Though I have not personally been to Raiders’ training camp, thanks to the Chronicle’s Vic Tafur, CSN Bay Area’s Paul Gutierrez, Bay Area New Group’s Steve Corkran, and Raidersblog.com’s Christopher Hansen, I feel like I’ve witnessed every snap — or something like that. Tafur et al have been live-tweeting practices thus far, and I’ve taken it upon myself to compile those that I believe are most relevant to the Raiders’ strengths and weaknesses (you’re welcome).
Now, its best not to over-analyze these practice observations (though with the way some fans have attached themselves to rookie wideout Juron Criner, it may be too late). After all, as the late Allen Iverson once said, “we’re sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we’re talking about practice.” But don’t be as quick as Iverson in dismissing practice. It was Iverson’s refusal to practice that expedited his ticket out of the NBA, was it not?
Anyway, take these selected observations (mostly tweets) for what they are: Just observations of players practicing. But also be encouraged by what they represent: A sign that the Raiders seem to be turning over a new leaf and that the 2012 season is just around the corner.
It would appear as though players are falling into old habits. This undisciplined brand of football was practically trademarked by the Raiders the past few seasons, something coach Dennis Allen is working to correct. That these mistakes continue to rear their ugly heads seems to already be wearing Allen thin.
Tommy Kelly told Tafur after practice that the new coaching stuff is “working the (stuff)” out of the team, which is a good thing in Kelly’s opinion. “He ain’t wasting no time cracking the whip,” Kelly said. “I came into camp in good shape so I’m fine; it’s just that going from the shirts and skins to pads is a different animal. But I came out pretty good today so I am fine.”
Quarterback Carson Palmer is not expressly one of the bigger concerns of camp, but much of the Raiders’ success will be hitched to his performances.
These are somewhat conflicting reports from Tafur, but the hope would be that Palmer has more “9″ days than “not as sharp” days. Allen, in general, has been impressed with Palmer, noting that he almost has a full grasp of the offense.
On Running Backs
There were some interesting observations of the running backs, or should I say, about a running back.
Leinart running the rock? That’s a scary thought. That aside, nothing too unusual. Mike Goodson is running well in camp and Darren McFadden is still the same ol’ RunDMc.
I’m going to go on record now and say that Marcel Reece is going to be a fantasy football star, and a plain ol’ football star as well. The Raiders lack of a strong tight end, which has been heavily featured in the Kubiak-esque west coast offense, can only benefit the dynamic full back. I would think the Raiders will feature him more, especially if they want to limit McFadden to prevent injury.
Thus far, it would seem as though the biggest surprise of camp is defensive back DeMarcus Van Dyke. Every other tweet from Tafur et al evokes Van Dyke’s nickname “DVD” in some positive fashion. This has to be good new for the Raiders, who enter training camp with a huge question mark at cornerback.
Tafur et al aren’t the only ones impressed. Newly aquired corner Shawntae Spencer has liked what he’s seen as well. ”He’s made some very, very good plays,” Spencer said. “He’s a very quick corner, a very fast corner, and a very long corner as well. He has great instincts. I’m very impressed with the young man’s game.”
Allen is a bit less effusive, noting that DVD is ”not where he needs to be yet, but he’s got to continue to work and continue to keep getting better and learn the little nuances of the game.”
In all, though it is early, Allen’s approach seems to be resonating with players. Getting players to believe in the system is half the battle in the NFL. If Allen can continue to win that battle, then the Raiders should compete for the AFC West title.