By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Saturday, September 5th, 2009 at 6:28 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Taking a look at the Raiders 53-man roster, with the understanding there still could be a move or three before the opener Sept. 14 against San Diego:
QUARTERBACKS (3)_JaMarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye
Finally the national media understands what anyone who attended training camp knew all along _ the quarterback was Russell, and Garcia was never in the mix to start. It was apparent when Garcia was injured and often didn’t even attend the quarterback pow-wows conducted on the field by Paul Hackett that his interest in being a mentor wasn’t what the Raiders had envisioned. He didn’t want to be here nearly as much as Gradkowski or Frye, and wasn’t playing at a higher level than those two, either.
RUNNING BACKS (6)_RB Darren McFadden, RB Justin Fargas, RB Michael Bush, RB Louis Rankin, FB Oren O’Neal, FB Luke Lawton
Anyone else surprised that Lawton stuck over Russell? That means they never really thought Russell was viable as a fullback in a pinch, plus Lawton plays on special teams. Rankin’s ability to return kickoffs also helped. Plus the owner likes him, not without good reason. He’s produced every time they’ve put him on the field. Marcel Reece is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, but hasn’t developed the rest of his game to be a fullback on a 53-man roster.
WIDE RECEIVERS (7)_Chaz Schilens, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Javon Walker, Nick Miller, Todd Watkins.
The head-scratcher in this one was Watkins over Holland, who didn’t have quite the camp he had last year when he made it as a surprise. There were indications the Raiders were serious about Nick Miller because they used him in creative ways offensively, such as reverses and running him out of the backfield. Walker looked to be having difficulty separating from defenders, but the Raiders are apparently willing to see if he can still regain some burst with additional time. The fact that he is guaranteed $4.6 million over the next two years makes them inclined to give him that time, provided he remains a good soldier.
TIGHT ENDS (3)_Zach Miller, Brandon Myers, Tony Stewart
Very little doubt how this group would shake out. Darrell Strong could again be practice squad material.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)_LT Mario Henderson, LG Robert Gallery, C Chris Morris, RG Cooper Carlisle, RT Cornell Green, T Khalif Barnes, C-G Samson Satele, G Paul McQuistan, T Erik Pears.
Morris has ascended to the starting role at center. Don’t know yet which one would move to guard and which would play center in a pinch. John Wade’s stinger made him a likely casualty. James Marten and Seth Wand mostly got overwhelmed against the second- and third-team defenders of other teams. Interesting that with the Raiders issues in the middle, the undrafted free agent center/guard they cut _ Jonathan Compas _ made the 53-man roster in Tampa Bay. Don’t be surprised if Mark Wilson comes back if the Raiders have injury trouble. He knows the system and the coaching staff likes him.
DEFENSIVE LINE (8)_DE Greg Ellis, DT Gerard Warren, DT Tommy Kelly, DE Trevor Scott, DT Desmond Bryant, DT William Joseph, DE Jay Richardson, DE Matt Shaugnnessy.
Shaughnessy was extremely impressive against Seattle after missing time with a foot sprain, and the hope is he can get a lot of playing time and make a difference. Terdell Sands goes down as a colossal bust after signing a four-year contract originally worth $17 million in 2006. He looked to be in better shape but played too high and was easily moved. Ryan Boschetti’s strength was supposed to be as a run defender, and you saw how that went. Hopefully Bryant will be something more than a Kevin Boothe, the Ivy League starter at guard in 2006 who got cut a year later. Cable has high hopes Bryant is a pocket pusher and a stout run defender. Joseph had a very strong training camp and has shown up in games. To think Greyson Gunheim ended the Raiders season last year with a sack of Jeff Garcia _ and today they’re both gone.
LINEBACKERS: (6)_WLB Thomas Howard, MLB Kirk Morrison, SLB Jon Alston, MLB-SLB Ricky Brown, LB Isaiah Ekejiuba, LB Sam Williams.
Suppose there’s a chance Slade Norris could surface on the practice squad, but the Raiders positively butchered two calls in the draft when it came to Norris and Stryker Sulak. Both were projections Oakland thought could play strong side linebacker at the time of the draft. They realized instantly they were wrong on Sulak, tried him at end and never brougth him to camp. It took longer to make the call on Norris. Cutting a fourth-round pick because he can’t beat out Sam Williams . . . ouch. David Nixon looked as if he could at least make someone’s practice squad _ perhaps Oakland’s. Chris O’Neill never expected to make the roster and believes he’ll be allowed to continue his conversion from tight end on the Raiders’ practice squad. Morlon Greenwood was neither a standout nor a Napoleon Harris-flop _ and he needed to stand out to stick.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (8)_CB Nnamdi Asomugha, SS Tyvon Branch, FS Hiram Eugene, CB Chris Johnson, CB Stanford Routt, S Mike Mitchell, CB John Bowie, S Michael Huff.
As Jarrod Cooper once said with more than hint of sarcasm as Randy Moss piled up huge stats in New England, “At least we got Bowie.” Bowie is the fourth-round pick acquired in the Moss deal who Cable said played his way on to the roster. Ideally, he won’t be on the field defensively a lot. The direction of this unit will have a lot to do with the health of Asomugha and if they can get anything out of Mitchell, the hamstrung second-round pick who is supposed to practice this week. Huff is probably getting his last chance to even remotely approach his status as the No. 7 overall pick of the 2006 NFL draft. Besides his own very shaky play in the secondary, Justin Miller was pushed off the roster by the kickoff return skills of Nick Miller. Darrick Brown looked lost in preseason games, and Jerome Boyd, a converted linebacker, needs more time at safety. Michael Hawkins arrived to fill a roster spot and wasn’t expected to stick. Cable is a Rashad Baker-backer, but the safety’s stinger, and concussion in a previous game, was not a good way to make the roster.
SPECIALISTS (3)_P Shane Lechler, PK Sebastian Janikowski, LS Jon Condo.
A foregone conclusion. Ricky Schmitt is on speed dial in case of a groin strain or cellulitis.