Phase two of “voluntary” workouts is coming to a close for the Las Vegas Raiders and Phase three will be starting shortly at their home in Henderson, Nevada. During Phase two of the workouts players and coaches were allowed on the field at the same time for drills, instruction and implementation of their “system.” However, one-on-one drills, seven-on-seven drills, nine-on-seven drills and full team offense versus defense is not allowed.
That all changes in Phase 3, all drills are permitted except for contact. It has been reported approximately 70 players had shown up for Phase 2 workouts, which is a great number of players reporting considering that as a team the players had voted not to attend or boycott all "voluntary" workouts. With all that being said, it’s time to look at a way too early Las Vegas Raiders roster projections before their home and season opener on Monday Night Football, September 13th, against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.
Las Vegas Raiders Roster Projections: Offense
Quarterback: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Nathan Peterman.
Like with everything else in the NFL and in football, we begin at the quarterback position. Carr is entering year four in Jon Gruden’s offense and is only getting better. No one will be supplanting him in these Las Vegas raiders roster projections anytime soon. Carr is the clear starter but is entering the last two years of his contract with no guaranteed money left. Mariota is probably the best backup quarterback in the NFL and took a pay cut to help the Raiders gain salary cap space and to stay with the Raiders for one more year. Nathan Peterman continues to be QB3 and Jon Gruden’s reclamation project.
Running Back: Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, Theo Riddick, Alec Ingold.
When healthy, Jacobs is a top ten running back in the NFL, when not healthy, the Raiders’ offense struggles. Drake was signed to a ridiculous contract as a free agent to help lighten the load Jacobs carries on his shoulders and legs. Jacobs and Drake together should be a top one-two punch running back combination and should help the Raiders score more touchdowns and kick fewer field goals. Theo Riddick does exactly what Jalen Richard does only cheaper. Riddick saw limited playing time last year but showed explosive running ability and great hands out of the backfield. The only fullback in the NFL better than Alec Ingold is Kyle Juszczyk of the 49ers.
Wide Receiver: Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, Hunter Renfrow, John Brown, Willie Snead IV, Zay Jones.
It’s time for Jon Gruden to "scheme up" Henry Ruggs and stop making excuses for the high draft pick. It’s also time for Bryan Edwards to be WR1. These two second-year receivers combined boast great size, speed, hands, and toughness. Stop looking at veteran receivers and start coaching up the young ones. Hunter Renfrow continues to be one of the most underrated slot receivers in the NFL. Other than Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow continues to be Derek Carr’s most trusted pass catchers. John Brown was signed as a free agent to take over the Nelson Agholor role as a veteran receiver while offering more speed than Agholor.
Let’s not leave Brown out of these Las Vegas raiders roster projections. He also wears number 15, Derek Carr’s favorite wide receiver number. Look for Brown to have a career year. Willie Snead and Zay Jones will make their money as backups but don’t be surprised if either or both do not make the final roster.
Tight End: Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier.
Is there a better tight end group in the NFL? Nope. Darren Waller is a superstar and a top two or three tight end in football. Waller will continue to be Derek Carr’s favorite receiver and will count on Waller to be his usual self. A healthy Foster Moreau will help down in the red zone scoring touchdowns and opening holes for Jacobs and Drake along the offensive line.
Jason Witten was signed to be a veteran presence in the locker room last year and run one-yard routes. In 2021, please no more Jason Witten, thanks. Derek Carrier offers multiple threats as TE3. Carrier can play special teams, block along the line and flex out as a tight end. Carrier would be a TE2 on most NFL teams.
Offensive Line: Kolton Miller, Richie Incognito, Andre James, Denzelle Good, Alex Leatherwood, Brandon Parker, John Simpson, Nick Martin, Jimmy Morrissey.
What was once a top-five offensive line when healthy and playing together has now turned into the biggest question mark facing the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021. Left tackle Kolton Miller returns after signing a three-year extension while 38-year-old Richie Incognito returns after missing most of last year with an injury.
Denzelle Good was re-signed to a one-year deal and can play four different positions along the offensive line. Center Andre James was given a new contract after Rodney Hudson asked for his release and was subsequently traded to Arizona. First-round pick Alex Leatherwood will be asked to anchor the right side of the line and it remains to be seen if Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock "reached" with their first pick, which was number 17 overall. Jimmy Morrissey was a seventh-round pick who can play both center and guard.
Las Vegas Raiders Roster Projections: Defense
Edge Rushers: Maxx Crosby, Yannick Ngakoue, Clelin Ferrell, Malcolm Koonce, Carl Nassib.
The Raiders’ defense can’t get any worse, can it? They couldn’t rush the passer (21 sacks), stop the run, and gave up an average of 30 points per game. Enter Yannick Ngakoue, given a two-year 26-million-dollar contract to help with the pass rush and get after quarterbacks. Maxx Crosby played last year with a torn labrum and a broken hand but continued to be the Raiders’ best defensive lineman. Clelin "Glue" Ferrell, as nicknamed by Mike Mayock, is what he is, an edge-run defender.
Ferrell lacks the explosiveness and speed to turn the corner against bigger and stronger offensive tackles and will never be more than a below-average pass rusher. Carl Nassib was paid way too much money last year as a free agent and now the Raiders are stuck with him unless they decide to eat his contract and dead money. Malcolm Koonce was over-drafted in the third round and will struggle to see playing time. This might be a redshirt year for Koonce, even though this is one of the weakest spots on these Las Vegas Raiders roster projections.
Defensive Tackles: Solomon Thomas, Quinton Jefferson, Johnathan Hankins, David Irving.
Each of the listed defensive tackles is signed to one-year contracts. That tells you all you need to know about this position group. David Irving offers great size and flexibility as he can play both inside and out. Solomon Thomas is coming off a torn ACL and has done absolutely nothing after being drafted third overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Quinton Jefferson and Johnathan Hankins will probably be the starting defensive tackles of this group. Look out for undrafted free agent Darius Stills from West Virginia University. Stills lacks the ideal size to play inside but is full of speed, athleticism, and explosiveness. Darius Stills was the Big 12 defensive lineman of the year last year and consensus All-American. The Raiders may have gotten themselves a steal.
Linebackers: Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski, Nicholas Morrow, Divine Deablo, Tanner Muse, Javin White.
Even Cory Littleton admitted to having a down year last year. However, look for Littleton to thrive and be put in positions to succeed under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s defense. Nick Kwiatkoski is a true three-down "Mike" linebacker and when he went down with an injury, the Raiders’ defense struggled. Nicholas Morrow was the Raiders’ best linebacker last year and was rewarded with a new contract.
Divine Deablo was a third-round draft choice who played safety at Virginia Tech and will be moved to the "Will" linebacker position. Diablo’s role in the defense will be to run, chase and cover. It will be interesting to see how Diablo adjusts to his new position. Javin White is a Nico Morrow clone but more explosive and better against the run. Tanner Muse will never be more than a core special teamer, another draft reach for the Raiders.
Cornerbacks: Trayvon Mullen, Damon Arnette, Casey Hayward, Amik Robertson, Rasul Douglas, Isaiah Johnson.
Trayvon Mullen has established himself as CB1 on this defense. Who will be CB2? Casey Hayward, who just recently signed as a free agent and knows Gus Bradley’s cover three defense inside and out, that’s who. This means the slot corner position will be fought over by both second-year players Damon Arnette and Amik Robertson.
Arnette will be given every opportunity to win the job but can he stay healthy and available will be the question. Amik Robertson barely touched the field last season and will be counted upon to play special teams. This defensive group will be much better than last year, it can’t get any worse, can it?
Safeties: Johnathan Abram, Trevon Moehrig, Karl Joseph, Tyree Gillespie
Johnathan Abram is entering year three and this is the year we get to see what kind of football player he becomes. Abram will spend more time in the box in the new defensive system, which suits his play style just fine. Quite Frankly, Trevon Moehrig is going to be a superstar and one of the best safeties in football in just a couple of years. Size, speed, playmaker, what’s not to love about this rookie. A great trade-up in round two for the Raiders to draft Moehrig.
Karl Joseph was re-signed by the Raiders to a one-year-deal "Just in case." Just in case Abram can’t stay healthy and continues to make the same mistakes and just in case Trevon Moehrig isn’t ready for the bright lights of Sin City. More of the former than the latter. Tyree Gillespie will earn and deserve playing time as a fast, physical safety and playmaker.
Las Vegas Raiders Roster Projections: Special Teams
Kicker: Daniel Carlson
Daniel Carlson is one of the best kickers in the league and broke the franchise record for most points in a single season. Great news for Daniel Carlson and bad news for the Raiders. Too many field goals and not enough touchdowns. When it came to special teams, this was the easiest choice of all of the Las Vegas Raiders roster projections.
Punter: A.J. Cole
A.J. Cole averages 44.1 yards per punt. An average punter.
Long Snapper: Trent Sieg
Who? Exactly. If you don’t know his name, he’s doing a great job.
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