Less than two weeks into training camp, the Oakland Raiders have publicized their first depth chart. And it is a mixed bag of what we already knew and surprises that some are trying to figure out. But those that are trying to figure things out don’t need to as this first depth chart doesn’t mean much.
As a matter fact, they shouldn’t pay too much attention because NFL teams publicize what they want. Some players are legitimately placed on the depth chart while others are placed for any given reason. Then there’s the injury factor as well as players that have yet to report to training camp.
Jared Cook No. 2?
The Raiders brought in TE Jared Cook add to more punch to an offense that was good last year. And training camp reports have him making plays darn near every day so he hasn’t disappointed. He’s already known as one of the better TEs in the NFL as he is a good blocker and receiver down the field.
Cook is a matchup nightmare that’s way to fast for LBs and way to big for Ss and CBs to cover. But Monday, the depth chart came out with him as the No. 2 TE and blocking TE Lee Smith at No. 1. It’s more than obvious who the better all-around TE is so by Week 1, Cook will be the No. 1 TE.
With Smith in the game, opposing teams will know the Raiders are more likely to run the ball. With Cook in the game, the Raiders could do anything and play-action would be a bigger factor. So even if Smith happens to start the game, Cook will see more snaps and be more involved in the game plan.
Donald Penn will be back
One thing Raiders fans need not worry about is where everyone on the O-line will be this season. It will be the same as last year with Marshall Newhouse replacing Austin Howard at right OT. Right now, the Raiders have Newhouse as the No. 1 left OT and Vadal Alexander as the No. 1 right OT.
Donald Penn, one of the better left OTs in the NFL, will be in his spot for the Raiders when it matters. He just needs to report to camp so GM Reggie McKenzie can start negotiations on a new deal. McKenzie isn’t one to negotiate with a player that has a deal and didn’t report to training camp.
The Raiders know Penn has outplayed his deal and that QB Derek Carr needs his protection. Ironically, Penn’s man injured Carr last year but the Raiders need Penn to keep Carr healthy this year. And for Penn, he’s getting up there in age, wants a Super Bowl title before he’s done and can get it this year.
I expect this situation to be resolved before Week 1, which is all both sides need.
Sean Smith No. 1?
Ever since CB Sean Smith went to the Raiders from the Kansas City Chiefs, he’s played like he still hates them. He was charbroiled deep last year quite a bit, leading to the Raiders’ bad stats against the pass. He was even benched for his play early last year and has already been benched in training camp.
But somehow, the depth chart that came out on Monday says Sean Smith is still a starting CB. Smith hasn’t taken any reps with the starting unit in practice for the last few days in training camp. The unit you practice with is as clear an indication as any of which unit you are a part of.
The CB depth chart should clear up a few days after first-round pick Gareon Conley starts practicing. He’s the steal the Raiders got at No. 24 overall when he should have been a top-10 pick. Conley is already the best CB on the team but has yet to practice while dealing with shin-splints.
The only depth chart that matters is the one that comes out right before Week 1 of the season. The NFL does what it takes to promote the game so they make fans feel like they’re in on something. But I compare the first depth chart to preliminary injury reports teams release at the beginning of the week.
Too often, you see guys listed as doubtful or out on Tuesday, questionable by Friday and playing Sunday. That’s why I’m not even trying to figure out the method to the madness of a team’s first depth chart. I just no that you shouldn’t get too alarmed or your intelligence insulted by them.