There will be plenty to watch when the Raiders open training camp this week.
Will top draft pick Kolton Miller win a starting spot at right tackle? Can ex-Chief Derrick Johnson show at age 35 that he’s still a good middle linebacker? And can veteran Reggie Nelson hold on to his starting spot at free safety vs. the likes of Obi Melifonwu, Marcus Gilchrist, Erik Harris and Shalom Luani?
There will be competition all over the roster under a new head coach in Jon Gruden who will have no built-in allegiances to holdover players.
That will hold true at running back, too, where Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington compete with former Bucs standout Doug Martin for the No. 2 job – a significant role – behind projected starter Marshawn Lynch.
Martin, 29, is coming off consecutive disappointing seasons in Tampa Bay in which he rushed for just 421 yards (in 2016) and 406 (in 2017) while missing a combined 13 games. Richard, who is 24, and Washington, 25, meanwhile, are younger and have been productive in auxiliary roles out of the backfield the past two seasons, providing quickness and big-play capability.
In training camp and in exhibition games, Martin will need to show he’s healthy, fit and still has the explosiveness he had in 2015 when he rushed for more than 1,400 yards in Tampa Bay. Certainly, the jury is out. Martin is a boom-or-bust pickup, who could flop and be cut before opening day, or could be an electric addition to the offense. At this point, nobody knows.
The good news is the Stockton native looked good this spring in team workouts.
“Doug has really jumped out in camp with his quickness, his ability to pick up the offense and what we’ve given him,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said in May. “He’s really got a fresh set of legs. And that’s probably been the most encouraging thing when you watch him run out here in drills that we’ve run and the strength and conditioning stuff.”
For his part, Martin knows he’s getting a second chance and is approaching this camp with the attitude that he’s a rookie again and must earn his spot.
“I’ve got to prove to the team, to the players, the coaches, that I can be useful on this team,” he said.
The first Raiders practice at the Napa facility is set for Friday.