The Oakland Raiders open training camp July 31 in Napa, California. Here's a closer look at the Raiders camp, which wraps up in late August:
Top storyline: The Oakland Raiders are starting yet another era. Jack Del Rio, who is the eighth head coach in Oakland since 2004, brings renewed hope and vigor. He grew up in the east Bay Area as a Raiders fan. Del Rio is preaching competition in Oakland. That was his mantra in the offseason and in the OTA sessions. He knows this team is a work in progress. The idea this offseason was to strengthen the roster and Oakland looks like it succeeded, especially in areas such as receiver and linebacker, where Oakland is much deeper. There should be stronger competition at those position as well as on the offensive and defensive lines. Jobs will be on the line during training camp practice and in preseason games. Del Rio will constantly remind his players that few of them have the luxury of being a set starter. It will be interesting to see how intense this camp gets.
Position battles to watch: Here are the top three to watch: Right guard, J'Marcus Webb, Khalif Barnes and Jon Feliciano; right tackle, Menelik Watson and Austin Howard; cornerback Keith McGill and DJ Hayden. Webb, a journeyman tackle who didn't play last season, heads to camp as a surprise leader over Barnes, a veteran, and Feliciano, a fourth-round pick. Watson, a second-round pick in 2013, goes to camp with an edge over Howard, who is entering the second year of a five-year, $30 million deal. McGill, a fourth-round pick last season, was working ahead of Hayden, the No. 12 overall pick in 2013. These will all be fascinating battles to watch.
Veterans to watch: On offense, it's receiver Michael Crabtree. He was expecting to be a big-dollar free agent in 2015. Instead, the San Francisco receiver had to settle for a one-year, prove-it deal with the Raiders a month into free agency. Crabtree had a down year in 2014 with 68 catches and seemed to lose explosion because of lower-leg injuries. He will be the No. 2 receiver in Oakland and must show in this camp he can be an impact player. On defense, it's defensive end Justin Tuck. He is entering the final year of a two-year, $10 million deal. Tuck was so-so last year; he had five sacks and 43 tackles. The Raiders need Tuck, 32, to be an impact player. He has to show he is ready to produce in this camp.
Rookies to watch: I will be watching second-round defensive end Mario Edwards. The Florida State product will be given every opportunity to start. Edwards was more of a run-stopper in college, but the Raiders need a pass-rusher. Oakland had a league-low seven sacks from their defensive ends last year. Edwards had eight sacks in three college seasons. He needs to show some pass-rush burst in training camp.
Bubble watch: On offense, receivers Brice Butler and Kenbrell Thompkins could be in trouble. The Raiders are deep at receiver. Undrafted free agent Josh Harper is expected to make a push for a spot on the 53-man roster. Butler and Thompkins are talented, but both will need to do well this summer to secure a spot on the roster. On defense, safeties Brandian Ross and Larry Asante played a lot last year. But the Raiders want youth to shine at this spot. If 2014 seventh-round pick Jonathan Dowling has a good camp, one of the two veterans could be in trouble.
All about the young stars: The Raiders have won a total of 11 games in the past three seasons and haven't been to the playoffs since the 2002 season. If they are going to make real strides, it will be because of progress by 2014 top draft picks, linebacker Khalil Mack and quarterback Derek Carr, and 2015 No. 4 overall pick and receiver Amari Cooper. All three can become stars. They are the future of this franchise. Their progress this summer will be Topic A in Oakland.
For daily updates at camp, check out the Oakland Raiders clubhouse page.