With a new offensive system, an expanding defense and plenty of new player personnel up and down the roster, there are several position battles worth keeping an eye when the Oakland Raiders open up their 2013 training camp.
The personnel on the offensive side of the ball is relatively the same, but a few key areas will have competition that will go a long way in determining the team’s success this season. Of course, this includes the well-documented quarterback competition.
On defense, only two starters from 2012 (Lamarr Houston and Tyvon Branch) are likely to carry such roles again, so there will be plenty of turnover elsewhere. Both draft and free-agency additions will make the cornerback competition the one to watch there.
Here are the five biggest training camp battles for the Oakland Raiders in 2013.
The Raiders’ position battle brewing at quarterback has been their most highly debated this offseason and certainly will continue to be throughout camp.
Matt Flynn will enter as the heavy favorite, and considering his experience, for good reason.
The knock on Flynn will be that he should have been an established starter by now if he was really capable of doing so, but as Raiders fans know, the same could have been said about Rich Gannon when he came to Oakland.
Matt Flynn is now getting the opportunity that he has earned in limited playing time, and it will be his job to lose.
Having said that, given the Raiders’ lack of financial commitment to Flynn, should either Terrelle Pryor or Tyler Wilson outplay him throughout the preseason, they would not feel obligated to stick with him as the starter.
Pryor, of course, is a polarizing player like any quarterback with his athletic ability is. The plays he is capable of making with his legs are extremely rare and can be valuable to a team.
However, if he does not progress as a passer, it is unlikely that the Raiders would look to use him in anything more than a red-zone package role.
Tyler Wilson, a once-touted first-round talent, was the Raiders’ fourth-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.
If he lives up to that potential and shows that his senior season at Arkansas was more so a product of a struggling program overall, then the Raiders may have themselves quite a steal.
Even if Wilson isn’t ready to start right away, he may be the quarterback that the Raiders look to build around moving forward.
Overall, expect Matt Flynn to win the Raiders’ starting quarterback job, but the two talented players behind him will be interesting to watch throughout the preseason.
The Raiders’ wide receiver position has far more questions than answers heading into 2013, but the hope is that the number of players fighting for a position in camp may result in a few stepping up to seize prominent roles.
If Denarius Moore can be used correctly as the vertical threat that he is, he should have no problem becoming the Raiders’ No. 1 target early on. Behind him, the competition will be wide open for what will be some significant snaps.
Given the way that Rod Streater came on as the 2012 season progressed, he will be one of the early favorites to start opposite Moore.
Also in the mix are Jacoby Ford and Juron Criner, with Ford likely seeing the majority of his snaps as a third receiver in the slot.
Undrafted free agent Conner Vernon has gotten a lot of attention for his potential as a slot receiver as well, and given the Raiders’ need for someone to work a defense underneath, he could push for a roster spot by the end of camp.
Overall, the wide receiver position will be one of the most interesting to watch through the Raiders’ training camp. Having as many players as they do fighting for snaps should be considered a very good thing either way.
The Raiders’ right tackle position was one that struggled in a big way last season. In a division where that side goes up against the likes of Von Miller and Justin Houston twice a year each, that makes addressing this issue even more of a necessity.
Khalif Barnes returns for another season after starting nine games at right tackle for the Raiders in 2012.
While he did not have his best season after returning from injury, the transition back to the man/gap-blocking scheme should go a long way toward helping his game as a run-blocker if nothing else.
Barnes’ competition, second-round draft pick Menelik Watson, is the Raiders’ right tackle of the future, but it remains to be seen whether or not he can win that job coming out of camp.
That may be the best-case scenario for the Raiders’ offensive line as a whole, as Khalif Barnes could then slide to either of the two guard positions, where question marks still remain.
Heading into this offseason, cornerback was the Raiders’ biggest need on the roster. Having addressed that through both the draft and free agency, that position can actually be considered quite deep in comparison.
Fighting for the two starting spots will be rookie first-round draft pick, D.J. Hayden, veteran free-agent additions Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins, as well as returning cornerback Phillip Adams.
If Hayden’s injury from earlier this offseason is now behind him, we can assume he would likely take one of the two starting spots. His skill set projects him as a very good NFL corner—one that can succeed in both man and zone coverage.
With Porter, Jenkins and Adams all battling for the other starting spot, the competition should heat up in a hurry. Each player has something to prove, with Porter and Jenkins in particular looking at this as an opportunity to reestablish themselves.
Also on the roster and likely to earn a spot is Joselio Hanson. While he wouldn't compete for one of the two starting outside corner jobs, his skill set and success as a slot corner is rare.
In the NFL, where the passing game is forever expanding and thus defensive nickel packages are needed more and more, the slot corner essentially becomes a starting position of its own.
Overall, the number of additions the Raiders have made at cornerback should make the competition all the more tightly contested, and the secondary should be much better for it moving forward.
It is not too often that a team has an open competition for punter, and it certainly has been quite some time since there was one in Oakland.
However, now that future Hall of Famer Shane Lechler has departed, the Raiders need to find his replacement.
Originally it was assumed that Marquette King would be that player, especially because the Raiders essentially stashed him on injured reserve throughout Lechler’s contract year.
While King has more than enough leg power to be a great punter at the NFL level, the Raiders need to be comfortable with his consistency level before handing him the starting job.
As such, they have brought in the former Minnesota Viking, Chris Kluwe, as veteran competition.
Essentially, if Marquette King can prove that he is ready, the job is likely his. If not, the Raiders will go with the experienced Kluwe instead.
There should be plenty of reports from camp on how these two are faring as they battle it out, and it should be interesting to follow throughout.
Overall, all five of these positions will not only have heated roster battles throughout training camp and the preseason, but they will also be key to the Raiders’ success in 2013.
Should the winners of these competitions perform at a high level, the Raiders have a chance to really surprise some people around the NFL.