NFL Wire News

Minicamp analysis: So far so good for revamped Raiders


The Sports Xchange

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Oakland Raiders believe they got what they needed out of their offseason in terms of installing new systems of offense and defense.

The true test begins when they convene at the Napa Valley Marriott in late July for training camp. After three days of conditioning and a refresher of what they learned through two minicamps and three weeks of organized team activities, they will begin to form an identity.

The biggest job is on offense, where the Raiders were without quarterback Derek Carr until the last three practices of the offseason and had to integrate backup Christian Ponder into a system formulated by new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.

Gone are running backs Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew, with late-season flash Latavius Murray competing with unrestricted free-agent signings Trent Richardson and Roy Helu Jr.

Top draft pick Amari Cooper and free agent Michael Crabtree were added as wide receivers, and center Rodney Hudson takes over for veteran Stefen Wisniewski.

The terminology, the plan of attack and the language have all changed as well.

Musgrave conceded it’s impossible to tell exactly where the Raiders are on offense.

“It’s hard to measure,” Musgrave said. “We’ve done a nice job putting this system together. It’s not some system from Philly or Minnesota or Atlanta. We’ve really tried to build it from the ground up to make it make sense to us as teachers and also our pupils.

“I think they’ve done a fantastic job. We always chart our mental mistakes and mental errors every day and they’ve gradually gone down. Ultimately, they’ll be able to play faster.”

While the Raiders on offense are striving to do a little bit of everything — run the ball, play no-huddle, play slow-down, strike through the air with consistency and explosiveness — the defensive philosophy has been simplified.

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. is from the Pete Carroll school of defense at USC and with the Seattle Seahawks. The Raiders won’t be overly complicated and in theory will play faster because of it.

New faces include defensive tackle Dan Williams, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton and safety Nate Allen, with the key figure being returning strong-side linebacker and edge rusher Khalil Mack.

If Norton has his way, that defense will assume the personality of its coordinator.

“I learned that I need to approach games, approach practice, approach meetings just the way I played the game — hard and with everything I have,” Norton said. “I think the players appreciate that, appreciate the honesty. A lot of times players have a tendency to become like their coach.

“I wouldn’t mind having a lot of energetic, feisty, smart and enthusiastic guys who really care about what they’re doing. I’d like to have players like that.”

Special teams coordinator Brad Seely is in the early stages of sorting through his unit, and training camp will be crucial to see which players fit in as core special teamers. One thing Seely does have is kicker Sebastian Janikowski, emerging punter Marquette King and veteran long snapper Jon Condo.

“Those guys are constants on your team and then you build from there,” Seely said. “You find out what they do best and then you get the other guys to adjust. It comes back to figuring out your roster and which guys make it because they play really good on special teams.”

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