Dennis Allen is in “love” with the quarterback room, boasting a former Pro Bowler teaching an intelligent, motivated second round draft pick. The offensive line had $40 million invested into them in free agency, to gel with a 2013 second round mauler and a top tier center in the NFL. The running back position stars another former Pro Bowler as well as one of the league’s most explosive backs when healthy. The young receiving corps are primed to breakout, and the veteran of the team – James Jones – led the league in touchdown receptions in 2012. But if you’re a Raiders fan, the answer to the following question is disturbing: what happens if tight end Mychal Rivera is injured?
A sixth round pick in 2013, not much was expected of Rivera. In fact, if his attractive sister – Glee’s Naya Rivera – turned up to a few games, much of Raider Nation would be fine with his contribution. Instead, Rivera solidified his importance to the offense, finishing with 407 yards and 4 touchdowns. In year two, Rivera is battling the physically gifted – and injured once more – David Ausberry, to start for the team. However, Ausberry is out “indefinitely” with a knee injury, leaving the Raiders frighteningly weak at the position. Behind Rivera are sophomore Brian Leonhardt, undrafted rookie Jake Murphy and promising 2013 sixth round pick Nick Kasa, who was forced to leave practise against the Cowboys due to a knee injury. Allen told reporters, “It didn’t look good.” A few insiders are reporting that it’s an ACL.
Many fans are imploring Reggie McKenzie to sign free agent former Packer Jermichael Finley, and the fact that he hasn’t been signed yet is indicative of just how serious his spinal injury was. There is no real solution to the Raiders tight end problem, other than staying healthy or waiting for a tight end to be cut from a deep roster on another team.
Tight end, however, may not be the weakest position group on the roster…
With 2013 first round draft pick DJ Hayden hurt, the Raiders are relying on former 49ers Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers to start at cornerback. Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson simply destroyed Brown in the first preseason game, and Rogers turned 33 last month. Perhaps the only encouraging sign is Chimdi Chekwa’s emergence in camp and excellent performance against the Vikings.
Dennis Allen has lauded seventh round draft pick TJ Carrie’s brilliant preseason so far, and he is currently listed as the number 5 cornerback on the depth chart. With Hayden out, an injury to Brown or Rogers would give Carrie an opportunity to play a significant amount of snaps. The 6’3” Keith McGill has experienced the usual rookie cornerback inconsistencies. Taiwan Jones has performed moderately well throughout camp and will likely seal a roster spot due to his special teams prominence. Chance Casey has shown flashes and will probably end up on the practice squad.
The Raiders success in 2014, as laughable as this may seem to some, may in fact come down to the health of DJ Hayden (and even then, there’s no guarantee he’ll play well, especially after missing so much time). If he doesn’t return to the field soon – and we never seem to know with Hayden – Raiders are one backfield injury away from the worst possible scenario, creating the following headline: “Raiders depleted at CB, trade for Michael Huff”.