NAPA _ Reggie McKenzie isn’t ready to proclaim the Raiders have arrived, but he feels as if they’re knocking on the door.
After going 11-37 over his first three seasons, McKenzie finally has a roster to his liking as well as an energetic new coaching staff led by Jack Del Rio.
“Nobody likes losing,” McKenzie said Monday. “I knew we had to take some lumps. To see it come together like the way I had planned it from building the roster and getting the team together, it’s the best I’ve felt going into Napa since I’ve been here.
“I’m anxiously awaiting preseason games now. I want to see how they can gel and come together I feel pretty good about this team . . . really good.”
Sitting at a table with beat writers on a patio at the Napa Marriott, McKenzie flashed a big smile when he asked what was different this year.
“Y’all can’t tell?,” McKenzie said. “It’s obvious. I think we’re big and strong. I think we’re fast. I like the way the players are responding to the coaches. The energy is off the chain. It’s looking the way I like it to look.
“Players are flying around, going in the right directions. It’s been a competitive camp. I mean every position. These guys are feeling it. It’s going to bring out the best in each and every one of them.”
Among the other things McKenzie addressed in a 24-minute interview session with local writers:
— The Raiders have likely made contact with recently released Seattle defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, a starter who has experience with defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.
Asked if McDaniel could be added to the roster, McKenzie said, “There’s a chance.”
— Recent upgrades to the Alameda facility, even though the team isn’t committed to the Bay Area beyond this season, will send the players a message.
“It’s showing we’re committed to them, and that’s what it’s all about,” McKenzie said. “We’re committed to the players. It’s not about what’s going to happen down the road. This is the NFL and these players are here now. So let’s provde them with the best that we can. And I’m sure they will appreciate that.”
— The future of the franchise is secure with second-year quarterback Derek Carr.
“He’s got all the intangibles to go along with his talent level,” McKenzie said. “You’re talking about a sophomore player, it’s not like he’s a 10-year vet. It’s Year 2 and two systems. I don’t want to put all the pressure on him, but we’re looking for big things. we’re excited about his whole game, from a mental standpoint and physically.”
— A defensive philosophy which will often have Khalil Mack playing more as a defensive end than as a strong side linebacker.
“He’s pretty doggone good getting after the quarterback,” McKenzie said. “He’s just really good going forward and it’s an opportunity to really do a lot of things with him. He’s a dominant defensive player, so let him do what he does best and move him around, play him at different spots and I think that was the outlook for the defensive staff _ to put him in a position to make plays.”
— The addition of wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who has been a bright spot through four days of practice.
“Right off the bat you can tell he’s been working. That part is good,” McKenzie said. “His whole skill set is pretty much what we thought he could be. He can always catch teh ball . . . it seems like he and Derek are trying to get on point. That’s good.”
— The expectations for cornerback DJ Hayden, a first-round draft pick in 2013 who is competing for a starting spot.
“Year three is the year to kind of show who you are as an NFL player,” McKenzie said. “In that regard, this is an opportunity for him to show the league, `This is who I am as a player.’ ”
— The progress of running back Latavius Murray, currently the leader to be the Raiders’ lead runner.
“This is the first offseason he didn’t have to go through (injury) rehab,” McKenzie said. “Coming into training camp he’s 100 percent. Last year he didn’t get his opportunity until Week 10, 11. That part wasn’t his fault. He was ready to play. If he can stay healthy I don’t think anything is holding him back.”