Oakland Raiders: Five Starting Positions Still Up for Grabs
As good as the Raiders have been collecting and developing talent this off season, there are still some areas of concern, and a number of starters are not secure in their roles.
This has not only shown during camp, but was equally clear during the three pre-season games that we have seen so far.
But Oakland has a number of players fighting for those positions, and competition is always a good thing.
So here goes.
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The right guard position is by no means set in stone.
Although Cooper Carlisle has been a stalwart on the offensive line for some years now, having experience in the zone blocking system first introduced by Tom Cable. Carlisle filled the hole at right guard as a free agent when we really needed someone to step in, but his hold on the job has slipped since last year.
He is 33 years old, going into his eleventh season, and is now a player that Oakland is looking to upgrade as his play has started to decline.
Fourth round pick Bruce Campbell is the player trying to take Carlilse's job. Campbell has off the scale measurables, and if he can pick up the system and improve his technique then he will be an upgrade over Carlisle.
When will Campbell get a shot with the first team?
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Not surprisingly there is another position on the offensive line that is not yet set, as this group of players is the major question mark on the Oakland roster.
Samson Satele was acquired from the Dolphins in a trade, and Head Coach Tom Cable was very optimistic that he could be a success in the zone blocking system.
So far he has been a disappointment, as he has struggled against better defensive tackles in both the pass and the run game.
Rookie Jared Veldheer was drafted originally to play left tackle, but having played some center in his career he has been tried out at the Raiders main problem position on the offensive line. He has shown well with the second team, and was given the nod over veeteran Chris Morris for the 49ers game and played well.
He is very tall for a center in the NFL at 6' 8", but if you can play then you can play.
Even though he comes from a small school, he has handled the pro's well, and certainly brings a physicality that Satele lacks. As a medical student, he has the intelligence required to absorb the play book and call blocking assignments for the line.
The smart money is on Veldheer to unseat Satele or the starting job.
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Gone are the days when the Raiders were stocked at fullback, the days of a healthy Oren O'Neal and Justin Griffith.
This season and last, free agent Luke Lawton was the first choice fullback and he is suspended for the first four games. This is one position where the Raiders have not gone forwards, and they may have done better to address this position in the draft.
Marcel Reece is listed with the first team, and Manase Tonga is behind Lawton on the depth chart, but no one player really stands out from the rest.
That is why Alex Daniels had tried at the position, without success.
Oakland has some fair options here, but they are looking for one player to break from the pack and make the job his own.
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I don't mean that anyone has a chance to take Nnamdi Asomugha's job, but Chris Johnson on the other side might be a different matter.
Stanford Routt has had a good pre-season, and hasn't looked like the bad nickel back we have seen over the past couple of years where he was regularly beaten like a ginger step child.
Coach Tom Cable says Routt has a new attitude and has really stepped up. He certainly played well against the 49ers. Chris Johnson says that the job is his, but if Routt continues to improve he certainly has a fight on his hands.
This is a good problem to the Raiders to have
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Michael Huff has never really lived up the hype of being the overall number seven pick in the draft, and has really struggled so far this year.
Two big runs have come straight through him in the last two games, and his tackling has been poor. You just can't have that in a free safety.
Oakland has some young guns who want the starting position. Mike Mitchell is the type of banger that Huff has never been, and if he can improve his pass coverage he will break into the starting lineup.
Seventh round rookie Stevie Brown has also been a pleasant surprise, making big play after big play and tackling well.
If Huff wants to keep his job, he needs to up his game considerably. Given his salary, he may even be a surprise cut when the final 53 man roster is announced if he doesn't improve.
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The other possibilities are just that, as most of the other positions seem set.
Langston Walker appears to have the right tackle position locked down, and although Chaz Schilens and Darrius Heyward Bey are listed as starters at wide receiver, they will likely be in rotation with Louis Murphy.
You simply can't ignore Murphy's production and big play ability.
There is also a chance that Bruce Gradkowski could push Jason Campbell if he under performs, as Gradkowski's performance against San Francisco reminded Raider fans of his heroics in 2009.
Could Darren McFadden push Michael Bush for the starting spot?
Does anyone out there have any other ideas?
let me know...