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NFL Oakland Raiders

5 Things We’ve Learned From Oakland Raiders’ Early OTAs

5 Takeaways From Early Oakland Raiders OTAs

Matt Schaub
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After putting together a depressing 2013 campaign, the Oakland Raiders have spent all offseason preparing for a return to relevance in 2014. While they still might be a season or two away from contention, there’s hope for the future. The improvement starts with OTAs, which have been going on for a week now.

Here’s a look at five things we’ve learned from the Raiders’ early OTAs.

Khalil Mack will line up at SAM backer

Khalil Mack Raiders
Getty Images

Khalil Mack will line up at SAM backer

Khalil Mack Raiders
Getty Images

When the Raiders spent their 2014 first-round pick on Mack, it was uncertain where exactly they’d choose to insert him in the starting lineup. Now that appears to be clear, as he’s spent OTAs at SAM linebacker, the position that Sio Moore started at in 2013. Moore, however, is expected to switch to the WILL spot, which will then move Kevin Burnett to the bench. It doesn’t matter, though – the Raiders have a stud in Mack.

D.J. Hayden is primed for a breakout year

D.J. Hayden
Getty Images

D.J. Hayden is primed for a breakout year

D.J. Hayden
Getty Images

After a rookie season filled with mental errors and struggles in coverage, Hayden appears ready to prove his worth as the Raiders’ 2013 first-round pick. Oakland lost their top two cornerbacks via free agency this offseason, which means they need to find reliable replacement starters. Hayden will be given the first opportunity to fill the void, and early reports from OTAs have painted a picture of a player ready for a breakout campaign.

Tyvon Branch could see time at cornerback

Tyvon Branch
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tyvon Branch could see time at cornerback

Tyvon Branch
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Branch missed most of the 2013 campaign with a leg injury, but is back to full health and appears ready to be a big part of the Raiders’ rebuilt defense. While he certainly has made his mark at strong safety in the past, Branch is also expected to have an opportunity to make a mark as a cornerback this season for the Raiders. Head coach Dennis Allen loves versatility, and Branch has the talent to play all over the field.

Juron Criner is facing a make-or-break offseason

Juron Criner
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Juron Criner is facing a make-or-break offseason

Juron Criner
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Now in his third season with the Raiders, Criner could be facing his final opportunity to earn a role in the Oakland passing game. After putting on a show during his rookie training camp, the former fifth-round pick is already facing a make-or-break season. It’s not going to be easy with James Jones, Rod Streater, Denarius Moore and maybe Greg Little ahead of him on the depth chart, but he does have the talent to be a factor in Oakland.

Matt Schaub is the clear-cut starter at QB

Matt Schaub Raiders
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Schaub is the clear-cut starter at QB

Matt Schaub Raiders
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Not only did the Raiders make it clear after Derek Carr was drafted that Schaub was the starter, but the veteran has taken all of the first-team snaps since OTAs got under way. Carr is clearly the quarterback of the future in Oakland, but they are going to let the rookie sit and learn under Schaub until he’s truly ready to handle the pressure of being a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Gil Alcaraz IV is the Director of Content for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.