Las Vegas Raiders: Breaking down the biggest position battles as OTAs ramp up

Las Vegas Raiders
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On Monday, the Las Vegas Raiders started their voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) with most of their roster together at the training facility in Henderson, Nevada. After consecutive practice days, they had a day off on Wednesday before getting back on the field Thursday. 

At this point of the offseason, coaching staffs get to see new acquisitions work with holdovers from the previous season in 10 OTA sessions before mandatory minicamp in June.

Most of the Raiders’ starting lineup seems set, but they have a couple of notable positions up for grabs and some things to sort out along the offensive line.

Let’s take a look at the most contested positions on the depth chart as the Raiders go through their first week of OTAs.

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Wide receiver No. 4

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
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Usually, we hear little buzz about the fourth wide receiver spot on the depth chart, but the Raiders have a strong group with the addition of Michael Gallup and Jalen Guyton.

Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers are the lead wideouts. Tre Tucker will likely share slot duties with tight end Brock Bowers who lined up in that spot for more than 50 percent of his snaps at Georgia.

Most backup wide receivers play on special teams. Guyton doesn’t have much experience with kick coverage or kick/punt returns, and Gallup has less experience than him in that phase of the game.

Last season, wideout DJ Turner played 65 percent of the snaps on special teams. Kristian Wilkerson has been on and off the Raiders’ practice squad over the last year. 

If Turner or Wilkerson make the final roster solely for a role on special teams, Gallup and Guyton could battle for one spot behind the Raiders’ top three wideouts, and the loser may not make the initial 53-man depth chart.

Gallup has a 1,100-plus-yard receiving season on his resume. But remember, general manager Tom Telesco signed Guyton as an undrafted free agent in 2019, and the wideout played five seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Raiders have a good problem to have with a crowded receiver group.

Related: Raiders Schedule Release: Las Vegas opens season in LA vs. Harbaugh and the Chargers

Swing tackle

NFL: Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints
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According to The Athletic’s Tashan Reed, Thayer Munford Jr. only lined up with the starters at right tackle during Tuesday’s OTA session.

“Thayer Munford is entrenched as the starting right tackle,” Reed wrote. “He didn’t leave the starting lineup during practice, which shouldn’t be shocking considering his only real competition on the roster is rookie DJ Glaze.”

With Munford likely to take on a full-time starting role at right tackle after splitting snaps with Jermaine Eluemunor last season, the Raiders have to sort out the swing tackle position. 

Keep in mind that left tackle Kolton Miller missed four games last year. Though Munford is the front-runner to start on the opposite side, he’s still unproven in an expanded role. The Raiders may need a reliable swing tackle to spell or fill in for one of their starters.

For now, Andrus Peat and rookie third-rounder DJ Glaze are the leading candidates to back up Miller and Munford, respectively.

Glaze mostly lined up at tackle while at Maryland, though Bleacher Report scout Brandon Thorn believes the former Terrapin could have a future at guard.

“Along with his tackle experience, Glaze should be able to carve out a role on an NFL roster at guard while offering the ability to play tackle in a pinch,” Thorn wrote.

Peat hasn’t played a full game at right tackle since Week 16 of the 2015 season, his rookie campaign, but he started in 12 contests at left tackle with the New Orleans Saints last year. 

Peat has played most of his snaps on the left side of the line. He’s the probable spot starter in case Miller suffers an injury, but Glaze’s position remains a mystery. 

If Glaze plays guard, the Raiders may need to sign a veteran right tackle.

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Left guard

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In the best-case scenario, rookie second-rounder Jackson Powers-Johnson outright claims the starting left guard position, but the coaching staff will make him earn it.

In his OTA observations, The Athletic’s Tashan Reed noted that Dylan Parham lined up at right guard, which left Powers-Johnson and Cody Whitehair to rotate at left guard.

Powers-Johnson has a noteworthy challenger for the left guard spot. Whitehair played the position under offensive coordinator Luke Getsy with the Chicago Bears.

Whitehair and Andrus Peat have several years of experience at left guard, which indicates that the Raiders aren’t just going to hand Powers-Johnson the starting job.

Powers-Johnson exited Tuesday’s practice with an undisclosed injury.

Related: Revamped Raiders Offensive Line: Draft picks and veteran signings to boost 2024 performance


NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Las Vegas Raiders
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After the Raiders allowed Amik Robertson to sign elsewhere in free agency, they drafted Decamerion Richardson and M.J. Devonshire in the fourth and seventh rounds, respectively, but they haven’t signed a notable veteran cornerback yet.

The coaching staff may want to see if Jakorian Bennett, a 2023 fourth-rounder, makes strides in his second year before calling for a veteran reinforcement.

Bennett and Brandon Facyson may have the initial crack at the starting boundary cornerback job as Richardson and Devonshire get up to speed as pros.

Because of a knee injury, Facyson only suited up for three games and played 44 defensive snaps last year, but don’t sleep on his chance to make the final roster. 

As the Los Angeles Chargers’ general manager, Tom Telesco signed Facyson as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He went on to play three seasons with the club.

Las Vegas Raiders’ quarterback competition sets the stage

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This position battle will make or break the Raiders’ 2024 campaign. Gardner Minshew and Aidan O’Connell will compete to lead the offensive huddle for Week 1 of the season.

Entering his sixth season, Minshew has the advantage in experience. He put together a decent resume as a short-term starter, spot starter, and decent backup, throwing for 59 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in 49 contests (37 starts). 

Last year, Minshew made the AFC’s Pro Bowl roster, throwing for 3,305 yards, 15 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in 17 games (13 starts).

As head coach Antonio Pierce said, O’Connell has “earned” first-team reps. 

As a rookie, O’Connell threw for 2,218 yards, 12 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in an unstable situation, which makes those numbers a little more impressive.

For added context, O’Connell struggled in his first start (against the Los Angeles Chargers) in place of an injured Jimmy Garoppolo, but he showed improvement after the Raiders fired head coach and offensive play-caller Josh McDaniels.

With a first-time offensive coordinator in Bo Hardegree, O’Connell had impressive outings against all the Raiders’ division rivals, recording passer ratings of 101.6 or higher against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 12, the Chargers in Week 15, and the Denver Broncos in Week 18.

On the flip side, O’Connell struggled mightily against the Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, and in the team’s second outing with the Chiefs.

Perhaps a full offseason in competition for the starting job allows O’Connell to make strides with the Raiders’ fully loaded offensive personnel, which will feature Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Tre Tucker, Brock Bowers, Michael Mayer, and Harrison Bryant.

The Raiders’ quarterback battle between Minshew and O’Connell could come down to the final preseason game.

Maurice Moton covers the Las Vegas Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.

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