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Raiders mailbag: 3 key players expected back for minicamp

The Raiders wrap up their offseason program next week with a three-day minicamp, and the expectation is that running back Josh Jacobs, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson will be in attendance.

All three worked out on their own during voluntary OTAs over the last three weeks.

As the club puts a period on this phase of the process, their fans have plenty of questions about where things stand.

Here is a sampling that arrived in this week’s mailbag:

Rob1guy (@Rob1guy): Are Dallin Leavitt and Tyree Gillespie battling for an active roster spot, or is Gillespie starting clearly behind Leavitt, with Gillespie more of a practice squad developmental project?

VINCENT BONSIGNORE: Both behind the scenes and out front, the Raiders have expressed excitement about Gillespie, the rookie fourth-round pick out of Missouri. They are anxious to see him in pads, as there is an expectation he will show up when the physicality gets elevated.

As of right now, he isn’t just in the mix for a roster spot. But with the team opening the competition for both starting safety spots, he could be in the hunt for a big role. At the very least, he will play on special teams and work his way into a rotational role.

On3Sports (@On3Think): From what you’ve heard or seen, has there been any noticeable difference in how the team has approached these offseason workouts? On defense is there a noticeable difference in the drills?

VB: One sentiment that has been expressed by players is how much fun they are having. Not sure how much of a change that is from past years, but it’s been a consistent theme thus far during these OTAs.

In terms of the defense, the hands-on approach by new coordinator Gus Bradley is extremely noticeable. He bounces around from unit to unit and is always talking and communicating and teaching. The drills appear fairly common, so no real changes there.

C. Lewis Dixon (@CLewisDixon): Do you think Jalen Richard makes the 53-man roster? I’ve always liked him. But with picking up Kenyan Drake who can catch passes out of the backfield, it seems we are paying too much for a third-string running back. Should they cut him now so he can find a good situation for himself?

VB: One would think if the Raiders were going to make a move on Richard to free up cap space, it would have already happened. His $3.5-million salary for 2021 is not guaranteed, so there are no cap ramifications by releasing or trading him at this point.That he is still on the roster indicates they value him for his role and at his price tag.

Two approaches seem most likely: As teams assess their rosters and begin making moves ahead of training camp, the Raiders will monitor the trade and free-agent markets. If a player of value pops free at a position of need and the Raiders need to free up space to facilitate a move, Richard becomes the obvious direction they turn.

Short of that, the Raiders keep a valued role player at a comfortable cost.

Johnny (@JohnnyRaider619): When is Yannick Ngakoue going to show up?

The Raiders new defensive end opted to work out on his own during the voluntary portion of OTAs. By all accounts, the Raiders and Ngakoue were on the same page with that decision just as they were with Jacobs and Jefferson. All three are expected to be present next week during mandatory minicamp.

Sanjit T. (@Sanjit__T): What’s the sentiment at center? Obviously, Andre James is starting, but how do the coaches feel about Nick Martin and Jimmy Morrissey? Also, has Martin taken any reps at guard?

VB: During the portions of practice open to the media, James was taking the majority of snaps at starting center. However, a better read of the situation should happen during minicamp when practices open up even more.

The backup center — in this case, likely Martin — will be expected to be able to play guard as he might get called upon in an emergency situation. Martin has played guard, and it will be interesting to see if he gets some reps there during minicamp. Morrissey seems headed to a redshirt year, either on the 53-man or practice roster.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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