The Las Vegas Raiders had their rookies report to training camp Monday, sparking excitement from the nation. The improvement in talent at critical positions has fans expecting a tremendous season from the silver and black.
First, the Raiders coaching staff and the front office must complete the 53-man roster. While they come into camp with 90 players right now, the cuts will start to dwindle by the start of the NFL season.
The best man wins the competition with a regime holding a standard of keeping undrafted free agents. The talent a player displays in these practices matters, and we could see surprise players sneak a way onto this team.
Finding a solid guard was the focus going into the offseason. While there wasn’t much movement from the Raiders in free agency, the Raiders drafted Dylan Parham to compete at the position. However, one name that has been mentioned throughout the offseason by coaches is Lester Cotton.
Cotton hasn’t seen significant playing time as a Raider but has found a way to stick around yearly. Coming off a robust developmental period in OTAs and minicamp, Cotton has a shot at a wide-open right guard vacancy. Last preseason didn’t go too well for the former Alabama Crimson Tide giving five pressures on 92 snaps, according to PFF. He would hope that would be a thing of the past and continue his momentum from the offseason through training camp.
Denzelle Good injury is lurking in the background; the young guys have a shot with camp starting earlier than usual. The hall of fame game gives players Cotton a chance to shine early on and steal a spot as the younger option.
The backup quarterback position does not have a front runner. While Jarrett Stidham might have a leg up coming over from the Patriots, his play in OTA’s didn’t get the coaches excited. One player who seemed to hit the spot was Chase Garbers, received high praise from McDaniels.
“I mean, the young kid that just came here after the draft, Chase [Garbers], is working his butt off. It’s just a lot of stuff. In college football, there’s a lot of this stuff that we ask them to do that they don’t necessarily do a lot of. So, he’s poured himself into it.”
The former California Bear ran a system with similar language under Bill Musgrave. Of course, the McDaniels playbook is more extensive, and the curve from college football to the NFL can be steep. But the best player will win the competition if Garbers can impress in practice and preseason games.
Of course, it can be seen as a stretch with many veterans in front of him on the roster. Garbers will have a tough road being the fourth option, but with an extra preseason game, he will have an early chance to make his mark.
The edge positions are set with Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby leading the way as the top duo in the NFL. Since edge rushers do not play every snap, it is essential to have quality backup behind them when they need a breather. Right now, it can be seen as an open competition to take that spot, and one player with a history in this system is Tashawn Bowers.
The Former LSU Tiger started last season with the Patriots and had a good preseason. It helped him land a spot on the practice squad, suiting up twice for New England before signing with the Minnesota Vikings in November. His familiarity with Josh McDaniels and the coaching staff could add an advantage for Bowers in training camp.
It depends on whether players such as Clelin Ferrell or Malcolm Koonce don’t take the next step. Bowers is a player Raider Nation doesn’t want to see hit this team with the young edge rushers' hopes of development. He is a player to watch, looking at the history of solid preseason performances.