Linebacker Neiron Ball, Running back George Atkinson III, and Saftey Nate Allen
It's no secret that the Oakland Raiders have some household names on the team heading into 2016, with players like quarterback Derek Carr, defensive end Khalil Mack, and wide receiver Amari Cooper receiving a plethora of praise through the offseason. With training camp just around the corner, let's discuss some of the players who maybe aren't getting as much of the shine as their teammates.
Let's take a look at who's flying under the radar.
Running back George Atkinson III — The former Notre Dame running back has an opportunity to thrive in a situation he is familiar with -- the Raiders' return game hasn't been productive in recent memory, but Atkinson has the ability to change that. In college he managed 3,144 all-purpose yards, and 2,136 of those yards were from kick returns. At 6'1" and 220 pounds, Atkinson can be a great option for the Raiders both as a running back and a kick returner, as they hope he can be an explosive playmaker who gets the ball in good field position. With a wealth of experience running the ball, he could also serve as a complementary running back to pair with Latavius Murray.
Linebacker Neiron Ball — This athletic linebacker was drafted by the Raiders last year, and in the two games he started he showcased much of what he's capable of. He provided nine tackles and one sack in those games, and his presence on the field superseded than what is reflected in the stat sheet. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to an untimely injury that occurred week 7 against the San Diego Chargers, right as he was starting to get comfortable on the field. Coming off the injury, Ball hopes to pick up where he left off, and will hopefully provide some depth for the Raiders' linebacking corps.
Safety Nate Allen — Before coming to the Raiders in 2015, Allen was a force to be reckoned with on the Philadelphia Eagles. This strong safety compiled 324 combined tackles and 10 interceptions during his five-year stint with Philly. Plagued by a knee injury last season, Allen is looking to put 2015 behind him and is working hard to help the defense continue developing. He also had the benefit of participating in the Offseason Workout program – something neither Karl Joseph nor Reggie Nelson were able to do.
Fullback Jamize Olawale — Weighing in at 240 pounds, Olawale is a tank and can bulldoze his way through the defensive front. Last season, the running back provided the team with an impressive 19-yard touchdown run against the Steelers in Week Nine that one commentator defined as "Jamazing." Olawale figures to be a big presence early on in the season and can capitalize on an increased role in the offense if given the opportunity. After coming off a career-high 24 carries, look for him to make the most of his carries in 2016.
Tight end Gabe Holmes — Entering his second season in the NFL, Holmes will come in to training camp looking to continue his development at the professional level. The 6'5" tight end is a big target, especially at 260 pounds, and he can be a serviceable player on this roster. Before an injury in 2013, Holmes was named to the Preseason Mackey Award Watch list. The Purdue product will look to make an impact in his second season, and it's obvious the Raiders' coaching staff values the physical tight end as he was kept on the active roster for the second half of the season even though he wasn't active for a single game.