Karl Joseph

Raiders depth chart: Hunter Renfrow ahead of Ryan Grant for slot receiver

Raiders depth chart: Hunter Renfrow ahead of Ryan Grant for slot receiver

NAPA -- The Raiders have an off day Monday, with no practice or media access. If there were, head coach Jon Gruden would undoubtedly have spent some time at the podium discrediting the depth chart included in the team’s first preseason release, likely saying public relations director Will Kiss filled it out to underscore the unofficial nature of it.

However, it is issued and promoted by the team and provides a perfect opportunity to discuss this Raiders roster through nine training camp practices. We’ve crossed the halfway point for practice sessions in Napa, with intensity ramping up for two joint practices with the L.A. Rams starting Wednesday.

The Raiders depth chart looks more talented than a year ago, and pretty accurate whether Gruden or Kiss or someone from community relations filled it out.

The Raiders’ full “unofficial” depth chart is listed below, with analysis covering certain positions with tight battles or surprising hierarchies underneath.

OFFENSE

WR: Antonio Brown, JJ Nelson, Dwayne Harris, Rico Gafford
LT: Kolton Miller, Brandon Parker, Tyler Roemer
LG: Richie Incognito, Jonathan Cooper, Lester Cotton Sr.
C: Rodney Hudson, Jordan Devey, Andre James
RG: Gabe Jackson, Denver Kirkland
RT: Trent Brown, David Sharpe, Justin Murray
TE: Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier, Luke Willson, Paul Butler
WR: Tyrell Williams, Marcell Ateman, Keon Hatcher, Keelan Doss, Jordan Lasley
SLOT: Hunter Renfrow, Ryan Grant, De'Mornay Pierson-El
QB: Derek Carr, Mike Glennon, Nathan Peterman
RB: Josh Jacobs, Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, James Butler, Mack Brown,
FB: Alec Ingold
 

DEFENSE

DE: Clelin Ferrell, Arden Key, Quinton Bell, Alex Barrett
DT: Justin Ellis, P.J. Hall, Gabe Wright, Anthony Rush
DT: Johnathan Hankins, Maurice Hurst, Ethan Westbrooks, Eddie Vanderdoes
DE: Josh Mauro, Benson Mayowa, Maxx Crosby, James Cowser
SLB: Tahir Whitehead, Marquel Lee, Kyle Wilber
MLB: Vontaze Burfict, Jason Cabinda, Te’Von Coney
WLB: Brandon Marshall, Nicholas Morrow, Koa Farmer
LCB: Daryl Worley, Trayvon Mullen, Nevin Lawson, Isaiah Langley, DJ Killings
RCB: Gareon Conley, Nick Nelson, Isaiah Johnson, Keisean Nixon, Dylan Mabin
FS: Lamarcus Joyner/Johnathan Abram, Curtis Riley, Dallin Leavitt
SS: Karl Joseph, Erik Harris, Jordan Richards

SPECIALISTS

P: Johnny Townsend, AJ Cole
K: Daniel Carlson
H: Johnny Townsend
LS: Andrew DePaola, Trent Sieg
KR: Dwayne Harris, Jalen Richard
PR: Dwayne Harris, Jalen Richard

A Closer Look

Receiver: Rookie Hunter Renfrow sits atop the slot receiver spot, which is appropriate for how the start of training camp has played out. The fifth-round draft pick from Clemson has consistently played above veteran Ryan Grant and has made the most of his first-unit opportunities. He has created quick separation and has shown steady hands, just as he did in college. Renfrow’s in the driver’s seat to be the primary slot guy, and Grant must pick it up to get back in the race and/or prove he definitely deserves a roster spot.

J.J. Nelson and Marcell Ateman have started camp well and belong on the second string. They are both in the hunt for roster spots.

Tight end: Rookie Foster Moreau has been the first-in-line tight end in camp, and fits appropriately into the second tight end slot behind Darren Waller. That battle’s far from over – it is, however, unusual to see a rookie over an incumbent at this stage – with Derek Carrier and Luke Willson battling for roles and roster spots.

Quarterback: Mike Glennon has been the primary No. 2, though coaches had rotated him and Nate Peterman on the second and third units. Peterman has been the better quarterback to this point, with more "wow" throws to his credit and plenty of zip on his passes.

Punter: This is a full-on, even-steven competition, with undrafted challenger A.J. Cole creating a solid case to win the job. He has looked better than Townsend to this point, though consistency will be key in deciding who will punt for the Raiders this year.

Linebacker: Brandon Marshall has been the primary weakside linebacker and played alongside Vontaze Burfict in sub packages, answering a pre-camp question about how this position group would shake out. Tahir Whitehead can play both outside linebacker spots and will factor into the rotation either exclusively in the base defense or on all three downs. Marshall has to earn his place as an every-down linebacker this spring.

[RELATED: Las Vegas Raiders to play in 'Allegiant Stadium' after naming rights deal]

Safety: Lamarcus Joyner is listed with Johnathan Abram at first-string free safety, though Joyner hasn’t taken a single snap there in training camp practices. He has focused on slot cornerback and should play there a ton, but could pop back to safety if the desired Abram-Karl Joseph pairing doesn’t work out.

Cornerback: The starters seem set, but having rookie Trayvon Mullen and second-year pro Nick Nelson with the second unit and veteran Nevin Lawson on the third team is a mild surprise based on pre-camp perception, but Lawson hasn’t wowed to this point. Coaches like Nelson’s toughness, and Mullen has proven a solid press cornerback right away.

Punt returner: Dwayne Harris will the return man, but don’t be surprised if Antonio Brown sneaks back for a return in a key spot.

Johnathan Abram, Karl Joseph working to find sync in Raiders secondary

Johnathan Abram, Karl Joseph working to find sync in Raiders secondary

NAPA – Johnathan Abram was assigned to room with Trayvon Mullen during Raiders training camp, a pairing that makes perfect sense.

Both guys are highly touted rookies, drafted 13 picks apart, who play in the same secondary. They’ve known each since the collegiate ranks and were friends before joining the Silver and Black.

There’s plenty these two could discuss, while adjusting to NFL life.

Abram wanted a new roommate just the same. Mullen’s not a slob. He doesn’t snore or leave clothes on the floor.

The request wasn’t a slight against the Clemson alum. Abram wanted to live with the man he’ll work closest with all season, playing positions where chemistry is key. Karl Joseph wanted the same, so the Raiders made a switch and put the presumptive starting safeties together.

As an aside, Mullen got a new roommate he couldn’t immediately name. “One of the offensive linemen. I can’t remember his name -- from Louisville.” [Hint: It’s Lukayus McNeil]

Abram wanted to see Joseph’s crazy work ethic up close, to learn from someone who’s been through it all before. This isn’t a mentor-protégé thing. These two wanted to maximize every opportunity to grow together.

“We talk about a lot of things afterwards,” Abram said. “We watch a lot of film at night together just making sure we are on the same page. There are certain things that we can pass off and exchange because we talk about it late at night. We are just trying to build that bond, so where I don’t even have to say something, he knows exactly what I’m thinking.”

Having Abram and Joseph play every down together is a perfect-world scenario, one that allows Lamarcus Joyner to concentrate on slot cornerback and gives Erik Harris a super sub role he has the smarts and capacity to fill.

Abram and Joseph have worked well together thus far, almost exclusively after Abram was promoted to the first unit late in OTAs. Finding a mind meld featuring unspoken communication is this training camp's ultimate goal. 

“I think Karl and John are physical guys that are really working hard at the communication and their responsibilities,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “That’s hard to do. We are throwing a lot formationally and situationally.”

Paul Guenther’s defense can be complex, especially for a safety. The two positions are virtually interchangeable, with both players moving around the chessboard throughout a defensive series.

“I think there’s a reason why coach doesn’t really want to label us as a free or strong [safeties],” Joseph said. “We both can play either position. You know, you got to be very versatile to play in this defense. We got to be able to cover. You know, we got to play the run and play deep. So, we both are very interchangeable.”

Both guys can thump, playing aggressive in the box while occasionally rushing the passer. Neither guy has Joyner’s chops playing deep, but they can be serviceable in the back and make plays on the ball.

Scheme mastery is key to making plays. Abram is going above and beyond trying to get the playbook down, whether it’s hounding Gruden or veteran middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict for intel.

That’s a good tact for this scheme, which Joseph has some time to master. He started feeling comfortable late last year and played significantly better in a role focused on moving forward.

“Going from last season into the spring and just having the conversations with coaches knowing what I need to do, what I need to improve on and just being able to understand the scheme has been huge,” Joseph said. “You know, I think that’s the biggest thing, understanding the scheme and anticipating stuff before it happens. The communication level is way different for me than it was last year so I think I’m ready to make that step.”

[RELATED: Conley ready for 'responsibility' as Raiders' top corner]

Abram has drawn rave reviews from his peers. They’re heaping praise at a time when veterans keep rookies in check. He has the talent and drive to be a long-term solution at safety. He draws influence from several sources, including his new roommate.

“We’re building where we want to go,” Joseph said. “We’re rooming together so you know, we’re getting a chance to talk about ball. You know, so we just got to keep building that you know, every day, every practice. We got a couple weeks left until the preseason. We just got to keep getting better every day and keep coming together.”

Jon Gruden laughs off Antonio Brown's camp entrance, expects 'more drama'

Jon Gruden laughs off Antonio Brown's camp entrance, expects 'more drama'

NAPA -- Jon Gruden knows exactly what to expect from Antonio Brown. Both on and off the field. 

"I expect a lot more drama from No. 84. I really do," Gruden said with a chuckle Friday during his pre-training camp press conference. 

Brown, whom the Raiders acquired via trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in March, expectedly arrived in Napa in grand fashion, coming to camp via hot air balloon Friday morning.  

Gruden and Raiders general manager Mike Mayock had a few light-hearted questions when informed of the All-Pro receiver's dramatic arrival. 

"Where did he land?" Mayock asked looking around. "Is he here?"

"Is he OK? That's all I want to know," Gruden said with a wry smile. 

Brown's off-field antics and prickly personality wore out his welcome in the Steel City, but so far, Gruden has loved everything he's seen from the star pass-catcher. 

"I told Antonio to try not to yell at (quarterback Derek Carr), yell at me when you have a problem," Gruden said. "Then he started yelling at me, and I said, 'Don't yell at me, yell at (Greg Olson) he's the offensive coordinator.'"

Overall, Gruden was underwhelmed by Brown's sky-high entrance, but the receiver has exceeded expectations in his on-field work.

"He's a fun guy to be around, man," Gruden said. "I expected a little more than a hot air balloon. I thought he might jump out of an airplane and parachute himself in. He's going to add a lot of life to this organization at a position where obviously we need some explosive plays."

Brown, who has notched at least 101 receptions, 1,284 yards and eight touchdowns in each of the past six seasons, already has wowed Mayock, Gruden and his teammates with his impressive vertical speed and big-play ability. 

"I can just tell you that at practice when he catches a quick slant and gets vertical and goes, it's rare to see grown men in the NFL look at each other and just start giggling and laughing," Mayock said. "And it happens almost every day in practice.

"He just does something and grown men who have been around the league for years just look at each other -- and I think what it also does is the young guys get to see how an All-Pro, potential Hall of Famer actually practices on a daily basis. And if you're a young guy and you look at that, you better understand what it takes."

The Raiders placed Brown on the non-football injury list Friday afternoon, but the injury reportedly is minor.

[RELATED: How Raiders roster stacks up at each position before camp starts]

While the Raiders have loved the impact Brown's work ethic has had on the team, Gruden also was quick to praise the work of fellow receiver Tyrell Williams. But the Raiders coach hopes the similarities between his top two receivers don't extend beyond the gridiron. 

"I don't want to overshadow Tyrell Williams, either," Gruden said. "He's cut from the same cloth. Just quiet. Doesn't jump out of balloons in hot air. Hopefully, he doesn't learn that from Antonio."

The offseason addition of Brown and Williams has revitalized the Raiders' receiving corps and also forced the defensive backs to raise their game. 

"We have some life at that position," Gruden said of his receivers. "I think it's really helped our secondary, listening to Karl Joseph and some of the veterans back there. It's elevated their practice habits. They don't want to look bad. They want to beat these guys. They want to go out there -- they understand, 'if we can cover these guys, we can cover anybody.'

"And I think that competition is something that the Raiders are used to, something we're getting back to and you better come ready to practice or you're going to look bad."

The Raiders' first practice of training camp will take place Saturday morning.