New Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said Wednesday that he thinks there are some quality, young players on the team’s roster.
The key, Guenther said, is developing them and getting them on the field.
Let’s look at some of the players who need to take the next step under Guenther. If you don’t see players like defensive lineman Mario Edwards or safety Karl Joseph, don’t worry. I didn’t forget them. They are sure starters and expected to be good. I’m not mentioning Gareon Conley, Obi Melifonwu and Eddie Vanderdoes (who is dealing with a torn ACL). We know they are supposed to be key figures. Presented in alphabetical order:
Shilique Calhoun: The clock is ticking hard on Calhoun. He was a third-round pick in 2016. He has not developed and was even cut and put on the practice squad for a while. If he doesn’t have a good camp, he will likely be cut.
James Cowser: Kind of reluctant to put him on the list. The former undrafted player is an OK backup and he is a special teamer but I’m not sure there is much of a ceiling on defense. Yes, I know he has played well in the preseason.
Treyvon Hester: I can see this guy taking a big step in his second season. Justin Ellis is a free agent and Vanderdoes may not be ready to start the season. The seventh-round pick flashed some. He could be a real find.
Marquel Lee: He was injured, but the fifth-round pick got some decent experience. He is solid against the run. He has potential. Perhaps he can win a job in camp even though the Raiders will surely try to upgrade at linebacker.
Shalom Luani: This is a big year for the second-year player. He may be more of a special teamer. He played on defense at the end of the season. He looked lost and slow at times. Again. He was a seventh-round pick and he is a project. Maybe Guenther can make him a player.
Dexter McDonald: McDonald made some plays last season as an injury replacement. The Raiders will be looking for others to start. But maybe this new staff and further develop McDonald and make him a starter.
Nicholas Morrow: One of my favorites stories of the 2017 NFL season. He went from an undrafted player from a Division III school to a starter. That is unheard of. Morrow was good as a run stopper and he improved in coverage. I think he is a guy you try to upgrade from. But Morrow will get a chance to further proof himself in his second training camp.
Jihad Ward: He’s a lot like Calhoun. The 2016 second-round pick has been a bustaroo so far. The word was he didn’t compete much in camp. If Jon Gruden is not impressed in camp, he will jettison a high pick who wasn’t taken on his watch.