It’s the time many Raiders fans have been waiting for since January. Yes, football is coming to Oakland on Monday. While it may only be a preseason game, there are some developing positional battles that will have a huge effect on how the Raiders go about business during the preseason waiver wire, as well as how the team preforms in the regular season. Due to the poor cap-situation the team was in earlier in the offseason, the Raiders had to cut ties with some quality starters and solid backups. Despite the lack of available money, the Raiders were able to add the likes of; Ron Bartell, Shawntae Spencer, Mike Brisiel, Philip Wheeler, and Dave Tollefson. All of the aforementioned players will get substantial amounts of playing time, Nonetheless, there is going to be competition around the board for starting jobs, as well as players competing to earn a spot on the Raiders. Here are some positional battles to pay attention to this upcoming Monday against the Dallas Cowboys…
Starting Right Cornerback: Demarcus Van Dyke vs. Shawntae Spencer
Word out of training camp is second-year cornerback, Damarcus Van Dyke, has made huge strides since his rookie year. He has made an impression on coaches with his play during training camp. Raiders’ receivers that are matched-up against Van Dyke haven’t had much luck getting open. That bodes very well for him, seeing there isn’t a clear starter opposite Ron Bartell. Shawntae Spencer is a well-traveled veteran cornerback.. He came to Oakland after being cut by the San Francisco 49ers this offseason. Shawntae Spencer has 8-years of starting experience in the NFL, experience success in many of those seasons. While his physical skills aren’t up to par with Demarcus Van Dyke, Shawntae Spencer has tons of experience and hopes to use that to his advantage. As of right now, Shawntae Spencer is penciled as the starter at left cornerback, but if Demarcus Van Dyke has a good game it cause the coaches to rethink their decision.
Starting Right Tackle: Khalif Barnes vs. Joseph Barksdale
Earlier in the offseason the Raiders made a smart move and resigned veteran tackle Khalif Barnes to a 1-year/$2 million contract. Barnes was brought in (again) to battle with second-year tackle, Joseph Barksdale, for the starting job at right tackle. It’s early, but Khalif Barnes looks like the clear starter. Playing for the Raiders last year, Khalif Barnes had an up-and-down year. He was excellent in pass protection, but struggled with penalties and run blocking. With the installation of the zone-blocking system, Barnes’ issue’s in run blocking should be masked. He’s a much better at help blocking than power, 1-on-1 blocking. Joseph Barksdale is entering his second-year in NFL. He showed some flashes playing guard and tackle last year. The Raiders don’t have much money invested in Barnes. If Barksdale starts-off this preseason with a bang, it could start to heat up Barnes’ seat. It will also be interesting to see if Barnes’ penalty issue’s are on the way to being nullified.
No. 2 Tight End: Richard Gordon vs. David Ausberry
So far, Brandon Myers has proved me wrong and it sounds like he has made huge improvements. Reports out of Napa are that Brandon Myers looks like the starter. Myers is a solid, all-around tight end. Given that, the interesting battle to watch will be to see who is going to be the No. 2 behind Myers. Second year tight ends, David Ausberry, and Richard Gordon will be competing for the No. 2 tight end spot. Both players have completely different play-styles. Richard Gordon is bruising 6’5′ 270 lb. bruiser. Even though he is very young, he’s one of the better blocking tight ends/ H-backs in the league, which fits the Raiders’ run-first mentality. Gordon is very raw as a receiver, but early reports indicate he’s made some improvement as a receiver since his rookie year. In the Raiders’ first official depth chart, Richard Gordon is the backup to Brandon Myers. David Ausberry is completely on the other side of the spectrum. He’s a converted wide receiver who excels in pass-catching, but is unproven as a run blocker, and has inconsistent hands at times. With Myers possibly out for the upcoming Dallas game, it will be important for each one of these guys to make an impression on the coaching staff.
Backup Center: Alex Parsons vs. Colin Miller
Stefen Wisniewski is the clear-cut starter at center. Colin Miller and Alex Parsons will have a chance to compete backup spot behind Stefen Wisniewski. Both Parsons and Miller are entering their second years in the league. Alex Parsons spent the previous season on the Raiders’ practice squad. During his time at USC, Alex Parsons was a solid lineman. Presumably, his year on the practice squad helped him improve even further. Alex Parsons is also versatile. He has the ability to play center as well, as guard. Considering the lack of depth on the offensive line, Alex Parsons versatility gives him a better chance to make the team. Expect to see Alex Parsons split time at guard and center in the upcoming game against Dallas. Colin Miller went undrafted and spent time on the Steelers roster until he was cut last September. Colin Miller is well-versed in the zone-blocking system from his college days at Central Michigan. He has a chance to make an impression this Monday against Dallas. Colin Miller may not have Alex Parsons’ versatility, but if he has a good game at center, it can only help his case. If either of these guys have a good game, the team may hold off adding a veteran lineman from the waiver wire or free agency.
Nickel Cornerback: Chimdi Chekwa vs. Pat Lee
Prior to a season-ending injury, Chimdi Chekwa was having a solid rookie season. At one point, Chimdi Chekwa looked better than Demarcus Van Dyke. Coming into this training camp, Chekwa has had an uphill battle. He’s a mid-round pick, coming off a season-ending injury, and playing for a new regime that has no stake in his success or failure. Reports are that Chekwa has had an up-and-down training camp, so far. This Monday, Chekwa has a chance to put his inconsistent training camp behind him and show the coaching staff that he;s on the right track. Chekwa will be competiing with veteran Pat Lee for time in the nickel. Pat Lee is a former second round pick for Green Bay Packers, who so far, has been a disappointment. Reggie McKenzie is familiar with Pat Lee from his time in Green Bay. He will knows what Pat Lee is good at, and will give him a chance to succeed. So far, Pat Lee has had a solid training camp. Not great, but a consistent quality performance on the field. Depending on how Chekwa and Lee perform during this game, it will help the coaches decipher who should be on the bubble for when cuts come around later in training camp.
That’s it. Even though it’s just a preseason game, I think it’s safe to say we’re all excited for some Raiders football. It will interesting to see how all the players perform in their first taste of action this season. Thanks for reading