Finally, thankfully, mercifully, football is almost back.
Yes, I know that the Silver and Black were technically in the building for much of the spring, but in less than a week, players will start arriving in Napa to officially get Training Camp 2018 going.
While Head Coach Jon Gruden has only been back in the mix since January, we’ve already learned a lot about what the Oakland Raiders will look like under his guidance, but we still have a ton of questions headed into training camp.
Here are seven of them.
1. Will Khalil Mack show up on July 26?
Alright, let’s just get this one out of the way right at the start.
After being noticeably absent from the team’s Offseason Workout Program, the main question –at least for the first few days of camp – will be whether or not No. 52 comes to work.
Look, I know that Mack’s absence from the team’s facility has been one of the biggest storylines over the past six months, but as challenging as it might be, I think a good rule of thumb to follow is to just focus on the guys who are physically at camp.
These situations tend to work themselves out, but until that happens, everyone will be anxiously waiting to see when the All-Pro defensive end rejoins the Silver and Black.
2. Does Doug Martin keep riding the wave of positive momentum?
The veteran running back enjoyed a really nice start to his first offseason as a member of the Silver and Black; now, we’ll get to see if he can keep that momentum rolling in Napa.
Martin returns to Northern California with something to prove, and at this point in his career, I think a fresh start somewhere familiar will pay big dividends for the All-Pro.
You can never really tell what a running back looks like until the pads come on, so you better believe that on the first day of pads, I’ll have my eyes peeled on No. 28.
3. What wrinkles does Coach Gruden have up his sleeve?
Each training camp is its own animal. It takes on its own feel, has its owns ebbs and flows, but inherently, in some way, shape or form, they all take on the personality of their head coach, in this case Jon Gruden.
This will be Gruden’s first training camp in Napa in over 15 years, and if I know one thing, Training Camp 2018 is going to be intense for the Silver and Black.
Gruden exudes intensity, and I’m pretty fired up to see what a full training camp under his tutelage looks like.
Buckle up, fellas.
4. Who earns the backup quarterback job?
There aren’t very many sequels that live up to the original (The Godfather Part II maybe?), but here’s to hoping that Cook/Manuel Round 2 bucks that trend.
The two signal-callers went toe-to-toe in training camp last year, with Manuel eventually coming out on top, but they’ll be going back at again in Napa this year.
Derek Carr is the Raiders’ quarterback of today, tomorrow, and hopefully the next ten years, but the Philadelphia Eagles showed us oh so recently the importance of depth under center.
This is a battle that will likely continue through much of the preseason, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a fun one to watch.
5. How will Arden Key fare?
Watching all the Raiders rookies progress through camp is always an interesting exercise, but Arden Key is one player in particular I’m excited to watch over the next month or so.
Like Doug Martin, the former LSU Tiger enjoyed a really nice Offseason Workout Program, but we’re going to get a much better idea of what he’s going to be about once the pads come on.
Now, Key obviously won’t be taking down Derek Carr or any of the other Raiders’ quarterbacks in Napa, but seeing him in pads, going against live competition for the first time will be pretty cool.
Key has the ability to be a really good edge rusher, and having a plethora of those on the roster only means good things for a defense.
6. Which Undrafted Free Agents stick around?
Speaking of rookies, it seems like each year an undrafted free agent or two ends up making the 53-man roster, so seeing which of these young fellas makes the most of their opportunities is an intriguing storyline to follow.
Now, it’s no secret that UDFAs face an uphill battle making the team, but the Raiders in particular have a rich history of giving guys a shot, regardless of how they arrived on the roster.
So, who’s going to pick up that mantle this year? We’ll get a much better idea over the next six weeks or so.
7. Who wins the kicking battle?
Two men enter – only one man leaves as the Silver and Black’s placekicker.
It’s a battle we’ve talked about since the Raiders signed rookie kicker Eddy Piñeiro, and I anticipate it’s one that we’ll keep talking about for the foreseeable future.
Giorgio Tavecchio did an admirable job last year as the team’s primary placekicker, but he’s going to have to battle it out with Piñeiro to retain his hold on the job.
Truth be told, this is one of the battles I’m looking forward to the most.
Piñeiro no doubt has the pure intangibles to be an outstanding NFL kicker, but Tavecchio won’t loosen his hold on the job without a fight.
This one is going to come down to the wire.
A look at the official headshots of the current offseason 90-man roster.