Oakland Raiders: Projected Depth Chart—Part 1
Head Coach Tom Cable has had a huge impact on the look of the Oakland Raiders. He got the guys he wanted in the draft, free agency, and through trades.
Now, he has some tough decisions to make.
This slide show will only be discussing the "skill" positions on the offense. Quarterback, halfback, fullback, tight end, and wide receiver.
I will attempt to predict who will start, who will be the back up, and who will be the third string.
Let's do this...
There's no secret or debate here. Jason Campbell is certain to be the starting quarterback for the Raiders in 2010.
Despite the fact that he was acquired from the Washington Redskins for virtually nothing, (a fourth round pick in 2012), Campbell is a solid NFL starting quarterback.
Campbell has improved his statistical performance every season in spite of the fact that he has had to learn four different offenses, he's never had a consistent running game or wide receiver, and playing behind a line that resembled a sieve more than an actual offensive line.
He should be backed up by Bruce Gradkowski who has earned the respect of his teammates and the love of Raider Nation for his fiery leadership and never say die play.
The third stringer is a little tougher to predict. My instinct tells me it should be Kyle Boller, but something tells me that Charlie Frye will be the guy due to the fact that he has a lower salary. Hopefully for Raider fans, the third quarterback will never see the field.
The halfback is a position at which the Raiders are fairly deep. That said, it's looking like the Raiders will be going to a "two-headed monster" rushing attack that is becoming more and more popular in the league today.
Michael Bush was the most productive back in 2009, as well as being the more "traditional" back on the Raider's roster. He should be listed as the starter when the 2010 season begins.
The second part of the "two-headed monster" I described in the opening paragraph will be Darren McFadden. Since being the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft, McFadden has yet to live up to expectations, partially due to not being utilized properly.
If new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson can find McFadden's niche, he can be the explosive back fans were expecting all along.
The third back should be Michael Bennett. Bennett is a speedy back that has been a starter in the past, but suffered some injuries and proved to be fumble prone.
Rock Cartwright will be on the roster in 2010 as well. He will most likely see most of his playing time on special teams and some at fullback. He is a pretty good short yardage runner, so perhaps he'll get some time in third and shorts and goal-to-go situations.
This position may surprise some people. I'm predicting an undrafted rookie to be the starter on opening day. OK, that's all the Raiders have at fullback; undrafted rookies!
Manase Tonga is not that fast, not that big, and not well known. However, this kid loves to hit—hard! Once he gets used to the speed of the NFL, Tonga is going to be a huge improvement in attitude and "nastiness" over what the Raiders had in this position last year.
Chane Moline is also an undrafted free agent from UCLA. Moline has good size, but doesn't appear to play physically enough to beat Tonga out for the starting job. For the most part, Moline will see time on special teams and possibly at fullback in a jumbo/goal-line formation with Tonga or Cartwright lined up at halfback.
Like the quarterback position, there is no debate over who should start at tight end. Zach Miller is without argument one of the premier tight ends in the league. Coming off of yet another ridiculously productive season in which Miller led all Raider receivers in catches, yards, and touchdowns, Miller will certainly be listed as the starter on opening day.
Brandon Myers is a nice option as the second tight end. He shows very good blocking skills, a solid understanding of the offense, and decent hands. Primarily known as a blocker, Myers made some big catches in important situations last season. Myers will find himself as the back-up again in 2010.
Tony Stewart is a player more in the style of Miller, but not as good. He has decent speed, good agility, and is a willing blocker. All traits that should guarantee him a spot on the final 53 man roster as the third tight end.
John Owen is listed on the roster, but I don't expect him to make the final roster. He may be on the practice squad, but even that is unlikely.
This might be the most underrated position on the Raiders. There is some very good, young talent on this team.
Chaz Schilens is coming off of an injury, but has shown flashes of being a great possession receiver. He is willing to go over the middle, make the catch, take the hit, and hang onto the ball.
Schilens has also displayed a knack for making the circus catch; this is always a good trait to have in a wide receiver. Schilens' work ethic, good speed, and excellent hands should put him No. 1 on the depth chart.
Louis Murphy will challenge Schilens for the No. 1 spot, but will ultimately find himself on the opposite side of the field. This is not a bad thing because the two of them compliment each other. Schilens working the middle, intermediate routes will open up the deep routes for Murphy to be the explosive player he is.
Darius Heyward-Bey is the prototypical slot receiver. Extremely fast, long and lanky frame, and a very hard worker. As long as he can learn to catch with his hands more consistently, Heyward-Bey will thrive in his role as the third wide out. I look for him to have a break-out year.
The fourth receiver position is up for grabs. Todd Watkins, Nick Miller, Johnny Lee Higgins, and rookie Jacoby Ford will all be vying for this spot. I can see Watkins' experience allowing him to edge out Ford and Miller with Higgins being relegated to the fifth receiver.
Ford and Miller are likely to be the returners for the Raiders in 2010, but I don't expect either of them to get any meaningful playing time next season.
Most teams carry six wide receivers, but the Raiders aren't most teams. Something tells me that the Raiders will keep seven wideouts on the active roster. Those being the four I've already placed with Higgins, Ford, and Nick Miller completing the depth chart.
That leaves Jonathan Holland, Paul Hubbard, Yamon Figurs, and Shaun Bodiford left to compete for spots on the practice squad. There will probably be only two available spots for wide receivers which means that a couple of these men will be looking for work in 2010.
This is quite possibly the best team that Al Davis has assembled in quite some time. As a Raider fan myself, I'm extremely optimistic about this team moving forward.
Regardless if I have all the positions right or not, the coaching staff has a lot of good talent to choose from when putting the 2010 Oakland Raiders together.
What do you say Raider Nation?
Did I get it right?
Was I even close?
Let me hear you!