Oakland Raiders Training Camp Preview: Top Five Position Battles
Will youth be served? Will the old guard put up a stiff fight? How will the head to head matchup between Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski come out?
There are a lot of questions looking at the Raiders' camp, which opens July 28th. Here, for your viewing pleasure, will be five position battles that may affect the team's quest to end the seven-year nightmare. Enjoy!
Position One: Quarterback
Sure, Jason Campbell was blessed by Al Davis to lead the Raiders into the promised land. However, fans from last year remember Bruce Gradkowski's ability to step forward and surprise opponents, winning against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
While Campbell has a tendency to hold the ball and be subjected to sacks, Gradkowski isn't afraid to use every weapon on the field to win.
While Campbell is the favorite, should he have problems in the preseason, the Raiders are in good hands with Gradkowski waiting for his chance.
Position Two: Offensive Right Guard
On the offensive line, some questions still remain.
After the exit of Cornell Green, a few people looked at Cooper Carlisle as the next likely player to be replaced due to age and diminishing skills.
Problems with penalties are problematic to the offense, and with the Raiders picking up Bruce Campbell, it is a question on how long it will take Campbell to get acclimated to this position.
Oakland might get away with a season, or they could have Campbell move to another position on the line. But sooner or later, Cooper needs to be replaced.
Position Three: Left Defensive End
Richard Seymour, a talented player, has finally signed his one year deal with the club as their franchise player.
While this secures his time with the club, a long-term deal as of yet has not been agreed to, leaving some question marks. Would the Raiders consider moving him over to, say, defensive tackle and replacing Tommy Kelly?
Would they look to move him for another player, giving Lamarr Houston the spot outright?
Odds are good that Richard Seymour will be in Oakland come traning camp time. And when the season starts, he might get spelled from time to time by Lamarr Houston.
But if Seymour goes down for any length of time and Houston is good fit for the spot, and Richard might have a problem getting back into the line.
Position Four: Free Safety
Hiram Eugene and Michael Huff are both battling for the free safety spot.
Huff showed a couple of bright spots last year, with three interceptions and 59 tackles.
Eugene had one interception, 43 total tackles and 3 passes defended.
What does it look like for the Raiders? Some wonder if Huff, a first round pick, was trying to play better to improve his numbers and get rid of the "bust" label attached to him. Eugene, after all, wasn't even drafted and he was starting in front of Huff.
It might also have been Huff playing well to show other clubs that he does know how to play and spur interest when contract time comes around.
I think Huff should be given a chance to prove last year wasn't a fluke. But, keep Eugene around for a replacement just in case.
Position Five: Return teams
While Johnnie Lee Higgins has held down the punt return duties in Oakland, his numbers last year showed a decline in both yards average, touchdowns, and overall yards.
He was taken off the kick return duties, where in 2008, he had 842 yards on 36 kicks. Some wonder if he will get a chance to prove that his speed is still there. Or will another player, perhaps Jacoby Ford, step into the picture?
Higgins, primarily on punt returns and WR duties, also was dealing with injuries, so the possibility exists that the Raiders might make each position independent of each other. So, if one player is hurt, you don't have to find three players to fill in all the tasks associated.
To illustrate how wide open the return game is; last season, three players returned punts—Higgins, Javon Walker and Sam Williams. But in the field of kick returns, eight different players were called on to return kicks—Johnathan Holland, Gary Russell, Justin Miller, Louis Rankin, Marcel Reece, Sam Williams, Tony Stewart, and Luke Lawton.
While it might be a committee for kick returns, wouldn't a single selection with good results be nicer?
Training Camp Opens July 28th
Good luck to the Raiders in finding the best players to push our team to victory in 2010!