ALAMEDA — The Raiders weekly news release has a section dedicated to highlighting the “undrafted gems” they’ve landed under general manager Reggie McKenzie.
That list will be updated after the Raiders kept four undrafted rookies when the roster trimmed to 53 players Saturday afternoon.
Running back Jalen Richard, defensive tackle Darius Latham, wide receiver Johnny Holton and cornerback Antonio Hamilton survived as the Raiders had few surprises among the 22 players trimmed.
Neither McKenzie nor coach Jack Del Rio, who was in Florida attending his son’s football game, was available to the media Saturday to discuss the decisions.
Richard, a 5-foot-8 dynamo from Southern Miss, had impressed coaches throughout camp despite missing two weeks with a knee injury. He had 45 yards on 10 exhibition carries but his work in practice was essentially enough to seal his spot.
He’s brought confidence to the table since making the team after coming in on a tryout.
“I don’t think the stars could’ve aligned any more perfect,” Richard said last month of his opportunity with the Raiders.
Latham, a 6-4, 306-pound rock from Indiana, has been among the team’s best run stoppers on the defensive line and should contribute as a rotational player. He’s played with some fire since coming to Oakland after declaring early for the draft and going unselected.
“I felt like things held me back and I should have been drafted,” Latham said after Thursday’s final exhibition game. “I definitely play with a chip on my shoulder.”
Holton beat out K.J. Brent for the fifth receiver job. The 6-foot product of Cincinnati brings explosive speed and special teams ability, while the polished 6-4 Brent is another good practice squad contender.
Hamilton classified as one of the surprises to make the team. He had big numbers as a returner at South Carolina State but hadn’t done much with the Raiders. His spot could be tenuous still as rosters tend to still fluctuate as teams comb the waiver wire.
The Raiders can start filling out their practice squad Sunday after players clear the waiver wire and could have another move coming. Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. may go on injured reserve for the first six games of the season, a move they can finalize tomorrow to bring another player back.
Among the cuts, Neiron Ball, a 2015 fifth-round pick at linebacker, and undrafted defensive end/linebacker James Cowser, were both waived as injured players. If they clear waivers, they could land on season-ending injured reserve. Ball is still battling back from last year’s knee injury and Cowser, once considered a strong roster contender, suffered a concussion in the exhibition finale.
Running back George Atkinson III, who wowed with an 81-yard kick return for a touchdown Thursday against Seattle and led the NFL with four exhibition touchdown, was also waived. He could be a candidate to return to the practice squad if he clears waivers.
Oakland made one trade, shipping safety Dewey McDonald to the Seattle Seahawks for a conditional 2017 draft pick. McDonald was great early in training camp and began the exhibition season as a second-team safety, but a disastrous performance in the first game started his downfall and Keith McGill passed him on the depth chart.
The closest thing to an established player to not make the team was cornerback Neiko Thorpe, who played in 28 games for the Raiders the past two seasons. Thorpe began last season as the No. 3 cornerback and made one start but was not among the six cornerbacks to make the team.
The Raiders also waived linebacker Korey Toomer, who played 10 games for them last year, and held on to special teams ace Daren Bates.
The remaining cuts are: guard Mitch Bell, Kenneth Durden, wide receiver Marvin Hall, defensive lineman Drew Iddings, defensive lineman Branden Jackson, guard Denver Kirkland, defensive tackle Derrick Lott, linebacker John Lotulelei, tight end Jake McGee, wide receiver Jaydon Mickens, tight end Ryan O’Malley, guard Oni Omoile, defensive end Greg Townsend Jr. and linebacker Kyrie Wilson.
Fullback Marcel Reece was also formally transferred to the suspended list to complete the final three games of his suspension issued last year for violating the league’s policy for performance-enhancing substances.