The vacations are ending, the gear is all packed and ready to go, and the vans are making their way up to the beautiful city of Napa. That can only mean one thing: training camp is right around the corner for the Oakland Raiders. It is the dawning of a new era in Raider-land, as this will be the first training camp without Al Davis in charge, following his death last October. But the future looks bright under the helm of new general manager, Reggie McKenzie. He wasted no time making changes, dismissing head coach Hue Jackson, and replacing him with Denver Broncos defensive coordinator, Dennis Allen.
Heading into training camp, the Raiders are poised to dispose of the foul taste left in their mouth after their 2011/12 season ended with a loss to the San Diego Chargers on New Year’s Day. Further exacerbating the defeat was that the fact that the division was on the line for the silver and black. Win and they were in the playoffs. But, alas, they were unable to contain Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense, who had nothing to play for other than pride. The final nail was Rivers and co. driving 99 and-a-half yards in only four plays, when a defensive stop was imperative.
It was no surprise that defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan was not brought back for the 2012 campaign. Also gone from the defensive side are starters Stanford Routt, Chris Johnson & Kamerion Wimbley. Their replacements are looking to be linebacker Phillip Wheeler along with cornerbacks Shawntae Spencer and Ronald Bartell. Another question lingering over the Raiders defense is the status of starting middle linebacker, Rolando McClain, who was arrested December 1st in his hometown of Decatur, Alabama and convicted of misdemeanor third-degree assault, menacing, reckless endangerment and discharging a firearm inside the city limits. He is appealing the conviction and his court date is set for August 29th. What remains to be seen, however, is whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will suspend McClain for his off-field actions. If suspended, which seems likely given Goodell’s track record with player misbehavior, it creates further questions as the Raiders will be without their starting middle linebacker for some amount of games.
The Raiders don’t have as many question marks on the offensive side. They return just about every starter from an offense that averaged 22 points a game last season, even as they were hit with the injury bug. The return of running back Darren McFadden, who missed the last 9 games with a lisfranc fracture, and quarterback Carson Palmer having a full offseason to train and digest the playbook bodes well for the Raiders chances. Combined with exciting players such as wide-outs Darius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford and Denarious Moore, the Raiders offense is in fine shape.
Throw in the fact that the Raiders pose the best kicker/punter combination in the league, it’s no wonder that the Raiders find themselves ready to take on all challengers in the AFC West.
About the Author
Written by Simran Reyatt
Growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles I became passionate about sports around 1988, watching the showtime Lakers and the miracle Dodgers. I have been hooked ever since! Lakers, Raider and Dodgers are my main passions, but really, I'm a huge sports lover as a whole.