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HENDERSON, Nev. – The Las Vegas Raiders open 2022 NFL training camp on Wednesday at the Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center. Here’s a closer look at a few stories:
The most convincing position fight: Let’s look at the right side of the offensive line, especially the right tackle. Because if the Raiders have to drive it back with the same O-line that contributed to Derek Carr being fired 40 times in 2021, with the right side being the weak link, this is ground zero. Alex Leatherwood, last year’s first-round pick, started the season at RT, moved to the right guard in week 5, but saw time on the outside in OTAs and minicamp. If Denzelle Good is healthy enough to regain her RG place after being down with a torn left ACL in the season opener, it should stiffen things up.
And that does not count the swing tackle Brandon Parker or Jermaine Eluemunor, who have played both places and are already familiar with the new coach Josh McDaniels’ system from his time with the New England Patriots. Seventh rounds Thayer Munford and UDFA Bamidele Olaseni could also get a look at right tackles, while third rounds Dylan Parham appear to be room for left guard.
The player with the most to prove: We should just rename this the Derek Carr Award. Every year, Carr endures slings and arrows from so many rumors and reports that he is on the trading block, and yet he remains. What is different now, however, is apart from the aforementioned offensive line, Carr has the most dynamic weapons at his disposal, not only in personnel but in plan and playcalling. Plus, the Raiders went all in by bringing his college best, the best receiver in the league to Davante Adams, into a trade with the Green Bay Packers. No more excuses? Yes, something like that.
But did Carr not just sign a three-year extension of $ 121.5 million? Actually, but under the terms of the deal, the Raiders are not obligated to pay him anything after this season and would eat only $ 5.6 million in dead money if they choose to move on. Plus, Carr’s Total QBR has dropped every time he’s had a switch in playcallers. Stop us if you’ve heard it before, but this is truly a make-of-break season for Carr, who, as mentioned before, has everything he can ask for … unless the O-line breaks again .
The biggest question: Yes, stays on the Carr angle here, but so much has been made of the connection he has with Adams from their college days together. And while training together as professionals in the offseason, they were last teammates in (check notes) 2013. So how fresh is the chemistry between the former Fresno State Bulldogs, and how long will it take to reconnect in a game situation? Adams has certainly enjoyed playing with a Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. But while Carr has had people like Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller throw the ball to the Raiders, Adams is on another level.
No matter how long or short it takes for Adams and Carr to get in sync, it will largely determine what type of success they have on the field in Las Vegas. For remember, Carr finds a goal and stays with him, from Waller and his 107 receptions in 2020 to Renfrow and his 103 catches last season. Adams has averaged 119 catches over the past two seasons.
Most effective off-season addition: Non-Davante Adams division? Chandler Jones. Of course, the Raiders essentially swapped Yannick Ngakoue, who is five years younger, with Jones, who is refining a Canton-worthy resume. Jones’ 107.5 sacks and 33 forced fumbles are the most in the NFL over the past 10 years, and while five of his 10.5 sacks last year came in the season opener, there is probably left in the 32-year-old’s tank to he will still enforce respect and duality.
And that frees up opportunities for his bookend edge rusher Maxx Crosby, a rising star who was last year’s Pro Bowl Defensive MVP. Now Jones is not in Las Vegas just to be a decoy; he was signed to bring veteran management as well as wreck shop on his own. And at 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, Jones also has three inches and 19 pounds on Ngakoue, who led the Raiders with 10 sacks in 2021.
Bold prediction: The Raiders return for the post-season for the second season in a row. Wait, should a team that survived last season’s work, made upgrades anywhere on the list, as well as in schedule and playcalling, not be a lock to returning to the Super Bowl tournament? If so, the really hot choice would be to predict that Las Vegas would fall short, right? Well … the back page shows so many unknown and resulting issues in a division that saw all teams make significant upgrades that it seems to be the bolder way to choose Las Vegas to be in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for first time since 2000-02 to go. At least before training camp.