OAKLAND – Optimism has encompassed the first two weeks of Raiders training camp. Head coach Jack Del Rio has his team and its fan base believing 2015 will be far better than recent seasons. It’s a combination of coaching and increased talent grounded by a young foundation from three productive draft classes.
Results will test those beliefs. Friday’s final against the St. Louis Rams won’t enter into that equation. That will come during the regular season.
Quarterback Derek Carr has faith this team will fare better.
“I think we’ve already improved as a team,” Carr said. “Just the feeling around it, just being around the guys out here, it’s definitely not the same team, it’s not the same feel. We’re more competitive, we’re more physical – you can already see it. Now, obviously, we have to take it to the games. But I feel that just seeing that from that aspect – that’s all I have to see so far – we’re going in the right direction.
“Now, are there going to be lumps in the road? There are with every team, every football season. There were with the Super Bowl winners last year at the beginning of the season. There are always lumps in the road, but as long as you continue to grow the way we are, we’re going to be just fine.”
The road to regular season success starts on Friday. The Raiders want to build strength as a team during the preseason, and the first go-round should focus on playing smart and avoiding mental mistakes and penalties that force players to do up-downs in camp.
“The goal of the preseason is to go out there and execute playing against someone else and look clean,” Carr said. “You don’t want to have like little penalties like false starts, or offside. You don’t want stuff like that. You want to go out there and play your assignment clean. Obviously, you want to go out there and be physical. You want to go out there and assert yourselves as a team. That’s every football game.
“For the most part, you want to make sure we’re taking what we’ve done in practice going under the lights and just being clean with what we’re doing. Making sure we’re going to the right place with the ball. You know, work out all the timing stuff in a live situation. Those kinds of things.”
Carr is excited his offense will square off against some excellent defenders from St. Louis. They have an excellent pass rush, a fact Carr learned first hand during a 52-0 drubbing at the Edward Jones Dome last year.
His offense is far better, and Carr expects the Rams to be a good test.
“I really am just looking forward to it especially playing a great defense like that,” Carr said. “You know, we have a couple preseason games against some great defenses which is awesome. It’s great to get ready for the regular season. And, you know, we’re looking forward to competing against them, obviously. But, it is a preseason game. We’re going to go out there and try and win but at the same time we have to know it’s a preseason game and we’re just building.”
Starters shouldn’t play much against the Rams. The first unit typically plays a few series, rarely reaching into the second quarter. Extended play for lower-tier assets should help refine a depth chart that will evolve as August wears on. Play can decline late in these games, but Del Rio enters the game looking for consistent play from all units.
“I just want to be sharp,” Del Rio said. “Just want to play crisp football, execute all the phases. We’re looking to put a good showing out there.”