Quarterback Derek Carr
School's out for summer – at least for the 90 players of the Oakland Raiders.
The Silver and Black wrapped up the 2016 Offseason Workout Program Thursday afternoon, concluding their three-day Minicamp at their Alameda, Calif., facility.
The team won't officially hit the field again late July when it reports to Training Camp 2016, so here are five things we learned from Minicamp.
1. The New Guard Is Taking Over
At the end of last season, two of the Raiders' vocal leaders – defensive end Justin Tuck and safety Charles Woodson – called it a career, retiring from football after a combined 29 years in the NFL.
With their absences, one of the biggest questions for the 2016 Raiders was who would step up and fill that leadership role, and as the team breaks before reporting to training camp, Head Coach Jack Del Rio has been pleased with what he's seen from his team in that regard.
"I think the veterans have done a great job of stepping up with that leadership part," said Del Rio. "It's one of the questions we had coming into this offseason, right? Who is going to replace 'C-Wood' [Charles Woodson]? Who is going to replace Justin Tuck? We had guys stepping forward. Khalil Mack and Derek [Carr], obviously, two guys that are stepping forward, but guys like Bruce Irvin, guys like Sean Smith, Rodney [Hudson], those guys have been filling that void and doing a great job."
Tuck and Woodson left big shoes to fill, but it's a good sign that Del Rio has already seen a multitude of players pick up the slack and take on some of that responsibility.
2. AC/DC Are Getting Back In Sync
For a young quarterback wide receiver combination, there are few things more valuable than time – and in that sense, Derek Carr and Amari Cooper are no different.
During their first season together, AC/DC was impressive, and throughout the Offseason Workout Program the pair hasn't looked like its missed a beat – routinely delivering impressive plays and showing off an improved sense of understanding between the hash marks.
The cause for their comfort? Time.
"I'm able to trust where he [Cooper] is going to be at," explained Carr. "I'm used to seeing his routes run a certain way. Those are things that take time, like we talked about last year. I forgot who asked, but it's always going to take time getting that chemistry down. But, it's nice to see all of the hard work in practice that we've had together paying off out here in practice and hopefully come August, September and through the season."
With another year under their collective belts, Carr and Cooper should makes lives difficult for opposing defenses, which will be music to the ears of Raider Nation.
3. All Hands Should Be On Deck For Training Camp
As the team has worked through the Offseason Workout Program there have been a few noticeable absences – mainly rookie safety Karl Joseph.
However, Del Rio believes that when the Silver and Black arrive to their Napa Valley Training Complex in late July, all the players on the roster should be ready to work.
"I think we feel good about the whole team coming into camp being ready to work," Del Rio said. "Obviously, we'll see when we get there, but that's the anticipation, that we'd have a healthy team going into camp."
In the NFL, few things are more important than team health, and it would be a great sign for the Silver and Black if they can start off Training Camp 2016 with all their players available.
4. Don't Sleep On The Undrafted Rookies
Just because you don't get drafted, doesn't mean you can't make it in the NFL.
It seems like each year there's a player or two who rises from the ranks of the undrafted rookies and makes a serious bid to find themselves on either the active roster or the practice squad.
This year is no different, as there are a few undrafted players on the Raiders' roster that have impressed me throughout the Offseason Workout Program.
Are these players climbing uphill to make the team? Absolutely, but don't discount under-the-radar guys like wide receivers Joe Hansley and Max McCaffrey or hybrid defender James Cowser.
Hansley and Cowser in particular have jumped out to me, so be sure to keep a close eye on them as the team gears up for Training Camp 2016.
5. The Work Doesn't Stop
The Raiders won't officially be together as a team again until they report to training camp in about six weeks, but just because the players are out of the facility doesn't mean that their work stops.
In fact, for many of the current players, after a few days off after Minicamp, they'll be right back to work, training on their own to get their bodies and minds right for the 2016 season.
"It all the hits now," cornerback David Amerson said. "You want to go into camp kind of with that mindset of, 'here we go. This is the season, let me polish up these other little things.' I think it's real important these next couple of weeks to really start training, or whatever you do, don't slack off. Don't think it's time to just chill or relax. You want to get in that mindset of going now, because once it gets here it's like, boom, boom, boom, boom – you're in the season."
Yes, the team is officially on its Summer Break right now, but being a professional football player is a year-round job, and just because players aren't permitted to work out at the facility doesn't mean it's time to rest.