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Las Vegas Raiders have new faces and elevated aspirations in 2022

Breven Honda

During the offseason, the Las Vegas Raiders made a handful moves to build off of a wild 2021 season where an interim head coach led the team to 10 victories and the playoffs.

With the core players already assembled, the Silver and Black brought in a new general manager and a new head coach to build and lead the 2022 roster.

Las Vegas added some superstar players, including the reigning two-time All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams and another two-time All-Pro in defensive end Chandler Jones, who has racked up more than 100 sacks during his 10-year NFL career.

The Raiders also traded for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, who has accumulated 130 total tackles and 20 pass deflections during his short three-year career with the Indianapolis Colts.

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The pieces were coming together both from a player’s perspective and a coach’s perspective as general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels brought in new coaches, including new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, while keeping some coaches from the previous staff, such as wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett.

Throughout OTAs in June and since McDaniels and Ziegler took over, everyone has been gearing up to get on the right track by learning the vocabulary in the playbook.

All the meetings and conversations have led to this moment as training camp officially opened Wednesday for both the rookies and the veterans prior to Thursday’s first practice at the Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center in Henderson, Nev.

Adams’ receiver mate, Hunter Renfrow, who is part of the core and received a two-year contract extension earlier in the summer, said the trust has to work both ways between players and coaches in order to have a successful season.  

“I think Dave and coach McDaniels did a good job of bringing in talent, making the commitment to us. We, as a team, have to reward them by giving the same commitment every single day.

Every single season, it’s so fun because you have new expectations, and you have a new chance to do something special. Every single day, it takes your very best to achieve that. Any good team I’ve been on, it’s not just one or two guys, it’s the whole team buying in. It’s the first guy and the last guy buying the same way. If we can do that, we have a chance.”

Las Vegas Raiders’ Hunter renfrow to reporters on Wednesday

For Renfrow, he has had previous experience as both the first guy and the last guy. During his time at Clemson, he first came to campus as a walk-on and also caught a game-winning touchdown a couple years later in the 2017 national championship game with just one second left on the clock in the fourth quarter.

Last season, Renfrow received his first Pro Bowl honor — recording 103 receptions for 1,038 yards. The 26-year-old also served the team’s punt returner, totaling 31 returns for 303 yards.

Related: Las Vegas Raiders training camp preview

Las Vegas Raiders experience first day of school-like energy

las vegas raiders' derek carr
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Renfrow and the Raiders begin training camp a little earlier than normal as a result of playing in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 4.

With Wednesday being the first day of all the players coming into the building, returners and rookies alike feel as if the are entering a brand new year of education as players’ stomachs are filled with butterflies and emotion.  

“Yeah, I’m nervous right now. My heart’s still beating,” 2021 Pro Bowl linebacker Denzel Perryman said Wednesday. “But, it’s like the first day of school. You see everyone. You get to be around everyone again. Just like the first day of school.”

Perryman, who is entering his eighth year in the NFL, is learning a new defensive scheme as Graham takes over the defensive coordinator duties. He said studying the new material with the younger players helps build the camaraderie ahead of camp.

“Every day you learn something new,” Perryman said. “I’ve been in a couple defenses before. I’ve been in a defense similar to this, but like I said, you learn something new. I felt like I knew their defense, their whole scheme, but it’s all a learning curve for us. Being a veteran player, learning with the younger guys, all of us learning together is a great thing.”

In addition to Renfrow and Perryman, the Raiders had two other Pro Bowlers last year in punter AJ Cole and defensive end Maxx Crosby.

Crosby is coming off of a 2021 campaign where he recorded eight sacks and also received Pro Bowl Defensive MVP honors while representing the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium for the Pro Bowl.

With Wednesday being the first day and everyone in the practice facility before Thursday’s first training camp practice, Crosby said despite increased talent, everyone needs to stay in the present.

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“The thing I’ve learned in this league is never get too high, never too low,” Crosby said. “We have, obviously, a ton of great talent on both sides of the ball but at the end of the day, it’s a one day at a time approach. We’ve got a ton of work to do. We’ve got to stay in the present and get better one day at a time.”

Everyone is not only learning the playbook in all three facets of the game, but also each other’s strengths and weaknesses, including Crosby, who received a four-year contract extension during the offseason.

In the defensive line room, which also includes Jones, Crosby said the work the meetings are successful with new defensive line coach Frank Okam, senior defensive assistant Rob Ryan and defensive assistant for pass rush specialist Matt Edwards.

“We have a good collective with Frank, Rob and Matt Edwards,” Crosby said. “We have a big group and everybody’s working together to achieve a similar goal. We want to be the best and we’re going to be there every single day.”

The Las Vegas Raiders begin their preseason schedule on Aug 4 for the Hall of Fame game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium at 8 p.m. EST in Canton, Ohio.