It’s still early in training camp, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been players for the Oakland Raiders that have already begun to show their potential. This could mean very good things for this Raiders team heading into 2019. Vic Tafur at The Athletic, who has been to every practice, has stated that this year’s camp feels very similar to 2016’s. That’s exciting stuff for Oakland fans. There are obvious standouts like Derek Carr and Antonio Brown, but their not the only one. There have also been some smaller names that have been very impressive in the early goings. Below we’re going to go through some of the standouts you may not have heard a lot about.
Opinions on Kolton Miller keeping his starting job after the 2018 disaster were mixed, to say the least. He was straight-up bad last season. As a first-round pick, the expectations the Raiders had for him were much higher. While he can’t take back his poor rookie performance, he can make sure he doesn’t replicate it. So far, Miller looks like he’s on track. Sporting some more muscle at this year’s training camp, Miller has been dominant. Rookie fourth overall pick Clelin Ferrell has been ineffective against him.
Ferrell is young but has a lot of high-level experience from college. Miller’s dominance over him shouldn’t be disregarded. Whatever concern there was about Miller covering Derek Carr’s blindside is starting to fade away. He’ll still have to prove that he can be consistent on Sunday’s before he solidifies his spot as the left tackle of the future. Don’t forget, Miller came on strong in the first couple of games of the 2018 season before he was injured. Opinions soured after his strong start, but he has a lot of potential. With better health and added strength, he could sure up the left side of the offensive line with Richie Incognito.
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It’s going to be a lot of fun seeing Tyrell Williams line up across from Antonio Brown. In Brown’s absence, Williams has been completely dominant in the passing game. He’s shown that he’s sure-handed and has blistering speed.
Considering Williams is 6’4, it’s not even fair how fast he is. He started to get lost in the shuffle with the Los Angeles Chargers last year, so he’ll be looking for a fresh start in Oakland. He’s proven that he can be very productive when he’s featured a good amount. Also, playing with Antonio Brown will help Williams greatly because number two receivers have always played well with him. If the Raider offensive line can improve and Carr has time to throw, Williams could put up some big numbers. Don’t be surprised if he continues to make highlight-reel touchdowns.
Darren Waller is a walking highlight reel. The former wide receiver turned tight end has done nothing but make plays this offseason. The Raiders’ “secret weapon” isn’t going to be a secret much longer if he keeps making plays. The team has a huge opening at tight end and while there have been a couple of options to stand out, Waller seems to be the most exciting option as a receiver.
He’ll still need to prove himself as a blocker if he’s going to be the consistent starter, but with Williams and Brown spreading the field, it just doesn’t seem like linebackers are going to be able to stop him. The loss of last year’s leading receiver Jared Cook certainly hurts, but Waller could ease that pain. He’s found himself in trouble in the past and has been suspended before. If he can keep his head on straight, he’s going to make some plays in 2019.
It might be easy to forget about LaMarcus Joyner with so many rookies and homegrown talents in the defensive backfield, but he could be exactly the veteran presence the defense needs. Joyner’s most notable battle has been against rookie Hunter Renfrow and Antonio Brown.
“Antonio Brown is one of those guys, it’s like Sunday, every rep against him and Renfrow is like Sunday and you know that if he’s out there, the ball’s coming to [Brown],” said Joyner.” If you don’t compete with Antonio Brown, he’s gonna embarrass you and he’s going to rub it in your face. I didn’t feel like having a down practice that day because I didn’t want to see him dancing with the stars.
After a somewhat rough start against Renfrow, Joyner has come on very strong and is already becoming a fan favorite.
If he’s able to keep up with Brown, he’s going to be able to keep up with anybody. After playing safety for the Los Angeles Rams the last couple of years, Joyner is slated to play nickel corner for the Raiders. He brings excellent depth to a really young group that could either be amazing or terrible in 2019. If the unit starts to struggle, Joyner will likely still be a consistent option.
Who? AJ Cole is the backup punter for the Raiders and he’s already been making the case that he should take Johnny Townsend’s spot. He’s been demonstrating that he’s got a much stronger leg than the incumbent starter.
After years of excellent punt play from Marquette King, the Raiders brought in Townsend to replace the controversial punter. Townsend did not come on strong as a rookie. Oakland had the worst punting yard average of any team in 2018. An undrafted rookie out of North Carolina State, Cole needs to prove a lot if he’s going to beat out Townsend, who the Raiders used a draft pick on in 2018. Solid punt play is undervalued and more talent at that position could help Oakland. The Townsend and Cole battle is one to watch in training camp. It seems like Cole has the upper hand so far.