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Raiders 2016 training camp practice day 1 wrap: “Genuine excitement” out the gate

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Training camp has officially begun. Here are my day one camp observations.

The 2016 Oakland Raiders officially began training camp today. There was a lot of reason to be a excited. The team is as talented as it’s been in several years and most of them showed up day one healthy and ready to roll (knock on wood).

"There’s a genuine excitement level," said Jack Del Rio. "I think for us last year when I got here, I really thought it was important that we establish expectations. High expectations. We didn’t back down from that. . . Now how do you accomplish your goals, well you put in the work. There’s no shortcut to it. We’ve had tremendous participation throughout the offseason. There’s an eagerness here because the guys that are here see the work that is put in, they see the accountability around them and when you do good things, you can expect good things to result."

Del Rio and his staff enter their second season with the team which makes for a much more in tune with the team he is heading into camp with.

"Certainly I have a better feel for what I can expect out of our guys," said Del Rio. "I think they have a better feel from the standpoint of what does coach want out of me. So, I think we start further ahead because it’s not day one learning how coach wants practice to be."

The first day of camp is exciting, but it tends to take on a similar repertoire as minicamp did back in June. The team is in still in helmets and shells as they ease into training camp. But just being in Napa for training camp puts the players in a different mindset knowing it’s the first step toward the season.

The first news to come out today with regard to the Raiders wasn’t even about someone in camp with the team. It was about Aldon Smith who has reportedly checked himself into rehab.

Del Rio spoke on the matter following practice, though he couldn’t offer much and NFL rules prohibit him from being in contact with Smith while he serves his one-year suspension.

"It doesn’t matter for me at this point," said Del Rio. "What I would say is, there’s a process that he’s involved in that I can’t be a part of. November’s the earliest that I can hope for. I just remain hopeful for the young man to get himself and his life turned around. And if he can get his ducks in a row. Obviously as a football team we would invite back a good football player, but I think the first thing for him and everybody that has that question on him, is let’s just make sure he takes care of it. Let’s just make sure that the focus is on him getting whatever help that he needs to get his life in order, so that he can have a good life."

With that out of the way, let’s get to the nitty gritty.

Injuries: Roy Helu Jr was placed on injured reserve today. He was replaced on the roster by defensive lineman Derrick Lott. Greg Townsend Jr starts camp on the PUP list. Denico Autry joined him there with an injured wrist. Vadal Alexander passed his physical prior to practice and was removed from the NFI list.

Back from injury over the offseason were Clive Walford, Neiron Ball, Neiko Thorpe, Reggie Nelson, and Karl Joseph. Joseph being on the field from day one of camp is a pretty big deal.

Observations:

The first thing you notice were the large number of former Raiders players in attendance. There were 90 players to be exact, up from 50 last year’s Alumni Weekend event. There was also members of each of the four armed forces on hand. They were plenty of autographs to be had. At one point Jeff Hostetler had a long line to get his autograph.

One of the position battles to watch was Menelik Watson and Austin Howard at right tackle. Watson took the bulk of the first team reps at right tackle and even jumped over to left tackle a couple times.

Marcel Reece was working with the tight ends in drills to start practice. He’s always been kind of an H-back type as a fullback. He was a former receiver who initially attempted to break into the NFL at tight end before the Raiders switched him to fullback and he went on to become a Pro Bowler at the position. He will be suspended the first three games of the season but may attend camp as normal as well as play in the preseason.

Overall, the tight ends had a good session. I didn’t see a single drop early on, including Lee Smith pulling in a one-handed grab.

Also in drills, the best looking catches belonged to Seth Roberts, Joe Hansley, and Amari Cooper. Roberts got DJ Hayden turned around and plucked one over the top of him. Hansley had an even more difficult grab with SaQwan Edwards in tight coverage, catching the ball over Edwards’ head and through his outstretched arms. Cooper caught a comebacker on Sean Smith and then a few plays later, faked the comebacker, which Smith bit on, and then left him in the dust for a deep touchdown grab.

On the other side of the ball, it was David Amerson making the plays. He had an interception and then defended a long pass up the right sideline intended for Johnny Holton.

It was a bit of a rough day for the two backup quarterbacks. Both Matt McGloin and Connor Cook threw interceptions. McGloin was trying to loft a screen pass over defenders only to have James Cowser swoop in and pick it off for an easy touchdown. McGloin also had a fumbled snap exchange that had the entire second team offense doing up downs. Cook went from being picked by SaQwan Edwards to sailing a ball that was knocked down by Neiko Thorpe.

Derek Carr claims he was rusty. If he was, then I didn’t see it.

Still back fielding punts were Joe Hansley, Jaydon Mickens, and DeAndre Washington. This time TJ Carrie joined them. It’s Carrie’s job until it’s not.