Predicting Winners for the Oakland Raiders' Most Heated Remaining Camp Battles
Now halfway through the preseason, it's safe to say that things haven't gone quite as many Raider fans had hoped.
For starters, the team remains winless, and even those who mock the supposed importance of the preseason would acknowledge that things haven't gone according to plan.
Sure, Darren McFadden and the defensive line have been outstanding, but the rest of the starters still seem to be getting up to speed.
Fortunately for guys like Carson Palmer, their preseason play is basically irrelevant as their job has already been set in stone. For other guys, however, the next two weeks represent a fierce battle and competition for playing time.
With that in mind, we broke down the four position battles we thought could come down to the wire.
With the first three positions on the depth chart already assumed heading into camp, the fourth receiver spot is clearly up for grabs.
Entering the preseason, many believed rookie Juron Criner would run away with the position, but a lackluster preseason and strong performances from a pair of fellow rookies have done much to discourage that type of thinking.
Currently listed as the fourth receiver on the Raiders depth chart is receiver Eddie McGee, which was a pretty big surprise considering his lack of notoriety. McGee, the undrafted rookie out of Illinois, has just two catches for seven yards this preseason.
The favorite to win the job right now appears to be another rookie, Rod Streater, who went undrafted out of Temple. Streater has been one of the lone offensive bright spots for the Raiders through two preseason games, reeling in 13 catches for 109 yards, which is more than three times the catches of any other Raider.
The third major competitor for the position is Criner, who has looked shaky at times this preseason but has also shown glimpses of promise. Criner has two catches for 31 yards so far.
While it's hard to balance the reports coming out of camp and performance in the preseason, I think the edge at the moment has to go to Streater, but I think this competition is far from over.
Backup Running Back
While most of the time you hope that competitions would be the product of two guys playing extremely well, the backup running back competition in Oakland hasn't quite worked out like that.
Coming into camp, many believed the job would be the newly acquired Mike Goodson, who seems more built to handle the load of a running back should McFadden go down. That said, his biggest flaw coming to Oakland was his inability to hang onto the ball—something that has once again plagued him this preseason.
Up against Goodson was second-year man Taiwan Jones, the speed back who showed glimpses of promise in limited action last season. Unfortunately for Jones, he has been unable to get on the field this preseason, making it tough for him to challenge Goodson in the long run.
By the end of camp, however, I think that if Jones can prove he is healthy enough to play, he'll be the No. 2 back in an upset. Goodson's fumbling problem and his ineffectiveness this preseason (five yards on six carries) have been big disappointment and could cost him some carries.
This also could be a position that the Raiders look to fill through free agency should a veteran back come available.
While Aaron Curry was the favorite to start here heading into 2012, injuries have kept him sidelined thus far, opening the door for rookies Miles Burris and Chad Kilgore to show what they can do.
If Curry can come back to practice healthy and show that he is ready to play, the job should be his. But Burris and Kilgore still have a couple weeks to prove they deserve a shot.
Kilgore is currently tied for third on the team in tackles with four solo tackles, while Burris isn't far behind with three. Both guys have been impressive in camp, and Burris in particular has had reporters and scouts buzzing about his potential.
Initially labeled as a late-round steal for the Raiders, Burris could be a future starter for the Raiders, but at this point, I don't think either has done enough to steal this job from the injured Curry.
Finally, this brings us to the most hotly contested, up and down competition of them all: cornerback.
With the free agency signings of Shawntae Spencer and Ronald Bartell, many anticipated that the two veterans would easily slide into starting roles for the Raiders this season. With two second-year players in Demarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa looming, however, things were sure to get interesting.
The first player to generate some buzz was Van Dyke, who was easily the star of mini-camp with his play in practice. While always blessed with great speed, reports seemed to indicate that Van Dyke's coverage had turned the corner.
And then, the preseason happened.
To say Van Dyke has been disappointing in Oakland's first two games this preseason would be a gross understatement. The Miami product has been burned in coverage, has missed tackles and seems to be out of place on a regular basis defensively.
While the camp reports were uplifting, his preseason performances have brought his stock back down to earth.
Across from Van Dyke is Chekwa, a player I've always liked, and one who never seems to get too much attention. While not as flashy and fast as Van Dyke, Chekwa has flashed excellent coverage ability in limited action last season and this preseason, even logging one of the team's two interceptions thus far.
That said, however, Chekwa hasn't stood out enough to earn a starting job by a long stretch, and so I'm still giving the edge to Spencer and Bartell, with Chekwa close behind.
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