With the Raiders releasing their first unofficial preseason depth chart, let's dig a little deeper into what it means. Here are a few observations I had and conclusions I drew from it.
Disclaimer: Prior to the depth chart release Jack Del Rio pointed out that it was not him who put it together but the PR staff. He did this last year as well. And after its release, there are those who feel it necessary to get all snooty about how the depth chart is meaningless. It's not. It may not be "official", but it isn't meaningless. It's the Raiders head of media relations who puts it out, not some schmuck who wandered in off the street. With that said, let's move on.
QB Derek Carr, Matt McGloin, Connor Cook
RB Latavius Murray, Taiwan Jones, DeAndré Washington, Jalen Richard, George Atkinson III
FB Jamize Olawale, Marcel Reece
WR Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts, K.J. Brent, Joe Hansley, Nathan Palmer, Max McCaffrey
WR Amari Cooper, Andre Holmes, Johnny Holton, Jaydon Mickens, Marvin Hall
TE Lee Smith, Clive Walford, Mychal Rivera, Gabe Holmes, Ryan O'Malley, Colton Underwood
LT Donald Penn, Matt McCants, Torian White
LG Kelechi Osemele, Jon Feliciano, Terran Vaughn
C Rodney Hudson, Ross Burbank, Oni Omoile
RG Gabe Jackson, Vadal Alexander, Mitch Bell
RT Menelik Watson, Austin Howard, Denver Kirkland
1. Taiwan Jones is listed as the number two running back primarily by seniority. In practices, it's been DeAndre Washington who was the next back up after Latavius Murray. Jones's role in the offense is in more of a specialty role. He also does a lot of work on special teams.
2. Jamize Olawale is listed as the starting fullback ahead of Marcel Reece. Some would point to Reece being suspended for the first three games of this season as the reason for this, but this isn't a regular season depth chart. Reece is allowed to play in the preseason. Reece has been doing a lot of work with the tight ends this camp. It would appear he will be more of an H-back while Olawale will be utilized in more of the traditional fullback role. Also consider, Olawale was signed to a big extension last year while Reece just turned 31.
3. After the top four wide receivers, the next two receivers of KJ Brent and Johnny Holton is accurate to how they've performed this camp. They are currently the leading candidates to cling to the bottom of the wide receiver corps.
4. Lee Smith ahead of Clive Walford may shock some because Walford is expected to be the team's leading tight end receiver. However, Smith started every game he played last season as the team's blocking tight end. Therefore there's nothing to see there. It doesn't mean Walford is a backup. They will see the field together a good deal and Walford will still be the team's top tight end receiving target.
5. Menelik Watson continues to lead the charge for the starting right tackle job. He has since the beginning of the offseason. When Howard initially returned for minicamps, he was given some first team reps too, but Watson has held it down throughout camp.
DE Mario Edwards Jr., Denico Autry
DT Jihad Ward, Stacy McGee, Leon Orr, Drew Iddings
NT Justin Ellis, Dan Williams, Darius Latham, Derrick Lott
DE Khalil Mack, James Cowser, Branden Jackson, Greg Townsend Jr., Lenny Jones
SLB Bruce Irvin, Shilique Calhoun, Korey Toomer
MLB Ben Heeney, Cory James, John Lotulelei, Kyrie Wilson
WLB Malcolm Smith, Neiron Ball, Daren Bates
LCB David Amerson, DJ Hayden, Neiko Thorpe, Antonio Hamilton
RCB Sean Smith, TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald, Kenneth Durden, Tramain Jacobs
FS Reggie Nelson, Nate Allen, Brynden Trawick, Chris Hackett
SS Karl Joseph, Dewey McDonald, Keith McGill, Jimmy Hall, Chris Edwards
6. Jihad Ward as the starting defensive tackle is interesting but not unexpected. The Raiders took him in the second round with defensive tackle in mind. A pure 3-tech DT was a major need going into the draft.
7. The tremendous depth on this team really shows itself in the defensive front seven. Mario Edwards as the starter ahead of Denico Autry who started a good portion of last season on the opposite side. Dan Williams was a starter last year as well, and he takes a backseat at nose tackle to Justin Ellis. Then Mack as a defensive end, though he will play linebacker as well, depending on the set.
8. At cornerback, two new starters put two former starter TJ Carrie and DJ Hayden in a heated competition for the nickel corner spot. Both have had their moments in camp, signaling the cornerback position is in pretty good shape.
9. Safety is another spot with two new starters at two different ends of their career. Reggie Nelson is a 10-year veteran who signed this offseason and Karl Joseph was the team's top draft pick at 14 overall. Both missed the entirety of the offseason, but returned in time for camp and almost immediately took their place with the first team.
P Marquette King
K Sebastian Janikowski, Giorgio Tavecchio
H Marquette King
LS Jon Condo, Andrew East
KR Taiwan Jones, DeAndré Washington, Jalen Richard, George Atkinson III
PR TJ Carrie, DeAndré Washington, Joe Hansley, Jaydon Mickens
10. With the kicker and punter spots set, the compeition is at the return spots. Special Teams coach Brad Seely has reiterated that TJ Carrie and Taiwan Jones lead the way as the incumbents. But he has also said it's still an open competition for the jobs with several rookies as the eager suitors. Though DeAndre Washington is listed as the next up at both spots, Joe Hansley and Jaydon Mickens could make a strong push for the punt return job.