Editor's note: We'll take a look at several Raiders training camp battles leading up to the first full-squad practice on Saturday, and then we'll update their progress throughout the preseason. Let's get into the first one, focusing on slot receiver.
Raiders receivers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams will start and play most every offensive snap. Write that in ink, but don't put the pen away. Williams will play mostly outside opposite Brown, though AB will move all over the formation as Jon Gruden tries to find favorable matchups for his best offensive player.
Brown will play outside and in, on both sides of quarterback Derek Carr. Tight end Darren Waller will often split off the line and end up running routes from the slot.
When Brown and Williams are anchoring the outside, who steps into the slot?
We don't know that yet. That role will be decided after training camp begins this week at the Napa Valley Marriott, though Ryan Grant and Hunter Renfrow seem to be the primary combatants for that important role.
Grant comes to the Raiders highly recommended by Gruden's brother Jay, following several years working with him in Washington (2014-17). The Silver and Black tried to sign him in free agent last offseason, but he ended up in Indianapolis weathering a disappointing 2018.
He worked a ton in the slot with Washington, though he can move around and has proven a solid ancillary option anywhere. Grant has reliable hands and is a solid route runner motivated to get back on track playing out his one-year contract.
His proven versatility and veteran savvy gives him an inside track to this gig and more generally as the third receiver in the offense.
Renfrow will fight for early snaps while training to master several receiver positions in Gruden's offense. The fifth-round Clemson product worked primarily from the slot in college, and is comfortable creating quick separation inside. He's a reliable, big game player, and that should help him remain confident transitioning to the pros this summer. He'll have to prove effective against NFL cornerbacks in camp and preseason games, and he's capable of doing that. Coaches saw steady progress throughout the offseason program, and are interested to watch him compete for early playing time.
While Jon Gruden will move his targets all over, especially Brown and Waller, a reliable slot receiver will prove valuable with coverage focused elsewhere. That's especially true on third downs, where Carr will need someone big plays just beyond the sticks.
Early edge: Grant