Six undrafted rookies with legitimate shot at Raiders' 53-man roster

Six undrafted rookies with legitimate shot at Raiders' 53-man roster

The Raiders have dealt with one odd occurrence after another this training camp. First, it was Antonio Brown’s frostbitten feet. Then it was the star receiver’s fight to wear a preferred helmet.

This week’s trip to play a home preseason game in Winnipeg was up next, but things got weird when the game was played on an 80-yard field due to turf issues.

Head coach Jon Gruden was asked about that oddity after a 22-21 victory over Green Bay at IG Field. He addressed it quickly, put the field-shortening decision on the Packers and quickly moved on.

“We might have five undrafted players make the team,” Gruden said. “That’s the story most people are missing. I’m going to talk about that, and not about any more distractions.”

Okay, Coach. Let’s talk about that.

Several undrafted free agents have impressed over this preseason. Some have a realistic shot to make the 53-man roster.

Gruden said he might keep five. Maybe, but that seems a smidge high. A pair seems certain. Three or four total seems more likely.

Gruden didn’t identify players in the best position to stick around after final cuts, so let’s take a look the prime candidates and their odds of making the squad.

P A.J. Cole

The North Carolina State product won his position battler early in camp, with Johnny Townsend was waived to create space for additional cornerbacks. That left Cole as the team’s only punter, knowing full well such status wouldn’t last if he tapered off after an excellent start. Cole certainly hasn’t done that. He averaged 42.2 yards per punt, with another one dropped inside the 20-yard line despite playing on an 80-yard field without a typically clear goal line.

Cole has earned the right to start the season as the Raiders punter. He’ll get it come September.

Will he make the 53-man roster?: It’s a lock

DT Anthony Rush

The 340-pound defensive tackle has proven stout on the interior, a consistent run stopper the Raiders have been looking for to plug gaps and minimize gains. He had four more tackles, including one for a loss, and three total that Pro Football Focus says constituted a failed run play against Green Bay. That’s three straight solid performances for the Alabama-Birmingham alum, who has impressed coaches and fans alike since signing up after training camp started.

Will he make the 53-man roster?: Seems likely

WR Keelan Doss

The Alameda native could well end up working his hometown all season after yet another productive preseason game. He has been Nate Peterman’s best friend late in these three preseason games and has 11 catches for 99 yards and a touchdown on 14 targets. Gruden lauds Doss’ versatility and continues to praise this smooth route runner who surprisingly went undrafted.

“He's playing three positions,” Gruden said. “He's over there at split end. He's playing the z. He's playing in the slot. He's playing them all well. I'm happy for him.”

The UC Davis product works in a talented and intensely competitive position group but could emerge with a roster spot over more established veterans. Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and Dwayne Harris are roster locks. Will the Raiders cut either Ryan Grant or J.J. Nelson to make room for Doss? Will Marcell Ateman factor in here? There’s plenty to ponder while making tough choices at receiver.

Will he make the 53-man roster?: Possibly

CB Keisean Nixon

The South Carolina product isn’t here due to recency bias, because he was awesome Thursday night against Green Back. The aggressive cover man has been sound throughout training camp and the preseason, with a penchant for closing separation when the ball’s in the air.

Here’s the proof: Nixon has been targeted 15 times in three preseason games, per PFF, yet has allowed just five receptions for 37 yards. That’s just a 42.4 passer rating against him. That solid play could put him on the 53-man roster to start the season, with a chance to stay there.

Nevin Lawson will serve a four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy to start the season, leaving an open spot he could fill early on. He has played better that last year’s fourth-round pick Nick Nelson, who sits firmly on the roster bubble.

The Raiders are also dealing with injuries to rookie draft picks Isaiah Johnson and Trayvon Mullen. If either one lingers into the season, Nixon could be a candidate for regular season playing time.

Will he make the 53-man roster?: Seems likely

FB Alec Ingold

The Wisconsin alum has been steady throughout a preseason where he has received tons of work. Reps have been high with veteran fullback Keith Smith recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and Ingold has taken full advantage.

He has proven a solid lead blocker with some short-yards rush ability and effectiveness in the passing game. He can play on special teams and has impressed offensive coaches running a system that still needs good fullback play.

Smith, however, will have something to say about Ingold vying for his job. He’s back healthy again and had a strong showing on Thursday to prove he hasn’t lost a step. He’s a core special teams player and violent hitter that coaches like. He isn’t giving up his roster spot without a fight. The fullback decision could come down to the wire, and Ingold might be the odd man out if the Raiders believe he’ll clear waivers and make it to the practice squad.

Will he make the 53-man roster?: Maybe, maybe not

OL Andre James

James played offensive tackle at UCLA, but the Raiders have moved him inside to center. That’s quite a transition, one that he has made well. Gruden has praised James’ efforts at several points this summer. That’s a positive sign for the young offensive lineman battling for a roster spot.

He has played 140 preseason snaps and allowed just three quarterback hurries in 70 pass-blocking snaps. Getting the mental aspects of the position right can be tough, but Gruden said James has taken to it.

A path to the 53-man roster remains cloudy, considering the Raiders are expected to carry Gabe Jackson despite him being out the season’s first four of five games at least.

[RELATED: Raiders can't take much away from preseason game in Canada]

Jordan Devey is expected to replace him at right guard, but he’s a capable backup center as well. That means James might not be needed, especially with the extra depth required at guard. His versatility helps, especially if they only keep three tackles on the roster. There are a lot of variables influencing offensive line construction from Jackson to Denzelle Good’s readiness after back surgery to Richie Incognito’s two-game suspension to start the season. It’s seems set James will stick around on the 53-man roster or the practice squad if the OL shuffle doesn’t shake his way.

Will he make the 53-man roster?: Outlook remains cloudy

Raiders injury report: Lamarcus Joyner misses practice ahead of Jets game

Raiders injury report: Lamarcus Joyner misses practice ahead of Jets game

ALAMEDA --Raiders slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner did some light work in Wednesday's practice, conducted as a walk-through without helmets. 

He didn’t advance to more significant practice activity on Thursday -- he didn't do anything, as a matter of fact -- decreasing odds he’ll be ready to go Sunday against the New York Jets. 

The veteran doesn’t need much time to get ready, but they’ll want his hamstring right before bringing back an integral defensive cog.

Nevin Lawson occupied Joyner’s spot in the slot against the Cincinnati Bengals last time out and fared well, which gives coaches the confidence to let Joyner heal upright.

[RELATED: Doss enjoying unorthodox NFL journey]

Joyner and offensive tackle David Sharpe are the only players in jeopardy of missing this game.

Trent Brown remains limited with a knee injury, though he has played almost every week despite dealing with several ailments throughout the season.

Raiders practice report

Did not practice
CB Lamarcus Joyner (hamstring)
OT David Sharpe (calf)

Limited practice
RB Josh Jacobs (shoulder)
C Rodney Hudson (ankle)
OT Trent Brown (knee)

Raiders ready for unique challenge of blocking Jets' Jamal Adams

Raiders ready for unique challenge of blocking Jets' Jamal Adams

ALAMEDA -- Through 10 games this season, Derek Carr's insurance has been well worth whatever premium he paid.

The Raiders' offensive line, self-dubbed "Carr Insurance," has allowed only 15 sacks on the season, the second-best mark in the NFL behind only the Dallas Cowboys' vaunted offensive front.

Oakland's favorite insurance company will face a brand new test Sunday when it deals with the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Over the last two weeks, Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has unleashed star safety Jamal Adams as a blitzer, something the LSU product excels at. Adams has been a terror in the box, helping revitalize the Jets' defense while racking up five sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and a touchdown.

Adams now has six sacks on the season, two away from the record for a defensive back set by Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson in 2005.

Blocking Quinnen Williams, Hendry Anderson, C.J. Moseley and Co. is one thing for the Raiders' offensive line, but diagnosing a safety blitz and being able to pick it up is entirely something else. 

"Jamal Adams is one of the best players in the league. The guy is unreal," quarterback Derek Carr said Wednesday. "When you turn the tape on, you can feel his presence without being there. I remember we played him '17 here, and I remember telling him, 'Keep that intensity.' Because if you can play like that all the time -- because I was impressed by him -- I said, 'If you can play like that all the time, you're going to be one of the best to be in this league.' Now, I have nothing to do with him being one of the best in the league, but I do remember having that conversation."

Adams will come from anywhere and everywhere Sunday at the Meadowlands. After being involved in trade rumors near the trade deadline, Adams made it known he thinks he's one of the best players in the NFL. He has played like it since then, helping spark the Jets' defense in wins over the Giants and Washington.

The Raiders are aware of Adams and know they can't let him disrupt their flow.

"He's a fearless player. He's one of the most aggressive players that you will see. His playing speed is rare," head coach Jon Gruden said. "He's a linebacker playing defensive back. He's a defensive lineman playing defensive back. He's a defensive-back deluxe. He can do it all. He can rush, he can cover. He's really good. He's a sideline-to-sideline leader on that team. He's got our attention."

A blitzing defensive back might seem like something that would be easy to exploit. If the Jets are going to bring Adams down into the box and send him on blitzes, make them choose to put the other safety on either Darren Waller or Tyrell Williams and take advantage of the opposite matchup.

However, it's not as easy as it sounds, especially with a guy like Adams. The LSU product has the blessing of the Jets to freelance and go off-book when he feels is necessary.

[RELATED: Jacobs on quest to 'be better' amid stellar rookie season]

It's going to be a collaborative effort for the Raiders to keep Adams off Carr's back. The line, backs and tight ends all must be on the same page, be clear in identifying their calls and work together to neutralize the Jets' unique defensive weapon.

Rookie running back Josh Jacobs could play a critical role in keeping Carr upright. Blocking Adams is a challenge he's ready for.

"You know he's going to be a dog," Jacobs said. "He's going to come with everything he's got so you just have to match his intensity."

Adams is a game-wrecker, and the 6-4 Raiders must account for him in a game they need to win to keep pace in the AFC West.