There is slightly more than a week remaining in Napa for the Oakland Raiders. They have made progress in several areas, but there are still questions in others. Cable is excited about how they have come together as a team, and feels that “everything is moving in the right direction.” However, there are still questions that remain for the Silver and Black after yet another padless practice.
Jason Campbell is the undisputed starter. Any fight that Bruce Gradkowski was going to put up was short circuted by injuries. The change at quarterback from last year’s starter to Jason Campbell has made a night and day difference.in the overall character of the offense. It would have been a benefit to have the scrappy Gradkowski healthy for camp becuase he would have pushed Campbell to be even better.
Nick Miller looks to be a training camp/preseason All Pro for the second year in row. He made the team last year as an undrafted free agent, but missed his opportunity to make a regular season impact with a shin injury.
In a surprise to no one, tight end Zach Miller has been the Raiders most reliable receiver on the team. He and Campbell arebuilding a chemistry both on and off the field that will only help Miller become noticed as one of the upper eschelon tight ends in the National Football League. If the wide receivers continue to develop and give Campbell other options, it will free up Miller to have more catches, the defenses won’t be able to focus solely on stopping him, and he can beat most single coverages.
The biggest story of training camp has been the injuries at the wide receiver position. Chaz Schilens has missed a majority of the practice sessions with issues with his foot injury,and then repeated sessions with “soreness.” Louis Murphy had a concussion early in camp which cost him nearly a week of practice. Not long after, he had a foot injury that has kept him in and out of practice. Unlike Schilens who was held out of the Dallas game and looks to be out for the Chicago Bears game, Murphy has seen the field in the preseason. Darrius Heyward-Bey also played in Dallas, but has been held out of multiple sessions, including most of this week with what Tom Cable has termed “soreness.” However, he was seen with his knee and hamstring wrapped. There have been times during camp where all three of them have been out leaving Todd Watkins and Jocoby Ford as the first teamers. However, Ford missed a series of workouts with his own injury and was held out of the Cowboys game..
On the positive side of the coin, the revamped offensive line has been the biggest positive storyline of camp. The play of rookie Lamarr Houston and second year man Matt Shaughnessy at end has allowed former All Pro Richard Seymour to move inside to under tackle forcing Tommy Kelly over to nose tackle. This revamped line gives the Raiders a front four that can win in the trenches. The line caused all six of the Raiders sacks. Trevor Scott plays with his hand on the ground as part of their nickle packages instead of the outside linebacker role he plays in standard formations.
Watching the team in practices, they are not where they want to be, but unlike previous seasons they look like a team with a direction and a plan. They are putting in the work they need and are making progress.