Home > NFL, Roster Roundouts > Roster Roundouts: An Oakland Raiders Camp Preview

Roster Roundouts: An Oakland Raiders Camp Preview

Previous Roster Roundouts: Bills, Rams, Bengals, Chiefs, Saints, Jaguars, Packers

flickr.com/Eyeshotpictures

flickr.com/Eyeshotpictures

On the surface, the Raiders look for all the world to be a dysfunctional organization from top to bottom, led into the abyss by a single man, Al Davis, and they remain the the eyes of many a franchise that cannot be competitive until they have new ownership.  The Raiders often do hilarious things that only strengthen the opinion outsiders have of them as modern day pranksters who will flounder around at the bottom of the standings until some outsider comes and resurrects the franchise.  More to the point: the Raiders always do things their own way, and when it’s been six seasons since you last won 6 games, the fact that you have deviated from the status quo is subject to significant amounts of derision.

As I will show below, the Raiders no longer appear to be dysfunctional.  Their problems as a franchise run no deeper than any other bad franchise and boil down to two problems: 1) they waste a lot of money, and 2) they can’t draft.

What separates the Raiders’ consistent run of remarkably poor play from teams like the Bills, or the Bengals, or the Rams, or the Chiefs, or the Lions is that the Raiders spent about three years refusing to admit there was anything wrong with their team.  For all of Matt Millen’s ineffective and costly solutions in Detroit, he never had a problem pointing out that his team sucked.  The Chiefs and Rams have been every bit as bad the last two years as the Raiders have ever been, and they both changed up their upper level management in the offseason.  The Bills and Bengals have long suffered from ownership miscues at the top of the organization, but neither team has been recklessly trying to spend their way out of trouble like the Raiders have.  Even the 49ers have made a quiet power transfer at the top level while developing their future head coach from within.  Thusly, the Raiders run of ineptitude stands out and a lot of it goes back to Davis.  Davis has made more than one, two, or ten missteps in recent memory and deserves plenty of blame for the current state of the franchise.

And though the Raiders’ brass still spends money on non-solutions at an astonishing rate, don’t always completely focus on football matters as much as they should, and have shown no ability to tell an elite college player from a flawed one, they’ve done a pretty excellent job of restocking the roster with young talent all things considered.  The fact that the Raiderswill not be playoff competitive this season is more of a testament to the strength of the San Diego Chargers and the rest of the AFC than to a specific failure of the Raiders.

The Raiders are a young team at pretty much every position, save perhaps defensive tackle.  When the 2003 team collapsed, they were far and away the oldest team in the NFL, and had the oldest positional unit mostly everywhere on the field.  The truth is, even a well executed rebuilding plan would have taken to 2006 to get the Raiders back to .500.  The fact that it’s 2009 and the Raiders just now have their first real shot at .500 has a lot to do with previous failures, but it could have been, much, much worse.

The Raiders fooled themselves when the traded for Randy Moss, misunderstanding exactly WHY the 2004 Raiders were improved (quarterback play and injury luck), assuming that the team was a player or two away from the playoffs in 2005.  A quick fix needed pass rushers and safeties, not an elite WR.  But more significantly, the Raiders were almost certain to decline in 2005, and needed to focus on getting younger.

Here’s another reason why the Raiders have been slow at rebuilding: first round draft picks.  We can separate the Raiders’ first round picks (there were 7; quantity not the issue) from 1999-2005 into two categories: players who got a second contract with the Raiders, and players who did not:

  • Got a second contract: K Sebastian Janikowski, CB Nnamdi Asomugha
  • No second contract: T Matt Stinchcomb, SS Derrick Gibson, CB Phillip Buchanon, LB Napolean Harris, DE Tyler Brayton, OL Robert Gallery*, CB Fabian Washington

*Gallery is in the last year of his rookie contract, and has yet to receive an extension offer.

It’s remarkable really.  The Raiders have almost nothing to show for a seven year period of drafting in which they made nine first round picks.  They got arguably the best defensive player in the game, an inconsistent kicker, and a lot of role players who found work elsewhere after leaving the Raiders.  That’s the problem though.  The era of parity promotes quick improvement though the draft, and the top ten picks the Raiders have made haven’t performed like top ten players.  Gallery is the one player on this list who was picked in the top ten (ahead of Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger), but since the Raiders bungled these picks so badly, they earned the right to pick in the top ten each of the last four drafts.  That has earned them:

  • S Michael Huff, QB JaMarcus Russell, RB Darren McFadden, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey

Which is the real killer in all this.  The worse the Raiders have become, the less likely they have been to add an impact player in the draft.  Heyward-Bey is not an impact player.  Russell is not an impact player.  McFadden might be, but was injured his rookie season, which limits his overall peak projection.  Huff is on the verge of busting out of the league.  No other team has potentially missed on so many consecutive top picks:

  • 2002-2007 Lions:  missed on QB Harrington, WR Rogers, WR M. Williams, but hit on WR Roy Williams, WR Calvin Johnson
  • 2003-2007 Cardinals:  missed on WR Bry. Johnson, DE Pace*, DB A. Rolle, and QB Leinart*, but hit on WR Larry Fitzgerald
  • 2004-2007 Browns:  missed on WR Edwards*, TE Winslow Jr.*, but hit on LB Wimbley, OT Thomas, and perhaps QB Quinn*

*questionable classification

Those are bad franchises, but they’ve found success at the top of the first round where you are supposed to find success, specifically the Browns, who have gotten a good season out of everyone they’ve drafted since 2004, even the ones who hit snags in their development (Winslow earlier, Edwards later).  Even the Raiders second round picks, when they’ve actually bothered to keep them have been incredibly questionable.  In the last ten drafts:

  • WR Jerry Porter, QB Marques Tuiasosopo, T Langston Walker, TE Doug Jolley, TE Teyo Johnson, C Jake Grove, LB Thomas Howard, TE Zach Miller, S Mike Mitchell

And your complete list of players who got a second contract from the Raiders: Porter.  And that one was a mistake.  To be fair, Howard and Miller are both in line for second contracts based on their play, and Mitchell is promising as a rookie, if a drastic overdraft.

flickr.com/J-Rad

flickr.com/J-Rad

Remarkably, the Raiders have kept afloat by converting their second day picks into talent worthy of playing with an NFL team, but their inability to develop any of their athletes into elite football players have kept their young talent largely a secret and the team the butt of plenty of jokes league-wide.  All this really means though is that the Raiders’ main scouts are doing a darn good job, and that it’s the decision-makers on draft day that are setting the franchise back.  Of course, the Raiders only have one final arbiter for the draft, Davis, and his chief adviser is his head coach.  Since the Raiders have had 5 different coaches since shipping Jon Gruden to Tampa, that’s obviously not a recipe for success.  If you are going to rely on the owner/head coach direct communication method of decision making, it might be a good idea to not fire your coach every other season.

For the Raiders, the future is at last, the present.  They’ve tried to spend their way out of rebuilding, they’ve tried to bargain their way out, and in their desperation, they tried to talk their way out.  None of those things worked, so the Raiders finally rebuilt.  Looking at the core of young talent, which we will examine more closely in the camp battle section below, the Raiders will be a dangerous team once they figure out how to draft and develop the best talent.  In the mean time, they’ll be a middling team, capable of beating a few of the better teams in the NFL, capable of losing to some of the worst teams, but mostly destined to win 5-7 games in each of the next two seasons.  All it will take is an additional impact player or two to get this team over the top, but that would require the Raiders to “get it”, and simply overcoming their dysfunctional nature does not mean that they are any closer to “committing to excellence” once again.

Raiders Camp, Napa Valley, CA

A lot of the roster spots on the Raiders tend to be decided going into camp, so there’s only about two spots on each side of the ball that are actually up for grabs, not counting that they’ll have two failure starting quarterbacks competing for the third QB spot.

Third quarterback:Charlie Frye vs. Bruce Gradkowski

In a battle of two guys who should no longer be in the league, only one can earn a stay of execution, and the fact that this happens to be Oakland means that the 3rd quarterback job as as good as a “QB of the Future” label.  If it wasn’t, this wouldn’t matter.

Running back/Fullback:  Oren O’Neal vs. Lorenzo Neal vs. Gary Russell

Hard to say what the Raiders are going to do here.  I know they love, love Oren O’Neal and have since 2007, but he missed all of 2008 with an injury, and they don’t trust him enough to not have the 38 year old veteran fullback, Neal, ahead of him on the depth chart.  My gut tells me that the team’s need for a lead fullback will have them keeping both and sending the 25 year old Russell on his merry way, but Russell could still make the team in front of a more veteran one of the teams three headed monster at RB.

Wide receiver:  Will Franklin vs. Samie Parker

Parker, formerly a starter with the Chiefs, is a camp receiver these days who is nearly certain to be cut, in part because Will Franklin is really fast.  But a bigger question is whether or not Franklin is good enough to make the team, because if you thought Heyward-Bey had questionable hands…well, you get where I’m going with this.  At this very moment, both these players would likely be released, but Frankin has the best chance to stick around.  If he plays his way off the team, Parker has the inside track to be the 6th receiver if the Raiders so require it.

Tight end: Brandon Myers vs. Darrell Strong vs. John Paul Foschi

Myers was the team’s 6th round pick that didn’t get cut before he signed, so he’s got the best chance to win a spot, but Darrell Strong was on the practice squad last year and he’s the physical marvel that the Raiders want every player to be.  Foschi brings the Raider mystique of past years, such as the 4-12 season of 2005.

Guard:Paul McQuistan vs. Jonathon Compas

McQuistan was a third round pick of the Raiders in 2006, giving him the fame of being the pick that followed Thomas Howard.  Compas is an undrafted rookie from UC Davis, and a likely practice squad candidate if he passes through waivers.  McQuistan is probably done as a Raider, as his pick pre-dates Cable’s arrival.

Center: John Wade vs. Chris Morris

Morris has been around for a while and broke through for a start last season.  He’ll battle John Wade for the backup Center spot, as Wade has been around much, much longer.  If Wade gets cut, it’s likely the end of his 11 year career.  Andrew Walter is the exception, but cut by the Raiders usually ends a lot of long roads.

Outside linebacker: Sam Williams vs. Ricky Brown or Jon Alston

Alston is a hard hitting special teamer, while Williams is a former starter who needs to either get good at special teams or beat out Ricky Brown in order to stay on the roster.  If he wins on defense, he could be the starting SLB again this year, but if he gets beaten out there, he’s likely dead in the water against Alston.  Brown is very much safe as a starting-caliber player at two positions.

Safety: Michael Huff vs. Jerome Boyd

Well, this is what is become of the player who the Raiders had to have over Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler.  He’s fighting for his roster spot with an undrafted rookie.  Somewhere, Stewart Schweigert is depressed.

Surprise Cuts?

  • RB Justin Fargas
  • TE Tony Stewart
  • T Khalif Barnes
  • DT Terdell Sands
  • CB Justin Miller 
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  1. August 7, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    I have just got the biggest hunch that Russell is gonna have a solid year. He played so well last year, and hes finally in camp which shoudl help immensely.

  1. August 13, 2009 at 12:42 am
  2. August 18, 2009 at 4:30 am
  3. August 22, 2009 at 8:30 pm
  4. December 1, 2009 at 6:24 am

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