Raiders

Raiders 2017 roster projection, version 1.0

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AP

Raiders 2017 roster projection, version 1.0

The Raiders have roughly three weeks until the 90-man roster gets cut. That’s a long time in preseason life, especially with the team still entrenched at the Napa Valley Marriott and three preseason games left. There’s plenty of film left to create and then evaluate.

Players on the bubble have made some decisions tough, with competition at several positions. Let’s pretend the 53-man roster deadline is today. Here’s NBCSportsCalifornia.com’s current roster projection, admitting that there’s time for changes as the preseason wears on to make a talented roster:

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
Rodney Hudson
Donald Penn
Marshall Newhouse
Kelechi Osemele
Gabe Jackson
Jon Feliciano
Vadal Alexander
David Sharpe
Denver Kirkland
The Raiders generally keep nine offensive linemen, providing depth to position groups they value. The starting five is intact with Newhouse at right tackle upon Penn’s return. Feliciano can play all three interior spots, and Omoile makes the team with similar versatility. The Raiders have depth a tackle with Alexander and Sharpe, who can play on both sides. UPDATE (12:57 p.m.): Leaving Denver Kirkland off was an oversight. I've added him now. Assuming he didn't suffer a serious injury after being carted off the sideline Saturday at Arizona, he should make the squad. Omoile comes back into play if Kirkland's season is in jeopardy. 

RUNNING BACKS (4)
Marshawn Lynch
Jalen Richard
DeAndre Washington
Jamize Olawale
The Raiders have a versatile group, with players who can protect the passer and run the ball. Olawale should lead the special teams. The group is light, but a fifth back would’ve been a key special teams player. We found one at another position. Elijah Hood seems like a practice squad candidate.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Derek Carr
EJ Manuel
Connor Cook
Manuel is leading the backup quarterback battle, and while the Raiders have gone with two quarterbacks before, the trio should remain intact. Cook is entering his second season and will be given more time to develop.

TIGHT ENDS (4)
Jared Cook
Lee Smith
Clive Walford
Gabe Holmes
This group gives the Raiders options and depth at tight end. Cook is a legitimate receiving threat and Smith ranks among the league’s best blocking tight ends. Walford can do a bit of everything, but is still developing as a player. Coaches like Holmes, who provides quality depth and could feature on every special teams unit. He makes the team as an anchor in the kicking game.

RECEIVERS (5)
Amari Cooper
Michael Crabtree
Seth Roberts
Cordarrelle Patterson
Johnny Holton
The first four spots are written in pen. The last remains up for grabs, with K.J. Brent pushing hard for that final spot. Holton had it last year and could hang on to it thanks to great speed, improved route running and his place as a gunner on special teams. Brent has worked well subbing for an injured Amari Cooper. He has prototypical NFL receiver size and has proven adept catching passes in traffic. Can he be an impact special teams player? That could be a deciding factor here. Jaydon Mickens is also in this tight race for a roster spot.

DEFENSIVE LINE (8)
Khalil Mack
Eddie Vanderdoes
Jihad Ward
Denico Autry
Mario Edwards
Justin Ellis
James Cowser
Treyvon Hester
Darius Latham might be the toughest cut of this projection. He earned a spot as an undrafted player last year and played extensive snaps. He is a quality run player, but Hester seems to offer more as an internal pass rusher. Latham hasn’t worked much with top units, and could be a casualty of a position upgrade. The Raiders have more athletes inside, with Ellis plugging gaps on rushing downs. Cowser is Mack’s understudy. Edwards and Vanderdoes should lead a rotation inside.

LINEBACKERS (6)
Bruce Irvin
Jelani Jenkins
Marquel Lee
Cory James
Tyrell Adams
Shilique Calhoun
This group of inside linebackers are young and inexperienced, and this assumes Lee and James to enough to keep the front office from signing a veteran to join the group. Adams and Jenkins will work in reserve and on special teams. Calhoun is Irvin’s backup.

CORNERBACKS (6)
Gareon Conley
Sean Smith
David Amerson
Breon Borders
TJ Carrie
Dexter McDonald
Some fans are calling for Smith’s release after a rough start to camp, but there are several reasons that seems unrealistic. Smith is guaranteed $9.5 million this season. Getting something for that cash is ideal. Smith still has great talent, and could right the ship before long. He could provide depth if Conley or Carrie take his starting spot. The Raiders are trying him out as a dime hybrid linebacker as well, and he could be an option there. Borders continues to impress, and McDonald has been the best cornerback among the rest. Antonio Hamilton and Kenneth Durden will continue fighting for their spot.

SAFETIES (5)
Reggie Nelson
Karl Joseph
Obi Melifonwu
Shalom Luani
Keith McGill
McGill could be out 6-8 weeks with a foot injury, but might only miss a few regular-season games if that timetable holds. The Raiders will leave him on the roster and avoid releasing a top special teams player or using an IR return option on him. He could end up on IR if the recovery timetable is longer, giving an undrafted player a shot at the roster. Or the Raiders could add another defensive lineman or cornerback and go with four safeties. Luani has impressed thus far, and the team still has high hopes for Melifonwu despite his training camp injury.

SPECIALISTS (3)
Marquette King
Jon Condo
Sebastian Janikowski
This trio will charge into another season together, though it’s an important campaign for Janikowski entering a contract year.

Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

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Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Raiders are remarkably healthy heading into Sunday night’s game against the Washington football club.

The entire 53-man roster practiced fully on Friday, before heading to the nation’s capital.

That includes veteran cornerback Sean Smith, who missed the previous game with a neck injury. A shoulder ailment cropped up during the week, which prompted the Raiders to label him questionable heading into Week 3. Smith’s the only Raider on the injury report, and even he’s in decent shape.

“I mean we put it on there because there’s still a little bit of a question,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “You don’t have probable’s anymore. Given the choices, I just left him that way.”

That means the Raiders are going to have some healthy scratches a week after Smith was the only injured player sitting out.

Washington has some impact players on the mend. That included tight end Jordan Reed, who is questionable with a rib/sternum injury. He stands 6-foot-2, 246 pounds and is the type of receiving tight end that gives the Raiders fits. He has 1,638 yards 17 touchdowns the last two seasons, using good hands and a large frame to create mismatches in the secondary.

It’ll be key for the Raiders to defend him well if he’s active, with Nicholas Morrow as a primary coverage option.

“We’re prepared to face him,” Del Rio said. “We think he’s a good player. We’ll approach it that way and adjust if he doesn’t go.”

Washington also lists starting inside linebacker Mason Foster and running back Rob Kelley as questionable.

Raiders Injury Report
Questionable
CB Sean Smith (neck/shoulder)

Washington Injury Report
Questionable

TE Jordan Reed (rib/sternum), LB Mason Foster (shoulder), RB Rob Kelley (rib), S Monate Nicholson (shoulder), CB Josh Norman (shoulder)

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Raiders safety Karl Joseph notched his first career forced fumble in Week 2’s blowout victory over the New York Jets. It came on his first sack, where he bent around a tackle into the pocket and devoured his pray.

Joseph recovered the ball, and the Raiders quickly scored a touchdown. The second-year pro enjoyed that moment, but left the game with regrets.

"I should have definitely had more sacks than I did,” Joseph said. “I feel like I should have had three.”

Joseph had quarterback Josh McCown in the crosshairs three times, and feels like he should’ve finished each one. The game plan provided opportunity. Joseph blitzed six times – fellow safety Reggie Nelson attacked thrice – and pressured the quarterback four times.

It was a relatively new responsibility, considering he blitzed nine times all last year. Joseph will be first to say he was a different player then. He was less explosive, more tentative and a smidge less confident, lingering effects from an ACL tear during his final college season. Joseph was cleared to play as a rookie but wasn’t all the way back, doubly hampered by missing an offseason program where rookies grow quick.

"I wasn’t completely myself,” Joseph said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California. “I feel a lot more like myself this year. I obviously feel better physically, and the year of experience in the system has definitely helped. So has adjusting to the NFL life. That’s been an easier transition for me.”

Joseph is playing more like his highlight reel from West Virginia, where he proved a heavy hitter and a solid cover man worthy of last year’s No. 14 overall draft pick. The Jets game isn’t the only evidence of that.

Joseph had an excellent training camp, flashing an aggressive style and solid timing making plays in practice. That translated to the regular-season opener at Tennessee, when he saved a touchdown on consecutive plays. The first came on an open-field tackle. The second was a leaping pass breakup in the end zone, proof positive that Joseph was ready to make a big impact.

"He’s really good close to the line of scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. "He’s a really good tackler in the open field. He also plays well on the back end. I think his development is right on time right now.”

The Raiders recognize that, and are using him like a queen on the chessboard. He can move back or forward, as an attacker or the last line of defense. He’s a rover at times, with an ability to create havoc at all levels of the defense.

Joseph is an excellent fit for the defensive scheme, bring a tone-setting physicality to the secondary. He is learning, as part of his development, that the nuclear option isn’t always best. There are times when it is, and Joseph enters those scenarios without fear.

"You can’t play worried about getting hurt. That’s not the way I play,” Joseph said. “It’s about being smart. I had to adjust my game coming into the NFL. Every hit can’t be a big hit. Sometimes you have to be smart and just wrap people up, but you can’t ever play scared.”

He isn’t afraid to take risks or attack when asked, and is already making a major impact on this year’s defense. That isn’t a surprise. It’s expected of first-round picks.

"That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s supposed to make plays,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a guy we selected because we thought he’d be a guy that could come in and impact on our defense. In the first two games of this year he’s played well. There are still things, like I tell you all the time, that have cleaning up to do, work to do, things to improve on, but he’s off to a good start and obviously it follows up from a good offseason. Healthy, a lot of good work and confidence that he’s gaining as we go.”