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Raiders Mailbag: Who were some of the top performers in minicamp?

Scott Boe asks:

"After OTAs, who appears to be the lead dogs at the cornerback position?"

All eyes are on Jack Jones and Nate Hobbs to lead the way. Last season, Jones returned two interceptions for touchdowns in divisional victories against the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs, while Hobbs set career highs in pass deflections (seven), tackles for loss (six) and solo tackles (59).

While Hobbs is expected to remain a big piece of the secondary, it seems he'll settle back into the nickel cornerback role he played the majority of his rookie year. Therefore, the Raiders are looking at several all options for the outside cornerback position opposite of Jones.

Cornerbacks that stood out in OTAs and minicamp were Brandon Facyson and Jakorian Bennett. Facyson is hitting the ground running this offseason following an injury that forced him to miss 14 games last season. The 6-foot-2 cornerback led the team in pass deflections (13) in 2021.

"I think the sky's the limit for him," Hobbs said about Facyson. "I feel like people forget my rookie year, 2021, how he started the last half of the season, and went man for man with every receiver who was a top-ranked receiver and shut them down, essentially. Once he gets in his bag, he's hard to stop. He makes it very hard on the opposing team. He's just a physical specimen, is what I call him. Great dude, too – great energy, great positivity."

Bennett, a 2023 fourth-round pick, is looking to settle in after some growing pains throughout his rookie campaign. He's made the most of his offseason reps, including nabbing two interceptions in minicamp. His speed and instinctual ability to make plays have been noticeable.

David Winderbaum from New York asks:

"Who do you see has the potential to be the under the radar success story this coming season?"

I see a lot of potential for the Raiders running back room to play beyond their expectations.

Zamir White is coming up to the plate after seeing limited game action through his first two seasons. Nevertheless, he's showed what he can become as a starting running back. He averaged nearly five yards a carry in four starts last year and has been working diligently this offseason to improve as a pass catcher.

"Very, very talented young man that's going into his third year," running backs coach Cadillac Williams said. "Raw, but got a chance to be really good. Big, physical, strong, quick, can do a lot of things that again you don't have to coach. The potential there is incredible. I think just a young man that's got to continue to hone in on the little things and continue to define his skills, but with time and him trusting the process, trusting himself and us coaches putting him in the right position to be successful, man he is going to flourish."

There's also Alexander Mattison, who played the lead back role with the Minnesota Vikings last season to the tune of three receiving touchdowns. I also must include sixth-round pick Dylan Laube from New Hampshire. He's worked his way into seeing some first-team reps in these early practices. He was one of 11 FCS players selected in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Cliff Peddle from Ontario, Canada asks:

"I have high hopes for AOC. Do you think he can be a successful starter in the NFL?"

While in small doses, Aidan O'Connell has already proven he can be a successful NFL starter.

Despite starting in a little over half of the 2023 Raiders games, the fourth-rounder ranked in the top three of all rookie quarterbacks in passing yards, pass completions, passing touchdowns and quarterback rating (min. 10 games). He started coming into his own late down the stretch with a 8:0 touchdown-interception ratio and 3-1 record his last four games of the season.

"Just watching from afar last year, I was incredibly impressed with how he handled the situation," quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello said. "I just feel like the individual is everything you'd hoped he'd be. He's just got a lot of internal drive, discipline, how he sees the game the right way. He wants to be great. He'll work at it. He's selfless and he has a great deal of respect among the teammates, the coaching staff and everyone in the building. So, I think to do that as a rookie thrown into how he was, I give him a lot of credit and says a lot about the individual, and without that it's tough to be successful in this league, definitely to be great at the position."

At this point in his young career, he's certainly proved he can be a capable starting quarterback. But with hopes to make a leap into a consistent force in Year 2, he'll need to first win the starting quarterback job in a training camp battle against Pro Bowler Gardner Minshew II.

Take a look at behind the scenes photos of the Las Vegas Raiders 2024 Media Day.

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