Editor’s note: Every Wednesday, as part of her “Vegas Nation: Takeaways” podcast, producer/videographer Heidi Fang talks to a Raiders player or personality. This week Fang talks to JT the Brick, the host on Raider Nation Radio. This has been edited for length.
Heidi Fang: Camp is now underway and it’s pretty much like no other training camp. What do you know about how the Raiders’ testing protocol has gone? How different is this really for everybody involved?
JT the Brick: Well, as we’re doing this, everything has been perfect so far, right? So the testing has been great. The protocol has been amazing. And around the NFL, I expect to see some positive tests eventually as players who leave their families and come and travel from all over the country.
Training camp is not going to be what we’re used to in Napa. Everything’s getting pushed back here a little bit. But once Jon Gruden gets the opportunity to get these players in pads and is able to go through walk-throughs, I think that the Raiders are going to take this to the next level. They got competition all over this roster. So they need to get on the field in competitive battles to see who’s going to make this roster.
HF: Right now, where you do see the biggest position battles?
JT: The position battles that matter the most are on defense. What is the rotation going to be up front with this defensive line, with Maliek Collins coming in, Maxx Crosby, Carl Nassib? Mo Hurst I’m expecting to have a big year. He’s got to play at a big level. Clelin Ferrell, the amount of muscle mass he put on. I don’t know what he was doing in the offseason, but he looks like a freak. And then what we’re seeing with Tanner Muse and [Cory] Littleton, and especially Nick Kwiatkoski.
But then let’s go to the back end, the secondary. Who’s going to start at corner? Who’s going to be the starting safeties? Who are the backups? How are they going to compete? Because that’s been the Achilles heel of this team for quite some time, that they get beat deep. They get beat deep, short and they don’t have linebackers who can tackle in space. Mike Mayock addressed that in the offseason. And now there’s depth. And I can’t wait to see Johnathan Abram play. Everybody’s talking about Jamal Adams, right? And the deal he got leaving the Jets, the trade, he’s going to get going to Seattle. Well, the Raiders have a player like that who has got to explode in year two, which is really year one for him because he didn’t play last year.
HF: Is this a make-or-break year for Derek Carr?
JT: Yeah. Let’s define make or break. This is a big question and it’s not going to go away and it should go away because this is Derek’s team and he’s a Pro Bowl-level quarterback. He’s a franchise quarterback. If Derek doesn’t play well, he will not be the quarterback of the team long term. I think he’s going to play great. I think he has the ability. He’s completely healthy. He’s dialed into the third year of the Gruden program. He’s got the weapons that he needs to have 4,000 yards, 70 percent completion. So as long as he just takes care of business and doesn’t get injured, or he doesn’t have really bad games, three interceptions, bad losses, bad decisions, he’s fine.
Mike Pritchard, who’s going to be one of my new teammates here on Raider Nation Radio, was a 13th pick overall in the NFL draft and a really good wide receiver. And Mike points out that Derek’s got to go to another level. And what is that next level? That level is making more plays downfield, just doing a little bit more to look off of the safety, to look off a corner, to change the play at the line of scrimmage, extend the play another second, second and a half. So that a player like Henry Ruggs the third, has the time, just like a Tyreek Hill, to get open downfield and get behind the secondary. That’s on Derek because the offensive line is really good. They’re going to be able to run block.
Remember Rich Gannon didn’t have a bigger arm than Derek Carr. What Gannon did when he was a multiple Pro Bowler and an MVP is he made great decisions in critical times in games where the Raiders needed a big play. Derek Carr will do that this year.
Heidi Fang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Download the Vegas Nation podcasts three times a week at www.LVRJ.com/podcasts.
More Raiders: Follow at vegasnation.com and @VegasNation on Twitter.