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Raiders’ OTAs end with confidence, question marks

Updated June 15, 2022 - 1:39 pm

The Raiders wrapped up their offseason program Monday, a day earlier than expected after first-year coach Josh McDaniels rewarded his players with an early break.

With a handful of new players on the roster and new systems to teach on offense and defense, the team has been measured with its time the past five months.

That was apparent when the Raiders opened organized team activities and minicamp to the media.

Here are some observations:

They can wait on rookies

During the past three years, the Raiders have needed rookies to fill significant roles. The results were mixed.

Often, it was an issue of big draft misses — and there were glaring examples of that. Those days appear to be over, and that was clear this offseason.

Of the Raiders’ draft class, only Dylan Parham has a true chance to win a starting job. It isn’t a knock on the 2022 class — young defensive linemen Neil Farrell and Matthew Butler and running back Zamir White have a chance to earn rotational roles — but the sign of a more experienced roster.

That’s evident at wide receiver, the defensive line, secondary and linebacker.

Two years ago, for instance, the Raiders were counting on rookies Henry Ruggs and Brian Edwards and second-year player Hunter Renfrow to lead the way at wide receiver. That room now features proven veterans Davante Adams, Renfrow, Demarcus Robinson, Keelan Cole and Mack Hollins.

Even their youngest position groups — like the secondary — are filled with players with three to five years of experience. The youngest members of that room — cornerback Nate Hobbs and safety Tre’von Moehrig — are coming off rookie seasons in which they showed promise to be high-level NFL starters.

The more seasoned roster should bode well moving forward, and it already has been evident in the rapid nature McDaniels and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham are teaching their systems.

“It’s good, because usually when you have a lot of young guys, the training has to slow down,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “And Josh said we’re going full steam ahead, and he trusts that with a veteran group of guys that have a lot of football behind them, they can pick it up and run with it.”

Right tackle uncertain

The Raiders are giving Alex Leatherwood every chance to start at right tackle. But the way the staff divided first-team reps between him and Brandon Parker during OTAs suggest Leatherwood still needs to convince McDaniels that he’s worthy of starting.

The former Alabama standout, who moved to guard after four games last season, could ease a lot of concern if some of the physical and technical strides he made this offseason can stick.

If not, the Raiders will turn to Parker, who has yet to distinguish himself as anything more than a stop-gap answer. That could be risky for a team with playoff aspirations.

Hobbs, Moehrig rising?

After turning in impressive rookie seasons, Hobbs and Moehrig appear primed for even bigger seasons. Both have playmaker ability that could make them game-changing players.

Hobbs, the opening game starter at slot cornerback last season, finished as the fifth-best cornerback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. Moehrig was the 25th-ranked safety.

“I’m just hungry to get better, start this season,” Moehrig said. “And just continue to grow with the team, continue to practice at a high level.”

Such great heights

While the Raiders shied away from making bold proclamations, they are aware of the great expectations surrounding the team.

With many key players locked up for years — and a new deal expected soon for tight end Darren Waller — the focus is on football rather than contracts, trade talk and last year’s off-field drama.

“It’s just nice for that stuff to be out of the way so we just play football,” Carr said. “I’m sure someone will want to ask something or come up with something that won’t even matter in 12 months, and it’ll be fine.

“But for the time being, just answering football questions has been nice. And with everything we went through last year, tragedy and coach leaving and things like that, it was just so much.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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