We’re very close to watching some Las Vegas Raiders football as the Raiders host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday for both teams' first preseason game of the year. San Francisco made the trek out to Las Vegas a few days in advance for a couple of joint practices as well, the first being Thursday.
That’s the lead for this week’s mailbag as your questions and my answers are below!
Q: Which position group battle are you most looking forward to at the joint practices with the Niners?
I think both sides of the trenches will be the most interesting battles.
While Nick Bosa is currently holding out and won’t be participating, San Francisco has an edge rusher that I liked in the draft a couple of years ago in Drake Jackson from USC. Jackson is quick and athletic which could give the Raiders’ offensive tackles trouble, especially Thayer Munford and Jermaine Eluemunor who are locked in a position battle on the right side. Also, it will be interesting to see how the interior of Las Vegas’ line handles Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead.
On the other side, I’d love to see some one-on-one reps between Maxx Crosby and Trent Williams. Those two guys are elite players and widely considered some of the best at their positions. Getting a first look at Byron Young and Neil Farrell Jr. will be interesting as well since they just came off injured lists.
Of course, Jimmy Garoppolo is someone to keep track of as well. He gets to go up against some familiar faces so this could be a good week for him to build some confidence and get in a rhythm seeing as he should have a good idea of what to expect from the defense.
The Davante Adams trade rumors circulated again after Aaron Rodgers took a massive pay cut, so people started speculating that the New York Jets were making room to strike a deal for Adams. Also, the wideout went on NFL Network and talked about how he’s not happy that Josh Jacobs didn’t get a long-term contract and isn’t at training camp.
"Not having him right now is obviously something that I'm not happy with...he played like the best back in the league last year, which if you ask me he is the best back in the league." Davante Adams on the absence of Josh Jacobs @CoachDavidShaw @nflnetwork #Raiders pic.twitter.com/KGAsFgIinR— Bridget Condon (@BridgetCondon_) August 6, 2023
However, there have been no rumors or stories that he wants out, just speculation on potential trades. Adams has said multiple times that he wants to be a Raider through all of this calamity, so I don’t think he’ll get moved, and his contract makes it harder for the team to trade him.
Back in May when the trade rumors first started, The Athletic’s Vic Tafur wrote that trading Adams would mean the Raiders take on a $31.4 million cap hit this year and $23.6 million next year if they trade the wideout. So, it would take a massive haul and the Jets can’t trade their 2024 first- or second-round picks until after the season because the second-rounder they gave up to Rodgers is conditional and turns into a first if he plays 65 percent of snaps.
Long story short, I wouldn’t put much weight into those rumors right now and all signs point to Adams staying for this season.
That’s a tough question given the state of the position group, but I’d put my money on Bilal Nichols. He had a down year last season with the Raiders but had eight sacks during his last two seasons with the Chicago Bears, making Nichols a decent breakout candidate in 2023. The other guy I’d keep an eye on is Byron Young, who was more of a run defender in college but showed a lot of growth as a pass-rusher with four sacks in 13 games last season.
I’ll go with Thayer Munford at right tackle.
Last week, Jermaine Eluemunor got benched for committing too many penalties in practice—an issue he had last season, too—and Munford replaced him on the first team offense for a few days after that. Those two were competing against each other at the beginning of last season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the second-year pro wins the battle this time.
Granted, the Raiders released their initial depth chart earlier this week and had Eluemunor over Munford, but I wouldn’t put much weight into that. Most coaches just fill it out because they have to and it’s almost always pure chalk to avoid any conteversies/distractions in the media.
Jakob Johnson has been taking reps at tight end, but I’m not exactly sure how often. He said he still meets with the running backs but hinted at a bigger role in the offense this season by saying “there’s so many different places that you can be that you have to be ready for” as a fullback in Josh McDaniels offense.
The point you bring up about the Raiders lacking a true blocking tight end carries a lot of weight, in my opinion. Especially early in the season while Michael Mayer is still getting his feet wet, I could see Johnson taking on that role. They’ll just need to design and show a few play-action passes to him to keep defenses honest when he’s in the game.
That’ll do it for this week’s mailbag. Thank you all for submitting questions and, as your weekly reminder, if you’d like to have your questions answered in a future column, tweet them at me, @MHolder95, email them to SBPQuestions1@gmail.com or look for our weekly call for questions on the site. The latter will publish on Thursdays throughout the season.