The Oakland Raiders’ Search for Quality Depth

Oct 30, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Oakland Raiders strong safety T.J. Carrie (38) defends Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Cecil Shorts (10) catch during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With last week’s loss still fresh in our minds, RaiderNation looks to the off-season to build the 2017 roster stronger than the previous year’s edition. General Manager Reggie McKenzie built a formidable team while overhauling the entire Oakland Raiders roster. Yet,  the playoff loss to Houston shows, a need exists for depth.

Offensive Line: Whether PFF declares it or not, the Oakland Raiders employ the best offensive line in the entire NFL. However, when a lineman suffers an injury, there is a startling decline in the talent level of backups. Coupled with the revolving door of inconsistency at right tackle, there are intelligent solutions. Even though Austin Howard’s contract runs through 2018, he’s far from the long-term solution. Menelik Watson, through no fault of his own, cannot shake the injury bug. He’s also a free agent. Denver Kirkland and Vadal Alexander project as guards. McKenzie must build the stable that performs adequately. Fortunately, the draft features many prospects that can play right now.

Linebacker: Somehow, the Oakland Raiders made the playoffs despite the alarming void in the linebacking corps. Perry Riley played well in spots, but doesn’t have the athleticism to man the middle of a defense. He plays downhill, but cannot trace alongside backs or receivers. We’ve seen Ben Heeney’s ceiling and it is low. While Heeney gives effort, the agility just does not exist. Malcolm Smith’s terrible coverage skills hinder any defensive gameplan. Cory James is the only capable backup, but he’s a backup. For this reason, attention to linebacker will occur this off-season via the draft or free agency.


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Cornerback: Nothing embodies the struggle of the 2016 Oakland Raiders defense than the woes of the secondary. When slot corner D.J. Hayden injured his hamstring, his absence left a gaping hole in the scheme. Believe it or not, Hayden found his niche in the slot. Who’s behind him on the depth chart? Antonio Hamilton and Dexter McDonald, who never need to see any field time. Basically, T.J. Carrie is the only seasoned backup with any discernible skill. Then again, Carrie’s roster spot is far from protected. For instance:

In the long run, Reggie McKenzie, through the draft and free agency will construct a deeper talent base to draw from. Right now, options exist to accomplish this task economically and efficiently. While his draft strategy is always held close to the vest, McKenzie keenly identifies areas of need, and makes the appropriate moves. Right now, the Oakland Raiders sit perched on the edge of making the big jump. The key is building behind the starters.

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