During a training camp flush with talks about Hard Knocks, frostbite, and helmets, the Oakland Raiders may be looking for guidance.
During free agency, when a team goes shopping and comes back with more than some expected, there is a lot of sorting out to do. Questions about leadership, character, and skill swirl around the new players. It is also during free agency that teams evaluate how significant the loss of some of last year’s players will be. Fans may also start wondering if the replacements can fill the shoes of the previous players.
Amidst the swirling rosters, one part of the roster remains steadfast: those who stay.
“Those who stay will be champions” does not necessarily apply here as Super Bowls are not guaranteed, but those who stay know the values and goals of the team, and the more veterans you have, the easier the team’s messages can be spread and bought in to.
Unbelievably, quarterback Derek Carr is the Raiders’ most significant veteran. Carr joins the team at 2019 training camp having logged almost five full seasons in the Silver and Black (Carr has played in and started 78 of the possible 80 games). Carr is very vocal and a great leader and his airtime on Hard Knocks will reflect on this.
The Big Three
Gabe Jackson and Rodney Hudson join Carr on the “significant veterans” list. Both Jackson and Hudson take great pride in their efforts as offensive lineman. Hudson was also named a team captain in 2018.
Having two veterans on the offensive line is crucial this year. The Raiders signed the controversial Ritchie Incognito to play left guard. Even if Incognito were to play out his contract without making a blip on the radar, it is better to be safe than sorry.
On the defensive side, the Raiders have Justin Ellis, Karl Joseph, and James Cowser as the team’s longest tenured defensive players. Looking for captains on defense becomes interesting because two captains are not returning.
The Raiders lost Reggie Nelson and Bruce Irvin during the offseason. As a result, the team will miss more than just their play, but their leadership as well. However, the season must go on, and it certainly will not wait around for the Raiders to find new leadership.
One player poised to emerge as a captain is Gareon Conley. Conley is quickly gaining traction as one of the Raiders’ best players. 2019 would be Conley’s third official season, so he would be the youngest captain. Yet, if he portrays the characteristics of a leader, there is no doubt he will find himself getting the nod as captain.
Despite drafting players with their character in mind, the Raiders have stumbled on to a few different characters. This season, the Raiders have a few hotheaded players that could cause some team drama. From an executive standpoint, the best way to fix this is to surround the potential negative behavior with positive leadership.
In the more recent years, player tirades grab publicity. One thing to notice is that there is hardly ever a teammate trying to get a player under control. Maybe fans do not see these instances because it is not as good of airtime for the networks. Then again, these instances do not happen with a significant team leader present.