Wide Receiver Amari Cooper and Quarterback Derek Carr
One year ago, the biggest question surrounding the Oakland Raiders' roster was the play of the secondary. This offseason, General Manager Reggie McKenzie addressed the position group in a big way, signing cornerback Sean Smith and safety Reggie Nelson, drafting safety Karl Joseph in the first round (No. 14 overall), as well as signing cornerback David Amerson to a long-term extension.
So now, heading into 2016, which area of the roster is need of some help?
As of now, NFL Network National Insider Ian Rapoport doesn't know if there is one.
"Go position group by position group, I don't really know the weakness," said Rapoport Tuesday. "It's really difficult to see. Who's the bad group? It's not the offensive line. It's not the receivers. It's certainly not the defensive line, pass rushers are fine… it's really interesting."
Instead, Rapoport believes – like many others do as well – that the biggest task for the Silver and Black will be handling the outside expectations for the team in 2016.
"The toughest question for these guys is, they've spent an entire offseason with everyone telling them how great they're going to be; how do you handle that?" Rapoport said. "It's an amazing problem to have, because think about if I had said that about the Raiders three years ago. It would be crazy. The biggest question is, 'can they prove themselves after everyone having anointed them as the team to watch?'"
Rapoport praised the job McKenzie has done rebuilding the roster, saying "this is a place that has probably rebuilt in a way that everybody would like to rebuild," and was also quick to note the importance of securing a franchise quarterback, which the Raiders have in Derek Carr.
Carr has been impressive in his first two seasons in Silver and Black, and now heading into his third year, Rapoport expects No. 4 to be even better.
"Last year, if there was one criticism of Derek Carr, and it's hard to find, it would be a couple of big mistakes in big spots, which is fine, because part of the thing is you put yourself in that position over and over, and eventually you're going to figure it out," Rapoport explained. "It's those little situational things, which really just come with experience. It's one of the bad things about having a young team, but it's one of the good things about having gone through it, because this year when you're driving on a team in the fourth quarter with a chance to win it, everyone will be like, 'oh yeah, we've seen this before.'"
-After coming out of the locker room and warming up, defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. did not participate in the team portion of Tuesday's practice. Linebacker Neiron Ball and safety Jimmy Hall were also held out of the afternoon session, although after missing the past few days of practice, defensive tackle Leon Orr returned and was a full participant Tuesday.
-Combined with his ability to catch the football, wide receiver Seth Roberts is regarded as a quality blocker, and Tuesday he took some time to hone that part of his game, warming up with the tight ends.
-In addition to Rapoport, his NFL Network colleague – and brother of Derek Carr – David Carr was in attendance at Tuesday's practice. Former Raiders defensive end, and current NFL on FOX studio analyst Howie Long was also at the team's Napa Valley Training Complex, and is scheduled to speak at Tuesday night's team meeting.
-Rookie linebacker Cory James has quietly put together a solid training camp, and he continued it Tuesday afternoon, hauling in an interception on a pass intended for tight end Gabe Holmes during one of the team's nine-on-seven sessions.
-Carr also connected on a homerun play to wide receiver Michael Crabtree during the same period, lofting up a beautiful pass after Crabtree burned the cornerback defending him off the line.
-You have to give credit to the big fellas when they get out and run in the open field, and that's precisely what guard Mitch Bell did during one of the team's 11-on-11 periods. After running back DeAndré Washington secured a screen pass, Bell turned on the jets and executed two big blocks in the open field, much to the delight of the fans in attendance.
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