Things We Learned During Napa Portion of Training Camp

Photos from Day 15 of Raiders Training Camp 2015 in Napa Valley.

The Oakland Raiders wrapped up the Napa phase of Training Camp 2015 with a walk-through Sunday. Halfway through the preseason, the Silver and Black still have plenty of questions to answer, but we also learned quite a bit about the team during the past month.

Taiwan Jones Belongs On Offense

Taiwan Jones moved back to offense this offseason after a stint at cornerback. After missing just about all of last season, Jones looks electric with the ball in hands. He's averaging 5.4 yards per carry so far in the preseason, and has returned one kickoff for 27 yards. It'll be interesting to watch Jones' role evolve.


Secondary is a Work in Progress**

It has been well-documented this offseason that the Raiders did not seek out and sign veteran cornerbacks this year. TJ Carrie, DJ Hayden and Keith McGill – the three players vying for the two starting spots – have a combined five years of experience. Neiko Thorpe has inserted himself into this conversation and is starting to make some noise. The safety position with Charles Woodson, Nate Allen, Brandian Ross, Larry Asante and Jonathan Dowling et al. seems to be better settled than cornerback. This group has been uneven in two preseason games. They'll get a big test Sunday night against quarterback Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals.

Ben Heeney Belongs

The Kansas product leads the Raiders in preseason tackles with 15. He combined with fellow rookie Mario Edwards Jr., for a strip sack against Minnesota giving him 1.5 sacks in two games. He's instinctive, diagnoses plays quickly and is decisive.


This Khalil Mack Kid Can Really Play**

Second-year linebacker Khalil Mack has been a terror in practice and that has translated to the field. He's forced holding penalties, blown running plays up in the backfield and forced quarterbacks into the arms of teammates. Listed on the depth chart as a defensive end at this point, Mack is poised to do a lot of damage this season.

The Coaching Staff

With very few exceptions, practices were high energy in Napa. The coaches don't hesitate to stop proceedings to correct mistakes or emphasize techniques. With over 100 years of playing experience, the coaches certainly have the players attention and have them practicing with purpose. The energy was palpable and there was no dawdling bewteen drills.

Return Game Needs Work

Admittedly, kickoff returns and punt returns are hard to evaluate in training camp. Preseason games are the true barometer. After two contests, Trindon Holliday and Taiwan Jones have gotten the bulk of the work with mixed results. Running back Trent Richardson got an opportunity at Minnesota due to a short kickoff and logged an 11-yard return. The wind and field position were a factor at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday night. The Raiders added Devon Wiley last week, and running Michael Dyer has been getting reps in practice. Amari Cooper has also been catching punts in practice. I'm thinking we might see a few other players get shots in the next two games.


Latavius Murray Came to Napa Prepared to Claim the No. 1 RB Spot**

With Darren McFadden's departure, Maurice Jones-Drew's retirement, and Latavius Murray's emergence at the end of the 2014 season, it was a forgone conclusion that Murray would become the feature back. Head Coach Jack Del Rio put the brakes on that notion during the offseason, saying that Murray needed to earn it. The big back has been impressive in practice and in the first two preseason games. He averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has shown good vision and the ability to make subtle moves through creases in a phone booth.

Stout Run Defense

During the last week in Napa, the interior of the Raiders defensive line seemed to turn things up a notch. There wasn't much running room and that translated to the field in Minnesota. The Raiders held the Vikings to 87 yards on the ground. They also held the Rams to just 86 yards rushing. With Dan Williams and Justin Ellis clogging the middle, the Raiders run defense looks to be much improved already.

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