The Oakland Raiders arrived at training camp on Tuesday, as they begin their preparations for the 2014 NFL season. The team is looking to improve upon last year’s disappointing campaign, which saw them win just four games and finish in last place in the AFC West. Six weeks away from Week One, the Raiders are hoping to field a winning team for the first time in 12 years, during which time they've compiled a total record of 53-123.
After going 4-12 in 2013, the Raiders had an extremely busy offseason. The organization was very busy in free agency, signing multiple former Pro Bowlers like Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley and Antonio Smith. James Jones and Donald Penn also agreed to contracts with the club. At the 2014 NFL Draft, the organization was able to acquire some promising young talent, including a potential star at No.5 overall. Oakland had eight selections on the night.
As the rest of the league starts getting ready for the season, expectations around the NFL are not very high for the Raiders. There’s time for that to change, though, with Oakland’s rookies and new additions getting their first chance to get on the field together. The team will play its first preseason game on Aug. 8 against the Minnesota Vikings, and conclude the exhibition schedule with a contest against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks.
A few players are joining Oakland with some promise, but it’s unknown how they’ll perform until they finally take the field. Below are four players to watch for at Raiders training camp.
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Following a dismal season with the Houston Texas, Schaub will get a second chance as a starting quarterback. Last year, he threw 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 10 games, though he’s likely to be an improvement on the three men that played under center for the team in 2013.
The job is Schaub’s for now, but he might not have much room for error. The organization drafted quarterback Derek Carr in the second round, who it will look to develop into an NFL starter. Schaub is 33 years old with no guaranteed money coming to him in 2015. If Carr outshines Schaub in training camp, it might be only a matter of time before he becomes the starter.
The linebacker is one of the most talented players in the draft, but the level of competition that he faced in college has some wondering how well he’ll do in the NFL. Mack played in the MAC for four years, only rarely playing against the best that college football had to offer.
Mack joins a team that was ranked 18th in the league with 38 total sacks. He recorded 10.5 sacks of his own as a senior and is looking to prove that he can be a similar force at the next level.
As recently as two years ago, the running back was in the conversation among the best players at his position. Injuries and decreased production, however, made Jones-Drew expendable with the Jacksonville Jaguars and led him to a stint in Oakland.
Because of his struggles, Jones-Drew wasn’t a very highly sought after free agent. Still, he could play a major role with the Raiders. Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle expects Jones-Drew to be the team’s No.1 rusher, ahead of mainstay Darren McFadden. Neither running back appears to have a firm grasp on the job, and their performances this summer could determine who gets the bulk of the carries to begin the season.
As a fourth-round selection, McGill is looking to make an immediate impact for Oakland. The cornerback comes to the NFL, following a third-team All-American season with Utah.
McGill is big for a cornerback, having made the transition from safety. His combination of size a athleticism should make it interesting to see how he performs at the next level. He’ll have to play well to find playing time, considering the team signed Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown in the offseason.