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What we learned at Raiders minicamp

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Do you believe in the Oakland Raiders?

Averaging a scant 4.7 wins per season since 2003, the Silver and Black have long been the source of league-wide chuckles, but a trio of young players -- second-year linebacker Khalil Mack, rookie wideout Amari Cooper and third-year running back Latavius Murray -- are generating noticeable buzz this offseason.

The infusion of youthful talent comes at the right time for Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, who has spent far too much cash on expensive veteran free agents, only to dump them the following season. Those blunders still sting, but Oakland's recent high draft picks are turning heads.

Our expectations remain low, but the Raiders finally can point to a handful of fresh-faced building blocks instead of a gaggle of over-the-hill retreads plucked off the trash heap.

Here's what else we learned from the Oakland's mandatory minicamp:

1. We can't wait to watch Cooper. The No. 4 overall pick has generated wire-to-wire praise as the "real deal," already showing off his crisp route running and tantalizing moves. The former Alabama star was also seen fielding punts at minicamp, but we don't expect that role to last if he becomes the centerpiece on offense. With so little wideout talent around him, Cooper could see double teams out of the gate.

2. Second-year passer Derek Carr returned to practice and told reporters that his lingering finger injury is fully healed, saying, per the Bay Area News Group: "If I could be more than 100 (percent), that's where I'm at." Multiple reports noted that Carr showed quick chemistry with Cooper, leaving the passer say: "It was nice to get out there and see just how quick he is out of his breaks."

3. Murray's 5.17 yards per tote last season trailed only four other backs across the NFL. He grew down the stretch, leaving one team source to tell ESPN's Adam Caplan that Murray "has a chance at a huge year" in coordinator Bill Musgrave's new offense. The third-year back better not disappoint, or the Raiders will be forced to lean on the enigmatic Trent Richardson.

4. Safety Charles Woodson showed his commitment to new coach Jack Del Rio by not missing a single offseason practice, telling the Bay Area News Group: "I sat down with Jack before it all started and we talked about the importance and what he wanted from this team and him wanting me here. I honestly didn't plan on being here at every practice, but I'm here. I understood completely what he was talking about."

5. No Raider is more promising than Mack, talked about this week as a "monster" on defense. New coordinator Ken Norton Jr., though, is challenging the young linebacker to pump up his sack totals. "Everybody is saying how good he is and he got four sacks, I thought to myself, 'How many great players have four sacks?' You have to get in double digits," Norton said, per ESPN.com. "So he has a lot of growth to make. If they're thinking he's this good and he's done so little, imagine when he actually does what he's supposed to do. He has the work ethic. He has a ridiculous, ridiculous work ethic. In my experience again, that turns into really good football players."

The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses the best available free agents and the guys play another edition of What's More Likely. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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