The Raiders haven’t given one legitimate sign that they’re ever going to be in on Reggie Nelson.
That may be a result of having two guys taken in the 2014 draft who can play the position, negating the need to chase a veteran looking for his final NFL contract — even if he’s about as good as a team can find — or a rookie in this year’s draft.
Both T.J. Carrie and Keith McGill are more than qualified to compete for a starting safety job, and the two may even excel together. Carrie can serve as the ball-hawking interception machine, while McGill has the size and speed of Kam Chancellor.
Carrie played safety for a solid chunk of 2015, and while the transition had it’s bumps and bruises, the second year Raider picked things up quicker than most ever could. Lacking Charles Woodson, and with no obvious incumbent in the draft, it’s tough to imagine a scenario where Carrie isn’t afforded every opportunity to start at safety in 2016.
McGill is in the same boat.
A side note, I’ve wondered since the summer of 2014 whether the Raiders would move McGill to safety. I asked then head coach Dennis Allen, and his answer was that McGill would remain at corner.
I asked McGill about it, and he said that he is a cornerback, not a safety, but is willing to do whatever the coaches ask of him. The same question was posed to McGill in August 2015, and he gave the same answer.
His representatives, too, vouch for him as an NFL cornerback.
This has never made sense. At 6-foot-3, McGill has freakish size for the safety postion, and his build looks every bit the part of a knuckles-up prize fighter who can match most receivers in zone or man with a little time to read the play.
Possibly most important, McGill hasn’t shown the ability to transition from backpedal to shadow at the NFL level. His size makes it difficult on it’s own, and his muscular physique just adds to the stress on his body. Especially when asked to cover some of the league’s quicker and more agile players.
But his special teams play has improved his ability to attack downhill, and while the average Raiders fan may have overlooked it, McGill’s improvement is on full display when reviewing kickoff coverages.
He can now shed blocks well, and read where the runner is going. This is a major advancement from his rookie season.
The Raiders currently have David Amerson and Sean Smith as the starting corners, with D.J. Hayden in the slot. That’s if Carrie plays safety, something that seems like a strong possibility to this point.
Which leaves a camp battle between McGill and Nate Allen.
Allen’s long-term deal was essentially converted to a one-year “prove it” deal, while McGill turns 27 years old soon and needs to make his mark soon or risk being out of the NFL in 2018.
That could even include asking for the switch himself — there’s little room for him to get snaps at corner with the free agency addition of Smith.
McGill has one interception in 25 games played, with one start while a member of an injury plagued roster for his career.
Carrie has logged 17 passes defensed, two interceptions, and 79 tackles over the last two seasons.
While the draft has a few players who might be worth taking a chance on during day two, the second and third rounds could make it very clear whether some permanent position changes are on the horizon.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.