The Oakland Raiders officially kicked off their 2014 season, as they opened up their organized team activities earlier in the week. This is the first time that the majority of the team has been in the building at the same time and serves as the lead up to training camp in August. It is good time to see how returning players have grown over the offseason and how incoming players will fit into the team’s plans, as well.
The NFL offseason workout program is broken up into three separate phases, due to the most recent collective bargaining agreement. According to the NFL, the collective bargaining agreement breaks the nine-week workout program in this way:
Phase One consists of the first two weeks of the program, with activities limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation.
Phase Two consists of the next three weeks of the program. On-field workouts may include individual player instruction and drills as well as team practice conducted on a “separates” basis. No live contact or team offense versus team defense drills are permitted.
Phase Three consists of the next four weeks of the program. Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or OTAs. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.
Additionally, clubs may hold one mandatory minicamp for veteran players. This minicamp must occur during Phase Three of the offseason program.
The Raiders are currently in phase one of the offseason program, which means they are only able to do strength and conditioning drills. They are not yet allowed to partake in football skills or related activities at this point. There is not a lot that you can take away from the early part of offseason workouts with coaches and players not allowed to do any football related activities.
What fans might find more interesting is the second and third phases, as that is when they their first glimpse at the players in action. The offseason program tends to favor the skill position players, as there is no contact permitted in these workouts. Here are the two biggest things for fans to look for during the Raiders’ offseason workouts:
1. How do the newcomers fit in? :
The Raiders were quite busy in the offseason, as they brought in a number of different free agents on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Raiders had several goals, such as, improving the offensive line and bringing more weapons. They were able to accomplish both by bringing several veteran offensive linemen and then bringing in former Green Bay Packer wide receiver James Jones and former Jacksonville Jaguar running back Maurice Jones-Drew. The biggest acquisition was trading Texans for quarterback Matt Schaub.
Defensively, they brought in a number of big name players. Along the defensive line, they brought in premier pass rushers in defensive ends Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley and defensive tackle Antonio Smith. They also improved their secondary by raiding their cross bay rivals, as they signed both Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers from the 49ers.
This not even counting the rookies that will be added following the upcoming draft, but all these newcomers will have roles to fill. The offseason workouts will give fans a hint at just what type of roles that the team is expecting these to fill heading into training camp.
2. How does the chemistry between Schaub and his receivers look?:
Matt Schaub is key to the Raiders’ plans for success in this upcoming season, as his resurgence is vital to the short term and long term plans of this team. Schaub gives the Raiders a proven and steady hand at the quarterback position that they have not had in quite a while. Schaub also allows the team to be patient when they develop a young quarterback.
The Raiders are still expected to take a quarterback at some point in this upcoming draft, but they no longer need to spend one of their top round picks on a rookie signal caller. They would also allow the rookie to develop for a couple season behind Schaub, so he is not thrown into action before he is ready.
They will only be able to accomplish this, if Schaub is able to build chemistry with his receivers. Schaub needs to be able to build a relationship with his top three receivers in Jones, Rod Streater, and Denarius Moore. Having three targets that you can trust and get the ball to at any given time is a major need for a successful passing attack.
These non-contact workouts are ideal, because it allows the quarterback and the receivers to work on route timing and building trust. These are low pressure situations that allow them to try new things and to test the limits on what will be successful.