Oakland Raiders Training Camp 2019 is upon us.
The sky is clear, the grass is groomed to perfection, and all that remains is for the players to take the field, which will happen – in totality - in just a few days when the first official practice takes place on Saturday.
For the last few weeks, fellow raiders.com writer Eddie Paskal and myself have been deliberating and discussing myriad position battles throughout the roster. Each of us revealed a few of our players to keep an eye on, but I’m here to further break down four more under-the-radar Raiders waiting in the wings; let’s get started.
Will P.J. Hall emerge as a legitimate interior pass rusher in 2019?
P.J. Hall entered the 2018 NFL Draft as one of the many talented players to keep an eye on, and despite being a second-round pick a season ago, he’s one of my under-the-radar players to keep an eye on as training camp gets underway.
The Sam Houston State-product played in 14 games for the Silver and Black last year, starting in six, and totaled 22 tackles, two passes defensed, and four quarterback hits. On several occasions, Hall was so close to registering his first NFL sack, but wasn’t able to wrap up opposing signal-callers before they disposed of the ball. His athleticism and physicality combined are more than enough to make him a viable interior pass rusher for Paul Guenther’s defensive unit.
Maurice Hurst Jr. stole a majority of the spotlight last season, and deservedly so, leading the team in sacks, which is partially why his defensive counterpart hasn’t received as much buzz. We’ve talked plenty about the addition of No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell, but the Raiders have a talented inside pass rusher in Hall just waiting to show why he was a second-round pick.
We know Gruden loves the fullback, which bodes well for rookie Alec Ingold.
Jon Gruden is an old school coach in the sense he loves smash-mouth, gritty football. There are few positions that deliver bruising punishment more than the fullback, and at 6’1”, 242 pounds Alec Ingold is primed for some quality reps during training camp.
Now, I’m not suggesting you target Ingold in your fantasy drafts this year, but I think he can be a factor in Gruden’s offense this season. Ingold played all four years at the University of Wisconsin, totaling 343 rushing yards on 103 carries, and 17 rushing touchdowns. What’s most impressive, however, is the fact Ingold averaged 5.5 yards per carry his senior season, finishing with 143 rushing yards, six touchdowns, 93 receiving yards, and one receiving touchdown.
It won’t be easy for Ingold to get extended playing time considering Keith Smith will split reps with the rookie, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Gruden took a shine to the former Badger.
Let's take a look at the current 90-man roster as players arrive in Napa for 2019 Training Camp.
Marcell Ateman was a red-zone target for Carr last year, who’s to say he won’t be again?
Before I get started, yes, I’m aware Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams are going to command a lot of attention in the red zone — that’s a given — however, it’s for that reason second-year wide receiver Marcell Ateman might be able to take advantage of some opportunities.
This time last year, the coaches, players, and media couldn’t stop chirping about Ateman’s size and deep-pass potential. Truthfully, his college tape reminded me a lot of Tyrell William’s ability to streak down the field or go up in contested coverage to haul in a pass. Both have similar characteristics, but that doesn’t mean Ateman can’t be an impact player for the Silver and Black alongside Williams and Brown.
With Jordy Nelson hurt toward the end of last year, and the Amari Cooper trade in the rearview mirror, Ateman saw more playing time than he probably expected as a seventh-round pick. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy totaled 15 receptions on 31 targets for 154 yards and one touchdown. From the nine-yard line, the Raiders lined up on second and goal, with Ateman in one-on-one coverage. He bodied his defender, boxed him out, and pinpointed Carr’s pass high in the air to haul in the touchdown.
Even in a crowded wide receivers room, Ateman showed last year he can make highlight-reel plays and is going to be gunning for that third wide receiver spot.
Erik Harris is the epitome of a player that simply goes out and does his job well.
Once a worker in a potato chip factory, Harris has long been removed from the warehouse floor, and has established himself as a key player for the Raiders. This offseason, Harris signed a two-year deal, proving not only to himself, but the naysayers that he belongs in the NFL.
Whether it’s on special teams, on defense, or in the meeting rooms, Harris does what is asked of him and works on his craft relentlessly. It’s that kind of mentality Jon Gruden and the coaching staff want to instill in the next generation of players, and Harris is the perfect example. He might not be the flashiest player on the field, but last season he played in all 16 games, started in four, and had a career high two interceptions to go along with seven passes defensed and 49 tackles.
Regardless of the new additions of Lamarcus Joyner and rookie Johnathan Abram, Harris will find ways to still be effective even if his playing time is cut short. He’s familiar with Paul Guenther’s defense, he works hard, and he can play an important role by mentoring some of the rookies.
The Raiders have a lot of talent across the board, and while I think these four will be the ones that contribute more than people expect, we’ll likely see some other players step into the light throughout training camp.
For more news and updates regarding Raiders 2019 Training Camp, stay tuned to Raiders.com.