Oakland Raiders Players Who Will Surprise During 2014 NFL Training Camp
Training camps are fast approaching, and with them the opportunity for several players across the NFL to secure important positions in their teams' lineups. This is especially true for the Oakland Raiders, a team that has gone through a massive overhaul this offseason.
No matter where you look on the Oakland roster, you’re going to find a roster spot that is up for grabs. Fortunately for the Raiders, there are several players on the team primed and ready to take those spots.
Players like Rod Streater and Mychal Rivera have shown game-changing potential, and incoming rookies like Justin Ellis will enter training camp with high expectations and the skills to meet them.
Here are the Raiders most likely to impress and secure their spots during training camp.
The Raiders roster is filled top to bottom with players with the potential to be major factors in the team’s success. Unfortunately, there are things out of their control—too deep of a depth chart, injury history—that could prevent them from contributing to their full potential.
Since the Raiders picked him up as an undrafted rookie in 2012, Streater has been one of the few bright spots on the roster. Each time the team has raised the expectations, he’s risen to the challenge, and he's currently the most intriguing and exciting wide receiver on the team.
Unfortunately, Streater finds himself in the most crowded position group on the team. B/R’s Dan Wilkins notes that Streater has the potential to become the team’s first-choice receiver, but the addition of James Jones could slow that process. At least to begin training camp, the Raiders could go with the more experienced Jones at number one. Streater will have to be patient as he waits for the opportunity to show his full potential.
Before a foot injury derailed his rookie season, Murray looked like an exciting option behind oft-injured Darren McFadden. The expectations haven’t been lowered this year. According to offensive coordinator Greg Olsen, Murray shows “the biggest upside” of any running back on the team.
The biggest obstacle for Murray will be getting the touches. This training camp, he has both McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew to beat, who both have the ability to carry the load for a whole season. Several factors, such as injuries and severe underperformance, would have to happen during training camp for Murray to get his opportunity.
In what has become an annual ritual for Raiders fans as the team heads into training camp, the question is once again being asked: Is this the year Ausberry finally taps into his massive potential and becomes a game changer?
Rotoworld reports that Ausberry is currently taking the first-team reps at tight end, but this is a story we’ve seen before. He’s once again been given the opportunity heading into training to take the starting job, and if he does, he certainly has the ability to be a dangerous option. But until he can show that he can stay healthy, he isn’t an option that can be depended on.
The Oakland offense spent all of 2013 searching for answers. One of the few it found was Rivera.
According to NFL.com, Rivera recorded 38 receptions for 407 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was able to do this without receiving consistent playing time.
Despite not being the starter, Rivera earned more playing time as the season progressed. He rewarded the coaching staff for this show of confidence by becoming the team’s most impressive tight end during the 2013 season. He showed moments of brilliance, the ability to get open down field and the willingness to go across the middle and go make a play.
Ausberry is currently projected as the starting tight end heading into training camp, but he has yet to remain healthy for an entire season, which means Rivera has a real shot at securing the starting spot. And even if Ausberry can stay healthy, Rivera has shown enough to secure his spot as the second tight end on the squad. This will allow him more touches and more opportunities to make big plays.
The Raiders beefed up along the defensive line this offseason, but as CSN Bay Area’s Scott Bair notes, the signings are all short-term deals. The future of the unit rests on guys like Ellis.
As a fourth-round pick, Ellis was selected largely on potential. He showed flashes of dominance, but his problems maintaining his weight are well known. However, Jerry McDonald of the San Jose Mercury News noted that Ellis was at a reasonable 346 lbs when he arrived in Oakland.
What will help Ellis is that he won’t be expected to come in and immediately compete to start. He will instead be part of rotation that includes Pat Sims, Stacy McGee and Antonio Smith. This will ease Ellis’ transition by letting him focus on the things he does well while he works on the other areas of his game.
If Ellis is able to keep his weight in check, he has the power and the quickness to cause a lot of havoc up front for the Raiders. Come training camp, he will have every opportunity to secure a regular spot in the D-line rotation.
For all of the exciting, attention-grabbing moves the Raiders made this offseason with the signings of players like Justin Tuck and Maurice Jones-Drew, there were also several that were not quite so high profile who could prove to be just as important.
One of those signings was tackle Donald Penn.
After the unexpected departure of Jared Veldheer and the embarrassing Roger Saffold episode, the Raiders needed to find someone to add experience and stability to the offensive line. Penn has both the ability and the desire to provide just that.
Penn is 31, and the Raiders did not bring him in to man the tackle position for the next decade. They brought him in for his leadership and experience, something desperately needed on an offensive line in the middle of a rebuild. Penn has already shown his ability in both of these areas, embracing his role as mentor with both Menelik Watson and rookie Gabe Jackson.
These actions show a genuine commitment from Penn, which will translate to the field. The Raiders brought Penn in to compete for a starting job. Expect him to embrace this opportunity come training camp.
In what Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke and Doug Farrar called “one of Oakland’s best drafts top-to-bottom in recent memory,” perhaps the most intriguing pick was 4th-rounder Keith McGill.
At 6'3" and 211 lbs, McGill is the embodiment of the new prototypical NFL cornerback. As B/R’s Elias Trejo notes, he also has the potential to move to safety later in his career.
A player that can succeed anywhere in the secondary is just what the Raiders were looking for, given that this is where the team is in most need of depth. The unit is currently comprised of players like Charles Woodson, Carlos Rodgers and Tarell Brown. These are obviously not permanent solutions.
This means that McGill will have plenty of opportunity to earn playing time both in the future and in the present. Given that the Raiders are still unsettled at cornerback and still unsure about the health and performance of D.J. Hayden, there is still much to be determined in regard to the depth chart.
McGill has the tools to perform at the NFL level. This, along with the open competition that is currently the Raiders secondary, mean that McGill will enter training camp with a great opportunity to make an immediate impact.
Heading into training camp, the top of the Raiders wide receiver depth chart seems to have taken shape with Streater and Jones, but the competition for the third wide receiver spot is wide open.
Just a few months ago, Denarius Moore would have been the easy choice here, but this is no longer the case. The coaching staff continues to express concern regarding his consistency and there continue to be questions regarding his character.
Brice Butler has also garnered attention this offseason, and the reports of his impressive performance during minicamp continue to appear. However, this is something Raiders fans have heard before. He was also impressive last offseason, but he disappeared during the regular season. Until he shows he can perform when it counts, he can’t be depended on.
Unlike these options, Andre Holmes has shown that he is more than just potential. He has shown that he actually depended upon on game day fulfill the promise seen on the practice field.
Over the last five games of the 2013 season, Holmes was the most impressive receiver on the roster. Per NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling, Holmes led the team in receiving and was the 15th-ranked receiver in the entire league during this stretch.
A huge target at 6'4", Holmes still needs some polish on his game, but he knows how to use his size, and he proved that he can produce in the NFL. Come training camp, he’ll be primed and ready to secure the third wide receiver position and secure himself consistent playing time moving forward.
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