The Oakland Raiders weren't supposed to be good last season or even the year before that. When Reggie McKenzie took over as general manager, it was understood that cleaning up the roster mess and getting healthy from a salary cap perspective would take multiple seasons. Oakland hasn't quite rid itself of all those issues, but it has at least pushed for a proper reboot and heads into training camp hoping to answer many, many questions.
Should the Raiders be expecting to put it all together and make the playoffs this year? It doesn't hurt to set that goal in the end, but realistically, the Raiders have to settle multiple positions during training camp and the preseason. They have to hope that the changes they've made this offseason will start to come together this year, at the very least.
As the Raiders have been in the middle of a roster purge of late, many players are now gone. One player they tried to retain was Desmond Bryant, but the Cleveland Browns paid him a good deal of money to walk, so the Raiders were left out to dry as far as the defensive lineman goes. This is on top of the release of Richard Seymour, who had a huge contract and wasn't performing up to said contract.
The team also let wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey sign elsewhere, despite the wideout looking better and better in recent seasons. Punter Shane Lechler, who has a solid claim to the title of best punter in the league, also departed in free agency. Safety Michael Huff, linebacker Philip Wheeler, cornerback Shawntae Spencer and linebacker Rolando McClain highlight the rest of the players who walked or were released.
But that wasn't the only way the team lost players; it also traded Carson Palmer to the Arizona Cardinals. Oakland had previously given up a first- and second-round pick for Palmer and dealt him to Arizona for much less. The additions at the quarterback position include Matt Flynn and rookie Tyler Wilson. Other free agent additions include Nick Roach, Charles Woodson, Pat Sims and Mike Jenkins.
Yet another big change came at the offensive coordinator spot, where Greg Olsonreplaced Greg Knapp. Players struggled in Knapp's zone-running attack last season, especially running back Darren McFadden. The Raiders are hoping to play to their strengths instead of against them this time around.
Training camp location and schedule
Oakland hasn't announced a full schedule for their training camp as far as each practice is concerned. Players report on July 25 and the first practice is set for July 26, though. Practices are held at the Marriott Napa Valley Spa and Resort in Napa, Calif.
The Raiders are allowing some practices to be viewed by fans, but only season ticket holders who have met the required renewal deadlines. You can find information on that here.
Quarterback: There's nothing quite like a starting quarterback battle, and the Raiders have a big one. Matt Flynn is the probable starter, but given what happened with him losing his job to rookie Russell Wilson in Seattle, anything can happen. He'll be battling against rookie Tyler Wilson, and the job is so up-in-the-air that even guys like Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin candidates to win the battle. They're longshots, to be sure, but Flynn and Wilson aren't the most confidence-inspiring quarterbacks out there.
Right tackle: Khalif Barnes has been a solid tackle at times, but he'll have to take on promising rookie Menelik Watson for the job on the right side. Watson is part of one of the better tackle classes in recent years, and might have the best shot of any Raiders rookie at making an impact. It's expected that he'll beat out Barnes for the starting job and take the lion's share of the first-team snaps during training camp.
Cornerback: The Raiders needed to address the cornerback position big time this offseason, and they definitely added some talent. They brought in rookie first-round pick D.J. Hayden and free agent signings Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins. Joselio Hanson and Phillip Adams are also on the roster, and none of the starting positions are set at this point. It seems likely that Hayden will earn one of the spots provided he is healthy, leaving Porter, Jenkins and Adams to duke it out for the starting role on the other side.