5 things to know about the Raiders before camp opens

Here’s my training-camp preview for the Raiders.

The Raiders may be on the upswing.

They have a quality head coach (Jack Del Rio), college football’s top offensive weapon from 2014 (Amari Cooper) and a franchise quarterback (Derek Carr).

But Oakland still has a ways to go before it becomes a playoff contender. Here are five key questions the Raiders will face during training camp:

1. Do they have a deep-threat wide receiver?

They didn’t have one last season. So the offense featured an inordinate amount of quick drop-backs and dump-offs behind the line of scrimmage, and starting quarterback Derek Carr had the lowest yards-per-attempt average (5.46) in the NFL. This offseason, the Raiders spent their first-round pick on Cooper, the top wide receiver in the draft. In three seasons at Alabama, he averaged 15.2 yards per catch. He was a legitimate deep threat. If he can be a similar threat in the NFL, Carr should have a much better season in 2015.

2. Will Michael Crabtree add anything to the offense?

The Raiders’ wide-receiver depth chart last season was full of Crabtrees, i.e. non-deep-threats. Oakland’s No. 1 receiver was James Jones, who caught 73 passes for 666 yards (9.1 yards per reception) and scored six touchdowns. The Raiders apparently were unsatisfied with Jones’ production, so they didn’t re-sign him during free agency. Instead, they signed Crabtree, who caught 68 passes for 698 yards (10.3 yards per reception) and scored four touchdowns last season with the 49ers. Does he qualify as an upgrade? Will he even be in the league after next season?

3. Can the offensive line protect Derek Carr?

They certainly couldn’t last season, even though Carr mostly took short three-step drops. According to Pro Football Focus, the Raiders’ offensive line allowed 150 hurries last season, tied for third-most in the AFC. Starting left tackle Donald Penn and starting right tackle Khalif Barnes combined to give up nine sacks and 47 hurries. Barnes was so bad, this offseason Oakland moved him to right guard and replaced him at right tackle with Austin Howard, who gave up five sacks and 24 hurries in 2014. He was almost as bad as Barnes. What’s the good in shuffling an offensive line if it’s no good to begin with?

4. Can the defense generate pressure without blitzing?

It didn’t matter if they blitzed or not, they couldn’t consistently pressure the opposing quarterback in 2014. In 16 games, the Raiders’ defense recorded just 22 sacks — tied for second-lowest in the NFL. Next season, the Raiders’ front-four during passing situations will be Khalil Mack (four sacks in 2014), Justin Tuck (five sacks in 2014), Justin Ellis (no sacks in 2014) and rookie Mario Edwards Jr. (three sacks at Florida State in 2014). Unless one of those four becomes a dominant pass-rusher next season, the Raiders probably will have to blitz more than they’d prefer, which could expose Oakland’s secondary.

5. Is there one quality cornerback on this team?

In 2013, the Raiders traded down from pick No. 3 to pick No. 12 in Round 1 to draft former Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden. After the draft, Raiders’ general manager Reggie McKenzie famously said he would have drafted Hayden with the third pick even if Oakland hadn’t received an offer to trade down. That’s how much McKenzie believed in Hayden. In two seasons, Hayden has played only 18 games. Last season, he played 10 games and allowed a passer rating of 121.6 — third worst in the NFL among corners who played at least 600 snaps. And he’s the Raiders’ No. 1 cornerback. The No. 2 cornerback, T.J. Carrie, was a seventh-round pick in 2014 who gave up a completion percentage of 69.1 as a rookie. Carrie and Hayden might as well have big, neon signs on their backs flashing the words “HE’S OPEN.”

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  1. Can Raiders fans stay in their lane and realize they won 3 games last year and have not had a winning record since George W. Bush’ 2nd year in office…Thats the biggest thing to ask before camp opens

    1. LOL I admit I can be wildly speculative, but when Carr started talking SB, I must say he topped me with his delusional rant. I predict they will be happy with 6 wins because that is twice as much as last year.

  2. Derick Carr is a franchise QB? NFL.com rated him 29th out of 32 starting QB’s. Right behind no. 28 Josh McCown and in front of no. 30 Zach Mettenberger. Its a little premature to call Carr a franchise QB. Wishful thinking.

  3. Yup, Carr beat the 49ers, guess that makes him a franchise QB.
    Don’t get me wrong, I like the kid and think he’s good but let’s not get carried away with the franchise talk just yet.

    1. Derrick Carr is very Alex Smith like. He was given some receivers this year and will merely be asked not to lose games with his arm. I took the overs on 5 1/2 wins. I also took a long shot at the beginning of the off season +1800 the raiders win the division. It has now dropped to +1200. So, long shot or not, I’m not alone in thinking Oakland and Carr are in a good spot to improve this season

  4. + #6 thing to know about the Ray-Duhs before camp:
    They’ve got one foot out the door. Jilting Oakland for Carson. Oakland is the Garden of Eden compared to Carson.
    So this is a FortyNiners site, right? …..Right? Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?……….?

    1. You’ve been here long enough to know that Grant does an occasional Raider article, constantly commentating on it you sound just as petty as raider/a’s fans who complain that 95.7 covers the Giants and 49ers. This is a multi-team market, don’t like it, move to Chicago, Dallas, Miami or pretty much anywhere but LA and NY and they’ll only talk about the one team they have.

      1. “Move to Chicago….”
        First, get over yourself.
        “You’ve been here long enough…”
        Yes. Longer than Grant. Back when it was true to it’s title ‘Inside the 49ers’.
        But thanks for trying to straighten me out.

          1. That reminds of the day my wife and I visited The Tower Of London. We waked and baked for breakfast from some chronic I’d picked up in Amsterdam, and as we make our way up to the entrance, you saw Ravens as big as turkeys all around the grounds. After the tour as we emerged from an exit, one of those Ravens was there to greet my wife with a “Good morning”. We exchanged looks and then picked up our jaws from the ground. We weren’t aware they talked. Nevermore will we forget….

            1. That’s awesome Razor! Good story!

              As for all those 49ers fans who called me out for criticizing Michael Crabtree, I just can’t wait to see what he does in Oak town!

            2. I’ve got some BIG old Ravens that live on my hill. I talk to them, they respond to me, but none of us know what the other is actually saying. Its like greeting a neighbor who speaks a foreign language.
              “Vie Gates”

              1. Yea, this one said Good Morning plain as day Brotha. We said nothing before or after. Like I said, we had no knowledge of their capability to do so, and afterward we were left speechless….

              2. Amazing story Razor. Birds are smarter than most of us imagine with detailed social order. I read a study where they demonstrated that crows can remember humans faces even over a couple of years. We have a Mockingbird in the neighborhood and one of his many calls sounds like a digital phone ringing.

              3. I’m a believer Brotha. We’ve got a black squirrel that 2 years ago began taking peanuts from our hand. Named her Evelyn after Grandma who had a squirrel that would come to her back door and do the same. Now our state bird is the Cardinal and we’ve got them and Robins, Sparrows, several others to include the mean and nasty Blue Jays. This year the wife and eye observed quite the peculiar sight. A particular Bluejay was following Evelyn around, and then “stealing” the whole peanuts we’d throw out for her. He’d wait for her to get her nut and then swoop down, pick up the peanut and take off. Pretty funny….

              4. We’ve got a Shrike that scolds me if the bird bath goes dry. He’ll dive by my head then go sit in that tree squwaking. The Hummingbirds sometimes get chippy and I remind them who planted and waters the Sage and the Wisteria they like so much.

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