Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders took the field for their final practice of Training Camp 2014, presented by California National Guard, in Napa. As practice came to a close, the S&M Moving System trucks were loaded up and the players dispersed to get ready for a quick trip to Oxnard, Calif., for two joint practices with the Dallas Cowboys.
"We finished up here in Napa, and now we're going to go down to Oxnard for a couple of days and get a chance to work against the Cowboys. We're excited about that opportunity," said Head Coach Dennis Allen.
After 13 practices on the Napa practice fields, the players feel good about the progress they made as a team. "I thought it was successful," said WR Rod Streater. "We went through our ups and downs, corrected a lot of things. I feel like we made a lot of strides and I feel like we really had a positive camp."
While training camp isn't technically over, the first phase (Napa) has wrapped up, and Coach Allen feels the Raiders accomplished a great deal. "I think we got a lot accomplished here," said Coach Allen. "I thought it was important for us to get an opportunity to work against another team. So, going down to Oxnard will be good for us. Again, we're still in training camp mode, but I feel good about what we've been able to accomplish here."
Veteran DE Justin Tuck felt good about his first camp as an Oakland Raider. "I think our camp went well. From here, the focus has to be to just progress," said Tuck. "No matter how long you're in camp, you want to see progression, and I thought we did that."
One of the biggest strides made during camp was the team chemistry. "I think I know a lot more about my teammates; how they react to certain things, and just how they respond to different scenarios that might come up on the football field," Tuck explained. "I think that goes a long way to building chemistry as far as how I would play certain plays or certain situations, once the season starts."
Although progress was made, the players understand they have a long way to go to be where they want to be. "I feel like we had a decent camp," said RB Darren McFadden. "We still have some things that we need to go out there and correct and get better about, but overall as a team, I feel like we got better every day. But like I said, there's still a lot of things we have to clean up."
Now the Raiders shift their focus to two joint practices with the Cowboys. The scrimmages are good opportunities to get work against another opponent. "I think it's good to go and face some people that don't wear the same color as you, and see different schemes," said Tuck. "Dallas, especially in their O-line, they have a really, really good O-line and it's going to be a good challenge for us. I'm looking forward to it."
The Raiders avoid getting too physical against their own teammates, but playing the Cowboys will bring the practice intensity to another level. "You can go out there and practice against another team and it's going to get physical, but that's something that we need," said McFadden. "We want to go out there and have a physical practice, but at the same time work smart."
Several weeks of training camp can get monotonous for the guys, so changing up the schedule and facing off with the Cowboys can be refreshing and re-energizing for the players. "I think it'll be good for us to get away from Napa and go play against another defense," said Streater. "They don't know our plays and stuff so I think it'll really be a challenge and it'll be a good opportunity for us to compete against others."
The Raiders had highs and lows from camp in Napa, but they came out of the first phase of training camp fairly healthy and feeling good about their direction. Now they look forward to the next step of camp in Oxnard. "I think we were able to bond. I think we got a little closer," said CB Taiwan Jones. "We got to know one another and I'm excited to go to Oxnard to finally compete against somebody else in a different color."
The Raiders will practice with the Cowboys Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. Make sure to stay up-to-date on all of the action on Raiders.com.