Well, the cut to 53 players was made today as we all know, and there were a few surprises but in all, things shook down mostly as expected.
It was a bit of a surprise that, given the struggles of the run game, Manase Tonga was not retained. He showed excellent ability to block, and in the game against the Seattle Seahawks had a really nice catch and run that showcased some athleticism that people perhaps didn't know he possessed. I know I didn't.
Keeping Marcel Reece after the big play ability he showed in the screen game made sense; I just don't know that he has the size or skill to clear holes for Darren McFadden as they'll be needed. The Raiders will be getting incumbent fullback Luke Lawton back after a two game suspension, but it remains to be seen if he'll be retained at that point as he won't count on the roster until he is active.
Based on his play on both special teams and at linebacker, and his propensity for injuries, I really thought this would be the year that Sam Williams would lose his scholarship and be given his walking papers.
Slade Norris shows better ability on special teams at this point, is younger, and has proven to be less injury-prone. It doesn't make sense to me why Williams keeps sticking around. Perhaps he's the illegitmate son of Al Davis; he's got to have something on ol' Al to keep avoiding the chopping block.
Jay Richardson was a surprise cut, but after the talent added to the front seven and Richardson failing to play due to injury this offseason, it became a distinct possibility.
Still, that leaves only Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy as true defensive ends, with Trevor Scott, Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves as hybrid defensive end/linebackers. Richardson's strength was on run defense, so it is a little baffling that he was let go considering the lack of depth and his usefulness as a run stopper.
I'm amazed that Yamon Figurs made it, with how tentative he is and how many mistakes he's made. The only thing I can surmise is that they want to see him as a returner or a third down receiver possibly; or he's keeping a roster spot warm for the recently released T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
As pointed out in the first comment here, Stevie Brown was released and Hiram Eugene was retained. This move makes no sense; I know Eugene brings experience and special teams play, but I simply do not understand releasing Stevie Brown.
He's been around the ball all preseason, whether in practice or games, shown well in coverage, and tackles well. In reading a very recent report (as in, after this was initially written) it appears that the coaching staff wanted to cut Mike Mitchell and keep Stevie Brown.
I just learned of this, so I had to edit the article as it had already been written.
The speculation is that Al Davis didn't want the PR headache that would come with releasing Mitchell, a pick that was questioned when it was made and who's release would only add fuel to the ever-burgeoning "Al Davis has lost it" fire.
Well, him deciding to keep Mitchell over a player the coaching staff wanted to keep very strongly in Brown will not do him any favours in the PR game anyhow.
Mitchell getting cut would've been a huge surprise; he does struggle in coverage, but I thought he'd shown pretty well in run support. Perhaps this will light a fire underneath him.
What's the Raiders offseason without at least one controversy involving Al usurping the power of his coaching staff? It appears, though, that Stevie Brown was the unfortunate casualty of this war.
Overall, things went pretty much as expected, with the Raiders keeping three quarterbacks, keeping both Michael Bennett and Rock Cartwright out of necessity, and keeping all their draft choices other than Brown. They have all played well this season. They should've kept Brown and cut Figurs, in my eyes.
Hopefully nobody else has been paying attention and Brown isn't scooped up quickly.
I'm really happy that two of my personal favourite players, Johnnie Lee Higgins and Thomas Howard, both survived. I cling to the past with these guys, but I still see Howard as the guy going for pick sixes and Higgins as the backflipping dynamo that is as smooth as silk.
They're both long removed from those images in reality, and though it would be nice, it's probably not likely we'll see them return to that form again, but I still enjoying watching them play when things are going well. Let's hope that is early and often this season.
So the roster is pretty much set, although with other teams releasing many players of note at positions of need for the Raiders, it'd be foolish to think that things are fully settled at this point.
It's worth noting that at the time of writing this, there is still one more cut to be made; so perhaps Sam actually will lose his scholarship after all.
*NOTE: With the recent news of Stevie Brown's release, obviously Sam Williams lives to fight another day.
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