Raiders camp setup: New/old sheriff in town

All eyes will be on new Raiders head coach Jon Gruden this season.Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Gruden: "I couldn't really be more pleased."

NAPA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders are forging into the future by turning back the clock.

Or something like that.

Head coach Jon Gruden was a head coach on the training camp fields behind the Napa Marriott for the first time 20 years ago, and he returns to the Raiders determined to resurrect the kind of toughness and competitiveness that existed during his first run as head coach.

He cracked early on that he was looking to bring football back to 1998, a comment that was hijacked on social media to assume Gruden wasn't up to pace with current football.

The offseason showed this to be nonsense, as the Raiders on both sides of the ball were immediately upgraded in terms of coaching philosophies and schemes.

When the Raiders adjourned on June 14, Gruden liked what he saw.

"We ran about 100 plays in a walk-through basis, no-huddle, two-minute, red zone, audible, different blitzes," Gruden said. "Pulled guys in and out of the lineup, put them in different positions, tried to create some muscle memory.

"I couldn't really be more pleased. We got a lot of reps, we came together as a team and we made some progress as I saw the development of some young players and I saw the assertiveness of some veterans which is a huge positive."

An entirely new coaching staff (only one assistant was retained) has instituted new systems of football on offense, defense and special teams.

The Raiders will be better coached than last season under Jack Del Rio, offensive coordinator Todd Downing and defensive coordinators Ken Norton Jr. (fired during the season) and John Pagano and special teams coordinator Brad Seely.

As for the development of talent, the training camp session in Napa will go a long way toward determining if the Raiders have the ability to compete for an AFC West title as they did out of the blue in 2015, going 12-4. Last season was a back to reality 5-11 season.

Gruden has openly challenged players of the last three draft classes to step up their game, and none will be given a free ride simply because they were selected by the Raiders.

There's also a new rookie class -- led by first-round draft pick Kolton Miller -- and a handful of veteran players who were brought in because they were smart, tough and competitive.

It's a different era in terms of training camp, with the collective bargaining agreement having eliminated the two-a-days during Gruden's first go-round as well as instituting more mandatory off-days.

So Gruden plans on packing in as much football as he can during the practices he has available.

"We will try to get more reps than anybody in the league," Gruden said. "If I go down, you'll be able to say the Raiders got more reps than anybody in football. We're going to try and lead the league in effort and lead the league in reps.

"A lot of people now are trying to eliminate reps, eliminate practices and I think it's hogwash. We've got to create as many reps as possible because it's just a matter of time before your backup left guard has to play, your backup quarterback has to play, and if they don't get any reps, you're not going to be very good at what you do."

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