Predicting Raiders 53-man roster: Defense and Special Teams

Here is part two of my predictions on who I think will make the Oakland Raiders 53-man roster. If you didn’t catch part one check it out right here.

Defensive Ends: Tank Carradine, Bruce Irvin, Fadol Brown, Arden Key, Frostee Rucker, Shilique Calhoun

Khalil Mack may not be listed on the depth chart as he continues his holdout, but I fully expect to see him on the field once regular season play commences. Joining Mack on the outside will be fellow ‘Slash Brother’, Bruce Irvin. I’m anticipating the depth at this spot to be filled by rookie Arden Key and former 49er Tank Carradine.

If Mack’s holdout spills over into the regular season I could see Frostee Rucker sticking around. After the last two seasons in Oakland, I think Calhoun will be cut.

Defensive Tackles: Justin Ellis, Mario Edwards Jr., Maurice Hurst, P.J. Hall, Ahtyba Rubin, Treyvon Hester, Shakir Soto, Eddie Vanderdoes

Plugging up the middle once again for the Raiders will be ‘Jelly’ Ellis and the versatile Mario Edwards Jr. who can play on the edge or inside. While they may not start right away, I look forward to rookies Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall to be regular fixtures along the interior d-line.

Treyvon Hester was a seventh-round pick a year ago and turned heads last preseason as he tallied three sacks in four exhibition games. Hester still has loads of untapped potential but I see him landing on the practice squad after the 2018 preseason.

With Eddie Vanderdoes still sidelined after tearing his ACL at the end of last season, I could see him ending up on the injured reserve designated-to-return list. This would mean he would be eligible to return in Week 8. From this group, I expect Soto and Rubin to be cut.

Middle Linebackers: Derrick Johnson, Marquel Lee, Jason Cabinda

For the first time in many years, the Raiders will have a proven inside linebacker at the start of the season with the presence of Derrick Johnson. Johnson has the experience and accolades to be the starter but second-year linebacker Marquel Lee is primed to take the starting nod. Vic Tafur of the Athletic said, “Lee has responded and looks to have the leg up on the starting linebacker job.”

With roster spots filling up and Johnson in the veteran role, I wouldn’t be surprised if  Cabinda is cut as the roster gets trimmed down.

Outside Linebackers: Tahir Whitehead, Emmanuel Lamur, Nicholas Morrow, Kyle Wilbur, Azeem Victor, James Cowser

Tahir Whitehead is slated to start on the outside along with Emmanuel Lamur after the two joined the team via free agency. In this group I see Nicholas Morrow and James Cowser filling it out. I think rookie Azeem Victor ends up on the practice squad with Kyle Wilbur being cut.

Cornerbacks: Rashaan Melvin, Gareon Conley, Daryl Worley, Leon Hall, Shareece Wright, Tevin Mitchel, Nick Nelson, Antonio Hamilton, Raysean Pringle, Dexter McDonald

Rashaan Melvin has been a proven starter in the NFL and Gareon Conley (if healthy) should be a lockdown corner, their spots are safe. I also think fellow free agent signee Daryl Worley will be a common feature in the Raiders secondary, especially if Conley can’t stay healthy.

I’m of the belief that a lot of the free agent signings were to spark camp competition and I feel as if Antonio Hamilton will outlast the newcomers and be back again with Oakland for another season. I’m also expecting Dexter McDonald, like Hamilton, to shine in the preseason and claim a roster spot. Rounding out this group I think rookie Nick Nelson makes the active roster and will compete for time as he begins his NFL journey.

Tevin Mitchel and Raysean Pringle have both bounced around from several teams and with a loaded position group, I see that trend continuing. Worley and Melvin will serve as the veteran presence for the younger corners on the roster and with that I see Leon Hall and Shareece Wright being shown the door.

Safeties: Karl Joseph, Marcus Gilchrist, Erik Harris, Reggie Nelson, Shalom Luani, Obi Melifonwu, Dallin Leavitt, Quincy Mauger

Karl Joseph and Marcus Gilchrist are slated to start and in all likelihood, their roster spots are locked up but Erik Harris is also a dark horse to start. Harris excelled in a special teams role last season and has garnered high praise from Jon Gruden as of late. Gruden said, “Right now he has a chance to be a full-time starter for the Oakland Raiders.”

Despite having his most productive years with defensive coordinator Paul Guenther when the two were in Cincinnati, I think this will be the end of the road for Reggie Nelson in Oakland. With the Raiders signing Gilchrist to pair up with Joseph, and Harris making strides on defense and serving as a special teams ace, I don’t envision Nelson making the 53-man roster.

Obi Melifonwu has been a player of interest as Gruden hasn’t held back when speaking about the second year safety and his injury-filled time in Oakland. With the newest CBA, players selected in the second round have contracts that are “usually guaranteed for the first two years” and with Melifonwu starting year two, I think he stays around for at least one more season as added depth with loads of potential.

I don’t see Shalom Luani or Dallin Leavitt making the active roster right now. However, not all hope is lost with these two, and I wouldn’t be surprised if each is retained on the practice squad. With many players in front, I see Quincy Mauger being cut.

Special Teams: Johnny Townsend (P), Eddy Pineiro (K), Mike Nugent (K), Andrew DePaola (LS), Ryan Switzer, Dwayne Harris, Griff Whalen, Nick Nelson (PR/KR)

With no other punter or long snapper on the team, Johnny Townsend and Andrew DePaola are locks at their respective positions.

A year ago when Sebastian Janikowski was injured, Oakland worked out several kickers, one of which was Mike Nugent. The Raiders would eventually stick with Giorgio Tavecchio as he was also a left-footed kicker and former punter Marquette King was used to place holding on that side.

After the 2018 NFL draft, the Raiders signed Eddy Pineiro, a college teammate of Townsend at Florida. Townsend who also was the placeholder for Pineiro is used to holding for a right-footed kicker. The same reason (but different foot) that kept Tavecchio around was the exact reason he was cut. Nugent has arrived to help increase camp competition, but I fully anticipate Pineiro will be the man moving forward.

As I mentioned in part one of my roster predictions, I think Ryan Switzer will come out on top over Harris, Whalen and, Nelson as the lead return man for punts and kickoffs this upcoming season.

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