Las Vegas Raiders Minicamp Top Storylines

The Las Vegas Raiders’ last week of practice and the first day of mandatory minicamp is underway with just over a month until Training Camp begins. Minicamp is the most crucial time before training camp for the team to get together and game plan for the upcoming season. All of the key pieces should be there so the Raiders’ new offensive coordinator Luke Gesty will need every second to grasp how his playbook looks on the field and Head Coach Antonio Pierce is going get a better feel for how his team is coming along.

Mandatory Minicamp Storylines

Raiders Quarterback Competition Well Underway

The Raiders quarterback competition is at the forefront of every fan’s mind given the Raiders went without drafting one and picked up a veteran coming off of a Pro Bowl appearance to compete with last year’s starter. Gardner Minshew and Aidan O’Connell are no strangers to competition at their position given their respective pasts in college and the NFL. Last year, O’Connell earned the right to take this off-season’s initial snaps with the first team. So far he hasn’t lost that privilege, but don’t be surprised if Minshew gets that opportunity sometime soon as well. It is a competition after all and whichever quarterback gets the starting job will have earned it on merit and their ability to lead a football team. Minshew and O’Connell have both risen above adversity as backups in the NFL to win games that people think they shouldn’t. Though both of them are considered by some analysts to be at the bottom of ranking lists, the two quarterbacks make up for it in their drive to “Just Win Baby”.

There is not much information on who is outplaying the other in this quarterback competition during OTAs, but O’Connell still looks like he’s going to be given the first opportunity to show his stuff at least in Mandatory Minicamp. Both Quarterbacks boast great throws to receivers for big plays when lined up against the defense for some seven-on-sevens. Second-year receiver Tre Tucker is among the standouts who have caught some nice passes from both Minshew and O’Connell showcasing the speed on deep routes that got him drafted. The former third-round pick looks even faster than last year coming to OTAs and camp in great shape. The offseason work he’s been doing on his own and with fellow second-year player Aidan O’Connell looks like it paid off. Tucker’s offseason work likely made him more comfortable with NFL-style plays and the precise routes necessary to have his speed blow the top off of defenses. More explosive weapons mean a higher chance of success for whoever ends up taking snaps against the Chargers in Week 1.

The Defense

Last year, the Las Vegas Raiders defensive play was a pleasant surprise to a season filled with unpleasant ones. Amid a regime change, quarterback uncertainty, and a lot of doubt from outsiders looking in, The Raider defense remained constant. Constantly proving people wrong and keeping the team in games experts picked the Raiders to have no shot in.

The defensive line made major improvements that could make star Maxx Crosby’s impact on the field even bigger. The addition of Christian Wilkins to the team put another presence on the defensive front to rival Crosby. It takes pressure off and lowers the chance of double teams for both players. More opportunities all around for two elite players at a premium position is what the Raiders need to take them to the next level.

Speaking of pass rush, the impact of a good rush can sometimes make up for what a defense lacks in the defensive backfield. The Raiders didn’t make any glaring improvements in the offseason, but last year’s late arrival of Jack Jones put a good player with the potential to become consistently elite in a key position of need for the Raiders. Someone still needs to step up across from him at the other cornerback position, but the elite pass rush of the Raiders will help to relieve some of the pressure that the defensive backs might feel.

Overall, every position group on defense is better off than it was at the start of last season. Even the safety position which looks to be locked up by veterans Trevon Moehrig and Marcus Epps has young players on the roster looking to get some play time this season. Rookie seventh-round pick Trey Taylor is getting talked about both on and off the field. Antonio Pierce has been looking to add players based on more than just how they look on the field, which hasn’t fallen by the wayside. Taylor could potentially be one of those players who defy scouts assessment of him as great in college, but average in the big leagues. His intangibles are as good as they get and with the kind of culture Pierce is building players like Taylor can often play to the best of their abilities and exceed expectations.

As Advertised Rookies

Speaking of explosive players, throughout OTAs first-round pick Brock Bowers has shown that he is everything scouts said he was coming out of Georgia. Instead of being the stereotypical Master of None type, Bowers isn’t good at everything he’s great. He can line up inside, outside, on the line, in the backfield, take handoffs in motion, block, the list goes on. The Raiders staff tested this throughout OTAs and word around Las Vegas is that he really can do it all. On top of that he flat out just makes plays.

At the Raiders 2024 Media Day, Gardner Minshew had this to say when asked about Bowers on the Raiders Roundtable talk show, “He’s gonna be really special. Screen game, boot game, quick five-yard passes he can turn into explosive plays… As a quarterback you love nothing more than throwing it here and seeing them run all the way up the field.”. Minshew can’t help but smile and praise Bowers, so it looks like the Raiders made the right decision by taking the best offensive weapon available. The “12-man personnel”, which calls for two tight ends on the field, may be a regular occurrence for the Raiders’ given they have two starting caliber tight ends who can both catch and block. The possibilities for unique and uncomfortable matchups with big athletic receivers who can also flip to run blocking on a moment’s notice are exciting.

Second-round steal Jackson Powers Johnson is also looking to be just that. The consensus first-team All-American is rotating snaps with the first team at the guard position and hopefully during mandatory mini-camp, he gets to show a bit about what makes him the beast he is on the field. Sort of like running backs, it’s hard to tell whether or not an offensive lineman will have the impact you think they will until they get the pads on and start going full speed. But with all the talk about Powers-Johnson, it’s hard not to be optimistic if you’re in the Raiders organization.

Going into the last stop before training camp and the preseason the Raiders are in a better place than they were last year on paper at least. Building on what little momentum the Raiders had isn’t guaranteed, but they are headed in the right direction and have the potential to surprise a lot of teams.

Main Image: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

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