OAKLAND — Jack Del Rio has a counterpoint — and a fair one — to the talk that the Raiders have built a talented roster from which it will be tough to make cuts.
“There are a few undrafteds that have a chance to make the roster,” Del Rio said after the Raiders’ 23-21 loss to the Seattle Seahawks to close the preseason. “If you have a really stacked roster, that’s typically not the case.”
While true, the Raiders do have a better roster than at any point in years past and the undrafted players with a shot speaks more to general manager Reggie McKenzie’s knack for uncovering some hidden gems.
At least two undrafted rookies look to be locks to make the team when the Raiders whittle down to 53 players by Saturday’s 1 p.m. deadline.
Jalen Richard has impressed coaches throughout training camp even with him missing two weeks with a knee injury and he figures to find a spot in the running back room.
Darius Latham has flashed throughout the four preseason games and has the look of a player who could immediately become a part of Oakland’s defensive line rotation.
“I feel like I came in right away and fit in,” said Latham, who added that he won’t particularly feel nervous waiting for news on the roster.
James Cowser is another undrafted player in the mix as a defensive end/outside linebacker. He forced a safety in the Seattle loss and might’ve made up for the past couple of weeks when he didn’t make his presence felt.
“I thought he started out really fast and then he was, maybe, not quite in the forefront of things,” Del Rio said. “He made a couple nice plays on special teams. He showed up a little bit on defense. He’s got awareness. He’s an intelligent football player, so I think he definitely put his best foot forward.”
One of the more difficult discussions that will take place will involve the receiver position. If the Raiders keep five, either Johnny Holton or K.J. Brent would be the guy.
Holton adds special teams value and speed and averaged 29.5 yards on four kickoff returns.
“I feel like I’m going against myself,” Holton said of the competition between he and Brent. “I’ve got to do good. I’m not worried about anybody else.”
Brent has more polish as a receiver and led the team with 113 receiving yards this preseason.
“I think he’s done a nice job for us,” Del Rio said of Brent. “We’ll just see how it all shakes out.”
* Running back George Atkinson III finished the preseason fifth in the NFL with 191 yards and his three touchdowns tied for the league lead.
Atkinson’s 10.1 yards per carry was tops among those with more than four carries and his kick return for a touchdown was one of just five in the preseason across the league.
Where does that put his roster chances? Still not great.
Atkinson is behind DeAndre Washington and Richard at running back and returner, largely because of ball security issues. A dropped pass and a fumble against Seattle highlighted that.
“It was a little up and down and he knew that,” Del Rio said of Atkinson’s final audition. “He was pressing a little bit but I kept encouraging him to just keep going to the next play.”
Atkinson still has practice squad eligibility and his flashes this exhibition season should at least land him a spot there if he doesn’t make the Raiders — or another NFL team’s — 53-man roster.
* Washington finished the preseason as the Raiders’ leader with nine receptions and could see a big role coming in for Latavius Murray in some passes situations. Murray had 41 catches last year, but for just 232 yards and the Raiders could use some more big plays out of the backfield in the passing game.