There’s no denying that coaching in this years Senior Bowl game helped shape the Raiders 2019 draft class. Jon Gruden and his staff had the chance to get an up close and personal look at players on both the North and South squads.
In addition to drafting four players from the Senior Bowl game (Johnathan Abram, Hunter Renfrow, Foster Moreau, isaiah Johnson) the Raiders signed three more players from the game as undrafted free agents. (Alec Ingold, Keelan Doss, Te’Von Coney)
Among these rookies who are making strong cases to make the final 53-man roster is fullback Alec Ingold. Standing in his way is last year’s starting fullback, Keith Smith.
Smith suffered a knee injury prior to training camp and was placed on the PUP list. He was activated last week but in his absence the Raiders offense did not miss a beat with Ingold filling in.
There are several intriguing positional battles that are still on going as we inch our way closer to roster cut down day. The fullback job is on that list.
Here are four reasons why Keith Smith’s job could be in jeopardy.
Special teams contributor
One of the areas where current Raiders fullback Keith Smith is a key contributor is on special teams. Having spent four seasons in Dallas with special teams coordinator, Rich Bisaccia, there is a level of comfort there.
If Ingold is to take Smith’s job he needs to demonstrate that he can contribute on special teams. Although it’s a very small sample size, in the week two preseason game, Ingold showed us a glimpse of what he can offer on special teams.
Reason #1 why Alec Ingold deserves to make the team.— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) August 20, 2019
Special teams ability pic.twitter.com/eB34PNBXar
Ingold is a converted linebacker from his days at Wisconsin so he certainly understands how to tackle and go after the ball carrier. His chances of making the roster could very well come down to what the coaches feel he offers from a special teams standpoint.
Punishing lead blocker
Keith Smith has made his bones in this league as a lead blocker, but that is also an area where Alec Ingold is very good.
Ingold is very physical as a blocker and really enjoys laying a big hit on a defender. It was this play in the Senior Bowl that very likely caught the attention of Jon Gruden and said “I want that kid.”
If you aren’t completely sold on Ingold as a blocker that is as good if not better than Smith, check out the first offensive play for the Raiders versus the Cardinals last week.
Reason #2— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) August 20, 2019
Small sample size but looks like a physical lead blocker pic.twitter.com/650onyiy64
You can see from these examples Ingold invites collusions. That’s the mentality you look for in a dominant lead blocker.
Superior offensive threat
One thing is certain, Alec Ingold is far more superior threat on offense than Keith Smith. Throughout his days at Wisconsin to his time now with the Raiders Ingold has displayed his abilities as both a runner and receiver.
In addition to the physicality that Ingold brings to the table he is also very athletic for 242 pounds, clocking in at 4.89 seconds in the forty yard dash.
Everyone knows Gruden loves a fullback that can catch. Through two preseason games Ingold has caught five passes, that’s as many as Keith Smith caught all last season.
Reason #3— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) August 20, 2019
Spider 2 Y Banana...Gruden loves a FB than can catch the ball pic.twitter.com/KC2CP8Qlq4
If you check out some of Ingold’s highlights from Wisconsin you will see that not only can he catch the ball he can take a fullback dive to the house. This is something that Keith Smith has never shown he is capable of doing.
In 2018, Keith Smith signed a two year contract worth $3 million. In contrast, Ingold’s rookie contract is for three years, $1.765 million.
Sure, in the grand scheme of things that is not a huge savings but if you have a position where you can get younger, cheaper, more athletic, and not miss a beat from a blocking standpoint then it seems like a smart move.
With two preseason games still remaining Alec Ingold will have plenty of opportunities to make his case to be on the 53-man roster.