Who is the primary slot-receiver? What does the starting secondary look like? Every off-season there is plenty of debate on the 53 man roster. However, 2019 feels a bit different, Oakland has competition all over the field. There are battles up and down the roster, whether it’s to make the 53-man cut or to take a starting job. Jon Gruden has his work cut out for him this season.
Here are some of the biggest camp competitions, and how I think Gruden will handle them.
The Raiders enter the beginning of training camp with the most secondary depth they’ve had in a while. It’s a good problem to have, but there are going to be some gut-wrenching decisions to be made. Daryl Worley and Gareon Conley are the projected starters on the outside with Lamarcus Joyner locked in as your SCB.
Nevin Lawson, Isaiah Johnson, Nick Nelson, and Trayvon Mullen are the other notable corners on the roster.
In my opinion, Mullen is too good to keep off the field. Gruden will recognize this relatively quickly and make him the second outside starter. I think this will result in Worley being moved to your CB3 and primary backup.
Isaiah Johnson isn’t a roster lock but should be. As I have noticed so far, he is a freak athlete on the outside and has been very impressive in camp so far. He beats out Nick Nelson and Nevin Lawson for the last CB spot on the roster.
Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams are entrenched as the starters in Jon Gruden’s offense. The other wide receivers on the roster have the most important three months of their football careers ahead of them.
The slot WR competition looks to be between rookie Hunter Renfrow and veteran Ryan Grant. I think the Raiders will roll with Renfrow in this spot, Gruden absolutely loves this kid. With Brown and Jacobs taking slot reps as well, I see Grant as a roster cut by the end of training camp.
Keelan Doss, J.J. Nelson, Keon Hatcher, Marcell Ateman, Rico Gafford, and Dwayne Harris are all competing for backup WR positions and roster spots. Dwayne Harris is virtually a lock with his special teams contributions, leaving two spots up for grabs. My guess would be J.J Nelson as a veteran deep-threat field stretcher, and Marcell Ateman as a red-zone target with experience.
Side-Note: Keelan Doss and Rico Gafford will make the practice squad.
Arguably the Raiders’ worst position group last year, defensive end comes in with heavy competition for all four spots. Clelin Ferrell, the rookie 1st round pick, is likely locked in as one starter. However, the other starting job is not as clear. Benson Mayowa, Josh Mauro, Maxx Crosby, and Arden Key appear to be the four guys battling in camp. So far, it looks like Gruden likes Mauro as a run-stopping DE opposite Ferrell as his second starter. Crosby, Mayowa, and Key will all likely make the team as rotational guys.
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My best guess is you see Mauro and Ferrell early in the season, with Crosby winning that job as the year progresses. Key will be your rotational end, which is what he was drafted to do, not be a three-down guy.
Johnny Townsend and A.J Cole are battling it out for the starting punter job. I know, not the most exciting competition on the planet. Johnny Townsend was pure garbage last year and can run further than he can punt, so one would expect this competition to end rather quickly. That would be the case if Cole wasn’t bad too. I expect Oakland to have a new punter in before the Monday Night Football showdown with the Broncos.
My best guess would be Scottish punter James Gillian once the Browns punting competition is over. He would be an immediate upgrade over both guys currently punting for the Raiders.
On Monday the Raiders cut Erik Swoope, making the tight end room a bit smaller. However, they still have five guys competing for two spots. Darren Waller looks locked in as your starter, and rightfully so. Waller is a flat out baller, he has wide receiver speed and will be another great weapon for Carr. The rest of this position group is a jumbled mess, with Paul Butler, Foster Moreau, Luke Wilson, and Derek Carrier battling for the last two spots.
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The obvious choice would be 4th-round pick Moreau, however, Gruden loves his veterans and Moreau has had a rough camp so far. My guess is he still wins a roster spot and the Raiders decide to carry four tight ends to accommodate his learning curve. I think Paul Butler is the odd man out, and the Raiders roll with veterans Derek Carrier and Luke Wilson to groom the young guys.