The Oakland Raiders took the field at Redwood Middle School on a warm sunny Fan Fest Friday in front of devoted Raider Nation members on the outskirts of the Napa Valley.
One thing was absolutely eye-popping to see and that was the Raiders starting offensive line which could be described in one word: massive.
Trent Brown and Kolton Miler are big human beings and bullying defenders like it. Richie Incognito and Gabe Jackson are two of the toughest s.o.b.s there are in the league. Injuries have slowed Jackson in the past couple of years but he is healthy now. Rodney Hudson, the brains of the unit, at 6’2′ 300 pounds is the smallest.
The next thing which strikes out at you is just how much faster the team looks on offense. Quarterback Derek Carr has a much less velocity-impaired receiving corp to work with. So much so he didn’t over throw a single receiver in practice on deep routes. In fact, the loft on his passes forced receivers to wait for it. A genius tactic when your guys aren’t in danger of running past anyone.
Noticeably absent was Antonio Brown. Coach Jon Gruden is ready for the party to start with Brown and the Raiders offense. Brown has an unlisted ailment, but revealed a photo showing a skin ailment on the bottom of his feet.
Gruden isn’t blowing smoke up our asses about Nathan Peterman. When Peterman was initially signed it was thought to be a move reeking of desperation. Having had the opportunity to watch him in practice, he makes the right read, grasps the offense and the ball comes out on time with accuracy and zip.
Peterman has gotten a bad wrap at his previous career stop and rightfully so. His 12 interceptions thrown in 130 attempts through eight games with four starts and only one win is abysmal. But he appears to be aging like a fine grape in the Napa Valley wine country.
Josh Mauro was a man not many people had heard of or paid attention to. With two previous stops on his resume in Arizona and the New York Giants, Mauro was overshadowed by more marquee names. When he was first named as the starter opposite Clelin Ferrell many thought it was due to a lack of option.
Mauro is good. He continued to knife into the backfield and create problems in both the running and passing game. At 6’6′ 290 pounds he has the size to play inside and out and is remarkably quick for a man his size. Working against bigger tackles like Miller and Brown will only help make him better.
Alec Ingold was a UFDFA, he is a throwback to fullbacks of the 90’s and early 00’s. Guys like him will make the position come back around. Ingold can block, he has soft hands, maintains good pad level and finishes every play in position to deliver a blow. He may have lucked into the starting role but one look at him and you know it was just a matter of time.
To Be Expected
Arriving to practice with absolutely no expectations, it was the intention to watch and just get a feel for what was happening. So as not to allow any preconceived notions to cloud judgments. What was discovered was the following.
The Raiders have invested heavily into their offensive capabilities. Having said it before it bears repeating: this offense is bigger, faster, stronger, smarter and tougher than the 2018 campaign. Carr will have time to throw the football, he shouldn’t need to run for his life, and once Incognito returns from suspension the run game should erupt as well.
The tight ends for this team are a question mark to the rest of the league. Should they play as they have demonstrated in practice, they will become household names quickly. There is size and speed at this position, as well as some veteran leadership. The offense is designed for them to have a big impact should defenses disrespect or forget about them.
Minus AB, the rest of the receiving corps are as advertised. Tyrell Williams is a better version of what Andre Holmes was supposed to be. He stretches the field, makes punishing crackdowns, and his deceptive speed leaves opponents guessing. Hunter Renfrow is a Swiss army knife in the slot. He plays bigger than he is, he is quicker than he looks and his hands appear to be true. The battle in the position depth appears to be between Keelan Doss, Ryan Grant, and J.J. Nelson.
There are always some concerns going into any training camp. After practice today the Raiders left the field with a few. Mike Glennon looks like a guy standing out for all the wrong reasons. He stands tall and proud, yet wows with nothing. He is being outplayed by Peterman for the back up role thus far, but the quarterback depth behind Carr is frightening.
The starting offensive linemen are some behemoths and a who’s who of players, the second team is not so much. Left guard remains a mystery as to who holds down the fort while Incognito serves his suspension. Heaven forbid any ill or injury should befall Miller and/or Brown. Brandon Parker is the swing tackle with a higher strikeout rate than the Raiders would hope to have to play.