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Oakland Raiders: 5 Players on Roster Bubble Who Should Make Team

The Oakland Raiders‘ 2015 training camp should be especially intriguing. While there are still some starting jobs left to be won, more interesting will be the battles for spots deeper on the roster that are still up for grabs.

Oakland finds itself with a lot of young talent at several different positions. These are spots that might be overlooked in training camp and early in the year. But with the unstable nature of the NFL, it’s possible that players who might have been seen as no more than reserves or special teamers could suddenly find themselves in positions where the team is depending on them to perform.

Because of this, reserve players can end up being just as important as the starters. If the team calls on them, they have to be ready to play. More importantly, they have to be able to perform at a high level.

These five players might not be major contributors over the course of the entire season, but they are capable of stepping in and helping the Raiders win if the need arises, making them deserving of a spot on the final roster.

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Oakland Raiders’ Weakest Position Heading into Training Camp

It’s a disservice to the Oakland Raiders fanbase to portray the roster as one filled with nothing but All-Pro players and Pro Bowlers. Let’s not pretend every position stands as strong as the next.

Often we don’t question general managers, head coaches and coordinators because we automatically assume they know what they’re doing, and they do. However, they’re not above making poor personnel decisions.

General managers, coaches and coordinators are fired every year. Why? Their decision-making didn’t yield optimal results.

The mishandling of the right guard position isn’t a fireable offense, but the talent at the position lags far behind that of every other position on the roster. The Raiders entered the offseason with three glaring weaknesses: wide receiver, pass-rusher and right guard:

In disappointing fashion, right guard remains a major concern for Oakland.

Yes, optimists will say, “Let’s wait and see.” Instead we’ll take a proactive approach in critiquing one of the major blunders of the Raiders’ 2015 offseason. We’ll dig into the stockpiled talent or lack thereof at right guard.

 

J’Marcus Webb

According to ESPN’s Bill Williamson, J’Marcus Webb leads the competition at right guard two months after arriving in Oakland. By the way, he didn’t play a single snap last season and only took 108 snaps in 2013.

Furthermore, he has never taken a snap at the guard position in his five-year career.

That doesn’t suggest that Webb arrived and blew out the competition. It’s a sign of the lack of competition at the position. He leads all potential starters after a year of inactivity and lack of experience following merely two months of practice without pads. That should raise some eyebrows.

Here’s some data on Webb during his starting days with the Chicago Bears under Mike Tice, who served as the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator:

Frequently, supporters sing the praises of Tice’s work as an offensive line coach, but he couldn’t fix Webb’s deficiencies over the course of three seasons.

Webb made a considerable improvement in his third season when Tice transitioned to an offensive coordinator role. However, Webb failed to improve his mechanics, allowing an alarming rate of sacks. Secondly, coaches usually highlight mental errors for offensive linemen who draw a high volume of penalties.

Tice is a great offensive line coach, but he’s not King Midas. Every offensive lineman he touches doesn’t turn into a golden gem. Webb regressed into a backup role for two years with the Minnesota Vikings after his stint with the Bears.

The fifth-year offensive lineman shifts to a different position, but he’s still the same player learning something new, which means growing pains.

If you were dissatisfied with Austin Howard’s work at right guard, don’t expect much more from Webb, who’s still learning. 

 

Khalif Barnes

What you see is what you get from 11-year veteran Khalif Barnes. Here’s the data on his last three seasons as a starter at right tackle:

It’s important to note, Barnes only played 681 snaps as an interior lineman over the past three seasons. He’s labeled a swing lineman capable of playing inside and outside but has played the majority of his career on the outside as a tackle.

At 33 years old, Barnes isn’t giving the Raiders much more than he has already shown them in recent seasons.

He’s a quality backup but a below-average starter. Barnes won’t make a bunch of mental errors with false starts and holding penalties, but he doesn’t match up favorably against the better defensive linemen in the game.

Logically, he’s the better choice at right guard compared to an inexperienced, below-average offensive lineman in Webb. With that said, he’d be severely limited over the stretch of a 16-game season as a starter.

 

Jon Feliciano

The decision to draft Jon Feliciano went from baffling to almost hopeless for the upcoming season. The Raiders wouldn’t have signed Webb if they felt Feliciano could come anywhere close to challenging Barnes at right guard.

Williamson shares the same sentiment:

I think it hurt Feliciano‘s chances that journeyman J’Marcus Webb was working ahead of both him and veteran Khalif Barnes during the minicamp. Webb, who didn‘t play in the NFL last season, was a tackle in Chicago under new Oakland offensive line coach Mike Tice. If Webb starts, it means Feliciano is just not ready to play. 

It’s troubling that Feliciano is taking reps behind two other players at his position when the Raiders clearly needed to draft a starting guard.

Raider Nation balked at Feliciano’s undrafted projections from CBSSports.com and NFL.com in favor of the acumen of the coaching staff. Head coach Jack Del Rio expected Feliciano to get an early start along with his top three draft picks, per hngn.com writer Cal Setar. Sorry, Del Rio. That’s not happening.

Here are two bottom-line assessments from draft analysts whose job focuses on breaking down players and giving unbiased perspectives. Sure, they’re capable of inaccurate evaluations, but they certainly pass as credible.

First, NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein’s take on Feliciano:

DRAFT PROJECTION Priority free agent

BOTTOM LINE Isn’t able to latch onto targets, which hinders his consistency as a run blocker in power. Foot quickness is a weakness, which creates too much lunging and leaning in his game. Feliciano is a competent college guard who appears to be lacking the athleticism and technique to be a full-time NFL starter.

Second, CBSSports.com draft analyst Ryan Booher’s take on Feliciano:

Feliciano is a very experienced starter who comes from a more traditional style offense, he offers you position flexibility with your gameday actives on the offensive line. While he has his limitations athletically, he looks to be the kind of guy who will stick around on a roster, an easy guy to project because he is basically what he is going to be in a few years already going into the draft.

Both analysts agree he’s good enough to maintain a roster spot but stop short of labeling him a solid starter with longevity.

The Raiders tipped their hand in showing how they view Feliciano’s short-term outlook by signing another veteran player to compete for the starting position. Feliciano could develop into a low-end starter in a few seasons, but the Raiders clearly didn‘t draft an immediate starter with their fourth-round pick.

 

Lamar Mady and Matt McCants

Second-year guard Lamar Mady took 100 snaps in 2013 but hasn’t seen regular-season action since.

The coaching staff’s reluctance to insert Mady into the right guard rotation is puzzling. Oakland has a shortage of natural guards on the roster and prefers transitioning tackles inside to bolster versatility.

According to Silver & Black Pride’s Levi Damien, Matt McCants became the latest tackle to move inside and take reps.

“The one change along the offensive line I saw was yet another player in at right guard. Matt McCants was in with the second team at right guard. He has played there before, though he has been a reserve tackle for the most part over his two seasons with the team.” 

Both Mady and McCants have limited playing experience in the beginning stages of their careers. Both offensive linemen project as long shots to earn the starting job.

Hopefully, training camp forces one player to step up at the position. Until that happens, it appears the Raiders’ brain trust dropped the ball in this particular area.

Raider Nation may be sensitive to criticisms of its beloved franchise on the rise, but the talent void at right guard deserves healthy skepticism.

The negligence in addressing a weakness that potentially affects Latavius Murray’s running lanes and Derek’s Carr’s ability to roll to his strong side in the pocket should grind your gears a bit.

 

Do you think the right guard position was mishandled? All comments are welcome below. Follow Maurice Moton on Twitter for Raiders news.

All statistics are provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com and Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted.

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com

20 questions: Answering the fans before camp starts

I tackled the five big questions facing the Raiders in today’s story. Readers fired in 20 more, and I fire back. Get some rest before Friday’s first practice. Go … ^ Who will play right side of offensive line? I think Webb will win job at guard, and Watson may have a slight edge on Howard at right tackle as camp starts. ^ What is the plan at running back? Hopefully that Murray runs away with starting job, and Helu is a nice third-down weapon. ^ How has special teams been addressed? Return game is wide open, though vet Trindon Holliday may have edge if he can hold on to

Complete Oakland Raiders Training Camp Preview

The increased rhythmic vibration in the pulse of Raider Nation signifies the opening of training camp for the Oakland Raiders.

Rookies are already working through drills and the veterans check in on Thursday to begin the start of a journey that’s sure to show substantial improvement in the franchise. Friday is the official start of training camp for Jack Del Rio’s regime.

In the next couple of weeks, observations and developments will come in fast and furious as players work hard to establish their positions and fulfill their roles.

Before all the fun begins, we’ll tie in all pertinent aspects to look out for with training camp underway. Here’s a complete preview of the Raiders training camp before competition leads to attrition, whittling down to a 53-man regular-season roster.

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Raiders Respond to One Direction Star’s Comment That No One Supports Their Team

This is the heavyweight Internet bout we’ve all been waiting for: the Oakland Raiders vs. One Direction.

“‘I support the Raiders, said no one ever!” 1D member Harry Styles jawed during a concert in Kansas City on Tuesday night:

Oakland was having none of that, though. The team’s Twitter account leaped into action by roping in Styles’ bandmate, Liam Payne, wearing a—yup—Raiders cap.

Here’s hoping football fans at the boy band’s concerts continue to receive commentary from One Direction.

[Vine, Twitter]

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com

Why Menelik Watson Has Everything to Prove in Oakland Raiders Training Camp

The top of the Oakland Raiders‘ 2013 draft class stands on shaky ground heading into the 2015 NFL season.

Most eyeballs will be fixated on cornerback D.J. Hayden (No. 12 overall), but offensive tackle Menelik Watson (No. 42 overall) should also garner moderate expectations. Watson was unable to sustain momentum in his second year after an injury-riddled rookie campaign.

Watson played 12 games and started nine in 2014, alternating with offensive tackle Khalif Barnes on the right side of the offensive line:

Watson must address two problems during the offseason: hand placement and footwork. Defensive ends were able to get around him on the edge too easily, based on the 21 hurries he allowed last season, per Pro Football Focus. His footwork could be the culprit for this particular shortcoming.

He accumulated six penalties, although two were overturned. This may indicate issues with hand placement, which NFL.com’s Mike Mayock pointed out prior to the 2013 draft:

Hand placement is poor. Often hits outside of the frame, and will have a tendency to get overly grabby. Will result in more penalties in the NFL. Needs to play with a wider base. Inconsistent with his footwork.

The fact that Watson’s hand- and footwork were questionable coming into the league, combined with his limited experience, led to trouble in the absence of reps. Watson sat on the bench for a majority of his rookie year with a calf injury. Foot and ankle ailments shortened his 2014 season.

ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson provided some refreshing information about Watson’s progress. He leads the competition over Austin Howard at right tackle. The former second-rounder is showing progress in technical skills. Typically, footwork and hand placement are the focus points for offensive linemen during minicamp and organized team activities when practicing without pads.

The Raiders need Watson to flash competence as a starter regardless of Howard’s move back to his natural position at tackle. Oakland has a legitimate problem at right guard, and Watson might be capable of shifting inside as an interior lineman, per Mayock:

Watson has rare athletic ability on a tremendous frame. He has an explosive first step, light feet, and a powerful punch. There are a lot of things in his game that need to be cleaned up from a technique standpoint, and he will be 25 years old in his rookie season. He can project to either tackle spot, or possibly even inside, at guard.

The Raiders have continually ignored third-year offensive guard Lamar Mady in favor of offensive tackles J’Marcus Webb, Barnes and even Howard at the right guard spot. Offensive line coach Mike Tice could opt to continue the trend and make an effort to salvage Watson’s career if he loses the training-camp battle at right tackle.

Watson bounced around multiple sports, including soccer, basketball and boxing, before settling on a career in football. Before entering the NFL, he played as an offensive lineman for only one year at Saddleback Junior College and one year at Florida State.

Development isn’t tied to age; it’s tied to time spent learning at a particular position. At 26 years old, Watson is still a developmental prospect. He has spent approximately four years at his position.

Most third-year NFL players have spent six to seven years at their positions. Furthermore, most players participated in Pop Warner youth football leagues and on high school varsity teams as adolescents. Watson started off playing soccer with a passion for basketball. He didn’t consider football until his adult years.

It shows his unique athleticism, but consider him a relatively raw NFL prospect.

This isn’t an excuse, but it puts Watson’s learning curve in perspective. He has time to progress but must stay healthy throughout training camp, the preseason and the regular season to evolve.

The right tackle position projects as Watson’s starting job to lose. The Raiders know what they have in Howard, a five-year veteran, but their No. 42 overall pick from the 2013 draft remains a mysterythough it’s possible that there’s a gem waiting to be discovered.

 

What are your thoughts on Menelik Watson? All comments are welcome below. Follow Maurice Moton on Twitter for NFL and Raiders news.

All statistics are provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com and Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com

Why Menelik Watson Has Everything to Prove in Oakland Raiders Training Camp

The top of the Oakland Raiders‘ 2013 draft class stands on shaky ground heading into the 2015 NFL season.

Most eyeballs will be fixated on cornerback D.J. Hayden (No. 12 overall), but offensive tackle Menelik Watson (No. 42 overall) should also garner moderate expectations. Watson was unable to sustain momentum in his second year after an injury-riddled rookie campaign.

Watson played 12 games and started nine in 2014, alternating with offensive tackle Khalif Barnes on the right side of the offensive line:

Watson must address two problems during the offseason: hand placement and footwork. Defensive ends were able to get around him on the edge too easily, based on the number of hurries he allowed last season. His footwork could be the culprit for this particular shortcoming.

He accumulated six penalties, although two were overturned. This may indicate issues with hand placement, which NFL.com’s Mike Mayock pointed out prior to the 2013 draft:

Hand placement is poor. Often hits outside of the frame, and will have a tendency to get overly grabby. Will result in more penalties in the NFL. Needs to play with a wider base. Inconsistent with his footwork.

The fact that Watson’s hand- and footwork were questionable coming into the league, combined with his limited experience, leads to trouble in the absence of reps. Watson sat on the bench for a majority of his rookie year with a calf injury. Foot and ankle ailments shortened his 2014 season.

ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson provided some refreshing information about Watson’s progress. He leads the competition over Austin Howard at right tackle. The former second-rounder is showing progress in technical skills. Typically, footwork and hand placement are the focus points for offensive linemen during minicamp and organized team activities when practicing without pads.

The Raiders need Watson to flash competence as a starter regardless of Howard’s move back to his natural position at tackle. Oakland has a legitimate problem at right guard. Watson might be capable of shifting inside as an interior lineman, per Mayock:

Watson has rare athletic ability on a tremendous frame. He has an explosive first step, light feet, and a powerful punch. There are a lot of things in his game that need to be cleaned up from a technique standpoint, and he will be 25 years old in his rookie season. He can project to either tackle spot, or possibly even inside, at guard.

The Raiders have continually ignored third-year offensive guard Lamar Mady in favor of offensive tackles J’Marcus Webb, Barnes and even Howard at the right guard spot. Offensive line coach Mike Tice could opt to continue the trend and make an effort to salvage Watson’s career, pending a training-camp-battle loss at right tackle.

Watson bounced around multiple sports, including soccer, basketball and boxing, before settling on a career in football. He has played as an offensive lineman for only one year at Saddleback Junior College and one year at Florida State.

Development isn’t tied to age; it’s tied to time spent learning at a particular position. At 26 years old, Watson is still a developmental prospect. He has spent approximately four years at his position.

Most third-year NFL players have spent six to seven years at their positions. Furthermore, most players participated in Pop Warner youth football leagues and on high school varsity teams as adolescents. Watson started off playing soccer with a passion for basketball. He didn’t consider football until his adult years.

It shows his unique athleticism, but consider him a relatively raw NFL prospect.

This isn’t an excuse, but it puts Watson’s learning curve in perspective. He has time to progress but must stay healthy throughout training camp, the preseason and the regular season to evolve.

The right tackle position projects as Watson’s starting job to lose. The Raiders know what they have in Howard, a five-year veteran, but their No. 42 overall pick from the 2013 draft remains a mysterythough it’s possible that there’s a gem waiting to be discovered.

 

What are your thoughts on Menelik Watson? All comments are welcome below. Follow Maurice Moton on Twitter for NFL and Raiders news.

All statistics are provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com and Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com

Top Position Battle to Watch in Oakland Raiders Training Camp

The Oakland Raiders will have their first training camp under new head coach Jack Del Rio this summer.

What is the top position battle to watch in Raiders camp?

Watch as Adam Lefkoe goes in-depth with Bleacher Report NFL Analyst Chris Simms in the video above.

Read more Oakland Raiders news on BleacherReport.com

Oakland Raiders: Biggest Storylines Ahead of Training Camp

With the official start of training camp just days away, the Oakland Raiders are on the verge of beginning one of the most important seasons in team history.

The Raiders haven’t seen a season that ended with a winning record in more than a decade. Since then, every season has been “the season.” Every year, Raiders fans have heard that this is the season the team finally turns things around.

The difference in 2015 is the hope and optimism have some real substance to back them up. This roster contains more talent and promise than any Oakland roster in years. The question now is whether the players will turn this talent into actual wins.

While this team is laden with potential, it has to address some key issues in order to ensure long-term success.

For Oakland, training camp presents the first opportunity to address these issues.

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Oakland Raiders Veterans with Most to Lose in Training Camp

As we inch closer to the opening of Oakland Raiders‘ training camp, there are some veteran players in danger of losing their starting positions and roster spots altogether.

The outlook of the 2014 and 2015 draft classes are bright, placing tremendous pressure on their experienced counterparts to fulfill expectations for the upcoming season.

The Raiders have a handful of players who are on the brink of demotion or elimination pending a poor conclusion to the offseason.

The majority of these players are positioned in weak or deep positions, driving in-house competition among teammates to re-establish themselves.

Which veteran players are further under the microscope than most? We’ll discuss five particular players on the hot seat.

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