The Oakland Raiders report to the first training camp of the Dennis Allen era on Sunday, July 29. The Raiders are coming off of their second consecutive season finishing 8-8 and just outside the reach of the playoffs. They are also entering uncharted territory for the storied franchise. For the first time in decades, the football operations for the Oakland Raiders are no longer under the control of Al Davis. Mark Davis hired Reggie McKenzie to run football operations, who in turn, hired Dennis Allen as the Raiders next head coach.
Unfortunately for McKenzie, his first ever job as general manager did not place him in the most favorable of positions. The Raiders began the off season in salary cap hell. McKenzie was forced to purge a large number of contracts before he was able begin improving the team through free agency and the draft. That purge included starting corner backs Chris Johnson and Stanford Routt, starting outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and starting tight end, Kevin Boss. The Raiders were also unable to re-sign back up running back Michael Bush, who has been a very important part of the team due to Darren McFadden's injury problems.
After the purge, McKenzie was left with a small amount of cap space and no draft picks in the first or second round of the 2012 NFL draft. However, despite less than stellar circumstances, McKenzie was able to find legitimate starters at every position while also improving team depth and creating competition at a few of the weaker positions. With a lot of new faces wearing the Silver and Black in 2012, training camp will be the first real look at a much changed Raiders team.
While there was a lot of turnover this off season, the biggest story heading into training camp will be new head coach Dennis Allen, and more specifically, what he will do to improve a Raiders defense that was one of the league's worst in 2011. Allen was the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos in 2011, when the defense carried Tim Tebow and the college offense that the Broncos were running. One of the primary reasons Allen was hired was because he is expected to fix the Raiders struggling defense.
With all of the changes in personnel, as well as in the coaching staff, this years training camp is full of intrigue. The Raiders are a big question mark heading into the 2012 season. Their offense should be explosive, but there is question about how good it will be if (when) McFadden gets injured. Their defense was directly responsible for a number of losses last season and desperately needs to improve at a number of positions, but as of now, no one even knows what it is going to look like. But one thing is for sure, the Raiders training camp will not fail to captivate as people begin to see what the new Raiders will look like.