Football is back! The Las Vegas Raiders kick off the NFL Preseason in Canton, Ohio tomorrow for the Hall of Fame game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. As we get closer and closer to meaningful football, the Raiders still have some burning questions that need to be answered.
Question No. 1- What is the best O-line combo?
One of the biggest problem areas for Las Vegas last season was the offensive line. Those concerns remain after making zero moves to improve that group outside of drafting a guard in the third round. At guard, there is competition between returning starter John Simpson, rookie Dylan Parham, and, surprisingly, fourth-year perennial fringe-of-the-roster guy Lester Cotton Sr. Both guard spots are up for grabs, with Simpson and Cotton currently in the lead.
Some competition could be added to that group if the Raiders decide to move Alex Leatherwood back inside. The second-year Alabama product was drafted in the first round last year to play right tackle, but he has struggled to find success there. He is currently losing ground in a battle with returning starter Brandon Parker and rookie Thayer Munford Jr. Yes, it appears that the best candidate to dethrone the mediocre-at-best Parker was a seventh-round pick this year and is best known for being rag-dolled by Aidan Hutchison during the college football season.
On paper, this group does not appear too promising. The Raiders have Jermaine Eluemunor in the mix as well. He can play both guard and tackle. However, he struggled mightily in place of Denzelle Good last season and was quickly replaced. If two guards and a tackle are unable to emerge as viable starters, the Raiders need to find out as soon as possible so that they can explore options outside the organization. Expect to see a lot of offensive line combos in these first two preseason games. Because of that, don’t expect to see quarterback Derek Carr as long as that is happening.
Question No. 2 – Who will emerge as WRs 3/4/5 for the Raiders?
The top of the Raiders’ wide receiver group is firmly set in stone with Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow. After that, it gets a little murky. Whoever fills the next few spots behind them could see a ton of favorable matchups, as Adams, Renfrow, and tight end Darren Waller will command a ton of attention from opposing defenses.
Demarcus Robinson, Keelan Cole, and Mack Hollins are the top candidates. They all have been in the league for about the same amount of time. Also, they have had similar production and have plenty of experience being the third or fourth option. After them, you have three-year vet Tyron Johnson. Johnson joined the Raiders last November, but he mostly returned kicks and did not have any catches. The Raiders have brought in three second-year receivers in DJ Turner, Jordan Veasy, and Isaiah Zuber. Last season, that trio played in six games and had two catches combined. Rounding out the group is rookie Justin Hall, an undrafted free agent out of Ball State. Dillon Stoner is back with the team for his third season, but he wasn’t guaranteed a roster spot even before he landed on the PUP list.
Robinson and Cole should run away with the next two spots behind Adams and Renfrow. Their skill set fits well with what head coach Josh McDaniels needs. Johnson should also make the team as the fifth receiver due to his special teams’ ability. Expect this whole crew to see a lot of work in the preseason as there is really no need for the Raiders’ top receivers to play at all.
Question No. 3 – Who rises to the occasion as CB1?
The cornerback positionÂ is still the biggest concern on the Raiders’ defense. They have a fairly deep crew, but we still don’t know who the team will call upon to lockdown opposing teams’ number one receiver. So far, Anthony Averett and Rock Ya-Sin have been auditioning for that role. They have been going toe to toe with Adams and Renfrow in camp a fair amount. Trayvon Mullen would also figure to be part of the conversation once he’s healthy.
The tricky part here is that none of these guys have ever been a true number one corner in the NFL. For that reason, expect to see a lot of them in the preseason. That is despite the fact that they have all probably secured big roles on the defense already. Mullen needs to hurry back, though, or he could become an afterthought.
*Top Photo: Naomi Baker/Getty Images