Without a doubt, the Oakland Raiders began a roster makeover. Meanwhile, Reggie McKenzie and Jon Gruden whittle down the numbers, there’s still work ahead. With the draft, inching closer and moves need to be made; the Raiders still need to sort things out. FPC Raiders writers Ray Aspuria, Anthony Zaragoza, and Chris Simmons gather to discuss these and many more issues surrounding the Silver and Black
Which other veteran could see his release?
Tight end Jared Cook. Slated to earn nearly $5.68 million this coming season, if the Raiders come up tight against the salary cap, he looks likely the first one out the door. Jon Gruden historically starts blocking tight ends. Moreover, despite the coach calling Cook the team’s best receiving tight end, second-year man Pharaoh Brown could provide a younger and cheaper option.
Depending on what happens in the draft, I would not be completely surprised if Seth Roberts sees a release. He has been a very productive player considering his draft stock, and McKenzie clearly likes him. Yet, if the Raiders find a late round pick that makes him expendable, he may find himself the odd man out. In order to prevent that he is going to do more than block downfield.
If you had to make a case for Vea/Hurts/Smith, what would that look like?
Vita Vea: Vea represents exactly what the Raiders need on the defensive line. A clog in the middle, but also the burst to make plays in the backfield. Maurice Hurst: Prior to the NFL Combine, the former Michigan Wolverine was regarded as a top three defensive tackle. If the health checks out, Hurst is a nice consolation prize if the Raiders miss Vea. Roquan Smith: The 2017 SEC Defensive Player of the Year gets a bad rap for not “measuring” up to the other linebackers in the draft. Nevertheless, looking at just talent and skillset alone, Smith would start for Raiders right now.
Vita Vea could serve the Raiders version of Vince Wilfork. A massive human in the middle who generates around five sacks a season but is a terror to block. Vea could be the answer to the question “who generates double teams for Mack.”
Maurice Hurst projects closer to Aaron Donald, as a slightly underside athlete with insane movement. If not for his health questions, he would easily be contending with Vea as the second lineman off the board.
Roquan Smith is the player I have been pounding the table about. A projected 10 starter in the middle, he projects as a Ryan Shazier type, flying sideline to sideline. With Smith operating the middle, the Raider defense’s speed improves immediately.
Vea whole name (Tevita Tuliakiono Tuipuloto Mosese Va’Hae Faletau Vea) is coincidentally the amount of offensive players needed to block him. In that case, the former Washington Husky behemoth is a must-account, must-block lineman.
Hurst owns the quickest feet and first step of interior pass rushers in the draft. In addition, if the Raiders are serious about getting an internal rush, he can fill that role
Smith is the pick and forget prospect. As in, Raiders pick him; they can forget the concern and worry in regards to middle linebacker. Polished, intelligent and supremely athletic, the Georgia Bulldog is a lynch pin player.
Right now, which AFC West opposing player could exploit a Raiders weakness?
Joey Bosa continues to terrify every tackle in the division. He stepped into his rookie season late, but proved to be a player who needs to be planned for. The Chargers overall amassed a fair amount of talent. Bosa is probably the best of the lot if he can take another step in the same way Mack did in his third season, he will become their best player in a decade.
Joey Bosa. If I am the Chargers, I line him and Melvin Ingram across the right side of the Raiders offensive line. Right tackle remains very iffy. In addition, in a division where Bosa and Ingram wreak havoc, Raiders QB Derek Carr may need to immediately scramble left when taking the snap.
Philip Rivers. The Oakland Raiders made some additions through free agency last month. Moreover, I fully expect the team to address the front seven with their first couple of picks in the draft later this month. Therefore, the big question mark on this defense still is the secondary. Philip Rivers will test and scare the defensive backs in 2018. Knowing how the football gods work, I bet they open the season with the Chargers to test out this prediction.
With so much talk about the culture shift, how would you analyze the first few months of Gruden’s tenure?
Will not know if it is a positive or negative until year 1 is in the books. However, as a disciple of Al Davis, it is refreshing to see a head coach mold a roster into what that coach sees fit. Instead of putting the puzzle together with pieces provided by a general manager or another personnel man, Gruden is the personnel man.
Now, ridding the team of a quality punter only makes sense if the next one is just as good or competent. If not, Gruden looks like Hank Hill and not Chucky — a grumpy older man.
Gruden is clearly running the show and does not intend to apologize for it. On the one hand, he seems to be laying the foundation of discipline the Raiders seemed to lack. Last season, it was clear not all the players were on the same page. As a result, the record reflects the turmoil. There will not be players running the same routes or fighting with. Yet for all of the players released, there may still be some dissidents in the fold. If a player like Bruce Irvin or Marshawn Lynch bucks at his rules, the season could get messy all over again.
At first glance, from a person outside of the circle, none of these moves appears shocking. Additionally, the players Gruden brought in are all veterans. Factor in the current locker room leaders (Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, and Bruce Irvin) and there are enough quality people to ensure the culture on the team stays strong. However, if the team struggles early in the season, these moves will be looked at in a different light between fans.