First-year Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio addresses the team in the final stages of the 2015 offseason program. Photo by Tony Gonzales/Raiders.com
The Oakland Raiders capped their 2015 offseason program with a three-day mandatory mini-camp earlier this week. Although the Raiders are far from a finished product, first-year Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio was pleased with the progress the team made throughout mini-camp and the offseason program.
"I thought it was a real productive time for us. We basically had 100 percent participation, guys doing what they can," Head Coach Del Rio said. I thought the team showed growth, commitment and a lot of good work went into it. I thought it was a really productive offseason."
Very few players missed significant time with injuries this offseason with a few notable exceptions. LB Sio Moore missed much of the offseason field work but returned in time to participate in mini-camp. QB Derek Carr was a limited participant in much of the Organized Team Activities. He returned as a 100 percent full-go participant for mini-camp.
"I'm 100 percent. If you could be more than 100, that's where I'm at, just ready for camp," Carr said.
Carr was finally able to get some significant work done with two of his new teammates – rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper and center Rodney Hudson.
"Rodney has done a terrific job. I think he is more than what we anticipated," Offensive Bill Musgrave said. "He has better movement than I think we expected from our film study, seeing him from the other sideline over the years."
Hudson is happy to don the Silver and Black and was excited to get a chance to develop his relationship with Carr. "It's important," Hudson said about building chemistry with his quarterback. "It's important, but we still have room to grow there. I think we got off to a great start so far and we'll continue to work."
By all accounts, and from my own observations, the 4th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft is the real deal. WR Amari Cooper was impressive this offseason. He was by no means perfect, but with every dropped or even bobbled pass, Cooper showed passion and a desire to improve. Unfortunately, he was unable to work with Carr as much as anyone would have liked. But there is still time and much work to be done in training camp before the Raiders kick off the season.
"He's going to be really good. You watch him and his releases, coming off the line, you watch him getting in and out of breaks," Future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson said of Cooper. "It's as good as we have out there on the field. It's as good as I've seen for a young guy coming in."
Best photos from the Raiders three-day Mandatory Mini-Camp - June 9-11, 2015.
Defensively, much of the offseason buzz involved new Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. What's he like on the practice field and in the meeting room? Is he going to bring that Seattle Seahawks swagger with him? What kind of identity will the defense develop?
Norton is active, energetic and has no qualms in getting in players' ears when they make mistakes.
"I am who I am. I've coached and played the same way. Early on in my coaching career, I learned that I need to approach games, approach practice, approach meetings just the way I played the game – just hard and give it everything you have," Norton said. "I think the players appreciate that."
The defense was active around the line of scrimmage and a real focus of this mini-camp was creating turnovers. Safety Brandian Ross picked off two passes in one session, DE Justin Tuck intercepted a pass he batted in the air, and the players routinely worked on ripping the ball out or scooping it up off the ground.
It's hard to know what to expect from the team in the 2015 at this early stage of the offseason, but Woodson, who returned to Oakland with championship goals in mind, probably said it best…
"We're all 0-0 right now. We haven't played any games. From what I see from this team and the coaches coming in, defensively, we're going to line up and play football. With there being new guys coming in and playing the scheme, we know we're going to be able to pick things up quickly which will allow us to go out there and pin our ears back and play football."
The Raiders will get the opportunity to pin their ears back when Training Camp opens in six weeks as preparation for the 2015 campaign kicks into high gear.