Neil’s NFL Daily: July 28, 2013
Saturday, July 27 – Raiders Camp (Napa)
For a team that’s in a state of flux (although maybe starting up to nine new players on defense could be categorized as something more) the Raiders looked very much as expected. The depth chart I amended after watching today’s practice – the one you see below – only has a few minor, aesthetic differences to the one I drew up three weeks ago. Obviously things could change from there but, somewhat strangely, nothing immediately comes to mind.
In his press conference, Dennis Allen had the air of a man who believes his team will make a decent fist of upsetting the prognosticators; the majority who see the Raiders as having a good shot at the first selection of the 2014 draft. I’m more with Allen in that regard – while this team is a long way off the playoffs it’s hard to think they’ll be the worst team in football either.
I’ve started showing the key position battles in my starting line-up charts (below) but I can’t show perhaps the biggest competition that’s emerging because the players concerned could never start.
It seemed unlikely when Chris Kluwe recently signed with Oakland but it’s possible he might be jobless come September. That’s because 2012 free agent pick-up Marquette King is doing a heck of a job. In this practice he certainly showed a stronger leg than Kluwe and was accurate as well, regularly having his kicks caught or downed inside the 10-yard line.
After a sloppy start, with a couple of balls going straight into the end zone for touchbacks, Kluwe responded and from then on matched the younger player. However, the key word here is “matched”; he certainly didn’t beat him and on this (admittedly limited) evidence it should be a great match-up to keep an eye on.
Kluwe is still the favorite as word is that over the two days he’s been more consistent and if it’s close at the end, his experience as a holder for field goals and extra points will see him through.
Avoiding the Tag
The Raiders don’t have many high calibre players but arguably their best two will be in a bizarre competition throughout 2013; be the player that avoids the franchise tag in 2014. Both DE, Lamarr Houston and LT, Jared Veldheer were drafted in 2010 and are now in contract years. The guy who plays the best will likely be franchised while the other will hit free agency (assuming of course the Raiders haven’t already signed them to a lucrative long term deal) and become very rich.
It’s a hard one to predict; elite left tackles are difficult to come by but young defensive ends who can play the run and pass may be even rarer and Houston has worked extremely hard, according to Dennis Allen, to prepare for the season.
While Veldheer looks set to succeed regardless, Houston is in the odd position of needing to improve his pass rush knowing if he succeeds he may be condemning himself to the franchise tag but if he doesn’t, significantly lowering his market value in free agency. While his 15th-ranking among 4-3 ends in terms of pass rush productivity isn’t bad, it probably wouldn’t secure him the mega-deal he could enjoy with another 20+ QB disruptions. In this practice he spent as much time at right end at left end (last year he rushed from the left 90%+ of the time) and played a lot with his hand up. According to Dennis Allen if he doesn’t improve his productivity it won’t be for lack of effort.
Other Notes – and lots of them
– If anyone is expecting Terrelle Pryor to beat out Matt Flynn don’t put much money on it. Everyone that matters loves Flynn and Pryor is just too scattergun throwing the ball.
– David Ausberry is the guy who will start at tight end – he made a few good catches yesterday and is the incumbent. That said I really liked what I saw from Jeron Mastrud – he stood out in one on one drills usually getting good separation and when he didn’t made the catches in traffic.
– With Pat Sims on PUP the man getting first team reps at defensive tackle was last year’s sixth-rounder Christo Bilukidi.
– Although it isn’t shown below because the chart represents the nickel package, in base, Sio Moore is starting over Kaluka Maiava
– D.J. Hayden, playing in a red shirt due to his recent health issues, is still getting plenty of reps; it’s clear the Raiders coaches would like to get him into the starting line-up if possible and we saw the reason why and the reason why not on the same play. He did a great job of tracking Rod Streater down the right sideline on a go and only had to look back for the ball. Unfortunately he failed to do so and although he defended the pass got right in Streater’s face in the end zone. If they’d had referees yellow would have littered the ground.
NB: I’ve amended the Oakland depth chart accordingly, added in the position battles in purple and the update is below:
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