The competition continues for the Las Vegas Raiders, who have one preseason game under their belt. Next up is a Saturday date with the Los Angeles Rams in the second exhibition tilt, while a Saturday, Aug. 26, matchup with the Dallas Cowboys closes the team’s preseason slate.
That leaves only a handful of training camp practices before the looming Aug. 29th “Cut Day.” That’s going to be doozy because unlike previous seasons, where the NFL gave teams the ability to gradually whittle rosters from 90 to the mandated 53, the final Tuesday in the month of August marks when teams must go from a 90-man roster to a 53-man roster.
That said, let’s take a look at Raiders who are on the razor’s edge and could get thrown over the top rope, Royal Ramble style:
Let’s start with Josh McDaniels’ offense…
QB Chase Garbers, Odd Man Out?
Why: The 2022 undrafted free agent from Cal is far behind rookie Aidan O’Connell, veteran Brian Hoyer, and starter Jimmy Garoppolo. Viewed as a developmental signal caller, the Raiders got their new moldable quarterback in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft in O’Connell. Also consider that NFL teams often carry two quarterbacks, and for those that have three, the third is rarely active on game day.
RB Brittain Brown, Not Enough Room?
Why: The 2022 seventh-round pick missed practices and the preseason opener with an undisclosed injury. With starter Josh Jacobs absent, this was the time for Brown to solidify a roster spot with exhibition carries. Perhaps the Raiders will carry five running backs again, but veterans Brandon Bolden and Ameer Abdullah, along with fellow youngster Zamir White, give the position depth.
WR Keelan Cole Sr., Too Much Depth For The Raiders…
Why: The depth chart at wide out facilitates the veteran’s exit. Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, and Jakobi Meyers represent the starting trio, with rookie Tre Tucker and Phillip Dorsett representing the speed elements. DeAndre Carter likely rounds out the group with his special team prowess, leaving no room for Cole. Kristian Wilkerson is a dark horse candidate for the group, as he displayed intriguing blocking capability.
TE Jesper Horsted, The Raiders Are Set At Tight End…
Why: The speedy wide receiver turned tight end made the roster last year due to his willingness to pitch in on special teams. He missed time due to an undisclosed injury and didn’t play against the Niners. Cole Fotheringham showed he can be a dependable receiver and blocker, and if he shows special teams’ capability, it may mean so much to Horsted.
But what about the trenches? Both on offense and defense…
OL Dalton Wagner
Why: A true developmental mauler of a power tackle, the Raiders may pause, but in the end, the intriguing undrafted free agent may go. Brandon Parker hitting injured reserve in back-to-back seasons does open things up; however, Justin Herron seems to be the No. 4 tackle. That leaves Wagner without a spot.
DL Malcolm Koonce
Why: The smallest of the defensive end/edge rushers on the roster, Koonce has the makings for a faster and more agile pass rusher. But he hasn’t taken advantage of opportunities. Veteran Jordan Willis offers equal speed, power, and size to set the edge, and he’d be a better option to stick with than Koonce. Willis is also a willing special teamer.
LB Darien Butler
Why: The frenetic energy he displayed at Arizona State hasn’t translated to the pros. Butler is doing more thinking than reacting, limiting his ability to make plays and tackles. Amari Burney, a 2023 seventh-round pick, has flashed more potential and speed as both a cover linebacker and a run stopper, meaning Butler may be on the outside.
Then we have the defensive backfield for the Raiders…
CB Tyler Hall
Why: This could’ve easily been Duke Shelley; however, the veteran showed shutdown capabilities last season with the Minnesota Vikings and wasn’t an expensive free agent. Meanwhile, Amik Robertson has gotten run as an outside and nickel defender. With Nate Hobbs destined to be the slot corner once more, Hall may not have a spot or snaps.
S Isaiah Pola-Mao
Why: Roderic Teamer. He’s a special teams ace and a hard-hitting safety. While Pola-Mao is one of my favorite young Raiders who can be moved around as a box safety, deep safety, or matchup type, unless Las Vegas limits the running backs or receivers it carries on the 53-man roster, Pola-Mao may be lost in the numbers game. He’ll need to prove as effective on special teams as Teamer is to lock down a spot.
*Top Photo: Sports Illustrated/Raider Maven