For this week’s roundtable, the topics of Seth Roberts, Tom Cable, and AFC obstacles headline the conversation. As always, FPC Raiders staff writers Ray Aspuria, Chris Simmons, and Anthony Zaragoza sit down and discuss the Raiders.
Which area of the line should Tom Cable tackle first?
The proper nuances of zone blocking will become like breathing for the Oakland Raiders. Much of the talk centered on Cable’s inability to mold linemen in Seattle. However, he is not going to receive conversion projects in Oakland. Moreover, Gruden runs a quick-strike offense at a dizzying pace. That puts lets burden on the QB. In his first stint with the Raiders, Cable’s line kept JaMarcus Russell upright. Think about that for a second.
One of the more undersold stories of the Raiders offensive line for the last couple of seasons remains Gabe Jackson’s transition to right guard. Although, he filled the position admirably, Jackson finished around average (33rd in PFF for 2018). One thing Tom Cable will certainly focus is cleaning up his technique on the right side. If he can develop into a slightly above average player at that position, it will benefit the starter at right tackle.
Prepare Kolton Miller. The Raiders boast a top five offensive line in the league. Lead by Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele, Gabe Jackson, and Donald Penn, few teams mirror the type of talent of this group. Therefore, Cable can make his mark with this line by getting first round pick Kolton Miller ready to make an impact. If Penn stay, expect Miller at right tackle this season. If he can achieve that, this line regains its dominant form this season.
In order to preserve his roster spot, what must Seth Roberts do?
Pray, pray and pray. With the additions of Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant this offseason, the trade for returner Ryan Switzer and draft selection of former Oklahoma State star Marcell Ateman, Seth Roberts is on the cusp of being the odd man out. Therefore, the question of what Roberts can do to stay on the team could be moot. Depending on the numbers game at receiver, Roberts’ fate could reside there. If it is five, that could be bad news for Roberts. If six, he has a good chance to make the roster this season.
Get rid of his Stonehenge-like hands. Also, become a superior gunner on special teams. In addition, demand the ball in the passing game. Sure-handedness, coupled with a “throw me the damn ball” attitude will get a playcaller’s attention.
Seth Roberts must catch the ball when he is wide open with room to run. His last two seasons are frustrating to watch him make tough catches, then drop basic ones. Next, Roberts needs to find a way onto the special teams unit if he is going to remain on the roster. As an imprecise route runner, Roberts likely could devolve a bit player and injury sub. However, if he could become a gunner in place of Patterson then he could rehabilitate his value. Finally, Roberts will have to spend some hours doing ladder drills with Amari Cooper to work on his feet. He runs rounded routes. Additionally, he tends to lose his footing, and struggles to complete catches. In short, Roberts needs to grind this offseason than ever before.
Which under-the-radar free agent will make a run for a starting spot?
Marcus Gilchrist owns the best chance of any player who is not obviously being signed to start. (Derrick Johnson, Tahir Whitehead etc.). If Obi Melifonwu does not pan out as the strong safety, do not be surprised to see Karl Joseph continue to fill that role. Then, look for Gilchrist to take over as the deep safety. Both players lack size against the growing population of larger slot-receivers and tight ends. Their paring certainly would not be the first choice for the Raider brass. In reality, Gilchrist as injury insurance is solid, if unspectacular.
Marcus Gilchrist. As much as I would like to see the pairing of Karl Joseph and Obi Melifonwu as the Raiders’ starting safeties, the veteran’s versatility and savvy gives him the edge. Meanwhile, Melifonwu, a second-year man who is still essentially a rookie after missing considerable time.
Outside of the Patriots and Jaguars, which AFC teams serves as the Raiders’ biggest obstacle?
The Los Angeles Chargers. The Bolts loaded up with defensive talent in the draft to flank the fearsome combination of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Not to mention, Philip Rivers at quarterback, still leads the offense. Despite the opposition to this notion Raider Nation will give, Old Man Rivers is THE best QB in the AFC West.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are still an absolute monster of a team who for one reason or another has not quite figured it out recently. Perennial favorites to not only win their division, but also a first round bye, the Steelers views themselves as equal to the Patriots. Some of that hubris came home to roost in recent seasons. However, if they can string together a fou- week stretch, look out. The last time the Raiders met Pittsburgh Derek Carr dueled Ben Roethlisberger well into the fourth quarter. That game gave RaiderNation hope that the team stood on the brink of a breakthrough. If the Raiders see themselves as a contender, they’ll likely will see the Steelers twice this season.
Los Angeles Chargers. If the Raiders cannot win the division, no reason to look at the Patriots, Steelers and Jaguars. Kansas City is the reigning AFC West champions. However, with the transition of Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes next season, I am not sure about the Chiefs chances at repeating. The Chargers on the other hand, scare me. They return the majority of their team from last season and added some nice pieces. The Raiders need to win these divisional games and that starts with the Chargers.