Raiders

Raiders roster reset: Where things stand after free agency, NFL draft

Raiders roster reset: Where things stand after free agency, NFL draft

The Raiders have experienced significant roster turnover this offseason, as expected.

They were active on the front and back ends of unrestricted free agency. They added nine players in the draft to positions of need, and veteran upgrades to other trouble spots. The roster looks deeper and younger on paper, with plenty of firepower on offense and what could be a strong secondary.

Plenty of questions remain about this roster, which won’t be rebuilt in a draft or an offseason.

While more additions could come during the offseason program or after final cuts, this year’s retooling is largely complete. Let’s take a look at the group as it stands and a way-too-early shot at how things might shake out – without yet-to-be announced undrafted free agents – in our Raiders roster reset.

Quarterback

Locks: Derek Carr
Looking good: Mike Glennon
On the bubble: Landry Jones, Nathan Peterman
Uphill climb: None

Overview: All that speculation about Derek Carr’s immediate future can finally be put to rest. It turns out Gruden and Mayock were telling the truth the whole time, saying they were completely comfortable with their franchise quarterback behind center while doing due diligence on the position. The Raiders had some quarterback options in mind later in the draft – they weren’t taking one high, no matter what you hear from national talking heads – but never addressed the position because it wasn’t necessary.

Carr’s the unquestioned starter, and they’re flush with backups. Mike Glennon should be the No. 2, and Nate Peterman will try and beat out Landry Jones for the third slot. That’s the position group’s lone batter this spring and summer.

Running back

Locks: Josh Jacobs, Isaiah Crowell, Jalen Richard
Looking good: Keith Smith
On the bubble: Chris Warren
Uphill climb: DeAndre Washington, Ryan Yurachek

Overview: Jacobs changes the dynamic of this position group, and should get the lion’s share of snaps from the backfield. He’s a true three-down talent, though the team may manage his workload some considering he was part of a tandem at Alabama.

Crowell will be a featured player and Gruden’ affinity for Richard means he’s still heavily in the mix. Washington will have a tough time finding a role here, and Chris Warren III must prove himself as an able big-bodied back and pass protector.

Wide receiver

Locks: Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Ryan Grant, Dwayne Harris
Looking good: Hunter Renfrow
On the bubble: Marcell Ateman, J.J. Nelson
Uphill climb: Keon Hatcher, Saeed Blacknall

Overview: This position group is a team strength after a massive overhaul, loaded with depth and frontline talent. It’s a complete crew with a superstar in Brown and varied skill sets in support. Some quality players may end up off the roster.

Nelson has speed in spades, and that could give him a leg up especially if he helps on special teams (though he hasn’t in the past) over some other competition. 

Tight end

Locks: Lee Smith
Looking good: Darren Waller
On the bubble: Luke Willson, Derek Carrier, Foster Moreau
Uphill climb: Paul Butler

Overview: These classifications can and will change with competition in this position group more than most. Smith is an excellent blocker and group leader. Waller is a virtual lock and will have a chance to be the chief receiving tight end, but he’ll have to earn it.

Willson, Carrier and Moreau might be competing for one or two jobs, max. Butler is a good player trying to find his way in a competitive situation.

Offensive line

Locks: Rodney Hudson, Trent Brown, Kolton Miller, Gabe Jackson, Denzelle Good
Looking good: Brandon Parker, Jordan Devey
On the bubble: Denver Kirkland, Chaz Green, David Sharpe
Uphill climb: Jamar McGloster, Justin Murray

Overview: The Raiders offensive line has the potential to be a top-end unit this year. There’s tons of talent up front, but there’s some uncertainty at several spots. Will Miller make a jump in his second season? Can Good be consistent enough inside? Will Brown live up to his massive contract?

We know for certain Hudson and Jackson will be reliable as always, and the depth chart will look different with Parker at swing tackle and Devey as a possible interior super sub. Bubble guys could easily work onto the roster as the Raiders try to find the best mix.

Defensive line

Locks: Clelin Ferrell, Maurice Hurst, Johnathan Hankins, Justin Ellis
Looking good: Josh Mauro, Arden Key, Benson Mayowa, Mason Crosby, P.J. Hall
On the bubble: Quenton Bell, Eddie Vanderdoes,
Uphill climb: Gabe Wright

Overview: You don’t see many locks up top. That’s because this defensive line has so much to prove after a disappointing 2018 season where they didn’t play the run or pass well enough.

Key’s going to be a player here, and Mayowa will bring a veteran presence to a super young crew. Mauro should help on obvious rushing downs, especially with some better suited for obvious passing downs. Vanderdoes is trying to get his career back on track after an ACL tear cost him all of 2018.

Ferrell should be a three-down player, and Hankins and Ellis will play a lot. The team has belief in Hurst as the frontline three technique.

Linebacker

Locks: Tahir Whitehead, Vontaze Burfict, Brandon Marshall
Looking good: Kyle Wilber, Marquel Lee, Jason Cabinda, Nicholas Morrow
On the bubble: None
Uphill climb: None

Overview: This breakdown started with no one as a roster lock then back a bit off that stance to avoid sensationalism. There is a point to that outlook, however, considering every linebacker has something to prove. Whitehead might be the lone exception after playing most every snap last year.

Burfict and Marshall must rebound after down years plagued by injury, though their veteran experience is necessary. Wilber’s important on special teams, and Lee, Cabinda and Morrow have flashed at times and could be a reserve unit called into action for older players with recent injury issues.

Cornerback

Locks: Gareon Conley, Daryl Worley, Nevin Lawson
Looking good: Trayvon Mullen, Isaiah Johnson
On the bubble: Nick Nelson
Uphill climb: Makinton Dorleant, Montrel Meander, Rico Gafford

Overview: The Raiders added two guys to the group this draft, with two coming in the top 40. Lamarcus Joyner is a safety by trade but will spend significant time in the slot. They also have two returning starters in Conley and Worley virtually locked into their spots and Lawson ready should a cornerback slip up.

Open roster spots are at a premium here. Nick Nelson was in last year’s draft class and even for him there’s zero guarantee. He must convince coaches to keep a six cornerback, which isn’t impossible but difficult considering Joyner’s an unofficial member of this crew.

Safeties

Locks: Lamarcus Joyner, Johnathan Abram
Looking good: Karl Joseph
On the bubble: Curtis Riley, Erik Harris, Jordan Richards
Uphill climb: Dallin Leavitt

Overview: Joyner was lured into silver and black with a fat contract. Listen to Gruden talk for any length about Abram and you’ll sense he’s destined for a major role. Those guys should be fixtures, though a third safety’s required considering how often Joyner will be in the slot.

Joseph could be that guy through he and Abram are both strong safety types. Harris played better late last season. Riley and Richards have more experiences, but those two might be battling for one roster spot, depending on how many cornerbacks are kept. Neither guy has much guaranteed money to speak of, so parting ways wouldn’t hurt.

Specialists

Locks: Daniel Carlson
Looking good: None
On the bubble: Johnny Townsend, Drew Kaser, Trent Sieg, Andrew DePaola
Uphill climb: Eddy Pineiro

Overview: Pineiro was set to become the Raiders' kicker last year, until a groin injury took him out for the whole season. Carlson took full advantage, rebounding well after Minnesota cut him after Week 2. He set the franchise record for field goal percentage in a single season, so the job is obviously his to lose.

It’s a straight up position battle between Townsend and Kaser. DePaola has a solid track record, but Sieg stepped right in after the veteran went down. DePaola doesn’t have guaranteed money on his deal, so that won’t play into their decision.

[RELATED: Mayock reflects on his first draft as Raiders GM]

And… since we’re doing things way, way too early, here’s a Raiders depth chart (minus undrafted free agents) as the Raiders continue through the offseason program with a full squad:

OFFENSE

WR: Antonio Brown, Ryan Grant, Keon Hatcher
T: Kolton Miller, Brandon Parker, Denzelle Good
LG: Gabe Jackson, Denver Kirkland
C: Rodney Hudson, Jordan Devey
RG: Denzelle Good, Jordan Devey, Chaz Green
RT: Trent Brown, David Sharpe, Justin Murray, Jamar McGloster
TE: Lee Smith (rushing downs)/Darren Waller (passing downs), Derek Carrier, Luke Willson, Paul Butler, Foster Moreau
QB: Derek Carr, Mike Glennon, Landry Jones, Nathan Peterman
RB: Josh Jacobs, Isaiah Crowell, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Chris Warren III
FB: Keith Smith, Ryan Yurachek
SLOT: Ryan Grant, J.J. Nelson, Hunter Renfrow, Dwyane Harris
WR: Tyrell Williams, Marcell Ateman, Saaed Blacknall

DEFENSE

DE: Clelin Ferrell, Josh Mauro, Alex Barrett
NT: Johnathan Hankins, Justin Ellis, Eddie Vanderdoes
DT: Maurice Hurst, P.J. Hall, Gabe Wright
DE: Arden Key, Benson Mayowa, Mason Crosby, Quenton Bell
SLB: Brandon Marshall, Marquel Lee, Kyle Wilber
MLB: Vontaze Burfict, Jason Cabinda
WLB: Tahir Whitehead, Nicholas Morrow
CB: Gareon Conley, Trayvon Mullen. Isaiah Johnson, Makinton Dorleant
FS: Lamarcus Joyner, Curtis Riley, Erik Harris, Dallin Leavitt
SS: Johnathan Abram, Karl Joseph, Jordan Richards
SLOT: Lamarcus Joyner, Nick Nelson, Johnathan Abram
CB: Daryl Worley, Nevin Lawson, Montrel Meander, Rico Gafford

SPECIALISTS

K: Daniel Carlson, Daniel Pineiro
P: Johnny Townsend, Drew Kaser
PR: Dwayne Harris, De’Mornary Pierson-El, Rashard Davis, Jalen Richard, Josh Jacobs, Antonio Brown
KR: Dwayne Harris, De’Mornary Pierson-El, Rashard Davis
LS: Andre DePaola, Trent Sieg

Raiders' Derek Carr 'progressed at rapid rate' in 2019, Mike Mayock says

Raiders' Derek Carr 'progressed at rapid rate' in 2019, Mike Mayock says

As the Raiders pack up their stuff in Oakland and prepare to embrace the bright lights of Las Vegas, they have a number of questions to answer.

How will they address the gaping holes at wide receiver? What about linebacker? And, of course, is Derek Carr the right guy for the job?

With a lack of offensive talent on the outside last season, Carr was serviceable. He led game-winning drives against the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Chargers. The Raiders were 6-4 and flying high. Then the team, Carr included, laid four straight duds to fall out of the playoff picture. Carr remains an average NFL quarterback. He can win games when everything around him is perfect, but he was unable to will the Raiders to wins down the stretch that would have stopped the skid and kept playoff hopes alive. 

It was Year 2 for Carr in head coach Jon Gruden's system and questions about their long-term viability together constantly linger. General manager Mike Mayock, though, was pleased with Carr's play during the 7-9 season.

"As far as Derek is concerned, look, it, Jon demands a lot from his quarterbacks," Mayock told Raiders.com. "People don't understand how much, just from a verbiage standpoint all the way to control, pre-snap at the line of scrimmage, you know, his percentage of completions, his ability to command the huddle, his ability to command the pre-snap process at the line of scrimmage, his accuracy. He's got arm talent.

"You look at his development between him and Darren Waller, you know, Darren Waller had 90 catches for over 1,000 yards. Darren Waller is a Pro-Bowl tight end by any definition. And then the chemistry he developed with Hunter Renfrow. I think we've got a good offensive line and what we have to do is a better job of supporting him with some more wide receiver talent, the ability to catch the football, uh, the ability to spread the ball around a little bit. You know, Derek handled everything Jon threw at him mentally. I thought he progressed at a rapid rate in year two in Jon's system."

That certainly sounds like the Raiders will be bringing Carr back. 

There will be a number of quarterbacks on the free-agent market for Gruden to bring it to provide competition for Carr should he desire.

The Raiders also have two first-round draft picks and could use one to select a high-end prospect like Oregon's Justin Herbert, Utah State's Jordan Love or Washington's Jacob Eason if one of them appeals to Gruden. 

[RELATED: Raiders should stick to draft blueprint, raid Clemson-LSU]

With more talent on the outside and a defense capable of getting off the field at a more regular clip, perhaps Carr will play at a higher level in Las Vegas.

If not, his time with the Raiders could be over shortly.

Jon Gruden believes playing better in cold will help Raiders evolution

Jon Gruden believes playing better in cold will help Raiders evolution

The Raiders surged to 6-4 with a three-game winning streak just after midseason but had a tough time sustaining that success. They lost control of their playoff destiny in an ensuing four-game slide, finishing the season with five losses in their last six games.

There were plenty of reasons why the Raiders ran out of gas. They always were better than the sum of their parts, clearly talent deficient in certain areas when compared to better competition. They also suffered a series of setbacks, from Antonio Brown's meltdown to Vontaze Burfict’s suspension to a series of injury setbacks the Raiders weren’t deep enough to survive in the midst of roster reconstruction.

Head coach Jon Gruden threw another issue into the mix that cropped up during the Raiders’ poor finish.

“I think the cold weather is one thing,” Gruden said at his season-ending press conference. “We got to prove we can exorcise that demon. We got to play better in the bad weather.

“I remember when I went to Tampa Bay, they hadn’t won a game in the history of the franchise in temperatures that were below 40 degrees and every single game we played that’s all we heard. And we are going to continue to hear it, hear it and hear it until we prove as a West Coast team we can go out on a cold day and win.”

The Raiders have lost seven straight games kicked off at below 40 degrees, including three late in the 2019 season. They have lost 11 straight under 50, a brutal stretch that does have to be remedied if the Silver and Black wants to orchestrate a successful run into and through the postseason. Had the Raiders been in the AFC playoffs this year, two of the four conference playoff games had been waged below 50 degrees.

“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things -- talent, better coaching, experience, toughness,” Gruden said. “I don’t know. Travel plans, pregame meals, something. We’ve got to play better. We got to get wins on the road and we got to look forward to playing when it’s hot, when it’s cold, when it’s nasty, when it’s awful. You got to learn to love the misery and maybe we got to leave on a Wednesday next year and get acclimated to it. I’m not making excuses, but that’s one theme is pretty obvious and noticeable. We got to play better in lousy weather and we got to play better period in all three phases.”

[RELATED: Raiders should keep draft blueprint, raid Clemson-LSU]

Gruden also mentioned this point a day after the season finale, where they lost to Denver in the cold.

While fans typically blame Derek Carr for this issue due to his 2-11 record playing at less than 50 degrees, this is a team-wide problem.

“I know that the cold weather doesn’t affect Derek Carr," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "We practice in cold weather, he practices without sleeves, he throws the ball very well. He makes appropriate checks when in practice.

“I know the quarterbacks, generally, they’re always evaluated on wins and losses. No matter what kind of weather it is, they’re always going to be judged on records. We don’t read too much into it.”