We always knew we would learn the most about the Raiders when they played their starters against the Patriots in joint practices. The joint practices were also the conclusion of training camp for the Raiders, after over a month of practices, the Raiders likely have their roster mostly set as well as their practice squad targets.
The main thing we learned was something we already knew, the 2022 Las Vegas Raiders are a very talented group.
Heading into the final preseason game, this will likely be a game dominated by 2nd, 3rd, and 4th stringers. There will be plenty of Chase Garbers, Brittain Brown, Dillon Stoner, Alex Leatherwood, and Clelin Ferrell amongst others and we likely will not see about 35 or so players play.
Players who are playing, are doing so to gain experience, fight for a roster spot, or simply put out tape for another team. Therefore, after the most important practices of training camp, let’s see what we learned about the Raiders.
Raiders: What we learned from the joint practices with New England
The Offensive Line is Set
Heading into the offseason workouts, the Raiders had 4 out of 5 spots on their offensive line up for grabs with the only exception being Kolton Miller at left tackle. Andre James and Lester Cotton quickly asserted themselves as the starters at center and right guard, despite some push from rookie Dylan Parham.
Parham has seemingly solidified himself at left guard, overtaking John Simpson who started all last season. That is good news for the Raiders. Having a rookie 3rd round pick claim a starting position this early likely means they hit on the pick and he could be a long-time starter.
The biggest question was right tackle. The battle was supposed to be between Brandon Parker and Alex Leatherwood, but Parker had won the battle until he got hurt and will likely miss the start of the season.
Parker also struggled mightily in his one preseason game. Leatherwood was also very bad and he basically fell to 4th string. He now looks likely to return to guard and compete with Cotton throughout the season. The new starter appears to be Jermaine Eluemunor, who started at guard at points last season.
He was behind 7th-round pick Thayer Munford but he looks like he should be solid. Leatherwood is now likely in danger of losing his spot on the team. This offensive line isn’t overwhelming on paper, but it should be serviceable.
The Offense Will Be Dominant
The story coming out of these practices was just how much Derek Carr, Davante Adams, and Hunter Renfrow dominated for 2 days. Adams reportedly looked otherworldly.
He was essentially unguardable against a good defense and should mean that Carr will have a career season. Adams’ addition, Renfrow’s ascension, and Waller’s eventual return mean that this offense could return to 2016 heights.
Renfrow also had his own share of dominant moments. The offense was clearly the best unit on the field at all times and that should be the case as we head into regular season games.
Waller’s injury continues to be concerning. He returned for one practice but has since been sidelined again. The Raiders will need Waller if they want to make a major impact this season and he has less than 3 weeks to get healthy.
If Waller can return fully healthy, this offense should be unstoppable. Mack Hollins also had some good moments and figures to be a good red zone threat, while Keelan Cole and Tyron Johnson have established themselves as good role players. Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden, and Zamir White will also have a role in this offense.
The Depth is Improved
A number of players who were thought to be on the outset of the roster have established themselves as indispensable and roster guarantees. Tyron Johnson has all but guaranteed his spot as a kick return and deep threat wide receiver after having a very good camp.
Keelan Cole and Jarrett Stidham established themselves as high-end backups. Ameer Abdullah, Lester Cotton, and Jermaine Eluemunor went from being on the roster bubble to starters at kick returner, third-down back, guard, and tackle.
On defense, Kendall Vickers seems like a player who the new staff likes and should be on the roster, if not a regular practice squad call-up. Malcolm Koonce and Tashawn Bower seem likely to make the team as backup edge rushers while Darien Butler seems like a lock to make the team as an undrafted rookie free agent.
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Andrew Billings and Rodric Teamer also seem very likely to make the team after solid camps, while Luke Masterson and Amik Robertson made a really good impression and could be some of the hardest cuts. Overall, the depth is improved as evidenced by their preseason wins.