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Oakland Raiders' Position Battles: Safeties


Perhaps no position group on the Raiders' roster went through more of an overhaul this past offseason than the safeties did.

After a storied career that saw him accomplish nearly everything possible in the game of football, safety Charles Woodson retired following the end of the 2015 season.

With Woodson's retirement – combined with the instability the team had at strong safety throughout the season – the Silver and Black saw that a retooling of the back end of their defense was in order. They didn't waste any time either, signing Pro Bowl safety Reggie Nelson in the offseason, as well as drafting Karl Joseph No. 14 overall in this year's NFL Draft.

With Training Camp rapidly approaching, let's take a look at the Raiders' safeties – as well as players listed as defensive backs – and see what to expect from the group heading into 2016.

Safety – Nate Allen – Seventh Season – South Florida

Throughout the Offseason Workout Program, Allen seems to very much be the forgotten man in the Raiders' secondary.

After being one of the Silver and Black's big ticket free agent signings heading into 2015, Allen put together a quality preseason before suffering a knee injury in the team's Week 1 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. At season's end, the veteran safety appeared in five games for the Raiders, totaling 14 tackles and one interception.

The team temporarily released the former South Florida Bull only to re-sign him two days later this offseason, and now heading into Training Camp 2016 he's one of the more intriguing prospects on the roster.

During his time in Philadelphia, Allen showed a knack for finding the football, totaling 10 interceptions during his time as an Eagle, and if he can channel that ball-hawking nature once again, it would make the back end of the Raiders' defense all the more potent.

Defensive Back – Chris Edwards – Rookie – Idaho

Edwards was a versatile piece on the Vandals' defense during his time in college, playing both outside linebacker as well as dropping in coverage.

With experience playing linebacker – in addition to cornerback and safety – Edwards will have to channel that versatility and prove to the Raider's coaching staff that he has the skill and flexibility to find a home somewhere on the defense.

Like the other undrafted free agents on the roster, he'll have to make the most of what might be limited opportunities, and make an early impression to ensure he extends his career as a Raider.

Defensive Back – SaQwan Edwards – Second Season – New Mexico

Edwards spend the first 15 games of the 2015 season on the Raiders' practice squad before being elevated to the team's active roster prior to their season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The former New Mexico Lobo wasn't active for his lone game on the active roster, but he used the promotion to springboard a quality 2016 Offseason Workout Program.

Edwards routinely put quality plays on film throughout the spring, and he'll be a young player to keep an eye on once the team reports to Training Camp 2016.

Safety – Karl Joseph – Rookie – West Virginia

Even though he missed nearly all of his final season as a Mountaineer because of a knee injury, Joseph was selected by the Raiders with the No. 14 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft. The hard-hitting safety wasn't able to participate in the Offseason Workout Program, but the expectation is that he'll be ready to go once the team reports to Training Camp 2016.

"Yeah, that's the goal," recently told "We still have some time, and I'm feeling good, looking good, getting better every day, so we just have to keep taking those steps, getting better every day, every week and we'll see what happens when camp starts and we'll start getting in there trying to work in with those guys."

If all goes to plan, Joseph – along with Reggie Nelson – will form a formidable duo on the back end of the Raiders' defense.

Defensive Back – Dewey McDonald – Second Season – California (Pa)

After spending the 2014 season with the Indianapolis Colts, McDonald split time with the Colts and Patriots and before joining the Raiders' practice squad December 2.

He was elevated to the active roster December 29, and in the season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs he tallied one total tackle.

McDonald is an interesting prospect. Throughout the Offseason Workout Program he showed the ability to provide sticky coverage, so I'll be keeping a close eye on him when the team goes live during training camp.

Defensive Back – Keith McGill – Third Season – Utah

McGill appeared in 13 games in 2015 for the Silver and Black – as a cornerback.

At season's end Head Coach Jack Del Rio elected to move the rangy defensive back permanently to safety – a position he played during his first three seasons in college.

"We feel he [McGill] has his best opportunity to contribute on special teams and as a safety," Del Rio explained. "We like his length. We like a lot of things about him. It's just a matter of how far we can bring him, in terms of developing him, but that's largely up to him."

If McGill can adapt to once again playing on the back end, his presence will add some critical depth for the Raiders' secondary in 2016.

Safety – Reggie Nelson – 10th Season – Florida

After securing a league-leading eight interceptions in 2015, Nelson signed with the Silver and Black in April.

In 2016, the veteran safety will not only provide a wealth of experience for a primarily young position group, he'll also be able to lead by example and provide some stability on the back end.

Like Joseph, Nelson didn't participate in the Offseason Workout Program, but the team is anticipating him being able to hit the field when the team reports to training camp.

If both Joseph and Nelson are both healthy, the pair should form one of the more formidable tandems in the NFL.

Safety – Brynden Trawick – Fourth Season – Troy

After spending the first three seasons of his career in Baltimore, the Raiders signed Trawick this past offseason.

While he'll primarily serve as a key cog on special team's coordinator Brad Seely's unit in 2016, with a quality training camp, the former Troy Trojan could earn his way onto the field as part of the team's defensive rotation.

Keep An Eye On…

First things first – will Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson be able to participate when the team reports to their Napa Valley Training Complex to kick off Training Camp 2016?

Following the final day of minicamp, Del Rio said he anticipated the entire team being able to go once they arrived in Napa, and all indications are that will still be the case. However, if there are some unforeseen hiccups, and either Joseph or Nelson isn't able to go, it will initially cause some reverberations throughout the secondary.

The other thing I'll be keeping an eye on is the productivity of Nate Allen.

After a disappointing 2015 season, Allen is assuredly looking to right the ship, and if he were able to provide a third quality option on the back end of the defense, it would benefit not just the secondary, but the entire defensive unit as well.

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