Oakland Raiders-Vikings Preview: Five players to watch

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Jun 9, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders receiver Trindon Holliday (16) at minicamp at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2. Trindon Holliday

One of the big question marks throughout camp was “who is going to return punts and kicks?” Sixth round pick Andre Debose was ostensibly drafted to be the Raiders return ace but hurt himself during OTA’s, so veteran Trindon Holliday was brought in. Last week, Holliday muffed a kickoff but also managed a 22-yard punt return. Special teams ace and backup running back-turned-corner-turned-running back Taiwan Jones also returned a kickoff, but the Rams only scored one field goal the whole game so there wasn’t a lot of time to give other players a look at the kickoff return role.

On Wednesday, the Raiders waived wideout Austin Willis and brought in fourth-year man Devon Wylie, a former teammate of Derek Carr’s at Fresno State (Carr was a sophomore during Wylie’s senior year). Wylie, who in only three NFL seasons has already been on the roster of 7 different teams (he was on five different teams during the 2013 season) has only logged six career receptions, all six in 2012 for the Chiefs. He has logged seven punt returns and 14 kickoff returns, however, so it stands to reason he was brought in to compete with Holliday for return duties.

Holliday, in his sixth NFL season, had his best seasons as a returner in 2012 and 2013, mostly with the Denver Broncos. In his 25 games with Denver he returned 64 punts and 39 kickoffs, scoring four times. He led the league in punt return yardage in 2012 and scored a touchdown during the memorable Divisional Round loss to the Ravens in the 2012 playoffs. In 2013 he returned 32 punts and 28 kickoffs, scoring twice. But last season he bounced around the league aimlessly, spending time on three different teams and only appearing in two games, logging five total kick returns.

Holliday is even less of a value as an actual wide receiver than Wylie (Holliday has TWO career receptions) and also has issues with ball security (12 career fumbles in 139 career touches). He needs to prove his value as a return ace in Oakland and also show that he can keep from muffing and fumbling – something he didn’t do against the Rams. Keep an eye on him and anyone else tasked with handling punt and kick returns to see how this very important position battle develops.

Next: Player to Watch: Christian Ponder