OPEN CAMP: July 26 Marwin Evans Jersey , Napa, California

LAST YEAR: Raiders plummeted from 12 wins in 2016 to six last year as QB Derek Carr and offense regressed, defense struggled, and coach Jack Del Rio was fired. Oakland's offensive output dropped by more than seven points per game, takeaways fell from 30 to 14, and Raiders got almost no production from past three draft classes in becoming one of league's biggest disappointments. That led to move to bring coach Jon Gruden back for second stint with Raiders after spending past nine seasons in broadcast booth.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Gruden, WR Jordy Nelson, WR Martavis Bryant, RB Doug Martin, LB Derrick Johnson Dean Lowry Jersey , CB Rashaan Melvin, S Marcus Gilchrist, LB Emmanuel Lamur, LB Tahir Whitehead, WR Ryan Switzer, OL Kolton Miller, DT Maurice Hurst, DE Arden Key.

IMPORTANT LOSSES: Del Rio, WR Michael Crabtree, RT Marshall Newhouse Robert Quinn Jersey , LB NaVorro Bowman, CB TJ Carrie, CB Sean Smith, CB David Amerson, P Marquette King.

CAMP NEEDS: Biggest priority is getting 2016 Defensive Player of Year Khalil Mack into camp after he held out entire offseason while seeking long-term contract. Mack is entering final year of rookie deal and Gruden and new DC Paul Guenther are eager to get most important defensive piece on practice field. Other main issues are learning Gruden's system and figuring out offensive tackle situation with LT Donald Penn coming back from foot injury and rookies Miller and Brandon Parker battling Breno Giacomini for time.

EXPECTATIONS: Owner Mark Davis has wanted to bring back Gruden ever since taking over team seven years ago. He's hoping move pays off in team's final two seasons in Oakland before move to Las Vegas in 2020. Gruden is being counted on to bring out best from Carr, who went from MVP candidate in 2016 to mediocre last season as he dealt with injuries. His protection got worse and his receivers were inconsistent. Even if Gruden does manage to spark offense, defense will need to take big step forward for Raiders to get back into playoff contention.

With quarterback Kirk Cousins on his way out the door, Washington traded with the Chiefs for quarterback Alex Smith. And coach Jay Gruden knows that Smith will need to hit the ground sprinting.

??e has got to get it down by the first game,” Gruden told reporters on Tuesday regarding the question of whether Smith has until the middle of the season to get up to speed on the terminology of the offense. “So I think he is already close to having it down for the most part. Each game plan is going to change with different concepts depending on who we play from time to time. But he needs to get it down and he will get it down. That?? why we got him here. That?? why we wanted to get a veteran quarterback here that can adjust to different schemes and alert on the fly.”

Then came the mandate for the team’s new quarterback.

“One thing about Alex, he is the smartest guy I have ever been around Kemal Ishmael Jersey , without a doubt, and he is in great shape,” Smith said. “He can move around and he can handle a lot of different things. We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now. This isn?? a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.??/p>

Smith has the skill to do it, but does he have the talent around him? That remains to be seen, and the problem is that, if the team doesn’t win, Gruden (whether he means to or not) is positioning Smith to take the bulk of the blame for it.

Gruden still believes Smith can do it. Because Gruden thinks Smith has the confidence to do it.

??onfidence is very, very important and presence . . . is important,” Gruden said. “It gives other players confidence Darian Thompson Jersey , and the whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That?? what I think he does as good as anybody. He??l get the most out of the tight ends. He??l get the most out of the backs. He??l get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they??e going to want to play for him and they??e going to feel confident that he?? going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he?? got and take responsibility if something doesn?? work out. [He’s] just a great leader-type guy and a good person, good player, that players all seem to react well to and play well with.”

Again, if that doesn’t happen, the blame won’t fall to the subpar players around him or to the people who gathered the players or those who coach them. It’s all on Alex Smith, according to the guy who has far less job security (frankly) than Smith enjoys.

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