Oakland Raiders: Summer Dreams, Winter Glory

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Dec 27, 2013; Alameda, CA, USA; General view of an Oakland Raiders helmet at press conference at Oakland Raiders Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Summer is in full swing and for football fans all over the country,that means one thing, training camps of their favorite teams.  This is the time where football fans get an up close and personal look at their favorite teams as they prepare for the long arduous season that comes in the fall. This is the time where the fans fill themselves with hope and illusions that their team will make a playoff run, or better, bring home a Super Bowl title. While this may be a likely scenario for some teams and a delusional fantasy for others, the hope remains because all the teams start out on an even keel.

For Raiders fans, the anticipation and expectation for a respectable season is reaching maddening levels. The team, by most accounts, had a solid draft and free agency. Now, these men that make up the 2014 Raiders are gelling together in Napa; hoping and striving to put a winning product on the field and return the tradition of winning football to the East Bay. Let’s take a look at some reasons for optimism and hope for our beloved Silver and Black and also how these dreams can quickly turn into a nightmare and see the Raiders extend their streak  of misery.

Dream Scenario: Veteran Leadership

Reggie McKenzie did a hell of job to bring in players that had championship pedigree on their resumes. The hope is that these players will instil a different mentality in the locker room and on the field. These players have already hoisted the Lombardi trophy and know what it takes to get there. Players like Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley and James Jones have all won championships for their previous teams and Reggie McKenzie is counting on that pedigree, that mindset, to permeate into the locker room; into the minds of the younger players and hopefully translate that into more wins. Already, you hear those younger players praising the effects of this culture shift within the team.  Recently, Second year linebacker Sio Moore had this to say  about the additions of Tuck and Woodley

“I bother those guys before they get the chance, every opportunity, you know, I’m doing the hand slap drill with Tuck, I’m doing one with Antonio [Smith], I’m talking to Woodley about his rushes, I’m talking to Charles Woodson. It doesn’t matter on the field, off the field.”

This is what Justin Tuck had to say about what he sees within the organization and exemplifies exactly why he was brought in:

“We’ve got a lot of talent on this team. We’ve got to put it together, obviously, and we’ve got to exorcise some demons that have been here, some thought processes of some guys that are used to having 4-12 seasons. The mindset has to change. We hear it. I hear all the things that people say and I’m in the business of proving people wrong.”

Nightmare Scenario: The Injury Bug

This is a reoccurring, unpredictable problem for all the teams in the NFL but it can have some very negative effects on the psyche of a team. Already we are seeing the results of injuries on the Raiders. Second year cornerback DJ Hayden has been put on the PUP list and is expected to miss the early part of the season if not more. Just yesterday, WR Rod Streater a suffered a concussion during practice and subsequently missed time on the field today. Missing time on the practice  field, especially for a receiver, can be hampering because the timing between the receiver and quarterback is all predicated on rhythm.  Can Raider fans weather another year where injuries in key spots turned a hopeful year to shreds as it did last year with the offensive line and the defensive line. Let’s hope that all the depth that has been added this season will serve as a remedy to these unpredictable ailments.