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Raiders training camp preview part two: Depth chart, position battles, story lines, more

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We continue the Raiders training camp preview with a look at the depth chart, position battles, and storylines for the defense and special teams. To return to the offense, click here.


First of all, there's a new defensive staff in place, headed up by new defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. Other coaches include:

DL coach Jethro Franklin
DB coach Marcus Robertson
Asst DB coach Rod Woodson
LB coach Sal Sunseri

Now let's look at the players by position.

Defensive ends: Justin Tuck, Mario Edwards Jr, C.J. WilsonBenson Mayowa, Max Valles, Shelby Harris, Denico Autry, Gary Wilkins

Position battle: Benson Mayowa vs Max Valles

Mayowa was claimed off waivers from the Seahawks prior to last season. He took over as the starting defensive end week six when Lamarr Woodley was lost for the season. In his first couple games he was quite productive, but didn't do much over the second half of the season. He will have to stave off Max Valles who the team drafted in the sixth round and who had 9.0 sacks last season at Virginia.

Storyline: The Raiders must find pass rush from this position. Tuck had 5.0 sacks last season which led the team. This season the Raiders will be relying heavily on linebacker Khalil Mack to rush the passer, but he can't do it alone. Tuck is in the twilight of his career and it is more likely his production will decline than rebound. Edwards was the team's second round pick, but he isn't a true pass rusher. He will mostly be asked to stop the run and set the edge. Anything else is a bonus.

Defensive tackles: Dan Williams, Justin Ellis, Ricky Lumpkin, Leon Orr, Stacy McGee

Position battle: Backups

Williams and Ellis look to have the starting jobs locked up. Behind them, it's less certain. Ricky Lumpkin is a favorite right now. He will have to compete with former sixth round pick McGee and undrafted rookie Leon Orr.

Storyline: How they mix and match the defensive tackle positions will be fun to watch. Williams has been a nose tackle in his career, so he can play either spot. When Williams is at NT, they could move either Mario Edwards or C.J. Wilson over from end to play DT. This also allows them to cover for possible injuries and not keep as many reserve defensive tackles on the active roster.

SLB: Khalil Mack, Malcolm Smith, Josh Shirley
MLB: Curtis Lofton, Ben Heeney, Spencer Hadley, Chase Williams
WLB: Sio Moore, Ray Ray Armstrong, Neiron Ball, Horace Miller

Position battle: Malcolm Smith vs Ray Ray Armstrong

The coaches have raved about the play of Ray Ray Armstrong in relief of the rehabbing Sio Moore at the weak side linebacker spot. Primarily it has been Malcolm Smith who has entered the first team lineup when Mack moves to defensive end. Ray Ray is a weak side linebacker while Smith can play either position. Should Ray Ray revert back to his undisciplined self, all the praise for him goes out the window real quick and Smith becomes the guy.

Storylines: Mack is still technically a linebacker, but he will move back and forth between that and defensive end. With a deep linebacking corps and a thin pass rush, it makes sense to have Mack rushing the passer a good percentage of the time as well as holding the edge in run support. There is also the matter of the health of Sio Moore. He had practiced on a limited basis this offseason, but is on the PUP list to begin camp. The team will get a long look at the aforementioned battle between Malcolm Smith and Ray Ray Armstrong until Moore returns. And of course we can't rule out the possibility his hip injury is severe enough that he never completely returns to form.

Cornerbacks: D.J. Hayden, T.J. Carrie, Keith McGill, Neiko ThorpeJames Dockery, Ras-I Dowling, Dexter McDonald, Chimdi Checkwa, Rob Daniel, SaQwan Edwards

Position battle: Keith McGill vs DJ and TJ

By some accounts McGill filled in for Hayden in OTA's. I noticed he had filled in for Carrie while Carrie was banged up in minicamp. Either way, McGill performed well and could make a push for a starting job this season. He has the size the Raiders covet, he just missed a good portion of last season with injury.

Storyline: The health of Hayden and Carrie will be the main story here. The team needs is counting on them as the starters and neither of them has proven they can stay healthy for extended periods of time. With McGill being next in line to step into the starting role, the leading candidates to be the nickel corner would then be between Neiko Thorpe and free agent addition James Dockery.

SS: Charles Woodson, Larry Asante, Tevin McDonald
FS: Nate Allen, Brandian Ross, Jonathan Dowling, Jimmy Hall

Position battle: Brandian Ross vs Jonathan Dowling

Ross played well as a free safety last season after they brought him back week four. Dowling was the team's seventh round pick in 2014 in the hopes that he could bulk up and compete for the free safety job at some point.

Storyline: The Raiders gave Nate Allen a long term deal with an average of $6 million per season. However, he isn't guaranteed anything after this season so if he doesn't work out, they can cut him with no dead money left behind. He had his best season in 2014 and the team is hoping it was a sign of things to come. With  Charles Woodson entering likely his final NFL season, they would very much like Allen to be the answer.

Special Teams

Brad Seely joins the team as the new Special Teams coach.

K: Sebastian Janikowski, Giorgio Tavecchio
P: Marquette King, Steven Clark
LS: Jon Condo
PR: T.J. Carrie, Trindon Holliday, Austin Willis, Amari Cooper
KR: Trindon Holliday, Taiwan Jones, Austin Willis, Latavius Murray, Trent Richardson

Position battle: Trindon Holliday vs Trindon Holliday

Holliday was signed to replace rookie Andre Debose who was lost to an Achilles injury. While Holliday has been an electric return man in his career, he has also had a real fumbling problem. For a good portion of last season, Carrie was returning both punts and kicks. The team would like to limit his special teams duties as he will carry a greater load on defense. They would also prefer not to use Murray as a return man due to his being the team's feature back. The next option could be Taiwan Jones who has had ball security issues of his own.

Storyline: Marquette King will once again be asked to hold kicks for Sebastian Janikowski. The two had some chemistry issues when Kind held for Seabass two seasons ago. It will be key for them to have worked out those issues.

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