The Raiders have played two preseason games, with a pair left on the schedule. That means cuts are on the immediate horizon. The roster shrinks to 75 on Sept. 1 and 53 on Sept. 5.
We’re also at the stage where the 90-man roster is getting familiar and players are separating themselves from the pack. There are some tough cuts ahead, a side effect of upgrading the roster. The more talent you have, the more likely it is some lands on the cutting room floor.
We’ll do two of these projections. This is version 1.0, with a second attempt coming on Monday. Feel free to critique in the comments section below. I’m sure there will be plenty of opinions about which players should make the team. Let’s start a discussion...
Here’s our first crack at a Raiders projected 53-man roster:
Behind the selection: This was the toughest position group to sort. Brice Butler is deserving and Seth Roberts has come on strong, but keeping return man Holliday costs a worthy receiver a roster spot. It’s necessary to avoid putting another contributor at risk in the return game. While Andre Holmes is out a few more weeks and didn’t do much when healthy, his ability to catch the deep ball and decent numbers a year ago keeps him on the roster in recovery.
Offensive tackles (3)
Behind the selection: The Raiders have some versatility at different spots, which allows them to go with three true tackles, but Penn and Watson look like starters. Howard is a backup on the right at this stage. Tough to cut Matt McCants. Raiders probably don’t want to.
Behind the selection: Felicinao and Barnes can both play multiple spots, making them solid swing players. The Raiders have options should a starter go down, including Barnes going outside to tackle in a pinch. That’s why they can get away with carrying just eight linemen.
Behind the selection: The Raiders hope Hudson plays every snap. Feliciano can be his backup.
Tight ends (3)
Behind the selection: This group is deeper and stronger than a year ago. Rivera and Walford have some versatility and receiving prowess. Those two, and Smith, will be busy this season. I’m sure the Raiders would like to slip undrafted rookie Gabe Holmes on to the practice squad.
Behind the selection: The Raiders have quality depth at this spot. They hope Carr stays healthy and they never have to use it.
Running backs (4)
Roy Helu Jr.
Behind the selection: Dyer is the lone undrafted free agent on the 53-man roster. He’ll be injury protection for Murray, though Helu can expand beyond his role as third down back if required. Trent Richarson doesn't make the cut after a lackluster camp where he failed to show proper burst and decision making. It costs the Raiders $600,000 in guaranteed money, but Dyer is the better bet. Taiwan Jones will be a special teams ace and have an offensive package to work with. If he could return, that would relieve the burden of having to keep Holliday.
Behind the selection: Jamize Olawale is the team’s best blocking fullback and a core special teams player. The Raiders will survive with Reece and using a tight end as an H-back.
Defensive ends (5)
Mario Edwards Jr.
Behind the selection: The preseason has shown the Raiders have more depth than expected here, which should create more of a rotation off the edge. Harris has played well enough to earn a roster spot. He has proven capable of making big plays up front. The Raiders should get him first-team reps Sunday versus Arizona to confirm that fact.
Defensive tackles (4)
Behind the selection: C.J. Wilson is a surprise cut. The Raiders have productive youth in Autry and Lumpkin, who can help play big on the interior should a starter get hurt. They have versatility to make up for Wilson’s unexpected departure, which helps develop a younger core up front.
Outside linebacker (4)
Behind the selection: No-brainers here. Ball will be a special teams contributor as a rookie. The Raiders want to see him develop. Smith, Moore and Armstrong form a versatile set, no matter who ends up a starter in the base defense.
Middle linebackers (2)
Behind the selection: The plan is for Lofton to play a ton. Heeney has made a solid impression and will do so early on special teams.
Behind the selection: McDonald has moved up the depth chart and is a bigger, physical corner that fits the Raiders mold. The depth chart hasn’t been worked out yet, but these guys will be a part of it.
Behind the selection: That’s a lot of safeties to keep, but Asante, Dowling and Ross can all help on special teams. Ross can play slot cornerback in a pinch. The Raiders have options with this bunch.
K Sebastian Janikowski
LS Jon Condo
P Marquette King
Behind the selection: These selections are obvious. No explanation necessary here.