This has been one long, arduous offseason. Even for the players (/rimshot). I feel as though the explosion of blogs and social media has turned this young NFL season into an episode of “My Teen is Pregnant and So Am I.” Everything is the end of the world, except for the actual end of the world — which is occurring somewhere in the Middle East.
Anyways, with no angle nor stone having been left unturned, it’s time to commence the regular season. With that commencement comes the ugliness of roster cuts. Sure, it’s inevitable, and players willing sign up for the impending heartbreak when they sign their contracts. But, sheesh, watching the cut-down episode of Hard Knocks becomes an exercise in despair suppression.
For as much as I hate the reality of cuts, I love the speculation behind them, thus my following predication. As a disclaimer, I should note that I know as much about how to put together an NFL roster as I do about quantum physics. If the fact that I write for a sports blog is not indication enough, please know that I didn’t even know how to spell “quantum” prior to writing that last sentence.
That said, I watched exactly two Raiders’ training camp practices, which is enough to enable me to only jump to conclusions. Perhaps, actually, what I’m about to do is leaping blindy. In any case, since all the cool kids are roster-projecting (RPing), I tried some that I got from my older sister’s boyfriend who’s been RPing since back when Donald Wayne Hollas was a name worth remembering. This is what I came up with:
Quarterback (3): Terrelle Pryor / Matt Flynn / Matt McGloin
The only real controversy is McGloin over Tyler Wilson. This prediction runs counter to others I’ve seen, but its abundantly clear which quarterback is the better at this point. While its not often that a team gives up on a 4th round selection, the alternative would seem to be a greater stain on the Raiders’ front office. Keeping Wilson over McGloin would send the message that something as arbitrary as a 4th-round pick is more important than actual production.
Running Back/Fullback (4): Darren McFadden / Rashad Jennings / Jeremy Stewart / Marcell Reece
This position could be filled out after final cuts are made. Stewart gets the nod over Deonte Williams because of Stewart’s superior pass blocking.
Wide Receiver (5): Denarius Moore / Rod Streater / Brice Butler / Jacoby Ford / Juron Criner
I’m grasping at straws here. Behind Moore, Streater, and Butler, I have no idea who will make the team. Maybe Jacoby Ford makes this team. Maybe he won’t. Against the Bears, Ford was targeted four times, two of which were intercepted and one of which was dropped. That can’t be good. Still, he’s a helluva a kick returner, ain’t he?
Tight End (5): David Ausberry / Mychal Rivera / Jon Mastrud / Richard Gordon / Nick Kasa
This is a ridiculous amount of tight ends, I’ll grant you that. But, the Raiders aren’t exactly teeming with receivers, and so where they lack in depth at that position, they make up for it here. Plus, Ausberry and Rivera have basically been functioning as receivers this preseason.
Not to mention the fact that the team will need all the blocking help it can get. After observing two practices, I was surprised by the how often I saw two, sometimes three, tight ends lined up on the field at the same time. Sure, it was only two practices, but it was clear Greg Olsen plans on utilizing the tight end position.
I was particularly torn between Gordon and Brian Leonhardt, but the fact that Gordon was second on the team in special teams tackles last season keeps him on the roster.
Tackle (3): Khalif Barnes / Willie Smith / Menelik Watson
This is a brazen prediction, yes. But, Alex Barron hasn’t done much to solidify his position. He leads the offense in penalties and hurries this preseason. What’s worse, according to ProFootball Focus (PFF), Alex Barron has been the worst player in the NFL this preseason. His grade (-8.4) is almost a full point below the next lowest. That sounds like the same ol’ Alex that has been out of the league since 2010.
Of course, the Willie Smith we remember is no upgrade from Barron. But he has been this preseason. Sure, he’s has largely played against 2nd and 3rd team defenses. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that he’s given up only three pressures in 54 pass block snaps. His performance has earned a +3.1 grade from PFF, which is good for 18th best among the 193 tackles that have played a snap this preseason.
Guard (4): Tony Berstrom / Andre Gurode / Jason Foster / Lucas Nix
Brisiel misses out because he doesn’t have the versatility as any of these other guards.
Center (1): Stefen Wisniewski
Wisniewski can backed up by Gurode or Foster.
Defense Tackle (4): Vance Walker / Pat Sims / Stacy McGee / Christo Bilukidi
There is some ambiguity with what’s going to happen with Pat Sims. He has still yet to take the field. Kurt Taufa’asau has played well this preseason, particularly in run defense, but I’m not sure he has done enough to warrant a roster spot. If Sims doesn’t make it, I’d expect Taufa’asau to.
Defense End (5): Lamarr Houston / Jason Hunter / Andre Carter / Jack Crawford / Ryan Robinson
Robinson has been the Raiders best pass rusher, accumulating five pressures in 37 snaps. Though they might try to stash him on the practice squad, Robinson would be attractive to pass rush needy teams.
Outside Linebacker (4): Sio Moore / Kevin Burnett / Kaelin Burnett / Kaluka Maiava
I’m not certain that Maiava makes the squad, but the Raiders simply don’t have much depth at the position. Omar Gaither, who backs up Nick Roach, saw extensive time at outside linebacker against the Bears. That could suggest the Raiders are looking for non-Maiava options.
Inside Linebacker (2): Nick Roach / Omar Gaither
This seems pretty obvious. With the release of Keenan Clayton and the injury to Miles Burris, who else is left to play this position?
Cornerback (6): Mike Jenkins / D.J. Hayden / Chimdi Chekwa / Tracy Porter / Phillip Adams / Taiwan Jones
I am struggling to keep Porter’s name up there. Aside from the recently waived Joselio Hanson, Porter has been the worst Raiders’ cornerback. He’s drawn six targets and allowed five catches for the 123 yards (42 after the catch) and one touchdown. I think Chance Casey is the better corner, but probably not the better option for the nickel package. Porter’s experience and acumen is paramount there.
Jones makes the team because he lead all Raiders in special teams tackles last year and because he provides an element in the return game.
Safety (4): Charles Woodson / Usama Young / Tyvon Branch / Brandian Ross
No surprises here.
Special Teams (3): Sebastian Janikowski / Chris Kluwe / Jon Condo