Raiders look toward first cuts Monday

The Raiders have done well hitting the sewers looking for talent over the last few years.

They’ve found solid assets like Rod Streater, Kenbrell Thompkins and Ray-Ray Armstrong, coming as undrafted rookies or waiver acquisitions. 2015 is a little different, though, when it comes to romantic preseason survivor stories.

The Raiders will be forced to cut at least 15 players Monday when the first roster trimming period occurs, and there may be more new faces added as well.

The Raiders have the bulk of their starters inked in stone, and the depth at the offensive line is better than the receiving or tight end group, which means the offense is in terrific shape.

The defensive secondary is where the new faces are likely to go, but the Raiders could stand to upgrade their stable of running backs as well as the pass rush.

Packers rookie corner Ladarius Gunter is one who stands out, same for Cardinals rookie running back David Johnson, who Oakland will face this Sunday.

Pass rushers will be hard to come by, the modern-day equivalent of platinum, valued nearly highly as quarterbacks. But Oakland doesn’t appear to be hard pressed to improve there. They have enough talent to get by, at least, and may surprise the national audience.

The defensive backfield is the largest area of need, and the Raiders addressed at least a part of it by bringing in veteran safety Taylor Mays earlier in the week.

Mays, who had requested his release by the Lions, was buried on Detroit’s bench and looking for a shot to nab some playing time.

There will be similar incidents in the coming week. After the Raiders trim to 75 players Monday, they cut down to 53 the following Friday.

The toughest part of the NFL is set to become a reality for 37 young men who have worked diligently to compete for a roster spot somewhere.

Head coach Jack Del Rio isn’t alluding to who’s on the cusp or who’s on the outside looking in. He joked about assumptions, and will neither confirm nor deny anything regarding specifics of the roster:

“A lot of competition on the roster, guys get an opportunity to show us what they’re capable of. Everybody who’s healthy to play is going to play some and give us the opportunity to play some.”

Assumptions backed by players getting work towards the end of the game are more reliable than what goes on at practice, though there’s some stock in that as well.

Offensive players on the outside looking in are: punter Steven Clark, quarterback Cody Fajardo, running back George Atkinson III, fullback Jamize Olawale, wide receivers Seth Roberts, Josh Harper and Devon Wylie, offensive linemen Lamar Mady, Quinterrius Eatmon, Mitch Bell and Anthony Morris.

The defensive side includes defensive linemen Ricky Lumpkin and Gary Wilkins, linebackers Horace Miller, Josh Shirley and Spencer Hadley, defensive backs Jimmy Hall, Rob Daniel and Tevin McDonald.

The Raiders already have their eyes glued to film from players who caught their interest during the draft process, and veterans just the same.

The Raiders will be finishing their offseason in short order, and roster moves are likely continue through the trimming process.

New performance center

The Raiders have been working on their new performance center, fancy talk for a new gym, and two newly-built practice fields for some time now. In speaking to a few people with direct and indirect knowledge of the projects, estimates in cost range from $10 million all the way to $40 million invested into the facility.

Rebar was laid to help drainage in the fields, and no expense was spared. Most prominent in the facility, the only truly unusual or entirely unique item in the new building was the fans.

Sold by Big Ass Fans, a truly awesome business name, there are six 747-turbine-sized fans that will help air circulate throughout the greater Bay Area.

The touted building includes some things that are atypical of your neighborhood gym, but what matters most is how players use the facility.

There’s certainly some perk around, and it’s not just the requested Red Bull and tonic water with lime. The strength and conditioning staff are doing things that have some players impressed.

Brice Butler, during a training camp interview, said that while he didn’t want to knock the old staff, the things that the new folks are doing has helped him increase his speed and fast-twitch movements.

Offensive guard Gabe Jackson said that the differences for him are minor. Cornerback Keith McGill says it’s nothing he hasn’t been through before.

But the results on the practice field tell a different story. Whether some of these players realize it yet, or not, it’s pretty obvious that Joe Gomes and company are valuable assets to the team.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.