so far in camp, we have a good rhythm going right now.”
NAPA, Calif. -- Dennis Allen’s third training camp has been mellow thus far, at least by Oakland Raiders standards of recent vintage. No holdouts. No practice field fights. No drama. No season-ending injuries.

And that pound you just heard emanating from wine country? That was Allen and third-year general manager Reggie McKenzie knocking on wood. Heavily.

Sure, things have been calm in the preseason streets of Silver and Blackdom, and for an organization in Year 1 of a self-styled reconstruction, that’s a good thing. The rebuilt offensive line, with four new starters, is jelling. The rebuilt defensive line, with three new starters, has the look of a beastly unit, while the linebackers, featuring No. 5 overall draft pick Khalil Mack, are as active as they are hungry.

The fusion of the new guys with championship pedigrees and the old guard of Raiders players appears seamless. Indeed, the talent on the overhauled roster is better than anything McKenzie and Allen had in their first two years on the job, a pair of 4-12 finishes. But with the brutal schedule -- the toughest strength of schedule in the NFL -- it’s no sure thing it will translate into more wins. But camp has been mellow and full of learning experiences, so that’s a victory, right?

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

1. Matt Schaub is primed for a comeback-player-of-the-year-type season. He is still a guy who has passed for more than 4,000 yards three times in his career, and a change of scenery from Houston could be the re-energizing boost the Raiders’ new quarterback needs. His physical gifts and experience give Oakland a seasoned QB similar to Carson Palmer but with more mobility and better talent around him. The running game, being a legitimate threat with Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden, will open up Schaub’s bread-and-butter play-action passing game, which he’s already flashed in camp.

2. The Raiders’ pass rush has the looks of something special. Granted, they’ve only been going up against their own rebuilt offensive line, and they are not tackling to the ground, but the defense has shown flashes of being a dominant unit. A year ago, Oakland had 38 sacks as a team; the new trio of Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith combined for 21 sacks. Throw in Mack, who had 10.5 sacks as a college senior at Buffalo, and defensive coordinator Jason “The Mad Scientist” Tarver has been doing some major experimenting in camp.

[+] EnlargeMatt Schaub
AP Photo/Ben MargotThe Raiders hope a change of scenery will benefit quarterback Matt Schaub.
3. Sebastian Janikowski, who struggled through a nine-miss season on field goal attempts last year with a new holder in Marquette King, has gotten much more comfortable with King. There is a reason Janikowski came out some two months early to work with him. Janikowski’s leg is as powerful as ever, which he’s demonstrated in camp, and he appears to be a tad slimmer. Janikowski’s camp work and confidence in King should give the Raiders confidence in him. And with an offense still finding itself, a more comfortable SeaBass coming out of camp is a good thing.

THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. D.J. Hayden and his surgically repaired right foot being a fixture on the sideline has cost the second-year cornerback valuable practice time. Granted, Chimdi Chekwa has stepped in admirably, but Hayden’s stress fracture tests the depth of the Raiders’ cornerbacks, and it has shown in camp. Allen said he expects to see Hayden on the field before the end of the preseason, but would anyone be shocked if Hayden actually started the regular season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, which would mean he is lost for at least six games?

2. The Raiders’ receiving corps is seemingly made up by a gaggle of No. 2 and No. 3 receivers on any other team. Schaub is used to having a prototypical No. 1 pass-catcher in the mold of Andre Johnson. There is no Andre Johnson on this team, rather, there is Andre Holmes, who has exceeded expectations as a big and physical receiver but still needs experience. Other than Denarius Moore, whose knack for shining and then disappearing in regular-season games has reared its head in camp, the Raiders’ receivers all seem like the same guy.

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
AP PhotoExpectations are high for rookie linebacker Khalil Mack.
3. Schaub's confidence level has been downplayed all camp, and early on he was extremely sharp. Then came a blip when he threw four interceptions in three practices, getting picked off three times by free safety Charles Woodson and once by linebacker Miles Burris. Schaub’s accuracy issues against his own team are sure to surface against opponents, no? And when they do, how will he handle the hardship? In camp, he responded with some of his best throws of the preseason. And therein lies the key for a QB who insists he never lost his mojo.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Rookie second-string quarterback Derek Carr may have a stronger arm than Schaub, but Carr, who played his last three years at Fresno State in the shotgun in a spread offense, seems to hold onto the ball in the pocket too long while patting the ball a la Dan Pastorini looking for an open receiver. NFL pass-rushers come much quicker than your run-of-the-mill Mountain West Conference sack master.
  • Mack simply has a nose for the ball. The No. 5 overall draft pick has a high motor and is all over the field. In one play, he looks like a Von Miller clone. In the next, he is the second coming of Clay Matthews. It will be fun to see what Mack does when the tackling is live and to the ground.
  • No surprise here, but Jones-Drew looks more effective running between the tackles than McFadden, who is more dangerous in space.
  • Two-time Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece has dropped 17 pounds but gained an added dimension as a pass-catcher. He has been going out for passes down the sidelines and coming down with jump balls. Remember, he was a receiver in college at Washington.
  • Two early predictions for the practice squad? Try running back/kick returner George Atkinson III and receiver Mike Davis.
NAPA, Calif. -- Marcel Reece was about to be presented with the Oakland Raiders “Commitment to Excellence Award” in March and NFL free agency was about to begin.

The two-time Pro Bowl fullback wanted general manager Reggie McKenzie to make “Raider-ass moves” with his signings, fearless moves, though Reece, who has been in Oakland since 2008, was also leery

“I’m not expecting them to come in and set the tone on how to be a Raider; they don’t know how to be a Raider,” Reece said that evening. “I’m looking forward to setting that tone and whoever comes in that locker room is going to work like us.”

[+] EnlargeJustin Tuck
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsJustin Tuck is one of a handful of new Raiders who has been to and won a Super Bowl.
Paging the likes of Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, James Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, Kevin Boothe and Donald Penn, while summoning the acquired-in-a-trade Matt Schaub .

Together, the eight tote a combined six Super Bowl rings and 10 Pro Bowl appearances. Yeah, they know how to win.

The likes of Reece, Darren McFadden, Tyvon Branch and Jon Condo, meanwhile, know what it means to represent the Raiders, but they have never experienced a winning season in Oakland.

“In years past, the leadership was not the best,” Condo said. “Guys that are coming in…the young guys are looking at them and the vets are showing them, this is how you practice. This is how you study. This is how you prepare your bodies for the 16-game season. The way people go about their business, you see true professionalism on and off the field, doing the right things.

“Not to rag on what’s been here in the past, but it just seems like there was just a cycle with how veterans would act and young guys would look at that and think, ‘That’s what it takes to be a pro.’ And it wasn’t really the right way to be a pro.

“Now, you bring in the right guys and they are teaching the young guys how to be a pro and they’re going to carry it on three, four, five, six seven, eight, 10 years … to the draft classes.”

According to Tuck, there has been no push back from the older Raiders players.

“It’s not like we’re coming in here acting like we know everything; we don’t,” Tuck said. “We’re still learning ourselves. It’s never going to be a situation where, ‘Oh, y’all doing this wrong.’ We’re trying to work together

“At the end of the day, it has to be the Raider way … all the guys that they brought in know the history of the Raiders. … You found yourself fascinated by the silver and black and all the great players that played here and Al Davis and all the characters in Raider history.

“Now, it’s just a work in progress.”

Jones-Drew grew up in the East Bay a Raiders fan. So his coming home carried extra meaning, even if it meant playing for a team that has not been to the playoffs or won more than eight games in a season since 2002.

“The Raider way has always been winning,” he said. “But I think every franchise goes through some tough times. The guys they brought in had that Raider mentality already … doing whatever it takes to win. It was a great mix of guys, the correct mix of guys.”

And it’s not just the longer-tenured Raiders or youngsters who are paying attention to the new silver and black Jedi in town.

“We won one year in Jacksonville, so if Tuck comes in and says something, I’m going to listen … regardless if it’s against what I want to do or not,” Jones-Drew said. “They know what it takes to get to that next level, so you’ve got to be selfess and listen. And I think we’ve got a lot of guys that are doing that and it’s awesome.”

But will it translate into more than moral victories?

Raiders Camp Report: Day 10

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
10:40
PM ET
NAPA, Calif . -- A daily review of the hot topics coming of of Oakland Raiders training camp:
  • Raiders training camp has claimed its first casualty as tight end David Ausberry, listed at No. 1 on the depth chart, will undergo a “procedure” on an injured knee Wednesday and “he may be out for a little while,” according to coach Dennis Allen. There is no timetable for Ausberry's return, which vaults Mychal Rivera, who started three games last year as a rookie, into the starting role while giving opportunities to Brian Leonhardt and Nick Kasa. Rivera played in all 16 games last season and had 38 catches for 407 yards and four touchdowns. Ausberry finished practice Saturday. The Raiders had Sunday off and returned to practice Monday when Ausberry missed his first practice of camp. He spent last season on injured reserve after suffering what he called a “pretty nasty” left shoulder injury in the exhibition season.
  • It must be Jelly 'cause jam don't shake that way. At least, not in a tip drill by the defensive linemen. Rookie defensive tackle Justin “Jelly” Ellis, all 6-foot-2, 334 pounds (on a light day) of him, showed his sweet feet, dexterity and quicks when he chased down a tipped ball from fellow 300-pound defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin, much to the delight of the fans. Men as big as Ellis should not be able to move as quickly as he does, right?
  • The offense looked all sorts of out of sorts in a red zone drill. Of course, the defense's beefy line had more than a little something to do with it. “You saw practice today,” said defensive tackle Pat Sims. Indeed, the defense dominated the drill. Until Matt Schaub finally hit Denarius Moore in the back of the end zone for the score, beating Chance Casey in the process.
  • Tarell Brown giveth, Tarell Brown taketh away ... depending upon your perspective. First the new cornerback broke up a Matt Schaub pass to Rod Streater, who had nothing but open real estate in front of him. Then, Brown was victimized by Greg Little, who made an acrobatic catch down the left sideline for a big gain on a pass from Schaub.
  • Pat Sims' evaluation of the Raiders' top draft pick, strongside linebacker Khalil Mack? “The best rookie in the draft. Period.”
  • Rookie defensive backs TJ Carrie and Jonathan Dowling each had pick-six interceptions in team drills. Carrie's came off a Schaub pass tipped at the line of scrimmage and Dowling stepped in front of James Jones to victimize Derek Carr.
  • Weakside linebacker Sio Moore, who missed consecutive practices with a sore rib, returned to practice, though Miles Burris worked again with the first-team defense. Linebackers Kaluka Maiava (hamstring) and Marshall McFadden (hip) and rookie cornerback Keith McGill (unknown) rode the stationary bike at the beginning of practice. Defensive backs Shelton Johnson (unknown) and Neiko Thorpe (unknown) also sat out practice again. Cornerback DJ Hayden (foot), safety Usama Young (quad) and guard Lucas Nix (knee) remain on the physically unable to perform list.
  • The Raiders practice again Wednesday at 3 p.m. PT.
NAPA, Calif. – Perhaps the biggest surprise on the Oakland Raiders initial depth chart on Monday was where receiver Denarius Moore was listed.

Third. Behind Andre Holmes and James Jones. Rod Streater, Greg Little and Juron Criner are the top three at the other receiver position.

On the surface, that’s bubble territory. As in, you’re on the bubble to make the 53-man roster. Yet while coach Dennis Allen insisted he takes “not much” stock in his own depth chart this early in training camp -- hey, the Raiders had to put out something four days before the exhibition opener at the Minnesota Vikings -- Moore’s poor body language during practice spoke volumes.

Moore
Of course, we could be reading into things, but this much is true: The Raiders are still waiting for Moore, who has been alternately explosive and frustrating in his first three NFL seasons, to be more consistent.

“One of the big topics has kind of been a little bit of the inconsistency in the past, but I think he’s been a lot better in this camp,” Allen said of Moore. “I’m excited about Denarius Moore. I’m really excited about the whole receiving corps really, because I think we’ve got a lot of young guys that have an opportunity to surprise some people.

“But, I do think Denarius is getting better as a football player and he has in this camp.”

And there lies the rub. Moore has been consistently inconsistent. One week, the former fifth-round draft pick out of Tennessee is an explosive, acrobatic playmaking pass catcher. Then he’ll disappear for weeks.

In three years, he has caught 130 passes for 2,054 yards and 17 touchdowns, but his per-season yards-catch averages have gone from 18.7 yards to 14.5 to 15.1.

Moore also has missed seven games due to injury in his career, and his mind has played tricks on him along the way.

“I was worrying whether I was going to be able to be that go-to guy, or what I was supposed to [do] on this down or that down,” Moore told the Bay Area News group. “If I dropped the last pass, I’d think, ‘Are they going to come back to me? Do they have faith in me?’

“I should have just let it go and go on to the next play.”

Since his rookie season, Moore has caught regular season passes from seven different quarterbacks -- Jason Campbell, Kyle Boller, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn and Matt McGloin. Matt Schaub will make eight this season.

What’s that about maddening inconsistency, again?

“For a smaller guy, compared to our other receivers, he can still go up and make the high-point of the football and adjust to it in the air,” Schaub said of Moore. “I think he’s a guy that can take those short catches and turn them into big ones with his athleticism.”

The question then is can he do it consistently?

Raiders Camp Report: Day 9

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
10:17
PM ET
NAPA, Calif . -- A daily review of the hot topics coming of of Oakland Raiders training camp:
  • The Raiders released their first depth chart of training camp before Monday's practice. So how much stock does coach Dennis Allen put in it, four days before the team's preseason opener at the Minnesota Vikings? “Not much,” Allen said. “Everything we've done so far has been put in pencil ... we wanted to give you guys something to write about.” Yes, there will be changes throughout the exhibition season, but the depth chart is a gauge of where the staff thinks the players are at this moment in time.
  • Andre Holmes was listed ahead of veteran James Jones atop one of the receiver's slots, with Denarius Moore third, and Holmes responded with another strong practice. Holmes had a pretty 50-yard touchdown reception on a post route from Matt Schaub, easily beating cornerback Keith McGill, though there seemed to be confusion between Charles Woodson and Tyvon Branch as there was no safety help for McGill.
  • The diminutive-but-powerful Maurice Jones-Drew is ahead of Darren McFadden at running back and looks shiftier when running between the tackles. The 5-foot-7, 210-pound Jones-Drew can seemingly hide in the offensive line while McFadden's strength has always been in space.
  • First-team tight end David Ausberry was out with a knee issue, so with Mychal Rivera stepping up, that gave Brian Leonhardt some snaps with the first-team offense. His strength is undoubtedly in blocking as he fumbled after getting popped going across the middle after making a catch. Paging Nick Kasa.
  • If Denarius Moore's body language could talk, it would say a lot of bad things. Moore, listed behind Holmes and James Jones at one receiver, is also second at punt returner, behind rookie TJ Carrie. After flubbing one punt return, Moore dropped to the field and did pushups.
  • Rookie linebacker Khalil Mack continued his impressive disruptive ways. He again got into the offensive backfield with aplomb, and also knocked down a Schaub's pass at the line of scrimmage.
  • Sio Moore, listed as the first-team weakside linebacker, missed his second consecutive practice with a sore rib, so Miles Burris continued to get the starting reps. Linebackers Kaluka Maiava (hamstring) and Marshall McFadden (hip) and safety Shelton Johnson (unknown) missed practice again. Cornerback DJ Hayden (foot), safety Usama Young (quad) and guard Lucas Nix (knee) are still on the physically unable to perform list while cornerback Neiko Thorpe (unknown) worked with a trainer on a side field before practice.
  • Retired former Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha visited practice and watched alongside owner Mark Davis and Hall of fame cornerback Willie Brown.
  • The Raiders practice again Tuesday at 3 p.m. PT.
video
Ray Guy took his place among the game’s immortals Saturday night when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He made a little extra history along the way.

The Oakland Raiders' first-round draft pick in 1973 is the first pure punter to be enshrined. He is the 22nd Hall of Famer the Raiders recognize.

"Punters," former Raiders coach and fellow Hall of Famer John Madden said in his introduction of Guy, "are football players, too."

In a speech that lasted nearly 15 minutes, Guy spoke of his long and winding road to Canton from the fields of Georgia.

"There are no more games to play," he said, "no more records to set or championships to win. This is beyond my wildest dreams. I didn’t do it alone."

Guy, a seven-time Pro Bowl and three-time All-Pro selection, thanked members of his family first, saying the greatest influences in his life were his late mother and father. He also mentioned his late college coach at Southern Mississippi, P.W. Underwood, as well as late Raiders owner Al Davis, who was represented in Canton by his wife Carole and son Mark, the current Raiders managing general partner. Two-time Super Bowl-winning Raiders coach Tom Flores was also in the audience.

"Playing in the NFL with the Raiders was my destiny," said Guy, one of just six players to have been on all three of their Super Bowl title teams.

Also a safety in college, Guy was an athlete. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. He also said he could have played in the NBA.

Just three of Guy’s 1,049 career punts were blocked.

"Ray Guy made people in the 'hood say, 'I’m Ray Guy,'" Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin said on the NFL Network.

"There was nothing too technical or complicated" about how Guy kicked, he said. "I was taught to keep my ego in its place. I’d rather be in the background, just one of the people.

"I am who I am, and that’s all you're ever going to get."

Guy said he was told recently that the biblical meaning of his uniform number, 8, was a new beginning. As such, he hoped his inclusion at Canton was a new beginning for punters, as well as continuing to serve as an inspiration.

"Punters," Guy said, "keep the faith. You are an important part of every game.

"This is long, long overdue. But now, the Hall of Fame has a complete team."

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