LIGHTS, CAM­ERA, AC­TION FOR THE RAIDERS

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Jerry Mc­Don­ald

NAPA — In terms of ac­tion, we’ll get our first peek at the new-look Raiders Fri­day dur­ing their first train­ing camp prac­tice on the grounds of Red­wood Mid­dle School be­hind the Napa Valley Mar­riott.

Rook­ies and se­lected veter­ans re­port Tues­day, with the full squad ar­riv­ing Thursday. Coach Jon Gru­den will talk that day, hav­ing al­ready dealt with the pres­ence of NFL Films, which helps pro­duce the HBO se­ries.

Cam­era crews are on site in Napa and have been to the East Bay home of quar­ter­back Derek Carr.

“They came and just wanted to see us play­ing with the kids, talk about how every­one is doing, ask how coach Gru­den and I get along,” Carr said in an in­ter­view Fri­day. “You know, the ba­sic stuff.”

Gru­den, reached by phone last week in New York City on a pro­mo­tional visit ben­e­fit­ing youth sports, sounded ex­cited to get things rolling un­til the sub­ject of “Hard Knocks” came up.

“I didn’t vol­un­teer for this, and nei­ther did (G.M.) Mike May­ock,” Gru­den said. “We’re go­ing to do the best we can and be pro­fes­sional, but this isn’t our idea . . . it’s been placed on our plate by the NFL and so be it.”

Cam­era and pro­duc­tion crews for “Hard Knocks” don’t re­ceive an open in­vi­ta­tion to film and record at their whim. The Raiders are ex­pected to be more stingy than most teams when it comes to eaves­drop­ping on po­si­tion meet­ings and the re­ac­tions of play­ers who have been re­leased. Gru­den will be wired for sound, but not all the time.

Gru­den hopes to use the show to pro­mote foot­ball on the grass­roots level.

“I think we’re go­ing to be a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent than some of the other teams that have been on Hard Knocks,” Gru­den said. “My No. 1 goal of this whole process is to get kids ex­cited about the up­com­ing sea­son and for some of them to go out and give it a try.”

Ex­actly how the pres­ence of “Hard Knocks” af­fects the Raiders will play it­self out over 19 prac­tices be­tween July 27 and Aug. 19.

Here are five things to watch as the 2019 Raiders be­gin to take shape:

1. In­juries — It’s the ob­vi­ous but most crucial as­pect of any train­ing camp. Crisp ex­e­cu­tion and team spirit lag far be­hind get­ting the best play­ers through the process ready for the reg­u­lar sea­son opener Sept. 9 against the Den­ver Bron­cos.

First and fore­most, that means Carr, given the mass panic that would en­sue in Raider Na­tion should Mike Glen­non or Nathan Peter­man wind up start­ing in Week 1 due to in­jury.

It goes far beyond the quar­ter­back. There are new faces in ev­ery po­si­tion group. Keep­ing them on the field to as­sim­i­late with new sys­tems of foot­ball rather than work­ing with the ath­letic train­ing staff on the side would go a long way to­ward forg­ing an iden­tity sooner rather than later.

2. The Kolton Miller-Trent Brown tan­dem — There were more than a few raised eye­brows when the Raiders not only made Trent Brown the high­est paid NFL line­man, but were mov­ing him from left tackle to right tackle. Sort of like when they drafted Kolton Miller in the first round last year and made him the starter at left tackle.

The Raiders are of the mind that in the mod­ern NFL, the idea of the left side be­ing more valu­able than the right is ob­so­lete.

An out­side per­cep­tion ex­ists that Carr’s two most im­por­tant pass block­ers may not be ca­pa­ble of keep­ing him up­right. Miller strug­gled might­ily as a rookie on a bum knee but is big­ger, stronger and pre­sum­ably healthy. Brown played on the right side for the 49ers be­fore play­ing on the left side and win­ning a Su­per Bowl in New Eng­land. He must prove he’s not a cre­ation of Pa­tri­ots line coach Dante Scarnec­chia who is doomed to re­cede un­der Tom Ca­ble.

Train­ing camp will give a first look at how it’s go­ing.

3. The An­to­nio Brown ex­pe­ri­ence — The trade ac­qui­si­tion of An­to­nio Brown from the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers in­stantly gave the Raiders their best wide re­ceiver since the glory days of Tim Brown and the first five games with Randy Moss. Moss, of course, got hurt at that point in 2005, was never the same that sea­son and lost in­ter­est un­der Art Shell in 2006.

Brown is flashy and flam­boy­ant, and brings his own per­sonal sup­port team tend­ing to all his needs. He is also, based on off­sea­son vis­ual ev­i­dence from OTAs and mini­camps, one of the best prac­tice play­ers the Raiders have had since they moved back to Oak­land in 1995.

Brown should set an in­cred­i­ble pace in Napa. It’s up to every­one else to keep up, and Gru­den loves the idea of his most ex­plo­sive player set­ting a daily ex­am­ple for the rest of the team.

“He’s a crazy man and I can’t wait to lace it up and watch him go,” Gru­den said.

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