OAKLAND (AP) — Whenever a player would make a mistake this offseason, first-year Oakland coach Jack Del Rio would make a point that this was a new version of the Raiders and those errors were no longer acceptable.
There have been plenty of slipups over the past dozen years as the Raiders have been unable to post a winning record or earn a playoff berth since going to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season. In that 12-year span, the Raiders have lost more games and allowed more points than any team in the NFL.
Through eight coaches, 18 starting quarterbacks and the change from Al Davis’ regime to general manager Reggie McKenzie, the only consistency in Oakland has been losing.
“That’s not a part of who we are right now. We’re going forward,” Del Rio said. “I always attempt to paint a picture. I know these guys really want to win. They’re willing to work and we need to paint a picture and show them how to get there.”
The arrival of Del Rio’s new staff, upgrades made through free agency and a foundation led by last year’s top two draft picks — quarterback Derek Carr and linebacker Khalil Mack — have given the Raiders more reasons for optimism than usual heading into training camp.
Now the task will be for the level of play on the field to match the good feeling.
“It’s realistic because we’re all 0-0 right now. We haven’t played any games,” safety Charles Woodson said. “If you start out fast to the season, I think that can help carry the momentum through the rest of the season. Then, who knows where it goes from there.”
Here are some things to watch at training camp for the Raiders:
CARR TO COOPER: Carr showed signs as a rookie of ending the revolving door at quarterback in Oakland by showing composure in the pocket and avoiding the sacks that ruined big brother David’s career. Despite those positives, Carr averaged an NFL-low 5.5 yards per attempt as he had few big-play targets at his disposal. The Raiders believe they filled that void by drafting Amari Cooper fourth overall and signing former San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree. Add rookie tight end Clive Walford and the return to health of Rod Streater and Carr should see a big jump in his passing numbers.
RUN TO DAYLIGHT: The NFL’s worst rushing team a year ago hopes to get a major boost this season with more opportunity for Latavius Murray. The Raiders got a late-season spark from Murray, who averaged 5.2 yards per carry after finally getting a chance to play. Trent Richardson, a 2012 first-round pick by Cleveland, and Roy Helu Jr. also will be in the mix behind what the Raidersbelieve will be an improved line.
JUGGLING O-LINE: The Raiders return their starting left side of the offensive line with tackle Donald Penn and guard Gabe Jackson. With free agent Rodney Hudson entrenched at center, the big questions this summer will be solidifying the right side. After a disappointing debut season in Oakland at right guard, Austin Howard is moving to tackle to compete with Menelik Watson. The competition is wide open at right guard with Khalif Barnes, Matt McCants, J’Marcus Webb and rookie Jon Feliciano all in the mix.
QUESTIONS AT CORNERBACK: The Raiders let veteran cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers leave as free agents and are turning to younger players. DJ Hayden, the team’s top pick in 2013, has struggled in limited playing time as a pro and could be pushed for a starting job by second-year players TJ Carrie and Keith McCants. That trio has just 15 career starts in the NFL and will need to get up to speed quickly.
SACK THE QUARTERBACK: The Raiders were tied for the second-fewest sacks in the NFL last season with 22. The man charged with improving that total is Mack, who was outstanding as a rookie despite just four sacks. Mack had 52 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, second among all 4-3 outside linebackers. With added weight and more moves in his repertoire, the Raiders are hoping for bigger numbers.