Bye-Bye Napa: Ten Notes and Questions

That’s a wrap from beautiful, picturesque Napa Valley; widely considered the premier training camp venue across the league.

You take the W’s when you can get them, folks.

The Raiders’ broke camp earlier this week, and with one preseason game under their belts and Green Bay on the radar for game two, let’s see where things stand as we press toward the regular season.

1) Amari’s hands.

All it took was one play, and the panic button was pushed.

Call it a misjudgement, call it hands, or whatever you want. Fact is – and I’m an Amari fanatic so this is hard for me to address (kidding, kinda) – when you’re as good as Cooper, and expectations have settled where they are, these little errors are inexcusable. I absolutely expect him to clean things up heading into the season. Again, he’s simply too good to be sitting at the top of this list:

2) Khalil is still a freak.

No further comment needed really. Although this did happen last week, one hand and all:

We’ll call that a foreshadowing.

One of the obvious standouts at camp, Mack’s on the brink of superstardom. If health is on his side, he’ll be pushing players like J.J. and Von for that crown.

3) Can we count on Menelik?

The right tackle spot is the lone question mark on an otherwise otherworldly offensive line for the Raiders. As Austin Howard climbs back from last season’s knee injury, another offensive tackle familiar with injuries has used his time wisely. Watson appears to have positioned himself nicely throughout camp, and is the favorite to hold off Howard as the starter:

4) The D.J. “feel good” camp tour continues.

Different offseason program, same headline:

Could this (finally) be the season that Hayden puts it all together? I mean, he’s turning his head around in 2016. I repeat, he’s turning his head around:

5) Mario makes me sad.

Edwards flashed in 2015, until a mysterious neck injury cut things short. To the relief of many, he made a full-recovery and participated at training camp, appearing to pick up right where he left off. The second-year player was expected become a focal point of a suddenly deep, dangerous, and retooled defensive line. While that may still be the plan, it’ll have to wait a bit:

6) Hello, Benny.

You could make the argument that the middle linebacker spot was/is Oakland’s weakest position. Coming into the offseason program, it wasn’t clear who was going to step up. As the 2015 season died down, we heard frequent rumblings that noted this staff’s fondness of then-rookie linebacker Ben Heeney. His speed and reaction always stood out, but many questioned his size. Could he hold down the Mike spot? He entered camp with his weight up, and was awarded the green dot for his efforts. Keep close tabs on him as we work our way through preseason.

7) Karl ahead of schedule?

Or rather, right on schedule?

Heading into week one of the preseason, it wasn’t clear if Joseph would throw the pads on and join his teammates on the field against Arizona, after being held back from practice prior. To the pleasant surprise of many, Karl trotted out – your starting strong safety. The Raiders will need him as they look to show off their completely remodeled secondary. 

Oakland obviously added Joseph in the first round of the draft, while tacking on both Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson in free agency. The Nelson/Joseph tandem could surprise some:

Talking about Karl always affords me the opportunity to share the best highlight compilation ever created:

8) Is Derek ready for the next step?

Similar to Khalil Mack, I won’t spend much time here. Despite being crowned the “offseason winners” by a handful of media members, being “positioned for success”, and talk of a playoff run, this team (still) only goes as far as number 4 takes them. With an even better offensive line and a more-than-adequate (potentially explosive) supporting cast around him, do the young Raiders ride their leader like it’s the early 2000’s?

9) David and his new money.

I talked up this nugget on the timeline already but honestly, it’s worth revisiting here:

Vic’s a smart dude, and he’s obviously dialed in. It’ll be interesting to see if Amerson’s able to build off his “left for dead” 2015 season. He has 18 million reasons to prove some of us wrong. McKenzie’s rolling the dice here, betting on his own (young) players – you’ve got to respect that at least.

10) On paper, we can certainly smile.

Speaking of McKenzie, I didn’t think Reggie had what it took to figure out this puzzle. I’ve admitted as much. I was wrong. Really wrong. I never thought I’d see this sentence typed out:

As we know, games aren’t won on paper. Just like they’re not won during the offseason, and during free agency. The talent appears to be there; here’s to hoping the win’s follow.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive