The Las Vegas Raiders beat the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 17 of the NFL season to make the playoffs, then gave the eventual AFC Super Bowl representative Cincinnati Bengals all they could handle in the Wild Card Round. Now, with superstars Davante Adams and Chandler Jones in the fold along with a host of returning players, the Raiders are looking to go even further under new head coach Josh McDaniels. As Las Vegas Raiders training camp gets underway, here are three positional battles to watch closely.
Las Vegas Raiders Training Camp Info
Location: Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center, Henderson, Nevada
Rookies report: Monday, July 18, 2022
Veterans report: Wednesday, July 20, 2022
First game: at Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, September 11, 4:25 p.m. EST
Battle No. 1: OGs — Denzelle Good vs. John Simpson vs. Dylan Parham vs. Thayer Mumford Jr.
The Las Vegas Raiders offensive line ranked 28th out of 32 NFL units in 2021, per PFF. Left tackle Kolton Miller is the only lineman who graded in the top third of the league at his position last season.
This year, Andre James likely keeps his center spot, and disappointing 2021 first-round pick (and penalty machine) Alex Leatherwood kicks out to right tackle. That leaves both guard positions up for grabs.
Denzelle Good tore his ACL in Week 1 last year, contributing to the Raiders O-line struggles. If he returns healthy, he should lock down one interior spot. That leaves incumbent LG John Simpson (who ranked second-worst on the line last season behind Leatherwood) to battle rookies Dylan Parham from Memphis and Thayer Mumford Jr. from Ohio State.
Parham is an incredibly versatile interior lineman who arrived at Memphis as a 250-pound TE/DE before bulking up to 310 to play line. He’s maintained that athleticism through his transformation and, as a third-round pick, could be one of the steals of the draft. He should take the other guard spot in 2022.
Battle No. 2: WR2/3 — Mack Hollins vs. Keelan Cole vs. Demarcus Robinson
Davante Adams is the no-doubt No. 1 option for his former college teammate, Derek Carr. And slot receiver Hunter Renfrow is option No. 2. Options three and four are tight end Darren Waller and whichever RB is coming out of the backfield (see below), but who will win the second outside pass-catcher role?
The options aren’t super inspiring. However, whoever does win will have loads of single coverage from third and fourth cornerbacks with all the other pass-catching talent on the field.
Keelan Cole, Mack Hollins, and Demarcus Robinson combined for 241 NFL games over 15 seasons and (together) have 388 catches for 5,120 yards and 33 touchdowns. For context, just last season, Adams and Renfrow caught 226 balls for 2,591 yards and 20 TDs.
This should be a pillow fight, but give the win to Cole as he has the best (and really only) track record of success.
Battle No. 3: RB2 — Kenyan Drake vs. Brandon Bolden vs. Zamir White
The Las Vegas Raiders training camp battle for the backup running back spot is not only interesting, it’s crucial. Starter Josh Jacobs is an excellent back, but he’s struggled with injuries, missing six games in three seasons.
The front office committed a good chunk of change to Kenyan Drake last offseason, and he only produced 254 yards and two touchdowns on 63 carries last season. This offseason, the Raiders signed former New England Patriots runner Brandon Bolden and drafted Georgia RB Zamir “Zeus” White to challenge for the No. 2 spot behind Jacobs.
Bolden is a solid all-around back and a good pass-catcher, so look for him to win the role as the low-risk, low-reward choice.
That said, at 6-feet, 240 pounds with speed to burn (4.4 40-yard-dash), White is an athletic marvel. Next Gen Stats ranked him the third-highest athleticism score among all 2022 draft RBs. “Zeus” could challenge for the No. 2 spot, and if he does, Jacobs might have to look over his shoulder as well.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference