NAPA -- This is Dennis Allen's kind of Raiders team, which I know mostly because Allen keeps pointing it out.
He's not saying this is a tremendously talented team, because he's too smart to oversell his current squad of mostly unknown, unproven players.
And he's not critiquing last season's more recognizable bunch, though we can all make plausible conclusions from what he won't say about the 2012 Raiders' 4-12 swoon.
But Allen, starting his second season in the Raiders' massive reboot alongside general manager Reggie McKenzie, is much more in his element in this year's training camp surrounded by players who actually want to be here.
"I think your first year you're really trying to figure it out, OK?" Allen said in an interview after Tuesday afternoon's practice.
"There's a lot of things you deal with as a head coach that you never dealt with as a coordinator, you never dealt with as a position coach ...
"There's no question I feel a lot more comfortable in my role. And I think having the guys on this team that we have, I think, helps me in that."
That's a twofold leap: Allen, the first-time head coach, now clearly understands the totality of his job (and there's no totality greater than inheriting the recent Raiders' mess); and that leads to the importance of gathering like-minded players.
Yes, it probably took longer than he and McKenzie thought it would take to get here, and this is just the start of the start.
In many ways -- new quarterback, new offensive coordinator, mostly an entirely new defense from 2012 -- this feels more like Year 1 in a startup than Year 2.
Still, Allen sees progress -- with his own coaching abilities, with his roster, and with the organization as a whole.
"What I'll say is, I like the players we have on this team," Allen said. "I like the way they come to work every day. I like their unselfishness.
"I like the fact that they want to come out to work every day and they want to try to get better.
"That's what I like about the 2013 Raiders."
For a lot of different reasons, he probably didn't feel much of that last season.
Instead, because of salary-cap constraints and the desire to keep the Raiders as competitive as possible (oops!), Allen had to slalom around the egos and declining production of veterans such as Rolando McClain, Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly and Carson Palmer.
Now those players are gone. I would assume the woes of 2012 still linger in owner Mark Davis' memory, though.
So McKenzie and especially Allen are under the microscope this season, and Allen seems entirely fine with that.
"As I've moved forward, I've done a better job of trying to pick out who those guys are going to be that can help this team and lead this team and preach the same message that I'm preaching," Allen said.
What's left is a squad with expansion-level elements, especially after the rash of camp injuries that included Wednesday's devastating announcement that left tackle Jared Veldheer has a torn triceps and will be out for a while.
The Week 1 quarterback almost certainly will be journeyman Matt Flynn; other than tailback Darren McFadden and maybe safety Tyvon Branch, there isn't a prime-age star on this roster.
"Me personally, I like our roster," Flynn said. "There's a lot of guys that have a lot of talent and probably some names that people have never heard of.
"But I truly believe that they will very soon."
Fact: This is not a quality roster. But a good coaching staff can do more and better things with a roster full of hungry, unproven players than the sludgy group the Raiders tried last year.
"Any time you come into a new situation, it's never exactly how you want it," Allen said. "So it's a process. And sometimes those processes take a little bit of time.
"It takes time to get everybody in place that kind of sees the same vision that you do."
At this year's training camp, Allen has turned toward a more collegiate atmosphere -- most notably, one practice determines whether the offense or defense gets to wear silver jerseys in the next.
The holdovers from last year have embraced it; Allen is quick to name defensive lineman Lamarr Houston and fullback Marcel Reece as returnees who have taken leadership roles this season.
Allen also hired offensive coordinator Greg Olson to replace Greg Knapp and dump the zone-blocking scheme, and there were other key staff changes.
Again, this is much closer to Allen's kind of team, at least in attitude and philosophy. It's Allen's stamp on this franchise.
The Raiders probably won't win a lot of games, but they will have his stamp. They need his stamp.
If Allen's going to be on the hot seat in Year 2, he might as well do it his way. And I think Allen is the best shot the Raiders have right now.
Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer needs triceps surgery, will miss "significant" time. Page 2
Raiders (1-0) at New Orleans
(1-0), 5 p.m. KTVU