Oakland Raiders Training Camp: 5 Battles Worth Watching
5 Battles to Watch During Raiders' Training Camp
In the midst of a full-blown rebuild, the Raiders and GM Reggie McKenzie are faced with the daunting task of finding a way to field a semi-competitive team this upcoming season. With an offense loaded with unproven weapons and a defense pieced together with offseason acquisitions, it’s not going to be pretty in the early stages of the 2013 campaign.
The first step for the Raiders is determining what their 2013 depth chart will look like. In order to do that, they’ll have to let their players battle it out during training camp for the right to start when Week 1 of the regular season rolls around. And with so many starting jobs available, it’s going to make Raiders training camp all the more interesting.
As inexperienced and underwhelming as their roster may be, there’s plenty of reason for the Raiders to be optimistic about the talent available to them. They have plenty of young, promising players who are eager to contribute. They made some underrated signings this offseason, including one that brought back a familiar face in the form of veteran defensive back Charles Woodson. It might not be a roster full of Pro Bowlers, but the Raiders aren’t as hopeless as they’re being made out to be.
With training camp just around the corner, here’s a look at five positional battles that could dictate just how competitive the Raiders will be this upcoming season.
Starting Right Tackle
Despite their horrid blocking last season, the Raiders made only one addition this offseason to the offensive line: rookie tackle Menelik Watson. While he’s a great story and tremendous athlete, the Florida State product is extremely raw. Still, there’s a good chance that he could push incumbent right tackle Khalif Barnes down to the right guard spot, where Mike Brisiel currently sits. Brisiel isn’t a fit for the Raiders’ new power-blocking scheme whereas Watson is a tenacious blocker whose size should make him a capable fit. That is, assuming the rookie can catch on quick enough to warrant a starting role.
Starting Tight End
At this point, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be the Raiders’ starting tight end when Week 1 rolls around. Oakland has two players – Richard Gordon and David Ausberry – returning from last season’s squad and two incoming rookies – Nick Kasa and Mychal Rivera – vying for the starting spot. Each candidate is a bit of a one-trick pony, with either receiving or blocking being their forte. The Raiders will hope that one of them stands out above the rest during training camp, but odds are the tight end position remains a huge sore thumb throughout the 2013 campaign.
Backup Running Back
While it’s obvious that Darren McFadden will hold down the starting gig until he falls to some sort of injury, the Raiders must figure out who will step in once his inevitable ailment arrives. They brought in Rashad Jennings this offseason to provide some veteran depth, but he’s less than a reliable option. Meanwhile, rookies Latavius Murray and Deonte Williams have sparked some interest during OTAs. If either rookie excels during training camp, there’s a good chance they could overtake Jennings for the No. 2 role.
No. 2 Cornerback
As long as his heart injury doesn’t continue to be an issue, first-rounder D.J. Hayden should slide in as the Raiders’ top cornerback. The other starting spot, though, is still up for grabs. The Raiders acquired veterans Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter this offseason, who will likely compete with Joselio Hanson and Phillip Adams for the right to start come Week 1. While Jenkins may be the favorite considering his experience and status as a former first-round pick, don’t count out Adams, who showed some real promise last season in limited action.
Entire Quarterback Depth Chart
It’s the most important position in the NFL, and yet only the Philadelphia Eagles have any sort of idea of the pains the Raiders are currently feeling at quarterback. While Matt Flynn is the assumed starter, there’s plenty of reason to believe a youngster could supplant him during training camp or the preseason (remember 2012?). Rookies Tyler Wilson and Matt McGloin have been relatively impressive since joining the team while apparently pushing third-year scrambler Terrelle Pryor onto the trading block. It’ll be interesting to see not only who the Raiders choose to have under center to start the 2013 season, but also who will be their immediate backup and who could get the ax as the No. 4 quarterback.
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