ALAMEDA (AP) — Derek Carr acknowledged a different feeling when he walked back into the Oakland Raiders’ facility for the start of the offseason program Monday.
With veterans like Charles Woodson and Justin Tuck now retired, Carr knows now is the time for players like him and fellow third-year star Khalil Mack to increase their leadership role and help the Raiders take the next step to becoming a contender in the AFC West.
“It was kind of weird,” Carr said. “I felt older when I walked in, if that makes any sense. I was sitting there as we were doing some of the testing with the strength and conditioning coaches, and I looked at the sheet and I was like, ‘There are barely any guys over 30 on this team.’ I sat there and I looked at it and was like, ‘It’s time to really take over.’”
After a promising season last year and key offseason additions in free agency, the Raiders head into 2016 with more expectations than they’ve had in more than a decade.
The team that has not had a winning record or made the playoffs the past 13 seasons appears to have all the ingredients to end that drought this season. The Raiders began the process of making that happen when they opened the offseason program Monday in year two under coach Jack Del Rio.
“On paper it looks great right now,” Carr said. “Paper champs, all those kind of things. Everybody is picking us to do this. None of that matters unless we put the work in. Everyone knows that. ... For me, as the leader of this team, I am just really going to concentrate on seeing where everybody is at and then pushing each other just to be better every single day.”
Carr has seen plenty of progress since joining the Raiders as a second-round pick out of Fresno State two years ago. He quickly won the starting job and then endured a trying rookie season that featured 10 straight losses to open the season, a mid-year coaching change from Dennis Allen to Tony Sparano and the expected difficulties transitioning from college to the pro game.
With a year of experience, a new coaching staff led by Del Rio and improved talent with additions like receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and center Rodney Hudson, Carr and the Raiders took a big step forward in his second year.
He threw 32 touchdown passes and for 3,987 yards overall as Oakland improved from three wins to seven and proved capable of competing with top teams as evidenced by a win at eventual Super Bowl champion Denver in December.
Expectations are only higher in year three after general manager Reggie McKenzie delivered in free agency with the additions of guard Kelechi Osemele, pass rusher Bruce Irvin, cornerback Sean Smith and safety Reggie Nelson.
“It’s easy to get excited, but I feel like we’re more excited about the work that we have to put in,” Mack said. “Getting to know each other, getting to grind with each other, and then being on the field and getting the communication down pat, I’m more excited about those things. That’s the stuff that you can really tell how great the defense will be based on those things.”
NOTES: The Raiders announced the signings of restricted free agents: QB Matt McGloin, OL Matt McCants and CB Neiko Thorpe. ... Oakland also signed exclusive rights free agents WR Seth Roberts, DL Denico Autry, DE Shelby Harris, TE Gabe Holmes, S Tevin McDonald and LB Korey Toomer.