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Raiders embracing competitions: Defense Edition

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Recently I posted an article talking about the competitions on the offensive side of the ball. It doesn't stop on that side of the ball though, there are also plenty of interesting competitions along the defensive side as well.

The most intriguing competition on the defensive side for me is the competition to see who is going to start as the corners. Currently the two people that I believe will be starting are both unavailble for the OTA's, they are Tracy Porter and D.J. Haydan. As long as they are healthy to start the season they should be the starters considering they are both young and talented players. Mike Jenkins would be the odd man out if that were to happen.

Jenkins wouldn't drop too far being as he would be the number 3 corner on the team. In today's NFL the 3rd cornerback spends more than half the time on the field anyway with most teams running at least 3 WR sets more often than not. Don't expect Jenkins just to accept this hypothesis as gospel though, he came here with the hopes of winning one of the starting spots and he has every chance to prove that he deserves it.

Besides the competition to start at cornerback there are also some competitions going on at each of the linebacker spots. The middle linebacker projected to start is Nick Roach, but the fan favorite Miles Burris will be given plenty of opportunity to show he deserves to be an every down player. There will be a lot of times where these two will line up together as they are the most talented all around linebackers on the team, but they will undoubtedly be in a tug of war to be deemed the starter at week 1.

At outside linebacker there are 3 starter quality players for 2 spots, and each one of them know exactly what they are up against. Those 3 players are; rookie Sio Moore who is expected to be a key contributor at getting much needed pressure on the QB, Kevin Burnett who is a player that has been consistently good for a long time and was brought in to be a veteran presence, and Kaluka Maiava who is a younger player with a lot of upside and a decent amount of starting experience over his 4 years in the NFL.

Expect Sio Moore to show his stuff early and often as he is the most confident player on the team. After he was drafted he said he was the best linebacker in the draft and that he was going to make every other team regret having passed him up. Those are definitely words of somebody who is going to give his all to get one of those two outside linebacker spots, but he also has enough versatility that he could be seen along the defensive line as well.

Speaking of that defensive line there are some battles going on there as well, although they are not for the starting jobs which already are taken by Lamarr Houston (DE), Vance Walker (DT), Pat Sims (DT), and Andre Carter (DE). The battle to watch is at the back up DE spot where there will be 2nd year player Jack Crawford, veteran Jason Hunter, and rookie David Bass. Realistically all three will be used in a rotation to keep each player fresh, but each player will be eager to show they deserve the most playing time.

The Safety position also has their starters already solidified in Tyvon Branch and Charles Woodson, but they have a few players battling to back them up. Those players are; 7 year veteran Usama Young, 5 year veteran Reggie Smith, 2nd year player Brandian Ross, and rookie Shelton Johnson. The likely backups are Brandian Ross and Usama Young, with Reggie Smith and Shelton Johnson needed to put on a show to prove they deserve the spot instead.

There is no doubt that this football team is full of competition, but seeing it all on paper is really eye opening anyway. The Raiders didn't have money to go out and find expensive free agents, nor would they have been likely to go after them had they been holding plenty of cash for them. That is not Reggie McKenzie's plan.

Reggie's plan is to build the team with players that want to be here and have chips on their shoulders to prove that they are good enough for this league. These competitions are a direct result of that plan and the Raiders coaches now have a lot of work to do to decide who will have won each of these battles. It will be a very interesting time for all of us watching as these competitions play out throughout the OTA's, training camp, and the preseason.