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Final Raiders 53-man roster projection

Plus, potential surprise cuts

Reese’s Senior Bowl
Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

With tomorrow being the final cutdown day for the Las Vegas Raiders and the rest of the NFL, I figured I’d take one last stab and at projecting the Silver and Black’s 53-man roster. Of course, we’ll get the actual results soon but this will serve as a little preview of what’s coming tomorrow.

I also included a potential surprise cut for each position group to help everyone mentally prepare in case we get some shocking news.

Quarterbacks

Making the roster: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota and Nathan Peterman

Cut: none

The Raiders have kept three quarterbacks on the roster every year of the Gruden 2.0 era, and they currently have three on it now. This one should be pretty straightforward.

Potential surprise cut: Nathan Peterman

There’s no chance Carr gets cut and the coaching staff didn’t play Mariota in the preseason to save him for the regular season, so that leaves Peterman as the only option here.

The expanded practice squad rosters could be a factor in who the organization decides to keep under center.

Las Vegas could cut Peterman, hope he doesn’t sign elsewhere and then bring him back on as one of its veterans on the practice squad. That would be a pretty smart strategy if the team is looking to keep an extra defender on the roster. Players can be called up from the p-squad up to 90 minutes before kickoff, so Peterman could still serve as the emergency quarterback in this scenario.

Running Backs

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Making the roster: Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake and Trey Ragas

Cut: Jalen Richard and B.J. Emmons

Not knowing the full extent of Richard’s foot injury makes predicting what the Raiders are going to do at running back difficult. We do know he’s “out indefinitely” but still don’t have a firm timeline of when to expect him to return.

If the six-year veteran will be out for about or at least six weeks, then it makes sense for Las Vegas to have him start the year PUP. That would allow the team to keep four running backs around, though only three would be active, and essentially delay any roster decisions at the position.

As for Emmons, he’s had a good preseason rushing the ball but has struggled in pass protection, which is why I think Ragas will get the nod over him. Hard Knocks showed everyone how much Gruden values backs who can get involved in the protection scheme, and Ragas has proved to be a competent ball carrier this month as well.

In other words, I don’t think the difference between Emmons and Ragas as a rusher is big enough to overcome how far apart they are as pass blockers.

Potential surprise cut: Jalen Richard

Jacobs and Drake aren’t going anywhere and letting an undrafted free agent or two go would hardly count as a “surprise”. Again, the Raiders have options when it comes to Richard, but he’s missed almost all of training camp and is far from an irreplaceable player. Plus, Drake projects to serve as the “third-down back” so the second-longest tenured Raider might not have a defined role on the team anymore.

Fullback

Making the roster: Alec Ingold

Cut: Garrett Groshek

I’m not going to waste much time on this one.

Potential surprise cut: none

Wide Receiver

Making the roster: Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, Hunter Renfrow, Willie Snead, Zay Jones and DJ Turner

Cut: John Brown Keelan Doss and Dillon Stoner

I think it would be easy to go with all chalk here, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a surprise coming from this position group.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said late last week that wide receiver was going to be one of the most difficult positions to make roster decisions on. That tells me the sixth spot on the roster is up for grabs and special teams could play a big factor. From the wideouts listed above, the two players who offer the least as specialists are Snead and Brown.

Potential surprise cut: John Brown

It’s a tough call between Snead and Brown but there was some buzz about the former during the beginning of training camp and not as much for the latter. Also, Snead has a least taken snaps on special teams during the preseason whereas Brown hasn’t, and the fact Brown played against San Francisco and Snead didn’t is pretty telling.

Look for Turner to be the benefactor here. Turner has been the best of the rest, though not by much, and probably has the most special teams value between himself, Doss and Stoner.

Tight End

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders
Darren Waller
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Making the roster: Darren Waller, Foster Moreau and Derek Carrier

Cut: Matt Bushman, Nick Bowers and Alex Ellis

While Gruden kept four tight ends around last year, I think that had more to do with Jason Witten being a coach in pads than Gruden wanting to keep a set amount of players at the position. The Raiders only kept three in 2019, and coincidently, I think it will be the same three in 2021.

Neither Bushman, Bowers nor Ellis have really stood out during the preseason so it’s hard to make the case that either of them will make the 53-man roster. One of the three might end up on the practice squad, though.

Potential surprise cut: Derek Carrier

I’d be shocked to see any surprises coming from this group, but Carrier would be the odd man out if there is one. My guess is Bowers would be the benefactor if that’s the case, but again, I don’t really see that happening.

Offensive Tackle

Making the roster: Kolton Miller, Alex Leatherwood, Brandon Parker and Jaryd Jones-Smith

Cut: Devery Hamilton

The top three are basically set in stone but that fourth spot could get interesting. Jones-Smith has been awful in pass protection this month, allowing five pressures and three sacks in just two games. In fact, that’s probably part of the reason the team re-signed Hamilton after cutting him just a few weeks ago.

That being said, Hamilton didn’t make the most of the opportunity and it was ugly watching him pass block against the 49ers. At least Jones-Smith offers some value as a run blocker which is why I think he’d get the nod.

Potential surprise cut(s): Jaryd Jones-Smith AND Devery Hamilton

I don’t think cutting the fourth player on the depth chart qualifies as a surprise so I’m taking a bit of a different approach to this one. The surprise would be if the Raiders opt to start the season with just three offensive tackles.

It’s not inconceivable since Denzelle Good and Patrick Omameh could kick outside in a pinch, and it’s not like Jones-Smith has done much this month to “earn” the spot. Also, carrying only three tackles would allow for some flexibility elsewhere on the roster

Interior Offenisve Line

Seattle Seahawks v Las Vegas Raiders
Richie Incognito
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Making the roster: Richie Incognito, Denzelle Good, Andre James, John Simpson, Nick Martin and Patrick Omameh

Cut: Lester Cotton, Jimmy Morrissey and Jeremiah Poutasi

One potential curveball that Las Vegas could throw here is if they opt to keep Jones-Smith at tackle and cut Omameh instead. That would give the team the same roster flexibility referenced above and Martin and Simpson could serve as the backup guards. However, I’m not expecting that to happen, obviously.

Both Jones-Smith and Omameh struggled in the preseason but at least the latter has the excuse of playing out of position as he’s a natural guard. I’d imagine Sam Young’s unexpected retirement had a lot to do with Omameh lining up on the edge, too, so his struggles aren’t as significant as Jones-Smith’s.

Morrissey and Cotton are practice squad candidates, though Cotton may want to try his luck elsewhere seeing as this would be the third time he’s failed to make the Raiders’ roster.

Potential surprise cut: Nick Martin

I’d be pretty surprised to see this one since Martin is the veteran insurance plan in case the inexperienced James doesn’t pan out, but I could also see a scenario where this does happen.

The five-year veteran is what he is at this point, and that’s a slightly above to average NFL center. If the coaching staff has liked what they’ve seen from James in practice and are confident enough that he’ll have no problem getting the job done, then they could roll the dice and keep the two young players who have the most potential.

Defensive End

Making the roster: Yannick Ngakoue, Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell, Carl Nassib and Malcolm Koonce

Cut: Gerri Green

I went with five players here, which is a lot, but Ferrell’s ability to play on the edge and interior gives Las Vegas the flexibility to keep an extra defensive end around. If that is the case, this will be a drama-free and boring position for the Raiders tomorrow.

Potential surprise cut: Malcolm Koonce

Originally, I was going to put Nassib here but letting him go would put Las Vegas over the salary cap, per OverTheCap.com. It wouldn’t make much sense to restructure his deal like the organization did this offseason, only to cut him and take on a cap hit a few months later.

Ferrell’s contract presents a similar situation and Ngakoue and Crosby aren’t going anywhere, so that leaves Koonce as the odd man out in a surprise scenario.

The rookie has been far from perfect and has some work to do before he can become a factor in the team’s pass rush rotation, but I think he’ll still be safe and I feel pretty confident the Raiders will keep five ends to start the season. Unless...we get a surprise trade!!!

Defensive Tackle

Making the roster: Johnathan Hankins, Quinton Jefferson, Gerald McCoy and Darius Philon

Cut: Solomon Thomas, Niles Scott, Matt Dickerson and Kendal Vickers

To be honest, I don’t feel like I have a good grasp on what the Raiders are going to do at defensive tackle. It’s a position group that is filled with solid to good players and not much variance in either direction beyond that.

Hankins I have no doubts about and same with Jefferson seeing as he’s played for new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley in the past and was one of the team’s biggest free-agent signings. The only question with McCoy is, is he healthy enough and passing physical to join the team suggests he is. Then things start to get really interesting.

I think it will come down to Philon and Thomas, and the former has just played better in the preseason. Philon has recorded four pressures and a PFF run-defense grade of 62.7, compared to Thomas’ one pressure and 54.6 grade. Plus, the former Charger has experience playing for Bradley.

Potential surprise cut: Solomon Thomas

This is a scenario where I’m actually predicting the surprise cut to happen. In San Francisco, the issue with the former No. 3 overall pick was partially that he’s a tweener, too small to play as a three-technique, and not lean and athletic enough to be effective on the edge.

Las Vegas seemed to figure that out fairly quickly - or a little late depending on your perspective - since there were reports very early in camp that the coaching staff thought Thomas might be too small to play inside. The Raiders don’t need any more defensive ends so if he can’t play tackle, there might not be a spot for him on the roster.

Linebackers

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Atlanta Falcons
Cory Littleton
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Making the roster: Cory Littleton, Tanner Muse, Denzel Perryman, Nicholas Morrow and Divine Deablo

Cut: Nick Kwiatkoski, Javin White, Bilal Asmar and Max Richardson

There’s no way to sugarcoat it, Las Vegas’ linebacker situation is a mess.

Morrow, White and Kwaitoski are all currently injured, Deablo is coming off an injury and learning a new position as is Muse, and the organization just traded for Perryman who was banged up and missed time during training camp with Carolina. Combining all that with the fact the team is likely only going to carry five linebackers since they’re expected to use more nickel personnel than base, makes it’s a difficult position group to predict.

I’m going to give myself this caveat, like Richard, if Morrow’s injury is going to cause him to miss a significant amount of time, I can see the organization placing him on PUP and Kwiatkoski takes Morrow’s spot for the time being.

I can also see a situation where Kwiatkoski gets cut initially so that another injured player can make the roster and be given an injury designation to avoid ending their season, similar to what the Raiders did with Josh Mauro a couple of years ago.

Now, why am I saying last year’s starting middle linebacker will get cut?

Well, he’s been injured for the last week or so and hasn’t practiced, the team traded for a similar player in Perryman and if they are going to keep five backers, it will likely come down to Deablo, White and Kwiatkoski and two of those three will have to get the ax. Since Deablo is the only one of the three that’s currently healthy and was a third-round pick this year, it wouldn’t make much sense to me to get rid of him.

One more caveat I’ll give myself here if the Raiders keep six linebackers instead of five, Kwiatkoski makes the team.

As for White, the timing of his injury is just really unfortunate. Las Vegas could also put him on PUP, or have him make the team and then place him on injured reserve with the idea that he’ll return, i.e. the Mauro example referenced above. However, either option would mean White can’t play for at least six weeks and it doesn’t sound like his injury is that serious.

So, the organization could cut the Oakland native initially, hope he clears waivers and put him on the practice squad until he’s healthy. That would create a much shorter timeline for his return but also has a good amount of risk involved.

Potential surprise cut: Nick Kwaitoski

Same logic as explained above.

Safety

Making the roster: Tre’Von Moehrig, Johnathan Abram, Tyree Gillespie and Dallin Leavitt

Cut: Karl Joseph and Roderic Teamer

I listed these two positions back-to-back because I think the decisions Las Vegas makes at each spot will go hand-in-hand with each other. If they do want to keep six linebackers, then they’ll likely go with three safeties and have Deablo play a little of both. In that scenario, my roster prediction changes to Kwaitoski making the team and Leavitt getting left off of it.

Moehrig and Abram are the starters so they’re in no danger, and Gillespie should have nothing to worry about either. The battle between Leavitt and Joseph is where things get interesting and ultimately, it comes down to availability and special teams.

Potential surprise cut: Karl Joseph

Another surprise that I think will actually happen. When the Raiders drafted Joseph back in 2016, he was coming off a torn ACL and has basically been injured ever since. He’s missed quite a bit of time in training camp this year with another injury, so I’m not sure how the coaching staff can rely on him to be ready to go when called upon.

Cornerback

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders
Trayvon Mullen
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Making the roster: Trayvon Mullen, Casey Hayward, Damon Arnette, Nate Hobbs, Keisean Nixon and Amik Robertson

Cut: Nevin Lawson, Isaiah Johnson and Blidi Wreh-Wilson

Las Vegas will get some help here since Lawson will start the season suspended and won’t count towards the 53-man roster until his time is served. That buys the team a couple of weeks to make a tough decision at cornerback.

Hobbs has been the preseason MVP for the Silver and Black as a slot corner. However, he still needs to prove it against quality competition so the first two weeks of the regular season will let the organization know if they need to bring Lawson back or not.

As for Johnson, his tenure with the Raiders has been filled with injuries, and he started training camp on PUP this year and has only been on the practice field for a week or two. With Nixon and Roberston playing well in the preseason, it’s hard to find a spot for the 2019 fourth-round pick.

Granted, Nixon is banged up as well so that might help Johnson’s case, but I think Nixon would have to be out for a significant amount of time for that to change anything.

Potential surprise cut: Nevin Lawson

I’m cheating a bit here and saying that Lawson will remain at home even when his suspension is up. So technically, he won’t be a surprise cut that happens tomorrow but one that seems inevitable.

As previously mentioned, Hobbs has been tearing it up as the nickel corner this month and I think he legitimately took Lawson’s spot. The eight-year veteran is what he is at this point and doesn’t have nearly the same potential as the rookie.

I think the Silver and Black will stay young at the position, see how that goes to start the year, and maybe they can pick up Lawson or another veteran down the road if the youth movement isn’t working.

Specialists

Making the roster: Trent Sieg, Daniel Carlson and AJ Cole

Cut: that’s all they got

Potential surprise cut: none

I think 2800 words is enough for today, huh?