Oakland Raiders: 8 Players Who Could Drop Down Depth Chart in 2012

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystJune 1, 2012

Oakland Raiders: 8 Players Who Could Drop Down Depth Chart in 2012

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    During the offseason, the focus is often on the players likely to make an impact, but their success often come at the expense of others at their position.

    In order to make room for additions, developmental youth and schematic fits, there will be players that slide down, or off, the depth chart.

    With the new regime in Oakland, more changes than normal are expected. General manager Reggie McKenzie has already made major changes, but head coach Dennis Allen has yet to put his stamp on the new-look roster.

    Allen is a defensive-minded coach that takes over a defense largely constructed by the defensive-minded Al Davis. Allen and Davis are very ideologically different when it comes to defense and different attributes, such as the ability to blitz, will be favored more by Allen than they were by Davis.

    The Raiders also shifting from a Don Coryell-influenced offense to one more influenced by Bill Walsh's west coast offense. Different attributes will be valued at key positions like wide receiver and running back.

    Based on the scheme changes, it's safe to assume the roster tinkering is not yet complete.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

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    Darrius Heyward-Bey came within 25 yards of a 1000-yard season in 2011, but he might not have an opportunity to improve upon his 975 receiving yards in 2012. The Raiders' leading receiver in 2011 could be due for a tumble down the depth chart in certain situations.

    According the the San Francisco Chronicle, Heyward-Bey was arrested April 7 for driving under the influence and plead not guilty in San Francisco Superior Court on Thursday. 

    Per the report, his attorney confirmed that Heyward-Bey failed a field sobriety test and his blood alcohol measured 0.12 at the police station.

    While the DUI incident is not likely enough to impact Heyward-Bey, he should be afraid of rookie Juron Criner stealing his snaps.

    Criner is a big receiver with soft hands and might force his way onto the field at the expense of one of the Raiders' pass-catchers.

    If Criner continues to impress he will almost assuredly steal snaps from someone, and it could be from Heyward-Bey at the split end position.

    It would be surprising if Criner became the starter, but his soft hands might make him the preferred split-end on third down.

Jacoby Ford

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    The Raiders appeared to be settled with Jacoby Ford as the slot receiver with Denarius Moore at Flanker and Heyward-Bey at split end towards the end of the 2011 season, but that could change under the Raiders' new leadership.

    Ford is three inches shorter than any receiver currently on the roster. He is also fast and it's important to get the former fourth-round pick the football in space and let him use that speed to make plays.

    Unfortunately for Ford, the Raiders are shifting to an offense more heavily influenced by the west coast scheme that appears to favor taller, slower receivers. 

    Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp came over from the Houston Texans, whose shortest receiver is 5'11" with an average height of 6'2".

    General Manager Reggie McKenzie came over from the Green Bay Packers, whose average receiver is 6-foot-1.

    Juron Criner could easily eat into Ford's snaps as the slot receiver instead of Heyward-Bey's at split end.

    This is not to say Ford can't still be a weapon on offense, but that he may become more of a novelty item and continue to be a weapon in the kick return game.

Louis Murphy

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    Juron Criner is going to bump at least one receiver down the depth chart. If it's not Heyward-Bey or Ford, it will be Murphy.

    Murphy had a groin/hamstring injury to start 2011 and missed the first five games, something from which he never truly recovered on the depth chart.

    Denarius Moore and Heyward-Bey emerged, and Murphy often found himself fourth or fifth on the depth chart behind Chaz Schilens and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

    It's hard to believe Murphy was the Raiders' leading wide receiver in 2009 and 2010, with only Zach Miller ahead of him in the stats column.

    Murphy has done well when given the opportunity, but he'll now need to fight off Criner and several young receivers in 2012.

    This time last year, Murphy was the third option, but he's at serious risk of being the fifth or sixth if he doesn't have a nice training camp in 2012.

Khalif Barnes

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    One the Reggie McKenzie's many offseason moves was to re-sign right tackle Khalif Barnes. The offensive tackle reached a deal with the team worth up to $2 million in 2012, according to the Associated Press.

    Considering the Raiders have very little cap room, it might be wise for them to see if they can get the same production from a cheaper player.

    Options to replace Barnes at right tackle include Joseph Barksdale, Kevin Haslem and Ed Wang. While all the options to replace Barnes are inexperienced, they are also younger and cheaper.

    Barnes probably isn't as bad as many fans think he was in 2011, and the zone-blocking scheme could benefit him, but he's certainly not young or great.

    A strong camp from one of the young offensive lineman on the team could send Barnes to the bench or the unemployment line.

Cooper Carlisle

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    Copper Carlisle hasn't lost his starting position yet, but it can't make him feel good knowing the team has tried to replace him twice in a single offseason.

    The Raiders signed Mike Brisiel to play right guard, the position Carlisle played for the past five seasons. After releasing and re-signing Carlisle to play left guard, they replaced him again by using the team's highest draft pick to select offensive guard Tony Bergstrom.

    Carlisle is still holding onto the starting position at left guard for the time being, but it's only a matter of time before the Raiders award the job to Bergstrom.

    Experience with the zone-blocking scheme may mean Carlisle is given the opportunity to stick around as a backup, but there is a very good chance Carlisle will not be a starer in 2012.

Mike Mitchell

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    Mike Mitchell hasn't developed into a starting safety for the Raiders, but he found a niche as a hybrid linebacker and tight end coverage specialist over the past couple of seasons.

    That role is in jeopardy with the Raiders' shifting away from man coverages and into more zone. The competition is also better than in previous years.

    The Raiders added several more svelte linebackers to the roster that could execute zone coverage assignments and also added depth at the safety position.

    Among the candidates to steal snaps from Mitchell are linebackers Miles Burris and Phillip Wheeler as well as safeties Curtis Taylor, Chaz Powell and Aaron Henry.

    The safeties might be a long shot to make the roster, but the mere presence of young competition should make Mitchell feel insecure about his roster spot.

    If Mitchell can't stay on the field or doesn't rise above the competition, he could have a difficult time making the final roster in 2012.

Aaron Curry

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    Aaron Curry was more productive for the Raiders in 2011 than he had been with the Seattle Seahawks. Much of that production was possible because the Raiders kept Curry out of pass coverage as much as they could.

    As the Raiders move to a new defensive scheme, hiding Curry's deficiencies in coverage may prove more difficult than in the past. Curry seemed to be better in coverage when the play was entirely in front of him, so the team could give him flat coverage responsibilities or drop him deep pre-snap to allow the play to develop in front of him.

    If Curry continues to struggle against the pass, he could find himself losing snaps in third-and-long situations to a player more adept in coverage.

    Curry will still have a very important role stopping the run and blitzing, but the Raiders might back him off in pass-heavy situations if his coverage doesn't drastically improve.

Marcel Reece

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    Marcel Reece is an exclusive-rights free agent and hasn't attended any voluntary team activities this offseason. 

    Head coach Dennis Allen said after practice Tuesday that Reece needs to get caught up to what the Raiders are doing and is hoping to see him soon.

    The Raiders also signed blocking fullback Owen Schmitt, who was drawing interest from the Redskins, Texans and Broncos according to WVUPros.com. All three of the teams utilize the zone-blocking scheme.

    Schmitt previously played for offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Seattle and helped pave the way for LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia's zone scheme last year.

    Schmitt is not just another body, he's a legitimate threat to Reece.

    Reece has come a long way as a blocker, but the Raiders still used Richard Gordon and Manase Tonga as blocking fullbacks in 2011.

    Greg Knapp is a notoriously run-heavy coordinator, and Reece's impact on offense might hinge on his ability to block.

    Reece might maintain the starting job technically, but Schmitt will almost assuredly steal snaps from him in 2012 because of his blocking ability.