At this point, most of the Las Vegas Raiders’ roster is the handiwork of general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels. Of the 54 players who survived roster cuts Tuesday — the Raiders have a roster exemption for recently signed running back Josh Jacobs this week — only 15 were around when the duo took over last year.
In less than two calendar years, they’ve essentially flipped the roster from a team that made the playoffs. So, if the Raiders fall short of expectations this season — and the expectations aren’t that high — Ziegler and McDaniels have to shoulder the majority of the blame. Their moves have signaled that while having star players like Davante Adams and Maxx Crosby, the focus is on building for the future — though owner Mark Davis surely wouldn’t be happy with another season like last year’s 6-11 campaign.
We can’t truly know where the Raiders stand until they kick off the regular season against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 10. In the meantime, here is our analysis of interesting nuggets from each position group. (The Raiders can sign a 16-team practice squad once the league’s waiver claims are processed Wednesday, so you won’t be saying goodbye to all of these names.)
Starter: Jimmy Garoppolo
Backups: Brian Hoyer, Aidan O’Connell
Cut: Chase Garbers
Analysis: The Raiders brought in Garoppolo to replace Derek Carr because they believe he’s better, plain and simple. Garoppolo’s play was superior last season, but that came with a San Francisco 49ers’ supporting cast significantly superior to what he’s now working with. He’s never had a receiver like Adams, so maybe that opens up his game more. Despite how well O’Connell played in the preseason, he still appears to be behind Hoyer for the backup job. Obviously, that’s fluid. The Raiders hope neither player sees the field this year, but the possibility must be considered with Garoppolo’s injury history.
Raiders hope rookie QB Aidan O’Connell’s smarts, intangibles translate to NFL
Running back (4)
Starter: Josh Jacobs
Backups: Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden
Cut: Sincere McCormick, Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson
IR: Brittain Brown
Analysis: Jacobs was the best running back in football last year and his return gives the Raiders the potential to have a dynamic run game once again. While he’s proven he can be durable and efficient while taking the overwhelming majority of the carries, the Raiders would like White to take some weight off Jacobs’ shoulders after having just 17 carries last season as a rookie. Beyond White’s rushing ability, that’ll also depend on whether he becomes reliable enough as a pass catcher and pass blocker to eat into Abdullah’s snaps as the third-down back. Unless that happens, White will have a light workload once again.
Starter: Jakob Johnson
Analysis: The Raiders are one of the few teams in the league that still values the fullback position. Johnson doesn’t offer anything as a ball carrier or receiver, but he’s a bruising run blocker and core special teams contributor.
Starters: Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Renfrow
Backups: Tre Tucker, DeAndre Carter, Kristian Wilkerson
Cut: Phillip Dorsett, Keelan Cole Sr., Cam Sims, Chris Lacy
Analysis: The Raiders released Dorsett, who played under McDaniels with the New England Patriots, had a good training camp and was thought to be the team’s best deep threat. The 30-year-old was beaten out by Wilkerson, who not only had an impressive camp but was able to translate it to preseason games. In the exhibition finale against the Dallas Cowboys, he had 10 catches for 122 yards. Snaps will be tough to come by in a crowded receiver room, but Wilkerson offers some size at 6-foot-1 — which is something the position group lacks — has inside-outside versatility and is a capable blocker. Besides being rotational receivers, Tucker and Carter are also the top two kick and punt returners on the roster. Unless Dorsett signs elsewhere, he’ll likely stick on the practice squad.
Tight end (3)
Starter: Michael Mayer
Backups: Austin Hooper, Jesper Horsted
Cut: Cole Fotheringham, John Samuel Shenker
Analysis: Mayer and Hooper are still in a position battle for the starting job, but we have the rookie ultimately taking the majority of the snaps this season. He’s still coming along as a blocker, but his size, strength, athleticism, route running and contested catch ability give him a lot of upside as a receiving option. Hooper provides a reliable veteran to lean on throughout Mayer’s inevitable growing pains, while Horsted will serve as a blocking tight end and special teams contributor.
Offensive line (8)
Starters: Kolton Miller, Dylan Parham, Andre James, Greg Van Roten, Jermaine Eluemunor / Thayer Munford Jr.
Backups: Justin Herron, Jordan Meredith
Cut: Alex Bars, McClendon Curtis, Netane Muti, Vitaliy Gurman, Hroniss Grasu
IR: Dalton Wagner
Analysis: Bars started 14 games last season largely out of necessity, so it wasn’t exactly shocking that Van Roten, an 11-year veteran, took his starting job at right guard. But Bars not even making the roster was a surprise. Meredith wouldn’t have been the choice of many to win the backup guard job, but he came on late in training camp and started to rotate in with the first-team offense last week while Parham was out with an undisclosed injury. The three-year veteran has played just one career game and only has 41 offensive snaps to his name, so it’s hard to feel good about the team’s guard depth. It seems like a spot to watch for a potential outside addition.
Defensive line (10)
Starters: Maxx Crosby, Bilal Nichols, Jerry Tillery, Chandler Jones
Backups: Tyree Wilson, Byron Young, Malcolm Koonce, Adam Butler, John Jenkins, Nesta Jade Silvera
Cut: Isaac Rochell, Doug Costin, David Agoha, Matthew Butler, Adam Plant, George Tarlas, Jordan Willis
Analysis: The Raiders traded Neil Farrell Jr., a fourth-round pick last year, to the Kansas City Chiefs for a sixth-round pick next year. Is that bad value — and a bad idea to potentially help a team in your division — or a good sign that the Raiders’ defensive line depth is as good as we’ve been saying all camp? We’ll let you decide. Adam Butler and Silvera were rewarded for good camps and beat out Matthew Butler, a fifth-round pick a year ago. The Raiders have six defensive tackles at the moment, but that seems like a lot. Maybe we’ll see one hit the practice squad this week to allow the team to add another offensive lineman.
Starters: Divine Deablo, Robert Spillane
Backups: Luke Masterson, Curtis Bolton, Amari Burney
Cut: Drake Thomas, Isaac Darkangelo, Kana’i Mauga
Analysis: No surprises here, though Thomas did make a lot of tackles in the preseason finale in Dallas. Bolton is a core special teams player and the most athletic linebacker of the bunch, while Masterson is steady and Burney has some real pass-coverage upside. Ideally, Spillane takes a step up from his Pittsburgh Steelers days (and is as good as the brass thinks he is), Deablo takes another step in his development and we don’t see the backups much.
Starters: Marcus Peters, Jakorian Bennett, Nate Hobbs
Backups: David Long Jr., Brandon Facyson, Amik Robertson
Cut: Sam Webb, Ike Brown, Bryce Cosby, Duke Shelley, Tyler Hall, Azizi Hearn
Analysis: Facyson, who started nine games for the Raiders two years ago before playing for the Indianapolis Colts last season, missed practically all of training camp but still beat out Webb and Hall — who were on the roster last year — and free-agent signing Shelley. It will be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Patrick Graham throws the rookie Bennett to the wolves, or if Long or Facyson start the opener and give him some time to grow into the role. Robertson loves to post how the media hates him, but we had him making the 53 in our latest projection. He is a hard-nosed player who overcomes his height (5-9) to make plays on special teams — and, occasionally, on defense.
Starters: Marcus Epps, Tre’von Moehrig
Backups: Isaiah Pola-Mao, Chris Smith II, Roderic Teamer
Cut: Jaquan Johnson, Jaydon Grant
Analysis: Besides the line, this is the position where the Raiders believe they have improved the most on defense. Epps has been a leader since arriving from Philadelphia, is a steady tackler in the run game and has taken Moehrig under his wing. Moehrig was a ball hawk in college, and the hope is that with more confidence in the system and his other safety, he can start making some plays in Year 3. Pola-Mao and Teamer run around like crazy on special teams and defense, and Smith is a rookie project out of Georgia.
Kicker: Daniel Carlson
Punter: AJ Cole
Long snapper: Jason Bobenmoyer
Analysis: Carlson may be the best kicker in the league, and Cole is a top-five punter at worst. The Raiders are known for having historically reliable kicking tandems and nothing has changed on that front. They just need Bobenmoyer to pick up where Trent Sieg left off.
(Top photo of Aidan O’Connell handing off to Zamir White: Ron Jenkins / Getty Images)
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