Updated 53-Man Roster Projections for Oakland Raiders Post-Preseason Week 3

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2015

Updated 53-Man Roster Projections for Oakland Raiders Post-Preseason Week 3

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio and his coaching staff have the tough task of narrowing down the roster to 75 players by September 1 after a tough loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

    Three weeks of preseason play helped some players solidify spots on the active roster yet hurt others based on production (you can refer to a previous 53-man roster projection to compare the changes made to the starting lineup and depth of each position).

    Currently, the Raiders have 88 players on the roster, and at least 13 will look for work elsewhere within the next 24 hours.

    We’ll fast-forward the clock and discuss starters and backups in an updated 53-man roster projection. What will the roster look like after the second round of roster cuts on September 5?

    Here’s a sneak peek into the future.

Quarterbacks

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    Derek Carr
    Derek CarrEzra Shaw/Getty Images

     

    PositionStarterNo. 2No. 3
    QuarterbackDerek CarrMatt McGloinChristian Ponder

    Derek Carr deserves the criticism directed at him after Sunday night’s performance against the Cardinals, but make no mistake: His position is secure.

    He’s entrenched as the starting quarterback and should get the opportunity to develop under the creative mind of offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.

    Matt McGloin clearly outplayed Christian Ponder through three preseason games and nearly led the Raiders to a late comeback against the Cardinals. Musgrave’s past allegiances with Ponder could take precedence over production, but McGloin deserves the primary backup role at quarterback.

    Burying McGloin at No. 3 could indicate a potential trade before the regular season. The third-year quarterback’s stock has reached a trade value good enough to return decent talent.

    Trade talks haven’t surfaced yet, but why keep a talented quarterback on the roster without a plan to use him on the field or at the bargaining table?

Running Backs

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    No. 28 Latavius Murray stiff arms a Rams defender.
    No. 28 Latavius Murray stiff arms a Rams defender.Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

     

    PositionStarterNo. 2No. 3
    Running BackLatavius MurrayRoy Helu Jr.Michael Dyer 

    Latavius Murray locked up the starting role long before Week 3. He’s in cruise control, just avoiding injury at this point. He ran with a purpose and averaged 5.5 yards per carry in the first two games.

    He’s primed for a breakout seasonif the offensive line continues to move bodies and clear running lanes.

    The controversy starts with the No. 2 running back position. Struggling former top-five draft pick Trent Richardson, undrafted free agent Michael Dyer and Roy Helu all had a fair chance of earning the primary backup role.

    Overall, Dyer had the best preseason showing but didn’t play well in two out of three preseason games. That shows the lack production behind Murray.

    Helu missed the first two games with a hamstring injury but quickly reminded the coaching staff of his unique skill set. In a small sample, he ran the ball and caught passes out of the backfield against the Cardinals. He also understands how to pick up a blitz to protect his quarterback.

    Helu’s experience on the field should elevate him over Dyer once the season starts. He’s a solid No. 2 running back behind Murray, with the undrafted rookie filling in the gaps as the No. 3 option.

    Trent Richardson showed one or two flashes of what’s left in the tank but will likely miss the second round of cuts on September 5.

Wide Receivers

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    Amari Cooper comes away with the reception.
    Amari Cooper comes away with the reception.Tony Avelar/Associated Press/Associated Press

     

    PositionStartersReservesReserves
    Wide Receiver No. 1Amari CooperRod StreaterAndre Holmes
    Wide Receiver No. 2Michael CrabtreeBrice ButlerSeth Roberts

    Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are locked into their starting positionsno surprises there. The Raiders made a concerted effort to established Cooper and Crabtree’s rapport with Carr early in the preseason.

    Cooper holds a slight edge over Crabtree as Carr’s primary target based on production, but the veteran will get significant looks as the competition level rises.

    Brice Butler continues to steal the show during preseason play, as he’s done since his rookie year. There’s a new coaching staff calling the shots, and it’s time for Butler to carry that momentum into the regular season.

    Andre Holmes’ status remains unclear for the regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals due to a fractured hand, according to a tweet from ESPN's Adam Schefter. Holmes' injury opens the door for Butler as an equal to Rod Streater, playing in the slot behind the starters.

    Seth Roberts quietly used the preseason to open the coaching staff’s eyes to what he brings to the wide receiver stable. Roberts leads all Raiders wideouts in receiving yards in preseason play, as noted by Pro Football Focus.

    He edges veteran Kenbrell Thompkins for the last wide receiver spot on the depth chart.

Tight Ends

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    Mychal Rivera
    Mychal RiveraKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

     

    PositionStarterNo. 2No. 3
    Tight EndMychal RiveraClive WalfordLee Smith
    H-BackMarcel Reece  

    Marcel Reece played sparingly throughout the preseason and finally made a big play on a wheel route that led him 41 yards down the field. Reece’s role remains ambiguous, but there’s no competition as he transitions from fullback to H-Back.

    Clive Walford missed significant time during training camp, which extends Mychal Rivera’s time as the starting tight end.

    Missing significant time in the offseason as a rookie ensures Walford a backup role at best. First-round picks expected to become the focal point of the offense get more leeway in terms of starting with limited practices. That’s not the case for Walford.

    Fortunately, the Raiders have receiving tight end like Rivera and a blocking tight end like Lee Smith to execute Musgrave’s game plan until Walford returns healthy and ready to contribute.

Offensive Line

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    No. 72 Donald Penn
    No. 72 Donald PennKyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

     

    PositionStarterReserves
    Left TackleDonald PennMatt McCants
    Left GuardGabe JacksonJon Feliciano
    CenterRodney HudsonLamar Mady
    Right GuardJ'Marcus WebbKhalif Barnes
    Right TackleAustin Howard 

    Offensive line coach Mike Tice did a good job of fostering continuity by keeping the same five guys together during training camp. Tice also managed to help rookie Jon Feliciano progress with the second unit as a mauler on the inside.

    Unfortunately, offensive tackle Menelik Watson confirmed via Twitter that he ruptured his Achilles very early in the contest against the Cardinals. The shakeup puts Austin Howard in the starting lineup for the remainder of the season.

    Howard initially projected as the favorite to win the starting job at right tackle, but Watson worked hard to maintain the starting position from organized team activities up until his injury.

    Del Rio called Howard "a pro" and justified the importance of depth at a postgame press conference.

    The left side of the offensive line projected as the stronger side, but Tice kept the entire unit strong.

    Howard signed a contract in 2014 worth $30 million over five years, according to Spotrac. Hopefully he’s worth every cent filling in for Watson.

Defensive Line

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    No. 52 Khalil Mack
    No. 52 Khalil MackTony Avelar/Associated Press

     

    PositionStartersReservesReserves
    Left Defensive EndJustin TuckMario EdwardsMax Valles
    Left Defensive TackleJustin Ellis  
    Right Defensive TackleDan WilliamsStacy McGee 
    Right Defensive EndKhalil MackBenson Mayowa 

    The Raiders may field one of the best defensive lines in 2015, if the preseason has given any indication of its potential dominance.

    Every week, Khalil Mack seems to get more comfortable lining up as a defensive end. He recorded two sacks against the Cardinals, beating former Raiders offensive lineman Jared Veldheer on a number of plays.

    Veldheer also experienced difficulties keeping second-round pick Mario Edwards Jr. off the quarterback. Edwards latched onto Carson Palmer in the first quarter and Logan Thomas in the fourth for his two sacks.

    Justin Tuck will start Week 1 of the season, but defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. will find ways to get Edwards involved as a rotational defensive lineman taking snaps at defensive end and as an interior lineman.

    Dan Williams and Justin Ellis, also known as "Meat and Potatoes," solidify the initial point of attack against the run. Edwards’ bounce-back performance from a poor NFL debut gives Norton the option to spell Williams and Ellis on select plays.

    Norton revealed that the team will use Benson Mayowa as strong-side linebacker and at the Leo position, via CSNBayArea.com reporter Scott Bair. Mayowa’s versatility makes him another valuable component to the Raiders pass rush.

    C.J. Wilson’s ability to play nose tackle and 5-technique defensive end elevates his value over one-dimensional defensive linemen on the roster.

    Rookie Max Valles is too talented to land on the practice squad, but falls short of readiness in making early sack contributions.

     

Linebackers

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    No. 53 Malcolm Smith takes down a ball-carrier.
    No. 53 Malcolm Smith takes down a ball-carrier.Tony Avelar/Associated Press/Associated Press

     

    PositionStartersReserves
    Strong-Side LinebackerRay-Ray ArmstrongNeiron Ball
    Inside LinebackerCurtis LoftonBen Heeney
    Weak-Side LinebackerMalcolm SmithSio Moore

    Del Rio’s statement during a press conference last week that Sio Moore is “competing to be a role player somewhere” caused shocked waves, but there’s some merit to his evaluation.

    Moore missed significant time following hip surgery and must get healthy before he can play at his best. Logically, he'll be a backup until the new coaching staff feels he’s ready to regain his starting position.

    The Raiders signed Malcolm Smith with the intention of filling in for Moore while he gets back to full strength. However, Smith’s tenure as a starter could extend if he plays well and continues to progress as a leader.

    Del Rio made reference to Smith’s leadership role in the locker room and seems pleased with his development under Norton’s tutelage.

    Ray-Ray Armstrong will continue to start at strong-side linebacker unless he self implodes with reckless penalties—a bad habit that hurt him in his first two years as a pro.

    Curtis Lofton dons the colors of his third NFL team after struggling within Rob Ryan’s defense in New Orleans. Despite his struggles, he remained a tackling machine and was reliable in setting up the defense.

    He’ll hold off impressive rookie Ben Heeney for at least another year in the starting role at inside linebacker.

Defensive Backs

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    Travis Carrie with a punt return
    Travis Carrie with a punt returnAssociated Press

     

    PositionStartersReservesReserves
    Left CornerbackTravis CarrieKeith McGillDexter McDonald
    Free Safety Charles Woodson Brandian Ross 
    Strong SafetyNate AllenLarry Asante 
    Right CornerbackD.J. HaydenNeiko Thorpe 

    D.J. Hayden survived the preseason to start alongside T.J. Carrie. Keith McGill didn’t flash enough during exhibition to take Hayden’s starting position.

    Hayden struggled mightily against Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Charles Johnson and drew a penalty against the Cardinals but will hold on thanks to an underwhelming showing from McGill.

    Neiko Thorpe could become an X-factor within the secondary, depending his progress during the season. He played the most snaps through two games among the cornerbacks. It’s clear Norton wants to see what he’s capable of going forward.

    Similar to Valles, Dexter McDonald would get offers from NFL teams as a practice squad talent. He’ll make the 53-man roster but stands behind four cornerbacks due for an extended look this season.

    Nate Allen’s ball-hawking tendencies became visible for everyone to see on Sunday Night Football against the Cardinals. He’s going to play center field within the secondary and read opposing quarterbacks in hopes of creating turnovers. He’ll share the backbone of the secondary with Charles Woodson.

Special Teams

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    Sebastian Janikowski kicking a field goal
    Sebastian Janikowski kicking a field goalTony Avelar/Associated Press

     

    PositionStarters
    Kick ReturnerTaiwan Jones
    Punt ReturnerTrindon Holliday
    KickerSebastian Janikowski
    PunterMarquette King
    Long SnapperJon Condo
    HolderMarquette King

    Kicker Sebastian Janikowski became the star of the offense in Week 3 against the Cardinals. He's ready to start his 16th season as the Raiders' kicker. Marquette King didn’t show any signs of yielding his position to backup punter Steven Clark.

    The Raiders should look to pick up a punt returner off waivers. Kick return specialist Devon Wylie signed with the team but hasn’t made significant contributions to the return game.

    By default, Trindon Holliday will make the 53-man roster, but it’s plausible to think the Raiders will replace him with someone looking for work as a punt return specialist. Carrie returned three punts against the Cardinals but is too valuable to risk as the starting cornerback.

    Taiwan Jones looks explosive as a ball-carrier in the backfield. The coaching staff values his speed. He’ll resume his duties as the Raiders kick returner—a role he fulfilled in 2013.

Full Depth Chart

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
    Offense 
    PositionsStartersReservesReserves
    QuarterbacksDerek CarrMatt McGloinChristian Ponder
    Running BacksLatavius MurrayRoy Helu Jr.Michael Dyer
    H-BackMarcel Reece  
    Wide Receiver No. 1Amari CooperRod StreaterAndre Holmes
    Wide Receiver No. 2Michael CrabtreeBrice ButlerSeth Roberts
    Tight EndsMychal RiveraClive WalfordLee Smith
    Left TackleDonald PennMatt McCants 
    Left GuardGabe JacksonJon Feliciano 
    CenterRodney HudsonLamar Mady 
    Right GuardJ'Marcus WebbKhalif Barnes 
    Right TackleAustin Howard  

     

    Defense
    PositionsStartersReservesReserves
    Left Defensive EndJustin TuckMario Edwards Jr. Max Valles
    Left Defensive TackleJustin Ellis  
    Right Defensive TackleDan WilliamsStacy McGee 
    Right Defensive EndKhalil MackBenson Mayowa 
    Weak-side LinebackerMalcolm SmithSio Moore 
    Inside LinebackerCurtis LoftonBen Heeney 
    Strong-side LinebackerRay-Ray Armstrong
    Neiron Ball 
    Left CornerbackTravis CarrieKeith McGillDexter McDonald
    Free SafetyCharles WoodsonBrandian Ross
     
    Strong SafetyNate AllenLarry Asante 
    Right CornerbackD.J. HaydenNeiko Thorpe 

     

    Special Teams 
    PositionsStarters
    Kick ReturnerTaiwan Jones
    Punt ReturnerTrindon Holliday
    Long SnapperJon Condo
    HolderMarquette King
    PunterMarquette King
    KickerSebastian Janikowski

     

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    All statistics are provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com and Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted.

    In-game play-by-play is provided by NFL.com