Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Raiders Camp Watch
By Bill Williamson
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Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL
One thing I'm certain of: The Raiders will be careful with running back Darren McFadden. He is the team’s best player and he is the key to the team’s success in 2012. The problem with McFadden, one of the best running backs in the NFL, has been his health. He has had durability issues since coming into the NFL in 2008. He missed the final nine games of the 2011 season with a serious foot injury.
McFadden is 100 percent healthy and the Raiders want him to stay that way. Yes, McFadden needs to reacquaint himself with the zone-blocking approach and the West Coast offense, but he will not be overworked. McFadden, who missed some time in camp last year with an eye injury, must be ready for the regular season, especially since the Raiders don’t have any experienced backups as of now. Punishing him in camp doesn’t make any sense.
One thing that might happen: We could see clarity at the receiver position pretty early in camp. The situation opened up earlier this week when Oakland traded Louis Murphy to Carolina for a conditional seventh-round pick. Murphy is a solid possession receiver, but his role in Oakland was up in the air because there is so much potential talent at the position.
I believe Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey will remain the starters with Jacoby Ford being the No. 3 receiver. The receivers to watch are rookies Juron Criner, a fifth-round pick, and Rod Streater, an undrafted receiver. Both players were terrific in the OTA season. If they continue to impress in training camp, they should both put themselves in position to be part of the rotation once the season starts.
One thing we won't see: The coaching staff will not be looking over their shoulders during camp. The coaches will be allowed to coach their way without any chance of being overruled.
That is new in Oakland. The Raiders are about to start their first training camp since the death of owner Al Davis. Davis made several decisions and often overruled coaches on schemes. Oakland safety Michael Huff addressed it earlier in the offseason. New general manager Reggie McKenzie will let new coach Dennis Allen and his staff do it their way. It should help set the tone for the new era in Oakland.