The Oakland Raiders have just wrapped up their mandatory mini-camp, giving the players some time off before the “real fun” begins. Although the players are “technically” on their own time, they have a lot of work to do to get up to speed on brand new playbooks for both the offense and the defense before the start of training camp which is just a month and a half away on July 29th in Napa. Here are a few notes on how mini-camp (which the team boasted 100% participation in) went.
Day 1, Tuesday: Shaughnessy returns, Moore does not
The much anticipated return of Matt Shaughnessy has arrived. Finally, after watching OTA’s (organized team activities) from the sidelines last week, the former Badger took the field and practiced with his teammates. It marked the first time that he’s been on the field with the team in any capacity since going down with a season-ending shoulder injury in game 3 last season versus the Jets. Not only did he take the field, but also proclaimed that he’s “full go now. If there was a game on Sunday, I’d play.” That’s great news for the Raider faithful and teammates alike. Richard Seymour, for one, is happy to have him back.
“I think he’s the best in the NFL against the run,” said Seymour, a seven-time Pro Bowler. “I can’t say that against the pass now for all the sacks a lot of the other defensive ends have. In terms of the run I’ll put him out there with anyone. He’s definitely developed into a complete player. It was a big blow for us when he went down. It messed up our rotation a lot. Guys that weren’t normally in there were trying to understand what we were trying to do. To get him back healthy this year is big for us.”
On the flip side of that coin, you have Denarius Moore. Moore went down while running a pass route during 7 on 7 drills. He did end up leaving the field without the help of the training staff, but it was obvious that his right hamstring was bothering him. He would not return for the final 2 days of mini-camp.
It’s would tough blow for the Raiders if it turns out to be a major hamstring injury despite the fact that there are two rookies at wide receiver that are looking very good (Rod Streater are Juron Criner). The team would rather go in with a proven commodity at wide receiver than they would a couple of untested rookies, no matter how good they look in 7 on 7 drills. Dennis Allen, though, doesn’t think the injury is anything major.
“He’s going to be fine,” said coach Allen. “We’ll evaluate it. Usually those things take a couple of weeks or so (to heal) so we’ll see where he’s at.”
Day 1 Standouts: Criner, Streater, Eddie McGee, David Ausberry
Missed Practice: Manase Tonga (knee), Mike Mitchell (knee), Travis Ivey (concussion), Dave Tollefson (calf), Stefen Wisniewski (shoulder)
Day 2, Wednesday: Matt Lienert impresses, Streater steps up
The second day of mini-camp saw Matt Lienert impress the crowd of spectators, which consisted mostly of beat writers and photographers. Most of the praise was due to his tight spirals and some very nice passes. Of course, he’s been throwing to some receivers that are helping him look even better in Juron Criner and Rod Streater with the second team offense, so that helps a lot. Lienert seems to be solidifying the #2 spot behind Carson Palmer, but we’ll have to see about that once training camp rolls around.
Matt Lienert was missing one of his favorite targets on Wednesday. No, not due to one of his second-teamers being injured. It was because of Denarius Moore’s injury the day before. For all of the praise you’ve read and heard about Juron Criner making spectacular play after spectacular play, it was Streater who stepped in and worked with the first team in Moore’s stead. The head coach has his eye on him.
“I think he’s earned the right to get the reps,” coach Dennis Allen said. “He’s done a nice job. He’s a young guy. He’s continuing to improve but he’s obviously caught our eye enough to think he’s earned the right to get a couple of first-team reps.”
Day 2 Standouts: Lienert, Criner, Streater, Richard Gordon, David Ausberry, Darrius Heyward-Bey
Missed Practice: Aaron Curry (knees), Denarius Moore (hamstring), Manase Tonga (knee), Mike Mitchell (knee), Travis Ivey (concussion), Dave Tollefson (calf), Stefen Wisniewski (shoulder)
Day 3, Thursday: Defense shows up
After two days of camp where all of the praise and headlines were directed towards the offensive side of the ball, day 3 proved to be just the opposite. Whether it was just an off day for the guys over on the offensive side of the ball, or the defense just came into it’s own, Thursday showed that there may be playmakers on both offense and defense this year. There were interceptions by Conroy Black and Nate Stupar, along with dropped INT’s by Curtis Taylor, Black, Miles Burris and Demarcus Van Dyke. In addition to that, Aaron Curry had a couple of nice passes defensed, as did Brandon Underwood. Not exactly the way offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp wanted to finish up camp, but I’m sure his defensive counterpart, Jason Tarver, enjoyed the third and final day of practice.
Day 3 Standouts: Black, Stupar, Burris, Curry, Juron Criner, Rod Streater, Darrius Heyward-Bey
Missed Practice: Eddie McGee (hamstring), Louis Murphy (hamstring), Brandon Myers (hamstring), Denarius Moore (hamstring), Manase Tonga (knee), Mike Mitchell (knee), Dave Tollefson (calf), Stefen Wisniewski (shoulder)
Overall, everybody in the facility declared this mandatory mini-camp a success. Both Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen are happy with the progress that the team has made from the offseason, to the OTA’s, and through this last mini-camp before it gets really serious in training camp. One of the biggest things coming out of camp is that Carson Palmer is in complete control of the offense, and he has plenty of weapons with which to work with. In addition to last year’s group of young and talented wide receivers, there are two rookies in Rod Streater and Juron Criner that are coming into their own. And don’t forget Eddie McGee and Louis Murphy. Those two may surprise everyone.
There are two positions where the battle for starting spots is very much wide open. The tight end position has three very young and extremely gifted players vying for a starting position. Brandon Myers seems to have the inside lane, but David Ausberry has bulked up and doesn’t seem to have lost any speed while doing so. Richard Gordon is no slouch either, showing some flashes during training camp. The other position with major competition is in the secondary at the cornerback position. DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa were rookies last year, but they bring a lot of talent with them. Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell were signed to one year contracts in the offseason, and are the two starters as of now. All of that can change with a strong showing in training camp by either Chekwa or Van Dyke, or both.
As far as all of the injuries to various players (including 4 separate hamstring injuries) are concerned, coach Dennis Allen doesn’t expect them to be an issue whatsoever. He stated in his post-practice press conference that he expects every one of the 90 players on the roster to be 100% healthy by the time training camp opens up.
There are lots of exciting story lines to follow between now and the July 29th start date for training camp in Napa. Stay tuned, we’ll bring you more info as it becomes available.