The first week of the NFL season is officially here and that means excitement is in the air, and fans are full of optimism for every team. With Week 1 set to begin, it means the first regular season depth charts are announced. The Las Vegas Raiders, who held their first practice on Tuesday, unveiled their depth chart, one week after announcing their 53-man roster.
Here are five interesting takeaways from the Silver-and-Black’s first depth chart.
1. Zamir White is the Las Vegas Raiders’ fourth running backs
The depth chart for the Raiders on the offensive side of the ball is pretty self-explanatory. Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow are the top receivers with Darren Waller at tight end. Mack Hollins and DJ Turner are backup receivers with Foster Moreau once again backing up Waller along with Jesper Horsted also in the fold.
All eight offensive linemen on the 53-man roster are listed within the five positions in the trenches with Jackson Barton, rookie Dylan Parham, and Thayer Munford Jr. as the backups. No surprise there. However, the one thing that stands out on the Las Vegas Raiders depth chart in the offense is the running back position behind Josh Jacobs.
Brandon Bolden is listed as the second ball carrier followed by Ameer Abdullah. Then comes rookies Zamir White and Brittain Brown. Ultimately, with the way the reps went during the preseason, seeing the 2022 fourth-round pick that low should not be worrisome unless it is injury-related. It was not expected for White to be the backup running back behind Jacobs.
During the four Raiders preseason games, which became the first occurrence in franchise history of an undefeated preseason record (4-0), White carried the ball 25 times and totaled 78 yards with two rushing touchdowns. White also caught six passes for 31 yards during his time on the field.
2. Andrew Billings beats out Johnathan Hankins at defensive tackle
With the preseason injuries to the defensive line, it gave the opportunity for others to gain those reps and find themselves their spots on the depth chart. In the trenches, Bilal Nichols earned one of the defensive tackle positions with Andrew Billings took the other.
The latter won the job over Johnathan Hankins. Hankins, who is entering his fifth season with the Las Vegas Raiders has started 60 of his last 61 games dating to his first season with the team in 2018. During those five seasons, Hankins has recorded 91 individual tackles and 81 assisted tackles with 13 tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hits with 2.5 sacks.
Before this season, Billings, who was signed as a free agent this past February, had previously spent his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals, last year’s AFC Champions. Billings is entering his fifth season in the NFL, despite not playing during the 2020 season that was impacted by COVID-19. The 27-year-old’s best season in Cincinnati came during his sophomore campaign in 2018 when he started all 16 games and recorded 2.5 sacks with 32 tackles.
3. Nate Hobbs earns a starting role at cornerback
Raiders cornerback Nate Hobbs was listed as one of the two starting players at the cornerback position and got the nod over Anthony Averett.
Hobbs, who is entering his second NFL season, had to impress his coaches during training camp and he stepped up and took a starting role alongside Rock Ya-Sin in the secondary. Last season, Hobbs only missed one game and recorded 74 tackles during the regular season, in addition to another eight during the team’s Wild Card game in the playoffs against the Bengals.
Having a second-year player get the starting nod over the fifth-year Averett means he worked his tail off and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham was able to see that work turn into trust. Averett, who was a 2018 fourth-round pick by Baltimore, cannot be forgotten as he started in a career-high 14 games last season and recorded 54 total tackles and three interceptions.
4. Defensive end room is stronger with Tashawn Bower’s rise
The Mullen Jr. trade was a sign of the team’s depth at the cornerback position. Building depth is always a goal during the preseason to make each player be on their toes at any time during the regular season in the unfortunate event a starter or someone ahead of him in the depth chart can not play.
At the defensive end position, not only did the Raiders sign Chandler Jones to pair with Maxx Crosby, but the team also found depth amongst the edge rushers with the emergence of Tashawn Bower during the preseason. Bower’s work during training camp only got better as he recorded 13 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, one pass deflection, and two five-tackle performances in the Raiders’ final two preseason games against Miami and New England.
As a result, Bower, who was signed as an unrestricted free agent last April, has become a second backup EDGE rusher, along with Clelin Ferrell to support Crosby and Jones.
5. Ameer Abdullah lands kick returner job
With the long-term deals on special teams to the specialists, there is not much to decipher when it comes to the depth chart for special teams. However, the Raiders announced the two players who will return kicks, both in the punt game and the kick return aspect. One name remains constant, while the other three names are new faces.
Renfrow will be the team’s punt returner with wide receiver DJ Turner as his backup. Receiving kickoffs will be Abdullah with wide receiver Tyron Johnson being his backup. The return game is an underrated value in football, especially for Renfrow and Abdullah, as the amount of return directly affects where quarterback Derek Carr and the offense begin their drive.
The closer to the endzone, the better chance the offense has to score to either put up seven points or three from kicker Daniel Carlson.