The Las Vegas Raiders enter the new era with several storylines that many will not grab attention. Yet, they need the same attention.
Can Lamarcus Joyner bounce back?
Everybody wants a good return on their investments.
The Raiders are paying LaMarcus Joyner 10.5 million dollars to be one of the top slot corners in the NFL and last year he simply didn’t live up to the billing. The seventh-year veteran struggled all season and at times looked completely outmatched. Joyner is an ultra-athletic/feisty player who is more than willing to stick his nose in the run game, but his inability to win at the catch point last year plagued him and the team all season. Joyner posted a PFF grade of 46.2 good for 111th/ 115 qualifying cornerbacks…not what you would call a good return on your investment.
The Raiders drafted Amik Robertson in the fourth round who was touted as the top slot corner, and someone who the experts saw as one of the steals of the draft. The pick was as much of a steal as it was an indictment on Joyner’s play. If Joyner is unable to bounce back, the Raiders will be able to get out from under his contract with only 2.5 million dollars in dead cap, and will be hoping to cash in on their latest investment with Robertson
Make or break for third-year players Arden Key and PJ Hall.
Time is winding down and patience will be thin.
PJ Hall and Arden Key are facing a training camp that could make or break their Raider careers. Both have flashed their ability but both have been inconsistent. Whispers of Hall’s less than stellar work ethic as well as Arden Key’s apparent inability to keep weight on (Vic Tafur of The Athletic) only adds to the importance of this training camp. Key seemed to be putting together a strong string of play before being shut down for the season with a broken foot.
The Raiders handed Carl Nassib a sizeable contract in the offseason and have sniffed around free agent Jadaveon Clowney which should be more than enough motivation for Key this camp. Hall has his work cut out for him, Mayock and Gruden have turned the interior defensive line position group into arguably the deepest of the team. New Defensive Line Coach Rob Marinelli also brought in two of his former players in Daniel Ross and Maliek Collins. Collins, Jonathan Hankins, and Maurice Hurst figure to be locks while one last spot could be up for grabs between Hall and Ross.
Can Daniel Carlson prove to be the kicker for the foreseeable future?
People often disregard how important kickers are until you need them. Having a steady hand, or steady foot, in the final seconds of the game could save or sour a season.
Daniel Carlson was scooped up off the street by the Raiders after the Vikings, the team who drafted him in 5th round, cut him after a rough start to his rookie season. Carlson rewarded the Raiders with a 94 percent success rate on his field goals, good for a franchise record. However, Carlson struggled last year with a 73 percent success rate and missed kicks that could have put opposing teams away late in games. The Raiders brought in Utah State undrafted rookie Dominik Eberle to compete with Carlson in camp. Eberle is no slouch and connected on 79 percent of his kicks in college. Many expect for Carlson to retain his job but if he slips up, Eberle will be waiting.
Who Wins the Receiver Competition for the Fifth and Final Roster Spot?
The Raiders of all teams know the importance of wide receiver depth.
The Raiders receiving core last year was a disaster. Led by the unceremonious departure of Antonio Brown and a string of unfortunate injuries, the Raiders were left with practice squad signings, rookies, and trades to put together a passing game. Flash to now, and the Raiders field arguably the best group since their last shot at the Super Bowl. We all know the big names of Henry Ruggs III, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, and Bryan Edwards. Yet the lesser-known names of Zay Jones, Ricco Gafford, and Nelson Agholor will be competing for the fifth and final spot.
This spot could prove to be an important one if/when injuries strike. Gafford will most likely be stashed away on the expanded practice squad. Meanwhile, the veterans, Jones and Agholor will fight it out for the last spot. Both have had success in the league, but both have been unable to sustain that success. Look to this camp battle to be one of, if not the most, competitive battles in camp.