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Raiders Position Battle Update After Preseason Week 3

The final preseason games for the NFL are all on deck for Thursday night, and questions are finally starting to get resolved for the Oakland Raiders in terms of who will win their various position battles. Some remain wide open and some are close to be locked down. In any case, there’ll be plenty to watch for when the Raiders host the Seattle Seahawks tomorrow. Here’s a final update on our previous position battle articles for the Raiders.

Quarterback (EJ Manuel vs. Connor Cook)

This competition has taken a few wild turns throughout the games thus far. Manuel has been the #2 behind Derek Carr for all three contests, but his only positive performance came during the first game against the Arizona Cardinals, laying ducks in the other two. Meanwhile, Cook was mediocre in game 1, but played much more consistently than Manuel against the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys. Game 4 of the preseason is always designated for the backups to play, so whoever has the better game versus the Seahawks may come away with the main backup job.

Running back (DeAndre Washington vs. Jalen Richard; Elijah Hood vs. John Crockett vs. George Atkinson)

The main backup running back role looks to have been decided. Washington has gotten more time than Richard overall during preseason action, and has looked effective in the process. Richard will get his touches too (he has locked down the punt returner role and will split time with Cordarrelle Patterson as the kick returner), but Washington figures to be the primary #2 RB.

The last backfield spot is still up in the air. Crockett has done nothing of note since scoring a touchdown against the Cardinals. Hood and Atkinson have both been on par with each other, producing similar statlines and taking snaps on special teams. Like the backup QB position, whoever has the best game against Seattle will most likely be the favorite.

Wide receiver (Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Seth Roberts; Johnny Holton vs. Jaydon Mickens vs. KJ Brent vs. Keon Hatcher vs. Isaac Whitney vs. Ishmael Zamora)

It’s unfortunate to have a camp battle been determined by injury. Roberts hasn’t played the past two games due to illness, letting Patterson get all the slot receiver reps. He capitalized against the Cowboys by scoring a touchdown. Roberts will be in the mix for snaps, but Patterson seems to have clinched the job.

Holton looks to be safe as the fifth receiver as of now, so the final preseason game for the receiving group will be all about whether or not the team decides to keep a sixth player around or not. If a favorite had to be picked, Mickens seems to have the best chance of sneaking in, presumably as a backup returner and special teamer. One of Brent or Hatcher could be on the practice squad.

Tight end (Gabe Holmes vs. Ryan O’Malley vs. Pharaoh Brown vs. Cooper Helfet)

Keeping a fourth tight end may still be in the cards for the Raiders, but no one at the position has stood out enough for them to go all in on that front. Brown has looked the best out of the four, but he’s more likely to end up on the practice squad than the main roster.

Right tackle (Marshall Newhouse vs. Vadal Alexander vs. David Sharpe)

Donald Penn‘s return erased any questions about this group. Newhouse, who had been in Penn’s place at left tackle, switched back to the right side and performed great, leaving Alexander as the second team right tackle. Newhouse will be the likely starter, with Alexander as the main backup here and at right guard and Sharpe as a developmental prospect on the blindside.

Defensive tackle (Eddie Vanderdoes vs. Jihad Ward vs. Darius Latham vs. Treyvon Hester)

Ward makes his first appearance on these articles after being on the Physically Unable To Perform List with a knee injury for the first two weeks of the preseason. Vanderdoes remained the starter over him, however. The third round rookie figures to start next to Justin Ellis, with Ward getting rotational snaps here and at defensive end, Latham acting as Ellis’ primary backup and Hester doing a little of everything.

Linebacker (Middle and Weakside)

With Cory James out with an injury against the Cowboys, the Raiders decided to test Jelani Jenkins and Tyrell Adams to see if they could gain ground in the battle for the other two linebacker spots next to Bruce Irvin. Jenkins has been impressive in the time he’s had with the first team. It’s safe to slot him in as the weakside starter.

Adams was up-and-down as the starter, doing well in run support but looking shaky in pass coverage. He or rookie Marquel Lee, who was the initial starter in the middle but got bumped down after being outplayed, could back up Jenkins on the weakside. The other will be behind James in the middle.

Cornerback (Sean Smith vs. T.J. Carrie; Dexter McDonald vs. Antonio Hamilton vs. Kenneth Durden vs. Breon Borders vs. Chris Humes)

Smith and Carrie’s performances this preseason have been a major concern for the Raiders, not helped by the fact that definite starting corner David Amerson got knocked out of the Cowboys game with what looked to be a concussion, though thankfully Amerson has already returned to action. Smith, to his credit, had his best game in Dallas, though he certainly wasn’t perfect. Carrie, meanwhile, hasn’t been able to rebound. He’s in no significant danger of being cut unless the Raiders turn to outside help to strengthen their DB group. Gareon Conley is practicing with the team this week and is expected to be ready for the first regular season game against the Tennessee Titans, so he’ll presumably see time as well.

The fifth cornerback slot is still clouded with uncertainty. McDonald did not look good at all versus the Cowboys, getting burned numerous times and picking up a few penalties as well. Borders wasn’t as bad, but did get beat for the go-ahead touchdown. He’s fizzled out in game action after an impressive training camp, so the practice squad is the likeliest place for him. Hamilton played iffy in coverage, but he did help himself with a strip sack that led to a fumble return TD. He’s the favorite for the last spot heading into the Seahawks game, which is still ripe for the taking.

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