Recently NFL analyst Pat Kirwan put together a 13-point checklist to see which NFL teams have the depth necessary to make a championship run. The NFL season is long and those teams who can successfully execute the "Next man up" philosophy are in the best position to make a strong playoff run.
Overall, there were seven teams worth mentioning and the Raiders were, of course not one of them. Those teams are the aforementioned Seahawks and Bengals along with the Redskins, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Eagles, and 49ers.
That is not to say these teams have the quality starters in place to go all the way. This is merely a checklist of depth.
The Raiders found out the hard way last season the pitfalls with not having depth. All season long, their offense struggled and by midseason the defense had become much worse than the offense ever was. I'm not sure they could have passed a single one of these questions last season. This season could be a different story.
So, let's see how the Raiders stack up using Kerwan's questions.
1. Does your team have a capable backup who could go 2-2 in a four-game stretch?
Derek Carr looks like the real deal so far but he is still a rookie and rookie QB's usually struggle out the gate. Matt McGloin proved he could sustain the offense last season but could only muster one win out of it. These two are better options than a lot of teams have but it remains to be seen if either could step in and carry the team to a 2-2 record over four games.
2. Does your team have a real swing offensive tackle, a guy that can play left or right tackle and has experience?
Khalif Barnes. He is lining up at left guard right now but he started two seasons at right tackle for the Raiders and most of last season at left tackle. A wildcard here is Menelik Watson who the team put at left tackle until he re-injured himself before last season. He looked like he could handle the job and if needed, they could put him there and move Barnes back to right tackle.
3. Does your team have a solid inside offensive lineman that can play guard or center?
Kevin Boothe. He is the team's backup center. He was signed this off-season to be the backup center and swing guard. He was a starter for several seasons in New York, including one of their two Super Bowl teams. He was signed as a free agent this off-season and could start at guard if not for the team having several better options.
4. Is there a quality second running back that can deliver a 100-yard rushing day if he had to start?
While the Raiders have plans for a running back by committee situation with Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew, neither have shown they can break off a 100-yard game when given the chance. McFadden started seven games last season, MJD started 15 and yet each had just one 100-yard effort last season.
5. Is there a good second tight end on the roster?
6. Can the third wide receiver step up and start in the two-WR packages if a starter went down?
At this point we don't even know who will earn the starting jobs in Oakland or if any of them will be worthy of the job. But one thing the Raiders have at receiver is depth. James Jones, Rod Streater, Denarius Moore, and Andre Holmes lead the way. All of those receivers started a good portion of games last season.
7. Does your team have a designated pass-rush specialist who could play the early downs if need be?
They added some pass rushers this off-season but all of them have positions as starters with none designated as a pass rush specialist.
8. Is there a third defensive tackle that not only plays in a rotation but could play the whole game if need be?
The starters are expected to be Antonio Smith and Pat Sims. After that it's the unproven Stacy McGee and rookie Justin Ellis. If Ellis plays well enough, he could rotate at nose tackle with Sims who played all last season for the first time in his career.
9. Is there a quality nickel corner on the roster, since most teams are at least 50 percent sub defenses?
D.J. Hayden can't seem to stay healthy and Carlos Rogers is 33-years old, leaving just Tarell Brown as a proven, young corner. The Raiders may not have two quality starters, let alone a nickel corner.
10. Is there a fourth corner for dime packages?
See the answer to the previous question.
11. Is there a third safety for big nickel defenses?
The only piece added to this group was the Raiders' final draft pick, Jonathan Dowling. He needs to bulk up before much is expected of him on defense. Last season Tyvon Branch went down early and Brandian Ross was rated as the worst safety in the NFL most of the season. Usama Young is a career backup.
12. Is there a return specialist that can either handle both punt and kick returns or contribute as a real position player?
The Raiders are hoping rookie seventh round pick T.J. Carrie can return punts and be a quality corner but there's no way of knowing at this point. Several others are vying for the kick return duties, most of whom don't contribute as position players.
13. Does your team have a special-teams linebacker that leads the specials and can play inside linebacker in a pinch?
The Raiders' best special teamer in coverage last season was Taiwan Jones. He is a former running back now playing corner.
Yes - 3
Maybe - 3
No - 7
Based on the checklist, the Raiders have a ways to go before they have quality depth at most positions. Though they have come a long way since last season in which finding a "Yes" or even a "Maybe" to any of these questions would have been difficult.