Seth Roberts’ rise from the practice squad gained momentum Tuesday as the Raiders cut four receivers, including former Patriot Kenbrell Thompkins.
Thompkins, who had 15 catches for Oakland last season, had been lining up on most of the first-team three-receiver sets in training camp.
[...] he didn’t make any plays in the first three preseason games and was let go, along with Josh Harper, Milton Williams III and return specialist Trindon Holliday.
Roberts, who caught 40 passes for 857 yards in his senior season at West Alabama in 2013, has eight catches for a team-high 133 yards this preseason.
There seems to be an opening for a slot receiver now, and quarterback Derek Carr likes the options.
Six-foot-5 free-agent signee Kris Durham, who had a touchdown last week, and kick returner Devon Wylie also survived the cut-down from 90 to 75 players.
The former No. 3 overall pick leaves with a $600,000 parting gift, the guaranteed money the Raiders gave him when he signed a two-year deal in March.
Outside linebacker Sio Moore doesn’t seem to be in the new coaching staff’s plans.
The first team struggled in the loss to the Cardinals on Sunday, but Del Rio said that wouldn’t make him lean toward playing Carr and the starters more in Seattle in the preseason finale.
This is the final Oakland Raiders stock report before the coaching staff finalizes the roster prior to the regular season.
The Raiders face some difficult cuts September 5 when the active roster drops to 53 players. The final preseason game will likely feature players battling for backup roles, which come into play as injuries accumulate during the season.
This final stock report consists of players capable of stepping in for injured starters or those who need more work before the season kicks off.
One name on this list may surprise you, but he’s hurting his chances while attempting to make up ground behind more impressive players in exhibition. An offseason standout struggled through three games and stumbled upon old bad habits creeping back into his game.
Which players rose to the occasion over the past couple of weeks, and who’s sinking?
Khalil Mack is on the verge of being one of the best defensive players in the NFL, and Oakland’s little secret was broadcast on national television Sunday night.
The defensive end had two sacks and a forced fumble on a 3rd-and-1 stop in the Raiders’ 30-23 preseason loss to the Cardinals in Oakland.
After the stop and strip of running back David Johnson, NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth was beside himself.
All told, Mack had five quarterback hurries, one hit and the two sacks on 26 pass rushes in three quarters, as he routinely abused Arizona tackles Jared Veldheer and Bradley Sowell.
Mack, who was the No. 5 overall pick in 2014, finished with four sacks in his rookie season.
Which is bad news for offensive linemen, quarterbacks and running backs, because Mack is a blur.
The Raiders cut running back Trent Richardson, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft, on Monday, according to league sources.
The Alabama alum was disappointing since signing with the club in March, finishing with 42 yards on 15 preseason carries, but he did get a guaranteed $600,000 from the club for his trouble.
Richardson was traded by the Browns after his rookie season, to the Colts for a first-round pick.
Indianapoliss cut him this offseason, and though Richardson did lose some weight when he joined the Raiders, he could not find his long-lost explosiveness.
The Raiders have Latavius Murray, Roy Helu Jr. and Taiwan Jones at running back, with undrafted rookie Michael Dyer squarely on the bubble entering Thursday’s preseason finale in Seattle.
Fullback Marcel Reece also can play running back.
Roberts isn’t a stranger to delivering on the big stage. He made big, bold statements at his Division II alma mater, West Alabama, in his senior year.
Silver & Black Pride writer Levi Damien provided a statistical snapshot of what Roberts accomplished inside an obscure bubble at West Alabama:
As a senior, Roberts broke out mainly due to UWA passing the ball more. Having a receiver like him was a big reason why they felt confident making the change. The result was Roberts leading the Tigers with 857 yards receiving on 40 catches with 12 touchdowns.
He came up big on the biggest stage hauling in a career-high seven catches for 140 yards against Shorter College to help the Tigers take a share of the conference title. That season earned him a spot on the All-Gulf South Conference second team.
When you watch Roberts extend the play after the catch, it’s not a stroke of luck for the undrafted product. He’s used to stretching the field and racking up yards after the catch, which translates to valuable slot-receiver qualities in the NFL.
All the excitement surrounding wide receiver Amari Cooper takes away from an impressive preseason from Roberts playing with the first- and second-unit offenses.
According to Pro Football Focus, it’s Roberts who has accumulated the most yards per route among Raiders wide receivers through three preseason games.
Competition is Robert’s biggest obstacle. Cooper and Michael Crabtree stand atop the depth chart at the position.
Brice Butler is showing the new coaching staff why he deserves more regular-season snaps with his third consecutive impressive preseason campaign. Rod Streater should retain a roster spot as one of the team’s top four receivers. Andre Holmes will likely make the cut despite a fractured hand.
For those considering the thought of Holmes getting cut due to his fractured hand, it’s not likely. In fact, CSNCalifornia.com reporter Scott Bair spotted him near the practice field last week:
That’s a good sign to see for a three-to-four-week injury, as described by ESPN’s Adam Schefter:
ESPN’s Adam Caplan offered praise for Holmes’ big-play ability:
Raider Nation’s temperature on Holmes remains lukewarm, but he’s improved his production from 2013 to 2014 and offers quarterback Derek Carr a deep threat. Holmes remaining on the roster likely leaves one wide receiver spot on the depth chart.
Here’s the tale of the tape among the receivers hoping to make the cut:
The placement of the pass becomes irrelevant once the ball touches the receiver’s hands. He’s expected to make the catch. Roberts converted the majority of his targets into completions and extended some receptions into big plays, which is reminiscent of his breakout senior year at West Alabama.
According to ProFootballTalk, the Raiders released veteran receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who posed the biggest threat to Roberts missing out on Sunday action.
ESPN’s Bill Williamson reported Josh Harper’s release:
Kris Durham enters his fifth NFL season. He scored a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night, but his overall body of work doesn’t compare to Roberts’ production. It’s too little, too late for the former fourth-round pick out of Georgia.
The coaching staff must take Roberts’ route to making contributions into account. Similarly to both Streater and Holmes, he’s gained the trust of his coaches to take the field with the first-unit offense in three-receiver sets.
He’s sharing the field with the likes of two first-round picks in Cooper and Crabtree on occasion and still manages to get his name mentioned as a potential playmaker.
After a year on the practice squad, Roberts deserves an opportunity on the big stage with a talented wide receiver group.
He provides another outlet for Carr when attempting to stretch the field as a deep threat or as a playmaker after the catch in the slot. Cuts are never easy, but Roberts clearly deserves a promotion to the active roster.
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Thompkins played 12 games for the Raiders and two for the New England Patriots in 2014 and finished with 262 receiving yards and zero touchdowns. The undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati is yet to establish himself as a consistent threat at the NFL level despite the speed that helped him run a 4.54 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Thompkins had one last chance to impress during Sunday’s preseason contest against the Arizona Cardinals but turned in a disappointing one catch for seven yards. Asher Mathews of TFDS Sports acknowledged the receiver’s poor play:
The Raiders added some pass-catching weapons this offseason after a last-place finish in the AFC West, which did not help Thompkins’ chances at making the team.
Amari Cooper jumps out as the fourth overall pick from the 2015 NFL draft. He is fresh off a 2014 campaign at Alabama that saw him rack up 1,727 receiving yards and 16 touchdown catches as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Oakland also added Michael Crabtree as a proven veteran alongside the young Cooper. Crabtree should take some pressure off the Alabama product with his ability to make catches over the middle and exploit single coverage.
Tight end Mychal Rivera (534 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 2014) and receiver Andre Holmes (a team-high 693 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 2014) provide depth outside the top two options. There simply wasn’t much room for Thompkins on the Oakland roster, especially after he failed to make much of an impact in preseason games.
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ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson initially reported the move Monday.
Making the team seemed like an uphill battle for Richardson from the start. Latavius Murray is the incumbent starter, and the Raiders signed Roy Helu Jr. to a two-year, $4.1 million deal this offseason to handle more of the passing-downs duties, a role that could’ve fallen to Richardson.
Getting cut this early into the process is a bad look for Richardson, and Steve Corkran of RaiderBeat.com believes Oakland’s decision is fully justified:
It’s hard to believe how far Richardson’s stock has fallen ever since the draft.
He looked like a sure thing coming out of Alabama in 2012, having finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting to Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. Then Richardson stepped on an NFL field, where he has since been out of his depth.
In three years, he has averaged 3.3 yards a carry with 2,032 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. When somebody is throwing around the JaMarcus Russell comparison, as ESPN’s Damien Woody did, that’s a sign things have gone horribly wrong:
It’s important to remember Richardson is only 25 years old. While highly improbable, a career renaissance isn’t out of the question.
But he’ll likely have to wait to get another chance with few teams in desperate need of a running back at the moment. Perhaps Richardson would be better off focusing all of his efforts toward working his way onto a roster next year.
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Injuries have been devastating NFL teams this preseason, and the Raiders got their share of the pain Sunday night when they lost starting right tackle Menelik Watson for the season. Watson ruptured an Achilles tendon in the first half.
“He was having a great camp for us and really playing well,” Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Good young man. He’ll bounce back, but big setback.”
Sixth-year veteran Austin Howard, who started at guard for the Raiders last season, replaced Watson. Howard struggled Sunday, especially with run-blocking.
“Austin has gotta step up,” left tackle Donald Penn said. “I feel tremendously bad for Menelik because he worked his butt off. Next man up.
Three weeks of preseason play helped some players solidify spots on the active roster yet hurt others based on production (you can refer to a previous 53-man roster projection to compare the changes made to the starting lineup and depth of each position).
Currently, the Raiders have 88 players on the roster, and at least 13 will look for work elsewhere within the next 24 hours.
We’ll fast-forward the clock and discuss starters and backups in an updated 53-man roster projection. What will the roster look like after the second round of roster cuts on September 5?
Here’s a sneak peek into the future.
Some Raiders fans had started heading for the exits midway through the fourth quarter after the Cardinals scored 20 straight points. Most, though, stayed because the King of the Preseason was getting loose.
Onetime starter Matt McGloin led Oakland 83 yards down the field in 12 plays. He threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Kris Durham and then a two-point conversion pass to Brice Butler to tie the game 23-23 with 2:18 left.
McGloin’s annual domination of third-team defenses would not save the day, as with 31 seconds left, Marion Grice ran for a 12-yard touchdown and a 30-23 Arizona win at the Coliseum on Sunday night.
With that in mind, here is a look at the final stat lines from wide receiver Amari Cooper and tight end Mychal Rivera:
The numbers are solid, especially since neither played the entire game, but what they say about the big picture for each player is more important than the actual tallies in a preseason contest.
Cooper stands out on name recognition alone. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft and could revitalize an Oakland passing game that finished a dismal 26th in the league in 2014 if he fulfills his potential.
The former Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver was a 2014 Heisman Trophy finalist thanks to his 1,727 receiving yards and 16 touchdown catches. He won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver and was the 2014 SEC Offensive Player of the Year for good measure, which was enough to merit the Raiders’ first-round choice.
Talent is not the question with that collegiate resume in terms of fantasy production or how he’ll perform on the actual field. Rather, how quickly Cooper adapts to the NFL game will determine his value in 2015.
Cooper appeared to be well-adapted Sunday when matched up against one of the league’s best defenders, per Chris B. Brown of Smart Football and Grantland:
It’s been a long time since fantasy football players have seen moves like that from an Oakland receiver. No Raiders pass-catcher topped 700 receiving yards in 2014, and James Jones (who led the team with six touchdown catches) is now a member of the New York Giants. In fact, it’s been 10 years since Oakland has boasted a 1,000-yard receiver (Randy Moss in 2005).
The cupboard is not bare around Cooper, though, because the Raiders have added Michael Crabtree.
That may raise some red flags among fantasy football players concerned about Cooper’s targets, but Crabtree will turn 28 years old in September and is fresh off a season that saw him average a career-low 10.3 yards per catch. He is a proven commodity, but the days of explosive plays may be in his rearview mirror.
Instead, Crabtree could be the possession receiver to take defensive attention away from Cooper with underneath routes, which could open up the door for single coverage on the rookie.
Cooper should take advantage of those favorable matchups if he is as good as Tim Brown (who is arguably the greatest Raiders receiver of all time) thinks, per Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com:
This guy is just a superb, great receiver and I think he’s going to be dominant Day 1. I saw him at the Heisman deal (Cooper was a finalist for the award) and I told him then that I hope he’s still there when the Raiders pick, because there was no way they could bypass him. I just thought that he was that great of a not-miss-type pick. I can’t wait to see him Day 1. I think this guy is going to be great.
That is high praise from a living legend and the type of comment that should catch fantasy players’ eyes.
Cooper was on the receiving end of more endorsements when Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News compared the Alabama product’s fantasy value to that of Sammy Watkins:
Cooper steps with the more established QB in Derek Carr (go figure) and Oakland was smart to at least add a No. 2 possession type with a history of production, Michael Crabtree. The Raiders should also demand more attention on the ground with Latavius Murray.
On Oakland’s budding offense, Cooper is bound to out-target Watkins. A 75-1,200-6 line seems reasonable, which is already above Watkins’ rookie ceiling. Cooper should be a lot more efficient with similar volume because of his supporting cast.
Iyer pointed to Crabtree’s abilities as a possession receiver as a positive for Cooper but also noted two important factors for both Cooper and Rivera in Derek Carr and Latavius Murray.
Murray missed his rookie season after suffering a season-ending injury but flashed potential in the closing stretch of the 2014 campaign on his way to 424 rushing yards and 143 receiving yards on 5.2 yards per carry. The running back is only 25 years old and relatively fresh, so it is not unreasonable to expect improvement in 2015.
An impressive start from Murray will force opposing defenses to load the box in running situations, which will open up more room for Cooper and Rivera to operate downfield.
As for Carr, he is only 24 years old. He threw for 21 touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions in his rookie season and didn’t have the weapons at his disposal that he will this year. With Cooper, Crabtree and Murray, along with a critical year of NFL experience and reading defenses under his belt, the youngster should be better in his second campaign.
A better quarterback is music to the ears of fantasy football players who are relying on Cooper and Rivera.
Rivera served as a security blanket for Carr last season and racked up 534 receiving yards and four touchdown catches. Those are solid numbers from a tight end with a rookie quarterback, but fantasy aficionados should note Rivera’s targets increased from 60 in 2013 to 101 in 2014.
It is clear Carr trusted him last year, which is critical because it is easy for tight ends to get lost in the passing attack if the quarterback doesn’t make a concerted effort to look away from the receivers at times.
Even with that trust, the additions of Cooper and Crabtree mean Rivera’s targets will likely decrease. There is only one ball to go around, and Cooper is too talented to ignore, while Crabtree is a proven playmaker. The silver lining is the quality of targets should increase because Rivera will likely face single-coverage looks with secondaries focused on the two receivers.
Ultimately, there is plenty to like about both Rivera and Cooper entering the 2015 fantasy season.
Rivera should be seen as a second-tier tight end who can fill in during bye weeks or in case of injury. The former Tennessee Volunteers star is not a guaranteed fantasy starter thanks to the target concern with two quality receivers surrounding him, but he will face plenty of single coverage with an improving quarterback. He is worth a late-round flier as a second tight end.
As for Cooper, the only thing holding him back from No. 1 receiver status is the fact he hasn’t proved himself during regular-season contests. Grab him in the third, fourth or fifth round as a high-upside No. 2 receiver with the knowledge that his talent can quickly make him a topnotch fantasy performer once he is fully accustomed to the NFL game.
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