Now that camp is over and the Raiders have played three-fourths of their preseason games it’s time to look at who will make the final roster for the team. Projecting the final roster is always tricky and there are never enough spots for every player that you think can succeed. For my projections I tried to look at who I think has shown their skills as well as what positions need the most depth, etc. There are always surprises in the final roster but here is who I think has the best shot:
– Jared Veldheer, Cooper Carlisle, Stephon Wisniewski, Mike Brisiel, Khalif Barnes, Joseph Barksdale, Tony Bergstrom & Alex Parsons
Why these players?: Veldheer and Wizniewski are both up and comers and possible Pro Bowlers as soon as this season. Mike Brisiel was the Raiders top priority in free agence and signed a 5 year deal. Obviously, these 3 are locks to make the roster.
Khalif Barnes and Cooper Carlisle were both resigned to 1 year contracts. They have both run with the 1st team offense starting in OTAs, running through minicamp & training camp without any real open competition – Carlisle at LG and Barnes at RT.
Joseph Barksdale and Tony Bergstrom are in their 2nd and 1st years, respectively. Both have zone blocking experience and both are cheap. They’ve also both shown promise. They are extremely likely to make the team as backups.
I’m guessing only 8 OL players although the team could take 9 for the final squad. I have Alex Parsons in because he’s versatile enough to play guard or center. He’s been running with the first team this offseason at Center in place of injured Stephon Wisniewski.
If the Raiders take a ninth offensive lineman, I’d expect a tackle to be retained. At this time, only Barksdale seems likely to make the roster and be able to play at LT. Rookie Bergstrom played RT in college and could potentially sub in, there, if needed but all his work has been at guard – both sides – in camp.
-Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Terrelle Pryor
Why these players?: This position is fairly cut and dry. Palmer is clearly the starter, Leinart was signed to be his backup and has only solidified his position as 2nd QB with a very solid camp. Leinart stood out in camp for throwing a very nice ball and can make throws everywhere on the field. Pryor is being given a chance to show he’s the QB of the future. His mechanics need work and hopefully his accuracy can improve but he’s better than expected thus far, showing great athleticism and better accuracy than many expected.
-Darren McFadden, Mike Goodson, Taiwan Jones, Marcel Reece, Owen Schmitt
Why these players?: This position also seems to be fairly set. McFadden is one of the most explosive players in the league, when healthy, Goodson was traded for in the offseason and looks good and Taiwan Jones has looked to be the fastest player on a fast team this offseason. Goodson and Jones have been battling to backup McFadden but it’s likely that all three will have extensive playing time in Greg Knapp’s run-heavy scheme. All three look like they can excel as well.
At this point it seems likely that Taiwan Jones will be the primary backup and Goodson the third back due to some issues he’s had with fumbles in games. However, if he can get his fumble issues worked out he has shown the ability to succeed in the one cut zone blocking scheme and brings a shiftiness and power to the position.
For FB, Marcel Reece is a talented and young player that can lead block as well as be a threat out of the backfield. Owen Schmitt has good hands and is a better lead-blocker but will be less explosive in the passing and running game – he’s more of a traditional FB that can also be used as a safety outlet. Both will figure to play a lot in Knapp’s scheme, as well.
-Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, Juron Criner and Jacoby Ford
Why these players: I have the Raiders only taking 5 receivers because there is such a drop-off in talent after the top 5 above. This is somewhat risky because the team hasn’t had all five of these receivers healthy at the same time all offseason but in the interest of selecting the most talented 53 players I have chosen the 5 wide receivers who are talented enough to make the team.
DHB is coming off a career year, his base salary is not prohibitive and his skill set seems to be a good match for the scheme being implemented. He’s been running 1st team this preseason and continues to be one of the hardest working players on the team. He has made great strides with his reception abilities – a testament to his hard work.
Moore was last year’s breakout player and is a lock to make the team. Criner was a standout in the OTAs and minicamps and, while coming down to earth a little during training camp, has also stood out in preseason games against 2nd team defenses. Plus he’s one of the few draft picks of the new administration – he’s going to make the team.
Ford looks to be targeted to the slot role instead of splitting outside but that’s a more natural fit for him, anyway. He’s still a talented enough receiver to like his odds on making the team. The only concern is his injury history. He is currently nursing a foot injury – in the same foot that sustained an injury that sidelined him last season for multiple games.
Streater has looked very good in camp – he arguably looked like the best receiver on the team – and ran with the 1st team in Denarius Moore’s absence. Streater looks to be the best candidate as Moore’s backup at the flanker position and he’s a good fit for that role. He’s also been praised by both Palmer and head coach Dennis Allen.
-Brandon Myers, Richard Gordon and David Ausberry
Why these players?: Myers has been running with the first team offense and has looked decent. He is a solid blocker, which is a positive in this scheme and has average hands. He isn’t going to be an amazing receiver but TEs frequently stay in to block in Knapp’s scheme. He just needs to be a solid route runner and a safety outlet for Palmer more than a downfield threat.
Richard Gordon’s had a surprisingly good camp with some very good receptions although he still sometimes drops easy passes. He’s got exceptional size – he’s one of the biggest and most solid members of the team – and is a great blocking TE. He’s able to make plays by faking a block and sliding out to be open in a flat or running short to intermediate routes with great success.
Ausberry, on the other hand, is a pass catching tight end and is really the only natural receiving threat on the roster. He’s got good size and speed and should be able to make the roster for those attributes. His blocking is a question and he’s not had the greatest camp this year but he’s still well worth a roster spot.
-Lamarr Houston, Tommy Kelly, Richard Seymour, Matt Shaughnessy, Dave Tollefson, Desmond Bryant, Christo Bilukidi, Jack Crawford and Jamie Cumbie
Why these players: Houston, Kelly, Seymour and Shaughnessy look to be the first team defensive line. Tollefson was a targeted free agent this offseason so he’s clearly in the team’s plan. Bryant is a backup DT and DE and can play DE in a 3-4 as well. He’s a valuable and still cheap option so he’s highly likely to make the team as well.
Bilukidi and Crawford are likely simply because they are young, cheap and were drafted by the current regime so they have a leg up, there. Plus there is a need for backups at DT and DE. Both have flashed skill and high-intensity motors in pre-season games.
Because the defensive line rotates more than the offensive line I put 9 players, here. My initial projection had Travis Ivey as the 9th but he didn’t make it through training camp due to conditioning issues so I’ve put in the versatile Jamie Cumbie here, instead. Cumbie is a large defensive lineman and he can play at either DT or DE depending on down and scheme.
-Aaron Curry, Rolando McClain, Philip Wheeler, Travis Goethel, Miles Burris, Nathan Stupar, and Carl Ihenacho
Why these players: Burris, McClain and Wheeler look to be the first team LB corps for a 4-3 alignment. At this point it seems unlikely that McClain will face suspension to start the season and he’s shown some flashes this training camp as a good fit in Tarver’s defensive scheme.
Goethel, Burris and Stupar are all likely as they are all young and talented. Goethel has had issues staying on the field but if he can stay healthy, he’s shown enough at camps to deserve to make the squad. Burris and Stupar are, again, some of the few draft picks this administration has been able to make and it’s unlikely they’ll get cut.
Burris is a starter due to injury to Aaron Curry and Curry could end up being a cut due to injury that hasn’t responded as Drs would like. Still he can help the team if healthy and I think it likely he makes the squad.
Ihenacho is still learning the LB position after being a DE in college and serving on the practice squad of the Raiders last year as a LB. He’s shown some pass rushing skills and this position needs bodies.
Alternately it wouldn’t be a shock if a LB or two cut by other teams round out this squad.
-Ron Bartell, Tyvon Branch, Chimdi Chekwa, Michael Huff, Shawntae Spencer, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Matt Giordano, Pat Lee & Mike Mitchell
Why these players: Bartell and Spencer have been the 1 & 2 CBs since they signed as free agents and they have shown solid coverage skills, each. Chekwa and DVD are 2nd year players with promise and should easily make the squad.
Branch was the team’s Franchise player and he signed a long term contract before camp – he’s a lock, clearly. Allen and DC Jason Tarver are planning on using Huff’s skills more by moving him around and disguising his coverage more under the new system.
Giordano is the closest thing the team has to a ball hawk and showed enough last season as Huff’s backup to warrant being resigned. He has ties to both Allen and McKenzie as well.\
My last projection didn’t have Mitchell on the team but he’s shown up a more mature and steady player this offseason and should make the final roster. He still makes some bonehead plays but in general has looked solid and has been better about taking good angles, wrapping up and playing sound football instead of trying to go for the big hit.
The team needs a 5th CB, likely, although it’s possible they load up more at Safety and move Huff to play CB in spread sets. Pat Lee rotated in and out but has most recently occupied the slot CB position so he’s a good bet to make the roster as the 5th CB.
– Sebastian Janikowski, Shane Lechler, Jon Condo & Bryan McCann (KR/PR)
Why these players: Oh, they’re each only about the best at what they do in the league. Every year Janikowski is a good bet to get the record for longest field goal in NFL history (he shares the title right now). Lechler is an every year Pro Bowler and puts up mind boggling numbers year in and year out. Condo, the long snapper, works well with both and when was the last time you heard his name for doing something wrong? For a long snapper, not ever hearing your name is about as good as it gets because if you mess up, everyone will talk about you but if you do your job, it’s fairly silent.
McCann isn’t the best at what he does in the league but he may be the best at what he does on the team. With Ford’s injuries, McCann is maybe the only option they have as a returner. Alternately it would be little surprise if the Raiders starting returner isn’t on the roster at this time but is a player that is cut by another team in the next week or two.
For more Raiders news and analysis throughout the day, follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews