Coach Dennis Allen is pleased with the progress he's seen the past two months during the offseason program for the new-look Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders wrapped up their mandatory three-day minicamp on Thursday and won't reconvene as a team again until they report to training camp in Napa on July 24 - two days before the start of practice.
The team that arrives in wine country will look very different from Allen's first one with the Raiders with key players like quarterback Carson Palmer, receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, defensive linemen Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly, and defensive back Michael Huff long gone as part of the rebuilding plan in Oakland.
"We got a lot of change, a lot of turnover on this football team and the thing I've been the most pleased with is the mindset of this team,'' Allen said. "I know there's a lot of experts out there that might think differently, but I like this football team.''
While making plenty of subtractions as general manager Reggie McKenzie got the team's bloated salary cap in order, the Raiders also made one key addition since starting the offseason program April 15 by bringing defensive back Charles Woodson back to Oakland.
Woodson has moved right into the starting free safety role and has become a leader on a rebuilt defense that could have as many as nine new starters from a year ago.
"Nobody's going to give us a shot this year to do anything,'' Woodson said. "But for us, if we come out and practice in a way that's going to help us go out there and win games it won't really matter what anybody else says. It'll be about what we do out here on the field.''
The changes on defense are part of a complete overhaul engineered by Allen and McKenzie since January 2010, when they took over a franchise that had been run by late owner Al Davis for a half-century.
"I'm getting used to it,'' said kicker Sebastian Janikowski, whose 13 years with the team make him the longest-tenured player on the roster. "But it's for a good reason. We need to change and we need to change now.''
Only 17 players are left from the roster at the end of the 2011 season as McKenzie tries to overhaul a team that hasn't had a winning season or playoff berth since 2010.
There are still some major questions unanswered after the offseason conditioning program, three weeks of OTAs and this week's minicamp. The most notable of those are who will start at quarterback and what to expect from first-round pick D.J. Hayden at cornerback.
Matt Flynn was acquired in April from Seattle to be the front-runner to take over at quarterback from Palmer. Flynn has started only two games in five NFL seasons as the backup to Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and Russell Wilson in Seattle.
Flynn was expected to start for the Seahawks last year only to be beaten out by the rookie Wilson. While he has failed to seize the job during the offseason program, Terrelle Pryor and rookie Tyler Wilson have been at least equally inconsistent, keeping Flynn the favorite to start when the season opens in September.
"I think they've gotten better,'' Allen said. "I really do. We're not where we need to be yet but we're not playing tomorrow. I feel good about where we're at from a quarterback standpoint. We got some different elements at the quarterback position, I think all of them have their strengths and we got to try to put them in position to try to utilize their strengths.''
The Raiders have little idea what Hayden can do after his offseason program was shut down quickly after he underwent surgery to remove scar tissue from his abdominal region. Hayden was picked 12th overall despite missing the end of his final season in college at Houston because of a torn blood vessel that nearly killed him last November after a practice collision with a teammate.
Hayden is expected to be fully recovered when training camp starts in July and will compete with veteran offseason additions Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins for a starting cornerback spot.