Las Vegas Raiders: Projected 2023 starters before training camp
By Jason Willis
Las Vegas Raiders 2023 Defense
Edge Rushers: Maxx Crosby, Chandler Jones
Similar to tight end, look for the first-round pick Tyree Wilson to take over for Chandler Jones by seasons end. However, Jones is still a future Hall of Famer who has plenty of pass rushing juice left in the tank. Look for Jones and Wilson to rotate often this season, especially while the rookie gets healthy.
On the other side, Maxx Crosby will be his usual dominating self. The face of the Raiders' defense, the coaching staff can only hope his effort and passion for the game are contagious across the unit. For a player who has gotten better every year of his career, the Defensive Player of the Year award is not far-fetched.
Defensive Line and Linebackers: Jerry Tillery, Bilal Nichols and Divine Deablo, Robert Spillane
Filling out the front seven, the Raiders are slated to have one of the weakest positional groups in the league. Inside, Tillery and Nichols will both be entering their second seasons as members of the Silver and Black. Heading into the last year of his deal, Las Vegas needs Nichols to perform better than he did in 2022.
Behind them, the Raiders linebacker group is just grotesque. Deablo, while still a young player, is still a bit of a project as he transitions from college safety to NFL linebacker. Spillane, who was added from Pittsburgh in the off-season, is nothing special. With some notable names still on the market, the Raiders may not be done adding.
Cornerbacks: Nate Hobbs, Duke Shelley, David Long Jr.
Following a 2023 off-season where the team was forced to revamp their defensive back room, the cornerback group is going to look much different. Both Shelley and Long have fans in PFF and the Raiders will hope they can build on productive 2022 seasons.
Returning is Nate Hobbs who has been the Raiders' best defensive back since he was drafted in the fifth round back in 2021. Whether he plays in the slot or on the outside, Las Vegas can rely on him regardless.
Safety: Marcus Epps, Tre'von Moehrig
In the off-season, the Raiders clearly made it a point to address safety early on when they signed Marcus Epps on day one of free agency. A member of the Philadelphia Eagles defense that dominated the NFC en route to the Super Bowl, he will get the first crack at starting reps in Las Vgeas.
Once again, Moehrig will return to fortify the backend. Once looked at as one of the leagues best young defensive backs after his rookie season, he will have to rebound from a poor 2022 season. Look for rookie Christopher Smith from Georgia to mix in early and often.
No big surprises here, as Daniel Carlson returns as the kicker, and AJ Cole will be back manning the punting duties for the Silver and Black. The biggest change will come at long snapper, as Trent Sieg was released to make room for Jacob Bobenmeyer, a former long snapper for the Denver Broncos.