With the 2021 NFL Preseason returning after a year-long hiatus (due to COVID-19 protocols), training camp is in full swing and depth charts are being released for all teams.
The Las Vegas Raiders have had a very enduring offseason which has culminated in a huge lists of new names, from newly hired coaches, to draft picks and free agents. With such impactful changes come new expectations and also changes within the roster.
The ‘unofficial’ depth chart, which was released just recently, shows a revamp of the 2021 roster, and a slew of new names are now atop the chart at their respected positions. Some are surprises and some are not, but nonetheless, the Las Vegas Raiders are looking to field a completely different team than last season.
Let’s take a look here at the winners and losers of the 2021 training camp for the Las Vegas Raiders and go into depth about why these choices were made.
Winner: Trevon Moehrig
The rookie safety is benefiting from a rather thin roster at the free safety position. There are not a lot of guarantees in the desert this year, but one is the starting position for Moehrig. As the strong safety position is a lot stronger and could feature a steady rotation of both Johnathan Abram and Karl Joseph – the free safety position is the complete opposite.
As the first depth chart was released, Moehrig was sitting atop the free safety position with Dallin Leavitt as his backup. Leavitt is a solid if not unspectacular special teams player who will only see the field in spot situations. The former Thorpe Award winner in Moehrig has surprised in training camp with his ability to cover and provide his fair share of hard hits. This has not only shot Moehrig up the depth chart but also provides him with the kind of composure not seen for many rookies.
Moehrig will play in the preseason and will show the Raiders just what they are getting with their 2nd round pick. With such a thin lineup of options behind him and a strong training camp showing, Moehrig basically walks right into the starting free safety spot.
Loser: Damon Arnette
The second-year man out of Ohio State is having the opposite problem as Moehrig. The Raiders knew the cornerback position was not a strength for the team last season, so they had a busy offseason in this department. The soon to be 25-year-old is a big loser from the Raiders busy offseason haul. Arnette did not have a terrible rookie season last year in Vegas, but his issue was the same which had hindered him in college – injuries.
After playing his entire senior season with a broken hand at Ohio State, he had another year full of injuries as he played in only nine games in his rookie season. The Raiders added a new defensive coordinator in Gus Bradley, who should benefit the entirety of the team. The only issue with his hiring is that coaches want to coach players that are familiar with their system.
Considering that, the Raiders signed veteran cornerback Casey Hayward, a former pupil of Bradley’s for the Los Angeles Chargers. Once Hayward was signed, the writing was on the wall for Arnette. The first depth chart showed Arnette penciled in behind Hayward.
Arnette has not had a bad training camp and is a solid player in his own right. But once the Raiders brought in Hayward, there was no way he was relinquishing a starting spot to the younger Arnette. Hayward throughout training camp has provided the leadership and veteran savvy the Raiders were hoping to inject into this young secondary. Arnette will play meaningful snaps for the Raiders in 2021, but do not expect the second-year man to surpass the veteran in playing time.
Winner: Tanner Muse
You wouldn’t think sitting out an entire season, all while converting to a new position, would benefit any player in the league – but it has for Tanner Muse. The former 3rd round pick out of Clemson was an All-American at the safety position, but due to having exceptional size and speed, the Raiders selected Muse with the anticipation he would play linebacker at the next level.
So far, if you count what we have seen through training camp, Muse is delivering upon the Raider’s anticipation. He has been taking the majority of reps with the first team at the strong side linebacker position and has more than fulfilled his promise. His blend of speed and ability to read offenses has been quite possibly the most pleasant surprise of Raiders camp.
The linebacking corps was injected with two new starters last year via free agent acquisitions Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski. Neither were spectacular, and the Raiders knew they needed to make some changes. Enter Tanner Muse – a linebacker who possesses exceptional speed, evident in his 4.41 40-yard dash time at last year’s combine. The Raiders need to take a gamble here with Muse. The defense was one of the slowest and porous among the league.
It remains to be seen if the second-year man will deliver in game action as he missed his entire rookie season to injury, but if training camp is any indication, expect Tanner Muse to be a major contributor for the Raiders for the foreseeable future.
Loser: Jalen Richard
Richard was basically a situational back last year for the Raiders. He was buried on the depth chart behind Josh Jacobs and backup Devontae Booker (who recently departed for the New York Giants).
Already facing a lack of carries, Richard was hoping to ply his trade on special teams as a kick returner. And although he still is penciled in as the starter at this spot, his recent status suggests his time as a Raider may be coming to an end. With only one year left on his contract, Richard has already been placed on the COVID-19 protocol list and has been criticized for suggesting in a now-deleted tweet that he has not been vaccinated.
Adding to the list of disappointment for Richard is that they have added a starting-level backup running back via free agency in Kenyan Drake. The Raiders are also very high on undrafted rookie Trey Ragas, a power back out of Louisiana-Lafayette who has had a rather strong showing in camp. Further, Richard is now out indefinitely with a foot injury. With the injury, positive COVID-19 test, and more depth added in the backfield, the fact that Richard has basically no chance to prove himself in training camp, all make it very hard for him to make the 53-man roster going into the season. It is highly likely Richard’s days as a Raider will come to an end in the next couple of weeks.
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