Some NFL players are reporting to training camps today. Here’s a quick look at the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers, who open camp in the coming days:
OAKLAND RAIDERS (7-9)
Friday, July 29, in Napa
LAST YEAR: Raiders more than doubled win total in first year under coach Jack Del Rio, going from 3-13 to 7-9. In second year as starter, QB Derek Carr took major step with help from Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree at wide receiver. DE Khalil Mack became pass rusher, making 15 sacks.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: OL Kelechi Osemele, CB Sean Smith, LB Bruce Irvin, S Reggie Nelson and rookie S Karl Joseph.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: S Charles Woodson, DE Justin Tuck, OL J’Marcus Webb, LB Curtis Lofton.
CAMP NEEDS: After filling most needs with productive free-agent haul, Raiders enter camp with few glaring holes for a change. Biggest questions will be figuring out whether Austin Howard or Menelik Watson will start at right tackle, whether rookie RB DeAndre Washington can emerge as capable backup to 1,000-yard back Latavius Murray, and who will play slot cornerback and inside linebacker.
EXPECTATIONS: Raiders actually have legitimate ones this year. Oakland has gone 13 consecutive seasons without winning record or playoff berth, and most of those seasons started with little reasonable hope of ending those droughts. This season is different. With young core led by Carr, Mack and Cooper, and offseason upgrades with the signings of proven winners such as Osemele, Smith, Irvin and Nelson, Raiders seem to have pieces to make run at playoff spot and division title.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (4-12)
Saturday, July 30, in San Diego
LAST YEAR: The Chargers finished 4-12, their worst record in 12 seasons, including being swept in AFC West, as ownership angered the fan base with a failed attempt to move to Los Angeles. First-round pick Melvin Gordon failed to score touchdown or have a 100-yard game, mostly due to ineffective offensive line. Despite missing playoffs for fifth time in six seasons, Chargers gave coach Mike McCoy one-year contract extension through 2017, but fired half his staff.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: C Matt Slauson, WR Travis Benjamin, NT Brandon Mebane, FS Dwight Lowery, CB Casey Hayward, rookie DE Joey Bosa, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: S Eric Weddle, TE Ladarius Green, DE Kendall Reyes, WR Malcom Floyd.
CAMP NEEDS: Bosa needs to show up. Missed mandatory minicamp in June in contract dispute and it’s unclear how long he might sit out. One of his agents, Tom Condon, famously told Chargers before 2004 draft not to take Eli Manning. Condon also had high-profile spats with Chargers in past involving clients LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees. Gordon must have strong recovery from microfracture knee surgery in January. Offensive line needs to jell after miserable 2015 season.
EXPECTATIONS: Chargers should be better than last year, but still might not be playoff team. Chargers will be under pressure to have winning record on Nov. 8, when voters will be asked to approve increase in hotel tax to pay approximately $1.1 billion of $1.8 billion downtown stadium and convention center annex. Polling shows many voters not in favor of proposal, and the powerful tourism industry is also against it.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (5-11)
Sunday, July 31, in Santa Clara
LAST YEAR: After coach Jim Harbaugh’s departure following 8-8 campaign and first nonplayoff season since 2010, 49ers were even worse last season under first-year coach Jim Tomsula, promoted from defensive-line coach. Tomsula was one-and-done, and Chip Kelly replaced him. General manager Trent Baalke, in sixth season as general manager and 12th with franchise, has vowed to be better; he knows his future is hardly safe for this storied franchise without a turnaround. 49ers avoided their worst record since going 4-12 in 2005 in coach Mike Nolan’s first season and with Alex Smith as rookie quarterback.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Kelly, LG Zane Beadles and four rookies: CB Rashard Robinson, WR Aaron Burbridge, OG Joshua Garnett, DE DeForest Buckner.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: WR Anquan Boldin, G Alex Boone.
CAMP NEEDS: 49ers must figure out whether Colin Kaepernick is healthy enough – let alone reliable again – to win back starting quarterback job in Kelly’s up-tempo offense or whether Blaine Gabbert will keep spot after being promoted last November. There also will be competition at many key spots in Kelly’s first training camp.
EXPECTATIONS: With loss of Boldin, San Francisco’s receiving corps lacks experience behind Torrey Smith. That will provide Burbridge and other young wideouts chance to prove themselves to Kelly during training camp and perhaps take on key roles. Baalke might be criticized for doing little in free agency, though he has said he likes current roster. Team added guard Beadles in quiet offseason.