On Saturday, the Oakland Raiders along with 31 other teams will cut their rosters down to 53 players. As usual, it’s a tough process when making decisions on those sitting squarely on the bubble.
Keep in mind, on Thursday, there’s one more preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks for fringe players to prove they’re worth a spot on the depth chart or the practice squad.
In some cases, back-end roster battles remain competitive after three outings. While most people tune out the fourth exhibition game, an undrafted rookie or second-year player can ultimately change his career trajectory with a sparkling performance.
Oakland Raiders Football Today
Before Thursday’s preseason finale, how does the 53-man roster shape up? Which players have done enough to lock up a spot? Who’s leading the competition for reserve roles?
1. Derek Carr
2. Connor Cook
3. EJ Manuel
Backup quarterbacks Connor Cook and EJ Manuel will continue their battle for No. 2 behind Derek Carr on the depth chart. Regardless of the outcome, the Raiders will likely keep three signal-callers.
By the numbers, Cook has outperformed Manuel through three games. The second-year passer has completed 28-of-52 pass attempts for 254 yards and a touchdown. The fifth-year veteran threw for 131 yards on 15-of-25 pass attempts.
It’s clear the coaching staff wants to see how much the Michigan State product grew from his rookie season to the present. He’s nearly doubled his veteran counterpart in pass attempts. Manuel hasn’t looked sharp after his first outing against the Arizona Cardinals.
Whoever shows the most under center against the Seahawks will probably earn the primary backup spot, but they will both avoid the roster guillotine.
1. Marshawn Lynch
2. DeAndre Washington
3. Jalen Richard
4. Jamize Olawale (Fullback)
Without Taiwan Jones, the Raiders won’t carry an extra running back who serves as a core special teams player for the upcoming season. It’s cut-and-dry at this position. Most would assume to see the four names above on the final roster.
Marshawn Lynch will come out of retirement to take over Latavius Murray’s role as the featured back. You can expect him to handle approximately 200 carries. He will split the workload with two second-year running backs who can juke and dash on defenders as receivers out of the backfield.
Jalen Richard flashed his human-joystick ability with a few moves after the catch against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday. Expect to see more of his elusiveness in the upcoming season. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranked No. 1 in average yards after contact (3.63) during the previous season.
DeAndre Washington broke free on a 19-yard run against the Cowboys and looks ready for another productive season behind a stout offensive line.
1. Amari Cooper
2. Michael Crabtree
3. Seth Roberts
4. Cordarrelle Patterson
5. Johnny Holton
Initially, six wide receivers seemed likely for the 2017 roster. However, Jaydon Mickens went quiet after the first preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals. In the NFL, coaches want to see consistency. At this point, the Washington product will spend another year on the practice squad. The same applies to K.J. Brent, who hasn’t flashed in exhibition play.
Despite missing the two previous exhibition games, Seth Roberts’ blocking and big-play ability will keep him in three-wide receiver sets in the slot position.
No one questioned Cordarrelle Patterson’s spot on the roster, but he’s going to see significant time on the field as a viable receiver in space. He’s known for his return ability on special teams, but don’t overlook the fifth-year pro’s speed that can turn a five-yard catch into a 25-yard dash downfield.
Highlight Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree as one of the NFL’s underrated duos. They each logged 1,000-yard seasons and became the first Raiders pair to do so since Jerry Rice and Tim Brown during the 2001 season, per Raiders public relations representative Evert Geerlings.
1. Jared Cook
2. Clive Walford
3. Lee Smith
General manager Reggie McKenzie signed Jared Cook for his receiving prowess, but he showed balance as a decent pass-blocker with the Green Bay Packers in 2016, per Pro Football Focus.
Now, it’s a complete tight end room with in-line blockers, receivers and a young developing talent among the three at the position. Clive Walford’s progress slowed due to injuries during his first two seasons, which prompted the decision to add Cook to the group.
Carr threw a touchdown pass to Lee Smith in the second preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams. In the postgame press conference, the Raiders lead quarterback also rebuked the restricted blocking label placed on the recipient of his first preseason touchdown pass:
“Quit calling him a blocking tight end. As you see, people just drop him sometimes. That’s one thing we have to take advantage of. We can’t just be limited by a certain personnel group. Lee is one of the guys who has the one of the best sets of hands on the team. Being able to run him up the seam and do things like that, people won’t be able to dictate when he comes in the game what they want to play.”
Don’t assume Cook and Walford will dominate two-tight end sets. We can see Smith catch passes down the seam and over the middle in the upcoming season under offensive coordinator Todd Downing.