Mario Edwards Jr. Medically Cleared

Breaking News: Edwards’ Neck Ready to Go

mario-edwards-jr

Per his personal Instagram account, second year defensive player Mario Edwards Jr. has been medically cleared to resume football activity. A promising and versatile defender, Edwards will be an important part of a unit looking to make big strides in 2016-17.

Edwards became a starter after a Justin Tuck injury early last season and improved week-to-week. He figures to start at Defensive End in 3-4 packages and can kick inside on obvious passing downs. His medical clearance is a huge boon for a Raiders team looking to make strides in a wide-open AFC West.

Raiders-Cardinals Recap

Final Score: Raiders 27, Cardinals 31

Image

Offense:

The first team unit was inconsistent at best. Darren McFadden looked strong for a second straight game, though the Raiders failed on a few 3rd-and-short conversions. The offensive line was down second-year Center Stefen Wisniewski, and it showed. The line struggled to give Carson Palmer adequate protection for much of his outing. Palmer was intercepted again, a habit which marred his 2011-12 campaign. Two drops did cost this first unit a touchdown, however.

Image

Bright Spot: Rookie WR Rod Streater had 7 catches for 43 yards. While the yardage total is not impressive, this team needs a consistent possession target to complement all their speed; Streater could be that guy, especially if an injury occurs.

Image

Area of Concern: Mike Goodson had a bad night. Not only did he struggle to find running room, he fumbled twice. This was a problem for him in Carolina, so it is worrisome if the Raiders believe they can count on him to see significant playing time behind Darren McFadden.

Image

Defense:

The defense seemed dazed and confused on the Cardinals’ first drive. Players were out of place, tackles were missed, and the unit was gashed for an opening-drive touchdown. They decided to play, and looked much better the rest of the game. The score doesn’t show how well they played; 7 points were scored off a blocked punt, while 10 other points resulted from Mike Goodson fumbles. Dennis Allen brought plenty of pressure, causing Kevin Kolb to look “scared” according to DT Tommy Kelly. Speaking of Kelly…

Image

Bright Spot: DT Tommy Kelly was disruptive for his second straight outing. He was credited with the safety on Kevin Kolb, but also managed to get consistent pressure coming up the middle. Teams might not double-team Richard Seymour much more if Kelly continues to cause quarterbacks trouble.

Image
Area of Concern: CB DeMarcus Van Dyke struggled in this one. While the secondary as a whole needs to make strides, Van Dyke did not display the improvements he seemed to have made during the offseason program. On back-to-back plays, Van Dyke was out-jumped for a ball he should have broken up and missed a tackle that resulted directly in a touchdown. He’s young and has tons of talent, but will need to step up if this secondary is to look much better than last year’s abysmal unit.

 

Injuries of Note: WR and return man Jacoby Ford left the game with a foot injury. He had an MRI Saturday, and his return in time for the season-opener is questionable. WR Darrius Heyward Bey (shoulder), QB Matt Leinart (hand), and RB Mike Goodson (chest) all left the game with minor injuries.

 

What to Look for Next: The Raiders play the Detroit Lions in Week 3 of the preseason. I want to see a complete effort from both starting units. Detroit is the most talented opponent yet, so this game will act as a good measuring stick for where exactly this team is. Week 3 is when the starters see the bulk of the action, and I’m excited to see just what we can do.

Projected 53-man Roster

Image

With mandatory Mini-Camps wrapping up and Training Camp 6 weeks away, I thought I’d take a look inside my crystal ball to project who will make the final 53-man roster come week 4 of the preseason. Feel free to agree or disagree, as this is merely an educated speculation.

QB: Palmer, Leinart, Pryor
My take: Carson Palmer is the clear starter, but the battle for back-up QB could get intriguing if Terrelle Pryor continues to impress and improve.

RB: McFadden, Goodson, Jones
My take: This is a speedy, talented group. Darren McFadden is an All-Pro and rushing title-contender when healthy. Taiwan Jones may be the fastest player on the team. Mike Goodson is talented but needs to prove he can hang onto the rock.

FB: Reece, Schmitt
My take: Marcel Reece is a dangerous, versatile weapon who creates mismatches. Owen Schmitt is the classic blocking fullback the Raiders have been missing in recent years.

TE: Ausberry, Myers, Gordon
My take: This is a young, inexperienced group. Brett Myers is the front-runner due to experience and consistency, but David Ausberry is a unique athlete.

WR: Heyward-Bey, Moore, Ford, Criner, Streater
My take: This group needs to take a step forward. DHB, Denarius Moore, and Jacoby Ford all provide speed, but Juron Criner could be the big, possession target this offense needs to take the next step. Rod Streater impressed in mini-camps and could edge out the oft-injured Louis Murphy for the final receiver spot.

OT: Veldheer, Barksdale, Barnes, Hurd
My take: Jared Veldheer is a Pro Bowler in the making at LT. Hopefully Joe Barksdale will push the unimpressive Khaliff Barnes at RT, but his progression is slower than hoped. Sam Hurd makes the cut for depth, as he is versatile and familiar with the team (member of the practice squad last year).

C: Wisniewski, Parsons
My take: Wiz II played well in his limited time at center a year ago. His transition could make or break the cohesiveness of the Raiders offensive line. Alex Parsons provides depth, and has been taking first-team reps in mini-camp while Wisniewski heals up.

OG: Brisiel, Carlisle, Bergstrom, Nix
My take: Mike Brisiel will solidify the RG spot instantly. The aging Cooper Carlisle will be pushed by 3rd round pick Tony Bergstrom for the LG spot. Lucas Nix is a promising rookie who played tackle and guard during his time at Pitt.

DE: Houston, Shaughnessy, Crawford, Tollefson
My take: Lamarr Houston is primed for a big year. Matt Shaughnessy is back from a nasty shoulder injury and was sorely missed last year, especially in run defense. Free agent signing David Tollefson can get after the quarterback, while draftee Jack Crawford has the physical tools to contribute right away.

DT: Seymour, Kelly, Bryant, Bilukidi
My take: Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly both have Pro Bowl ability, but must make the leap from very good to dominant in order for this defense to progress. Desmond Bryant is a versatile, athletic big man who rushes the passer well. Christo Bilukidi is very raw but has two great teachers to help refine his talent.

OLB: Wheeler, Curry, Burris, Ihenacho
My take: Phillip Wheeler is a sure tackler who is solid against both the run and the pass. Aaron Curry needs to show his mental makeup can match his physical abilities. Burris is a promising, versatile linebacker who could contribute as a pass rush specialist. Ihenacho stays on as depth.

MLB: McClain, Goethel, Stupar
My take: Rolando McClain needs to perform well on the field this year, or he will be cut by new GM Reggie McKenzie. Off the field antics can be swallowed (to some extent) if the performance is there; so far in McClain’s short career, it has not been. Travis Goethel could be the starter if McClain misses time, and has shown some ability when healthy. 7th round pick Nathan Stupar offers depth at both linebacker positions, but should see most of his time in special teams.

CB: Bartell, Spencer, Van Dyke, Chekwa, Underwood
My take: Free agent acquisitions Ron Bartell and Shantae Spencer have plenty of NFL starting experience, but fell out of favor with their former teams mostly due to injury. Second year corners Demarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa both have the speed necessary for the position, but need more game experience to make improvements. Brandon Underwood is familiar with GM Reggie McKenzie from their time in Green Bay, and is a wild card of sorts after being buried on the depth chart there.

FS: Huff, Giordano
My take: Michael Huff simply needs to make more plays. Matt Giordano lead the Raiders in INTs with five last year, but has shown inconsistency in coverage.

SS: Branch, Mitchell
My take: Tyvon Branch is one of the most gifted safeties in the league, and will finally be in a defense which utilizes his abilities. Mike Mitchell, pegged as a huge reach when he was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2009 NFL draft, needs to show he’s worthy of playing in the NFL.

K/P: Janikowski, Lechler LS: Condo
My take: The best special teams unit in the NFL. If they play to the level they’re capable of, all three should make the Pro Bowl.

Raiders Get in the Draft Mix, Take OT/G Bergstrom

Image

After almost three rounds of waiting, the Reggie McKenzie era has kicked off. The Raiders selected OT/G Tony Bergstrom from Utah with the 95th overall pick (Compensatory, 3rd round). Bergstrom is a tough, versatile player who has shown good strength and mobility. This 2011 All-Pac-12 Conference First Team selection played OT in college but will likely push Cooper Carlisle for the starting left guard spot. This fits a need and is about the range Bergstrom was expected to go, so I like the pick.

GM Reggie McKenzie had this to say [of Bergstrom] “There’s no way you can know who you’re going to take at No. 95 until you see names come off the board. He was still there and was the one we liked.”

The main reason Bergstrom fell to Oakland is that he will turn 26 years old this year because of a LDS mission trip before college. The Raiders have made their first pick, and it looks to be a good one.

Satele Won’t Return

Image

The Raiders’ offensive line picture just became a bit more clear. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted the team has signed former Raider C Samson Satele to a deal. This loss means Oakland will most likely move forward with second year lineman Stefen Wisniewski at center and recently resigned Cooper Carlisle at left guard. Satele was never remarkable in his time in Oakland, but was a serviceable starter. Satele was arrested last week in Hawaii for disorderly conduct.

Shawntae Spencer signed, Carlislie returns

Image

Adam Schefter is reporting the Raiders have signed former San Francisco 49er CB Shawntae Spencer. A former 2nd round pick, Spencer has played in 98 games over 8 seasons. The deal is for one year at an undisclosed amount. While not spectacular, Spencer is an experienced, solid pro, and would line up nicely opposite newly acquired Ron Bartell.

Cooper Carlisle has also been resigned at the veteran’s minimum (1 year, $950,000; $550,000 against the cap). It is unclear as to whether or not Oakland will bring in more linemen for competition, but Carlisle at the very least offers depth and plenty of experience.

Potential Cap Saving Moves

We all knew the Raiders were over the cap. The question was, just how much? Well, today we found out. At $145.7 million, the Raiders are more than $25 million over the cap of $120 million. Yikes. Al Davis’ big contracts have left Oakland strapped for cash. There are, however, several moves which can be done and several names pegged as potential salary cap casualties. Here’s a look at each of them:

Richard Seymour, DT: $15 million against the cap

Solution: Restructure. Even Richard Seymour realizes this is a ridiculous contract. He has already intimated a willingness to spread his contract over more years for more guaranteed money (similar to what we did with Routt last year). Depending on the structure of the new deal, the Raiders would save $5-7 million this year, at the risk of adding years to an aging veteran’s contract. Though at the tail-end of his career, Seymour is coming off a Pro Bowl appearance and is too important a leader on defense to lose.

Carson Palmer, QB: $12.5 million against the cap

Solution: Restructure. The Raiders simply gave up too much in acquiring Palmer to cut him at this point. He’s under contract through 2014, and showed enough in spots to instill confidence that he can be a good quarterback, especially with a full off-season under his belt. Restructuring Palmer’s $12.5 million number could save the Raiders up to $6 million this year, though the rest would count against the cap in future years.

Kamerion Wimbley, OLB: $11 million against the cap

Solution: Do nothing. This might be the toughest contract to swallow. Wimbley may be the Raiders’ best pass rusher, but he by no means deserves this kind of money. The good news is, he is young (26) and can dominate in any given game. The bad news? He has not been willing to restructure his deal and is guaranteed roughly half of the money remaining on his contract. So, cutting Wimbley saves $6 million, but still costs the team $5 million. Can the Raiders find anyone better for $6million? It would be even tougher to swallow if we were to cut Wimbley and see him succeed elsewhere, and so he stays.

Tommy Kelly, DT: $8.9 million against the cap

Solution: Cut him. Let me preface this by saying Tommy Kelly is a good player. He is not, however $8 million good. Couple that with another high-paid DT in Richard Seymour and a young, up and comer in Lamarr Houston (who fits better inside than at end) and Kelly is dispensable. Cutting him would save the Raiders $6 million in non-guaranteed money. It is unfortunate, as Kelly has developed into a good pass-rushing defensive tackle; however, he’s been part of some bad run defenses, so maybe his loss won’t be as heavily felt as one might think.

Michael Huff, DB: $5.8 million against the cap

Solution: Do nothing. Michael Huff is arguably the most talented cover guy currently on the Raiders roster. The bad news? He was part of an atrocious pass defense last year. With Stanford Routt getting cut, this defense simply can’t afford to lose more talent, even if it’s inconsistent talent at that. What’s more, Huff may be moved to CB, which would make his contract much more tolerable.

Aaron Curry, OLB: $5.7 million against the cap

Solution: Restructure or cut. While he has shown flashes of his former first round self, the fact is Aaron Curry is a liability in coverage and over-pursues too often (could say that about the whole linebacker group). While he definitely has the athletic ability you look for, he must be coached up and is not worth the $5.7 million he’s due next year. There are also questions about where Curry would fit in a potential 3-4 defense. He has potential, so you’d like to keep him on the roster for if/when this potential is realized, but if he won’t restructure (saving $2-3 million this year) you cut him. Plain and simple.

John Henderson, DT: $4.75 million against the cap

Solution: Cut him. These next two are easy. Bloated contracts for role players cannot be kept on with the Raiders’ current cap situation. Henderson is strictly a run stopper at this point in his career. Cutting him would save $4 million in cap room, money which could be better spent elsewhere.

Hiram Eugene, S: $2.5 million against the cap

Solution: Cut him. Speaking of money better spent elsewhere, Eugene is a special teams player at best. His contract isn’t guaranteed, so all of this $2.5 million would come off the books.

Cap Before: $145.7 million

Cap After These Moves: $115.2 million to $120.2 million

There you go. Now we’re back below the cap. These moves would hurt the depth of the team but wouldn’t have a huge effect on starters (minus Kelly). The days of the Raiders signing players to outlandish, overblown contracts seems to be fortunately done. The mistakes of the previous era, however, will take a few years to correct. This offers just a bit of freedom to re-sign  a few of our more important players, though more will need to be done for the Raiders to sign any free agents of value.