In the NFL, young players with potential and even some veterans get second chances. Most of the time, they have to go elsewhere for new opportunities. This year, the Las Vegas Raiders have three roster holdovers who can redeem themselves after underwhelming performances under the previous regime.
The transition between Jon Gruden’s coaching staff and Josh McDaniel’s group could benefit a few players who need a clean slate. Specifically, two players from recent drafts will have an opportunity to either excel in a new or an expanded role under the incoming regime. Also, a veteran who understands the current system could emerge as a surprise starter in September.
Following spring practices, we’ll put the spotlight on a few names to watch going into training camp. The three players below didn’t provide much of an impact last year, but they have a chance to become decent contributors in 2022.
Jermaine Eluemunor, offensive lineman
Jermaine Eluemunor went into the 2021 season as a backup until Denzelle Good tore his ACL in the opener against the Baltimore Ravens. He took over the starting spot at right guard through Week 4 and then moved to the bench once Alex Leatherwood shifted over from right tackle.
Eluemunor may have been a better option than Leatherwood at right guard, which isn’t saying much, but he could have a shot to settle into a starting job in 2022. Vegas re-signed him in March.
According to The Athletic’s Tashan Reed, Leatherwood has taken the majority of first-team reps at right tackle through spring practices, which allowed Lester Cotton Sr. to fill in at right guard while Good continues to recover from a significant knee injury.
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Over the past few years, Cotton has held a spot on the practice squad, appearing in just five games. Though he could make the final 53-man roster, the Alabama product would more than likely serve as a backup. If Good doesn’t make a smooth return to action for training camp, Eluemunor may be able to beat rookie third-rounder Dylan Parham and Cotton for the spot.
Furthermore, Eluemunor could be the Raiders’ backup plan at right tackle. In 2020, with the New England Patriots, he logged all of his snaps at tackle (277 on the right side and 141 on the left side), per Pro Football Focus.
Without another notable addition to the offensive line group, Eluemunor can compete for the first-string job at both spots on the right side, especially if Leatherwood struggles at tackle through training camp.
Foster Moreau, tight end
Once the Raiders hired McDaniels, a lot of fans fantasized about a dynamic pass-catching tight end duo that closely resembles the Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez tandem in New England.
But let’s be honest about Moreau’s production after his return from a torn ACL that derailed his 2019 rookie campaign. He’s been a bit underwhelming as a pass-blocker and pass-catcher over the past two years.
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In 2021, Moreau had a chance to fill a major void in the passing game while fellow tight end Darren Waller missed six outings because of knee and back injuries. Though he caught 30 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns, his catch rate dropped to 68.2 percent, his lowest in a single season, with some bad drops. According to Pro Football Focus, he also gave up 10 pressures, three sacks and committed four penalties in blocking assignments.
Though the Patriots only used 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends) for 14 percent of their offensive plays in 2021 (ranked 27th leaguewide), per Sharp Football Stats, they did invest a lot in tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, spending $87.5 million combined on them in free agency last offseason.
McDaniels values tight ends, so Moreau could see increased opportunities when Waller lines up as a receiver alongside Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow. Nonetheless, he must tighten up on his blocking, which ironically is an area he excelled in coming out of LSU.
Amik Robertson, cornerback
Last year, Amik Robertson had an opportunity to carve out a decent role while fellow cornerback Trayvon Mullen battled a foot injury, but he struggled as a fill-in boundary defender, giving up a touchdown in three consecutive outings between Weeks 4 and 6, per Pro Football Focus.
In Week 4 against the Los Angeles Chargers, Robertson had a very short stretch of solid play against 6’4″, 218-pound wide receiver Mike Williams, but he couldn’t expand on that. Former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley relied on Desmond Trufant and Brandon Facyson in the second half of the season and into the playoffs.
Going into his third year, Robertson may cling on to a back-end roster spot at cornerback or perhaps take on a different role.
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According to Reed, Robertson took first-team reps in the absence of Mullen through the spring.
Tafur noted that Robertson has impressed the coaching staff with his versatility:
Robertson will need more than a standout stretch through the spring to move up the depth chart, but on a clean slate, he’s off to a decent start under a new coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham may find a way to tap into his potential.
Keep in mind that Robertson came out of Louisiana Tech as an undersized ball hawk, logging 34 pass breakups and 14 interceptions as a 5’8″, 187-pound boundary defender.
With the buzz about Robertson’s versatility, Graham could experiment with him in the slot as a backup behind Nate Hobbs or float the third-year pro between the slot and safety spots, which is a staple in his defense. Last year, Julian Love, Logan Ryan, Xavier McKinney and Jabrill Peppers rotated in that fluid role for the New York Giants.
Robertson’s ability to line up in various positions could help him earn a roster spot, but he must overcome his size disadvantage with better technique (footwork, leverage and ball location).
Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.