Scott Bair's Top 5 storylines heading into Raiders minicamp
Scott Bair's Top 5 Raiders storylines
The Raiders offseason program has just three days left. It culminates with a mandatory minicamp that runs Tuesday through Thursday. Three intense practices, all in a row. Players will be tested during this period to see if they can apply what’s been learned to this point. The Raiders can’t validate an offseason’s hype in mid June, but they can assess their roster and hone focus when the Raiders return from their summer break. Here are a few storylines to follow this week...
5. RB rotation
The Raiders hope DeAndre Washington earns a role in the offense, as an alternate running back or a strong option on third down. Several others hope to stay involved, including Jamize Olawale and Roy Helu Jr., who probably needs a strong preseason to stick around. Backs can’t get tackled or initiate full contract, but burst, lane selection and pass protection decisions could give backs a leg up heading into training camp.
4. Lots of receivers, one open spot
The Raiders are largely set at receiver, with Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts and Andre Holmes leading the way. The Raiders kept five receivers last season and likely will again, meaning a young player could snag a roster spot and develop under more established players. Max McCaffrey, Joe Hansley and Johnny Holton have received praise thus far, but there’s plenty of time to hash things out for the No. 5 spot.
3. Heeney’s increased responsibility
The Raiders need a returning linebacker to step up and play alongside Malcolm Smith on the interior, and Heeney is the leader to assume that role. He's taken significant first-unit snaps with Smith, and with Neiron Ball nursing injury, Heeney is confident he can handle a significant workload at an important position. A solid offseason program should validate that belief.
2. Draft class update
Safety Karl Joseph isn’t due on the field until training camp, sidelined while recovering from ACL surgery. The No. 14 overall pick hasn’t been involved in practice, though lower selections have looked impressive. That’s true of second-round pick Jihad Ward, a quicker athlete than expected. Fourth-round quarterback Connor Cook is trying to learn a new offense, and third-rounder Shilique Calhoun is learning several aspects of playing linebacker. Outside Joseph, the Raiders need solid rotational contributions from their draft class and steady progress is required to coax that out of young players.
1. Slugging it out in the slot
Cornerbacks Sean Smith and David Amerson will start on the outside. What happens in the slot is less certain. TJ Carrie and DJ Hayden have worked there during OTAs open to the media, and Neiko Thorpe should enter the mix when healthy. He has missed offseason practices to this point. A slot cornerback is essential in this passing age, and the Raiders need a reliable option to step up.