Oakland Raiders: Top 3 Position Battles to Watch for Next Season


October 16, 2011; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (85) runs with the ball as Cleveland Browns defensive back Dimitri Patterson (left) and defensive back Usama Young (28) defend during the fourth quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Browns 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

When training camp begins for the Oakland Raiders, there will be numerous camp battles to keep an eye on. And although all eyes will surely be on the quarterback position, I believe it is the defensive side of the ball, where the competition runs deep. Below is a breakdown of the top three camp battles as the Raiders prepare for the 2013 season.

1. Free Safety

Oct 14, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns free safety Usama Young (28) intercepts a pass in the fourth quarter beside cornerback Sheldon Brown (24) and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The door is wide open as the free safety position is currently vacant. The Raiders signed two free-agents capable of starting from day one, those players include FS Usama Young and FS Reggie Smith. Young was signed as an unrestricted free-agent, and played the last two seasons with the Cleveland Browns. A serviceable player, Young has the intangibles needed to be an adequate starter. He may not have the speed or range to cover the deep balls, but he rarely misses an assignment. Young originally broke into the league as a 2007 third-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints. It is worth noting that he played in the big easy, considering current Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, was the Saints defensive backs coach at the time.

Then there is Reggie Smith. The six-year veteran spent his first four seasons as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, before moving on with the Carolina Panthers. A player that rarely played, Smith surprisingly played extremely well during his pre-season opportunities, as he has a knack for the ball. Look for Smith to make some interceptions during the pre-season, while fighting off Young for the starting position.

2. Cornerback

This camp battle seems to be a slug-fest, as CB Tracy Porter and CB Mike Jenkins will be competing for the second cornerback position, opposite of first-round pick CB D.J. Hayden. Both Porter and Jenkins have starts under their belts, so depending on which cornerback shines in pre-season, will ultimately determine the starter. They are both under one-year contracts, meaning they will be bringing their A game, day in and day out.

3. Punter

The Raiders have not had a punting camp battle, since P Shane Lechler locked down the spot his rookie year. Now that he’s long gone, the Raiders will need to fill his void with either P Marquette King or rookie P Bobby Cowan. Both players have limited NFL experience, making this position basically a crapshoot.