The first NFL cutdown date is coming up on Tuesday, so it is time to predict who will stay and who will go. This is far from an exact science because there are so many variables. Therefore, I have organized it with the bubble players first along with a short explanation of why I think they will or will not make this team. Following that will be my projected list of who will be on the Raiders’ final 53 man roster.
FB Manase Tonga– The team could certainly use a blocking fullback and if they decide to have one, Tonga is the guy they will keep. But the Raiders look as if they will be content going into the season with Marcel Reece as the lone FB on the squad.
WR Chaz Schilens– The big receiver could be on his last chance with the Raiders. He has been out much of camp (again) with a sprained knee. You won’t find a more reliable set of hands but his health concerns make him far from reliable as a player. Barring another injury setback he will make this team — but he is on a thin thread.
WR Derek Hagan– He was signed among a group of other free agents and almost went unnoticed, but he came in as the most productive wide receiver on the team and he has shown it since arriving. He makes this team.
WR Nick Miller– Nick had a great rookie camp that earned him a spot on the team, but he was injured through his entire rookie season and hasn’t done much since then. He has been a decent punt returner but the team looks as if they have found his replacement for that in either Denarius Moore or Taiwan Jones. Nick’s time in Oakland has probably come to an end.
TE Brandon Myers– Myers hasn’t done much in the passing game for the Raiders, but he is a good blocker and plays standout special teams. He is what is often called a “blue collar guy.” Myers does the dirty work. He has not played well this camp, but he slides onto the roster as the team opts to keep three tight ends this season after keeping only two last year.
TE David Ausberry– I originally had him pegged for the practice squad as a developmental player. But it appears his fellow draftee Richard Gordon is more likely to see the practice squad with Ausberry making the team. He has great hands and is very fast, especially for his size. Hello two tight end sets.
OT Khalif Barnes– Barnes continues to start at right tackle and continues to struggle. He had four false starts in the first game of the preseason and then just plain played poorly in the second game. It is a mystery how he continues to start. He has Stephon Heyer and rookie Joseph Barksdale both making a case to replace him. However, Barnes makes the team because the Raiders have few options at tackle.
OG Daniel Loper– Loper was re-signed this offseason to replace Robert Gallery at left guard. He has since been unseated by rookie Stefen Wisniewski. If the team believes they made a mistake keeping Loper and prefers one of young offensive linemen, Loper could be out. It is not likely he gets cut, but his job is not entirely secure.
OG Roy Schuening– Schuening is the most likely example of a player whom the team could opt to keep instead of Loper. The Raiders would have to carry one more lineman than they hoped if they were to keep Schuening as well as Loper. Schuening is the odd man out and the first to get a call should an injury occur.
CB Walter McFadden– The Raiders don’t usually cut draft picks after one season — with a few exceptions of course. McFadden was a fifth round pick. But it is hard to justify keeping him with as poorly as he has played, especially with two new drafted rookies in the mix, both of whom were drafted higher than him. If McFadden gets in, it will be on the hopes that he can make strides in his second year. It could go either way for him.
CB Jeremy Ware– Last year’s seventh round pick, Ware has shown flashes of being a decent corner. But again, the team has two new rookies they are not going to cut. Between him and McFadden, it is like the lesser of the evils. They both may just find themselves unemployed. If one has to go, Ware is the most likely.
CB Sterling Moore– He has played extremely well in camp, certainly outplaying the above two corners. He is also a local kid, and is very excited to be playing for the team of which he was a fan growing up. If he were drafted by the team, this would be an easy decision to make. But as hard as the decision may be, he makes this team.
CB Lito Sheppard– The team signed the veteran two-time Pro Bowler on Thursday and he comes in as the most experienced corner among the group. At 31, he is a ten year NFL veteran. This cornerback group needs a veteran presence behind starters Chris Johnson and Stanford Routt. If Sheppard can play well in the next couple weeks of practice and the final preseason game, he could make the team feel a whole lot better about their rotation. If not, he will just be a camp body until Chris Johnson returns. It could go either way at this point.
S Jerome Boyd– This is Boyd’s second time in Raider camp. Last camp he played at safety after having played linebacker in college. He played well but still had much work to be done to make the transition. This camp he has lined up at both safety and weakside linebacker. He also appears to have taken over Hiram Eugene’s role on special teams. That versatility and special teams play has him making this team.
S Mike Mitchell– He has been injured nearly the entirety of training camp this year. Very recently he was seen on crutches which raised concern about how far away he may be from returning to the lineup. He tweeted “I’ll be ready when it counts” but when exactly is that? In the mean time there are guys like Boyd who are stepping up to take his spot. Mitchell could be cut, put on the PUP list (out first six games of the season) or even possibly IR. Regardless, it is a very real chance he will not be on the regular season roster.
LB Quentin Groves– He was the Raiders’ starting weakside linebacker last season and was the weak link among the linebackers. He has not looked good in practices this camp either. Jerome Boyd has been getting a lot of snaps with the first team in the preseason but in practice, Groves still runs with the first team. He makes this team due to no better options.
LB Darryl Blackstock– I’ve mentioned no one has stepped up to take the starting job at weakside linebacker. Well, Blackstock has been given every opportunity to do so. Right now, outside of the aforementioned Boyd, he is the only other option at the position to back up Groves. With Goethel out, the team has yet another linebacker spot to fill. The Raiders will likely look for their backup middle linebacker among the cuts and keep Blackstock for lack of better options.
DE Jarvis Moss– Moss has played well this preseason and looks on course to be brought back as one of the team’s two backup defensive ends.
DE Tommie Hill– He was on the Raider practice squad last season and was brought back to camp this season. He came in as a long shot but has made a real case for making this team. His spot on this team is dependent on the roster as a whole. If there is room for Hill after the team keeps on the guys they absolutely need to keep, they will keep him. That also means if they find someone on the cut list they like, Hill would be one of the first to go to make room. He deserves a shot somewhere in the NFL and it could go either way with the Raiders.
Locks to make the team:
QB- Jason Campbell, Trent Edwards, Kyle Boller, Terrelle Pryor
RB- Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Rock Cartwright, Taiwan Jones
FB- Marcel Reece
WR- Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore
TE- Kevin Boss
OL- Jared Veldheer, Stefen Wisniewski, Samson Satele, Cooper Carlisle, Joseph Barksdale, Stephon Heyer, Bruce Campbell
CB- Stanford Routt, Chris Johnson, Demarcus Van Dyke, Chimdi Chekwa
S- Tyvon Branch, Michael Huff, Stevie Brown
LB- Rolando McClain, Kamerion Wimbley, Sam Williams
DL- Matt Shaughnessy, Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Lamarr Houston, Desmond Bryant, John Henderson, Trevor Scott
P- Shane Lechler
K- Sebastian Janikowski
LS- Jon Condo
OUT: WR Damola Adeniji, WR Shawn Bayes, RB Michael Bennett, WR Shaun Bodiford, TE Kevin Brock, DE Mason Brodine, S Josh Bullocks, DT Jamie Cumbie, LB Bruce Davis Jr, OT Lou Eliades, S Zac Etheridge, LB Chris Francis, LB Bani Gbadyu, S Matt Giordano, TE Richard Gordon, WR Steve Goulet, DT Derrick Hill, WR Chad Jackson, FB Bryson Kelly, OG Ben Lamaak, FB James McCluskey, WR Eddie McGee, P/K Glenn Pakulak, OL Alex Parsons, CB Joe Porter, RB Louis Rankin, OT Seth Wand.
Injured Reserve: Hiram Eugene, Travis Goethel.