Things are going to get very serious for the Silver & Black this week. Training camp is a go and the veteran Las Vegas Raiders joined the rookies Wednesday. This is where the team will begin the true grind. Camp is where the line will be drawn between fodder and true contributor.
The new era Raiders under the stewardship of Josh McDaniels and tag team partner Dave Ziegler cuts its teeth in the dog days of summer. The head coach and general manager will get to see what the roster they’ve assembled is made of and then will decide who stays or goes. The pair want to bring back the commitment to excellence the Raiders were known for so long ago, which means there will be immense pressure on the team. More specifically, certain aspects of the Silver & Black.
Football is a team game — many different aspects working in unison for one common goal: winning. And as such, praise and blame should be spread around, not pinpointed to a specific player or coach. But we really know that’s not how it works. A player or coach will be finger-pointed as the reason for failure — fair or foul.
So let’s take a look at the Raiders pressure cooker. Those who are charged with performing and will get the praise and/or shoulder the blame — for better or worse:
Quarterback Derek Carr: He’ll be McDaniels’ partner in crime as the head coach and play caller will funnel his play designs and concepts through Carr’s capable hands. There’s potential for a highly-efficient, if not explosive, Raiders offense. Carr got his pay day, an elite wide receiver and his play will dictate the “long” in long-term extension. Carr has shown he can be efficient and explosive but also erratic. He’ll need to be much more the former than latter in a prove-it 2022 season. Simply put, if the offense falters, Carr will bear the brunt of the blame.
Offensive Line Coach Carmen Bricillo: The heart of any offense is the group up front protecting the quarterback and paving the way for halfbacks. Bricillo comes with McDaniels from the New England Patriots and learned from renowned offensive line guru Dante Scarnecchia. Bricillo’s OL acumen will be thoroughly tested by a Raiders group that’s finding it’s grounding outside of left tackle and arguably center.
Wide Receiver Davante Adams: Acquired from the Green Bay Packers in a “we’re all in” type trade, Adams arrival means Carr has an unquestioned elite wide receiver at his disposal. Adams embarrassed many a defender on national TV and he’s expected to do the same in Silver & Black. Adams must continue to be a nightmare to cover and a red zone assassin giving Carr an open and reliable target in the money zone.
Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham: Lauded for his creativity and putting his players in the best possible position to succeed, anything less than that for the defensive play caller in Silver & Black would be a supreme disappointment. His cupboard is far from bare and Graham has the tall task of turning the Raiders defense into a strength and not a liability. If the Raiders are truly serious about a lengthy playoff run (forget mere appearances), Graham’s side of the ball must be on point and an effective, if not domineering, group.
Edge Rusher Chandler Jones: Time to prove the grizzled veteran still has it. The Raiders brought in Jones, and in turn, shipped off 2021 sack leader Yannick Ngakoue to the Indianapolis Colts. Jones will combine with Maxx Crosby to form what Vegas hopes is a terrorizing combo as the pass rush will dictate a lot of how effective the Raiders defense is as a whole. Whether the 32-year-old still has pass rush juice is a solid question because of Jones’ 10.5 sacks, five came in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans last season.
Safety Johnathan Abram: I’ve written about this before and not much else needs to be said. Perhaps Graham and his assistant coaches will unlock Abram’s ability to become a coverage asset and not liability. Graham asks his safeties to be diverse and equal parts box defender and deep cover men and Abram only meets the first criteria. There have been glimpses of Abram hanging in deep coverage but there’s also instances where he’s fallen off a cliff.