Grading the Oakland Raiders' Entire 53-Man Roster
While the 53-man roster is an ever-evolving list of players, the Oakland Raiders have done their best to compile the roster they'll go to battle with Monday night.
Among the surprising cuts were defensive backs Chimdi Chekwa and DeMarcus Van Dyke, two 2011 Oakland draft picks who had up-and-down preseasons thus far. In their place are some new faces who have yet to wear the silver and black, and they will do so for the first time in Week 1.
With all the changes and surprises, we graded each player's performance this offseason as we anxiously await the season's opening.
As the one position whose outcome was essentially predetermined, the quarterback battle turned out exactly as many expected it to.
Carson Palmer remains the team's starter with Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor, in that order, backing him up this season. While Leinart battled injuries in the last couple of weeks of the preseason, he looked good in Week 1 before regressing a bit in the following weeks.
Pryor, on the other hand, began the preseason with the type of performances many of his doubters would have expected, struggling to make good decisions and complete passes accurately. In Week 3, however, the haters were left with their foot in their mouth as Pryor threw for 137 yards and ran for 90 more in Oakand's lone preseason victory.
Despite his breakout performance, however, Leinart seems to have a secure hold on the backup position should anything happen to Palmer. That said, if Leinart struggles in any appearance he makes, the black hole might start clamoring for Pryor to see the field.
With interceptions being the chief concern among Raider fans, Palmer did little to assuage those fears this preseason.
He wasn't great, but he was good enough in spurts to prove he was deserving of the backup job.
If Pryor can learn to be an effective passer in this league, he's got a bright future ahead of him.
With a true battle for backup running back on the docket this offseason, it's safe to say that Taiwan Jones has emerged as the team's best option.
Many believed heading into camp that Mike Goodson, whom the Raiders acquired in a trade with Carolina, had the inside track over the smaller Jones; however, Goodson was anything but impressive this preseason. In fact, many were surprised to see he had even made the roster.
The main thought on most Raider fans' minds, however, is the health of their starter—Darren McFadden—and whether that health will hold up for an entire season. If it can, that backup battle will be the least of Oakland's worries.
McFadden logged just 20 carries this preseason for 81 yards, but he appeared to be as explosive as ever in limited action.
Jones had a breakout game against Detroit with 50 yards on 10 carries before a disappointing seven carries for 12 yards in Week 4. If he can stay healthy and prove he's capable of handling the backup workload, Jones could be a huge weapon for Oakland.
Twenty-one attempts for 49 yards is much less than what Oakland fans were expecting from Goodson; not to mention he fumbled the ball twice in one game.
Injured for most of the preseason, the Raiders have yet to see much from Reece.
Having beat out the returning backup Manase Tonga, Schmitt must have shown the new coaching staff something they liked. If he gets much action, Schmitt is sure to become a fan favorite.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
As a position that began training camp with so much optimism, the wide receiver spot has quickly become one of the season's biggest concerns.
With Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore having missed a combined six out of eight preseason games, Dennis Allen and Greg Knapp have seen a lot of their younger receivers this preseason. Darrius Heyward Bey, on the other hand, has played in three of the four games, but has logged just four catches.
On the bright side, rookies Juron Criner and Rod Streater have been impressive throughout camp and in games, and appear ready to step into action if called upon Monday night.
At tight end, the question marks remain as many are wondering whether a free-agent signing is imminent. Brandon Myers is still listed as the team's starter, but he hasn't done anything to make fans believe he's a true solution there.
Moore hasn't seen the field yet this offseason and might not be ready for Monday night.
Two catches for 21 yards before getting injured was not the offseason Oakland fans were hoping for, especially since he injured the same foot that has hindered him in the past. Like Moore, his status for Monday's game is uncertain.
Four catches for 76 yards in three games thus far, but at least DHB was able to stay healthy.
Oakland's leading receiver this preseason, the undrafted rookie from Temple, snagged 18 passes for 165 yards. If Moore and Ford aren't ready to go on Monday, Streater appears to have earned himself a spot in the starting lineup.
After generating quite a buzz in minicamp, Criner was a bit of a letdown in the preseason, failing to steal the show at any point. That said, however, he did compile 146 yards and two touchdowns.
As a relative unknown, Myers was a player many fans hoped to see a lot of this preseason. Instead, he played in just one game, where he logged five catches for 41 yards.
The guy many believed could swipe the starting spot from Myers recorded just two catches in four games for 21 yards.
Not known for his pass-catching ability, Gordon hasn't done much this preseason to lead anyone to believe he'll be a major part of the offense.
With center Stefen Wisniewski out for most of the preseason, the Raiders were trying a number of different combinations out across the front five.
Unfortunately, as the preseason wore on, the offensive line seemed to struggle more and more.
On the bright side, the Raiders have maintained a relatively young group of lineman after all of the cuts, with six of the 11 players retained having played three or fewer years in the league.
Injured all preseason, but he is expected to play on Monday night
Parsons did enough in camp to prove he deserved the backup spot at center, as he can also be used as a guard if needed.
The free-agent signee from Houston did nothing to lead anyone to believe the starting right guard position was anyone's but his.
The 13-year veteran from Florida is back for another year in Oakland and should fit nicely at the left guard position.
Oakland's first draft pick in this year's draft had a chance to earn the starting job at guard but wasn't quite ready to step in. He'll see plenty of playing time, however, and Oakland hopes he can develop into a long-term solution at guard.
Another rookie guard who made the team, Nix was an undrafted free agent out of Pitt who was successful in the sense that he even made the roster.
The third-year man from LSU came into camp with a chance to earn the starting right tackle position but has fallen to second string this offseason.
Many wondered why Oakland brought Barnes back this offseason; however, the fact that he's the team's starting right tackle on opening night should answer all of those questions.
Another solid offseason for the massive Veldheer has fans and analysts alike buzzing about his potential as the team's starting left tackle.
Just added from Washington, Smith started three games last season for the Redskins.
After a promising start to the preseason in which the Raiders defensive line was dominant, the unit struggled in the following weeks to contain the run.
By the end of the preseason, opponents were averaging just over 100 yards a game with a 3.5 yards-per-carry average. Oakland did log seven sacks in the four games.
Part of the problem was the absence of guys like Richard Seymour, who played in just one game before sitting out to get as much rest as possible.
Once the season starts, this unit should be among the strongest in the league, but it remains to be seen whether or not their lack of time playing together in the preseason will inhibit their success early on.
Little doubt this guy will be ready to go come Monday night.
One of Oakland's standouts early on, Kelly could be in for a career year this year.
Never one to stand out, Bryant had another solid preseason and fought off some tough competition for some younger guys to maintain his backup spot.
One of the surprise selections for the final roster, the rookie from Georgia State impressed a lot of people in his time on the field and should provide solid depth this season.
Houston continues to make strides toward becoming one of the more feared defensive lineman and will inch closer and closer this season. Houston is definitely a guy to look for this season, especially if Seymour and Kelly continue to demand a lot of respect inside.
The rookie from Penn State was classified as "raw" heading into camp, but he clearly did enough to earn a spot on the roster. With the wealth of talent and veterans around him, Crawford would do well to take this year as an invaluable learning experience.
Nothing flashy from Shaughnessy this preseason, but he figures to be a major contributor to the defensive line all season.
The former New York Giant seems to fit in well in his new environment, and he will ensure that Oakland's depth remains in tact all season.
Marred by injury and question marks, the Oakland Raiders linebacking corps remains one of the biggest unknowns.
For starters, the lingering questions about a potential suspension for Rolando McClain remain, while presumed starter Aaron Curry was recently placed on the physically unable to perform list.
On the bright side, however, newcomer Philip Wheeler has been a training camp star, and rookie Miles Burris has impressed enough to earn the starting job.
If this unit can remain consistent behind Oakland's outstanding defensive line, the Raiders defense could quickly turn into one of the league's best.
All of the talk out of camp is that McClain might be ready to turn the corner and live up to the hype of a top-10 draft pick.
As reporters and bloggers have raved about the tenacity that this guy plays with, many linebacking concerns have been temporarily put to rest on his side of the field.
The rookie from San Diego State got the starting job officially when Aaron Curry was placed on the PUP list, but many believed he was a steal when the Raiders took him late in the 2011 draft.
McClain's backup has failed to stand out in most situations, but he remains a reliable backup when needed.
Added to the roster Monday morning, Clayton has played in 21 games in Philadelphia in the past two seasons. He's expected to contribute mostly on special teams.
One of the biggest surprises in this group, the second-year man from San Jose State hopes to provide depth to a linebacking unit that could use some.
Entering the 2011 season, the Oakland Raiders let Nnamdi Asomugha leave for Philadelphia believing their defensive backs were capable of filling his shoes. Those defensive backs were Chris Johnson, Stanford Routt and rookies Chimdi Chekwa and DeMarcus Van Dyke.
Twelve months later, all four of those players are gone.
Chekwa and Van Dyke were waived this week, although Chekwa stayed on the practice squad, and the 2012 Raiders have an entirely new look.
One constant in the whole equation has been safety Tyvon Branch, who remains this unit's best player as we head into 2012.
The San Francisco transfer didn't do a whole lot to make people feel warm and fuzzy about the upcoming season, but the good news for Spencer is that at least he's got a job.
His story is much like Spencer's in that he hasn't wowed anyone, but he has proved he can be a reliable corner in this league if he can stay healthy.
Adams was another late addition, as the journeyman defensive back will hope to shore up a very depleted group of corners.
Coye has one game under his belt and while it wasn't extremely impressive, the staff obviously likes him enough to keep him around.
Coming into camp, many were unsure about whether or not Lee would do enough to earn a spot on the final roster, but the former Green Bay Packer has played well and should see lots of action early on this season.
Hanson is coming off of six seasons in Philadelphia and should do well to shore up Oakland's nickel coverage.
Still one of the most polarizing figures on the Raiders, Mitchell still doesn't appear to have turned the corner toward becoming an above-average defensive back.
Nothing special from Branch this preseason; however, Oakland knows what they have in their franchise defensive back and are just glad he's still healthy.
After speculation about a potential move to cornerback, Huff remains the starting safety alongside Branch this season. One can hope that Allen's defensive mind will bring the best out of players like Huff in hopes that he begins to live up to his potential.
Another solid showing this preseason for Giordano, who always seems to be in the right place at the right time defensively.
As one of Oakland's most dangerous units, the preseason couldn't have been more disappointing for this group of special teamers.
For starters, both Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler battled injuries for the past few weeks, leaving much of the preseason action to guys without any chance of making the roster.
In the return game, the result was even worse.
While Janikowski and Lechler are veterans who one could assume will be fine even without much practice, Oakland's top two return men—Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore—have both been hurt. Oakland brought in Roscoe Parrish and former return man Bryan McCann to fill that hole, but neither of those players survived the cuts.
He's a veteran so practice, shmactice.