Jon Gruden’s decisions between now and August will likely be some of the most important the franchise will have made in the last half-decade. With his coaching staff set, and with the entire Oakland Raiders front office backing him, Gruden is entering the final stages of his roster evaluation. Cutting scrap heap re-tread David Amerson is undoubtedly the first of many moves to come regarding the roster. Yet, even as he begins to trim the fat, Gruden must pay special attention to the following positions as they feature the most pressing need for proper evaluation and solutions therein.
This has been a problem spot for the Raiders for years, and to be fair is typically a problem for most teams. Finding one solid tackle seems difficult. Now, the Raiders offensive interior can cover up for many of the mistakes that could be made on the edges. Yet even with a dominant interior, that features two Pro Bowlers, an All-Pro, and PFF’s best blocker award-winner, the right tackle spot is where the Raider front suffered. Marshall Newhouse, the incumbent starter, has intimated via twitter that he may not be the happiest player on the team.
Additionally, he surrendered eight sacks over the season, which was more than the rest of the regular season starters combined. Back-up tackle David Sharpe did not fare much better giving up back-to-back sacks in spot duty as well. If the Raiders want to return to greatness, they will absolutely need to find an average to good right tackle.
During the 2017 season, the Raiders turned to Nicholas Morrow an undrafted free agent. While there are some metrics that will tell you that Morrow was respectable at times, he should not start. If Morrow became the second or third at the position then the Raiders would already be much improved. While he has the speed to perform, some coverage responsibilities he finished ranked 55. He appeared a step late in route recognition or completely hung out to dry.
The whole unit needs talent upgrades. If new Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther moves Bruce Irvin back to the strongside, and wants to re-sign NaVorro Bowman in the middle, it will make finding a WLB much easier.
The most glaring need will only become even clearer as the Raiders are likely to chase Amerson’s departure. While Smith played a bit better towards the end of the season, he only made it back due to incompetence. Slot corner TJ Carrie, may leave via free agency this year. Now, there is only one outside corner guaranteed to be on the roster: Gareon Conley. He did look good for the ten seconds he was available last season. Fans may hope for splashy defensive linemen or rangy linebacker. However, none of that will matter if the secondary cannot cover its own eyes