The Raiders' roster has had quite a work over this offseason, as a number of positions of weakness have been addressed through the draft, trades, and free agency.
That means that there will be far stronger competition at a number of spots, both for starting positions and just a place on the roster.
Whomever wins those battles will be key to the Raiders' success in the 2010 season.
So here goes.
Ricky Brown will be going into his fifth year with the Raiders this season, and he has gone from scraping onto the roster of a bad team, to a versatile and well thought of player, who pushed Kirk Morrison for the starting job at middle linebacker in camp last year.
This year, with 12 linebackers currently on the team, he may once again be fighting for a roster spot.
Had he been able to stay healthy, I think that he would be a lock to stay on the team, but both seasons he has been asked to step into a starting role where he has missed big chunks of time with injury.
That is always a concern, although the Raiders clearly think something of Brown, as they placed a high tender on him.
But it doesn't matter how good a player is if he can't stay healthy.
Enter Travis Goethel, the Raiders sixth-round pick this year. He is younger, cheaper, and possesses the same type of versatility that Brown does.
If Goethel impresses in camp and wins the backup middle linebacker job, then Brown could end up looking for a new home.
When Samson Satele was injured last year, and struggled to pick up the zone blocking scheme, former seventh-round pick Chris Morris had the chance to step in and impress. He also had a chance to make the job his own.
He didn't take it.
In some games he played okay, but in others he was a liability and made some glaring errors.
Alex Parsons might be an undrafted rookie, but he is very versatile, and comes from one of college football's best programs at USC. He has the ideal size and short area quickness to play in the Raiders' offensive scheme.
If Parsons can show some ability early, then head coach Tom Cable may think that his potential is worth more than the mediocre backup play offered by Morris.
Stanford Routt has never really had a good season with the Raiders, and as the nickel corner he has given up a lot of big pass plays over the last few years.
He is a player that the Raiders should be looking to upgrade if they want to make this defense better.
Walter McFadden might not be in the running to take a starting corner job in a base defense, but he has been well regarded as a cover man throughout his college career.
Despite the fact that Oakland placed a high tender on Routt this year, McFadden has the chance to unseat him as the third cornerback if he shows some consistency.
Tyvon Branch has the strong safety spot locked down, no doubt about that, but there looks to be some competition in regard to free safety.
Michael Huff showed some potential last year, with 14 passes defended and three interceptions, but he is still a way from being what is expected of a former No. 7 overall pick.
The Raiders like Mike Mitchell, who is a big, physical safety taken out of Ohio in the second round last year, and Mitchell has shown flashes of ability in his limited playing time.
He is strong against the run, and if he can demonstrate that he can play the deep ball well to, then he could push Michael Huff for the starting job.
We have two quality players here, so it isn't a matter of a roster spot, just who starts.
Now that we know that Richard Seymour will be starting at one of the defensive end positions, the question is who will star on the other side?
This is a great problem for the Raiders to have, as both Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy are capable of doing the job well, and it just comes down to who plays best.
Shaughnessy played so well in limited action last year, that Oakland felt happy in releasing veteran Greg Ellis. Notching 4.0 sacks as a backup in his rookie year made people sit up and take notice of Shaughnessy, and that must give him the inside track on the starting spot.
Houston, meanwhile, will battle Shaughnessy every inch of the way, and was one of the fastest big men at this years combine.
Both are high character, hard working, team players, who fit well into what the Raiders are trying to do. Whichever way it works out, Oakland gets quality play at both defensive end spots.
As it stands now, Khalif Barnes is the projected starting right tackle for the Raiders.
A few articles have spoken of Langston Walker as the starting tackle, but in his second tenure with Oakland he has only played guard.
Khalif Barnes was an okay starting left tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars prior to becoming a free agent, and may make us a competent right tackle with Oakland.
He had a nightmare 2009, going down with a serious leg injury in training camp, and then performing badly in limited action on his return. Needless-to-say, he will have to up his game considerably this year.
But the Raiders aren't waiting on Barnes to come through, they drafted two offensive linemen this year.
Jared Veldheer, who at 6'8" and 315 pounds, is a monster prospect from the mall Hillsdale College, and has a lot of potential. In the short shuttle and three-cone drill, he was also the fastest offensive lineman at the NFL Combine. He has shown the ideal athletic ability and short-area quickness to fit into a zone-blocking scheme.
I expect Veldheer to push Barnes hard for the starting spot in camp, and possibly even unseat him by mid way through the season.
This is another great problem for the Raiders after three years of awful quarterback play from the now departed JaMarcus Russell.
Jason Campbell might not be a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback (yet), but he provides what Oakland have lacked at this position for so long.
Competent quarterback play.
No doubt that the Raiders would have won more games without Russell, and the whole team seemed to lift when he was off the field, so it is reasonable to expect a better all round team performance this year.
Whilst you have to feel that Campbell is probably number one on the depth chart right now, Gradkowski will push him hard.
Bruce Gradkowski played some great football in relief of Russell last year, and in the win against Pittsburgh in particular, he was outstanding.
Both players are high character, hard workers, and team players, and we all know how important it is to have a quality backup in the NFL if your starter goes down.
The quarterback position in Oakland is in the best shape now than it has been since Rich Gannon retired.
I think we will also see some battles for that two starting positions at wide receiver, especially if Chaz Schilens is fit enough to play.
Schilens, a revamped Darrius Heyward Bey, and last years best receiver Loius Murphy should give the Raiders a good young receiving corps.
And so, we go into camp with some genuine hope for the 2010 season, and probably more optimism than at any time since the 2002-03 season.
I truly believe that this is the year that the Raiders turn it around and get back to respectability.
I even think that this team, especially with the addition of new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, has a real chance to take the AFC West and make the playoffs.
What do you think Raider Nation?