Training camp is about getting in shape, but it is also about development and polish for players and a system. Which Oakland Raiders matchups will provide that?
Khalil Mack vs. Menelik Watson
Scouts were universal in their praise of Khalil Mack throughout the NFL draft process. They love his pass rush ability along with his versatile skill to tackle and drop in coverage. If there was one concern about him it was the general lack of games he played against top tier schools. Nobody knows for sure if his success was mostly because he played lesser opponents. That is why his training camp showdown with Menelik Watson is so important. Watson is slated to start at right tackle, and he is a big, freak athlete from powerhouse Florida State. He is the epitome of big school talent. If Mack can show his stuff again Watson, the Oakland Raiders will know they have something.
Matt Schaub vs. Charles Woodson
Among the players who believe quarterback Matt Schaub will be the guy that gets the Raiders over the hump and back to the playoffs is veteran safety Charles Woodson. That is a tremendous vote of confidence, but if Schaub wants to prove the 37-year old right, he’ll have to do it training camp. Even at his advanced age, Woodson is still the same savvy defensive back he’s always been. He knows how to bait quarterbacks into bad throws, something that haunted Schaub all of 2013 and eventually got him traded. If the 32-year old quarterback can find ways to beat Woodson in coverage, it will signal that he may be over his funk.
D.J. Hayden vs. James Jones
Another Oakland Raiders gamble in need of a productive training camp is second-year corner D.J. Hayden. Injuries have plagued him ever since he entered the league and an ankle problem should keep him out until camp begins. That means he will need as many reps as he can possibly get, preferably against a veteran receiver with some skill. That makes the free agent signing of James Jones look so much more important. Jones was very productive for years in Green Bay and understands how to beat any type of coverage. That experience is something Hayden will get to see first hand when they face off in camp, and it should provide a slew of valuable lessons.