Oakland Raiders Top 5: Early Training Camp Battles

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May 26, 2015; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders tight end Clive Walford (88) catches a pass at organized team activities at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mychal Rivera vs. Clive Walford

Raiders tight end Mychal Rivera had 58 receptions for 534 yards and four touchdowns in 2014, as he started all 16 games and was the second-most targeted player on the roster, but his level of progress over the last two years still isn’t enough for him to be guaranteed a starting role in 2015.

With the fourth pick in the third-round of the 2015 NFL draft Oakland selected former University of Miami (Fla.) tight end Clive Walford.

At 6’4″, 251 pounds Walford is self-claimed dual-threat tight end, as he believes he can make an impact both blocking and catching the ball downfield. Due to Walford’s versatility at the position he can serve as a matchup nightmare for linebackers and safeties in the NFL, as he is physical at the point of attack and can sometimes surprise you with his speed.

“One of those players who plays faster than he times,” said NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock via NFL.com. “He is a vertical threat and catches the ball extremely well.”

Del Rio has stated before that he expects Walford to start in 2015, and after watching him participate in Rookie Mini-Camp and OTA’s Williamson seems to have a similar opinion to Oakland’s new head coach.

“There is hope inside the Raiders’ building that Walford can become an instant impact player and become the second best option for Carr behind Cooper early in his career,” according to Williamson. While Rivera will have a role, it will likely be as Walford’s backup. If Walford is not already starting in Week 1, it shouldn’t be too much longer after that.”

Walford’s versatile approach to the tight end position and boundless potential to become something special in this league has given him the advantage early on, but Rivera seems to be still clinging onto starting spot in Walford’s absence.

Walford has yet to participate in a single practice during training camp due to an undisclosed injury.

In wake of Walford’s injury, Rivera has been a highlight at training camp, as Del Rio seems to be quite content with his recent performance.

“He’s an athletic guy,” Del Rio said via SilverandBlackPride.com. “I think he showed some of that athleticism here early in this camp with a couple of nice catches. We like the way he’s worked throughout the offseason. He’s continued to strengthen himself, continued to develop as a player.”

It won’t be easy for Rivera to hold onto the starting position if Walford finds his way back onto the field before preseason, but if he continues to impress the coaching staff on a regular basis, expect him to still have a significant role whether or not Walford is named the starter.

Next: Camp Battles: Third Running Back (Dyer vs. Richardson/Atkinson III