Predicting the Winners of the Oakland Raiders' Biggest Training Camp Battles
The Oakland Raiders kick off training camp this week, and with it begin some interesting position battles to keep an eye on throughout the preseason.
There should be much more roster competition this year than there was in years past, and that goes a long way toward showing just how much the Raiders’ overall talent has improved in a short period of time.
Most of the competition will come at the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball, but a key battle in the secondary should have a significant impact on the success of the overall defense as well.
With predicted winners for each, here is a look at the Raiders’ biggest training camp battles in 2014.
Winner: Matt Schaub
From the time the Raiders acquired Matt Schaub in an offseason trade, the assumption was that he would be their starting quarterback for at least the 2014 season.
Reports from NFL.com on second-round pick Derek Carr's performances throughout minicamps and OTAs may have cast some doubt on that idea, but Schaub should still be able to hold the top spot heading into the regular season.
While Carr is undoubtedly the quarterback of the future and may well prove to be ready for the field sooner than anticipated, Schaub is the better option for helping the team this year.
With the talent added throughout the roster, the Raiders could be competitive for the first time under the new regime, and Schaub's veteran presence could be key in establishing some consistency on offense.
A new offense and overall situation should help him bounce back from his 2013 season. He has an opportunity to prove that the difficult year should be considered an outlier in his otherwise consistent NFL career.
Winner: Darren McFadden
The Raiders’ running back position is one of the more talented groups on the entire roster, but the key will of course be staying healthy.
Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew and Latavius Murray could all end up getting plenty of carries this year, as each can bring a lot to the offense.
However, assuming health and the naming of a clear-cut starter, this competition should be won by McFadden.
Yes, McFadden has struggled to stay on the field throughout his career thus far, but when he does—and is in the right offensive scheme—he is the kind of player the offense can center its game plan around.
Jones-Drew will push McFadden throughout the year, and he should easily earn a significant role of his own, but the younger McFadden may be better suited to the increased carries that come with the starting job.
Naming one particular starter may prove irrelevant with the deep rotation the Raiders can and likely will utilize at the position, but McFadden should have the most carries of the group.
Winners: James Jones and Rod Streater
The training camp competition at wide receiver will likely be the most difficult to predict heading in, as there are a number of players challenging for five to six roster spots.
The early favorites for the starting jobs include a veteran free-agent addition in James Jones and one of the Raiders’ most promising young players in Rod Streater.
Jones is arguably the Raiders’ most underrated signing from this past offseason, and he could see more targets and production than he ever did as part of a crowded receiver group in Green Bay.
Streater, who joined the Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2012, has already become the team’s most reliable target, and he continues to develop at a fast pace.
Denarius Moore, Andre Holmes, Greg Little, Brice Butler and Juron Criner will all be in the mix as well, quite possibly making this one of the deeper positions on the roster overall.
Each could challenge for increased roles with strong training camp and preseason performances, but Jones and Streater should win the starting jobs.
Winner: David Ausberry
The Raiders are without a proven player at tight end, but the young talent and potential they do have should make for an interesting training camp competition.
The early favorite, given the team’s yearly plans for him to become the starter, is David Ausberry.
Ausberry’s transition from wide receiver to tight end has been a long one, but his potential as a downfield target has kept the Raiders from giving up on his development.
Establishing himself as a capable in-line blocker would allow the team to get him as many snaps as possible, but he should have an important role in the success of the offense either way.
Also in the mix are two second-year players who could have big futures with the Raiders, Mychal Rivera and Nick Kasa.
Rivera showcased his playmaking ability as a pass-catcher in 2013, and while Kasa likely needs time to develop in that area, it is his blocking ability that could see him earn snaps sooner than later.
This is another group that will feature an open training camp competition. As long as he can stay healthy, this should finally be the year when Ausberry wins the starting job.
Winners: Tarell Brown and D.J. Hayden
Upgrading at cornerback was one of the Raiders’ main priorities heading into this offseason, and they were able to do so with the additions of Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers.
Brown should win the starting job on the left side, while the other spot should come down to a competition between Rogers and D.J. Hayden.
If he can remain healthy throughout the all-important training camp and preseason work, Hayden should be able to win the job, thus allowing Rogers to play the slot/nickel role that he is better suited for at this stage in his career.
No, Hayden’s rookie season did not go as planned, but he has the skill set that not only warranted his early first-round selection, but could make him a shutdown corner in the NFL.
With depth a concern here, Hayden winning one of the starting spots out of camp—and the entire group staying healthy—will go a long way toward the success of the defense in 2014.