Part three in a 10-part series looking at each of the Raiders position groups before training camp begins on Friday.
The Raiders said farewell to a future Hall of Famer in the safeties position group when Charles Woodson announced his retirement late last season.
Despite that, there’s hope and potential the Raiders have upgraded their safeties this season. The team signed 2015 Pro Bowler and co-NFL leader in interceptions in Reggie Nelson and drafted West Virginia’s Karl Joseph.
Nelson gives them a ball hawk to help make up for Woodson’s absence, while Joseph is a hard-hitting playmaker. The biggest question right now for those two: their health.
Joseph has essentially been invisible since signing with the Raiders. He didn’t participate in OTAs or mini camp, apparently bothered by an injury of some sort. It turned into a bit of a running joke among the media that we are still awaiting a “proof of life” of Nelson, although Raiders officials insist he’s been around.
Joseph seemed to be coming along fairly well from what we could see during the offseason program. The Raiders have maintained since drafting him that he’ll be ready to go by training camp. Further, coach Jack Del Rio said all his players are expected to be available when camp opens.
So assuming health, it’s a good bet that Nelson and Joseph will be the Raiders’ Day 1 starters in the backfield. Let’s take a look at the rest of the group:
The seven-year veteran had a rough 2015 when he injured his knee in the opener and aggravated the injury late in the season. The Raiders only won one of the five games in which he played — at Tennessee when his lone interception of the season sealed the victory. The Raiders cut Allen, only to re-sign him a couple days later at a cheaper cost. His value now is as a veteran backup rather than a key starter.
McDonald and Allen were the first-team safeties for most of the offseason program with Nelson and Joseph out. That provides an idea of what the Raiders think of him. He played one game each with three teams last season — the Colts, Patriots and Raiders. He also played in 12 games as an undrafted rookie for Indianapolis in 2014.
Carrie filled in at safety last year following Nate Allen’s knee injury and that experience gives him versatility going forward. He didn’t see much, if any, time at safety during the offseason program. But that knowledge and experience is there now and he could slide back there if needed at some point this season.
The Raiders have converted the 6-foot-3 McGill from cornerback to safety, hoping to give him a better chance to contribute. “We like his length,” Del Rio said. “We like a lot of things about him. It’s just a matter of how far we can bring him, in terms of developing him, but that’s largely up to him. We’re going to give him every opportunity, knowing he can do some things at corner but we feel like his long-term future would be best served with him at safety.” McGill has one start among his 25 career games with no interceptions and one pass defended.
Trawick’s biggest asset is his skill on special teams, although he made one start last season for Baltimore. That’s the only start of his three-year career and the Raiders brought him in mostly for the work he can do on Brad Seely’s units.
Chris Hackett joined the Raiders practice squad late last year after going to training camp with Tampa Bay. He’s a free safety that has a little bit of a head start on others trying to make the roster. Chris Edwards is an undrafted free agent from Idaho was a linebacker there and also has defensive back experience. SaQwan Edwards can play some safety in addition to cornerback. Jimmy Hall, formerly a safety, is now being listed as a linebacker on the roster.