Las Vegas Raiders training camp preview: Is Jimmy Garoppolo an upgrade at QB?

HENDERSON, Nev. -- The Las Vegas Raiders open 2023 NFL training camp July 26 at the Intermountain Health Performance Center in Henderson. Here's a closer look at a few storylines:

Biggest question: Is Jimmy Garoppolo an upgrade at QB over Derek Carr?

In this system ... yes. Though, like so many things, it comes with a caveat. As in, Garoppolo needs to be healthy after missing all on-field work during the offseason program as he recovered from surgery on his left foot, which occurred after the Raiders signed him. The key here, then, is Garoppolo's familiarity with coach Josh McDaniels' system from their time together in New England.

Granted, they were last together in 2017, but using Jarrett Stidham as a prototype, Stidham looked more comfortable in his two starts to end last season than Carr, the Raiders' starter the past nine seasons, did in his 15 games. Indeed, McDaniels' scheme was the only one Stidham had known since entering the NFL in 2019. If familiarity can breed contempt, the Raiders hope it also brings success. Hence, a healthy Garoppolo being an upgrade ... in this system. Notice the question wasn't whether Garoppolo is a better QB than Carr.

What is most compelling position battle? Right tackle

No, not the sexiest answer, but perhaps the most functional. The O-line was supposed to be a weak link last year but was more than solid in opening up enough holes for Josh Jacobs to become the first Raider to lead the league in rushing since Marcus Allen in 1985. And Las Vegas brought everyone back on the line, including Brandon Parker, who was slotted to start at right tackle last season before suffering a season-ending triceps injury in the preseason opener.

Plus, Thayer Munford Jr., who started two games at right tackle as a rookie, returns, as does Jermaine Eluemunor -- who started the other 15 games there, plus one game at right guard and another at left tackle. If Eluemunor is seen as more valuable as a swing lineman, then undrafted rookie Dalton Wagner might also get a look, as will free agent signee Justin Murray and returner Justin Herron.

Who is the player with the most to prove? Josh Jacobs, RB

Wait, how does a guy coming off a career year -- one in which he led the NFL in rushing yards (1,653) and yards from scrimmage (2,053) while scoring 12 TDs and being called the "heart" of the team by none other than Raiders owner Mark Davis -- have anything more to prove? Well, he set the bar high for himself.

If Jacobs holds out in camp due to not signing his $10.091 million franchise tag for the season after not being able to agree to terms on a long-term contract with the Raiders, there will be even more expectations on him when he does return. It may not be fair, but contracts in the NFL are essentially doled out based on what players are expected to produce, not by what they've already done.

Who is the player with the most to prove (Part 2)? Hunter Renfrow, WR

From 103 catches for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns en route to a Pro Bowl nod in 2021 to 36 catches for 330 yards and two scores in an injury-plagued season last year. Oh, and the Raiders went ahead and used a third-round pick on Tre Tucker, a speedier slot guy who can also return punts. No wonder there have been so many trade rumors floating around Renfrow of late, even as he signed that two-year, $32 million extension with $21 million guaranteed last summer and McDaniels said the mere presence of Renfrow in the slot was one of the reasons he chose to come to Las Vegas. Pressure? Yeah, there's some.

Training camp is a success if ... Garoppolo and DE Tyree Wilson both emerge healthy

The Raiders made their two biggest offseason acquisitions with the knowledge that both were injured. Garoppolo had to have surgery on his left foot after the quarterback signed a three-year, $72.75 million free agent contract and signed a waiver that won't allow him to collect any money until he passes a physical, while Wilson was recovering from a follow-up procedure on his right foot in March when the Raiders used the No. 7 overall pick on the edge rusher. Neither participated in on-field workouts during the offseason program.

While simply getting on the field for camp would be a win, both guys emerging healthy and ready for the season would be a boon. Especially considering all the hand-wringing over their additions this spring.