The Oakland Raiders have a lot of their starting spots filled for the 2016 season. That’s great news for a team that many consider a solid contender to earn a wildcard in the AFC. There will be fewer starting spots in the mix, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be camp battles worth paying attention early.
Indeed, the Raiders will have intriguing camp battles that will be going on later this month and it just may be the backup battles that may actually be the most fascinating to watch.
The player that wins this position may or may not even see the field this season but the battle is still one of the most interesting battles to behold this preseason. The Raiders used a fourth round pick to draft QB Connor Cook who is considered a very good NFL prospect and will push to backup David Carr. But before he can further his career at the next level, he will need to compete well against incumbent backup Matt McGloin.
Another reason this will be an interesting battle to watch is because of the importance of the position. Quarterback is the single most important position on a football team and if the starter goes down, the team cannot find success without a quality backup who is ready to step in and lead his team. The expectations going into camp are that the Raiders will hold onto all three QB’s during the 2016 season but the rigors of camp could change this.
This is really the only major starting position battle to watch. Just like in 2015, we will see Austin Howard battle second round pick Menelik Watson for the right tackle spot. At the end of training camp in 2015, Watson walked away as the starter. But a season-ending injury to Watson allowed Howard the chance to be the starting right tackle in 2015.
By the end of the season, Howard looked much more like the guy who was considered one of the better right tackles in the game when the Raiders signed him as a free agent. Watson has more athleticism and therefore more upside than Howard, but if he can’t stay healthy, that won’t matter. Meanwhile, Howard has gotten another taste of starting and performing well so he isn’t going to be too keen on giving that up this year.
Backup Running Back
Raiders’ fifth round pick DeAndre Washington quite possibly could push Latavius Murray for increased touches in the run game. Also in the mix is a slew of running backs including Taiwan Jones, Roy Helu Jr, Marcel Reece and Jamize Olawale. The Raiders’ staff did not feel the 2015 backfield stable was consistent enough, so they went out and drafted a young running back in Washington.
It is possible that Helu competes well against Washington as he was the only person whose lack of touches in 2015 can be attributed to injury and not just on the field performance concerns. But Helu is coming off of surgery to both hips and it’s no guarantee he can return to his form as one of the better third down backs in the league. He also was a healthy scratch for multiple games last season which indicates some distrust on the part of the coaching staff.
The Raiders’ Sebastian Janikowski has been kicking field goals in Silver and Black since 2000 and he also carries a huge cap hit. With his struggles continuing during the 2015 campaign, it may be time for Janikowski to leave Oakland. He will be tested by training camp regular Giorgio Tavecchio, who in recent years has looked more and more like an NFL caliber kicker. Even if the Raiders are unsure about Janikowski, they may want to hang on to the younger Tavecchio if Janikowski continues to struggle. All players are eventually replaced but it’s just so hard to imagine the Black Hole rooting on any other lead foot besides old Seabass.
Training camp is shaping up to have some important position battles. Integral positions for both starter and backup roles are up for grabs with fans waiting with bated breath on who will come out on top.
Joe has spent the last 16 years in financial services but has been known to write a sports article from time to time. A graduate of Drexel University, Joe double majored in finance and marketing and was a starting pitcher on the varsity baseball team. In his free time Joe enjoys snowboarding and visiting as many NFL stadiums as possible.