Oakland Raiders Players Climbing the Depth Chart This Offseason
Coming as a result of a busy few months in improving the overall talent level on the roster, the Oakland Raiders’ offseason workouts are full of intriguing position battles.
Although some players will certainly stay in their current spots on the depth chart throughout the season, there are already several on the rise.
This includes both players looking to earn more prominent roles than they held last season, as well as rookies new to the team already making their presence felt.
Here are five players, all on the offensive side of the ball, already climbing Oakland's depth chart this offseason.
QB Derek Carr
Upon being selected in the second round of this year’s draft, the assumption was that the 2014 season would be one for Derek Carr to sit and learn behind a veteran quarterback in Matt Schaub.
While that may still prove to be the case, he appears to be showing enough thus far in team OTAs to bring that idea into question.
As the NFL Network’s Albert Breer reports, Carr has already convinced the Raiders staff that he won’t need a redshirt year as a rookie, and he may even end up pushing Schaub for the starting spot.
Whether or not he gets to the top by the start of the regular season remains to be seen, but the fact that Carr is even being thought to challenge for the spot this early in the offseason is a good sign for the Raiders’ future regardless.
However the competition at quarterback works out, it’s safe to say the Raiders have done well to address both the short- and long-term fortunes of the position this offseason.
WR Andre Holmes
The wide receiver position will be one of many on the roster to hold an open competition throughout training camp.
Considering which, given his consistent production when in the lineup, expect Andre Holmes to earn a significant role heading into the regular season.
Although he missed time early on, Holmes proved to be a capable playmaker for the Raiders throughout the second half of the 2013 season, consistently winning one-on-one situations with opposing defenders.
That kind of ability is quite valuable at the NFL level, as although there are many receivers with a similar frame, having the body control to high point the ball and create separation is more rare.
Now that Holmes heads into a season without a looming suspension to put him behind in the competition, he will have every opportunity to win a spot atop the receiver depth chart in 2014.
OT Menelik Watson
Due to injury issues both prior to and throughout the year, Menelik Watson wasn’t able to contribute much as a rookie in 2013.
Now back and healthy at Raiders OTAs, Watson is already working with the first-team offensive line at right tackle and would be an important addition for the group if he can win the starting job.
In his recent media availability, fellow offensive tackle Donald Penn praised what he’s seen of Watson’s physical ability and potential as a player thus far.
Menelik Watson, he’s a tremendous athlete. My thing is, I don’t think Menelik knows how good he can be yet. I see a lot of potential in him. He has some great feet, which is important as a tackle. Menelik wants to be good, and that’s the biggest part of being a football player. You have to want to be good, and he wants to. He’s working hard and he’s doing a lot of good things and I’ve been in his ear a lot.
Of course, physical ability was never the concern for Watson, but rather his seasoning as a player being so new to the game of football.
As such, getting in a full offseason of work will be important for his development moving forward, and having a veteran to learn from like Penn could certainly help as well.
OG Gabe Jackson
Although Khalif Barnes held the starting left guard spot over the second half of the 2013 season, and played fairly well in doing so, the draft selection of Gabe Jackson brings some needed competition up front.
While the veteran Barnes continued as the first-team left guard to start the Raiders OTAs, Jackson has since begun to get some snaps with that group as well.
Training camp and preseason action will decide this position battle, but this early development makes it clear that Jackson is already a strong candidate for the starting job.
Known for his dominance as a run-blocker in college, Jackson could give a big boost to the left side of the Raiders line as the offense looks to get back to a run-oriented attack.
TE David Ausberry
The 2013 season was supposed to be the year that David Ausberry finally grabbed hold of the starting tight end job, but injury issues delayed that expectation once again.
Even so, and despite the fact that other young tight ends on the roster emerged in his absence, Ausberry looks to be the early favorite for the starting role in 2014.
From the Raiders OTA session at the end of May, CSN’s Scott Bair reported Ausberry getting a lot of work with other players expected to have starting jobs for the upcoming season.
Just how many snaps he sees in a given game will likely come down to how well he can develop as an in-line blocker, but there is little doubting his potential as a receiver downfield.
A former wideout in college, Ausberry’s transition to tight end has been a lengthy one but could really pay off for both he and the Raiders this season.