Raiders

Who won? Evaluating Raiders' position battles as preseason winds down

Who won? Evaluating Raiders' position battles as preseason winds down

The Raiders have, at long last, reached the preseason’s final stretch. A handful of practices and Thursday’s largely inconsequential game at Seattle remain before final cuts. Coaches have been chipping away for a little while, but that’s when preparation for the regular-season opener begins in earnest.

There were roles to fill and a depth chart to set this summer in training camp and over the preseason slate, but most position battles have been settled. Some were settled quickly, others took most of camp and new ones emerged during the Raiders’ time in Napa. We’ll update those position battles, declaring victors in some instances and identifying leaders in those still undecided.

Let’s go over pre-camp position battles turned out before moving on to some newer ones:

SLOT RECEIVER

Hunter Renfrow vs. Ryan Grant

Renfrow took control of this battle early, with an impressive start to camp. He proved reliable, with precise routes and soft hands. He built trust with Derek Carr, while Grant faded into the background. The veteran didn’t lie down, putting solid practices together against the Rams backed by two quality preseason performances.

It’s possible both guys make the roster, though Grant might be trade bait for the right opportunity. The back end of the receiver group remains in the air, but Renfrow’s a roster lock after giving opponents fits in camp.

Victor: Renfrow

BACKUP QUARTERBACK

Mike Glennon vs. Nathan Peterman

This one was tight early, but Glennon pulled away in Napa and seems to have the No. 2 spot locked up after largely effective preseasons. That doesn’t mean Peterman has been bad, or is off the roster soon.

The 25-year old has been solid in preseason games and improved in practices while gaining confidence, and could well prompt the Raiders to keep three quarterbacks. He has better long-term upside and head coach Jon Gruden might not be ready to give up on his pet project.

Victor: Glennon

LINEBACKER

Brandon Marshall vs. Marquel Lee

There was some question how Marshall would fare after missing offseason program practices, especially coming off injuries, but the veteran has been steady while getting into tip-top football shape.

He has worked almost exclusively with the first unit in camp, with Lee as the strongside backup. He has gotten some work in the middle, where he has played the longest.

Marshall worked with Vontaze Burfict in the sub packages, but Tahir Whitehead has done some of that lately. It’s uncertain at this point who comes out when slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner comes in, but Marshall has been a first-unit fixture heading into the regular season.

Victor: Marshall

TIGHT END

Derek Carrier vs. Luke Willson

The top end of the depth chart was set in the offseason. Darren Waller is the primary receiving tight end, someone who moves around the formation. Foster Moreau was the primary in-line blocker. Finding the third member of the fraternity was tough.

Carrier looks like the guy, especially after an excellent touchdown catch against Arizona and the fact he didn’t play with starters and important role players skipped Thursday’s preseason game in Canada.

Odds-on favorite: Carrier

PUNTER

Johnny Townsend vs. A.J. Cole

This one ended fast, with Townsend waived shortly after the first preseason game. Cole ran away with it in Napa practice periods and in games, showing power and the hang time that helps punt coverage.

Cole was consistent while Townsend was erratic and largely ineffective, prompting the Raiders to punt last year’s fifth-round draft pick for an undrafted kid signed after a rookie minicamp tryout.

Victor: Cole

Some position battles over specific regular-season roles have emerged over the course of training camp. Let’s take a closer look at those …

FULLBACK

Keith Smith vs. Alec Ingold

This one was created by circumstance. Smith repaired a torn meniscus just days before training camp, giving Ingold opportunities aplenty. The undrafted free agent took full advantage in games and practices.

Smith returned with a vengeance during Thursday’s preseason game vs. Green Bay, scoring a touchdown while making his presence known. He’s a respected core special teams player who won’t give up without a fight.

The Raiders should be able to get Ingold onto the practice squad -- few teams require fullbacks anymore -- so the Silver and Black can keep both guys in the building.

Odds-on favorite: Smith

SWING TACKLE

Brandon Parker vs. David Sharpe

Parker seemed to have this gig locked up during the offseason program, but he slipped up a few times this summer and Sharpe has played tough despite dealing with injuries. The Raiders have both players working on the right and left, as they try to identify a super sub on the flanks.

Parker still seems like the guy. He’s bigger and athletic with room to improve, and the Raiders also spent a third-round pick on him just last year.

Favorite: Parker

RIGHT GUARD

Jordan Devey vs. Denver Kirkland

Gabe Jackson’s knee injury created a vacancy in the starting lineup, temporarily at least. Gruden said interior super sub Devey would get first crack at the position, and has taken ownership of it thus far. He sat while Kirkland played on Thursday, another sign that a hierarchy has been formed.

The Raiders could shake things up before or after final cuts if Devey doesn’t inspire confidence.

[RELATED: Antonio Brown dances with students at De La Salle football game]

Denzelle Good’s also a factor here, especially if he can prove healthy after missing most spring and summer work recovering from back surgery.

Odds-on favorite: Devey

NOTE: You don't see a discussion on the sixth receiver or whether the Raiders will keep a fifth running back or an extra lineman here. That comes later. Such roster math fits into our final 53-man roster projection, which will come out early Monday morning. 

Anonymous Raider really wants Jaguars' Jalen Ramsey traded to Oakland

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USATSI

Anonymous Raider really wants Jaguars' Jalen Ramsey traded to Oakland

Jaguars star Jalen Ramsey wants out of Jacksonville, and (at least) one Raider wants the cornerback in Oakland. 

An anonymous member of the Silver and Black made the case for his team to bring in the talented, trash-talking 25 year old to ESPN's Paul Gutierrez. 

Ramsey would help just about any NFL team play the kind of defense they aspire to. In four NFL seasons, the Florida State product has grown into one of the NFL's best cornerbacks, if not the best. Pro Football Focus ranked Ramsey the second-best cornerback coming into the season, and early-season struggles in a situation he clearly wants no part of -- just ask Doug Marrone -- won't dissuade any interested suitors.

[RELATED: Davis trade gives Raiders speed in return game, on offense]

In theory, the Raiders should be one. As NBC Sports California's Josh Schrock noted earlier this week, acquiring Ramsey would allow the Raiders to slide their cornerbacks down the depth chart and into roles in which they could thrive. Ramsey won't come cheap when his contract is up after next season, either, but the Silver and Black is set up to have plenty of salary-cap space when the team moves to Las Vegas in 2021.

After orbiting around Antonio Brown's star for fewer than six months, the Raiders conceivably could no part in acquiring another disgruntled player forcing his way out of the team that drafted him. If the Raider who spoke up is to be believed, the locker room might think it's worth the risk. 

Raiders injury report: Trent Brown among list of ailing offensive stars

Raiders injury report: Trent Brown among list of ailing offensive stars

ALAMEDA – The Raiders offense is a bit banged up right now. Several expensive or highly-touted members of that unit are limited or worse at practice, including a large section of skill players working through pain.

Right tackle Trent Brown was the biggest omission on Wednesday’s participation report, sidelined with a right knee injury that kept him out the closing moments of Sunday’s loss to Kansas City.

“He’s a tough guy,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “Hopefully he’s ready to go. We sure need him.”

The Raiders need some good news from an ailing receiver corps. Dwayne Harris could be in bad shape dealing with an ankle injury, which is why the Raiders traded for Green Bay’s Trevor Davis. He can help in the return game and bring speed to the receiver corps.

Tyrell Williams and Josh Jacobs are dealing with hip injuries, the Raiders announced on Wednesday, that left both guys limited in a practice that was dialed back to preserve health.

Williams and Jacobs also missed portions of a Sunday second quarter when the Chiefs went on a 28-point run, during which the Raiders offense couldn’t get a first down.

“It’s tough on all of us. It’s tough to call plays when you’re calling a play for a guy and he’s not there,” Gruden said. “Then you’re calling a play for another guy and he’s not there, so the emotional part of it you got to get over and you got to adjust kind of like playing on the road, or playing in London, or playing in Winnipeg. You just got to adjust. I’m really proud of those guys for coming back and giving us all they had and finishing the game and practicing today. They’re tough guys.”

J.J. Nelson also remains limited with an ankle injury, putting a strain on the receiver corps.

Ryan Grant, Hunter Renfrow and Keelan Doss are the only healthy receivers at this point, though it seems likely Williams will be ready by Sunday. The same goes for Jacobs, as vital as anyone to the Raiders success.

Here’s the full participation report:

Raiders practice report

WEDNESDAY
Did not practice
RT Trent Brown (knee)
WR Dwayne Harris (ankle)
RG Gabe Jackson (knee)

Limited practice
CB Gareon Conley (neck)
LB Vontaze Burfict (shoulder/knee)
RB Josh Jacobs (hip)
DT Corey Liuget (knee)
WR J.J. Nelson (ankle)
S Curtis Riley (hip)
WR Tyrell Williams (hip)