The football version of the demarcation line has arrived for the Las Vegas Raiders. The pads are now on and contact is ever-present in training camp. During the previous practice sessions, coaches noted it’s hard to properly evaluate when it was shells and shorts.
The pads were put on Wednesday and now the coaches can begin to truly assess the pretenders from the contenders — the players who are 53-man roster material and who are merely camp fodder.
“Oh, that’s New Year’s baby. We get to see some fireworks,” veteran running back Brandon Bolden said during his post-camp practice press conference on Tuesday.
The arrival of padded practices inherently means more physical sessions and along with the wear-and-tear on their bodies, the players still must contend with the cerebral workout the Raiders coaching staff is putting them through. Thus, it’s ample time to see who belongs and who doesn’t.
Keep this in mind: There are things that go unseen for media and don’t see the light of day in stories or social media. The workouts, media blacked out practices, or even film study. These are the things that make or break a player — the difference between the waiver wire or a spot on the 53-man roster or practice squad.
Now that the Silver & Black have donned the pads, expect the competition for both the outside wide receiver spot opposite of Davante Adams and the interior offensive line to heat up.
Fight For Outside WR
There are plenty of contenders: Mack Hollins, Demarcus Robinson, Tyron Johnson, Keelan Cole, Isaiah Zuber, D.J Turner, et al. How the receivers hang in padded practices against their teammate defensive backs and in preseason tilts likely dictates if the position will be a rotation or dominated by one particular player.
Each of the aforementioned wide receivers did good things in the camp sessions before the pads come on and it’ll be intriguing which ones keep impressing McDaniels and his coaching staff.
It’s a good spot to get snaps from especially considering the Raiders have bona fide players No. 1 receiver in Davante Adams, slot receiver in Hunter Renfrow and tight end in Darren Waller. The other three spots will draw its fair share of attention leaving the other outside receiver spot a potential volume production position since coverage may lean Adams’, Renfrow’s or Waller’s way.
Offensive Line Shakeup?
There’s likely going to be a ripple effect of Denzelle Good retiring. The versatile offensive linemen had the ability to shuttle between the guard and tackle spots and was expected to compete for the starting role at right guard or perhaps right tackle.
With Good out of the mix, there’s potential for a OL shakeup. Veteran Brandon Parker, who has taken snaps with the starting group at right tackle, noted on Tuesday the spot is up for grabs. He’s duking it out with Alex Leatherwood and Jermaine Eluemunor for the tackle spot opposite of anchor left tackle Kolton Miller.
Leatherwood could go back to right guard if he doesn’t win the tackle gig, but Lester Cotton Jr. and rookie Dylan Parham will provide stout competition at RG.
#Raiders OL Brandon Parker on playing right tackle: "It's an outright competition" between himself, Alex Leatherwood, Jermaine Eluemunor, Lester Cotton. Parker, though, has been getting most of the first-team reps at RT early in camp. Again, pads come on tomorrow...— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) July 26, 2022
Door Is Open For Young DTs
Veterans Johnathan Hankins and Bilal Nichols remain on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list meaning now is the opportune time for the other/younger defensive tackles on the Raiders roster to make an impression.
Rookies Neil Farrell Jr. and Matthew Butler profile as nose tackle and three-technique types, respectively, and those are the roles Hankins and Nichols are slated to have. It’s not clear when either Hankins and Nichols are slated to return to the practice field — being on the PUP list means they can be at the facilities and be in meetings, but they’re prohibited from practicing — so the door is open for Farrell and Butler. Same goes for veterans Vernon Butler, Tyler Lancaster, Kendall Vickers, Andrew Billings and Kyle Peko.