The months between the draft and the first game of the NFL preseason are crucial for teams. The Raiders are no different. While a team’s star quarterback might not lose his job, season defining decisions can happen at this point in the season. Although it is the offseason, tensions raise as players compete for a starting spot. Competition is what drives players from good to great and from great to legendary. While every player is working to keep their job, defensive linemen Eddie Vanderdoes and Mario Edwards may find themselves observed a little closer during these competitions. If each player approaches the competition with the correct mindset, this offseason could send the young players soaring towards their peak potential.
Eddie Vanderdoes enters his second season. Under a new scheme, a sophomore slump will send him down the depth chart. The Raiders drafted two defensive tackles (DTs) this year, P.J. Hall in the second round and Maurice Hurst in the fifth. While Vanderdoes may have a year of experience ahead of these rookies, there is no doubt that Hall and Hurst will be nipping at his heels.
P.J. Hall comes to the team as a bigger mystery than most. Hall finished second in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award (given to the top defensive player in the nation) in 2016. Although he dominated at Sam Houston State, questions about competition remain. Since it can be difficult for an FCS player to make an impact in the NFL, perhaps Vanderdoes will experience more competition this year from an FBS player.
Maurice Hurst joins the team after being described as “second-round talent”. However, he found himself slide to the fifth round due to uncertainty of his ability to play with his heart issue. In his senior year, Hurst ranked eighth in the Big Ten in the tackles for loss (TFL) category.
Not only did Maurice Hurst play at the University of Michigan, he excelled against exceptional teams. Hurst stands 6’2” and falls in between the heights of Hall and Vanderdoes but comes in 25 pounds lighter than the other two. Fortunately, weight changes. Hurst stated that his slide in the draft has motivated him greatly. As a result, he seeks to prove everyone who passed on him wrong; Hurst should have no trouble making weight. If Hurst can add weighr this offseason, he should earn the starting spot during the season.
Mario Edwards sits on the Raiders’ hot seat. Edwards’ situation is unique, due to which his main competition is. Edwards’ competition will not come from a rookie but from former 49er, Tank Carradine. Carradine did not play a heavy number of snaps last season but could split snaps with Edwards.
Jon Gruden let the media know he will monitor Mario Edwards closely. Edwards stated he does, in fact, need to step his game up. If Edwards’ negatives (injury, practice misbehavior and subpar play) continue to find their way into his game, Tank Carradine will find himself receiving the starter’s role. While training camp scuffles remain a part of the game, Edwards cannot afford to miss snaps. If he wants to remain with the Raiders, Edwards’ best ability remains availability.