Here are some quick hit thoughts on the Raiders' Saturday training camp. The team has practice on Sunday at 9:20 am, their first session in pads:
-UDFA Conner Vernon has been a fan favorite ever since the team signed him immediately following the draft. He earned further support after Dennis Allen mentioned him by name, saying that Vernon had caught his eye after minicamp.
However, Vernon, who projects as a slot receiver in the NFL, has not stood out in training camp with the full team present. He is likely competing with Jacoby Ford and Josh Cribbs for a position on the team and, barring an injury, he seems better destined for the practice squad than the final 53 at this time.
-None of the three players with injury designations – LB Miles Burris, OT Menelik Watson and DT Pat Sims – played on Saturday, either. The Raiders sustained several other injuries including three more LBs getting hurt two of which, Kaluka Maiava and Sio Moore, were projected starters. The third LB hurt was Billy Boyko. Starting CB Mike Jenkins was also banged up. The linebackers were joined by starting CB Mike Jenkins.
Dennis Allen was dismissive as to the severity of the injuries but Maiava emerged from the facility with a walking boot and sporting crutches and a pronounced limp which means that his injury is likely more severe than Allen indicated.
Going into camp, the Raiders’ deepest position was linebacker but they may find themselves lacking for bodies if Moore and Boyko aren’t ready to go today. I will assume that Maiava won’t be ready to go so quickly.
-On the linebacker front, Nick Roach was universally praised for his training camp on Saturday and it’s easy to understand why. He’s shown good command of the huddle and strong coverage skills. He was able to stay with running back Darren McFadden in coverage, which is impressive enough.
-A day after Lucas Nix started at left guard, it was Tony Bergstrom’s turn to start there, again. I still give the edge to Nix because he got the first start, which I see as symbolic, but if he has a lead it’s only a slight one – this is definitely the most competitive position in camp with no clear winner at this time.
-Speaking of the left guard position, another possibility down the road is new interior OL signee Andre Gurode. Gurode practiced with the team for the first time and Saturday and was indeed used as a backup – He started on the 3rd team playing mostly at LG and C but also getting some snaps at RG.
As I said in yesterday’s musings that while the intention may have been to sign Gurode to start, the more likely scenario seems to be that they will use him as a very experienced backup instead.
However, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Gurode can make a push for a starting position. Gurode told Silver and Black Pride’s (and TFDS’ owner) Levi Damion that he had signed to compete for a starting job and “make [his] presence felt.”
Gurode looks like an interior guard. He’s a large, imposing player and has the “big butt, big gut” features that make the best NFL interior linemen. It’s yet to be seen whether he still has the movement skills and athleticism that made him a 5-time Pro-Bowler with the Cowboys but if can regain his form, he has the ability to thrive.
For more thoughts about the Raiders throughout the day, follow me on Twitter at AsherMathews