If you weren’t with the Raiders last season, be it on the 53-man roster or practice squad, or aren’t a member of their 2011 draft class, your chances of making this year’s team are rather slim.
That’s the early take on the projection for the opening-day roster when the Raiders play the Denver Broncos on Sept. 12.
Starting jobs are going to be even more difficult for players to earn if they weren’t on the team last season.
As of now, the only change for certain on the starting defensive unit is going to be with who replaces the departed Nnamdi Asomugha at cornerback, opposite Stanford Routt. Chris Johnson is the leading candiate.
Otherwise, Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston are the defensive ends, Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly the defensive tackles. Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch appear set at free and strong safety, respectively. Rolando McClain, Kamerion Wimbley and Travis Goethel are the linebackers until further notice.
On offense, Jason Campbell is back as the starting quarterback. Darren McFadden is the running back, Marcel Reece the fullback, Kevin Boss the tight end, Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy the leading candidates at the wide receiver spots. The offensive line is wide open, with the exception of Jared Veldheer at left offensive tackle. Cooper Carlisle, Samson Satele, Daniel Loper and Khalif Barnes very well could make up the rest of the line, with Loper taking over for Robert Gallery from last year’s starting five, and Barnes replacing Langston Walker.
Boss is the only one of the 22 aforementioned players who wasn’t with the Raiders last season. He was signed as a free agent as a replacement for Zach Miller, who left for the Seattle Seahawks.
Even if the starting lineups don’t shake out as listed above, the changes would come from players who were with the Raiders last season in some capacity.
For instance, if Johnson doesn’t pan out at cornerback, the next option likely would be one of the four players at that position selected in the past two drafts — Jeremy Ware, Walter McFadden, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa. Quentin Groves or Trevor Scott would be the likely replacement for Goethel if he doesn’t hold up.
On the offensive line, any other player who has a chance of cracking the starting lineup came via the draft — Joseph Barksdale, Stefen Wisniewski and Bruce Campbell — or has spent time with the Raiders in the past — Roy Schuening was on the practice squad last season.
That leaves the 25 players without Raiders ties before now competing for only a handful of roster spots. The odds-on favorites to break through are: Trent Edwards for one of two backup spots at quarterback, offensive lineman Stephon Heyer, cornerback Sterling Moore and linebacker Chris Francis and safety Zac Etheridge.
In other words, people aren’t going to have to spend much time learning new faces and matching players with new positions. The Raiders entered this season believing that they weren’t far off from making the playoffs last season. Their roster moves and actions during the first 11 practices in training camp serve only to validate that belief.