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Raiders Roster 2022: Earning their stripes

Group of undrafted free agents made an impression and have a chance to develop in Las Vegas

NFL: New England Patriots at Las Vegas Raiders
Undrafted free agent cornerback Sam Webb, right, wasn’t going to let go of a potential roster spot without a fight. The Division-II product was one of four undrafted free agents to make the Las Vegas Raiders initial 53-man roster.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Darien Butler, Luke Masterson, Isaiah Pola-Mao, and Sam Webb — the Las Vegas Raiders Fascination Four? Ok, let’s go with the Fresh Four, instead. The group represents the undrafted free agents that made the Silver & Black’s initial 53-man roster.

And it’s a sign that competition was indeed the name of the game during the Raiders initial offseason under the helm of general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels. Butler, Masterson, Pola-Mao, and Webb were each part of position groups that had to duke it out to obtain roster spots and the UDFAs did indeed earn their initial stripes.

Our Bill Williamson kicked of the undrafted free agent spotlight highlighting Masterson earning a roster spot earlier in the week. It’s a similar story for the other three making the 53-man instead of landing on the 16-man practice squad.

All four likely face an uphill climb to contribute on defense — unless circumstances (gulp, injuries) arise. Butler, Masterson, Pola-Mao and Webb, however, are built for special teams and that’s where they’ll likely make their mark in 2022.

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders
Raiders linebacker Darien Butler (58) hits Patriots running back Pierre Strong Jr. after a catch during the team’s preseason game on Aug. 26.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Butler Did It

Once the speedy linebacker was signed by the Raiders, his chances of at least making the practice squad were pretty good. Reason being, Las Vegas linebacker coach Antonio Pierce is well-aware of Butler’s abilities as both spent time together at Arizona State.

At 5-foot-10 and 221 pounds, Butler made his mark as a run-and-hit linebacker with the Sun Devils. His ability to pack a wallop is unquestioned but Butler needs to become a sure form tackler in the pros.

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders
Raiders linebacker Darien Butler (58) hits Patriots running back Pierre Strong Jr. after a catch during the team’s preseason game on Aug. 26.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

He does offer coverage skills which is a must from linebackers in the pass-happy NFL. His angles and diagnostic skills remain raw but he’s got ample time to develop them.

Tangled Webb

In the case of Webb proving himself to be worthy of a Raiders roster spot coming from Division II Missouri Western led itself to a transformation of the Las Vegas’ cornerback room. The 6-foot, 202-pound corner does offer the prototypical size and length required at the position.

Webb also offers decent speed at 4.48 along with the cover skills and instincts. Yet, that was against D-II competition. While Division II talent has flourished in the NFL, the jump in competition will be a concern. Nonetheless, as a reserve corner, Webb can refine his game while getting work on special teams.

“Like I said, he deserves all the credit, those guys all do,” Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said of Webb. “I think that once they embrace the opportunity in front of them and they realize that it doesn’t matter how I got here, it’s just matters that I’m here, I’m one of 90 guys competing to try to make it, then it’s just about work. I think Sam did a good job of putting his head down and really trying to grind. A lot of our young players have recognized the change between college football and professional football in that every minute of every day you have to be really locked in and really focused on — whether it’s a meeting or a walkthrough or a practice period — there’s nothing that’s unimportant that we’re trying to cover.”

Jacksonville Jaguars v Las Vegas Raiders
Safety Isaiah Pola-Mao offers intriguing size at 6-foot-4. He’ll have to fill out at only 211 pounds.
Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Pow Pow Pola-Mao

A physical specimen at 6-foot-4, Pola-Mao must fill out at only 211 pounds. At his weight, he’s built more like a sleek corner than NFL safety. His height and length alone, however, could make him a pesky cover man at the next level.

He showed at USC, despite his slender build, he can be an effective tackler while boasting thief-like ball skills. He’ll need to add the requisite muscle mass to become a physical presence at the position in the pros, however, fortunately for Pola-Mao, he’s got the frame to allow it.

He did clock a decent 4.56 40-yard dash time at the USC pro day and couple that with his frame, he has potential to become a special teams ace the likes of current teammate Mack Hollins — if Pola-Mao dedicates himself to that.

Wise Words

McDaniels may have been referring specifically to Webb on this quote, but it’s wise words the UDFAs — and the rest of the Raiders roster — needs to heed from here on in.

“Over the last three, four months they’ve had to go through some growing stages. I think it speaks to him. He’s really put his head down and worked and he’s earned the opportunity, and he’s going to continue to have to earn it,” McDaniels said.

Proving themselves will be a week-in, week-out exercise for these Raiders.