Raiders coach Tom Cable said Wednesday eight roster spots were up for grabs, while the day before he estimated between 40 of 42 were spoken for. The truth is, the final say belongs to Al Davis, and he’s not talking.
Here’s how the roster breaks down heading into Thursday night’s game against the Seattle Seahawks:
QUARTERBACKS (4, will keep 3)_JaMarcus Russell, Jeff Garcia. On the bubble: Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye.
Summary: The only question is whether it’s Gradkowski or Frye for No. 3, and it’s too close to call.
RUNNING BACKS (8, will keep 5 or 6)_Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas, Michael Bush, Oren O’Neal (FB). On the bubble: Louis Rankin, Gary Russell (FB-RB), Marcel Reece (FB), Luke Lawton (FB)
Summary: The issue of who will get the ball most often and if Cable will identify a lead back remains clear as mud, but barring a surprise cutdown-day trade involving Fargas, four spots are spoken for. Rankin has had two solid camps, Russell is versatile enough to play both positions, Reece has intriguing receiving skills out of the backfield and Lawton is a conventional block-and-catch fullback.
WIDE RECEIVERS (8, will keep 5 or 6)_Chaz Schilens, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Javon Walker. On the bubble: Nick Miller, Todd Watkins, Jonathan Holland.
Summary: Nick Miller could stick because of Justin Miller’s turf toe to return kickoffs, and might stick anyway. Watkins and Holland are in a difficult situation unless Holland’s kick coverage skills keep him around.
TIGHT ENDS (4, will keep 3)_Zach Miller, Brandon Myers. On the bubble_Tony Stewart, Darrell Strong.
Summary: Stewart has done nothing to merit being cut _ he had an outstanding camp catching the ball _ but sometimes teams just want to go young.
OFFENSIVE LINE (13 will keep between 9 or 10)_LT Mario Henderson, LG Robert Gallery, C Samson Satele, RG Cooper Carlisle, RT Cornell Green, T Khalif Barnes, C-G Chris Morris, T Erik Pears, G-T Paul McQuistan. On the bubble: T-G Mark Wilson, T Seth Wand, T James Marten, C John Wade.
Summary: As shaky as the line has been to the right of Gallery, it appears the five starters are etched in stone with the possible exception of center, where Cable floated the possibility of someone other than Satele being the starter. Based on Wade’s health, Morris would be the most likely option and regardless he’ll stick because he can play all three inside positions. Barnes will be ready by Week 2 or 3, Pears can back up at either tackle, and McQuistan can play guard or tackle. The Raiders seem to like Wilson, but he rarely stays healthy long enough to make a serious run.
DEFENSIVE LINE (11, will keep 8 or 9)_LE Greg Ellis, DT Gerard Warren, DT Tommy Kelly, RE Trevor Scott, E Jay Richardson, DT Desmond Bryant, DE Matt Shaughnessy. On the bubble: DT William Joseph, DT Terdell Sands, DE-DT Ryan Boschetti, DE Greyson Gunheim.
Summary: Cable insists Kelly is playing very well, which makes you wonder if the rest of the line is really that bad or of the coach is propping up last year’s big money re-signing. Ellis has shown flashes of still being a good pass rusher despite his age. Bryant appears to have gone from undrafted free agent to sure thing, while Scott and Richardson also seem secure. Hard to imagine Sands surviving given his inaction over the past two games, and Gunheim and Boschetti have been running often with the third team _ never a good sign.
LINEBACKERS (10, will keep 6 or 7)_WLB Thomas Howard, MLB Kirk Morrison, SLB Jon Alston, MLB-OLB Ricky Brown, MLB-OLB Isaiah Ekejiuba, OLB Slade Norris. On the bubble_OLB David Nixon, OLB Morlon Greenwood, OLB-MLB Sam Williams, MLB Chris O’Neill.
Summary: The starters have yet to be sorted out for certain, but Howard, Morrison, Alston, Brown and Ekejiuba are solid unless someone is traded or Ekejuiba’s shoulder is much worse than anyone is letting on. Throw in Norris because he’s a draft pick and healthy enough to play Thursday night. The only remaining question is whether Williams gets another year even though he’s conclusively demonstrated he’s not a starting-caliber linebacker and they already have Ekejiuba as a pure special teamer. O’Neill is already under the impression he’s headed for the practice squad
DEFENSIVE BACKS: (13, will keep 9 or 10)_RCB Nnamdi Asomugha, LCB Chris Johnson, SS Tyvon Branch, FS Hiram Eugene, CB Stanford Routt, S Mike Mitchell. On the bubble_CB Justin Miller, S Michael Huff, S Rashad Baker, CB John Bowie, S-CB Michael Hawkins, CB-S Darrick Brown, S Jerome Boyd.
Summary: Beyond the starters, nickel back Routt and Mitchell, this could sort out a number of ways. Justin Miller’s turf toe is apparently not serious, so he could be secure unless Davis is sold on Nick Miller to return kickoffs. The owner may not yet be ready to cut ties with Huff, who probably will never justify his draft status but may be worthy of the final roster. Cable is a Baker fan and never wanted him to leave, but there was never any effort made to sign him originally. Baker has also sustained concussion and a stinger since returning. Bowie, the last remnant of the Randy Moss trade, has never impressed in practice. Hawkins and Brown are classic Raider athletes in terms of size and speed. Boyd, a converted college linebacker, could probably use a year of practice squad.
SPECIALISTS_PK Sebastian Janikowski, P Shane Lechler and LS Jon Condo are in. P-PK Ricky Schmitt sticks only if one of the kickers is hurt.
Note: Johnnie Lee Higgins will be the return specialist. Justin Miller and Nick Miller are competing to be kickoff return specialist.