Winners and losers from OTAs, Minicamp: Aidan O’Connell, Gardner Minshew both struggle

winners and losers from otas, minicamp: aidan o’connell, gardner minshew both struggle

Gardner Minshew, Aidan O’Connell

While we’re still several months away from the start of the regular season, the Las Vegas Raiders have wrapped up another offseason event as OTAs and mandatory minicamp came to a close last week. Training camp is the next item on the docket and will carry more weight, but we did get some insights in the early stages of a few position battles for the Silver and Black.

So, let’s dive into a handful of winners and losers based on the reports from the last month or so of practices.

WINNER: Dylan Laube

It can be hard to get a true read on how well a running back has performed since the team hasn’t put the pads on yet, but the early reviews for Laube have been very positive. He was reportedly working with the first team on passing downs during minicamp, per The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, and figures to be in the mix for the returner spot in Las Vegas.

That’s a good sign that the sixth-round pick will not only make the team but has hit the ground running as well, which is impressive seeing as he’s making the jump from FCS to the NFL.

Conversely, Ameer Abdullah could be considered a ‘loser’ or on the hot seat heading into training camp seeing as he’s expected to play a similar role as Laube but the latter is, obviously, the much younger player and has more future value.

LOSER: Aidan O’Connell and Gardner Minshew

Both quarterbacks struggled in OTAs and minicamp, according to multiple reports. A combination of learning a new offense and facing a strong defense every day was difficult to overcome for O’Connell and Minshew as neither drew rave reviews over the last month.

Granted, an argument could be made that neither is truly a ‘loser’ as the position battle is still even, but they did miss an opportunity to pull away from each other and gain the early lead in the competition. Also, it’s not a comforting sign for the offense as a whole that the QBs didn’t perform well, though there is plenty of time to pick up the new system.

WINNER: Malcolm Koonce

winners and losers from otas, minicamp: aidan o’connell, gardner minshew both struggle

Malcolm Koonce

Similar to running backs, it’s hard to gauge how well defensive linemen are performing on the field in helmets and shorts. However, Koonce found a way to stand out by stepping up as a leader during OTAs and minicamp as defensive coordinator Patrick Graham spoke highly of how the fourth-year pro was guiding the younger d-linemen along.

That’s a good way for a veteran to add some value to the team, especially heading into a contract year.

LOSER: Raiders Cornerback situation

Behind quarterback, cornerback is the next biggest question on the Raiders’ roster/depth chart heading into training camp. The team’s top player at the position, Jack Jones, missed some time during OTAs which isn’t a big deal as coaches are typically cautious this time of year, but it isn’t a great sign that the team’s top corner was held out of practice. Also, it’s not as if Jones has a ton of experience and couldn’t use the extra reps.

Additionally, it was reported that the Raiders were interested in signing free-agent corner Steven Nelson to help add an experienced starter to the meeting room. However, Nelson decided to retire instead, forcing the front office to go back to the drawing board.

As a silver lining, Jones did return to action during minicamp. However, there are still plenty of questions about the perimeter of Las Vegas’ defense moving forward.

WINNER: Isaiah Pola-Mao

Pola-Mao is entering his third NFL season which is widely considered a “make or break” year for young players. The good news is he drew good reviews from senior defensive assistant Rob Ryan and safeties coach Gerald Alexander toward the end of minicamp.

It will be interesting to see what type of role the 6-foot-4 and 205-pound defensive back will have on the team this year as he currently projects as the third safety on the depth chart. Graham is known for deploying several safeties and Pola-Mao has been used in the box and as a deep defender, so he could be in line for more playing time this fall.

LOSER: Brandon Facyson

While Facyson is the veteran presence in the Raiders’ cornerback room which could keep him on the team, how much playing time he might get this season seems to be in question. During OTAs, Jakorian Bennett took the early lead as the defense’s second starting corner, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore.

So, Bennett could be considered a ‘winner’ which comes at the detriment of the seven-year veteran.

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