Top 5 position battles in Raiders training camp
Checking in on the battles...
The Raiders don’t have many position battles to watch during this training camp, but the contested roles are important for the team to realize high expectations. This training camp began with four straight practices and, after a day off, Wednesday starts a crucial five-day work stretch heading into the preseason opener at Arizona on Aug. 12...
5) Backup quarterback
Matt McGloin currently holds the right to back up quarterback Derek Carr, and Connor Cook hasn’t shown much to show it might get taken away. The rookie fourth-round pick has struggled some in the early going – not uncommon for rookie quarterbacks – while trying to learn and execute a new system. McGloin has looked good, and thwarted past competition with excellent preseason performances. The Raiders will be fine if this hierarchy remains, allowing Cook to develop over the 2016 season as the No. 3 guy.
4) Backup running back
Latavius Murray will be the Raiders’ leading rusher, but needs a steady compliment to help him out. DeAndre Washington has received first-team reps and has impressed at times. He’s been asked to do several different things out of the backfield as coaches see how much he can handle. Undrafted rookie Jalen Richard has shown elusiveness, and has a shot to make the roster with Marcel Reece suspended the first three games and Roy Helu off the roster. Taiwan Jones is also an option in a competition best sorted out in preseason games.
3) Slot cornerback
The Raiders have three players capable of starting on the inside, though 2013 first-round pick DJ Hayden has been the primary option with the starting unit. He looks bigger and stronger than years past, key attributes for a more physical cornerback position. TJ Carrie and Neiko Thorpe are also options in that spot, which will be key in a pass-happy AFC West. Del Rio wants cornerbacks to play outside and in the slot, and this Hayden-led trio offers improved depth over recent seasons.
2) Nose tackle
This wasn’t considered a position battle at the start of camp, but it’s become one with the Raiders typically running with a nose tackle and two closed defensive ends. Justin Ellis has taken first-unit reps in that role, and Del Rio says he’s ahead at the moment with plenty of time for Dan Williams to surge. Williams was a solid player last year and could earn the starting gig before long. The Raiders will need both players playing well this year to anchor the run defense and free pass rushers on the outside.
1) Right tackle
Menelik Watson and Austin Howard are vying to start on the right flank of a talented front that features strength at every spot. Howard was impactful there last year, after Watson was lost in the preseason with a torn Achilles’ tendon. Watson is healthy again and hopped right back into the first unit, where he has performed well despite taking regular reps against Khalil Mack. Jack Del Rio praised Watson’s start to camp. It’s fair to call him a frontrunner, but he can’t let up with Howard performing steadily as well.