Top 5 questions heading into Raiders training camp
Reason for optimism
The Raiders have been terrible in recent years. Head coach Jack Del Rio is confident this season’s returns will be far better. Del Rio is armed with young quality in quarterback Derek Carr, pass rusher Khalil Mack, hulking guard Gabe Jackson and potentially dangerous offensive weapons in Latavius Murray, Clive Walford and Amari Cooper. Previously productive free agents still in their prime are ready to join a team that believes good days are on the horizon. The Raiders are better, but how good will they be? Key questions remain entering training camp the Raiders hope to answer them starting Thursday, when the full squad reports to the Napa Valley Marriott.
5) Will late-round rookies make an immediate impact?
It’s hard to expect anyone outside the second round to contribute in their first professional season. The Raiders got that thrice over last year, with quality play from Gabe Jackson, Justin Ellis and TJ Carrie. Will the Raiders get lucky again? They could use contributions from tight end Clive Walford (third round), guard Jon Feliciano (fourth round) and cornerback Dexter McDonald (seventh round) this time around.
4) Is Latavius Murray ready for primetime?
Latavius Murray is expected to be the Raiders’ primary running back despite having just 82 professional carries to his name. There were some explosive moments, but his injury history is a cause for concern. Murray has the speed, size and burst to be good in this league. Can the Raiders block for him? Can he handle the beating from significant touches? Time will tell.
3) Will young cornerbacks grow up fast?
The Raiders have used veteran cornerbacks over the last three seasons. This season, they went young. TJ Carrie, DJ Hayden and Keith McGill are expected to cover well despite having two years experience (Hayden) or less. There’s talent in this group, but there isn’t a safety net should they get hurt or should they fail. It’s pivotal they excel in expanded roles. That’s especially true for Hayden, a 2013 first-rounder on the verge of bust status.
2) Can the Raiders rush the passer?
The Raiders had just 22 sacks last season. That simply wasn’t good enough last year. It won’t be in 2015. The Raiders need a stout pass rusher, but didn’t get one in free agency. Second-round pick Mario Edwards Jr. was the only addition expected to make an immediate impact, but he’s considered more of a run-stuffer. Linebacker/end Khalil Mack is expected to take a quantum leap this season and greatly exceed the four sacks he had as a rookie. Justin Tuck and Sio Moore should also help getting after the quarterback.
1) Is Derek Carr ready to take the next step?
Derek Carr had a solid rookie season. He started all 16 games, had a 76.6 passer rating and 21 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. He was far from perfect, with a dismal 5.5 yards per pass attempt. Carr says he wants to be more efficient and effective as a second-year pro. He has that chance following his first NFL offseason and improvement at the skill positions. Carr is already a leader. He has the talent and work ethic to be a quality NFL quarterback. If he plays well and is consistent on the field, the Raiders offense should be tough to defend.