The Raiders have just completed their mini-camp and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic if you are an Oakland fan. The rookie class looks solid, and there is much improvement from last year.
For the first time in a while, there seems to be more depth at many positions, and that means there will be plenty of competition for starting spots up for grabs.
Let's take a look a 10 positions that will have plenty of competition this year at Oakland's training camp.
*Updated May 7th 2010*
Tom Cable has said there will be a competition at the quarterback position. Let's take a look at who the favorites are to make the roster and start.
The Favorite: Jason Campbell
Campbell has to be the immediate favorite to start for the Raiders in 2010. He sounded pretty confident after speaking to the coaches after the trade.
At 28, he has more experience as a starter than any other quarterback on the roster.
The Backup: Bruce Gradkowski
Gradkowski gave the Raiders a spark last year, and if he is given a fair change to start in 2010 he could also have a productive year. The Raiders offensive line is much deeper and should provide better protection.
His work ethic won Raider fans over and should be the back up even though he recently suffered an injury.
Third String: Charlie Frye
Frye is a coaches pet in Oakland. The coaches love how smart and dedicated he is. He should provide depth and he should help the other quarterbacks out as a coach on the sidelines.
Tom Cable said he expects a competition in the running game as well. This should be a good one to watch. While the Raiders will most likely use a two back system, it should still be interesting to see who gets the start.
The Favorite: Michael Bush
Bush is a beast and looked like the best back at mini-camp. He is a bruising back with surprising speed. Last season he was the only back to go over the century mark in any game. Expect him to come out the winner and receive the majority of the carries in 2010.
The Backup: Darren McFadden
Being the backup in this instance is not a bad thing. McFadden will get his touches this year, but he will be more involved in the pass game than Bush. McFadden will be a change of pace for the running game and can break the big one at anytime. He also creates mismatches for the defense on passing plays.
Third String: Rock Cartwright
Cartwright is another back with playmaking abilities. He should play the third fiddle on offense, but injuries do happen and he may get more carries than he expects. He'll also be competing for kick returner.
The Raiders receivers struggled last year as they fielded two starting rookies. Their leading receiver from last year didn't even touch the field much until later in the season, and perhaps their best possession receiver on the roster missed the first 10 weeks of the season. Competition this year will be good for this young unit.
The Favorites: Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy
Heyward-Bey and Murphy will most likely be the starters again for the Raiders. Though it is only their second year in the league, expect these guys to be a bit more polished than last year. They should do enough during camp to retain their starting spots.
The Backups: Chaz Schilens and Johnnie Lee Higgins
Schilens and Higgins are the veterans on the team at this position. They should see a lot of action, but will be backups because the Raiders want their young guys to develop. Schilens needs to stay healthy and Higgins needs to find a way to get on the field more.
Third String: Jacoby Ford
There may be other players that fans want to see ahead of Ford, but look for him to get on the field more. He is fast and should get playing time on the field. He has that Al Davis speed that will earn him a couple bubble screens, reverses, and deep balls.
The offensive line struggled last year with injuries and poor play. This year the Raiders have finally decided to invest a couple of draft picks along the offensive line. The line has more depth, and you should see more solid play from the offensive line in 2010.
The Favorites: Mario Henderson, Left Tackle; Khalif Barnes, Right Tackle
Both of these guys were supposed to compete for the left tackle position last year. An injury to Barnes cut that competition short. This year they will both battle again, and most likely both will win a starting spot along the offensive line.
The Backups: Langston Walker and Jared Veldheer
Walker and Veldheer should see time along the offensive line as well. Walker may move to the guard position but can also play tackle. Veldheer will see some playing time as a rookie and will push the veterans while he develops.
Third String: Bruce Campbell and Erik Pears
These guys can play tackle but may see more time at guard.
There is good depth at the guard position. Robert Gallery was the Raiders best offensive lineman in 2009, but he suffered an injury in week two and was out until week 10. This year the Raiders made sure to have depth in case of another injury.
The Favorites: Robert Gallery and Langston Walker
Both these guys were drafted to play tackle, but will play guard in 2010. They should give the Raiders line a boost and should make them a more solid unit. Walker is looking much slimmer than before and could have a great year.
The Backups: Bruce Campbell and Carlisle Cooper
Campbell will get his share of playing time at guard in 2010. This will be good for him to help him hone his skills. Cooper will see some time as well at the guard position but will most likely give up playing time if Walker does make the move inside.
Third string: Erik Pears and Khalif Barnes
Barnes may not win the right tackle spot if Walker has anything to do with it. If that is the case, Barnes may be the immediate starter at guard. Pears will provide good depth to the offensive line.
The Raiders stated that they had a surprise at defensive tackle in 2010. I hope this doesn't spoil that surprise.
The Starters: Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly
Seymour is about to get paid and is about to become a Raider for a long time. Look for him to start on the inside and let a couple of younger guys take over the defensive end position. Kelly should play better in 2010 with a stronger supporting cast around him.
The Backups: Desmond Bryant and Chris Cooper
Bryant made some huge strides for an undrafted rookie free agent last year. If Seymour isn't the surprise, maybe Bryant is? Cooper will add depth to the rotation and should see decent playing time during the season.
Third String: William Joseph and Lamar Houston
Joseph should provide depth and may see the field if an injury occurs. Houston will play defensive end but is big enough to play defensive tackle.
The Raiders should field a very young and talented defensive end unit in 2010. They will have a great rotation at the position and they should be much better at stopping the run.
The Starters: Matt Shaugnessy and Lamar Houston
Shaughnessy came on strong at the end of his rookie campaign. He made plays to get to the quarterback and was aggressive against the run.
Houston will be a big defensive end, and has already shown in mini-camp why the Raiders picked him. He is nasty and has a mean streak. Look for him to make an impact along the defensive line.
The Backups: Jay Richardson and Quinten Groves
Richardson will be a part of the rotation at defensive end. He is a young player that plays hard. Groves is listed as a linebacker but don't be surprised if you see him in a three point stance every now and again when needed.
Third String: Richard Seymour and Trevor Scott
Seymour and Scott are starting at other positions, but may find themselves playing defensive end at times.
Coach Tom Cable will not name a starting quarterback yet, but he isn't shy about naming his starting linebackers before training camp. Not sure if that is fair to Thomas Howard or other guys, but that is life.
The Starters: Kamerion Wimbley, Rolando McClain, and Trevor Scott
This is who Cable said would start. It is a solid unit if Wimbley can provide the numbers he did early in his career with Cleveland. McClain is only a rookie but acts like a seasoned veteran. Scott made the move to linebacker last season and did very well.
The Backups: Thomas Howard, Quentin Groves, and Ricky Brown
Howard finds himself without Morrison beside him for the first time, and apparently he finds himself on the bench too. Groves is a new addition that is exciting. The former second round pick is looking for a fresh start. Brown was competing for the staring spot in 2009 and now finds himself as a backup without competing.
Third String: Isiah Ekujiuba, Slade Norris, and Travis Goethal.
These guys will compete to rise up the depth chart but will see more time on special teams.
The Raiders have four safeties that could start in 2010, but the favorites should win the top spot during training camp.
The Favorites: Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff
Branch had an excellent second year as a Raider. He is a star in the making and could be the safety Oakland has been looking for to help stop the run.
Huff had his best year as a Raider in 2009. He was the seventh pick in the 2005 draft and he showed flashes of why he was that pick last year. He should have a big year in 2010.
The Backups: Mike Mitchell and Hiram Eugene
Mitchell will see more action in certain packages this year. He wasn't drafted in the second round last year to watch. He should help in blitz packages and against the run. Eugene will see time if Huff is injured or not playing well.
Third String: Jerome Boyd and Stevie Brown
These guys will get their time on special teams, but may work their way up the depth chart with a strong training camp.
The Raiders struggled in kick returns last year. This year they have fixed that problem with a couple of offseason additions.
The Starter: Jacoby Ford
If you haven't seen highlights of him yet, then you have got to see this.
He will provide an instant spark to the return game and will set up good field position for the Raiders offense.
The Backup: Rock Cartwright
He may very well beat out Ford for the starting spot because of his experience. He returned kicks for the Redskins in 2009 and averaged 22 yards per return.
Third String: Darren McFadden or Darrius Heyward-Bey
Maybe this isn't realistic, but if you kick off to me in Madden 2010 and either of these guys get it, I'm taking it to the house!
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