Based on what we saw in Friday night's preseason game as well as training camp, the Raiders are looking like a team that other teams will be watching come the cutdown day. The depth they are displaying, particularly in the front seven could make for some tough cuts and have some other eager teams ready to scoop up whomever is let go.
That front seven showed tremendous depth Friday night with the play of some of the reserves; most notably Cory James, Korey Toomer, and James Cowser. Add rookie third round pick Shilique Calhoun, second year LB Neiron Ball who's returning from injury last year, and special teams ace Daren Bates and you realize there are a lot of players vying for backup spots and not enough roster spots available to hold them.
Keep in mind, those are just the backups and special teamers. The starters are Ben Heeney, Malcolm Smith, and Bruce Irvin, with Khalil Mack jumping back and forth from OLB to DE.
The defensive line is also pretty deep, with not a lot separating those inside and outside the bubble. With Justin Ellis and Dan Williams rotating at nose tackle and rookie Jihad Ward at the 3-tech DT spot, and Khalil Mack, Mario Edwards Jr and Denico Autry at the defensive end position.That leaves essentially one backup interior defensive line spot available.
The group of candidates for that final spot is a large one Stacy McGee is the incumbent along with Leon Orr who was called up to the active roster from the practice squad late last season. On Friday, it was several others who stood out and made a case to unseat them including undrafted rookies Branden Jackson, Drew Iddings, and Darius Latham.
Other positions that could have a tough cut or two to make are running back and safety.
George Atkinson III had a breakout game Friday and he still could find himself on the outside looking in. Consider that the top two running backs are Latavius Murray and DeAndre Washington and in camp it has been Jalen Richard who has looked every bit the talent of Washington. Then, of course, there's fullbacks Jamize Olawale and Marcel Reece. Oh, and don't forget gimmick back and special teamer Taiwan Jones. Where does Atkinson fit in? Heck, where do many of these guys fit in? Reece's suspension at least allows the team three weeks early in the season to make one tough decision.
At safety behind Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph, the top player is Nate Allen. That leaves one safety spot, and potentially another for special teams purposes. The team has been liking Dewey McDonald throughout the offseason and camp, but he had a downright horrible game Friday. Then there's Keith McGill who was the team's 2014 4th round pick who they moved over from the cornerback position. He played well Friday after not standing out in camp. Brynden Trawick and Jimmy Hall have made a case this camp too.
Many of these players showed well in the Raiders' first preseason game. They may even continue to play well, and yet will still find themselves on the chopping block.
In recent years, when a player has performed well against the Raiders in the preseason who are cut are signed by the Raiders. Players like Benson Mayowa who was signed from Seattle a two years ago and Lorenzo Alexander who was signed away from Arizona last year.
This year it could be more difficult to waive some players and actually expect they will go unclaimed so they can be placed on the practice squad.
Alternately, if they like an up and comer, they can hope to shop others in a trade as they did with Sio Moore and Brice Butler last year.