The Oakland Raiders released their first unofficial depth chart of 2018 Monday afternoon, emphasis on unofficial.
League rules dictate that a team must release a depth chart ahead of the first preseason game, and the Raiders complied and did just that; let's just not read too far into anything as of yet.
That being said, the depth chart provides interesting fodder for conversation, so that's exactly what Eddie Paskal and Kyle Martin of Raiders.com are going to do.
Here's their most recent iteration of "Cover 2" – the initial depth chart edition.
Eddie Paskal: Were there any surprises when I took at a look at the initial depth chart? I might not say "surprises" per se, but there were definitely a few things that I took note of, like Kolton Miller being listed as the starting left tackle.
With Donald Penn still on the mend on the PUP list, the rookie tackle has indeed been running with the first team, so seeing him listed as the starter isn't necessarily surprising, but it is noteworthy how well No. 77 has played throughout his first training camp as a Raider
Another note I thought was interesting was seeing Fadol Brown listed as the second defensive end behind Tank Carradine. Now, I'm sure that when the Raiders' edge rush gets back to full strength that will likely change, but seeing No. 95 listed as the backup defensive end for the time being just goes to show how nice of a training camp he's had.
Real quickly, a pair of other depth chart notes I found interesting; Connor Cook is listed as the backup quarterback for the time being, and veteran wide receiver Dwayne Harris has a hold on both the kick and punt returner roles as of now.
Kyle Martin: All offseason, Eddie and I have talked about how the starting quarterback without question would be Derek Carr, but the backup spot would come down to either EJ Manuel or Connor Cook. The release of the unofficial depth chart Monday revealed that Cook is currently the No. 2 signal-caller, which strikes me as surprising.
Cook and Manuel have competed all summer long, and in camp the two have appeared to be neck and new, but given the amount of playing time Manuel saw last year, my assumption was that he'd be listed as the backup at this point. Clearly my theory was inaccurate, but Cook has shown improvement over the last few days of practice, and it's apparent that Head Coach Jon Gruden and Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson are trying to mold the young player. The preseason will reveal more about where both Cook and Manuel stand in the eyes of the coaching staff.
Battle to Watch:
EP: For me, I'm still very intrigued by the battle to be Derek Carr's backup in 2018, aka Cook/Manuel II.
The two QBs battled it out all last offseason to be the second quarterback on the depth chart, with Manuel eventually solidifying himself as the guy, but as of the first unofficial depth chart of 2018, the former Michigan State Spartan has taken an early lead in that battle.
Now, I think it's important to note that this initial depth chart is incredibly fluid, and that depending on what we see during the four preseason games, Cook and Manuel can no doubt switch places, but it's certainly worth noting who's the lead dog for that position right now.
Cook has had a nice few days at practice, and that progression has no doubt caught the attention of his head coach.
KM: Aside from the battle between quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Connor Cook, I've got my eye on a few different positions, but specifically wide receiver. No sense in wasting time wondering who the starters will be, there's no doubt Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson will be the primary wide outs, but behind them Martavis Bryant, Seth Roberts, and Ryan Switzer all bring something different to the table.
Bryant — acquired via trade this offseason — has all the talent in the world to be a heavy contributor in Gruden's offense, but Roberts has been one of Derek Carr's most reliable targets over the years, and Switzer is flat out elusive. All have showed flashes of brilliance, but Bryant and Roberts are currently behind Cooper and Nelson, with Switzer trailing. All three have a shot at making the roster, no question there, but I'm keeping my eye on Switzer and Roberts. Those two should be in the mix for the fourth spot in the wide receivers' room.
EP: Here's a sleeper for ya – Chris Warren III.
First things first, this dude looks more like a linebacker than a running back, but make no mistake about it, this big fella can pound the rock.
There's one play in particular that sticks with me, and that was from a few days ago, where Warren took the ball, lowered his shoulder, and absolutely pummeled a linebacker coming up to try to make the tackle on him.
Now, I know that there's a bit of a logjam at the running back position, but let's see what Warren can do in the preseason games over the next month. There's always a guy or two who makes a name for himself in the preseason, who says that person can't be the former Texas Longhorn this year?
KM: Talking about sleepers is one of my favorite things to do in terms of evaluation. We hear about, and watch the starters constantly, but in order to be successful in the NFL you have to utilize all 53 spots on the roster to maximize potential, and there's a few players I think can help do that.
First, I'll start with wide receiver Marcell Ateman who has been a go-to target for all three of the quarterbacks throughout camp. He offers a special combination of size and athleticism, which helps him create separation from his defenders.
Second, defensive end Fadol Brown has been vocal, and tenacious in the trenches during practice. Last year I thought Brown had a shot at making the 53-man roster, but he ended up on the practice squad. This time around, it looks like he's kicking his game up another gear, and it'll be interesting to see how he performs in the coming weeks.
Third, and last but not least, safety Erik Harris. No. 25 is currently recovering from a finger issue, but he should be back on the field soon. Harris was a valuable member of the Raiders' special teams unit last year, and he's making some key plays on defense here in camp. He's even caught the attention of his head coach.