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Top observations from 3 days of mandatory minicamp

The Las Vegas Raiders attacked mandatory minicamp head first after two weeks of OTAs.

The Silver and Black had a great showing during this period, taking reps on the field and mental reps in the classroom. This week of minicamp plus next week's final OTA practices will conclude the offseason training program, with Training Camp up next in July.

Here are three noteworthy observations from the last three days of mandatory minicamp.

The development of the backfield

The depth in the running back room has been showcased throughout minicamp, with many opportunities for several running backs to shine, including returning players Brandon Bolden, Ameer Abdullah, Zamir White and Brittain Brown.

While Bolden and Abdullah are the veterans of the unit, White and Brown are going into their second season still working to carve out roles. In their rookie seasons, White provided a few carries in third-and-short situations, while Brown primarily played special teams. Offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi spoke Wednesday of the approach the running back group has taken this offseason.

"[W]e always talk about your role is what you make it, and I think there hasn't been a greater opportunity than the one in the running back room for those young players like Zamir and Brittain," said Lombardi. "They've gotten a lot of reps, they've gotten a lot exposure, they've learned a lot, so there's no hiding anymore. ... The young players, they sometimes need to learn how to fail to succeed, and I think it's really what you're seeing.

"Look I'm not saying Zamir White and Brittain Brown go out there and mess up every play, I'm not saying that at all, but look, just like you do anything new, you go out there and you learn from your mistakes. And being able to do that and fix their mistakes, I think, is what they're able to do this spring and they're doing a great job of that."

Another emerging running back for the Raiders is Sincere McCormick, a 2022 UDFA signing out of UTSA. After breaking school records in career rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, he went down with an ACL injury last offseason, and has rehabbed his way back to the field in hopes of finding a role on this team.

"Anytime a player obviously gets an injury like that where they're out a long time, you hope they come back and hope they can perform the way they want to perform. And I think Sincere has not only done that, but he's done a great job of just learning the playbook and coming out there," said Lombardi. "He's gotten some reps too, probably reps he wouldn't have gotten as a rookie before."

Strength of the secondary

There have been a few additions to the secondary but two players that've stuck out so far are Marcus Epps and Brandon Facyson.

Both players, who signed with the Silver and Black this offseason, have notably played in some big games throughout their young careers. Epps is coming off a Super Bowl appearance with the Philadelphia Eagles and has appeared in five playoff games through his first four NFL seasons. He's been all over the place in the Raiders defense, switching between free and strong safety along with Tre’von Moehrig and Isaiah Pola-Mao. Whether he's playing in the box or in deep coverage, he seems to be able to find ways to be effective – even catching an interception in Wednesday's practice.

Facyson returns to the Raiders after starting in a playoff game for the team in 2021. The wide receiver room that he would go up against in practice daily has changed vastly since his first stint with the Raiders, now finding himself covering the likes of All-Pro Davante Adams in addition to Hunter Renfrow. It's a challenge he fully welcomes.

"It's good. It generates good, healthy competition. Sometimes that happens, a lot of times that happens," Facyson said Thursday. "It's just something that you kind of have to adjust to, and it's great work every day. It's good going against different receivers. I enjoy going up against Tae and all those guys. ... They're doing a great job on the offensive side, and we just look forward to competing with them every single day."

Competition on defense

The two position groups with an overflow of competition on defense are linebackers and interior defensive line.

While Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones are expected to do heavy lifting at defensive end, it's still too early to tell which players will see action on the inside of those two. The Raiders were able to bring back a couple of starters in Bilal Nichols (17 starts) and Jerry Tillery (four starts), while 2022 draft picks Neil Farrell Jr.  and Matthew Butler return for their second seasons. A couple of newcomers that've looked formidable are Adam Butler and third-round pick Byron Young from Alabama – both seeing their fair share of reps this offseason. While Nichols is competing every day with his younger teammates, the Delaware native doesn't shy away from being a leader and assisting them in adjusting to the team.

"[I'm] just coming in day in and day out, and not only working hard but also giving information," said Nichols. "I've been blessed enough to play around dudes who have always gave me the game and wanted me to be successful. And that's just something that you try to pass along."

The linebacking unit looks vastly different, with Divine Deablo and Luke Masterson the only two starters returning from last season. They've been competing alongside free-agent signing Robert Spillane, who's compiled three sacks and nearly 200 total tackles in four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. So far, the hard-nosed newcomer has been putting his head down running, while also trying to get acclimated with his team.

"Every year is a new year, new guys, new system," said Spillane. "I think we're really coming together well, and as long as we bring that blue collar toughness with us on Sundays, we should be good. Communication is at a high, working together is at a high, but when we get the pads on, that's when the physicality comes in."

"During the offseason, this is a time to really get to know your teammates, get to understand how your players are playing around you, especially being a middle linebacker," continued Spillane. "I want to know how the guys in front of me are going to play in certain blocks and certain schemes, and I need to know where the guys are going to be behind me so I can have that trust and we all trust each other going forward."

Take a look inside Intermountain Health Performance Center at the best shots from day three of mandatory minicamp.

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