Ranking the new Raiders
The Raiders have made several moves in free agency, most of which have been opening the door for several of their players to go to other teams, and rightfully so. There have only been a handful of new players signed to join the team since the beginning of the 2017 season. Maybe the Raiders were holding out because they knew they’d be spending a boatload of money to move to Vegas.
That would be a fair assumption, given the conservative efforts of the front office. For some reason, Reggie McKenzie thought depth was more important than filling the major holes on the defense, so of the whopping five signings, two of them are backups with no chance of starting, barring an injury or something drastic, and another is likely not going to win a battle for his position if it comes down to that. Here’s how the new Raiders rank.
#5 – EJ Manuel
EJ Manuel comes to the Raiders as a backup quarterback, to replace Matt McGloin, whose inferior performance will probably earn him a spot on a worst backup QB list somewhere. Manuel may not see much playing time, perhaps towards the end of the season when Oakland is preparing for the playoffs, if the Raiders want to avoid the travesty that happened in week 16 last year. We all remember cameras cutting to Mark Davis as he mouthed the words, “Don’t throw the f&$*ing ball!”, and for once, he was right. Carr shouldn’t have been playing at that point. I think Jack Del Rio learned his lesson. Manuel is probably going to be a placeholder until Connor Cook gets up to speed and can work his way to 2nd string.
#4 – Marshall Newhouse
The first pickup of the offseason was Marshall Newhouse, an offensive tackle/guard coming from the New York Football Giants. The Raiders line has very few holes. VERY few, which is why he’s ranked lower on this list. The biggest issue is the right tackle position, formerly filled by Menelik Watson, who was lost in free agency, and Austin Howard, who isn’t a starter. The loss of Watson to Denver means that Howard has to prove his worth or lose his position to Newhouse. He’ll probably lose his position as Newhouse has shown solid potential.
#3 – Jelani Jenkins
Linebacker Jelani Jenkins has been in the league for four seasons, which have been mostly poor showings because of the injuries that he’s battled. His best year came in 2014, where he turned out a 110 tackle season with 3.5 sacks. He only played 9 games in 2016. He’s going to have to pick it up to win a battle for strongside linebacker, which, according to the Raiders depth chart, is currently full of one Mr. Bruce Irvin. If the Raiders decide to keep the trend of playing Irvin as a pass-rushing weakside linebacker, as was the case in much of 2016, the field opens up quite a bit. Irvin bookended the defense opposite Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack. With the loss of Malcolm Smith on the weak side, Jenkins may be able to step right into the strongside back position, boosting a Raiders pass rush from all directions. Well, almost all. If they don’t re-sign Perry Riley Jr soon at middle linebacker soon, there’s still a glaring hole in the middle.
#2 – Jared Cook
Jared Cook is a tight end coming in from Green Bay. The Packers only played him in 10 games because of an ankle injury he suffered in week 3. Still, his numbers were respectable, most notably averaging 12.6 Yards Per Reception, besting teammate Richard Rodgers by more than 3 YPR. If he had played a full season, he would have dominated Rodgers and likely been in the top 15 in the league based on his showings in the games that he did play. Tight ends aren’t a favorite target of Aaron Rodgers, but Derek Carr likes to spread the love as much as he can. One of his great qualities.
#1 – Cordarrelle Patterson
Grabbing another one from his former division, McKenzie signed wide receiver and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson. Most well-known for his kick returning, Patterson hopefully can fill a slot-receiver/running back position, which is the biggest need after the loss of Latavius Murray. While Patterson has not played running back, there has been a lot of talk about shifting him into the position. He’s a good size for a receiver and can do some blocking, seemingly a good option to complete the three-headed monster with Jalen Richard and Deandre Washington. No place for Jamize Olawale in the monster, he’s a full back.
No Zach Brown yet, still an option
There is still one candidate left that would be a grade B pickup for the Raiders, if not higher. Constant buzz is still going around about signing Zach Brown. He’s reportedly narrowed his options down to the Raiders and Miami. Depending on the scheme that the Raiders plan to utilize the most, they may still have a need for someone in Brown’s position. If they finally sign Perry Riley Jr., Brown may spend quite a bit of time on the bench but the battle for the position will be one worth watching.
Overall, the Raiders’ choices have been questionable. It is apparent that they aren’t looking to spend a lot of money, probably because they’re protecting their investments in Derek Carr and Khalil Mack, as they should. The team FA was graded C+ by Matt Andruscavage in his AFC West report card, on the nose for the Raiders’ progress so far. It might be time for McKenzie and Del Rio to go back to school to get that grade up.