I've compiled a list of the positions that I believe the Raiders should look at shoring up via either FA, or the waiver-wire, once the the roster cuts begin here in the next week. I've placed them in the order of priority as I see it, however I think they're actually all relatively important to address unless we're all cool with staring down the barrel of (yet another one of) the dreaded 'rebuilding' seasons.
- Cornerback … if Spencer or Bartell go down, we’re screwed, ‘cause Chekwa and DVD are not capable of stepping into their shoes as it stands now. We really need a solid nickel back who could start for a bit if need be.
- Linebacker … Ihenacho looks decent (at least as a pass rushing LB) so far but it's all been against 2nd and 3rd stringers, and although I like him, it looks like Burriss is going to need some more development time. Who knows if Curry’s knee is going to give him issues this season. The way that guy plays, I have little faith he’ll make it through without going down for at least a few games. Unless Goethel is capable of playing on the outside (which I have no idea about either way), we lose either starting OLB and we’re gonna be in some real trouble.
- Tight End … I don’t think I really need to explain this one. I’d like to see Myers as 2nd string, Gordon as 3rd string, and Ausberry on the practice squad at best.
- Running Back … With Dmac, TJ, and Goodson’s injury histories, plus how much camp Goodson and TJ have missed and the fact that TJ’s an unproven entity anyways … Let’s just say I’m very hesitant to leave our collective fate in their hands. Miller has done just enough to make the team in my eyes, but I’d feel a lot better about it knowing he’s our 3rd string as opposed to our 2nd string. Not sure we have room for Goodson on the roster, I’m sorry to say, and I’m not sold on keeping TJ either unless he gets healthy here real soon, and he’s decent enough at returning punts to justify a 4th RB spot.
- QB … We need someone better than Pryor as a third string QB, esp. given that CP3 is getting up there in age, and was never that mobile to begin with. Add in Leinart’s history of getting injured, and the total picture is one where I’d not be shocked if our third stringer got a start or two this season.
Part of the reason I’m worried about Pryor as our 3rd QB is because of our new offensive system & ZBS. I think implementing new schemes like this increases the probability that you get your QB injured. And lets face it, if Pryor starts ANY games this year, those are going to be losses. Period. However, I still put the QB position down at 5th here because historically and statistically-speaking, it’s pretty unlikely for a 3rd string QB to ever be called upon to start.
OTOH, personally, I’m not too worried about our WR situation. Going w/starters Moore, DHB, and Streater, with Criner, Ford, and McGee (I choose him cause he’s a return man) as backups, seems like a perfectly workable situation. I’d much rather us spend money shoring up the above 5 positions over the WR spot, personally.
I’m sad to say though that, as I've laid it out here, the weak links on this squad are mostly occupied by the last couple of draft rounds we got from Al, may he RIP. It’s particularly sad because I really think that all the guys I’m talking about cutting or demoting are guys with real potential to make a mark in this league eventually, but they are just not coming along fast enough to fill the needs that we have this season.
So ... Pryor, Ausberry, Gordon, Jones, Chekwa, DVD … unless we’re going to accept chalking this season up as a ‘rebuilding/development year’, I think we have to either demote them, put ’em on the practice squad, or cut them outright, and bring in better players for these roster spots.
Ford, also, as much as I love the kid … IMHO he is not dependable enough to be our starting 3rd WR ... and I mean that word in every possible sense. Fortunately we have Streater coming in and balling out of his mind, which ameliorates my concerns over Ford quite a bit.
Again, it makes me sad to have to say all this, but … Al’s recent picks are just not coming along like we needed them to be at this stage, and (barring some miracle in terms of our first squad's health) our season is not likely to go very well unless we get some other guys into camp that are better players as of right now.
It’s either that, or we accept a 4 or 5 win season, and HOPE these guys develop enough by next season ... but given the Raiders injury history, there's an awfully good chance we see a bunch of starts by guys in this group, and they are all liabilities.
Fortunately the only first-string caliber playing I'm looking at needing to pick up here is at the tight-end position, so overall I don't think we're talking about needing a whole lot of cap space to fill the needs at all five of these positions. Along with a top-notch TE, we just need 3 x 2nd string level players: LB, CB, RB, and a 3rd-string level QB.
If the front-office can break w/any sentimental proclivity towards keeping Al's picks around and instead find suitable (i.e. better) players signed into these spots by the start of the season ... I really think the Raiders could take the West this year.