After a strong start to training camp, the Oakland Raiders offense hit a trough and struggled for a few days, before starting to rebound. The struggles are not a cause for long term consternation, but in fact the growing pains of a young unit.
The leadership that Jason Campbell has brought with him has earned him the support of his teammates in a manner that was never achieved by his predecessor. It is not just on the field chemistry that they are building,but off the field as well. As far back as minicamp, the guys were talking about hanging out more with their teammates outside of the locker room. This solidarity is something that has been unheard of in Oakland in recent years, but s a sign of individuals coming together as a team.
The new found esprit d’ corps can only go so far, the sense of lethargy that weighed on the offense in practices a year ago is history. It has been replaced with a focus on hustling to the line and on the finer points of play execution. Twice during Tuesday’s practice the offense was called back to the huddle for lack of hustle. That may seem like a little thing, but considering there are only 30-45 seconds between plays, teams have to make the most out of each split second.
The struggles with the offense started once the injuries started coming to the wide receiver position. The top three wide receivers Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy, and Darrius Heyward-Bey have all missed a significant number of practice sessions. As they have missed time, that has limited their ability to continue building a chemistry with their new signal caller. It also throws spotlights on guys like Todd Watkins who are more likely special teams players if they make the team.
Darren McFadden has been out for over a week with a hamstring injury and there is not a timetable yet for his return. He described it as “something I just need to take care of just so I don’t have to deal with it all season so I’d rather get it healthy now and then it won’t bother me all season.”
He is expected to be used more in the passing game that he had been in the past years. “I think that’s something the coaches have worked on hard in the offseason, as far as getting me out, bringing me out and catching routes or getting me on the edge. Something I’m looking forward to.” These are things where he is going to have to establish timing and a rapport with his quarterback.
Questions abound regarding the Raiders offensive line, but Cable is confident in how they are coming together. “There was some good things in terms of protection. I thought in the second half running the ball with some efficiency. But I’d like to see us get started just a little bit quicker.”
Overall, the Raiders offense is a work in progress. They have an explosive potential, but they have to get everybody healthy and continue putting in the work. The injuries have hurt them, but it comes down to putting healthy players on the field, and those players to make plays. They have another week in Napa where they can continue being immersed in football before returning to Alameda. Then two more weeks until the regular season begins.