NFL Camps Open: Las Vegas Raiders First Full Squad To Report Amid High Hopes

It begins in Henderson, Nevada Wednesday when veterans report to the Las Vegas Raiders, with the first practice set for Thursday.

Football’s back.

And it will not stop until, like, June of 2023 — after this summer’s training camps, and the preseason, and the regular season, and the postseason, and free agency, the draft and offseason camps.

Wash.

Rinse.

Repeat.

The Raiders, the first full squad to report this year, play the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Hall of Fame Game Aug 4. So 15 days from today an NFL game will be televised nationally on prime time. And Las Vegas takes to Thursday’s first practice high expectations of making the playoffs (again) and perhaps advancing beyond the first round.

This is a deeper and more complete Raiders roster than past years. Rookies that were added in April’s draft are not going to be asked to play immediately, which is different from past years when youngsters such as Henry Ruggs III or Alex Leatherwood were forced to start whether they were ready or not.

(And often they weren’t).

The Raiders are beginning a new era with coach Josh McDaniels, and general manager Dave Ziegler running the football side of the organization while Sandra Douglass Morgan takes over the business side as club president.

Does that mean there’s a, shall we say, a commitment to excellence with the Raiders again?

Well, Davante Adams embraced that. So did Chandler Jones.

Both free agents had other options with other teams. And both chose Las Vegas.

McDaniels has spent years as New England’s offensive coordinator and not only turned down other opportunities but actually took the Colts job in February 2018 before changing his mind to stay with the Patriots.

So he’s had other options.

And he chose the Raiders.

That suggests good things for this franchise.

The Raiders, it should be said, are not a finished product. More like a work in progress.

The offensive line presents one question after another beyond left tackle Kolton Miller. But quarterback Derek Carr seems confident competition will sort out the issues up front while McDaniels, known as an offensive minded coach, sorts out the rest of the unit.

“The best part of my game has always been the mental side and that’s how Josh is,” Carr said before a gold tournament two weeks ago. “He’s a genius when it comes to scheming things up and teaching his system and getting the best out of his players.”

The defense that allowed 439 points last season, which was seventh most in the NFL, is another area that requires significant improvement.

The Raiders have numbers at defensive tackle as they have nine of them on the roster. But two of those, Jonathan Hankins and Bilal Nichols, were placed on the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday with undisclosed injuries.

This doesn’t mean Nichols and Hankins landing on PUP is a surprise. Both missed mini-camp practices in June.

But Hankins and Nichols are considered starters.

And Nichols, signed as a free agent in March from the Chicago Bears, is the only one of the team’s interior players that has been a consistent pass rusher in the past.

So why not Ndamukong Suh?

Last we checked on in Suh he said the “Raiders could be fun.”

That was nearly a month ago. But as of Tuesday night, nothing had been signed.

It’s not because the Raiders cannot afford Suh. He’s been playing on a series of one-year contract each of the past four seasons, the last three with Tampa Bay.

The Bucs are no longer an option so Suh, 35, is still looking for a team with a good chance of winning and the ability to pay him between $8-$10 million per year. No contending team team has reached that plateau so Suh has chosen to remain patient.

It should be noted that even as the Buccaneers defense collapsed against the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams in the playoffs last postseason, Suh was the team’s best defensive player on the field that day, particularly late in the game.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

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