Three Raiders who will benefit from being pushed by competition
It doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or a seasoned veteran, nothing brings out the best in football players better than offseason competition and the Oakland Raiders have plenty of that to go around. As with every offseason, the Raiders have an influx of talent that has been added to the roster and that naturally means that players already on the roster are looking at their potential replacements coming to town. For some, the arrival of competition will push them to higher levels, for others, it will mean the end of their tenure. But for now, we’re more concerned with the guys who will be motivated to get better by the competition. Here’s a look at three guys who will benefit from someone coming for their job:
Many believe the drafting of Obi Melifonwu represents the beginning of the end for Reggie Nelson. I’d argue he was already on his path to the end and that Melifonwu is there to take over when the inevitable happens. That being said, his addition may backfire a bit in that Nelson is a hard working veteran who clearly doesn’t want to be done playing football. Seeing competition brought in would make some veterans upset and defiant. For Nelson, the addition of young players at his position just means he has more work to do. He said that the back to back draft picks of Karl Joseph and Obi Melifonwu have kept his nose to the grindstone working to improve in any way he can so that he can hold off the young guys gunning for his job. Nelson’s spot on the Raiders won’t be around a whole lot longer, but in the short term, Melifonwu may push Nelson to be a better player at first.
Thanks to the Mario Edwards, Jr. injury, Jihad Ward got a whole lot of playing time in his rookie season. Unfortunately for him and Raiders fans alike, that time made it clear that Ward still has a lot of work to do before he will be the player the Raiders are looking for. This year, not only will Ward have to compete with a healthy MEJ for playing time, he will also have to compete with rookie Eddie Vanderdoes, another interior pass rusher the Raiders added through the draft. Luckily for the Raiders, one of Ward’s best traits is his hard work and determination. Everyone remembers the story of how Ward would travel hours each way to junior college just so he could play football. That kind of determination will show up once again this offseason as Ward fights to prove he was worthy of the second round pick spent on him.
This one may catch some off guard. After all, there really isn’t anyone who will push Cooper for his role as starter. But the addition of Cordarrelle Patterson definitely infringes on some of the areas that Cooper had laid claim. In particular, the speedy and athletic Cooper was often used in a similar way to how it’s expected the Raiders will use Patterson: Get the ball in his hands quick and for short yards then let him put defenders in a blender on his way to yards after the catch. Those kinds of non-route running, gimmicky type plays that are closer to run plays than pass plays are the best way to get Patterson (a poor route runner) involved with the offense. Meanwhile, the Raiders won’t want a playbook full of bubble screens so Cooper could see more down field routes. And if you ask me, that means getting the most out of Cooper. So while he won’t be pushed in the same way as Ward or Nelson, the addition of Patterson could have a similar beneficial impact in helping Amari Cooper take the next step and move from a guy who gets a lot of yards on those gimmicky type plays, to a receiver who gets all of his yards downfield.