On the eve of the Raiders first preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was at the Napa Valley Raiders training camp facility, reflecting on his team and the future of the Oakland Raiders.
“I am looking for improvement,” said Del Rio. “I am not focusing on win totals in the preseason, as much as just us getting better as a team.”
With the new NFL collective bargaining agreement taking place, practice habits in the preseason have changed. There are not that many days in pads at practice, hitting is limited and the overall toughness of training camp has disappeared to a large degree.
“In our practices, what we do look for is competition. We make an effort to let our guys compete.”
Del Rio said that first games are games where new players can make names for themselves.
“First games are the biggest opportunities for sleepers to make a name,” continued Del Rio. “This is their chance to standout.”
One player who stood out last season as a rookie was Raider running back Jalen Richard and he said that he has more confidence this year, with a season under this belt than he did last year.
“Last year, I was showing what I could do,” said Richard. “This year, I am focusing on honing my skills and getting better.”
Richard came off of a good first year where he split time with DeAndre Washington and Latavius Murray. Murray is gone as he went to the Minnesota Vikings, but the Raiders added former Seattle Seahawk and Oakland native Marshawn Lynch to their rosters.
“I want to show people my pass-catching ability and my pass-blocking ability,” said Richard. “I want to develop my entire game as a player.”
The Raiders would lose the first game of the preseason 20-10 against the Arizona Cardinals. Most of the starters didn’t play, as Raider quarterback Derek Carr didn’t play and EJ Manuel got the start at quarterback. Other players, such as outside linebacker Khalil Mack and Lynch, didn’t play, but Lynch still over overshadowed the game.
While the national anthem played, Lynch sat on the bench eating a banana, which caused a national commentary on Lynch. Former hockey player Jeremy Roenick took to twitter and called Lynch “disrespectful.” Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker James Harrison said that “anyone on my team that sits for the anthem, better be in a wheelchair.”
While Lynch didn’t talk to the media, his coach Del Rio said that he, “strongly believes in standing for the national anthem, but I’m going to respect you as a man,” said Del Rio in the San Jose Mercury news. “You do your thing. It’s a non-issue for me.”
The next Raiders pre-season game is Saturday August 19, at 7 pm in Oakland against the Los Angeles Rams.