The top four training camp battles for the Raiders and who will win them

The Oakland Raiders are preparing to enter training camp with higher expectations than they’ve had in over a decade. But even with a vastly improved roster supporting those high expectations, this is still a team who has a lot to figure out during training camp. Aside from having a new offensive coordinator and a new assistant defensive head coach (John Pagano) which likely means at least slight changes to scheme, the Raiders still have starting roles up for grabs.

But, rather than point out the top competitions heading into camp as I have done in years past, I decided to add a little twist and give my personal predictions for who comes out on top in these competitions. Let’s have a look:


Austin Howard vs. Marshall Newhouse vs. Vadal Alexander

The Raiders have one of the best offensive lines in the entire league and yet one position remains a huge question mark: Right tackle.

For years this position has been a plug and play for the Raiders without a real long term answer. This year appears headed in the direction of yet another plug and play starter, unless youngster Vadal Alexander is able to win the job. When he was drafted, many believed that Alexander was better suited to play inside at guard in the NFL. The Raiders, however, appear to disagree as they had him playing tackle last season, where he got some spot starts due to injuries. He played better than expected, but the Raiders were also willing to eat all of the holding penalties he incurred because that was better than allowing a sack. That’s fine for a backup but it showed Alexander has a way to go before he is ready to be a starter in this league. Meanwhile, Austin Howard and Marshall Newhouse are two veterans with a ton of starting experience, but neither one excites you. They are both stop gaps who can be anything from bad to above average but probably won’t do a lot better than that. But based on their experience, I believe they beat out Alexander. But which one is the starter on day one? Newhouse. He’s had the edge early in the offseason and is a Mike Tice choice which leads me to believe he was chosen to be a stop gap.

STARTER ON DAY ONE: Marshall Newhouse


Corey James vs. Marquel Lee vs. Tyrell Adams

Nope. I don’t think Ben Heeney has a chance at the starting MLB role.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, who will be the starter? Tyrell Adams has been mentioned early and often this offseason but he’s very unproven and has been in the league for a few years without ever really breaking out. Cory James had a solid rookie season but clearly wasn’t good enough for the Raiders to completely trust him since they signed Perry Riley mid year to start over him after Heeney got hurt. That being said, James is a guy who is still learning the position having only moved to inside linebacker late in his college career. Marquel Lee is a guy that the Raiders got late in the draft and who represents pretty good value. He has his flaws, which is why he dropped to the later rounds, but he also has a lot of potential and given the fact that middle linebacker can often times be a two down position, Lee has a legitimate shot at starting if he plays well in camp and preseason. But at the end of the day, I believe it will be Cory James who wins the starting role. He was a work in progress last year and yet still flashed some very promising moments. With another offseason under his belt, I think James surprises many and has a solid year for the Raiders.



Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Seth Roberts

Cordarrelle Patterson isn’t really a slot receiver so I’m not looking at this as a competition for the slot receiver role, I’m looking at it as a competition for the most targets after Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Seth Roberts is the incumbent, a skillful route runner who came out of nowhere as an undrafted free agent. But despite the immense amount of potential, inconsistencies and dropped passes have plagued Roberts and threaten to severely limit his ceiling. Meanwhile, the Raiders brought in Cordarrelle Patterson, a guy with a huge ceiling but who is limited thanks to poor route running. But, one of the reasons Patterson signed with the Raiders was because of their willingness to help develop him into a well rounded receiver. At the end of the season, I think these two will have very similar numbers as far as catches and targets but I think Patterson will put up more impressive numbers as far as yards and touchdowns.



T.J. Carrie vs. Gareon Conley

Gareon Conley was brought in to be a number one corner but early in his career, he could very easily start out as a nickel corner. But before he can even begin as the nickel back, he will need to beat out T.J. Carrie. Last season, D.J. Hayden was the nickel corner but when he went down with an injury, Carrie not only stepped into the role without missing a beat, he played much better than Hayden had. Carrie is now a veteran who has experience playing all over the secondary and because of that he has a very good shot at being the day one nickel. On top of that, the Raiders have shown a hesitancy to start rookies in the secondary on day one as we saw with Karl Joseph last season. Because of that, I believe Carrie will start off as the nickel corner but as the season progresses, we will see more and more of Conley, but at the expense not only of Carrie, but of Sean Smith and David Amerson as well. Conley is more than just a nickel corner and as the season goes on, I imagine he will be used as a matchup guy who plays wherever he is needed the most, outside or inside.


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