Oakland Raiders Preseason Week-3: Positions are Still Up for Grabs!
John Doublin – Aug 24, 2012
When the Oakland Raiders host the Detroit Lions at O.co Coliseum this Saturday, there are several roster spots still available for the taking. Some are positions that were never set in the first place, but others are positions that most thought were already occupied.
With the below average performance, (being kind) of the Raiders' offense, it's been difficult to determine who is and who is not in danger of losing their starting job, or their place on the final 53 man roster altogether.
This week's game against the Lions will offer a fantastic opportunity for the Raiders to test themselves against a playoff caliber team. The Lions' explosive offense will test the secondary, and their stout defensive line will separate the men from the boys in the running game.
So, what positions are still open? Who are the players with the most to prove and the best opportunity to prove it?
Starting Tight End: Having missed all of preseason with an injury, the incumbant Brandon Myers is returning to reclaim what was most likely his job at the start of the offseason.
Until now, Richard Gordon and David Ausberry have been sharing the tight end duties, but Myers is returning to the lineup this Saturday to prove himself and eliminate any further challenges from the upstarts at his position.
Each of these men offer something different. Ausberry is a serious receiving threat similar to Jermichael Finely of the Packers, but offers only marginal blocking skill. Gordon is a beast of a blocker, but is barely adequate as a receiver—although he is improving. Myers is the most experienced and balanced of the three, showing the ability to both block and receive with equal ability.
Look for Myers to get significant playing time and see a lot of targets in the passing game. Myers' performance this week versus the Lions could be the determining factor and decide who will carry the moniker of "Starting Tight End for the Oakland Raiders" into the 2012 NFL Regular Season.
Backup Runningback: There is zero doubt who will start the season as the No. 1 runningback; that job belongs to Darren McFadden and no one else is even remotely close to challenging the most explosive back in the NFL.
However, D-mac's under-studies have had a tumultuous preseason and all but one have missed significant time due to injury. If the season started today, the job would have to go to the only running back that has played more than 10 plays, Lonyae Miller.
Mike Goodson will be looking to shake off a horrible debut against the Arizona Cardinals last Friday in which he coughed up the ball not once, but twice...losing both.
Meanwhile, Taiwan Jones is set to make his 2012 debut in an attempt to quiet his critics and prove to the world that he should be McFadden's primary backup.
Look for both Jones and Goodson to be given ample opportunities to run the ball and cement their position on the team—or, with a bad performance, remove their chances of climbing up the depth chart.
Starting Weak-Side Linebacker: This is one of the aforementioned positions most people, (including this writer) thought were pre-determined. Unfortunately, due to injury, it's still up in the air. Last year's starter, Aaron Curry's knee injury turned out to be much more serious than previously expected and he has missed all of camp and the preseason.
This leaves the other players at this position to fight it out for the starting job, assuming Curry is unable to return.
Rookie 4th round pick Miles Burris, and undrafted rookies Chad Kilgore and nephew of Brian "The Boz" Bosworth, Korey Bosworth will be sharing time at weak-side linebacker to see who is ready to fill Curry's cleats.
All of the high-hopes surrounding Burris have yet to be fulfilled. In his time this preseason, he's looked lost, but makes up for a lot of that with a high motor and great hustle. Unfortunately for Burris, motor alone won't cut it in the regular season.
Meanwhile, Chad Kilgore has played great. Maybe not as athletic as Burris, Kilgore seems to have a better understanding of the defensive scheme and is rarely out of position. He too has a high motor and is going to give Burris all the competition he can handle.
Bosworth was a late addition to the team to add depth. It's likely that depth is all Bosworth will ever be for the Raiders as the two players ahead of him, (as well as Curry) are far more talented and likely to perform well enough to relegate him to the practice squad—or even the unemployment line.
No. 3 Wide Receiver: Much like the runningback position, there is no doubt who will start the season as the No. 1 wide out. Darrius Heyward-Bey has the position locked up. The No. 2 spot will also be locked up as soon as Denarius Moore is healthy enough to return, (reports say that will be sooner, rather than later).
This makes the battle for the No. 3 spot a heated battle between what is most likely three players. Jacoby Ford is the incumbant, Juron Criner is the 4th round pick, and Rod Streater is the undrafted surprise of training camp.
Thus far, Ford hasn't done much to state his case, suffering a bad case of the "dropsies" in the first preseason game, but rebounding pretty well last week against the Cardinals. Criner has been up and down, but hasn't show anything spectacular. Streater? Well, that's another story.
Streater has asserted himself as the guy that will make the coaches' decision very difficult. He played well against the Cowboys in Week-1...and even better in Week-2 in Phoenix. He runs crisp routes and caught almost everything thrown his way. In traffic; bad pass behind him; nothing seems to rattle this kid.
Look for the Ford, Criner and Streater to get the bulk of the playing time this week against the Lions as the three of them are the front-runners for the No. 3 wide receiver position.
But then...there's Eddie McGee! Don't sleep on McGee as he has surprised and impressed during training camp, although he hasn't had much of an opportunity to show it in real game situations. That could change this week at "The O."
Nickel Cornerback: Coming into camp, the starting cornerback jobs seemed to be destine for the "new guys," Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell. However, Spencer has not been performing well and some other players had appeared to step up their games.
DeMarcus Van Dyke had been playing well and making noise in camp, but when the bright lights of an actual game rolled around, he's shown the same problems he had last year. He always seems to be glued to the receiver he is responsible for covering, but time and time again DVD fails to make a play on the ball.
Chimdi Chekwa on the other hand, has looked solid. He's been in position on most every play, he even got an interception against the Cardinals. Chekwa has been a solid tackler and has provided solid coverage all preseason long.
Behind these two you have Pat Lee, Brian McCann, Brandon Underwood and undrafted Conroy Black . Of the four, McCann brings the most value as he can return kicks and punts, but thus far, Pat Lee has been the best cover man.
This battle could be the most intriguing of all, but if DVD can get his head around to look for the ball with regularity, the Nickel cornerback spot is his. If he's not able to show the awareness in this area, Chekwa is likely the guy.
In Closing: Saturday is the Raiders' "Dress rehearsal" and the game coaches and fans alike will be looking for a solid performance from everyone.
Head coach Dennis Allen has said that the team has done some actual game-planning this week to get the players a feel for how a regular season week is going to go. This means the excuse of, "well...we didn't really plan for anything and we're just building chemistry, so this performance doesn't matter" will be gone!
Saturday is the day and the time is now! Players must step up and prove they can get it done for the Silver and Black, or they could find themselves buried deep on the depth chart, or out of a job altogether.
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